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Compare the twelve tribes of Israel, according to Genesis 35:23-26 (left column) and Revelation 7:5-8 (right):

  1. Asher : Asher
  2. Benjamin : Benjamin
  3. Dan : Gad
  4. Gad : Issachar
  5. Issachar : Joseph
  6. Joseph : Judah
  7. Judah : Levi
  8. Levi : Manasseh
  9. Naphtali : Naphtali
  10. Reuben : Reuben
  11. Simeon : Simeon
  12. Zebulun : Zebulun

(Sorted into alphabetical order.)

Why is Dan replaced by Manasseh?

Background info: I know that Manasseh and Ephraim were Joseph's sons. I also know that the tribe of Joseph was split into two half-tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim.

Note on answer: I know the topic of Revelation can easily turn speculative but if at all possible I'm looking for a fact based answer (e.g. the tribe of Dan no longer exists and Manasseh is now twice as big).

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You could ask the same thing about Ephraim, why is he not in the list? – Andrew Sep 7 '11 at 21:25
@ashansky: Ephraim is not in either list, so that is not a difference. Ephraim was a half tribe; the two half tribes were not listed when the list of tribes was to equal twelve. (However, the two half tribes were often listed with the other eleven at other times.) – Wikis Sep 7 '11 at 21:36
Great question! – Ray Sep 7 '11 at 21:40
Also asked on BH SE. – Wikis Aug 28 '13 at 20:53
The strangest thing about the tribe of Dan is that it is the first of the 'lost tribes' to have been found and returned to Israel. Any answer will have to take this into account. – gideon marx Dec 11 '13 at 16:06
up vote 23 down vote accepted

This is an excellent question!

The book of Exodus tells the story of how the tribe of Levi was separated to serve the Lord.

Exodus 32:26-29 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Because of their stand for God, God chose the Levites to serve Him.

NUMBERS 18:6 And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Numbers 10:11-28 lists the twelve tribes as Reuben, Simeon, Issachar, Judah, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh. Levi ministered to the twelve tribes, and so was treated separately. When the twelve tribes encamped, they always camped three tribes to a side, surrounding the Levites and the temple.

You'll notice that Ephraim, in Revelation, is also removed from this list of tribes in Numbers.

The answer to the question of "what happened to Dan and Ephraim?" lies in Deuteronomy 29:16-20.

DEUTERONOMY 29:16 (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by; And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:) Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.

The curse of idolatry (or spiritual fornication) was to have your name blotted out.

Now, let's see how this applied to the tribe of Dan.

I Kings 12:25-30 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

And now Ephraim...

Hosea 4:17 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.

As Jesus said...

MATTHEW 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

God remembered His Word in Deuteronomy by removing Dan and Ephraim from the final list of the tribes sealed in the 144,000 of Revelation.

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Edited to add more detail on why Levi was separated from the original 12 tribes in Genesis. – Bob Black Sep 7 '11 at 23:59
This is an excellent answer! – tjameson Sep 8 '11 at 1:34
Thanks! This breakdown is contained in Chapter Seven of this wonderful book: – Bob Black Sep 8 '11 at 20:24
What puzzles me is why both Joseph and Manasseh would be mentioned, as Joseph was Manasseh's father, and thus all the tribe of Manasseh would also be descendants of Joseph. My understanding was that Joseph was given a "double portion" so that Ephraim and Manasseh each became a tribe (not a "half tribe"). So could the "tribe of Joseph" in Revelation actually refer to the tribe of Ephraim? – Brian Hitchcock Feb 4 '15 at 4:24
@Bob, I too have the same question as Brian's. Since the tribe of Joseph indicates Ephraim and the fact Joseph doesn't have any other sons than these two, I believe Brian's question invalidates the answer. Could you please give your opinion on this ? (Though I see that you've referred from the above mentioned book) – vettipayyan Jun 6 '15 at 5:46

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