What Happened to the Tribe of Dan Absent from the List of 12 in the Apocalypse?

Of the tribe of Manasses, twelve thousand signed (Apoc. 7:6)

Reading the Book of the Apocalypse the other day, I was surprised not to see Jacob’s son Dan listed with the twelve patriarchs in the enumeration of the 144,000 signed with the seal of the living God (chapter seven). Joseph is listed. And Manasses, Joseph’s son (one, with Ephraim of the double portion), is listed in the place of Dan. Although the children of Dan prevaricated and worshipped a graven idol and before that fought sinfully for their inheritance which they had squandered by sloth (Judges 18:30), Dan himself, as far as I could discover, had committed no personal crime that is recorded in Genesis. However, Jacob, in blessing his twelve sons, gives this ominous prophecy in his blessing for Dan: “Let Dan be a snake in the way, a serpent in the path, that biteth the horse’ s heels that his rider may fall backward” (Genesis 49:17).

There are some fathers who interpret the “serpent” in this verse as Satan. Thus, they surmise that the Antichrist will issue from the tribe of Dan. I found two fathers who comment to this effect. Here is what they wrote:

Saint Hippolytus of Rome

“Thus did the Scriptures preach before-time of this lion and lion’s cub. And in like manner also we find it written regarding Antichrist. For Moses speaks thus: Dan is a lion’s cub, and he shall leap from Bashan. (Deuteronomy 33:22) But that no one may err by supposing that this is said of the Saviour, let him attend carefully to the matter. Dan, he says, is a lion’s cub; and in naming the tribe of Dan, he declared clearly the tribe from which Antichrist is destined to spring. For as Christ springs from the tribe of Judah, so Antichrist is to spring from the tribe of Dan. And that the case stands thus, we see also from the words of Jacob: Let Dan be a serpent, lying upon the ground, biting the horse’s heel. (Genesis 49:17) What, then, is meant by the serpent but Antichrist, that deceiver who is mentioned in Genesis, (Genesis 3:1) who deceived Eve and supplanted Adam (πτερνιAdam’s heel)? But since it is necessary to prove this assertion by sufficient testimony, we shall not shrink from the task.

That it is in reality out of the tribe of Dan, then, that that tyrant and king, that dread judge, that son of the devil, is destined to spring and arise, the prophet testifies when he says, Dan shall judge his people, as (he is) also one tribe in Israel. (Genesis 49:16) But some one may say that this refers to Samson, who sprang from the tribe of Dan, and judged the people twenty years. Well, the prophecy had its partial fulfilment in Samson, but its complete fulfilment is reserved for Antichrist. For Jeremiah also speaks to this effect: From Dan we are to hear the sound of the swiftness of his horses: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing, of the driving of his horses. (Jeremiah 8:16). And another prophet says: He shall gather together all his strength, from the east even to the west. They whom he calls, and they whom he calls not, shall go with him. He shall make the sea white with the sails of his ships, and the plain black with the shields of his armaments. And whosoever shall oppose him in war shall fall by the sword.

Saint Methodius of Olympus

“When the Son of Perdition appears, he will be of the tribe of Dan, according to the prophecy of Jacob. This enemy of religion will use a diabolic art to produce many false miracles, such as causing the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. Those possessed with demons will be exorcised. He will deceive many and, if he could, as our Lord has said, even the faithful elect.

“Even the Antichrist will enter Jerusalem, where he will enthrone himself in the temple as a god (even though he will be an ordinary man of the tribe of Dan to which Judas Iscariot also belonged).

The tribe of Dan then is excluded as one of the twelve gates in the heavenly Jerusalem. These “gates” are guarded, the holy book says, by twelve angels, one for each of the twelve tribes, with Manasses counted as one. The twelve foundation stones, however, which hold up the walls of the new city of God, are the twelve apostles, whose dignity is so much the higher.

The Apocalypse, as we know, being a book of types and allegories, depicting events to come and doctrinal and moral truths in an enigmatic language, is not a book to be interpreted except where the Church sees fit to do so, sometimes even in her liturgy. That is another topic.

Finally, I was surprised to read in a footnote of my Bible that Bishop Bossuet authored a book on the Apocalypse. Being that his Continuity of Religion is so clear and educational in its presentation of Bible history, I am anxious to find out where I can obtain his book on the Apocalypse.