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We have been studying the book of Revelation and it was noted that the tribe of Dan was missing from the list of tribes of Israel listed in Revelation 7:5-8. Is there any biblical explanation why Dan was excluded from this list?

5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
6 from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
7 from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
8 from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
(NIV)

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    Also asked on Christianity SE. Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 20:52
  • Has anyone considered going back into the earlier listings and seeing just what the names meant.... the reason each name was given to each the sons? If you do this with the Revelation list, and look at the names collectively, it should give an indication of why these names may have been used. The meanings of the names collectively provide the characteristics of what a particular group should share.... that is.... Christ's Church. The other reasons listed below may just as well come into play, and since we are all yet seeing "dimly", I am merely offering another angle.
    – user2954
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 20:22

8 Answers 8

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Here is the list of 12 tribes of Israel from Genesis, Numbers and Revelation:

Genesis 29-30 Numbers 1 Revelation 7
Reuben Reuben Reuben
Simeon Simeon Simeon
Levi Levi
Judah Judah Judah
Dan Dan
Naphtali Naphtali Naphtali
Gad Gad Gad
Asher Asher Asher
Isaachar Isaachar Isaachar
Zebulun Zebulun Zebulun
Joseph Joseph
Ephraim
Manasseh Manasseh
Benjamin Benjamin Benjamin

Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin (Genesis 29:32 - 30:24 and Genesis 35:18). However the twelve tribes turned into thirteen when Jacob gave Joseph a ‘double portion’. This meant that each of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, became a tribe, rather than just the one tribe of Joseph (Genesis 48:5). However this thirteen became twelve again as the tribe of Levi received no land. The Levites were only given certain cities and was the tribe of the priesthood who received the tithes of the other twelve tribes who tithed from their land.

Therefore the difference between the first and second column is that Joseph was split into Ephraim and Manasseh, while Levi was dedicated to the Lord. In Revelation Levi is very conspicuously brought back along side of the others. Obviously this is very symbolic, indicating that the priesthood is over. Now, bringing Levi back is effectively going back to the time before Jacob gave Joseph the double portion, so technically Dan should still be on the list and Ephraim and Manasseh should not, being that they are already represented in Joseph! Truly this is odd and must have some symbolic meaning.

If we assume Dan is removed due to its idolatry (Judges 18:30-31), then Manasseh is added to fill Dan’s place to keep the number twelve. Possibly the return of Levi and exclusion of Dan indicates that the Levitical priesthood was over and original election according to the flesh really did not matter any more. These tribes are actually symbolic of the whole invisible church ‘extended’ through history. This means they are not a strict grouping at a given time in history, otherwise Joseph and one of his sons would not be on the same list.

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    Hey Mike, your chart was good but it made it hard to see who was included and who was excluded. I modified it, I hope you don't mind. It makes it clearer to see the dis/continuity as well as placing Ephraim and Manesseh under Joseph where they would logically be.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 15:15
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    @DanO'Day - great that's better. Cheers.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 15:36
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    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Gen. 49:16-17. (biblegateway.com/passage/…) yet. Not that I know what it means. It just usually comes up in these discussions.
    – user2223
    Commented May 1, 2013 at 18:02
  • The opposite my friend, the church is not in the bible. The people [kahal] of Israel is in. This hymn is upside down: "tribes are actually symbolic of the whole invisible church"
    – Wlanez
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 21:16
  • See this PDF for a table of all the various lists of the tribes of Israel in the Bible. Interestingly there are quite a few with more or less than 12.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 1:22
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I was listening to a sermon by Voddie Baucham a while ago on exactly this, and thought it was quite interesting, maybe it will be of some help to understand the issue. You can listen to the full thing here: Voddie Baucham - The 144,000 (skip to around minute 26 if you only want to hear the explanation as it pertains to the question).

Basically, he says that this list is not a list of the tribes of Israel, nor a list of the children of Israel/Jacob (there is a difference between the two.. which he explains). He says that this is not a list that is used to represent "all Israel", nor the remnant of Israel, nor ethnic Jews either. His position is that this is a figurative list that represents all believers ("the people of God as a whole"), ie, the redeemed Church (made up of both Jews and Gentiles), and that the inclusion of Manasseh (who's mother was Egyptian) is to show that gentiles are included in this list.

He also points to the fact that the list is out of birth order, and the significance of this (out of the scope of this question, but still interesting, and in support of the other points he makes).

He mentions that the presence of Levi and Joseph would imply this is a list of sons, but Dan is missing; and that the presence of Manasseh would imply that this is a listing of the tribes, but Dan and Ephraim are missing, and neither Levi nor Joseph represent tribes (in that they didn't inherit any land -- their allotments were awarded to Ephraim and Manasseh instead).

He states that the exclusion of the tribe of Dan was not merely because of their idolatry, but because, as a tribe, they led the ten northern tribes into idolatry, and to go on to lose their ethnic identity. In the context of the book of Revelation, the fact that the mark of the Beast is placed on idolaters would lend credence to that conclusion.

Anyways, I hope that sheds at least a bit of light on this interesting question.

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    Wonderful insight on this Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 16:53
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We may look first to the first tribe mentioned in the list of Revelation, which is the Tribe of Judah. this is interesting because Reuben should have been first, but we will remember from Hebrew history that Reuben lost his position of first because of his gross immortality and thus it was given to Judah.

Genesis 49:8-10:

(8) Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee.
(9) Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
(10) The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Genesis 49:3-4:

(3) Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:
(4) Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

This shines light onto the subject, showing us the history of the people was being adhered to in this particular list. Other list have other names, and in other orders, and this is because God is communicating something different in those list, but this list deals with the history of the people.

We may accordingly remember that Dan was the first tribe to fall to idolatry after Israel was led into the promised land.

Judges 18:30-31:

(30) 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.
(31) And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

Dan is also where the calf was set up when Israel was split as a nation after Solomon.

1 Kings 12:27-30:

(27) If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.
(28) Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
(29) And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.
(30) And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

If you were paying attention to the text above, then you saw that the golden calves were established under the king Jeroboam, who just happens to be of the tribe of Ephraim.

1 Kings 11:26:

(26) And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon's servant, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king.

This just so happens to be the other tribe which is not included to be a witness for God in the end days.

The list given in Revelation is a list of the 144,000 witnesses in the last days. These tribes lost their witness because of sin.

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  • As you quoted 1 Kings 12:27-30 - one calf in Dan the other in Bethel. The city of Bethel belonged to the tribe of Ephraim.
    – Dean
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 1:58
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Many, including myself, have been perplexed by the apparent omission of the tribe of Dan from the list of "all" the tribes of Israel in Revelation 7:5-8. This has led to much speculation in an attempt to explain this strange occurrence. A possible explanation alluded to in the Pulpit Commentary is that Dan was omitted due to a scribal error.

Looking at the list it's difficult to understand why the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted in place of Levi, Joseph and Manasseh especially when we note the following:

  1. The apostle John states those sealed were from "all the tribes of the children of Israel" (v. 4). The Greek word υἱός (huios Strongs 5207) translated as "children" literally means "a son." Accordingly in Young's Literal Translation this verse is rendered: "And I heard the number of those sealed, (one hundred and forty four thousands were sealed out of all the tribes of the sons of Israel)." Thus, the 144,000 were of "the sons" of Israel. If, therefore, Dan is included in place of Manasseh, a complete list of all the sons of Jacob (or Israel) is furnished.

  2. The double inclusion of Manasseh in the existing arrangement presents for us another problem that must be questioned. This is apparent by the appearance of Joseph, whose name usually stood for both Ephraim and Manasseh. Yet, if Dan is omitted Manasseh is included twice (vv. 6, 8). One would think direct mention of sons is unnecessary when the name of the father appears.

Accordingly the Pulpit Commentary notes:

...Ewald believes that St. John wrote ΔΑΝ, and that MAN., the abbreviated form of "Manasses," was substituted by error; and he appeals to manuscripts 9, 13, which, however, have "Dan" in place of "Gad." Moreover, Irenaeus, Origen, Arethas, have "Manasseh," and state plainly that Dan was omitted. It is certainly curious in connection with this conjecture that, if it were true, that is to say, if "Dan" should be read in place of "Manasseh," we should have a more intelligible order of arrangement. In that case, speaking generally, the elder sons would come first, the younger last; all the pairs of brothers are kept together (only that, in the case of the six brothers, there is a division into two lots); Judah naturally is placed first before Reuben, owing to the prominent place held by him in the Apocalypse in connection with our Lord. The order would then be:
Sons of Leah—Juda, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon
Sons of Zilpah—Gad, Aser
Sons of Bilhah—Nepthalim, Dan
Sons of Rachel—Joseph, Benjamin

In this way, Judah would lead the list since the Davidic monarchy and the Messiah originated from his tribe. Reuben would naturally follow being the firstborn of Jacob. Both are thus separated from the rest of the sons of Israel due to their status respectively. Gad, Asher, Naphtali and Dan, the sons of Leah and Rachel's handmaids, Zilpah and Bilhah comes next. Then the remaining sons of Jacob's first wife, Leah, follow, that is, Simeon, Levi, Issachar and Zebulon. And finally Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) and Benjamin, the sons of his beloved, Rachel.

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Jacob's vision for the future of his sons states Dan will judge his people:

“Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider falls backward. I wait for your salvation, O LORD. (Genesis 49:16-18 ESV)

You cannot be a judge and a witness both. So just as some Old Testament lists of the 12 tribes omit Levi while they are in service to the LORD, Dan is omitted because they are in service.

The 144,000 consisting of 12,000 from each tribe will be witnesses during the tribulation. This make sense to me.

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    If you can source that, it'll be worth some up votes.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 13:29
  • I am trying to find this!! why didnt I save it!! Remember though in Genesis 49:16 that is says Dan will judge his people as ONE OF THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL. I will keep looking till I find this teaching and get back with you.
    – Judy
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 16:13
  • Found it!! Type in "the two witnesses of revolation here a little, there a little prohopecy." It will give you a page list. Click on the very first one that you will see by this name on the list. The information is way down in the teaching but it is there!! God Bless everyone in your searches and knowledge of the Bible.
    – Judy
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 17:01
  • Okay if I am understanding you Monica, you want me to just say what it is that this teaching said.
    – Judy
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 3:43
  • Sorry, it just took off from me. (smile) Gem/ 49:16 says "Dan shall judge his people as one ofthe tribes of Israel. This was prophesied to him by his father.
    – Judy
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 3:45
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First of all, Genesis 49:16 says that Dan will provide justice for Israel and be a serpent along the roadside, a viper that will bite at the horses heel. All this means is, that Dan will protect Israel from those who will attempt to do harm to Israel.

It's funny, that when people see the word serpent they immediately refer to it as being something evil. But I would like to bring to your attention, how YAHWEH uses the serpent to administer justice to all:

  1. in Exodus 4:2-5 he took the staff of Moses and turned it into a serpent to show Israel that the GOD of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had appeared to Moses and had come to set them free from bondage.

  2. In Exodus 7:8-12 He took the staff of Aaron and turned it into a serpent that swallowed up the two serpents that the Pharaoh's wizard had produced through witchcraft.

  3. When Israel became impatient and spoke against The Most High, he sent venomous serpents to attack those who spoke against him in Numbers 21:6.

  4. The only way that Israel could be healed from the snake bites was that they had to look at a bronze snake on a pole that YAHWEH had given Moses instructions to erect to heal Israel.

  5. We are told by Jesus to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.

So you see that the reference made that the tribe of Dan were serpents and that the Antichrist will come out of the tribe of Dan, is a lie from the enemy and will only cause more confusion among YAHWEH'S chosen people. The tribe of Dan is the Judges that was prophesied by Jacob in Genesis 49:16, also in Isaiah 1:26 YAHWEH promises to restore the judges first as in the days of old or the beginning. Remember Dan is referred to has the one who will administer justice or judge.

I also believe that the reason why the genealogy of Dan is not mentioned in 1st Chronicles and in Revelations 7:4-8 is because the tribe of Dan is the one who will ultimately administer justice and judgement to all and that there are those who would rather not see that come to pass. So, the Tribe of Dan was removed deliberately to hide the fact about the practices of the ones who called themselves Jews, but are the synagogue of Satan mentioned in Revelations 2:9.

I know that what I just said about why I believe Dan was removed is not scriptural, but neither is all the other assumption that was posted of why Dan is not included is also speculative. But, what it does, is it give you reason to look further into why the Judges have been removed and why is there no mention of it?.

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The real key is that TWO names are missing from the list of territorial tribes and have been replaced. We need to watch these names, because they point us towards the symbolic meaning of the list. I believe they are absent for the same reason.

First, let's note the difference between the territorial list and the original list of sons. The list of sons, as found in Genesis ch30 and ch31, includes Joseph and Levi. In the territorial list (e.g. Numbers ch2) Joseph is divided between Ephraim and Manasseh, and Levi is omitted, as non-territorial, to keep the total at twelve.

In the Revelation list there is a further change. The two names Ephraim and Dan have been omitted. The two names Joseph and Levi have returned to take their places. What is the significance of this?

Well, Ephraim and Dan are notorious in OT history as the two tribes which housed the two calves of Jereboam (1 KIngs ch12 v30, Bethel being a town in Ephraim). In other words, both names are "unfaithful". Joseph is well-known for his faithfulness in the affair of Potiphar's wife (Genesis ch39). Through the person of Phinehas, Levi is commended for his "jealousy" (that is, his faithfulness towards the Lord) in the affair at Shittim (Numbers ch25 vv10-11). Phinehas thus obtained the "covenant of peace" which Jeremiah later associates with Levi (ch33 v21). In other words, both names are "faithful".

So the effect of the double change is that two unfaithful names have been replaced by two faithful names.

If we are allowed to go by a symbolic interpretation instead of by a literal interpretation, the message in this list is not that a particular tribe are excluded, but that "the unfaithful" are excluded. Just as "the faithless" are near the top of the list of absentees from the new Jerusalem (Revelation ch21 v8). This is part of the basic, fundamental message of Revelation, that in the face of the oncoming crisis we must KEEP faith in God, and keep being faithful to God, trusting that he is faithful to us.

{P.S. This is the same answer that I gave to a similar question)

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Introduction

Sealing the Servants of God

In order to examine the text in it's proper context we must first answer the question: Is it Literal(Literally describing what is understood in it's Historical/Grammatical Context), or Figurative (Representative of Another Reality)?

We have the names of the Historical Tribes of Israel mentioned, but we have 2 Glaring Omissions, the Tribe of Ephraim, AND The Tribe of Dan. The OP's question never refers to the Tribe of Ephraim being excluded, although Ephraim is not mentioned by name because.....

The Tribe of Joseph is mentioned!

The Tribe of Manassas(Manassah) IS Mentioned, leaving the reader with the distinct impression that BOTH TRIBES of Joseph are included, yet for some unknown reason from the text, the Tribe of Dan is missing.

The Importance of "12"

To correctly understand this passage, one must "follow John" up to Heaven where he sees Angels, who have numerous assignments: They 'stand' on the 4 corners of the Earth, 'holding' the winds (of Judgment) back, they are also charged with Sealing the Servants of God in their foreheads. Since this action of "Sealing" is critically important to understanding this passage, it must be understood what sealing means.

"σφραγῖδα"(sphragida) is the word "seal" used in Rev. 7:2 and it can mean "a signet-ring", or "that by which anything is confirmed, proved, authenticated, as by a seal (a token or proof)", (from Thayers Lexicon.) Since "What the Seal Looks Like" isn't described in the passage, but the Tribes of Israel are "authenticated as being sealed" are, we must conclude that this passage is meant Figuratively, as the actual physical expression of the seal is absent, but the understanding of being "Marked, set apart and authenticated" is understood.

This takes us to the next understanding we must have, which is critical to answering the OP's question, and that is the significance of "12". There are "12" times 1000 sealed in each tribe of Israel, and the combined number is mentioned in vs. 4-"144,000".

"12" from many sources Figuratively means the "Government of God". There are 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles, 24 Elders(12x2), and it's no accident that "12" and the multiple of 12 is mentioned as "God's elect". Furthermore, there are 12 Gates in the enterance of the New Jerusalem(Rev. 21:12-13), 12 Foundations(vs 14), 12 Pearls on the 12 Gates; the importance of the number "12" cannot be overstated.

"The Lord is There"

In the Book of Ezekiel, the last 8 Chapters are described as Ezekiel's Future Visions of the Temple and the Tribes of Israel. In Chapter 48, waters issue forth from the House of the Lord into a river which cannot be passed over(Ezek. 47:4). What is significant is that these waters are intended for the healing of the nations, which parallel Rev. 22:1. Since there has been no noticeable river issuing from the Temple from Ezekiel's time onward, we must conclude that this is a Future Prophecy, waiting to be fulfilled. But what is significant is in Ezek. 48:32 (KJV),

"And at the east side four thousand and five hundred: and three gates; and one gate of Joseph, one gate of Benjamin, one gate of Dan".

This parallels Rev. 21:12 (KJV)

"And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel."

At the end of the Ezekiel passage (vs 35) it reads:

"and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there."

Reconciling the Tribe of Dan

It becomes important therefore, to reconcile the Tribe of Dan, not mentioned in Rev. 7, yet mentioned in Ezekiel 48:32, and by inference, mentioned in Rev. 21:12. If we read Rom. 11:26 (KJV), "All Israel shall be saved", we don't read, 'All Israel shall be saved EXCEPT THE TRIBE OF DAN'. The argument of Dan's pursuing of Idolatry in Judges 18 is offset by ALL the tribes of Israel pursuing idolatry at some point of their history-the Tribe of Benjamin in the following chapters of Judges were almost destroyed to a man, because they took sides with "Sons of Belial" who defiled the Levite's concubine, after attempting to defile the Levite himself.(Judges 19).

The answer to resolving the absence of the Tribe of Dan in Rev. 7 goes back to the Figurative understanding of the number "12". Since "13" ACTUAL TRIBES occupied the land God gave the Children of Israel; Joseph being given 2 portions, Ephraim and Manassah, then how do you make "13" equal "12", the number of wholeness or completion in the Government of God?

The Answer is beautiful: mention Joseph, but don't mention either Ephraim or Dan. Since we are understanding "Figuratively", we know Joseph contains BOTH Ephraim and Manassah, yet by mentioning "Manassah", we know BOTH sons of Joseph are included. But Joseph didn't have a portion in the land, his sons did, so Dan, the Other Unmentioned Tribe, is in fact "Included" in the 144,000 as this number is Symbolic and not an actual tally of individuals. The Gates of the New Jerusalem mention Joseph and Dan; but the numbers of the individual pertaining to those gates would be "12,000" for Dan, and "24,000" for Joseph-consequently they aren't mentioned as such. Ephraim and Dan are being excluded, yet Joseph and Manassah included arrive at the Perfect Number of 144,000!

Summary

The Tribe of Dan(and Ephraim) being excluded from Rev. 7 resolves a Figurative understanding of the number 12; it's God's way of making a "Baker's Dozen" equal the perfect number of 12.

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