Sunday, January 7, 2024

The 144,000 Sealed (7.1–8)


After these things I saw four angels standing at the earth’s four corners, grasping the earth’s four winds so no wind would blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel, ascending from the eastern sun, holding a seal of the living God. And he shouted in a loud voice to the four angels that were permitted to injure the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed our God’s slaves on their foreheads.’

And I heard the number of those who were sealed: one hundred forty-four thousand were sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.

From the tribe of Judah: twelve thousand sealed.

From the tribe of Reuben: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Gad: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Asher: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Naphtali: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Manasseh: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Simeon: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Levi: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Issachar: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Zebulun: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Joseph: twelve thousand.

From the tribe of Benjamin: twelve thousand were sealed.


The author primarily follows Ezekiel, who showed Yhwh’s faithful in Jerusalem marked for protection by an angel, so that they would not come under harm when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. The number and identity of the people who are marked for protection in this passage have historically been interpreted as a symbolic representation of all Christians alive during the end times. Instead, this was the author’s version of an idea found in some other apocalyptic texts, particularly those among the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this idea, elite members from among faithful Israelites would be destined to join the Anointed One in his climactic war against evil forces. The author expects an immense army, comprising exactly twelve thousand men from each of the Israel’s twelve tribes. In effect, this is a military census. He will return to the concept twice more later in the book, making it clearer that the number and identity of the crowd is literal, and that their purpose is for war. The naming of the twelve tribes varies somewhat in the Hebrew Bible, as it does here. The exclusion of the tribe of Dan may be attributed to its association with idolatry. The ‘half-tribe’ Manasseh is included in Dan’s place.



11.12 He will raise a signal for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

41.2 Who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service?


6.8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead


18.30 Then the Danites set up the idol for themselves.


9.3–6 Yhwh called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing-case at his side, and said to him, ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.’ To the others he said in my hearing, ‘Pass through the city after him, and kill; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Cut down old men, young men and young women, little children and women, but touch no one who has the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.’


49.17 Dan shall be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path


28.38 You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to Yhwh.’ You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead


1.2–47 Take a census of the whole congregation of Israelites […] every male individually […] everyone in Israel able to go to war. […] From Reuben […] From Simeon […] From Judah […] From Issachar […] From Zebulun […] From the sons of Joseph: from Ephraim […] from Manasseh […] From Benjamin […] From Dan […] From Asher […] From Gad […] From Naphtali


4.2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.

1 Enoch

18.5 I saw the winds on the earth bearing the clouds. I saw the paths of the angels.

34.1 There I saw three gates of heaven open in heaven. From them the winds in the north emerge. When they blow, there is cold and hail and hoarfrost and snow and dew and rain. Through one gate they blow for good, and when they blow through two of the gates, they blow with violence, and there is affliction on the earth.

76.1, 4 At the boundaries of the earth I saw twelve gates open for all the winds […] from those other eight [corner gates of the twelve], winds of punishment emerge; when they are sent they bring devastation to the entire earth and the water on it, all that live on it, and all that are in the water and on the land

Testament of Dan

5.6 For I read in the Book of Enoch the Righteous that [Dan’s] prince is the satan

Dead Sea Scrolls

1QM the priests as well as the Levites and the divisions of the fifty-two heads of family of the congregation. They shall rank the chief priests below the high priest and his vicar. […] Below them, in perpetual ministry, shall be the chiefs of the Levites to the number of twelve, one for each tribe. […] Below them shall the chiefs of the tribes together with the heads of family of the congregation. […] They shall arm for themselves warriors from all the tribes of Israel […] And on the shield of the prince of all the congregation they shall write his name, together with the names of Israel, Levi, and Aaron, and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel according to the order of the precedence, with the names of their twelve chiefs.


2.2 the angels of the spirits of the wind

Revelation of Zephaniah

12.8 Every tree which grows upon the earth will be plucked up with their roots and fall down.

Psalms of Solomon

15.6 For God’s mark is on the righteous for salvation.

2 Baruch

6.4–5 And I saw, and behold, there were standing four angels at the four corners of the city, each of them with a burning torch in his hands. And another angel came down from heaven and said to them, ‘Hold your torches and do not light them before I say it to you.’

5 Ezra

2.38 Rise, stand erect, and see the number of those who have been sealed at the feast of the Lord.

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