Q: #363. Why is Dan not listed in the 12 tribes that are sealed in (Rev 7:5-8)?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The Bible does not tell us why the tribe of Dan is not listed among the 12 tribes in Revelation. As a result, theories abound in an attempt to explain it. In this list of tribes, Dan is replaced by the tribe of Manasseh (Rev 7:6), who was one of the two sons of Joseph.
The most common theory as to why Dan is not in this list is because it had a bad history of idolatry. While all of the 12 tribes were involved in idolatry in some way, Dan seems to stick out as the worst. In fact, in the few places in the Bible that discuss the tribe of Dan, there is really nothing positive said.
First, when Jacob/Israel gave his last words of prophecy and blessing to his sons in (Gen 49:1-28), he said of Dan in (Gen 49:16-19), "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. (17) Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. (18) I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." This doesn't sound very promising does it?
Later, when they received their allotted territory in the Promised Land, Dan failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land (the Amorites), and were forced into the mountains by them (Judg 1:34-36)(Josh 19:40-48).
When Israel gathered together to defend itself against oppression, the judge at the time (Deborah) said this of the tribe of Dan, "And why did Dan remain on ships?" (Judg 5:17).
The great hero/judge Samson (Judg Ch. 13-16) came from the tribe of Dan (Judg 13:2), but he also was known for being very worldly and carnal, which eventually led to his downfall.
In (Judg Ch. 18), we see the Danites practicing idolatry. In (1 Kin 12:26-30), King Jeroboam of Israel, set up a golden calf in Dan in the north and Bethel in the south, so the people of Israel would have a place to worship (and not have to go to the Temple in Jerusalem). The last place in the Old Testament that mentions Dan, speaks of its idolatry (Amos 8:14).
These things being the case, I see this as being the likely reason why Dan is not mentioned in Revelation. However, here are a few other theories:
1. Some throughout history (i.e. Irenaeus, Hippolytus) have believed that based on (Gen 49:17)(Jer 8:16), the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan.
2. There was a scribal error, and Dan should have been listed instead of Manasseh.
3. It has something to do with Jacob prophesying that Dan was a "judge" (Gen 49:16).
4. The 144,000 from each of the 12 tribes are not to be taken literally.
It is interesting to note that even though Dan is left out of this list in Revelation, we see Dan listed "first" to receive land in the millennium (Ezek 48:1).
** It is also worth noting that the tribe of Ephraim, Joseph's other son, is not on this list in Revelation either, being replaced by Joseph. Idolatry may the reason for Ephraim as well (Hos 4:17)(Hos 7:1-16)(Ps 78:9-11).
*** Fun fact: Dan had the 2nd biggest tribe of fighting men (20 years old or older) amongst the Israelites (Num 1:20-43).