Thursday, May 19, 2011

Genesis 49:17-18 Jacob's Blessing: Dan

"Dan will provide justice for his people
as one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan will be a serpent 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, O Lord."

Genesis 49:17-18 NIV


Dan was the son of Bilhah, Rachel's maid.  Rachel gave her maid to her husband in order to produce children, for Rachel was barren at that time.

Jacob's last words to his son Dan state that Dan will provide justice for his people.  As a tribe, the Danites were not able to take possession of the inheritance allotted to them, so they ended up going north to Laish, where they conquered the isolated inhabitants.  They renamed the area Dan.  Dan became synonymous with the northern border of Israel.

Unfortunately, King Jeroboam built a pagan temple at Dan and set up a golden calf to be worshipped.  This sin is repeatedly referred to throughout Israel's history, probably because it was a shockingly blatant example of idolatry -- one of the worst.  Another calf was set up at Beersheba, the southern limit of Israel.  These calf-idols were intended to prevent Israelites from needing to go to Jerusalem to worship, for Jeroboam feared that the people would eventually rally to David again instead of remaining loyal to himself. (I Kings 12:25-33)

Jeroboam's actions would have the effect of violating both the commandment which forbade making any type of images/idols and the one which said that only God could be worshipped.  The widespread effect such idolatrous actions would have upon the people is another reason why Jeroboam's actions are treated with such contempt.  It is bad enough when the people fall into idolatry, but when the king initiates and encourages such practices, a certain line has been crossed.  The prophet Amos denounced such idolatry (Amos 8:13-14) and asserted that those who invoked such idols would fall, never to rise again.  [This story is especially compelling because Jeroboam himself had been chosen to rule over ten tribes when the Israelites had begun to worship other 'gods' during Solomon's reign. (I Kings 11:26-40)  Yet he, too, proceeded to fall into idolatry.]

Some believe that these idolatrous actions are why the Tribe of Dan is not mentioned in Revelation 7:1-8 as having 12,000 members sealed with the seal of God.  Others believe that the Antichrist will arise from this tribe, although I am not aware of any Scriptural evidence to support this conclusion.

Jacob's words state that Dan would provide justice for his people.  Samson is probably the most famous person from the tribe of Dan.  Although Samson had glaring flaws, most notably in his choice of women, God did use him to strike a blow against the Philistines.  (Judges 15 & 16)  This is the only example that I can think of where a Danite provided justice for the Israelites.

I included verse 18 in this section about Dan, because I believe it is related to this idea of idolatry.  Some say that Jacob's words here are merely his request to the Lord for physical strength as he continues his final blessing of his sons.  There may be some element of this included here.  However, I also think it could be that Jacob has been allowed to see at least an outline of the coming problem of idolatry present in this tribe.  Such a revelation could be discouraging.  Whatever the reason, Jacob draws strength from God to meet his needs.

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