What can we learn from the tribe of Dan?

The patriarch of the tribe of Dan was the fifth son of Jacob, and his name means "judge." At the end of his life, Jacob blessed each of his sons, which served as a prophecy for how his son's tribes would act. When Jacob blessed Dan, he said, "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider falls backward" (Genesis 49:16–17). True to Jacob's prophecy, the tribe of Dan followed its own path rather than that which God laid out for them. They repeatedly fell into idolatry, and when Israel split into two kingdoms, the city of Dan became a center of idolatry for the northern kingdom of Israel.

Jacob's prophecy over Dan was fulfilled through the life of Samson, a judge from the tribe of Dan (Judges 13—16). He was a thorn in the Philistines' side and a mighty warrior, but he struggled to obey the Lord. He continually compromised his vow to the Lord and suffered because of it. He inched as close as he could to sin until finally his strength was taken from him as he gave himself to Delilah. Delilah betrayed Samson and delivered him to the Philistines, and in his death he brought destruction to Israel's most persistent enemy.

As Israel settled the Promised Land, each tribe was allotted a portion of land. Dan was given a region in central Israel on the coast, but they failed to drive the Canaanites completely out of the region. In Judges 18, the tribe of Dan wanted to seek out better land. They found the people of Laish who "lived in security…quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth" (Judges 18:7). The tribe of Dan decided that land was better than the land the Lord had given them, so they set out to possess it. Along the way they stole the idols of a man named Micah. They initially invited him along to become a priest for their tribe, but then his neighbors came out after him and overtook the people of Dan. The Danites questioned Micah and warned about his safety. Micah turned back while the Danites proceeded to Laish. There they slaughtered the people and burned down the city. Because the tribe of Dan was not initially obedient to drive out their enemy from the land, they became discontent with what the Lord had given them. Their solution to the problem they created not only destroyed a people group, but also gave them the opportunity to pick up false idols along the way.

This root of idolatry polluted all of Israel. When Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms, Jeroboam was worried that the people's hearts would turn back to the Davidic line, and he set of up idols in the cities of Bethel and Dan and the people worshipped there (1 Kings 12:27–30).

The tribe of Dan did not consistently obey the Lord. They compromised in their faith and worshipped idols, and they weren't content with the gifts and calling God had given them. Interestingly, the tribe of Dan is not mentioned in 144,000 sealed from the tribes of Israel during the seven-year, end-times tribulation; however Levi, the priestly tribe that did not receive a land inheritance, is listed (Revelation 7:4–8).

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