What happened to Dan and Ephraim?

Subtitled: The 14 Tribes of Israel.

On our tours we take the group to Tel Dan.  It isn’t the most amazing site until you know the Biblical teaching that can take place.  It becomes a great object lesson.  Tel Dan is in the Northern section of Israel and it is where one of the pagan altars was located before the Babylonian captivity.  I have had the opportunity to teach there twice.

There are three lists of the 12 Tribes of Israel in Genesis 29-30, Numbers 2:1-29 and Revelation 7:5-8. The one in Genesis is as follows:

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

The list in Numbers is specific to the way the land was to be divided and because the Levites do not get any land, they aren’t in the Numbers list. What else is different is that Joseph is no longer listed, but his sons are. Remember, Joseph’s sons were blessed by Jacob (Israel) and given the double blessing making them full-fledged tribes, hence the 12 listed as follows:

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

This last list in Revelation is the weird one. You would think that, at the end, there would be a full list of all 14 of the tribes. That is not the case. A couple of the tribes are missing.

  1. Judah
  2. Reuben
  3. Gad
  4. Asher
  5. Naphtali
  6. Manasseh (Stays, but his brother Ephraim is missing)
  7. Simeon
  8. Levi (restored)
  9. Issachar
  10. Zebulun
  11. Joseph (restored, but Dan is gone)
  12. Benjamin

What happened to Dan (one of the original tribes) and Ephraim (one of Joseph’s sons)? Why would two tribes not be listed at the end? Let’s read the Bible to see.

The Kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms, one in the south and one in the north. The southern kingdom in the south was known as the Kingdom of Judah, containing the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. The northern kingdom was known as the Kingdom of Israel, containing all the other tribes.

The tribe of Dan was in the most northern section of the Kingdom of Israel and Ephraim was in the most southern section, and it contained the city of Bethel (basically, Bethel is Ephraim for this teaching).

Idolatry in Dan

Judges 17 and 18 has the whole story of the Tribe of Dan and I recommend reading the whole story, but it can be summarized in Judges 18:30-31.

There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.

This would have been no surprise for Jacob; he saw this coming.  Genesis 49:17 says:

Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward.

Idolatry in Ephraim

1 Kings 12:25-33 tells the majority of the story.  Notice what is in bold.

25 Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.

31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.

They also setup golden goats and golden calves:

2 Chronicles 11:15

he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols he had made.

So what did these tribes lead the people to do?

  1. They set up their own idols.
  2. They set up their own priests.
  3. They set up their own days of worship.

By doing these things they were no longer doing the commanded offerings that were to be done in Jerusalem at the temple.  They were worshiping things that they should not be worshiping and doing all of these things under the direction of a “priest” that wasn’t appointed by the High Priest.

Back to our original question: why aren’t they included in the list in Revelation?  God loves his commanded times and feasts.  He chose them for a reason and He takes them very seriously.  If God tells us to do something, we should do it.  25 times in the Old Testament the phrase “lasting ordinance” is used.  The one that spells disaster for the two tribes is in Leviticus 23.

Leviticus 23 is kind of a “catch all” for all of the commanded holidays.  It goes through and spells out Firstfruits (3rd day of Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Succot (Feast of Tabernacles).  In verse 23:29 it says:

Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people.

On that day, the day of Atonement, they were told to go to Jerusalem and fast (or “deny themselves”, normally meaning fasting), and if they do not, they would be cut off.

Ephraim and Dan never repented, worshiped the idols and disobeyed the commandment.  And they did this “until the time of the captivity of the land”.

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