Bible Readings for November 16th
As 1 Chronicles lays out the genealogies of each tribe of Israel one by one, we see Judah and Simeon (the southernmost tribes) in 1 Chronicles 4; Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (the easternmost tribes) in 1 Chronicles 5; Levi in 1 Chronicles 6; and then Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher in 1 Chronicles 7. Curiously, the genealogies of the tribes of Zebulun and Dan are not included. What are we to make of this exclusion?
On the one hand, we don’t have much information to go on. Zebulun and Dan are both members of the northern kingdom of Israel that is eventually conquered by the Assyrians, but so are the tribes of Simeon, Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, Issachar, Naphtali, Ephraim, and Asher, and each of those tribes does receive a genealogy in these early chapters of Chronicles. Any hypothesis about what might be happening here should be held lightly because of our lack of information.
On the other hand, the exclusion of Dan in particular may have some precedent, since Dan is associated with an unusually large degree of idolatry in the stories we have read so far. For example, it is the tribe of Dan who hires the Levite named Jonathan away from Micah in Judges 18—one of the stories leading up to the wicked crime of the Benjaminite city of Gibeah in Judges 19. Furthermore, when the Danites eventually settle into the city of Laish and rename that city Dan, we read that they set up carved images for themselves to worship (Judg. 18:29–31). Then, when Jeroboam leads the ten northern tribes of Israel in rebellion against Rehoboam and the two southern tribes of Judah, the city of Dan becomes one of the places where Jeroboam sets up golden calves for the Israelites to worship (1 Kgs. 12:29–30). Additionally, the prophet Amos singles out the tribe of Dan to associate with “the Guilt of Samaria”—that is, with idolatry (Amos 8:14). Even more curiously, when the book of Revelation prophesies the sealing of groups of twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel in Revelation 7, that list of tribes includes Zebulun but does not include Dan (Rev. 7:5–8).
What this suggests—and again, we must make our conclusions tentatively—is that Dan specifically is excluded from the list of tribes because of the tribe’s deep idolatry. Because the restoration of true worship is one of the main focuses of the Chronicles, excluding Dan may serve as a unique punishment for the most idolatrous tribe. On the whole, these written genealogies confront us with the necessity of repentance—even as we prepare to see how the new David will establish perfect worship among God’s people forever. Let us therefore seek Jesus, the Son of David, so that we may rejoice that our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.