Dan, the fifth son of Jacob, symbolizes the end of an era. Within the season that Dan represents, pride and wickedness reach heights that appear triumphant until a force of unforeseen strength is used under the hand of God to bring judgment upon iniquity. Jesus’ blood sacrifice in the season of Judah has now successfully overthrown the kingdom of darkness, delivering a terminal blow to the reign of sin and death under the law.
Through the tribe of Dan, the nature and actions which mark those worthy of judgment are brought into view, and the damnable deeds of wickedness are exposed for all to see. This season showcases the the depths of defiance that lead up to the salvation of the Lord and the type of judgment iniquity deserves. In this period represented by Dan the Old Covenant transitions into the new with the sentencing of the unrighteous elect, and understanding the finale of the old dispensation is paramount for comprehension, discernment and proper obedience today. The following passage in Matthew teaches us that the Old Testament should not be completely discarded in the new, but used to teach the way to the Kingdom by the Holy Spirit.
17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The Birth of Dan
As we continue the analysis of Jacob’s sons, it becomes evident that the season of Dan is a perfect illustration of how divine judgment is instigated and executed. The narrative dynamic between Jacob, his wives and their servants continues as a prophetic reflection of the conditions and seasons of man, and Dan is no different. We’ve discussed Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, and discovered how they have all been literal children of Leah’s womb and offspring of her emotional disposition. Dan, however, is the first child born to Jacob from a different mother, and this carries great spiritual significance.
While Jacob’s first three children were born out of the emotional instability of Leah and her fourth son born in her praise, Jacob’s fifth son was born out of Rachel’s jealousy. Here are the circumstances and words surrounding Dan’s birth as they are recorded in Genesis.
1And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 2And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 3And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. 4And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. 5And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 6And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.
In order to understand the significance of Rachel’s words we must incorporate who she represents, spiritually. Remember, Rachel is the beautiful, ideal bride from the beginning of Jacob’s story. In this extended allegory painted by God, she continues to represent God’s initial desire for an ideal bride of Christ, and she still corresponds to the perfect will of God for all of creation. His perfect will and desire is that all men exist with Him in eternity as a result of His redemptive grace, and He is willing to fight for it through great longsuffering and patience. So, when Rachel speaks, she is giving God’s perfect will and desire a voice.
The prophetic nature of Rachel’s words and actions are comprehended by the recognition of this truth: The Lord, God almighty is jealous for His creation. His jealousy is not of the unrighteous variety but of the righteous kind, and He will do what is necessary to gather and protect those that belong to Him.
Exodus 34:14 KJV
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
“For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
In these passages we see the jealousy of God described on several accounts, and it is justified by His right to lay claim to His own creation. These verses also make it evident that God’s jealousy provokes His judgment upon anything and anyone attempting to steal what rightfully belongs to Him. The Bible warns us of the jealousy of God, because if it is tempted or tried, a type of judgment follows. This fits perfectly into the narrative of Jacob, and is reflected in the jealousy expressed by Rachel, His desired bride.
Now when observing the birth Dan, it becomes clear that Rachel’s envy towards Leah is intended to illustrate the jealousy of God for an inheritance from His ideal bride. Spiritually, Rachel’s emotions exist to personify the perspective outlook of Lord’s perfect will. Interestingly, Rachel says, “give me children, or else I die.” The spiritual message behind this statement is that without the season of Dan, the will of the Lord would not live long beyond the season of Judah.
Dan, the resulting son that she caused Bilhah, her servant, to conceive is the seed resulting from Rachel’s jealousy. Therefore the season of Dan is a period of judgment resulting from God’s jealousy, and it is certainly no coincidence that the name Dan means, “judgment”. If these events were chronologically described using Jacob’s sons as symbols, one would say, Simeon and Levi’s mishandling of Judah provoked the jealousy of Rachel to produce Dan. In more literal terms, the season of sin’s reign reached a boiling point with the Levitical priests’ crucifixion of Jesus, and a jealous God brought judgment them for it. Remember, all of this was foreshadowed when Simeon and Levi killed the Shechemite covenant and were judged by Jacob’s prophecy.
Knowing the Lord is opening and closing wounds in intentional order, there is a revelation to discover in why Bilhah gives birth to Dan rather than Rachel. If Rachel represents divine, idealistic perfection, any child she births directly from her womb would indicate a season for the birth of perfected children—a season where mankind realizes the fullness of the image of God without sin. But at this point in mankind’s history, the time for the perfect completion of man had not yet come. Therefore, it was not time for the Lord to cause Rachel to conceive. Instead, Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, was made to give birth to Dan because of who she represents, which is also indicated by Jacob’s story.
Of the four women who eventually bear Jacob Children, only two are given a covenant, and they are Leah and Rachel. Although his conjugal relationship with all four women constitutes a spiritual connection to them, the only two with betrothal arrangements were Rachel and Leah. So, Dan was the first child born from a woman without a formal covenant proposal, and this is greatly significant. How so? Scripturally speaking, those on the outside of the original covenant proposals are non-Jewish nations known as Gentiles, and they would now become significantly involved in the Lord’s plans. Notice the following passage in Romans chapter 9 which indicates that the attention of God would now be directed towards those who were once outsiders.
Romans 9:25-26 25As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
From here, the revelation constructed from Yahweh’s Divine orchestration of Jacob’s life becomes abundantly clear. At this juncture in God’s plan for humanity, the chronological progression of Jacob’s sons uses Dan, born of a servant woman, to personify the season in which a jealous God judges the elect nation of Israel, using the involvement of Gentile nations.
Understanding Divine Judgment
Before we move on to Jacob’s blessing upon Dan, we must also have some understanding of how divine judgment works. Comprehending its true meaning is critical because it is used extensively in varying degrees within scripture. Judgment is most adequately defined as “the carrying out of justice”. Judgment is not always bad, as we discovered earlier with the dual purpose of blood. While it is often associated with the execution of discipline upon the unjust, it also includes the vindication of the just.
Anytime judgment is enforced, integrity is restored, and a line of separation drawn to illuminate the distinction between the guilty and the innocent. Proper judgment delivers a verdict which works two ways. Unrighteousness is condemned and righteousness is exonerated. One side is punished and the other is praised, even if the only one left to praise is Jesus Himself. This is most likely one reason why the sword that proceeds from the mouth of Christ is often described as “two-edged”.
Revelation 1:13, 16
13And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. … 16And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
Revelation 19:11, 15
11And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. … 15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In another example, the book of Matthew contains a powerful scripture which showcases the true meaning of judgment while incorporating the aforementioned truth that Gentiles had now gained special attention from the Father. After fleeing a group of Pharisees conspiring to kill Him, the bible reiterates an old prophecy of Isaiah.
18Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. 19He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. 20A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. 21And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
In verse 18 of Matthew 12, we see judgment mentioned in connection to the Gentiles, but this does not mean punitive action upon the Gentiles. This verse informs us that Jesus will bring justice to the gentile nations which Israel failed to act justly toward. These verses go on to say that He won’t strive, cry, break a bruised reed or quench the smoking flax until judgment is victorious—integrity is restored to His covenant. What does all this mean? One day Jesus will, in fact, cry aloud in the streets and proclaim war against His enemies. One day He will allow the reed the break and extinguish the candle wick which no longer burns for His glory. But until then, Jesus has justly allowed the Gentiles a season to trust in His name in a period we know as the New Testament. So here, “judgment to the Gentiles” does not mean punishment, but it means the delivery of justice. When Israel failed to responsibly minister their knowledge of God to outside nations, they acted unfairly toward them, so Christ came to right that wrong and correct that injustice. These things would come to pass in the season of Dan.
Dan’s Blessing from Jacob
There is much understanding to be gained from the tribe of Dan because of their noteworthy connection throughout important portions of scripture. The information and revelation provided through this son and tribe of Jacob are worthy of an entire book itself, but we will hit the high points, beginning in the same place we’ve viewed the other brothers, Jacob’s blessing in Genesis.
16Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
These two short verses are critical to understand, and they are loaded with meaning that extends throughout the entire Word of God. They tell who Dan is, when he is and why he is. In other words, these verses speak of who is used to judge, when judgment comes and why judgment comes. Now that judgment is defined, the overarching implications of Dan’s portion of Jacob’s blessing can be better understood.
First, Genesis 49:16 declares that Dan is “one of the tribes of Israel”. In other words, he is not an outsider, but he is one of the brethren and familiar with the ways of God. Then, verse 16 states that Dan will judge—or provoke judgment—for his people. This verse simply means that Dan will be the catalyzing agent that sets judgment in motion.
It is important to note that Dan still represents man, so this makes Him subject to the judgment that He is activates. The fact that it is manifest through him does not make him exempt from its effects. Therefore, it is possible for Dan and those he symbolizes to be a victim of the judgment that he initiates. In fact, the second verse of Dan’s blessing reveals exactly this. It states that Dan shall actually be a “serpent” and an “adder” (viper) that “biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward”. Since Dan is “one of the tribes of Israel”, this second verse unequivocally reveals that a snake from among the Israelite brethren would deceitfully and shrewdly usher in a type of judgment upon them all. The most obvious application of this revelation of Dan is realized right in line with the sequential birth order of Jacob’s sons. Judas Iscariot, a kinsman of Israel and brother among the twelve, conspired with snakes like himself and involved outsiders to accomplish the death of Jesus and thereby, trigger the judgment which would subsequently follow.
2And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. 3Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. 4And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. 5And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. 6And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.
It is essential to remember that Judas didn’t act alone. He was simply the shrewdest of the snakes, willing to do what the others desired to do in their hearts. Notice the following passage in Matthew where Jesus directly correlates the character of the Pharisees with Jacob’s characterization of Dan. They both were described as vipers.
33Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Judas embodied the sentiments of the majority of Israel’s religious elitists who carried themselves with the pride of “Simeon and Levi,” and this is actually referenced in Dan’s blessing as well. The riders who the verse describes as falling backwards from their horses point to prideful men, bitten and exposed by their own snake-ish kind.
Additionally, horses and Chariots are often regarded in scripture as emblems of a nation’s prideful power.
16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
2 Kings 23:11
11 And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
In metaphorical language of the bible, horses are frequently listed as assets of nations who rely on their own strength, wisdom and pride. This is exactly what Israel had become. They were prideful, and they would soon get “knocked off of their high horse.” In supreme, sovereign fashion, God would make a mockery of those who had mocked him, causing them to finalize their own sentence by spilling the blood of Jesus through pride and deceit. As we covered earlier, Jesus prophesied that this would happen.
34Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
This had been guaranteed through the prophet, Jeremiah, who used the exact same metaphor to characterize these deceivers. He prophesied of Israel’s coming judgment.
“16The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein. 17For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD.”
When those who have come to know the Lord refuse to humble themselves before His will, humiliation inevitably finds them. Dan represents the carefully calculated deception allowed by the Lord to entrap the wicked in the pride of their own way. It is the guarantee that deceivers will be brought down by a deceiver greater than themselves, and they all face the penalties of judgment. As King David would certainly attest, humiliation allowed by God is unbearable. Still, it is able to produce the greatest humility. In the case of Israel, they deserved punishment for their history of disobedience, and their shame was just beginning. Israel activated her own punishment, and the Lord would make them watch as Gentile nations pillaged the benefits of the covenant they had fought so stingily to protect.
As we consider the allegorical symbols of Jacob’s wives, remember that Bilhah’s children represent the involvement of Gentile nations, beginning with Dan. Ironically, the same Gentile empire that Israel involved to crucify Jesus were the same people given opportunity to run with the New Covenant once it arrived. These nations on the outside of the original covenant are also the instruments of God’s judgment. Moving ahead, we will see how Dan portrays the initial inclusion of the Gentiles and their use as the Lord’s rod of correction.
1 John 2:19
19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.