Revelation, Chapter 7 -- Question


In the actual 12 sons of Jacob and the 12 Tribes, Levi is removed as a tribe, Joseph is given a double portion with Ephraim and Manasseh. In Revelation 7, however, Dan is not mentioned, and Manasseh but not Ephraim is mentioned. Why?


I am not sure of the reason, but I am sure there is some significance to it. Also, I think in some other passages the order is changed or some are changed. (like Dan Ephraim is replaced with Joseph)


It’s probably a symbolic choice. In the OT the tribes of Dan and Ephraim became infamous because of their association with idolatry (for example, the story of Micah’s silver idol in Judges 17-18). This reputation is partly why some of the early Fathers thought that the Antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan.

There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the Lord.” And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. …]

But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. And there was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. Then 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; but the name of the city was Laish at the first.

This is a rather compelling idea, but on the other hand we have no direct evidence that this was the case - Dan could have simply been arbitrarily omitted to make the list twelve. (For the record, Ezekiel 48 names Dan among the tribes who will receive a portion of the land in the eschatological future - that list follows the standard practice of omitting Levi and including Ephraim and Manasseh.)

There’s a possibility that John’s list was inspired by the census in Numbers 1:20-43. In that list Ephraim is named in association with Joseph (v. 32 “Of the children of Joseph, namely, of the children of Ephraim…”) in departure from the usual formula (the other eleven tribes read “Of the children of…”), just prior to 1:34, which reads “Of the children of Manasseh.” If this was the case, John probably simply chose ‘Joseph’ over ‘Ephraim’.


Although it is quite common to hear about the “Twelve Tribes of Israel,” in reality there are something like 14. The Revelator’s 144,000 out of the tribes of Israel are important to his schematization, and represent a numerical counterpoint to those marked with 666 (compare the last few verses of Rev 13 with the first couple of verses in Rev 14).

So he picked 12. Why did he pick the 12 that he picked? Some have speculated that the tribes that were left out did something wrong, and this could be correct. On the other hand, the numerical structure of Revelation required a symmetrical 12 X 12 x 1000, so maybe his choices were arbitrary. The question has never been definitively answered, as far as I know, but I do like the notion that somehow he was following the roster-like tradition of Numbers 1.


There were 12 disciples. 1 fell from grace, he was like a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels (with a kiss) so that the rider falls backward. I wait for thy salvation, O Lord.

That 1 was replaced by another, relegated to a position of Apostle, Matthias one of the 70, one of two possibles.


Here is what the Glossa Ordinaria (translated for the first time) says…

Verse 7:5 Judah, who is put first, was the fourth one in order of generation: through this it is hinted that one should pay attention to spiritual lineage. The Antichrist will be born of the race of Dan, therefore it is omitted here in order to show that the Antichrist must be cast out of the whole number of the saints. Or Dan passing is the judgment of the Jews, because after the truth came, what was founded on the old law passed, and the Gentile people, forgetting idols, rose to truth after Christ’s birth in the sixth age.


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