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Greek Word Study - Tribe

Cleisthenes (CLAYS thin eez) was "the father of Athenian democracy." In 508 B.C. he revised the constitution and brought equal treatment under the law. The people of Athens loved him.

The Dorians did not. They were a collection of war-like tribes near ancient Corinth, and their time of dominating the Greek peninsula had come to an end. To put the Dorians in their place,  Cleisthenes gave new names to the tribes of Greece. His own tribe he called the "Ruler-ites," but the Dorian tribes became "the Swineites, the Ass-ites, and the Pork-ites." Their identity in their tribes became their shame.

The Greek word for "tribe" is phyle (foo LAY). A phyle was a group of people that was united by location, ancestry, language, and local customs. To belong to a tribe gave people their identity, but it also made them separate from other tribes.

In the New Testament this separate identity of tribes is put to the test. In the church there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female—all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). In fact, Jesus has purchased people for God "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev 5:9) and has made them into a single kingdom.

It is to the Lord's glory that such diversity becomes united under one Head. It is to His credit that different people have different gifts, but all for one great purpose. It is in His honor that all tribes become His tribe.

When all God's people gather around the throne, we will be "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language" (Rev 7:9). With a joyful voice we will praise God and the Lamb—as one.