When I was traveling and speaking to live audiences about my books for many years, there was one question which came up in almost every Q&A session. Because it was such a common question, many readers of this blog may be wondering about this same biblical enigma. It stumped me for a time as well, but I think there is now a clear answer to the question that will satisfy many and relieve all those today who are descended from the tribe of Dan.
In Revelation 7:5-8, the famous “144,000” are discussed who are “sealed” from the tribes of Israel in the latter days with a seal of some kind that indicates that they belong to God and/or will be spared and protected by him in the perilous times at the end of this age [Proving also that all 12 tribes will be present on earth at the end of the age—they never died out.] This passage lists all the tribes of Israel except the tribe of Dan. This has led some to conclude that God was excluding the Danites from his sealing because of some sin that was unique to that tribe. In support of that interpretation, Genesis 49:18 was often cited. This prophecy of Jacob/Israel for the latter days says of Dan: “I have waited for thy salvation O Lord” which some have assumed is an explanation of the omission of Dan in Revelation 7’s listing of the tribes.
However, a much better answer is, I think, available, and it should comfort anyone with a Danite ancestry.
As a brief sidebar on the history of the tribe of Dan, it was originally given a territory along the southern coast of the Promised Land. It was too small for the tribe’s population, and a portion of the tribe made a raiding party to the far north of the Promised Land and conquered the city of Laish (Judges 18) and re-named it “Dan” (Dan tended to re-name many geographical features after their tribal name in all their migrations). This subdivision of the tribe of Dan meant that it had two geographically-separated homelands in the Promised Land. When the Israelites went into exile, the two portions of Dan took separate migration paths and were separate from each other from about 721 BC throughout history and even into the modern world This meant the two subdivisions of the tribe of Dan intermarried with different tribes and groups and took on two distinct temperaments. The Danites on the seacoast of the Promised Land were a maritime tribe during the time of the Judges (Judges 5:17), and secular history records the “Danaan” were a known part of the Sea Peoples of the Mediterranean region at that time. The Danaan were, undoubtedly, the tribe of Dan. At the time of the exile of all Israelite tribes (circa 740-721 BC), the Danites on the seacoast migrated in fleets of ships (along with many from the tribe of Simeon) and sailed to the Israelite/Phoenician colonies in ancient Ireland and the British Isles (secular history records their arrival in that region by the names: Tuatha de Danaan and the Simonii. The landlocked portion of the tribe of Dan escaped the Assyrian captivity by migrating with several other Israelite tribes to the region north of the Black Sea where they were afterwards among the people called “Sacae” by the Greeks, “Saka” by the Persians, and “Goths” (and later, “Germans” and “Saxons”) by the Romans. The Danites by the Black Sea re-named all the major rivers emptying into the Black Sea with Danite/Israelite names (the Danube, the Don, the Dniester, the Dniepr). When the Israelites (called Goths, Germans and Saxons by the Romans) migrated into Europe after the collapse of the Parthian Empire, the Danites migrated into Europe as well and, very predictably, kept their tribal name and were known as the “Danes.” They now live in Danmark (Denmark in the English language). The Irish are the descendants of the Danites who sailed to ancient Ireland. Both the Irish and Danes have a strong maritime history, as one would expect of Danites (Judges 5:17).
Now back to Revelation 7’s enigma. Whenever we are confronted with a scriptural enigma, it is always wise to place the issue in its proper context, examining the verses that precede or follow the questionable verses to try and find an explanation for the enigma or apparent conflict. When we do this in Revelation 7, I think the answer leaps right out at us. Before the listing of the tribes in Revelation 7:5-8, please read verses 3-4 which sets the stage for the listing of the tribes. The King James Version states: “Hurt not the earth…till we have sealed the servants of our God…And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of Israel (emphasis added).” The Amplified Version of the Bible records the number sealed as 144,000 “out of every tribe of the sons of Israel (emphasis added).” Notice that the Bible itself says all or every one of the tribes of Israel were to be included in the list that followed.The Bible did not say any tribe would be excluded from the tribal listing. The listing itself indicates a scribe in the distant past got confused about how to list the Israelite tribes in a way where the math would work out to 144,000. As anyone knows, there are 13 tribes of Israel listed in the Bible. But the math of Revelation 7 will only work out if 12 tribes are listed. You cannot list all 13 tribes and have the math work out. There is good evidence this confused an ancient scribe who was translating an ancient manuscript of the Bible, and, having to leave out one of the 13 tribes to make the math work out properly, he arbitrarily left out the tribe of Dan. The language of the listing of the tribes supports this viewpoint.
Careful readers of this tribal listing will also notice that the tribe of Ephraim is also named nowhere in this tribal listing. However, the tribe of Joseph is listed in verse 8. It was the tribe of Joseph which was subdivided into two tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh) to boost the total of Israelite tribes to 13. Therefore, in this listing of tribes in Revelation 7:5-8, Ephraim is directly mentioned nowhere, but is included indirectly in the word “Joseph” in verse 8. Manasseh is also referred to indirectly in the word “Joseph” in verse 8, but Manasseh is also listed directly in verse 6. Dan is mentioned neither directly or indirectly. The result is that Manasseh is actually included twice in this tribal listing and Dan got left out. I believe a confused scribe very long ago who did not understand Israelite history very well inadvertently mentioned Manasseh twice and forgot to include Dan. Since Revelation 7:4 clearly states it was God’s inspired intent that “all” the “sons” (KJV) or “children” (Amplified) of Israel” were to be included in the list, this is the only logical conclusion. Clearly, if Revelation 7:4 is inspired and correct, then the tribal listing that follows that verse didn’t faithfully list all the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel who gave birth to the eventual 12 (and later the 13) tribes of Israel.
It is well-known that a very few translational errors have crept into the Bible. For example, Acts 12:4 in the King James Version was incorrectly translated as “Easter” (most likely because the translators knew King James of England didn’t want to “Judaize” the text). Some KJV Bibles do have a marginal reference that the word was literally “Passover.” This translation error was corrected in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (and other later versions) which correctly translated the word as “Passover.” I’m sure many readers are also familiar with Bibles which put some phrases in italics because it is not certain whether those phrases should be in the Bible or not as some ancient manuscripts include them and others don’t include them. So, in conclusion, I think a confused ancient scribe accidentally included Manasseh twice and deleted Dan in the listing which was clearly supposed to list all twelve of the sons of Israel. The use of the word “Joseph” in the tribal listing makes it clear the scribe should simply have listed all of the original twelve sons of Jacob/Israel and then the terminology and the math would have worked out perfectly.
So, all of you with Irish and Danish ancestries can relax. God did not mean to exclude you from anything.