Who is Dan?
Dan is Jacob's fifth son, the firstborn of Bilhah, Rachel's maidservant
(Gen 30:3-6). His name means "judge, vindicator, justice-provider"
As with all family systems, Dan and his descendants possessed
a particular nature. Dan's father, Jacob, and the most significant
prophet in the Old Testament, Moses, tell us about that nature.
Governance: Dan the lion Jacob tells us that Dan and his descendants
would be a judge in Israel (Gen 49:16). In other words, they
would be prominent in Israel's governance, along with Judah (Gen
49:8-10), Joseph/Ephraim (Gen 49:26, Deu 33:16,17 NIV), and Gad
(Deu 33:20,21). This is why God allotted their inheritance territories
to juxtapose one another near the center of Palestine
). Moses agrees with Jacob, illustrating Dan as a
"lion" (Deu 33:22), a known symbol for governance and
leadership. The three other governing tribes are also referred
to as "lions": Judah (Gen 49:9), Gad (Deu 33:20, 1Chr
12:8,14), and Ephraim (Hos 5:14, through punitive sarcasm). Together,
these four tribes would impose governing influence upon Israel.
(NOTE: Reuben was originally intended to be one of the four governors/standard
bearers (Num 2:10; v3,18,25), but his sin cost him his firstborn
position (Gen 49:3,4). Therefore, his birthright was given to
Joseph (1Chr 5:1), and his governing function given to Gad (Deu
33:20,21), since Joseph/Ephraim was already a governor and a
fourth was needed to complete the quadruplet.)
Samson, from the tribe of Dan (Jud 13:2,24,25), exemplifies this
lionish nature of the Danites. He was a judge of Israel (15:20),
tore a young lion apart with his bare hands as his first act
under divine anointing (14:5,6), and continually displayed lionlike
ferocity and domination towards the Philistines (14:19, 15:14-16).
But Moses notices a potential problem in the tribe of Dan. He
calls him a lion's "cub" or "whelp" (Deu
33:22)--a baby lion--not a full-grown one. He sees a certain
immaturity in their tribe. Stay tuned....
Cleverness: Dan the snake Jacob also tells us that Dan and his
descendants would be unusually clever like a serpent, possessing
subtlety, savvy, surprise, stealth, and skill (Gen 49:17). Jesus
also presented the positive side of snakes, telling His followers
to be "as shrewd as snakes" (Mt 10:16). Again we see
this Danite trait embodied in Samson. To provoke the Philistines
to conflict, he used a cunning riddle (Jud 14:12-19), three-hundred
foxes tied in pairs at the tail with a lit torch (15:1-5), letting
himself be tied with ropes and masquerading a surrender (v13-16),
and tricking Delilah repeatedly (16:6-14). As lionlike as Samson
was in his aggressive strength, he was as equally snakelike in
his clever games that lay fatal traps for the unsuspecting Philistines.
The Laish incident also demonstrates Danite snakery. Judges 18
records how they came upon the unsuspecting city of Laish in
the far north (18:7-10), attacking, destroying, and resettling
in it (v27,28). Whether Samson versus the Philistines, or the
Danites versus Laish, in both stories we see Jacob's prophetic
psychoanalysis demonstrated: Dan will be a serpent by the roadside,
a viper along the path...
Within the same river, but a slightly different stream, we see
Dan's snakelike skill in Oholiab, one of two men filled with
the Spirit to be the artist and craftsman of the tabernacle (Ex
31:6, 35:34, 38:23). Centuries later, Huram-Abi, a Danite, also
possessed snakelike skill in artistry and craftsmanship (2Chr
2:13,14). Is it a coincidence that God's chosen craftsmen to
build His house--the Tabernacle of Moses and Solomon's Temple--were
from the tribe of Dan? They possessed the careful eye and skillful
movements of a snake in the realm of craftsmanship.
What a nature...the heart of a lion and the mind of a snake!
How intriguing. Despite being born in despisable beginnings,
Dan and his descendants had extraordinary talents for the future.
Sadly, the Danites became a spiritual embarrassment.
Roots of Inadequacy
Dan got a rough start, as many of us have. He was the son of
Bilhah, Rachel's slavewoman (Gen 30:3-6). Can you imagine the
heckling and harassment from his brothers, the biological sons
of Leah and Rachel? Unless his brothers, every one of them, had
the immaculate character of Christ from childhood, you can be
absolutely certain they harassed him. After reading how they
treated Joseph, we cringe at how they treated one another on
a daily basis--the comments, the looks, the jokes, the exclusion,
the violence. And, like any child, you can be absolutely certain
Dan internalized such negative messaging.
Then we come to Genesis 46, a list of the children of Jacob's
twelve sons. Keep in mind, in that time and culture a man's number
of children (especially sons) defined his societal worth. More
children, more worth; less children, less worth. Here's the stats:
Benjamin...ten children (v21)
Dan...one (v23), named Hushim or Shuham (Num
Imagine Dan's internal dialogue: I can't even have more than
one child! I'm at the very bottom of the list. Maybe they're
right, maybe I really am less blessed and less capable because
of my slave mother. Maybe I really am second rate...weaker...inferior...inadequate.
It is reasonable to deduce that Dan let down roots of inadequacy
here--a slavewoman mother amidst hostile siblings, and, only
one child amidst rigid cultural expectations. However, these
two factors alone do not reveal the entire picture. Future happenings
tell us more.
A Trunk of Mediocrity & Fruits of Rebellion
A few hundred years later, Moses notices a possible problem in
the tribe of Dan (Deu 33:22). First, he refers to them as a lion's
"cub" or "whelp" (a baby lion). In other
words, he sees a certain immaturity among the Danites. The second
phrase foresees how this immaturity will be expressed (NJKV):
...he shall leap from Bashan.
Why would the Danites "leap from Bashan" in time to
come? Bashan was a rich, mountainous territory in the far north
of Palestine, allotted to Manasseh (Jsh 17:1,5, 20:8, 21:6, 22:7,
1Chr 5:23) and Gad (1Chr 5:11,12,16). Dan, on the other hand,
was allotted territory in the south, above Judah and Simeon.
Why on earth would Dan, in the south, leap from Bashan, in the
far north, in a territory not even his own?
See, the Danites did not successfully conquer all the land allotted
to them (Jsh 19:47, Jud 1:34); they were allotted eighteen cities
(v41-46), but took only six. Those cities were Zorah and Eshtaol
(Jud 18:2,11, 13:2,25), and Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Aijalon, and
Gath Rimmon (Jsh 21:23). The last four they donated to the Levites
(Jsh 21:23), leaving them with only two, Zorah and Eshtaol. Could
it be that Dan's roots of inadequacy were stemming into a trunk
of mediocrity? God already swore He would fight for them and
take the land with them, if they only worshiped and obeyed Him
fully (Jsh 23:5-13). Since God cannot lie or fail, we know Dan
had to be the problem. He was only a lion's cub, spiritually
immature. Even Deborah noticed the Danite mediocrity and immaturity
Instead of focusing on spiritual growth to conquer their allotted
cities, the Danites took a city NOT in their inheritance, Leshem
(Jsh 19:47). They went outside of God's will for them. The result?
Eventually they lost Leshem, for it does not appear at all anymore
in all of Scripture! Even more so, Leshem's loss gives us a clue
as to why they were seeking another city to possess in Judges
18. Enter Bashan.
Judges 18:1 tells us the Danites were looking for a city to settle
in, since Zorah and Eshtaol were the only cities they possessed.
Not having learned from Leshem's loss, once again they sought
a city NOT in their inheritance, Laish (v7). Laish was in the
far north of Palestine, right beside Bashan (see map: http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/map_canaan_tribal_portions.html
). Remember Moses said that Dan would "leap from Bashan"?
He was foreseeing Judges 18.
Read the story. Dan's surprising attack on Laish would have been
perfectly strategized and positioned from the mountains of Bashan.
Like the fierce lions that often leap upon their prey from Bashan's
mountain crevices, so also Dan leapt from Bashan upon Laish.
Like Leshem, the Danites renamed Laish after Dan (Jsh 19:47 &
Roots of inadequacy stemming into a trunk of mediocrity producing
fruits of rebellion.
By the end of Judges 18, the Danites had become full-blown idol-worshipers
(Jud 18:30,31). They eventually partnered with King Jeroboam
in making their northern colony (Laish) a center of idol worship,
the very seat of Satan in Israel (1Ki 12:28-30, Am 8:14). What
began as isolated tribal idolatry had now become the center of
God says, "Enough!"
By the end of Judges 18, Dan possessed only Zorah, Eshtaol, and
Laish. Two cities from their legitimate inheritance and one through
rebellion. Remember Matthew 25:28,29? God took away Zorah and
Eshtaol and gave them to Judah (1Chr 2:1-3,53, 2Chr 11:10). Though
a piece of both cities were Judah's anyway (Jsh 15:33), after
the Laish incident they became exclusively associated with Judah
(1Chr 2:1-3,53, 2Chr 11:10), and Dan became exclusively associated
with the far north ("from Dan to Beersheba"). No more
were the two cities ever mentioned with Dan again. Whatever inheritance
Dan did have was taken away, even before the Assyrian captivity.
And what became of Laish? Jeremiah says God sent them a prophet
(Jer 4:15). Yet because they ignored him, He sent an enemy military
to destroy it, and from there, the entire land of Israel as well
(8:16, 1:14). Sarcastically, God said He would send "venomous
snakes" to bite Dan (8:17), who himself was a snake (Gen
49:17), but used his legitimate cleverness for evil.
Finally, this tribe is the only one of Israel's twelve not sealed
for protection and ministry during the Tribulation (Rev 7:1-8).
Some Bible students even suggest they will also be banned from
citizenship in heaven, pointing to Deuteronomy 29:18-21 and Revelation
14:1-3. Others, however, point to Ezekiel 48:1,2,32 as evidence
of Dan's millenial restoration. Whatever the correct understanding
might be, we can know for sure that Dan's extreme idolatry has
harsh consequences before God.
May we fall facedown before the Lord of hosts asking him this
question, "Lord, am I a Danite?" I sense God is writing
this letter to Christian Danites everywhere, calling us to wholehearted
repentance, worship, and obedience forever. I suggest we ask
the Lord three questions, all based on the Jewish Danites.
1) Lord, are there roots of inadequacy in me? Remember how Dan
began--having a slavewoman mother amidst hostile siblings, and,
having only one child amidst rigid cultural expectations. Do
I have past or present circumstances that might threaten my healthy
God-sense of adequacy and worth?
2) Lord, has a trunk of mediocrity stemmed in my life? Do I give
God my absolute best in time spent intimately with Him? Do I
"work with all my heart as unto the Lord" (Col 3:23,
Ecc 9:10), or do I have a mediocre and compromising bent? Remember,
Dan had an inheritance of eighteen cities, conquered only six,
and retained none!
3) Lord, are there fruits of rebellion in my life? Instead of
their inheritance, the Danites pursued easier projects outside
of God's will--Leshem and Laish. Though they succeeded in taking
these cities, eventually they lost them because of God's chastisement,
leaving them wounded and wandering. Am I in known, willful rebellion
in any area? Remember Dan! Just because there appears to be "success"
in a rebellious area, if it is truly outside God's inheritance
for me eventually His chastisement will manifest. Don't be left
wounded and wandering!
Repent. Recommit. Research. Reform. Remain. Revere.