on Revelation 7 :5
Of the tribe of Juda, etc. - First, we are to observe that the tribe of Levi is here mentioned, though that tribe had no inheritance in Israel; but they now belonged to the spiritual priesthood. Secondly, That the tribe of Dan, which had an inheritance, is here omitted; as also the tribe of Ephraim. Thirdly, That the tribe of Joseph is here added in the place of Ephraim. Ephraim and Dan, being the principal promoters of idolatry, are left out in this enumeration.
on Revelation 7 :5
Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand - That is, a selection was made, or a number sealed, as if it had been made from one of the tribes of the children of Israel - the tribe of Judah. If the remarks above made are correct, this refers to the Christian church, and means, in connection with what follows, that each portion of the church would furnish a definite part of the whole number sealed and saved. We are not required to understand this of the exact number of twelve thousand, but that the designation would be made from all parts and branches of the church as if a selection of the true servants of God were made from the whole number of the tribes of Israel. There seems to be no particular reason why the tribe of Judah was mentioned first. Judah was not the oldest of the sons of Jacob, and there was no settled order in which the tribes were usually mentioned.
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.
on Revelation 7 :5
7:5 Judah is mentioned first, in respect of the kingdom, and of the Messiah sprung therefrom.