“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 Oh Lord”
At this point, we have finished going over the blessings Jacob bestowed on all the sons that came from his first wife Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, and Issachar.
We are now going to look at the blessings given to the four children born from Jacob’s concubines.
Keep in mind as we move forward that traditions in those times dictated that the sons of concubines didn’t carry an equal status as the sons of a man’s legal wives.
So due to this favoritism we can assume unfortunately that the four sons born to the handmaidens were constantly pushed to the bottom of the totem pole pecking order.
I’m sure Jacob was aware of this existing favoritism when he began making his pronouncements to this group of sons and wanted to make it clear to everybody that all his sons were equally and legitimately part of Israel.
Note Jacob’s first statement concerning Dan that “Dan will judge his people AS ONE OF THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL“.
He is pointing out that regardless of who Dan’s mother was, his status will be equal to that of the other tribes.
So let’s get into Dan.
First, “DAN” in Hebrew means “judged“.
Now although Dan was born to Rachel’s handmaiden Bilah, the authority to name the child was Rachel’s.
Recall that Rachel was very ashamed at being unable to bear children for her husband Jacob.
So in an act of desperation, she had her maid-servant Bilah procreate in her stead.
But, because she felt cursed by God in the matter, in her frustration she named the child born from Bilah “DAN” implying that God had judged her in someway by closing her womb.
Let’s examine this Hebrew word a little more.
The root word for “DAN” is “DIN“.
Remember, in the original Hebrew, there are no vowels, so the spelling would be identical for both of these words.
Here’s an example in Genesis where the word DIN is used.
“But I will also DIN (judge) that nation whom they serve…”
However, there is another different word in Hebrew that also ends up being translated into the English word “judge” but has a completely unrelated meaning.
That Hebrew word is SHOPHET and indeed it means “judge” but it has a different meaning than “DAN” or “DIN“.
It means judge in the sense of a person who renders legal rulings or passes wise decisions.
In other words, SHOPHET would be the appropriate word to use for a “judge” presiding over a court of law.
However, “DAN” or “DIN” can never be used in this sense.
The word “DAN” is always used in the sense of somebody being subjected to divine judgement.
That’s how Rachel used this word to name her child because she felt like she had been “judged” by God.
And moving forward, we will see that due to God’s judgement, all kinds of things terrible things will happen to the tribe of Dan.
Over time, their status and size will decrease considerably and eventually they will be omitted from the list of tribes in Revelations 7.
Also, why is a “serpent” used to describe Dan’s future characteristics?
Is this in some way indicating that more than the other tribes, it would be Dan who would especially struggle with idolatry?
Or notice verse 18 where Jacob suddenly utters “I look for your deliverance Oh Lord!”.
Is this statement somehow connected to the previous couple of verses about “the serpent that bites the heel” and possibly an allusion to Genesis 3:15 where it is prophesied that the seed of a woman will crush the head of the serpent?
I can’t say for sure, but if so, the implications are awesome!