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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Twelve Tribes of Israel - Dan



“God hath judged me”

The fifth son of Jacob. His mother was Bilhah, Rachel's maid. The blessing pronounced on him by his father was, “Dan shall judge his people” probably in allusion to the judgeship of Samson, who was of the tribe of Dan. Hushim (the plural, implying a family) or Shuham alone is mentioned as Dan's son (Genesis 46: 23); but at the Exodus the tribe stood second of Israel in numbers (Numbers 1: 29), (Numbers 1:62),700; 64,400 at the close of the wilderness sojourn (Numbers 26: 42). Of the tribe of Dan was Oholiab (or “Aholiab”) one of the wise-hearted artisans engaged in the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:6).

It was the last of the tribes to receive a portion in the Land of Promise (Joshua 19: 40-48). It was a small territory, but was very fertile. It included in it, among others, the cities of Lydda, Ekron, and Joppa, which formed its northern boundary. But this district was too limited. “Squeezed into the narrow strip between the mountains and the sea, its energies were great beyond its numbers.” Being pressed by the Amorites and the Philistines, whom they were unable to conquer. We are told that the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain (Judges 1:34), so they did not enjoy the richest part of their ideal portion, the fertile plain between the mountain and the sea. Later we find Dan oppressed by the Philistines, therefore the story of Samson. Samson resides at Mahaneh-Dan (the camp of Dan) in the hills, between Zorah and Eshtaol, behind Kirjath Jearim, and thence "comes down" to the vineyards of Timnath and the valley of Sorek. There too was his final resting place (Judges 13-14). We know the Philistines had deprived them of weapons because Samson had to resort to a donkey’s jawbone.

Samson was the one great man produced by Dan, and he seems to have embodied the leading characteristics of the tribe: unsteady, unscrupulous, violent, possessed of a certain grim humor; stealthy in tactics - “a serpent in the way, an adder in the path” (Genesis 49: 17) - but swift and strong in striking - “a lion's whelp, that leapeth forth from Bashan” (Deuteronomy 33: 22).

Being sorely pressed by enemies and without weapons, they did not join Deborah and Barak.

Judges 5: 17 Gilead stayed beyond Jordan. And why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the seashore and remained in his havens.

Deborah observes who stayed home, and did not help Israel fight. Many are kept from doing their duty by fear, love of ease, inordinate attachment to selfish pursuits, and their desire to participate only in things that advance their own cause. Narrow, selfish people don't care what becomes of God's church, as long as they can get, keep, and save money. All seek their own good and their own ambition, Php 2: 21.

They accordingly sent out five spies from two of their towns, who went north to the sources of the Jordan, and brought back a favorable report regarding that region (Judges 18: 10). About 600 Danites girded on their weapons of war (the only ones who had weapons), and marched to the foot of Hermon, and fought against Leshem, and took it from the Sidonians, and dwelt therein, and changed the name of the conquered town to Dan (Joshua 19:47).

Judges 17
Micah belonged to the Ephraim tribe and lived in the hill country.
One day he told his mother, "Do you remember those eleven hundred pieces of silver that were stolen from you? I was there when you put a curse on whoever stole them. Well, I'm the one who did it." His mother answered, "I pray that the LORD will bless you, my son."
Micah returned the silver to his mother, and she said, "I give this silver to the LORD, so my son can use it to make an idol." Turning to her son, she said, "Micah, now the silver belongs to you." But Micah handed it back to his mother. She took two hundred pieces of the silver and gave them to a silver worker, who made them into an idol. They kept the idol in Micah's house.
He had a shrine for worshiping God there at his home, and he had made some idols and a sacred priestly vest.
Micah chose one of his own sons to be the priest for his shrine.
This was before kings ruled Israel, so all the Israelites did whatever they thought was right.
One day a young Levite came to Micah's house in the hill country of Ephraim. He had been staying with one of the clans of Judah in Bethlehem, but he had left Bethlehem to find a new place to live where he could be a priest.
"Where are you from?" Micah asked. "I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah," the man answered, "and I'm on my way to find a new place to live."
Micah said, "Why don't you stay here with me? You can be my priest and tell me what God wants me to do. Every year I'll give you ten pieces of silver and one complete set of clothes, and I'll provide all your food." The young man went for a walk,
then he agreed to stay with Micah and be his priest. He lived in Micah's house, and Micah treated him like one of his own sons.
Micah said, "I have a Levite as my own priest. Now I know that the LORD will be kind to me."

Judges 18: 1-31
These things happened before kings ruled Israel. About this time, the tribe of Dan was looking for a place to live. The other tribes had land, but the people of Dan did not really have any to call their own.
The tribe chose five warriors to represent their clans and told them, "Go and find some land where we can live." The warriors left the area of Zorah and Eshtaol and went into the hill country of Ephraim. One night they stayed at Micah's house,
because they heard the young Levite talking, and they knew from his accent that he was from the south. They asked him, "What are you doing here? Who brought you here?"
The Levite replied, "Micah hired me as his priest." Then he told them how well Micah had treated him.
"Please talk to God for us," the men said. "Ask God if we will be successful in what we are trying to do."
"Don't worry," answered the priest. "The LORD is pleased with what you are doing."
The five men left and went to the town of Laish, whose people were from Sidon, but Sidon was too far away to protect them. Even though their town had no walls, the people thought they were safe from attack. So they had not asked anyone else for protection, which meant that the tribe of Dan could easily take over Laish.
The five men went back to Zorah and Eshtaol, where their relatives asked, "Did you find any land?"
"Let's go!" the five men said. "We saw some very good land with enough room for all of us, and it has everything we will ever need. What are you waiting for? Let's attack and take it. You'll find that the people think they're safe, but God is giving the land to us."
Six hundred men from the tribe of Dan strapped on their weapons and left Zorah and Eshtaol with their families.
One night they camped near Kiriath-Jearim in the territory of Judah, and that's why the place just west of Kiriath-Jearim is still known as Dan's Camp.
Then they went into the hill country of Ephraim. When they came close to Micah's house,
the five men who had been spies asked the other warriors, "Did you know that someone in this village has several idols and a sacred priestly vest? What do you think we should do about it?"
The six hundred warriors left the road and went to the house on Micah's property where the young Levite priest lived. They stood at the gate and greeted the priest. Meanwhile, the five men who had been there before went into Micah's house and took the sacred priestly vest and the idols. "Hey!" the priest shouted. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Quiet!" the men said. "Keep your mouth shut and listen. Why don't you come with us and be our priest, so you can tell us what God wants us to do? You could stay here and be a priest for one man's family, but wouldn't you rather be the priest for a clan or even a whole tribe of Israel?"
The priest really liked that idea. So he took the vest and the idols and joined the others
from the tribe of Dan. Then they turned and left, after putting their children, their cattle, and the rest of their other possessions in front.
They had traveled for some time, before Micah asked his neighbors to help him get his things back. He and his men caught up with the people of Dan
and shouted for them to stop. They turned to face him and asked, "What's wrong? Why did you bring all these men?"
Micah answered, "You know what's wrong. You stole the gods I made, and you took my priest. I don't have anything left."
"We don't want to hear any more about it," the people of Dan said. "And if you make us angry, you'll only get yourself and your family killed."
After saying this, they turned and left. Micah realized there was no way he could win a fight with them, and so he went back home.
The tribe of Dan took Micah's priest and the things Micah had made, and headed for Laish, which was located in a valley controlled by the town of Beth-Rehob. Laish was defenseless, because it had no walls and was too far from Sidon for the Sidonians to help defend it. The leaders of Laish had not even asked nearby towns to help them in case of an attack. The warriors from Dan made a surprise attack on Laish, killing everyone and burning it down. Then they rebuilt the town and settled there themselves.
But they named it Dan, after one of Israel's sons, who was the ancestor of their tribe.
Even though the place of worship was in Shiloh, the people of Dan set up the idol Micah had made. They worshiped the idol, and the Levite was their priest. His name was Jonathan, and he was a descendant of Gershom the son of Moses. His descendants served as priests for the tribe of Dan, until the people of Israel were taken away as prisoners by their enemies.

The love of money made Micah steal from his mother, and made her curse the thief. Loss will drive good people to prayers, but bad people to curse. This silver was their god, before it was even made into a idol. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes, which was evil in the sight of God. These idols were made by Micah with the silver his mother had given him. Why would he think that they are now real gods? God makes us and we worship Him as the Creator God. We don’t make god and worship him because we created him. Micah thought it was a sign of God's favor to him and his idols for a Levite to come to his door. Micah deludes himself by believing God is prospering and blessing him because things go so well. He hired him. When the Danites came to Micah’s home, they recognized a Jewish man there and asked him why he was there. The Levite told them he was hired as the priest for the family. The Danites expressed no surprise or indignation that a Levite would hire himself out as a priest to an idol or that a Jewish family would descend into idolatry.

When the Danites came to Micah’s neighborhood, they wanted to steal Micah's gods. How could they imagine those gods would protect them when they couldn’t protect themselves from being stolen by the Danites? The Danites neither feared God nor man at this point.

The five spies broke into the idol sanctuary and stole the images, teraphim, and priestly garments. When the Levite caught them, they bribed him with a tempting offer to transfer his services to their new colony. The Levite quickly saw his advantage and promotion. He changed his alliance to his own benefit. Taking charge of the ephod, the teraphim, and the graven image, he “went in the midst of the people” - a central position assigned him in the march, where he was most protected and had the place of honor.

The Danites continued on to Laish and destroyed it and built a new town called Dan. After, the Danites set up the idol, which they had taken with them out of Micah's house. “And Jehonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites till the day of the captivity of the land.” Jehonathan can hardly be any other than the Levite who had been hired by Micah and persuaded to support the Danites. He could not be Manasseh the son of Joseph, for he had no son called Gershom nor could it be Manasseh king of Israel, for he lived eight hundred years afterwards. Moses had a son named Gershom and it’s possible that “Manasseh” should be “Mosheth”. By his mother's side this man was of the family of Judah, and lived at Bethlehem among his mother's relations until he wandered to seek his fortune. It’s possible he was a con man (much like an Elmer Gantry) who heard about Micah and went to offer his “services” for money. Those who can make anything serve for a god can also make anything serve for a priest. This Levite could have been a very descendent of Moses and was of the Levite tribe and he would sell himself and his heritage and his office for money! He thought himself happy that he had found such good a situation. And Micah had thought he deserved God’s blessings and protection because he had set up idols, a sanctuary and a priest.

The Danites took the Levite, whom Micah had engaged for his private worship, with them to the new town of Dan, and promised him the priesthood. This Levite’s descendants may have continued as the town’s priests for generations. When Jeroboam established the kingdom of the ten tribes, he had two golden calves made as images of Jehovah for the subjects of his kingdom, and set one of them up at Dan, and appointed priests out of the whole nation who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam had an eye to Dan and their generations of idol worship when he set up one of his calves there, and it’s probable that this family officiated as the priests there. (I Kings 12: 28)

The Danites and this Levite would have known better. The Mosaic Tabernacle, which the congregation had erected at Shiloh in the days of Joshua, was still standing there in the time of Eli and Samuel but in the time of Saul it was at Nob and during the reign of David it was at Gibeon. It was not far away or forgotten. They may have justified this image worship as worshipping Jehovah, but they would have known the Ten Commandments and the one which says,

Exodus 20: 2 -12
I am the LORD your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.
Do not worship any god except me.
Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth.
Don't bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations.
But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me.
You have six days when you can do your work,
but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day--not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns.
In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That's why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.
Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.
Do not murder.
Be faithful in marriage.
Do not steal.
Do not tell lies about others.
Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don't want anyone's house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.

Deuteronomy 4: 12-20
And Jehovah spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the voice of the words, but saw no likeness, only a voice.
And He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, ten commandments. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone.
And Jehovah commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments so that you might do them in the land where you go over to possess it.
Therefore take good heed to yourselves, for you saw no kind of likeness on the day Jehovah spoke to you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire,
lest you act corruptly and make yourselves a graven image, the likeness of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
the likeness of any beast on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flies in the air,
the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish in the waters beneath the earth;
and lest you lift up your eyes to the heavens, and when you see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, lest you should be driven to worship them and serve them, which Jehovah your God has allotted to all nations under all the heavens.
But Jehovah has taken you and brought you out from the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be to Him a people of inheritance, as you are today.

And, yet, idolatry is immediately set up there. God had graciously performed his promise, in giving them possession of their land. This should have made them all the more faithful to Him who had blessed them. They inherited what others had worked for.

Psalm 105: 44-45
The Lord gave them the land and everything else the nations had worked for. He did this so that his people would obey all of his laws. Shout praises to the LORD!

They perversely attributed their success to that idol instead of to Jehovah! Their idolatry is mentioned by the minor prophet, Amos, in Amos 8: 14.
Amos 8: 14 You made promises in the name of Ashimah, the goddess of Samaria. And you made vows in my name at the shrines of Dan and Beersheba. But you will fall and never get up.

Dan's genealogy is not given in 1 Chronicles 2-12. Its unsettled state and the headquarters of idolatry, may have caused the loss of the genealogy. Dan is omitted among the sealed in Revelation 7 as having been the first to lapse into idolatry, for which cause Ephraim also is omitted (Judges 17; Hosea 4: 17) and Joseph substituted. Mainly, by the Spirit, Jacob had in view the serpent which was to "bruise the heel" of the promised Savior (a non-mortal wound) (Genesis 3:15), but ultimately to have its head bruised by Him (a mortal and destroying blow).

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