Tuesday, 8 December 2020
of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed;
of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; Revelation 7:5
The instruction to withhold judgment on the earth until the sealing of God’s servants has been called out. The total number of them to be sealed is one hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. That number is now further refined.
The amount of analysis and of speculation on the order of the names is immense. Of particular note concerning the tribes is that Joseph is given instead of his son Ephraim, and that the tribe of Dan is also omitted.
Some other relevant facts are that the sons are not listed according to birth order. For example, Reuben was the firstborn. Judah is the fourth son, and yet he is mentioned first. They were both born to Leah.
Also, the twelve names specifically form six pairs. Placing Judah first seems reasonable because it became the prominent tribe, and it is also the tribe Christ Jesus came through. Reuben being second is paired with him.
The next pairings are Gad and Asher who were both born to the maidservant Zilpah and in that order. Next are Naphtali and Manasseh. Naphtali was born to Bilhah and Manasseh was born to Joseph and his wife in Egypt. Next, Simeon and Levi are mentioned. They were both born to Leah and in that order. They are followed by Issachar and Zebulun, they were the last two born to Leah, and they were born in that order. The last paring is Joseph and Benjamin, the two naturally born of Rachel.
In the list, then, six come through Leah, three come through Rachel (because Manasseh is from Joseph who is from Rachel), two come through Zilpah, and one comes through Bilhah.
As all of the four mothers of the children of Israel are represented, the main idea here is that the list does not neglect any of those four main branches. To come to the number of tribes as twelve varies in lists from the first in Genesis to those in Deuteronomy 33 and to those in Ezekiel. In these varied lists, different inclusions or exclusions are made. There are many speculations on why this is so, and none are without their own difficulties. In the end, a listing of twelve is given to retain the Bible’s standard of “perfection of government.”
With that as an all-too-brief accounting for the names, John begins the list, saying, “of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed.” The modern term “Jew” comes from the name Judah. Judah means “praise.” It is therefore the prominent tribe even today. Here we have a lesson which is seen time and again throughout the Bible – “Let the Praise of God always go first.” This is a great spiritual application that we should apply to our own lives and our prayer time as well.
It next says, “of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed.” Reuben was the firstborn of Israel, but he lost his right to the birthright because he slept with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. Reuben means “See, a Son.”
John next says, “of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed.” Gad was the firstborn of Zilpah, the handmaid of Leah – Jacob’s first wife. Gad means “A Troop” or “Fortune.”
These are the blessings for each of these sons of Israel as given by their father before his death –
“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
11 Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.” Genesis 49:8-12
“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not excel,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it—
He went up to my couch.” Genesis 49:3, 4
“Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him,
But he shall triumph at last.” Genesis 49:19
Life application: The sealing of those of Israel is a record of the faithfulness of God to His covenant promises. Israel was (and to this day is) faithfully unfaithful to the Lord, and yet their unfaithfulness in no way negates His faithfulness.
We have in the sealing of these people of Israel a listing that demonstrates that the Lord is not through with this group of people, and they will be used in the future to meet His purposes. Over-analyzing the listing may cause us to miss the most important point, which is that Israel has been preserved, they stand today, and they will stand in the future. This is because the Lord is faithful and true to His word.
As this is true with Israel, it is certainly true with each person who has entered into the New Covenant through the precious shed blood of Christ.
You have ordained all things, O Lord, and You have safely protected what You have ordained, including the children of Israel. Thank You for Your everlasting faithfulness to those who have not always been faithful to You. We can know that because of this, we are equally secure in You. Amen.