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As we continue our series on the Twelve Tribes of Israel, we turn our attention to the Tribe of Dan. (You can find the other tribes we have studied here: The tribe of Reuben, The Tribe of Levi, The Tribe of Simeon, the Tribe of Naphtali and the Tribe of Judah)
Dan was the fifth of Jacob’s sons, the first by Bilhah, the maid of Rachel. When he was born, Rachel, who had suffered infertility for some time, Rachel exclaimed:
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“God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.” – Genesis 30:6
Dan, in Hebrew is translated as “judge” דן, from the verb דין (din), to judge or govern
In Jacob’s Blessing there is a reference to Rachel’s words,
“Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel.” – Genesis 49:16
The Tribe of Dan
The tribe was large in number. When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, about 1483 B.C., they were second in terms of numbers leaving Egypt with 62,700 men old enough for war – at least 20 years’ old (Numbers 1:39). During the second census they had lost just a few members and had 64,400 strong (Numbers 26:43). Dan outnumbered the Tribe of Manasseh, by almost 2 to 1, and outnumbered the Tribe of of Ephraim about 3 to 2. When Moses gave his last blessings to the children of Israel, he said of Dan” “About Dan he said:
‘Dan is a lion’s cub, springing out of Bashan.’” – Deuteronomy 33:22
He proclaimed that Dan and his tribe would be a spirited, robust and a tribe of warriors. He wouldn’t sit quietly on the sidelines, but, instead would “spring” forth by leaps. If we turn to the book of Judges, we learn of another attribute of Dan and the Tribe of Dan. In the song of Deborah and Barak, the song asks:
“Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves.” – Judges 5:17
The Tribe of Dan was a seafaring tribe. They loved to sail the seas. In this song, she is “calling out” the tribe of Dan for staying on their ships and refusing to fight. I find this interesting as in Moses blessing, he refers to them as lions, referring to their warlike tendencies. This seems to contradict that statement.
“At the same time Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, with the kingdom of Egypt left in shambles, some chose not to follow Moses into the land of Canaan. About 1500 B.C., a last flowering of megalithic culture occurred. On the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea, a tower-building people sometimes called the Shardana emerged, and soon dominated Sardinia and then invaded Corsica and the Balearics, and ruled them for about a thousand years. These were ancient Danites! Their very name identifies them! They gave their name to their island, SarDINia, and their very name SharDANa, proves who they really were.
In Hebrew, the term “sharon” means a level “plain.” It comes from the root word yashar, meaning “to make straight or even, right, pleasant, prosperous.” The “Shardana” were nothing more than the “prosperous DANites,” the tribe of Dan! The term “sar” or “shar” in Hebrew means “chief,” “prince,” “ruler,” from which such words as “Tsar,” “Caesar,” “Kaiser,” etc., derive. The “Shar-Dana,” then, were the chiefs or princes of DAN!” (from https://www.hope-of-israel.org)
Territory of The Tribe of Dan
The portion of land assigned to Dan was a central coastal area of Canaan adjoined to the territories of Ephraim, Benjamin and Judah, and lay on the western side of the of the mountains. In Judges 18:27-29, we find scripture declaring the initial territory assigned to the Tribe of Dan:
“Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.
The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish.” – Judges 18:27-29
We see a reference to their new city again in Joshua 19:47:
“(When the territory of the Danites was lost to them, they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their ancestor.)” – Joshua 19:47
We are told that the Amorites forced the Tribe of Dan into the mountain so they couldn’t access what was considered the richest part of their portion of land. This land was the most fertile of the territory between the mountain and the sea.
“The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain.” – Judges 1:34
Later we find the Danites oppressed by the Philistines. You may recall the story and exploits of Samson against the Philistines in Judges 14. Samson was one of the most famous members of the Danites.
The Blessing of Dan by Jacob
Before Jacob, Dan’s father died, he gave a blessing to each of his sons. This is the blessing given to Dan:
“Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward.
“I look for your deliverance, Lord.” – Genesis 49:16-18
Notice several things about this blessing. First, Jacob prophesied that Dan would judge Israel. This part of the blessing was fulfilled by Samson who judged Israel for twenty years. We find this judgement and confirmation that he led Israel in Judges 15:16, 20 as well as Judges 16:31. Second, he claimed that Dan would become idolatrous and would become like the serpent in the Garden of Eden in that he would not be faithful to God.
When the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan was seventh in line to select their territory (Joshua 19:40-51). However, they were not able to occupy their selected territory due to a lack of faith and later moved north (Judges 18:1-31), as we read above. As they moved north, the Danites stole Micah’s idols and Micah’s priest agreed to be the priest for the the tribe.
“Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their fellow Danites, “Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, some household gods and an image overlaid with silver? Now you know what to do.” So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance of the gate. The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate.
When the five men went into Micah’s house and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”
They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” – Judges 18:14-19
Jacob’s prophesy, again, proves true as we see in Judges 18:30:
“There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land.” – Judges 18:30
The Danites continued this idolatry until the Assyrian Empire took them captive in 722 B.C.
“After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.” – 1 Kings 12:28-30
“However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.” – 2 Kings 10:29
Why is The Tribe of Dan Absent From Revelations?
In the book of Revelation, when the Messiah tells the apostle John that he will choose 144,000 special servants from the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8), and chooses 12,000 out of each tribe, it is interesting to note that he chooses double from the Tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manesseh’s portion). We may find at least some of the answer in the book of Judges. We know that they attacked Laish and turned to idolatry. Throughout the centuries, they continued to engage in idolatry and were slow to repent of their sins. So, the tribe is missing from the list of tribes in Revelation 7:4-8 and will not be part of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses in the tribulation period. An interesting note, however, is that they appear again in Ezekiel 48:1-2, 32.
“These are the tribes, listed by name: At the northern frontier, Dan will have one portion; it will follow the Hethlon road to Lebo Hamath; Hazar Enan and the northern border of Damascus next to Hamath will be part of its border from the east side to the west side.
Asher will have one portion; it will border the territory of Dan from east to west.” – Ezekiel 48:1-2
“On the east side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin and the gate of Dan.” – Ezekiel 48:32
These scriptures do show that the tribe of Dan will have land designated for them during the millennial kingdom. They will continue to reject God in the tribulation but they will turn to God at the end of the millennial kingdom because our God will draw them to Christ.
Interesting Facts about the Tribe of Dan:
- Their tribe symbols are the scales and serpent/snake (from Jacob’s blessing)
- Descendants of the tribe of Dan are said to be found in modern day Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Northern England and Denmark as well as the United States.
- Their gemstone is said to be the sapphire
You may enjoy this short video on how the tribe of Dan missed God:
For additional reading and study, you may wish to consider one of these recommended resources: What do you find most interesting about who the Danites were and their patriarch Dan? Because of Him, Sue