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In Revelation 7, there is no mention of the tribe of Dan, but the other tribes are listed. Why? Was the tribe of Dan cut off?


This is an interesting question! If my memory is correct, there is a movement that focuses on re-finding the history of that lost tribe. They trace the tribe of Dan to South America and across North America, to the East Coast, where they disappeared for many years and all that was left were some strange mounds of dirt.

The very fact that such ideas can originate warns us that it is dangerous to “surmise” on what God has not revealed in His Word. So, lets begin with this truth. God hasn’t told us why the tribe of Dan is not listed in the book of Revelation. Any conjecturing that we do must always end with just that – conjecture, hunches, man’s ideas about the mysteries of God.

Conjecture one – Maybe the tribe of Dan is not mentioned because they became so involved in idolatry (Judges 18:30-31). The Lord hates idolatry, and this was the very thing that led God to give up on the early inhabitants of the “promised land” given to Israel. The Lord warned Israel that they were not to study or practice any of the pagan rites of the heathen nations that were overthrown by God to make way for the Children of Israel to become a nation (Exodus 23:31-33, Leviticus 18:1-5 & verses 24-30). Every thing connected with idolatry was to be burned or put to death as they entered the land to possess it (Deuteronomy 7:1-6 & Joshua 6:15-21).

Conjecture two – It is highly unlikely that everyone from the tribe of Dan will be lost just because they're not mentioned in this list. Even Dan himself was converted and followed the Lord. All the sons of Jacob became honest, caring men by the time they went down into Egypt. It is possible that the tribes listed in Revelation represent “character traits” that will be found in saved people or a special group of people living right before Jesus returns.  If this is true, then we are dealing with symbolism rather than a literal translation. Since the book of Revelation is full of symbolic meanings, this could definitely be the answer.

As you study this topic, one important detail to note is that the reference in Revelation chapter 7 to the twelve tribes is talking about those who are part of 144,000 (Revelation 7:4). When you read Revelation 14:1-5, you notice that this special number of redeemed have never defiled themselves with women – that is, they are virgins or chaste. Never has God given a command that “man”, in order to follow the Lord, should be celibate or remain unmarried. Even Paul realized that very few men could successfully be 100% engaged in the work of the Lord and not “burn” after sexual relationships. He encouraged both men and women to marry rather than to engage in adultery or wish they could have a spouse (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that the reference here to “virgins” is symbolic of a “pure”, “holy” people; Those who have not committed “adultery” with the “world”. They have remained faithful to Jesus and have not gone after other false gods. They are called virgins because of their true religion, or faith.

So we can see the symbolism that's connected with the 144,000 and the twelve tribes mentioned in the book of Revelation. This leads us to believe that this reference to the "tribes of the children of Israel" (Revelation 7:4) is also meant to be interpreted in a symbolic way.

For the remainder of this article. we would like to quote from a very fascinating article called "Who Are the 144,000" by Doug Batchelor:

There are several reasons why the tribes mentioned in Revelation chapter 7 can't possibly be literal Israelite tribes. The Old Testament reveals that 10 of the 12 tribes were carried away by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. "In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." (2 Kings 17:6)

History records that long before the time of Jesus, some of the 10 tribes returned to Samaria after intermarrying with the Assyrians. Their descendants, known as Samaritans, were hated by the Jews because they were no longer "pure" Israelites in blood or religion. In fact, because the 10 tribes have been so thoroughly scattered around the world and absorbed by their host nations, today a person would be hard pressed to find even one pure descendant from the tribe of Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, or Simeon -- much less 12,000 of them!

Another strong clue that Revelation is not speaking of the literal Israelite tribes is that in the Old Testament, the 12 tribes were very unequal in population numbers. Judah was very large, while Benjamin was very small. God divided the promised land in proportion to each tribe's needs. But the 144,000 is composed of 12,000 per tribe, right across the board.

So who does make up this group? I believe the answer to this question lies in the fact that God's promises to literal Israel now apply to spiritual Israel. Since the year A.D. 34, the prophecies and attention of Scripture have focused on the children of faith -- either Jew or Gentile.
"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit." (Romans 2:28-29) "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29)

My first clue that there must be a spiritual meaning to the 144,000 was the way in which the tribes are listed in
Revelation 7:5-8. This is the only time in Scripture that the names of the tribes appear in this order. Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, is listed as second while Judah, fourth in birth order, is listed as first. Joseph and Levi are included, while Ephraim and Dan are left out. Why?

"Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder [viper] in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward" (Genesis 49:17), and "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone" (Hosea 4:17).

In the Bible, a serpent is a symbol of Satan. The critical, backbiting nature of Dan aligned this tribe with the kingdom of Satan instead of the kingdom of God. Likewise, the tribe of Ephraim had forsaken the God of Israel and had embraced paganism. Hence, Ephraim and Dan are left out of the 144,000.

Jewish names always had a meaning that depicted some characteristic of the child or an event connected with his birth. For example,
Genesis 29:32-35 says: "Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now I will praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah."

In fact, Rachel and Leah made prophetic statements for all 12 of Jacob's sons. Here are the names of the tribes that make up the 144,000 (in the order listed in
Revelation chapter 7), together with the meaning of each name:

1. Judah = "I will praise the Lord"
2. Reuben = "He has looked on me"
3. Gad = "Granted good fortune"
4. Asher = "Happy am I"
5. Naphtali = "My wrestling"
6. Manasseh = "Making me to forget"
7. Simeon = "God hears me"
8. Levi = "Joined to me"
9. Issachar = "Purchased Me"
10. Zebulun = "Dwelling"
11. Joseph = "God will add to me"
12. Benjamin = "Son of His right hand"

Now notice what happens when the meaning of the names are combined, in the same order, into a paragraph:

"I will praise the Lord for He has looked on me and granted good fortune. Happy am I because my wrestling God is making me to forget. God hears me and is joined to me. He has purchased me a dwelling. God will add to me the Son of His right hand." (The words in italics are supplied to complete each thought.)

These names describe the story of the church's struggle, redemption, victory, and marriage to the Lamb.


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