As the ancestors of the tribes of Israel, the lives and personalities of each of the twelve sons of Jacob significantly impact on the history and behavior of the tribe members who descended from them.
Jacob said of Dan (Genesis 49:16): “Dan shall judge his people, as one will be the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the road, an adder in the path, that bites the horse heels, so that his rider falls backward.” Moses’ blessing of the tribe was far simpler: “Dan is a lion club, leaping forth from Bashan” (33:22).
The Tribe of Dan had an adventurous spirit, like a lion cub. It is interesting to note that Dan is compared to a lion cub, which has strength but lacks discipline…so too Dan had great force, but it was often misplaced. And like the serpent Jacob had foreseen, his forcefulness could be dangerous to those who came upon him.
The northern territory allotted to Dan was not easy to capture, and much of it remained in foreign hands. Still, Dan held numerous cities in the north, including the great port of Jaffa. From Jaffa, Dan launched its great commercial fleets mentioned by the prophetess Deborah in Judges 5:17, when she rebuked Dan for remaining on its ships rather than helping to fight Sisera.
Since much of their allotted territory remained unconquered, the Danites searched for more land. Indeed, one learns much about the roughness of the “young lion’s” actions from the actions of the Danites in Judges 18: The original inhabitants, the Amorites, kept the Danites confined to the hill country of Ephraim and Benjamin. Unable to conquer their allotted territory, some members of the tribe of Dan migrated far to the northernmost area of the Promised Land and conquered the isolated city of Laish (in what is today the Golan Heights) in the territory of Naphtali, which they renamed Dan.
The best known of all the Danites was Samson.
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