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The entire tribe of Dan is absent from the list of those tribes which are to be found in heaven.

Here is the list given in Revelation 7.

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Revelation 7:4, KJV)

Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. (7:5)
Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. (7:6)
Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. (7:7)
Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand.
Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. (7:8)

Dan is not listed (neither is Ephraim--but the focus for this question is Dan). But Dan was clearly a son of Jacob (Israel), and among the tribes in the wilderness. As of the time when they sent spies into Canaan and selected a representative from each tribe, we see the following:

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. 3 And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.

4 And these were their names:
of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur.
5 Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori.
6 Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.
7 Of the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph.
8 Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun.
9 Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu.
10 Of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi.
11 Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi.
12 Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli.
13 Of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael.
14 Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi.
15 Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.

16 These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua. (Numbers 13:1-16, KJV)

Dan was the eldest son of Rachel's maid Bilhah--the first of the maids to be given to Jacob by his two wives.

1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. 4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. 5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan. (Genesis 30:1-6, KJV)

Dan is Rachel's eldest surrogate son: Why is he not listed among those in heaven?

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  • Can you say how the exposition here relates to the Question? Feb 13, 2023 at 22:36
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    Dan means "God is my judge." One explanation I have heard for this list is that the church (which now includes Jew and Gentile, as we are all made clean by Christ) is no longer judged by God because Christ took the judgement for us. The re-inclusion of Levi makes sense because we are now priests according to Hebrews. The replacement of Ephraim with Joseph also makes sense symbolically because they are in some sense the same but the emphasis with Joseph is stronger: the fruit we bear is from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5), without Him we can do nothing. Feb 13, 2023 at 23:04
  • Oh, and we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph 1:13), that's why it makes sense this list is referring to the church, i.e. the new Jerusalem. Feb 13, 2023 at 23:07
  • Dan means simply "judge." It's Daniel that is interpreted as "God is my Judge." Jun 15, 2023 at 20:55

5 Answers 5

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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 will be absent from heaven, but that "the unfaithful" will be absent from heaven. 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.

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  • The whole chapter 18 of Ezekiel is the Lord's statement that each one will bear their own sin. The sons will not bear the sins of their father. Therefore, how would the whole tribes be removed for the sin of the golden calves in Bethel and Dan? If that was the reason, then how to reconcile it with the detestable thing the tribe of Judah did in the Holy Temple (Ezekiel 8:7-18)? Feb 13, 2023 at 3:08
  • @Vincent Wong You haven't absorbed my last paragraph. This is about the removal of the names, not the removal of the people. And I understand the removal of the "unfaithful names" as symbolising the removal of the "unfaithful" in general. I have added an additional sentence to make this point more clear. Feb 13, 2023 at 7:03
  • If say by one person's faithful act can make a name "faithful", by another person evil act should defile the name. The sin that the Northern tribes did, the Lord condemned directly Jeroboam son of Nabat, not to a tribe. And if Ephraim is a name of "faithless", then why the nine tribes with Ephraim is "faithfulness"? Feb 13, 2023 at 14:33
  • @Vincent Wong Exchanging those two names was enough to make the symbolic point. Anything more elaborate would have obscured the message, and there were no more names available for "exchanges" anyway. It was also necessary to keep the total "twelve" intact, because that represents God's people. Feb 13, 2023 at 14:43
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    I upvoted this answer but also provided one of my own, which adds info about Dan's more ancient history. Feb 13, 2023 at 19:10
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Not just Dan was not on the list, the sequence was not orderly arranged too. Also Manasseh was part of Joseph's tribe. So the list reveals something unusual. If we reviewed the meaning of the names according the order Rev 7 given, we may see something

1 - Judah - the 4th son - meaning "I will praise the Lord" (Gen 29:35)

2 - Reuben - the 1st son - meaning "The Lord has looked on me" (Gen 29:32)

3 - Gad - the 7th son - meaning "good fortune" (Gen 30:11)

4 - Asher - the 8th son - meaning "How happy I am" (Gen 30:13)

5 - Naphtali - the 6th son - meaning "won a great struggle" (Gen 30:8)

6 - Manasseh - Joseph son - meaning "make me to forget" (Gen 41:51)

7 - Simeon - the 2nd son - meaning "the Lord heard me" (Gen 29:33)

8 - Levi - the 3rd son - meaning "attached to me" (Gen 29:34)

9 - Issachar - the 9th son - meaning "reward me" (Gen 30:18)

10- Zebulun - the 10th son - meaning "honor" (Gen 30:20)

11- Joseph - the 11th son - meaning "taken away my disgrace, may he add" (Gen 30:23)

12- Benjamin - the 12th son - meaning "son of my right hand" (Gen 35:18)

Using the meaning of their names and arrange them orderly, if forms a message something like this;

I will praise the Lord for He has looked on me and give me good fortune. How happy I am, because I won a great struggle, God make me to forget. He hears me and is attached to me. He rewards me with honor and take away my disgrace, and may He add to me the son of His right hand.

It is possible that the twelve tribes in Rev 7 is a message of the Gospel, that has nothing to do with Dan.

Addendum

Dan - the 5th son - meaning "God has vindicated me" (Gen 30:6 NIV)

Ephraim - the 2nd son of Joseph - meaning "fruitful" (Gen 41:52 NIV)

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I consider @Stephen Disraeli's answer adequate but since the OP asks us to focus on Dan. Let me do so and add a bit of additional historical rationale.

The tribe of Dan was held in ill repute going back to the book of Judges. Judges 18:1 states "In those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel." Judges 18:27 says that they unjustly conquered Laish, a city which consisted of "a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city." Dan then became the center of biblically unacceptable worship led by a descendant of Gershom, son of Moses:

The Danites rebuilt the city (Laish) and settled there. They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish. There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.(Judges 18:28-31)

Dan later became a member of the northern Israelite federation under Jeroboam I, who established an important temple in Dan, featuring a statue of a golden bull-calf. Like its counterpart at Bethel, this shrine was considered idolatrous by the priests and scribes of Judah who wrote the Bible.

The above may be one of the reasons the author of Revelation did not include Dan in his list of Jewish tribes. Another factor may be that by the time Revelation was written, the people of Dan had pretty much lost their identity as such and survived only as members of the Samaritan nation.

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  • The New Jerusalem in Ezekiel 48 has the gate of Dan in it. Feb 14, 2023 at 2:58
  • Interesting point. Since Ezekiel was written after the golden calves were destroyed by King Josiah, this tends to support the explanation that Dan had been totally "lost" by the 1st c. while other tribes still had known membership even if their administrative existence was gone. Nov 19, 2023 at 21:44
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Their priests fell by the sword, but their widows did not weep. But then the Lord awoke from his sleep; he was like a warrior in a drunken rage. He drove his enemies back; he made them a permanent target for insults. He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim. (Ps. 78:64-67 NET)

At the time of Genesis, the change described in the Scepter prophecy was perplexing:

Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies, your father's sons will bow down before you. You are a lion's cub, Judah, from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches and lies down like a lion; like a lioness– who will rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him. Binding his foal to the vine, and his colt to the choicest vine, he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be dark from wine, and his teeth white from milk. (Gen. 49:8-12 NET)

As Israel's system was based on 14 νομός, nomós, "district" of Egypt, also seen in the family divisions of the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Dividing by 12 fulfills Genesis 49:10 in the person of David and Jesus Christ and this new adequacy actually removed the "infidels" Ephraim and Dan, who sheltered the calves of idolatry in 1 Kings 12:28, however, the main reason for exclusion of Dan from the list in Revelation 7:4-8 is related to the invasion and advance of the Babylonian troops against the Holy Temple in Jerusalem narrated in Jeremiah 4 :15:

For messengers are coming, heralding disaster, from the city of Dan and from the hills of Ephraim. NET Jeremiah 4:15

The snorting of the enemy's horses is already being heard in the city of Dan. The sound of the neighing of their stallions causes the whole land to tremble with fear. They are coming to destroy the land and everything in it! They are coming to destroy the cities and everyone who lives in them!" NET Jeremiah 8:16

In the new configuration described in Revelation, the new Jerusalem has no cities that are lenient with the enemy. There are no breaches in the wall.

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    These answers seem to have a common thread of "Dan and Ephraim were terrible in a special way." All the tribes were so evil that all but Judah and Benjamin got completely assimilated into Assyria. May I ask, can someone please make a comment on how no similar claim can be made about other tribes? Feb 16, 2023 at 4:11
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    Sorry to add to the comments, but I am super curious as to the answer to my previous question if anyone could provide an answer. If I don't get one here in a minute, I might actually post my question separately and create a link to this question. Feb 28, 2023 at 1:50
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    The children of Ephraim; that is, the descendants. Ephraim was one of the "greater" of the tribes of Israel, and was the "leading" tribe in the rebellion, and hence the term is used to denote the "ten" tribes, or kingdom of Israel, in contradistinction from that of Judah. See Isaiah 7:2, 5, 8-9, 17; Isaiah 11:13 and 28:1. The word is used in this sense, not as denoting one tribe only, but the tribe of Ephraim as the head of the revolted kingdom; or in other words, the name is used to represent that kingdom after the revolt. Psalms 78: 67-68
    – Betho's
    Feb 28, 2023 at 4:36
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    "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. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan." (1 Ki. 12:28-30 KJV) and "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." (Amos 8:14 KJV),
    – Betho's
    Mar 1, 2023 at 9:52
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    I wouldn't say the Scriptures are discreet when mentioning human rottenness, but the rest of your point makes sense. I had to do some additional googling to realize that maybe the answers in this forum were just unclear at first that these two tribes were the main centers of idol worship in Israel, as set up by Jeroboam in the 1 Kings passage you mentioned. My brain has always immediately put the blame on the relevant kings at the time, as much of the explicit blame was put on them in King & Chronicles. Thanks. Mar 1, 2023 at 18:49
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Firstly, the belief that people go to heaven after death is unbiblical nonsense. "No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man". God is going to restore what He started in Genesis 1&2. On the earth. Heaven, the New Jerusalem, the garden city, is coming down here to the earth. We are going to work and keep it like Adam and Eve were supposed to.

As for the tribe of Dan, Vincent Wong already told us that there is a hidden message in the list of the tribes. A second thing to consider is the fact that the name Dan means "judgment". Through the forty years in the wilderness, the Israelites always traveled in that particular order. The divisions of the camp of Judah went at the front and the divisions of the camp of Dan as the rear guard (Numbers 10). The same order is repeated in the book of Judges. The first judge was from the tribe of Judah (Otniel), and the last one was a Danite (Samson). Judah means "praise of the LORD". For the people of God, the praise of the LORD always come first and the judgment last.

In Revelation 7 Dan is not mentioned because there will be no judgment for the sealed 144000. Instead, at the end is Jesus, "the Son of the right hand". Jesus took the judgment away.

Dan has not been rejected, either. Can't be. There will be a gate with Dan's name in the New Jerusalem:

having a great and high wall, having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names having been inscribed which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. (Revelation 21:12)

The traditional interpretation that Ephraim and Dan are missing from the list because they were rejected is nonsense. Nowhere in the OT, the tribes were judged separately. They were all judged as a nation. It also contradicts the prophecies like Ezekiel 16:

59 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. 60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you. 62 So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD. 63 Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 16:59-63)

And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from EVERY tribe of the sons of Israel. (Revelation 7:4)

The list in chapter 7 doesn't give all the names of the tribes. Also Joseph=Manasseh+Ephraim. So technically Ephraim is a part of the list and Manasseh is counted twice. It all has to be symbolic.

Additionally the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 uses the imagery of the New Jerusalem from the book of Ezekiel which has the gate of Dan:

30 These will be the exits of the city: Beginning on the north side, which is 4,500 cubits long, 31 the gates of the city will be named after the tribes of Israel. The three gates on the north side will be the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah and the gate of Levi. 32 On the east side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin and the gate of DAN. 33 On the south side, which measures 4,500 cubits, will be three gates: the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar and the gate of Zebulun. 34 On the west side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher and the gate of Naphtali. 35 The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. “And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there. (Ezekiel 48:30-35)

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  • If none of the tribes are excluded from the New Jerusalem how can there be twelve gates? Everywhere the 'twelve tribes' are enumerated two must be excluded, or perhaps Joseph substituted for Ephraim and Manasseh and one other excluded. An enumeration is given in Revelation, that excludes Ephraim and Dan. Which tribe do you say should be excluded?
    – wberry
    Feb 13, 2023 at 22:55
  • "and names were written on the gates, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” (Revelation 21) Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him." (Genesis 49) God restores what was at the beginning. The adoption of Manasseh and Ephraim through the crossed hands of Jacob was a shadow of grafting the gentiles to the Commonwealth of Israel through the cross of Jesus. Feb 14, 2023 at 1:07
  • And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from EVERY tribe of the sons of Israel.(Revelation 7:4) The list in chapter 7 doesn't give you all the names of the tribes. Also Joseph=Manasseh+Ephraim, so technically Ephraim is a part of the list and Manasseh is counted twice. It all has to be symbolic. Feb 14, 2023 at 1:08

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