It’s important to note that there are 13 named tribes in Israel, not twelve. Jacob bore twelve sons, but later Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons in place of Joseph after moving to Egypt. Thereafter, the sons of Jacob were:
There are at least 19 lists of Jacob’s sons given in the Old Testament: Genesis 35:22-26; 46:8-25; 49:3-27; Exodus 1:2-5; Numbers 1:5-15; 2:3-31; 13:4-15; 26:4-51; 34:19-28; Deuteronomy 27:12-13; 33:6-25; Joshua 13:7-22; Judges 5:12-18; 1 Chronicles 2:1-8:40; 12:24-37; 27:16-22; Ezekiel 48:1-7, 23-28, 31-34
Reviewing these lists, we usually find all thirteen tribes included though sometimes a tribe is left out (usually Levi). For example, in Numbers 1, 2, 13, and 26, the tribe of Levi is left out. In other cases, Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim, and Manasseh are combined under just the name Joseph. In one case, multiple tribes are missing (i.e., Judge 5). So, we see that it’s not unusual for scripture to leave names out when listing the tribes of Israel.
But then we have the list in Revelation 7. This list is unique in several ways. First, it is the only list of the tribes of Israel in scripture to exclude Dan. Secondly, it is the only list to include Joseph in place of only one of his sons instead of both sons. Specifically, Joseph and Manasseh appear in the Revelation 7 list but Ephraim does not.
Old Testament Tribal Lists Differences compared to the list in Revelation 7
|Genesis 29-30||Numbers 1||Revelation 7|
Notice something missing? That’s right, the tribe of Dan is not listed among the 144,000 as it is in the other two main listings of the tribes in Genesis 29-30 and Numbers 1
The Tribe of Dan
The tribe of Dan is found in the Book of Genesis, where Jacob prophesied that “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel” (Gen 49:16). This was Jacob’s last blessing of his 12 sons before he died, but these are more than blessings; they also contain prophecies for each son (tribe) of Israel, like out of Dan come the judges (i.e. the Book of Judges). There was even a “city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first” (Judges 18:29). The tribe of Dan and their descendants were called Danites, when for example, “600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate” (Judges 18:16). Clearly, Dan was one of the twelve tribes of Israel, being one of the sons of Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel. Dan had the same promises of blessings and cursing’s from obedience or disobedience that the other tribes had, so what happened? Why did the tribe of Dan disappear from the pages of Scripture, and never even mentioned in the New Testament, including in the Book of Revelation?
Why Dan was omitted?
Why would Jacob bless and prophesy of Dan that “Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path” (Gen 49:17), but right after that say, they will be judges of Israel (Gen 49:16)? Dan was not Rachel’s child, but a servant that Rachel forced into having Jacob bear a son, and so Rachel says, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan” (Gen 30:6), so even his name is associated with judging.
After Israel had settled into the Promised Land, the Danites felt they got slighted in their inheritance (Judges 18:1), which was not really true (Joshua 19:40, 48), and so they went seeking a city for their own and founded it, but on the ruins of a city they destroyed (Judges 18:7-10). After they leveled Laish, “they rebuilt the city and lived in it. And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor who was born to Israel” (Judges 18:28b-29a). That was bad enough, but then, “the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh” (Judges 18:30-31).
Since the nation failed to repent, and there is no biblical record of what happened to the descendants of the Tribe of Dan. It may be because God had separated them from His chosen people, so that may be why they’re missing from the list of the twelve tribes of Israel (chapter 7).
When Israel split into two separate kingdoms, with the Northern Kingdom Israel (with the ten tribes) and Southern Kingdom, Judah (Judah, Benjamin and Levites), the Southern Kingdom began to fall into idolatrous practices, which would be the beginning of the end for them.
Jeroboam was so worried about his residents going back to Jerusalem to worship in the temple he made his own worship places so that they could worship in the Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam thought, “If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (1st Kings 12:27-28). They even offered sacrifices…but it was to no god at all. It may be for this reason that Dan is excluded in the Kingdom of God or the New Jerusalem.
Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob (or Israel) had a son, his eldest, named Manasseh, and so Joseph and Manasseh are listed with the tribes of Israel, but at the exclusion of Ephraim and Dan. Ephraim had a history similar to the tribe of Dan, so they might be missing for the same reason. Their tribe may have even gone out of existence by now; perhaps both have. Some speculate that the Danish in Europe are the descendants of Dan and Ephraim’s descendants are the English-speaking people, but this is highly speculative and there is no conclusive evidence to prove it.
Ephraim was also missing in the list in Revelation 7
If you notice from Revelation 7:4-8 above, not only is the tribe of Dan missing but so is the tribe of Ephraim. Instead of Manasseh and Ephraim being listed (the two sons of Joseph) Manasseh and Joseph are listed. The key is found in Judges 17:1-18:31 “And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.
And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, To make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee. Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehemjudah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed. And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.
And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest. In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel. And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.
When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here? And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest. And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.
Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man. And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye? And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth. And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war. And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim. And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.
Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do. And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him. And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image.
Then said the priest unto them, What do ye? And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people. So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them. And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan. And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company? And he said, ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee? And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household.
And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house. And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first. And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he had made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.”
What we see here is that the tribes of Ephraim and Dan went off into idolatry, and thus they are not listed in the Book of Revelation as tribes that are sealed. Revelation 7:2,3 stated, just before listing those that were sealed, “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” The tribes of Ephraim and Dan had not been faithful servants of God, but servants of idols and false gods. Hosea 4:17 says, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”
Hosea 7:1-16 says, “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without. And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face. They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies. They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened. In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners. For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire. They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me. Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not. And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him for all this.
Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard. Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me. And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me. Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me. They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.”
Amos 8:11-14 gives the last mention of the tribe of Dan in the Old Testament, and it also references their idolatry, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, thy god, o Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.” They swear by the false gods and idols of the tribe of Dan, by which they had become known, and they meet with destruction.