Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
The order of their birth, as mentioned in Genesis 29-30, is as follows: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin. In the blessing of Jacob, Genesis 49, this order is changed, and is as follows: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin. In the blessing of Moses, Deuteronomy 33, a different order still is observed: Reuben, Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Joseph, Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Dan, Naphtali, Asher; and in this last, moreover, Simeon is omitted. So, again, in Ezekiel 48, there are two enumerations of the twelve tribes, differing from each other, and both differing from the arrangements above referred to: namely, in Ezekiel 48:31-34, where Levi is reckoned as one, and Joseph as only one; and in Ezekiel 48:1-27, referring to the division of the country, where Levi, who had no heritage in land, is omitted, and Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as two tribes (Prof. Stuart, ii. 172, 173).
From facts like these it is clear that there was no certain and settled order in which the tribes were mentioned by the sacred writers. The same thing seems to have occurred in the enumeration of the tribes, which would occur, for example, in the enumeration of the several States of the American Union. There is indeed an order which is usually observed, beginning with Maine, etc., but almost no two writers would observe throughout the same order; nor should we deem it strange if the order should be materially varied by even the same writer in enumerating them at different times. Thus, at one time it might be convenient to enumerate them according to their geographical position; at another, in the order of their settlement; at another, in the order of their admission into the Union; at another, in the order of their size and importance; at another, in the order in which they are arranged in reference to political parties, etc. Something of the same kind may have occurred in the order in which the tribes were mentioned among the Jews. Perhaps this may have occurred also of design, in order that no one tribe might claim the precedence or the pre-eminence by being always placed at the head of the list. If, as is supposed above, the allusion in this enumeration of the tribes was to the various portions of the Christian church, then perhaps the idea intended to be conveyed is, that no one division of that church is to have any preference on account of its locality, or its occupying any particular country, or because it has more wealth, learning, or numbers than others; but that all are to be regarded, where there is the true spirit of religion, as on a level.
There are, however, three specialties in this enumeration of the tribes which demand a more particular explanation. The number indeed is twelve, but that number is made up in a special manner:
(1) "Joseph" is mentioned, and also "Manasseh." The matter of fact was, that Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh Genesis 48:1, and that these two sons gave name to two of the tribes, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. There was, properly speaking, no tribe of the name of Joseph. In Numbers 13 the name Levi is omitted, as it usually is, because that tribe had no inheritance in the division of the land; and in order that the number twelve might be complete, Ephraim and Joseph are mentioned as two tribes, Numbers 13:8, Numbers 13:11. In Numbers 13:11 the writer states expressly that by the tribe Joseph he meant Manasseh - "Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh," etc. From this it would seem that, as Manasseh was the oldest Genesis 48:14, the name Joseph was sometimes given to that tribe. As Ephraim, however, became the largest tribe, and as Jacob in blessing the two sons of Joseph Genesis 48:14 laid his right hand on Ephraim, and pronounced a special blessing on him Genesis 48:19-20, it would seem not improbable that, when not particularly designated, the name Joseph was given to that tribe, as it is evidently in this place. Possibly the name Joseph may have been a general name which was occasionally applied to either of these tribes. In the long account of the original division of Canaan in Joshua 13-19, Levi is omitted, because he had no heritage, and Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned as two tribes. The name Joseph in the passage before us Revelation 7:8 is doubtless designed, as remarked above, to refer to Ephraim.
(2) in this list Revelation 7:7 the name of Levi is inserted among the tribes. As already remarked, this name is not commonly inserted among the tribes of the children of Israel, because that tribe, being devoted to the sacerdotal office, had no inheritance in the division of the country, but was scattered among the other tribes. See Joshua 14:3-4; Joshua 18:7. It may have been inserted here, if this refers to the Christian church, to denote that the ministers of the gospel, as well as other members of the church, would share in the protection implied by the sealing; that is, to denote that no class in the church would be excluded from the blessings of salvation.
(3) the name of one of the tribes - Dan - is omitted; so that by this omission, and the insertion of the tribe of Levi, the original number of twelve is preserved. There have been numerous conjectures as to the reason why the tribe of Dan is omitted here, but none of the solutions proposed are without difficulty. All that can be known, or regarded as probable, on the subject, seems to be this:
(a) As the tribe of Levi was usually omitted in an enumeration of the tribes, because that tribe had no part in the inheritance of the Hebrew people in the division of the land of Canaan, so there appear to have been instances in which the names of some of the other tribes were omitted, the reason for which is not given. Thus, in Deuteronomy 33, in the blessing pronounced by Moses on the tribes just before his death, the name Simeon is omitted. In 1 Chronicles 4-8 the names of Zebulun and Dan are both omitted. It would seem, therefore, that the name of a tribe might be sometimes omitted without any particular reason being specified.
(b) It has been supposed by some that the name Dan was omitted because that tribe was early devoted to idolatry, and continued idolatrous to the time of the captivity. Of that fact there can be no doubt, for it is expressly affirmed in Judges 18:30; and that fact seems to be a sufficient reason for the omission of the name. As being thus idolatrous, it was in a measure separated from the people of God, and deserved not to be reckoned among them; and in enumerating those who were the servants of God, there seemed to be a propriety that a tribe devoted to idolatry should not be reckoned among the number This will account for the omission, without resorting to the supposition of Grotius, that the tribe of Dan was extinct at the time when the Apocalypse was written - a fact which also existed in regard to all the ten tribes; or to the supposition of Andreas and others, that Dan is omitted because Antichrist was to spring from that tribe - a supposition which is alike without proof and without probability. The fact that Dan was omitted cannot be supposed to have any special significancy in the case before us. Such an omission is what, as we have seen, might have occurred at any time in the enumeration of the tribes.
In reference to the application of this portion of the book Revelation 7:1-8, or of what is designed to be here represented, there has been, as might be expected, a great variety of opinions. From the exposition of the words and phrases which has been given, it is manifest that we are to look for a series of events like the following:
(1) Some impending danger, or something that threatened to sweep everything away - like winds that were ready to blow on the earth.
(2) that tempest restrained or held back, as if the winds were held in check by an angel, and were not suffered to sweep over the world.
(3) some new influence or power, represented by an angel coming from the east - the great source of light - that should designate the true church of God - the servants of the Most High.
(4) some mark or note by which the true people of God could be designated, or by which they could be known - as if some name were impressed on their foreheads.See Poole on "Revelation 7:4" Genesis 29:35; and shows, that it becomes all the sealed ones, all true believers, and every member of the church of God, to praise him for all favours and blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal.
Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand; Reuben was Jacob's firstborn, but by his sin he lost the honour and privilege of birthright, and therefore is mentioned after Judah, who prevailed above him and the rest of his brethren; his name signifies "see the Son", Genesis 29:32; and shows that the Son of God is to be looked unto for righteousness, life, and salvation, by all that expect to be saved, and to him does the true church look for eternal life and happiness.
Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand; his name signifies a "troop", Genesis 30:11, and may denote that there would be a numerous company of saints and faithful witnesses during the time of sealing, and amidst all the troubles and afflictions that would attend the church and people of God, and who in the issue would be conquerors, and more than conquerors, through Christ; see Genesis 49:19.Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)5–8. Were sealed is not genuine except in the first and last clauses: and even then it is strictly a participle, not a verb: read “of the tribe of Judah, 12,000 sealed, of the tribe of Reuben, 12,000, of the tribe of Gad, 12,000, &c.… of the tribe of Benjamin 12,000 sealed.” It is a question whether there is any principle in the order of the names. Judah is no doubt named first, as the tribe of David and of the Son of David: then Reuben as the eldest son of Israel, while Joseph and Benjamin, the two youngest, come last. Gad and Asher, Simeon and Levi, Issachar and Zebulun are also mentioned in pairs, according to their parentage and the order of their births: but the pairs themselves are not grouped either in order of age or of the dignity of the mother. It is curious, and has never been really satisfactorily accounted for, that while we have Joseph given under that name, instead of Ephraim, we have Manasseh mentioned coordinately as one of the twelve tribes: room being made for him, not as in many O. T. enumerations, by the omission of Levi, who had no part nor inheritance with his brethren, but by the omission of Dan. Numbers 13:11 is some sort of analogy for the name of Joseph being appropriated to one of the two tribes descended from him: for the omission of Dan, the nearest analogy is the omission of Simeon in the blessing of Moses, Deuteronomy 33. The traditional view is, that Dan is omitted because Antichrist will come of that tribe: but the grounds for that opinion are very slight; it rests mainly on this omission itself, for no one would naturally understand Genesis 49:17 as implying that Dan would be an evil power. Others have suggested that Dan is omitted because they early fell into idolatry (Judges 18); but all Israel fell into worse idolatry, sooner or later: others again imagine that this tribe had been long extinct, because it is omitted in the enumeration of the tribes in the early chapters of Chronicles: but Zebulun is also omitted there, though both tribes were powerful in David’s time, 1 Chronicles 12:33; 1 Chronicles 12:35. The case is not quite parallel where, in Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14, we have only room for the names of twelve tribes and twelve apostles: it will follow from Ezekiel 48:31-34, that Dan is there included, and that Joseph only counts as one: and though either the name of St Paul or St Matthias (probably the former) must be omitted to keep the number of the apostles down to twelve, yet the omission is not pointed or express. We have no occasion to ask there why St Paul is omitted, while here we cannot help asking why Dan is: probably there is a reason, but we had better confess we do not know it. It is worth noticing that in Revelation 7:7 there is some authority for the reading Isaschar—the name is always so spelt in the O. T., though traditionally pronounced as in the A. V.Revelation 7:5-6. Δώδεκα χιλιάδες, twelve thousand) We ought to take the twelve thousand twelve times with such exactness, that they may amount altogether not to 143 or 145, but to 144 thousands. Round numbers often have an exact value: see Jeremiah 52:30, where a total of 4600 souls is made up of numbers by no means round, preceding in the same place. Perhaps there are so many heads or fathers (just as in Romans 11:4, men, not souls, are enumerated), together with their posterity. [The twelve tribes [die zwölf Stämme] are mentioned by six pairs.—Not. Crit.]Verse 5. - Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. There are various lists of the tribes in the Old Testament, no two of which present the same names in the same order. It does not seem probable that any special design underlies the selection and arrangement here. First, with regard to the selection, we observe that Dan and Ephraim are omitted, the number being completed by inserting Levi, Joseph, and Manasseh. Although Ephraim and Manasseh are sometimes inserted instead of Joseph and Levi, and sometimes omitted, there seems only one example of a list in which any one of the others is omitted, viz. that in Deuteronomy 33, where no mention is made of Simeon. It has been thought that Simeon was purposely passed over by Moses on account of his ill conduct (see Genesis 34.) - conduct for which, unlike Levi, he afterwards made no sufficient atonement. This has led many commentators (Hengstenberg, Wordsworth, etc.) to conclude that Dan finds no place here because of the idolatrous worship of the tribe (Judges 18.). Many ancient writers (Bede, Andreas, etc.) account, somewhat similarly, for the omission by supposing that, in accordance with a very commonly received opinion, antichrist would arise from this tribe - an opinion probably originated by a comparison of the "serpent" of Genesis 49:17 with Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2. A third group, amongst whom are Ebrard, Dusterdieck, De Wette, Grotius, referring to an ancient Jewish tradition that the tribe of Dan had become extinct, and relying on the omission of this tribe in 1 Chronicles 4-7. - though Hushim (1 Chronicles 7:12) may be the sons of Dan (see Genesis 46:23) - believe that the children of Dan no longer existed, and were therefore omitted. In the insertion of the name Manasseh (i.e. "Forgetting") Bengel sees an intended allusion to the omission of Dan, who is, he thinks, omitted for some mysterious reason. Ewald believes that St. John wrote ΔΑΝ, and that MAN., the abbreviated form of "Manasses," was substituted by error; and he appeals to manuscripts 9, 13, which, however, have "Dan" in place of "Gad." Moreover, Irenaeus, Origen, Arethas, have "Manasseh," and state plainly that Dan was omitted. It is certainly curious in connection with this conjecture that, if it were true, that is to say, if "Dan" should be read in place of "Manasseh," we should have a more intelligible order of arrangement. In that case, speaking generally, the elder sons would come first, the younger last; all the pairs of brothers are kept together (only that, in the case of the six brothers, there is a division into two lots); Judah naturally is placed first before Reuben, owing to the prominent place held by him in the Apocalypse in connection with our Lord. The order would then be - sons of Leah.
Juda, Reuben Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon sons of Zilpah.
Gad, Aser sons of Bilhah.
Nepthalim, [Dan,] sons of Rachel.
Joseph, Benjamin Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. As remarked above, Judah probably precedes Reuben from the greater importance he would possess in the mind of the writer of the Apocalypse, who continually exalts Christ, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5). Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.
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