Why the order of tribes in Revelation 7 is different than that of the OT?

Posted on

The order of tribes in Revelation 7: 5–8 is not identical with the ones found in the OT (Num. 1:5–15; Deut. 27:12, 13; cf. Gen. 35:22–26; 49:3–28; 1 Chron. 2:1, 2). This is because the Lord wanted to communicate a special message to the NT believers.

The OT list usually starts with Reuben (the firstborn) but in Rev. 7, he is listed second. Revelation begins with Judah instead (the fourth in the OT), because Christ came of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5).

In the OT, Levi is sometimes not counted as a tribe, even though he was listed as a son of Jacob. This is because Levi got no inheritance among the tribes “Only to the tribe of Levi he had given no inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as He said to them” (Joshua 13:14). The Levites were the priests of God who dispersed among the tribes to minister to them.

In Revelation 7, the tribe of Levi is added, but not that of Dan. To calculate Levi and yet hold the number 12 it was necessary to delete one of the tribes, inasmuch as Joseph was counted as two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Ephraim and Dan were left out in Rev. 7 because of the evil actions of the tribes. Dan was excluded because of the tribe’s apostasy in following idols (Judges 18:30, 31). “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, A viper by the path” (Genesis 49:17). Also, “Ephraim is joined to idols, Let him alone” (Hosea 4:17).

In addition, the names of some of the tribes are not spelled the same as in the OT. This is because the NT names are translated from the Greek, whereas the OT names are translated from the Hebrew. Greek translations of Hebrew names are often inaccurate because the Greek alphabet don’t have certain sounds common in Hebrew.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

A closing message from BibleAsk:

Thank you for visiting BibleAsk – an online ministry dedicated to providing Bible based answers to your questions. If you enjoyed and agree with this answer, please like and share! If you don’t agree, please leave a comment below, and we’ll be sure to respond! If you have another question you would like to ask, please click here and someone from our team will personally answer it (don’t worry, your email address will never be shared). Check out our Bible Answers page to see just Bible verses answering thousands of questions. If you feel impressed to support this ministry, kindly visit our donate page to send a tax-deductible love gift to BibleAsk. Any donation size helps .