The prophecies of Revelation chapter 7 transport us into the future days of tribulation. During this period of intense persecution 12 000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel will be sealed and set apart as servant for God. Herein lies the first of 2 great problems. For over 2000 years 10 out of the 12 tribes of Israel have been regarded as 'lost tribes', peoples and tribes who never returned to their ancient homeland of Israel following their exile into the empire of Assyria. Over the past 70 years however interest has been rekindled in tracing these 10 lost tribes. Since the reestablishment of the nation state of Israel and the Messianic aspirations of Jewish scholars, the search has been on to find the 10 Northern tribes. Following the ancient silk route out of Assyria and investigating the traditions and practices of the tribes and peoples along that route has yielded fascinating results! Jewish practices, Mosiac law, the practice of the Passover and the preparation of Kosher food as well as ancient traditions of an Exodus story has been found amongst the Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan, the BenIsrael of Bombay, the Manasseh of Tibet and the Ischarof of Uzbekistan, Some leading Rabbinical scholars are convinced that all 12 of the tribes have now been identified amongst nation states and groups. Amongst these groups some are already returning to Israel!
The tribal list of Revelation chapter 7 contains a further bombshell. Included in the list of the 12 tribes is Manasseh. Manasseh was not a son of Jacob at all, but rather a grandson. As included in the list of 12 tribes he has displaced one of the original tribes, that of Dan. The tribe of Dan was no insignificant player in the OT narrative. It was Dan who was:
- Instrumental in constructing the tabernacle under the direction of Aholiab (Exodus chapter 31, 35, 36)
- Crucial in the design of the temple by the hands of Hiram (2 Chronicles 2:14)
- Dan who proclaimed the law of the Lord and the warnings against idolatry from Mount Gerizim in Deuteronomy 27.
And yet tragically it was also in Dan we see a sustained and collective loss of identity and distinctiveness:
- Marital compromise and unequal yoke (Leviticus 24)
- The first man to be stoned for blasphemy (Leviticus 24)
- Moral compromise in the days of Samson
- Spiritual compromise and idolatry in the days of Micah in Judges 17 and 18.
It was seem that by the time we reach Revelation chapter 7 this sustained loss of identity and distinctiveness has removed them from the Divine plan, replaced now by Manasseh, the meaning of whose name is that of 'caused to forget'. God has forgotten those who forgot Him!
The New Testament warning of Paul seems apt here; let us beware that lest having preached to others we ourselves should become shipwreck!
A message preached at the Bridgend Gospel Hall, New Cumnock, from our systematic bible teaching series on the book of Revelation. Audio and video recordings of these bible studies are free to download or view online.
Yours by God's Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie