Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Multiple Questions regarding tribal listings…

Question Continued: Why isn’t Dan listed in Revelation 7:5-8? Why is Aaron listed as an officer of the tribes in 1 Chronicles 26:16? Is Levi not listed in various Numbers and Joshua references because of the no land priest assignment?

There is lots of discussion and little agreement on why Dan isn’t included with the list of tribes in Rev. 7:5-8. At the very least, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to keep the list to 12 and with both Joseph and Manasseh (his son) mentioned (why Manasseh and not Ephraim?), as well as Levi, the count moves up fast. So, I would say that, for whatever reason, certain omissions had to be made to keep the count to 12 (normally in the OT, Levi is left out and Joseph is represented by his two sons for a total of 12). Some argue that Dan is left out because his name means “judging” and that doesn’t fit this group. Others suggest that Genesis 49:17 puts a kind of curse on Dan, so he is not worthy of inclusion here. Some have suggested that the antichrist comes from that tribe. Some Jewish traditions connected the placing of a golden calf under Jeroboam in Dan as a basis for excluding that tribe in some cases. It has been noted that there are some 19 arrangements of the tribal names that differ from each other in the Bible and the one here doesn’t match any of the others (Beckwith, Thomas). Probably the simplest question to answer is why Judah is mentioned first, and the answer probably relates to the messianic/Davidic roots. So, the answer really is: Nobody knows.

I Chronicles 27:17 (I assume you mean) is also unlike any other list in the Bible. Nobody that I know of has a good explanation for several factors in the list, including that Joseph’s family gets represented three times (Ephraim and the two half-tribes of Manasseh). So the mention of both Levi and Aaron is only one oddity. There are 13 names mentioned, though if Manasseh were reduced to one, it would be twelve. Again, no one really knows.

Many assume that Levi gets left out of many lists because the tribe has the Lord as its inheritance, rather than land. Since the tribe therefore had no military nor direct political influence, they probably were excluded to make the count come out right—again with Joseph frequently represented by two sons.

A thorough study of the tribe lists raises more questions than anyone has answers. You can get a fair discussion of the Revelation passage in Robert Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary and on I Chronicles in Roddy Braun’s volume 14 in the Word Biblical Commentary. Don’t get frustrated, you won’t get any definitive answers.

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