9 So all Israel was recorded in genealogies, and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel (1 Chronicles 9:1)
Unpopular opinion here: I wish there were more genealogies. There. I said it. I know, these days of the read through the Bible plan have been hard to slog through. And I don’t really want more chapters of names I can’t pronounce.
Except that, I feel bad for three of the tribes of Israel.
I feel bad for Naphtali. Naphtali is the Jan Brady of Chronicles. Remember Jan? It’s ok if you don’t. On The Brady Bunch, Jan is the middle child, always forgotten because of Marcia, the perfect first child. Her best known line of the entire series is, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”
After an entire chapter on the descendants of Levi (EIGHTY-ONE VERSES!!!), Naphtali gets… a verse. Not even a complete sentence.
Levi! Levi! Levi!
But at least Naphtali gets a verse. Zubulun and Dan don’t get mentioned at all. 1 Chronicles 9:1 says these are ALL the tribes of Israel. Where are Zebulun and Dan?
There’s not a clear answer. Most scholars agree that Dan is missing because of their widespread and unrestrained idolatry. You can read about that in Judges 18. There’s also a great article on gotquestions.org about why Dan is also omitted from the list of the 144,000 gathered at the throne in Revelation 7.
It’s harder to find any reason for the omission of Zubulun. I couldn’t find any consensus on what happened to them. The best guess is that they were just absorbed into the tribes around them. It’s not hard to imagine this scenario when you look at the map of the tribal allotments. They are small to begin with, and they are surrounded by much bigger tribes.
So perhaps, after generations of intermarriage with the Manessites, Asherites, and all the other Ites, Zubulun disappeared. Thankfully, God sorts them out in the end, because, unlike Dan, they are included in the list of 144,000 in Revelation 7.
If this is what happened, then here is the lesson for me today:
Dan apparently fell to idolatry. They followed the gods of the nations they were supposed to have driven out, and as a result, they lost their identity.
They became just like the people they were not like.
Zebulun, on the other hand, lost their identity in the midst of people they were almost like. They shared the same culture as the tribes around them, but they weren’t all the same tribe.
There are two temptations for Christians. We can get lost in the “not like,” as Dan did. But we can also get lost in the “almost-like,” as Zebulun did. This is the more subtle temptation. We may have a lot in common with the people around us who all cheer for the same football team, all speak the same language, all drive the same kinds of cars. Sure, they may not make time for the Lord in their lives, but other than that, they are just like us.
And over time, we wind up becoming just like them, to the point that no one can tell the difference between the Christian family in the neighborhood and all the others. We may not be actively pursuing false gods, but we also are not passionately pursuing the One True God.
There’s more than one way to lose your place among the tribes. And Lord, when we are gathered around your throne, how I want to be in that number.