The Prophecy of 144,000 in Revelation
In this article we will study the prophecy of the 144,000 in Revelation 7, as we will seek an answer to the question as to why exactly these tribes are listed in the prophecy and why the tribe of Dan is omitted?
Where is the tribe of Dan in the prophecy of the 144,000?
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of all the tribes of the children of Israel:
of the tribe of Yehudah twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Reuven twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Menashsheh twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Shimon twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Zevulun twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Yoseph twelve thousand were sealed,
of the tribe of Binyamin twelve thousand were sealed. (Rev 7:4-8)
How did they come up with “the evil Danite?”
In this listing of the twelve tribes of Israel, we should notice that the tribe of Dan is omitted. And if this is not peculiar enough, a father and a son are listed together: the tribe of Menashsheh and that of Yoseph his father.
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IV (1912: 423-424) summarizes the rabbinic expectations, which heavily influenced the Christian: of the role that “an evil Danite” would play in the time of the coming of the Messiah. Owing to the fact that his name, as the name of a tribe, is connected with the blasphemer (Lev 24:11) and with the idolatry of northern Israel (Jdg 18:30; 1Ki 12:29; Amo 8:4), while Shimshon, the Judge of the tribe of Dan, proved faithless (Jdg 13:2). But that is the rabbinic tradition.
In the Christian tradition, on the other hand, in Genesis 3 the deceiver is depicted as a serpent. Is the serpent of Genesis 3 a real snake as believed? Doubtfully. If he were a snake why would Mosheh make satan out of bronze and give it to the people and whoever looked at it would live (Num 21:9)?
Also, why would the Messiah tell his disciples to be prudent like snake? In Hebraic mind a satan behaved like a snake, but in the Christian mind satan looked like a snake, because the Greko-Roman mind is heavily occupied with how the things look like, while the Hebrews—how the things work.
This Christian tradition came from the early Church “fathers” (Irenaeus, Hippolytus and others). They taught that the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan which they based it solely on Jer 8:16.
The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan All the land shook at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones. They came and devoured the land and all that fills it, the city and those who dwell in it. (Jer 8:16)
Therefore, they conclude that Dan is not in Rev 7:4-8 among the 144,000 saved ones of the twelve tribes, because he is the evil one, i.e. the anti-Christ. But, this verse does not identify Dan (the city of Dan, where the Danites lived in the north), with the tribe of Dan, as if “the evil Danite” will come from there, but simply says that the invader of the land will come from there, or from north.
It is true that in the account of Ya’akov’s blessing of Dan, he is compared to a serpent (Gen 49:16-18), and the serpent is made the emblem of the tribe on its standard.
Dan is a serpent by the way, an adder by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider falls backward. (Gen 49:17)
Dan: the scape-goat or the judge of his people?
Per the medieval Tanak commentator Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040 – 1105), this refers to Samson the Judge of Israel, who was of the tribe of Dan. He comments on Judges 16:27-30,
As related in the Book of Judges (16:27-30), when Samson was captured by the Philistines, blinded, and brought in chains to a palace where “on the roof were three thousand men and women to watch the torment of Samson,” he “grasped the two central pillars on which the house stood… and he bowed with all his might, and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were in it. And the dead whom he slew at his death were more than those he slew in his life.” (Rashi)
It is true that the Danites became the very type of evil-doing. But it is also true that Mosheh prophesied for Dan to be a lion’s cub (Deu 33:22).
And of Dan he said, “Dan is a lion’s cub, that leaps from Bashan.” (Deu 33:22)
In the beginning of the conquering of the land, the portion of Dan’s land was not near Bashan. But we see in Jdg 18:1-12 and Jdg 18:27-29 that he relocated in Mount Hermon in the north across Bashan. In Sifrei 33:22 we read,
Dan was also located close to the border, and so [like Gad], he is compared to lions. — [Sifrei 33:22] the tribe of Dan started with one territory and ended up taking a portion in two places. First, they took the northwest of the Land of Israel, Ekron and its surroundings. But this did not suffice them. So they came and fought against Leshem (Jos 19:47), which is Paneas, located in the north-east of the Land of Israel. For the Jordan comes out of the Paneas [or Banias] cave, which is in the east [and at the northern extremity] of the Land of Israel, and then the river flows from the north [straight down] to the south, ending at the edge of the Salt Sea [“Dead Sea”], which in turn, is in the east of Judah’s territory, Judah having taken his territory in the southern part of the Land of Israel. This is the meaning of what is stated there: “And the border of the children of Dan went out from them, so the children of Dan arose and fought against Leshem [and took possession of it].” So when this verse says “And the border of the children of Dan went out from them,” it means: Their border was bursting outwards [as it were,] along that whole [eastern flank of the Land] where they originally took their inheritance. Hence, whereas Dan started out with one territory, he ended up with two, just like a water flow (זִנּוּק) is one, and divides into two. — [Sifrei 33:22]
So, we see that unfairly Dan has been turned into “a scape goat.” But the question we asked was: Why is the tribe of Dan omitted from the 144,000 in Revelation 7?
The answer to this enigmatic absence of the tribe of Dan from the list of 144,000 may be found in the first book of the Scripture, and more particularly Genesis 49, where Ya’akov gives deathbed prophecies to all his sons regarding their fate in the “last days” (Gen 49:1).
The prophecy for the tribe of Dan explains the reason why he is not included in the 144,000 in Revelation and thus the Scripture explains itself. We read in Gen 49:16,
Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
We should notice here that the Hebrew name Dan means “judge” and is used in Genesis 49 in a word play. And since one cannot be both a witness and a judge in a matter of judgement, the tribe of Dan has been probably chosen to be the judge of his brothers in this end-time situation and for this reason not listed among the 144,000 of the tribes of Israel in Revelation. Why Dan has been chosen to judge his brothers we are not given to know.
With that being said, this changes the whole perception of the tribe of Dan from being “a scape goat” to a judge.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.