After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. Revelation 7:1-8
Yesterday we looked at what the Jehovah’s Witness believe about the 144,000 written about in Revelation. Rather than take the plain meaning of the verses that the 144,000 are from the tribes of Israel, they believe that because the tribes listed are not exactly the same as in the Old Testament they must refer to the Jehovah’s Witness members. So who were the tribes of Israel? The Old Testament traces the Israelites to the patriarch Jacob, grandson of Abraham, who was renamed Israel after he wrestles all night with God. Jacob’s twelve sons (in order), Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin, they become the ancestors of twelve tribes. We also find that at times the tribe of Joseph is split into two tribes. These two tribes are Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. Throughout the Old Testament God kept the number of the tribes at twelve. During the exodus they remained the twelve sons of Joseph. But, when the Israelites reached the Promised Land the tribe of Levi was set aside as priests and received no land, with the exceptions of a few cities and pasture land. Their inheritance was the tabernacle and eventually the Temple where they served God and only a Levite could enter the Holy of Holies once a year. To keep twelve tribes on the land God had the tribe of Joseph split in two and the sub-tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim inherited land. In fact after reading God’s word the only difference between the Old testament list of tribes and the list in Revelation is the inclusion of Levi, as now with the coming of Jesus there is no Temple or need for a priestly class, and the removal of the tribe of Dan. We are not told why Dan was excluded but it could be because the tribe of Dan broke away from the rest and set up their own idols and started their own priestly line. It could be that this rejection of God by Dan is why they are not included in the Revelation list.
Still, whatever God’s reason for the slight change of tribe names, all the tribes listed in Revelation have been included in the Old Testament listing of the tribes of Israel. There is certainly no reason to think the revelation list refers to Gentiles and specifically Jehovah’s Witness. Years ago I was told that in interpreting the Bible that when plain sense made common sense, seek no other sense. I defiantly think that applies to these verses in Revelation.
Have a blessed day,