Timothy Felch prepared this interesting research paper for a class on the book of Revelation. He writes, "Basically, I have been troubled over why in the 12 tribes mentioned in the book, Dan is no where to be found." Read more to see what Timothy concludes.
Did the Tribe of Dan Get 'Left Behind'?
Timothy E. Felch
"And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: (5) from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, (6) from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, (7) from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, (8) from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed." (Revelation 7:4-8, NASB) 
This passage makes such obvious sense, it’s hardly worth mentioning. 144,000, a perfect number from all twelve tribes of Israel, which would make perfect sense to represent the complete number of God’s elect. But wait a minute… whatever happened to Dan? Did Dan lose his inheritance? Was he Left Behind? It seems that he has been replaced with Manasseh son of Joseph. But why? And why mention Joseph and Manasseh, instead of Ephraim and Manasseh? Maybe this passage isn’t so straightforward after all.
A survey of the options…
One glaring question should jump off the page immediately, once we realize that Dan is omitted: “What did Dan do to deserve this?”
This question, in a nutshell, is the point of this paper. It is my belief that any analysis of this chapter must take into account that there is an entire tribe of Israel missing, and that this presents a real problem.
We have several options here: First, we have what I call the spiritual-Reformed view, the most common view amongst scholars, whether Reformed or not. Lenski, along with Hoeksma and Ladd, use this problem fact (along with the absence of Ephraim) to claim that this proves that the text is meant to be spiritual. These tribes are not mentioned so we will not be tempted to take this passage literally, but rather only symbolically. In fact, Hoeksma even goes as far as saying John’s “haphazard usage” of the 12 tribes must necessarily make this section figurative! Two points are used to support this argument: first of all, at the time this book was written, the northern kingdom had long been out of existence. There had been much intermarrying and (supposed) carelessness over their genealogy. The Jews of the south no longer considered the north legitimate, as they were half-breeds. All of this, considered, it would be difficult to make a case for any pure members of any northern tribe. Thus, this text therefore could not be literal in any sense, because there was nothing literal to observe. Secondly, in regards to Dan, this group tends to appeal to the absence of Dan in 1st Chronicles. After the exile, there is no mention of Dan, and it is thought that those who are left are numbered with their brother Naphtali, as they share the same mother.  Thus, the text is following an earlier precedent of omitting the tribe of Dan when the text refers to every tribe.
From the literalist we find a rebuttal to these views. They would argue that the 12 tribes did indeed still exist, and thus, a literal interpretation was indeed possible. First of all, they would argue that although men might not know who were from what tribe, God does, which makes the point moot. God chose who would be part of the 144,000. Fair enough. Perhaps the members of northern tribes who had migrated downwards were the ones in fact mentioned here, and that Dan never migrated, and thus was left out. Also, they would say, James obviously believes there were 12 tribes (see James 1:1); thus there is already precedent. Such a view is not limited to dispensationalists; both Charles Hodge, a postmillennialist and William Hendriksen, an amillennialist, held to these views. 
I believe that the more literalist crowd has the better argument for the most part, as least as far as the tribe of Dan is concerned, as they realize that leaving out an entire tribe is a serious affair. In the entire Old Testament, we see the twelve tribes listed twenty times, with eighteen different orders. Sometimes Levi and Joseph are used, other times, Levi is not mentioned, and Ephraim and Manasseh are. But never in any case is a tribe unaccounted for (when the phase every tribe is used), as it is here in Revelation 7. The spiritual/Reformed approach wants to make the twelve tribes here represent the complete people of God; however never before have we seen the “twelve tribes minus one tribe” equal the twelve tribes, and it isn’t as if the Apostle John didn’t realize this. Much of our interpretation of the book of Revelation depends on the interpretation of the earlier books of scripture; logic should then dictate that we should do the same here. Thus, we should look for reasons from the Old Testament  for why Dan should not be listed before we go on to more “haphazard” approaches. There is a great deal of symbolism here (particularly in regards to the numbers), and we take the symbolism seriously, but not over-symbolize that which was never meant to be symbolized. Thus, this overly symbolic approach must be discarded.
Now that we have established a basis for scrounging the Old Testament for references to Dan to see why he (his tribe) might be disqualified, we move on to the most oft mentioned reason: the issue of idolatry. Dan was explicitly linked to idol worship more than any other tribe. As I mentioned earlier, there is no mention of Dan after the exile, which I believe is specifically linked to this. In Judges 18, we see that Dan abandons his inheritance of land, and go into rampant idolatry. These two concepts are not unrelated; for a member of the Old Covenant, land was sacred and very much tied to the covenant; thus, to give up on the promised inheritance was to give up on God. Secondly, Dan was one of the places where King Jeroboam set up a golden calf to worship (1 Kings 12:28-30). Certainly, any member any tribe of Israel should have known better based on past experience, so this is all the more offensive. Thirdly, we see a specific statement against Dan in Amos 8:14: "As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, Who say, 'As your god lives, O Dan,' And, 'As the way of Beersheba lives,' They will fall and not rise again." Such a statement does not give much hope for the Danites. Also of interest is the fact that the first person executed for blasphemy was of the tribe of Dan (Lev. 24:11) and that Dan’s mother was Bilhah, the woman who had had the adulterous relationship with Reuben.
In my mind, this is a fairly convincing argument. It makes even more sense in light of the context of the entire book, which time after time sounds warnings against apostatizing.
Likewise, if we believe this argument to be true and that it is the reason Dan is not mentioned in Revelation 7, it then follows naturally to why Joseph, and not Ephraim, is mentioned here as well. Ephraim is just as guilty as Dan in some of these accounts. When Jeroboam set up the golden calves, Dan received one, and Bethel, a town of Ephraim, received the other. Hosea 4:17a says “Ephraim is joined to idols.” Psalm 78:67 says “He also rejected the tent of Joseph, And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.” Given the parallel structure of this psalm, it is clear that the author is using Joseph and Ephraim interchangeably.
We also see this link in Ezekiel 37. This gives us a couple of options for the lack of Ephraim in the book of Revelation: first, John (being the author) may have used this interchangeability just as it had been used in the past. This view is not uncommon. The difficulty with such a view is that we have no previous precedence for referring to “Ephraim and Manasseh” as “Joseph and Manasseh”. Manasseh was usually subsumed by the name of Joseph when Joseph was mentioned. Thus, I would like to propose a different option. We know that Ephraim and Manasseh were not the only sons of Joseph, but rather that the other sons “shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance (Genesis 48:6).” Also, the name of Joseph was one of great reverence amongst the people of Israel. Thus, I propose that the name of Ephraim was so tainted with idolatry, (as was Dan) that those remaining faithful were to be called by the name of Joseph from then on. Joseph was faithful; Ephraim was not. This view works regardless of whether this includes the actual descendants of Ephraim and those descendents named by Ephraim who were not of his direct descent but still of Joseph, or may just include the latter. This too, fits right along with the anti-apostasy theme of the entire book.
Dan as a Type of Antichrist 
The idea of apostasy as the reason for the omission of Dan and Ephraim is in my mind, the most convincing, with one exception: in the case of Ephraim, we at least have the reasonable possibility that Ephraim and his descendents are numbered under Joseph. After all, who else would they be? Such is not the case for Dan, however; therefore it would behoove us to see what else the Old Testament has to offer information-wise about Dan. Many believe that just as Judah was (is) the tribe of the Christ, Dan was (is) the tribe of the Antichrist. The Old Testament is rich in typology of what the Messiah would embody, fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Some would also argue that the scriptures are also full of typology towards an Antichrist, the full embodiment of evil. Such a view is not new, but rather goes back millennia, prior even to Christ’s birth. Such a view takes the omission of Dan a step further. This view argues that Dan “was descended of Israel but not of Israel” (Rom. 9:6) and John 6:70 “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve (twelve apostles, but also twelve tribes), and yet one of you is a devil? (NASB, parentheses mine).”
Let’s begin with Genesis 49:16-18, in the prophecy of Jacob to his sons: “Dan shall judge his people, As one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse's heels, So that his rider falls backward. For Your salvation I wait, O LORD” This passage is obscure to say the least, there are three major things to notice in this passage. First of all, there is the judgment language. Dan means to judge his people. This means all of Israel, as it would make very little sense to Dan will be the judge of just himself. The only other blessing/prophecy with this type of language is that of Judah. Luginbill suggests an alternate translation here, saying that the k here would be better translated “as if”, so the text would read “as if one of the tribes of Israel.” That is a real possibility in the original, which would put Dan (as the rule, not the exception) from the very beginning into the category of Romans 9:6 and John 6:70. Dan is an imposter judge, a counterfeit, to overthrow the true judge from Judah.
Secondly, notice the very significant usage of the serpent biting the horses’ heels. The imagery of a snake biting heels is VERY strong, is used only in one other place, Gen. 3:15, where Satan is irrevocably linked to the image of the serpent. This continues all the way to the end of Revelation. Consider the following: we know from Midr. Rab. Num 2.7 28 that Jewish tradition believes that the emblem on Dan's banner was a serpent. (When I was on my honeymoon this summer and passed a synagogue, and saw the symbols on the building, I knew exactly which one was for Dan: the serpent!) Then in Testament of Dan we read “For I have read in the book of Enoch the righteous, that your prince is Satan.” Where else do we see Satan as Prince? Revelation 2, where we read in the letter to the church in Pergamum which was in fact the location of Satan’s throne. A quick study will tell us that Pergamum is where people practiced serpent worship! Such things must not be treated as coincidences; the severity of the connotations of these images must be given its full value. Perhaps this serpent biting a horse’s heel is a reference to Satan going after Christ, who, evidently, will come on a white horse.
Thirdly, we must notice the exclamation: “For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.” This is a response to the prophecy given to Dan, and is the only part of this entire prophecy to the twelve sons of Israel that uses the proper divine name. What exactly did Jacob see here to respond as such? We can only speculate. Prophecy can hard to understand, and he may have seen one or combination of the following: first of all, this might be a reference to a war between Judah and Dan, and he is crying out for divine mercy. Or, as some Jewish Scholars have said, this is a prophecy of Samson, the great Danite Judge. This is a complicated thought, because though his father was a Danite, his mother, (through whom bloodline was traced according to Jewish tradition) is a Judahite. If that were so, maybe Jacob saw multiple things, such as Samson, Christ, and the Antichrist, all in one vision. That would make Dan both a type of Christ and a type of antichrist. Such an interpretation is possible, and plausible, but needless to say, a difficult passage to interpret.
Now we move on to some of the early church views on the Antichrist. Clearly, it was believed that this was to be an actual person. Consider the following from the Didache 16:4 “for as lawlessness increaseth they shall hate one another and persecute and betray, and then shall appear the deceiver of the world as a Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders and the earth shall be given over into his hands and he shall commit iniquities which have never been since the world began.” Many of the patristics sought to unite the fourth kingdom of Daniel with the Antichrist. Commodian believed in multiple antichrists, first a Neronian one, then a final Jewish one sent to deceive the Jews. Irenaeus was the first to recognize the Antichrist as explicitly Jewish. In Against Heresies 5.30.2 he even specifically mentions that the Antichrist will come from Dan, citing the verses I have mentioned already. Hippopolytus then uses this a springboard, for his writings, using Isaiah 10 and 14, along with Exekiel 28 to fill out his description of this person, all the while tying this to the final beast in the book of Daniel. He believed that this Antichrist would accomplish great things on behalf of the Jews, giving them great success in terms of worldly standards, not unlike the views in the common apocalyptic fiction so popular today. Thus, he saw the inseperability between the expected Messiah of the Jews and the awaited Antichrist of the Christians. Hill observes: “Might it be that when the author of 1 John say ‘you have heard that Antichrist is coming (1 John 2:18) he is echoing a Christian evaluation of the undiminished expectation of a Messiah still to come?” He then quotes the patristic interpretation of John 5:43 (I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him) which sees this as a prophecy of the Antichrist.
Given the evidence, I believe we can make a reasonable case for the tribe of Dan being the seat of the coming Antichrist, and a tribe descended from, but not of, Israel. At the very least it is worth considering, as many of the alternative viewpoints fail to provide adequate answers. And, it is not limited to any millennial view as such; both dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist, pre-mil and post-mill, can hold to it, so long the view allows for a literal Antichrist. Personally, I believe it best fits with the progressive parallelism view of Revelation advocated by Hendriksen. In his work More than Conquerors, Hendriksen advocates that in Revelation we see seven visions of the same event, each event being more powerful and intense than the prior one. Each symbol finds multiple fulfillments: throughout history we have seen the trumpets warn, and the bowls poured out on “the beast of the sea” and “the beast of the earth” who were risen up in the spirit of the Antichrist, time and time again. But, the time is coming when there will be a final uprising greater than ever before, where the judgment will be greater than ever before, and then the end shall come. I believe that we could take this a step further, namely that we can find fulfillment for these “beasts” not only in nations (which is certainly true) but also in individuals. Judas and Nero were very wicked in their own right, and were antichrists, but also serve as types for the true wicked one, the antichrist, left to come.
A Case Study of Antichrist: Judas Iscariot
Before we finish, it will be helpful for us to see what exactly a “type” of Antichrist looks like. We have seen that the tribe of Dan itself is a type of antichrist, but I have also suggested that the antichrists are not limited to people groups or nations, be can be individuals as well. If anyone in scripture was a type of the antichrist, a “lesser” antichrist, it was Judas Iscariot. In fact, many in the scripture are called “of the devil” or “sons of the devil” but the title “devil” (diaboloj) is reserved for only Satan and Judas. Thus, it would make sense that if the Antichrist were to come from Dan, it might make sense that Judas Iscariot did as well. We know, from Christ’s own words, that “not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled (John 17:12b).” What scripture was Jesus talking about? Perhaps, given the correspondence of the twelve apostles to the twelve tribes, Christ meant in saying this that a disciple of Danite descent would fall away just as the tribe of Dan had done earlier.
We know very little of Judas, but we can learn plenty from his name sake, Iscariot. Iscariot comes from two Hebrew words: tAYrIq.-vyai (taken from the Salkison-Ginsburg Hebrew NT in Bibleworks) which literally means “man of Karioth.” Where is Karioth? Well, there is a city by the name of Kariath located right at the intersection of Dan, Benjamin, and Judah. There is also a city located close by: “Then from the family of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men armed with weapons of war set out. They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim” (Judges 18:11-12). Given what we know about the Danite land allotment from Joshua 19:40-46, we can assume with reasonable certainty that this city was within the boundaries of Dan, but also very close to the city of Kiriath-jearim in the Judah territory. Then, in Nehemiah 7, we see former exiles of Kiriath-jearim referring to themselves as “men of Kiriath-jearim”. What does this tell us about Judas? Well, his name is plural, and means that he is a man from the CITIES at Kiriath. Which is the other city located there? Mahaneh-dan. Thus, it is likely that his name is in fact referring to both those cities; if he were just from Kiriath-jearim, his name most likely would follow the scriptural precedent. Plus, I don’t think the writers of the gospels would be so militant about always using Iscariot unless something of the name was intrinsically important, something done for no other apostle. If this is true, then it is pretty strong evidence of the seed of Dan (or the serpent) being set against the seed of Judah (or the seed of the woman from Genesis 3). Such a comparison might seem like a stretch for us, but for a native speaker of the language, it would be immediately obvious where Judas had originated.
Certainly, we have seen many options and opinions for why the tribe of Dan is absent from this passage, and we may hold to many of them simultaneously. I have argued that the prophecies of Dan may give us insight to how we view the book of Revelation, the Antichrist, and Old Testament typology in general. John certainly knew what an antichrist was; after all, it was he who penned the scriptures we rely upon to tell us. And he wrote about the “other coming in his own name (John 5:43) the person who embodies evil like no other before him who would arise to take on God himself. I have argued, it is very likely this man’s origins will be of the tribe of Dan.
That being said, however, now isn’t the time to run to the newspaper to do some end-times research. As I wrote this paper, I was reminded of 1 Timothy 1:3-4: “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith (NASB).” As much fun as it was to study these ideas, it must not become speculation that inhibits us from furthering the administration of the Gospel.
The tribe of Dan has some very obscure, mysterious prophecies attached to it; some of them may only be truly understood by God himself. Thus, we are not to get caught up in these mysterious sayings but rather we are to proclaim the obvious truths that all the scripture proclaims: The Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and he is coming quickly to judge the quick and the dead.
The lesson of Dan is the lesson of Hebrews 6; that we might fall not away. Dan fell away, and had sought after idols, worse than any other tribe; thus truly, he was left behind. Our task is not to weary ourselves with trivialities but rather heed the warning and obey. Amen
1.  Revelation 7:2-8 As there is for the most part, no debate in scholarly circles over translation or text critical variants on this passage, I saw no need to do a word-for-word translation of this passage. There is, of course, one exception to that. Some scholars have argued the uniqueness of the combination of both Joseph and Manasseh gives us a clue, and suggest that the text originally read Joseph and Dan (Dan) but was miscopied to read Joseph and Man (Man), which was later extended to Manasseh. The problem is that we have early manuscripts that say otherwise, and that we never have any precedence for abbreviation of tribal names. Thus, this is very unlikely to be accurate. (See Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John [TNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969] 115). I will, however make one exegetical comment on the Greek: over and over again through this passage, the Greek word “ek” is translated “from”. ek has the connotation of “a calling out”; thus, those sealed represent a part, and not the whole, of the tribe being called. See David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 (WBC vol. 52b; Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998) p. 440. Also see Alan F. Johnson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Revelation (ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996) p.82.
2. Another great question is “What exactly does it mean to be sealed?” A good understanding of just what this seal represents might give us insight into the rest of the passage. Simon Kistemaker suggests that there are three meanings implicit to a seal in the ANE tradition: 1) it prevents tampering, 2) it ensures ownership and 3) it certifies authenticity (Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Book of Revelation [New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001] p. 251). This is exactly what is going on here. God in heaven is putting His mark upon a select group. In fact, we might even know what this looks like: in a Ezekiel 9:4, we see almost the identical situation; given they are both apocalyptic in genre, it might very well be the same situation (I believe it is), where the angels go out and seal people with a “mark”, a “taw, t” . This t, in the Phoenician script, looks like a cross, and was later adapted by the Jewish Christians as a symbol of their faith. This may or may not play a role in which view (preterist, futurists, etc.) we hold to, but it is certainly worth considering. See Matthew Black, “The Chi-Rho-Sign-Christogram and or Staurogram,” Apostolic History and the Gospel, ed. W. Gasque and R. P. Martin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 319-327.
This seal, then, puts upon believers some degree of protection. But, what exactly does that protection entail? First of all, no one seems to think it is an absolute protection. Martyrdom is one of the highest callings one can have; clearly then, God would not deny these 144,000 such a blessing. Kiddle even suggests that all of these people are martyrs, and not only that, but the make up the number remaining yet to be martyred (Rev 6:11). But that is VERY unlikely, for two reasons. First of all, by now in history, 140,000 people have been martyred for Christ, and then some. More than that probably lost their lives for the sake of the gospel last century. What hope would we have of the blessing of martyrdom, if that were true? Second of all, in Revelation 14, we see that the 144,000 are mentioned again, and we see that they are men. Does that mean the all the women (and even many little girls who were martyred for their faith) miss the blessing because of their sex? I doubt it. See Martin Kiddle, The Revelation of St. John (MNTC; London, Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 1940] p. 133 and Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary (ed. Kenneth Barker; Chicago; Moody Press, 1992) p. 470.
But, beyond that, there are a couple of options (Given this is a paper primarily about the Tribe of Dan, and not about the 144,000 or seals specifically, I will limit myself to two). Herman Hoeksma believes this is a strictly spiritual protection. Obviously, this is of his product of his Reformed Theology. He ties this protection directly to our salvation, that when we become regenerate, we are granted spiritual immunity. We might be destroyed physically, but spiritually, we will be blessed, and persevere (Herman Hoeksema, Behold He Cometh: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation [Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1986] pp. 251-255).
I find such a view lacking. First of all, there is a certain amount of restraining going on here, before the judgments come. The angels are commanded to wait until all who are to be sealed are in fact, sealed. What would be the point if this were not physical, at least to some degree? Thus, I would like to suggest a different option. Thomas believes that the context must be considered to really understand what this is for (Thomas, Revelation, 472). From the text, we can gather that this happened just before the seventh seal was broken. Thus, the most natural understanding of this sealing would be to protect the 144,000 from the consequences of that seal. Why God waits until six seals are broken, I do not know. Certainly, that is a if not the weakness in this view. But it seems likely that the point here is to protect the saints from God’s wrath. God will not always protect us from our enemies, but he will protect His own from Himself.
3. Aune, Revelation 6-16, 440.
4. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943) p. 252-3, George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1972) p. 115 and Hoeksma, Revelation, 255.
5. Hoeksma, Revelation, 255.
6. John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966) p.142.
7. Friedrich Dusterdieck, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Revelation of John (trans. Henry E. Jacobs; Winona Lake: Alpha Publications, 1980) p. 249.
8. Walvoord, Revelation, 142. See also John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999) p. 220.
9. MacArthur, Revelation, 220:
10. James 1:1: James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. See Walvoord, Revelation, 142.
11. Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Philadelphia: James Claxton, 1864) p. 158, and W. Hendricksen And So All Israel Shall Be Saved (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1945) p. 33 held these views.
12. Some literalists don’t take much notice of the lack of Dan in this chapter, which I believe is a disservice. Tim LaHaye, for example, gives a pretty thorough representation of what dispensationalists believes, the importance of taking the text literally, and then doesn’t even mention the Tribe of Dan. See Tim LaHaye, Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1973) 110-114.
13. Morris, Revelation, 115.
14. J.A. Seiss has a fascinating idea of why Dan and Ephraim are not listed, based on the symbolism behind the names used here, and the specific order here. We often forget that there is always meaning behind the name of an Old Testament character. Given he was the only one with this view, I have included it only as a reference, but it is nonetheless very interesting, and certainly worth considering. Judah means praise of God; Reuben, viewing the Son; Gad, a company; Asher, blessed; Nephtali - striving with; Manasseh, forgetfulness; Simeon, hearing and obeying; Levi, joining or leaving; Issachar, reward; Zebulun, a home or dwelling place; Joseph, an addition; Benjamin, a son of the right hand, a son of the old age. Putting these things together in this order: Confessors or praisers of God, looking upon the Son, a band of blessed ones, wrestling with forgetfulness, hearing and obeying the word, cleaving unto the reward of a shelter and a home, an addition, sons of the day, of God’s right hand, begotten in old age.
Why are Dan or Ephraim not mentioned? Well, Dan means “judging” or “judged”. In that this day, Seiss argues, the judgment will have come; thus, there is no need for judging. Along those same lines, Ephraim means “growth” or “increase”. In that day, the number of the elect left to enter the kingdom will be zero. There will be none left to come in; thus, Ephraim is not mentioned. See J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Great Britain: Mackays Limited Chatham, 1865) p. 163.
15. Interestingly enough, those who take this overly-spiritual approach do notice that it is Judah that is primary on these lists, and recognize that this is very significant (See Lenski, Interpretation, 252-3, Ladd, Revelation, 115 and Hoeksma, Revelation, 255). In the 20 tribal listings in the Old Testament, Judah is only listed first twice, and after the exile, Levi took the lead (See Maccabean literature, Jubilees 28 and 34) due to the pre-eminence of the priesthood. (See R.H. Charles, Revelation of St. John [ICC, vol. 1 of 2; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920], 207-209). In fact, the Testament of Judah explicitly commands to love Levi, and ranks Levi above himself (See T. Jud 25). Smith argues, therefore that this is a specific promotion of Judah, thus making this list explicitly Christian, against Bauckham who believes this is not necessarily so (See C. R. Smith, “The Tribes Of Revelation 7 And The Literary Competence Of John The Seer,” JETS 38:2 [June 1995] p. 218. and R. Bauckham, “The List of the Tribes in Revelation 7 Again,” JSNT 42  99-115) . Perhaps the author of Hebrews wrote his treatment of the New Covenant Priesthood as a response to the preeminence of the Levitic Priesthood.
16. There are many views, each with there own pluses and minus. G. K. Beale gives us five options (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999] 416-423). First, a literal sealing of a select group Jews (see above for my treatment). Second, there is the view that at the second coming, the entire nation will be saved, i.e. Romans 11. Third, there is the idea that this is for 1st century Christian Jews. This fits the preterist interpretation. Fourth, the primary meaning here is figurative and spiritual (see above for my treatment). And fifth, that these 144,000 represent a particular group set aside to go to war alongside the lamb. This is a fascinating thought, and it helps us to make sense of Revelation 14 where it says they were celibate men. This goes along with the Jewish tradition that some would fight along with the Messiah, and that these man met certain standards for Jewish combat, sexual and otherwise, to do so. See R.J. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies in the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1993) pp. 217-229 for a fascinating treatment of this.
I will again reserve myself to the two arguments that I brought up in the text, beginning with the literal interpretation. Those who hold to this view have the text, seemingly, on their side. This is the standard dispensational view, that these represent literal tribes of Israel. But, we have some real problems if the literal approach is taken. First, we have to realize that the 144,000 are in fact men. This number only appears one other place in the bible, namely Revelation 14, where we learn these are celibate men. In my mind, that is only slightly problematic.
The greater problem is that of Revelation 9:4: “They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” Making this literal inserts a distinction between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish ones in the amount of suffering that they will receive. This is absurd, argues Hoeksma (Hoeksma, Revelation, 255). He points out that the distinctions in this chapter are based on those who serve Jesus Christ, and those who do not. Also, how do we reconcile a perfect number of Jews amongst Gentile Christians? It seems that those who accuse us of being too symbolic and damaging the text do something just as bad. See Morris, Revelation, 115.
The other more common approach is taking a figurative/symbolic look at this passage, particularly at the numbers involved. The number 12 in biblical literature has a completeness to it, and yet it also has a degree of diversity associated with it. The 12 tribes have always represented all of God’s people. Thus, the number 12x12, or 144, has a perfect diversity within unity amongst all God’s people. Along with that, we have the number 1000, which has the significance of uncountable, along with being a perfect cube, just like the heavenly Jerusalem (Kistemaker, Revelation, 255). This view, too, is not without its problems. First of all, if this is true, we have a unique usage for the twelve tribes. It would not be as much of a stretch to allow for the 12 tribes to represent God’s people, but individual references to tribes has never meant anything other than the actual twelve tribes (Seiss, Apocalypse, p. 161). Peter Richardson claims that there was no mention of the church being called “Israel” until A.D. 160 (Peter Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church [Cambridge: Cambridge U., 1969], pp. 74-84, 206). Johnson argues that in order for this to happen, the meaning of the word “Jew” for the hearer had to change significantly in the first century for this to make sense (i.e. between the time Paul wrote the book of Romans, and the writing of this book), but we have little historical evidence for such a thing. See Johnson, Revelation, 82.
17. Thomas calls this the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 29:18-21: … so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. 19 "It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, 'I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.' 20 "The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 "Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law. See Thomas, Revelation, 472.
18. Robert D. Luginbill, “The Coming Tribulation: a History of the Apocalypse; Part 3: The Tribulation Begins; Subpart B: Antichrist and his Kingdom,” n.p. (cited 10 July 2005). Online: http://www.ichthys.com/Tribulation_Part_3B.htm
19. Luginbill provides some interesting insights to the tribe of Dan based on the gemstones placed one the breastplate of the high priest, making an interesting (though not thoroughly convincing) argument about the worldliness connotations of the chrysolite stone of Dan compared to the blood-red sardius stone of the Tribe of Judah. See Luginbill, “Tribulation”, np.
20. C. R. Smith, “The Tribes Of Revelation 7 And The Literary Competence Of John The Seer,” JETS 38:2 (June 1995) p. 218. See also his previous related article: C. R. Smith, “The Portrayal of the Church as the New Israel in the Names and Order of the Tribes in Revelation 7.5-8, ” JSNT 39 (1990) 111-118.
21. Kistemaker, Revelation, 255.
22. Walvoord, Revelation, 142.
23. It is interesting to note that the one who coined the term antichrist never mentions the fourth beast from Daniel, which he could have easily done. I don’t find that convincing enough for it to change my arguments, however. C. E. Hill, “Antichrist from the Tribe of Dan,” JTS n.s. 46 (1995): 103.
24. For an excellent (though I admit, sometimes outrageous) treatment of Antichrist typology, see http://www.woak.org/yabbse/index.php?board=21;action=display;threadid=318
25. The other part of this prophecy that is of interest is 49:9: Judah is a lion's whelp. This is exactly what Moses calls Dan in Deut. 33:22. These are the only two times this is mentioned. This furthers my argument that Dan is a counterfeit Judah.
26. Luginbill, “Tribulation”, np.
27. This is not to say that I don’t believe there was never any salvation for any individuals from Dan, just as a general rule, they were covenant breakers, with a select few. It may, however be, that God decide to not allow for a Danite remnant because the disobedience was so, so great.
28. Numbers 2:2 “he sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers' households.”
29. Beale, Revelation, 418.
30. T. Dan, 5
31. See Fausett’s Bible Dictionary in Bibleworks, under Pergamos.
32. This idea is also mentioned in Jeremiah 8:16.
33. See Midr. Gen. 47:28-50:26, Charles B. Chavel, trans., Ramban (Nachmanides) Commentary on the Torah: Genesis (New York: Shilo Publishing House, Inc., 1971), pp. 594–95, Abraham Ben Isaiah and Benjamone Ben Sharfman, trans., The Pentateuch and Rashi’s Commentary: Genesis (Brooklyn: S. S. & R. Publishing Company, Inc., 1949), p. 494
34. She is the woman mentioned in 1 Chr. 4:3, Hazzelelponi. See Joseph Jacobs, Ira Maurice Price, Wilhelm Bacher, Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, “Samson,” n.p. [cited 29 July, 2005]. Online: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=122&letter=S
35. Hill, “Antichrist”, 102.
36. Hill, “Antichrist”, 100.
37. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:25.
38. Hill, “Antichrist”, 105.
39. Hill, “Antichrist”, 115.
40. W. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (London: The Tyndale Press, 1940), pp. 35-36.
41. This argument/exegesis is a summary of the previously cited work done by Dr. Robert D. Luginbill (Luginbill, “Tribulation”, np).
On False Equivalence and Classroom Debate: A Follow-up to “Inviting Controversy Into Our Classrooms” - Not long after the post went live, voices of concern began to rise up in tweets.