Questions From Readers
● Why do not the tribes of Ephraim and Dan appear among those of spiritual Israel as given at Revelation 7:4-8?—P. R., U.S.A.
It is clear from the Scriptures that Jehovah purposed the number twelve, the multiple of two symbolically complete numbers, three and four, to represent organizational completeness. This is seen not only in there being twelve sons of Jacob and twelve tribes of Israel, but also in there being “the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”—Rev. 21:14.
Early in the wilderness journey the tribe of Levi was exchanged for all the first-born survivors, who belonged to Jehovah by reason of his sparing them on the night of the first Passover. So as to have twelve tribes again, the tribe of Joseph was divided into two tribes, those of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.—Num. 3:12, 13, 41; 10:14-28.
It follows that in listing the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel not all the names of the tribes could appear and there still be only the symbolic number of twelve. It might be thought that the original twelve tribes would be named in the book of Revelation, but not so. The tribes of Ephraim and Dan are omitted there as not deserving of symbolic significance. Why?
Ephraim had had a most favored start. Jehovah himself had said of Ephraim, “He is my first-born.” (Jer. 31:9) Ephraim, though the younger of Joseph’s two sons, inherited the right of the first-born by reason of Jacob’s blessing upon him.—Gen. 48:13-20.
In spite of this favored start the tribe of Ephraim produced a notoriously bad record. It grumbled against its inheritance in the land; it “vehemently tried to pick a quarrel with” Gideon; it fought against Jephthah; and concerning it we further read: “The sons of Ephraim, though armed shooters of the bow, retreated in the day of fight.” No wonder that Jehovah “proceeded to reject the tent of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim he did not choose. But he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.”—Josh. 17:14, 15; Judg. 8:1; 12:1-6; Ps. 78:9, 67, 68.
Ephraim took the lead in the rebellion against the house of David as represented by Jeroboam. More than that, it despised the covenant for the kingdom, warring against the kingdom of Judah, and it poured contempt upon the covenant of Levi by establishing rival calf worship throughout the ten-tribe kingdom. Concerning Ephraim we further read: “They did not keep the covenant of God, and in his law they refused to walk.” “O Ephraim, you have played the harlot.” “Ephraim is a cake not turned”; meaning that it was halfhearted in its devotion to Jehovah God.—1 Ki. 12:25-30; 2 Chron. 13:3-20; Ps. 78:10; Hos. 5:3; 7:8, RS.
However, it is to be noted that Ephraim is really represented in Joseph his father, for Joseph’s other son, Manasseh, is given a separate individual mention and standing in the list.
The tribe of Dan also made a bad name for itself. The very terms of the blessing upon this tribe, as uttered by Jacob upon his deathbed, imply this tribe would take an unfavorable course: “Let Dan prove to be a serpent by the roadside, a horned snake at the wayside, that bites the heels of the horse so that its rider falls backward.”—Gen. 49:17.
It is also noteworthy that the only ancient historical incident specifically dealing with the Danites tells of some of them falling away to idolatry. Apparently they were the first to do so. Thus in the Targum of Jonathan “Dan” is a byword for idolatry. When Jeroboam instituted calf worship, he did so by setting up one of the calves at the chief city of the Danites, the city of Dan: “They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, As thy god, O Dan, liveth; . . . they shall fall, and never rise up again.” (Judg. 18:1-31; Amos 8:14, AS) Dan’s place was taken by Manasseh in Revelation 7:6.
In view of the foregoing it is easy to see why the names of Ephraim and Dan do not appear among the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel.
● How can Deuteronomy 24:16, which says, “Children should not be put to death on account of fathers,” be harmonized with the fact that the offspring of the adulterous relation between David and Bath-sheba died due to their sin, as shown in 2 Samuel 12:14?—J. B., U.S.A.
The law, as stated at Deuteronomy 24:16, shows that fathers were not to be put to death for their sons nor were sons to be put to death for their fathers. In man’s administration of justice each was to die for his own sin, and not drag innocent relatives down with him. In this particular case of David and Bath-sheba neither of them had a right to the child and so there was no injustice in their being deprived of it. Besides, as an uncircumcised, unnamed infant it had not as yet developed any personality pattern or consciousness so as to appreciate life. Then again, Bath-sheba could have been stoned to death for her adultery, in which case the unborn child would also have perished. However, as previously noted in The Watchtower, David was shown mercy because of the Kingdom covenant, which Jehovah had made with him. Nevertheless, to drive home the fact of Jehovah’s displeasure he let the child die, which was a very severe blow to King David. Two similar instances are recorded in David’s life: One was in connection with the death of Uzzah, who tried to steady the ark of the covenant; the other was the destruction of tens of thousands of Israelites because King David presumptuously and proudly determined to number the hosts of Israel. (1 Chron. 15:13; 21:1-27) Such records as these magnify the supremacy of Jehovah God and underscore the words: “He [God] doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”—Dan. 4:35, AS.
● Which is the correct form of the tetragrammaton: יהוה, as found in “Let God Be True” and “Equipped for Every Good Work,” or יְהוָֹה, as found in Strong’s and Young’s concordances?—R. R. W., U.S.A.
The form you list first is the absolute form of the Hebrew tetragrammaton as shown in the Society’s publications you mention. The second form, as taken from the concordances, is the tetragrammaton with vowel points above and beneath it. At first, as is well known, Hebrew script was written altogether without any vowels, the vowel sounds being handed down by oral tradition. Vowel points were added later on to help readers pronounce the Hebrew text correctly and get the correct meaning out of it. It is generally understood that the vowel points that Dr. Young and Dr. Strong show really represent the vowels belonging to the Hebrew word Adonay, and these vowel points were really an indication to the Jewish reader that when he came to the tetragrammaton, the pronunciation of which had been lost to knowledge, he should read the title Adonay, meaning “the Lord,” instead of trying to pronounce the tetragrammaton. This course was resorted to by the Jewish clergy because they thought it sacrilegious even to pronounce the name of Jehovah and that to do so was a violation of the commandment not to take the name of Jehovah our God in vain. This religious notion accounts for the fact that the name of Jehovah appears so rarely in the authorized or King James version, even as noted in the preface of the American Standard Version.