by Pastor Afolabi Oladele
Knowing what it is required to be positioned to act on God’s behalf as His principal agents, the question is who will lead the charge? My earnest prayer is that we will see:
- First at the level of our local assembly, the burden of leadership, and the clear warning we have received on waning passion;
- the larger level based on clear understanding of where the Lord placed us as sons of Isacchar; and
- At the level of the church in Nigeria.
Let’s take a look again at Leviticus 10:1-7 and the questions that it poses. Beyond the answer that the Lord our God is the Lord and His word cannot be questioned, I have since learnt that what the Lord demands of us is not without a reason or lesson for us. The key for me was the statement in vs. 6b: Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the Lord’s anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the Lord’s fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu .
It is from this example that I saw in a new light the demands of leadership. The principal lesson for me is summarised in these few words: ‘leadership in the house of God is a call to stand in the gap for the benefit of the followership without regard to the attendant personal pain, hurt or sacrifice.’ Aaron had to absorb personal hurt and pain after the death of his two sons, in order to avert bringing God’s anger upon the congregation. We see the standard for the conduct of the High Priest in Romans 15:3 (NLT/NIV); Matthew 26:38,39, 53 (NLT/NIV); Luke 23:34-35 and Phil 2:20-21. The bar is being raised for us here in the leadership in our response to the flock over whom we have oversight.
In Exodus 31:2-7 we see God listing people who would build His tabernacle, of note are the tribes of the builders and their specific commissions – Dan and Judah. I would be taking a look at the tribe of Dan, as an allegory to the tares in the field, or bad catch in Matthew 13:25,37. I will show the end of Dan and the implication for the wrong seed or catch in the Church (why they are NOT mentioned in the end of time listing of tribes of Israel in the book of Revelation).
The first encounter of the tribe of Dan in Scripture takes place in Exodus 31:6. The Danites take on special significance due to the nature of this passage. God had previously been instructing Moses on how to build and organize His tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting. Starting from the place of honour in Exodus 31:7 to the place of death in Leviticus 24:10-16 we see two characteristics in the tribe of Dan:
- Married to the world,
- Hating the Lord
This episode described in Leviticus 24 led Moses to declare that all who blaspheme the name of the Lord, “the alien as well as the native”, were to be put to death. Of note particularly is that the tribe of Dan is depicted as intermarrying Egyptians while enslaved in Egypt. This connection with outside civilizations would be re-enforced by later references to the tribe of Dan in Scripture, as will be seen later on.
Fast forward to Numbers 1 where Ahiezer was the leader God elected from the tribe of Dan was to stand with Moses, and to represent the tribe of Dan before God. This man along with the eleven other chosen representatives from each tribe were the leaders of Israel in the wilderness.
As the Israelites drew closer to Canaan, Moses sent out spies to scout out the land (this was recorded in Numbers 13). From the tribe of Dan, Ammiel, the son of Gemalli was chosen as the one to represent Dan among the spies. From the report given by the spies to Moses, the only spy that proved faithful to God was Caleb, from the tribe of Judah. The other eleven spies reported back that they were not capable of taking the land, as the inhabitants were much stronger and larger than they. Thus, we state by implication that the spy from the tribe of Dan lacked faith in God and demonstrated it by advocating that the Canaanites were too strong and numerous to overtake. Only Caleb responded in faith, and he and his tribe were duly rewarded by God in the conquest of the Promised Land.
Could this lack of faith on Ammiel’s part have played a role in the tribe’s inability to drive out the Philistines? Just as Caleb’s faith played a role in his ability to conquer his allotted land? Was this an indication of the overall state of faith found within the tribe of Dan?
Joshua 19:40-48 shows Dan originally settling in the southern portion of the land of Canaan, near the Philistine coast. Later, a portion of the tribe of Dan would migrate to the north and capture the city of Laish. What led to this migration that caused Dan to be listed as part of the northern tribes of Israel, along with Asher and Naphtali? The cities allotted to the tribe of Dan were drawn up after the allotments of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim, apparently occupying the “territorial gap” left between these three tribes. A respected commentary, Na’aman argues this allotment was “an artificial tribal territory”, only in the sense that the allotment almost seems like an afterthought, as if they had forgotten Dan, and simply assigned what was left.
The reality was that the tribe of Dan neighboured this strong kingdom of the king of Ekron, settling in the immediate vicinity of the Philistines, of which Ekron was a stronghold. In the constant battles between the Israelites and the Philistines, the tribe of Dan settled on the very battleground (Joshua 19:41-48). The significance is found in the apparent fact that the kingdom of Ekron overlapped into the tribal allotment of Dan in seventh century b.c.
The Philistine strongholds of Joppa, Beth-dagon, and Gezer sliced through the heart of the tribe of Dan and forced the Danites into a small section of settlement. The Manual of Biblical Geography, written in the early eighteen hundred, illuminates a passage found in Judges 13:25: “and the spirit of the lord began to stir him in mahanehdan, between zorah and eshtaol.”Mahanehdan translates as “the camp of Dan.” Though Scripture does not outrightly state such, it would seem at this time the Danites occupied virtually none of their promised allotment.
You might wonder to what end is all this history? I ask, what do you do when you’re faced with a strong enemy, whom you have feared? When you have no confidence in God’s word and power? You must never get into such a situation, people. Let’s see what drove Dan to this point.
A large tribe in number yet the tribe of Dan was allotted only a relatively small portion of land. From this portion, they were limited to a still smaller portion of land, driven there and confined by Philistine presence in the area. This passage, regarding the birth of the most famous Danite, Samson, alludes to a “camp of Dan,” located between the two cities of Zorah and Eshtaol (Judges 13:25; Judges 18:12-14). The implication, one taken in the Manual of Biblical Geography, is that the Danites were confined to this fortified camp and these two cities. Not only did the tribe of Dan experience pressure from the Philistines, but the opening chapter of the book of Judges indicates the Amorites also fought against Dan. Judges 1:34 illustrates this Amorite pressure.
Though Scripture does not state it, certain conditions were sure to arise as a result of so many people in a confined quarter. Health issues certainly would have arisen, as sanitation decreased, and disease increased. Though certain Danites very well may have lived outside the confines of this camp, most of the tribe of Dan seems to have dwelt within. The narrative concerning the migration of the Danites comes later on in Scriptures, in the story of Samson. Samson was the fourteenth Judge of Israel, and he was from the tribe of Dan. His birth was mentioned above, recorded in Judges 13:25. Though Samson’s death was a heroic one, it seemed to end the Danite resistance to the Philistines.
The song of Deborah, found in Judges 5, indicates that a certain remnant of Dan remained near the original allotment of cities found in Joshua 19.
The accusation against Dan in the song of Deborah is that they stayed in their ships, and did not come to help the other tribes of Israel engaged in conflict against Jabin, King of Hazor. Perhaps their refusal to join in could be traced to their struggle with the Philistines, in which no tribe was mentioned as coming to their aid.
A portion of the tribe of Dan set out to seek new land. Judges 18 depicts the men of Dan sending out scouts to search for new land to find a portion of land where they may dwell peacefully, and without Philistine or Amorite threat. As the Mediterranean was to the immediate west, and the desert region to the south and east, the scouts set out northward. The spies journeyed into the hill country of Ephraim, became eventually contaminated by the idols of Dan, leading to the rejection of Ephraim (This drives home the point that, what I fail to do in restoring my brother may eventually become my undoing! (Hosea 4:17, Hosea 7:8) and lodged near the house of Micah.
The exact location of Micah’s house is not given. However, in Judges 17 we learn of a Levite who had come to live with Micah and to be his household priest. Micah had previously made a graven image and set up a household idol. He hired the priest to oversee these idols. The priest with nowhere else to go readily agreed, and moved into Micah’s house. The Danites would have certainly been interested in obtaining a Levite priest to oversee their tribal responsibilities to God. Though Scripture relates that this Levite was from Bethlehem, and of the tribe of Judah, the spies from the tribe of Dan recognized the voice of the Levite priest. Whatever the reason, the men turned to the Levite and asked him to inquire of God concerning the success or failure of their journey. The Levite assured them they had the Lord’s approval. The sincerity of the Levite’s heart towards God is certainly in question, based on his willingness to oversee the idols of Micah.
The spies set out northward once again and came to the town of Laish. Scripture relates this town was occupied by Sidonians, isolated far from their compatriots located in Sidon, on the coast of Lebanon. Josephus tells us this was a day’s journey from Sidon. The Sidonians of Laish were “living in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure.” Scripture makes it clear this city was isolated from any neighbours. The people of this city “had no dealings with anyone.” Naturally the Danite spies would have been interested in such a city. Their report back reflects such an attitude, found in Judges 18:9-10: The men replied, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. What are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to go and take possession of it. 10 When you get there, you will find the people living carefree lives. God has given us a spacious and fertile land, lacking in nothing!”
From the “camp of Dan”, the band of armed Danite men marched northward, following the precise route of the spies. The war party next stopped at the house of Micah. The spies had apparently reported the presence of the Levite as well. It would seem the tribe of Dan planned on obtaining the Levite from Micah, by force if necessary. This priest would serve over the tribe of Dan, in their new homeland.
The armed men of Dan kidnapped Micah’s Levite, threatening Micah’s life if he should attempt to stop them. Not only did the Danites take the priest, but they confiscated the graven images and idols of Micah’s as well. The Levite, lured by the prospect of becoming High Priest of Dan, readily joined the armed band, quickly dismissing Micah and his household. Scripture identifies this man as Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh. The Bible Manual of Biblical Geography calls this Levite a “degenerate grandson of Moses the prophet.”
Accompanied by their new priest, and the stolen idols from Micah, the Danites marched on the unsuspecting city of Laish. They struck down all the people and burnt the city to the ground. Scripture relates that the people of Laish had “no one to deliver them.” The tribe of Dan rebuilt the city, and named it Dan. The closing verses of Judges 18:29-31 portray their re-settlement of Dan: They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel’s son, but it had originally been called Laish. Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. 3So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.
This would lay the foundation for the golden calves Jeroboam would set up in Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:25-33).
Leshem is also Laish, also known as Dan. The ancient city, which has been identified as tell El-quadi, north of Lake Huleh, which itself lies north of the Sea of Galilee, lies amidst the three principal sources of water for the Jordan River. Nearby Mount Hermon towers above the landscape. It is likely the nearby ancient shrine of Pan was located within the ancient city of Dan. It is near these “waters of Dan”, and nearby Mount Hermon, that much of the book of Enoch is concerned with. The fallen watchers of Enoch are said to have descended to the earth from the heavens, touching down on the peak of Mount Hermon. Dan became a cultic centre of worship in the northern kingdom, in direct violation of God’s commands to Moses.
King Jeroboam later made two golden calves and placed one in Bethel and the other in Dan (1 Kings 12:25-33), echoing the words of Aaron in the wilderness, when the tribes urged him to make a golden calf for them to worship: “behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt” (Exod. 32:4).
Thus this tribe which was initially situated amongst the southern kingdom of Judah was now considered part of the much larger northern kingdom of Israel. Not all the tribe of Dan migrated northward as the song of Deborah implies a remnant remained still in the native allotment, though this is not explicitly stated in Scripture. The northern kingdom fell to the Assyrian invaders, while the southern kingdom of Judah lasted nearly two hundred more years.
From these three biblical events involving Danites, we see these attributes – lack of faith in God, disregard for the commands of God and disengagement from the fellowship of Israel
As Moses and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God gave them specific instructions on how to organize their camp. The encampment of the Israelites was centred around the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle. This was placed in the centre of the camp, symbolic of God taking centre precedence in the hearts of the Israelite tribes. From Numbers 2 we see the setting of each of the tribes. The marching order of the tribes is as follows: the tribe of Judah, leading the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, broke camp first. They were followed by the camp of Reuben, leading the tribes of Simeon and Gad. Thirdly came the camp of Ephraim, leading the tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin as well. Lastly, the fourth to break camp, was the camp of Dan, leading the tribes of Asher and Naphtali.
The tribe of Dan seems to be somewhat of an aloof and isolated tribe in relation to the other tribes of Israel. This may be backed up by their isolated homeland, in the northernmost extremity of the land; but this seemingly aloof stance may be traced back to the birth of Dan, the fifth son of Jacob. Dan’s birth is recorded in Genesis 30:1-6. Genesis 30 opens with an interesting encounter between Jacob and Rachel. Rachel, seeing the birth of four sons to Leah, had yet to produce a son for Jacob. She most certainly was becoming jealous, as Scripture relates, and feared her place in the family may be jeopardized due to her lack of children.
Rachel’s solution finds precedent in Sarai giving her handmaiden Gagar to Abraham. Rachel gives Jacob Bilhah, her handmaiden, to sleep with. Upon sleeping with Jacob, Bilhah conceived a son named Dan. The name Dan translates as “judge”, “to minister judgment”, and “to plead a cause”. Rachel had pleaded her cause to God, and God had answered by giving her Dan. Dan’s name would be echoed in the prophecy of Jacob. The tribe of Dan was to rule themselves as a tribe of Israel.
It would seem natural that as a child Dan did not feel as an equal growing up. His four older brothers all shared the same birth mother, Leah. Dan, thus, at times surely felt like an outcast, the only son of the handmaiden Bilhah. Bilhah soon conceived another son, named Naphtali. Seemingly, Dan would have migrated to this brother much more than the other four brothers. Though this is conjectural, it does seem natural that Dan would have been closer to Napthali (his brother from the same mother) growing up, more so than his four older brothers from a different mother. Naphtali’s membership in the camp of Dan would seem to agree with this notion. The two tribes, like the two brothers, were close to each other over the course of their early years. No exploits of Dan are given in Scripture. His role is not nearly as prominent as the other sons of Jacob, namely Simeon, Judah and Joseph. He garnered no favouritism from Jacob, as Benjamin did in the later stages of the narrative. There are no sections of Scripture pertaining to him, as is the case with Judah and Tamar. He is not mentioned in the rape of Dinah, as Levi and Simeon are the only brothers mentioned by name.
An interesting passage in Genesis 37:2 may shed some light on the nature of Dan in his early years. This passage seems to imply that Joseph, along with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, were tending the flocks of Jacob. Whether the other sons of Jacob were present or not may not be gleamed from this passage. Though it does state he was pasturing the flocks “with his brothers” Scripture plainly identifies the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. Joseph’s bad report immediately follows the listing of the two handmaidens. This would seem to imply it was specifically the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah Joseph reported on to his father.
Following this line of thought, which is purely theoretical as Scripture does not specifically state who was or was not present, would mean that Joseph, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher were out tending the flocks. The Hebrew word translated as “bad” is “ra”. This word means “evil”, “distress”, “misery”, “injury”, and “calamity”. Scripture does not specify what Dan and his brothers were doing, only that it was not right, and Joseph reported their actions to Jacob. Thus, Dan and his brothers were involved in something that went against the commands of God and would be displeasing to their father Jacob as well. Telling his father about this “bad report” would not have lent Joseph to their affections. Not only did the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah dislike Joseph, but Scripture plainly states all of the sons of Jacob disliked him and wanted to rid themselves of him. Thus, by implication, Dan was surely part of the initial plot to kill Joseph.
However, throughout the reigns of David and Solomon, the tribe of Dan made significant contributions to each king (1 Chron. 12:35; 1 Chron. 27:22).A fascinating association is made with the tribe of Dan during the reign of Solomon with king Hiram (2 Chron. 2:11-18). Of note are verses 13 and 14 which shed an invaluable light on the situation regarding the tribe of Dan right before the fall of the united monarchy (although the gifts and the callings of God are without repentance, who are you serving this gift with, how many started singing in the choir and ended up in the camp of Satan?)
The obvious implication of this passage is that some members of the tribe of Dan had migrated northward, into Tyre and Sidon, and intermarried with the local Phoenicians. It is no coincidence Israel’s closest allies throughout the Old Testament were the Phoenicians. They regularly traded with them and sought their help in building the temple and the resources needed to build the temple. This passage makes it evident the tribe of Dan had integrated themselves, to a certain degree, with the Phoenicians of Lebanon. They had intermarried, and likely adopted come customs and practices of these people (recall the Prince of Tyre prophecy!)
It was during the time of the divided monarchy the tribe of Dan began to stray from the teachings of the true God. The precedence for their idolatry is found in their initial migration northward, after stealing the idols from Micah’s house, they set these very idols up to worship for themselves, under the guidance of an equally wayward and misguided Levite priest.
- The seed of idolatry was laid within the tribe of Dan from the earliest stages;
- This coupled with their proximity to foreign influences and threats; and
- Their isolation from the rest of the tribes of Israel, surely played an integral role in their assimilation with Tyre and association with idolatry.
This idolatrous tendency fully revealed itself during the reign of King Jeroboam I. With the death of Solomon, Jeroboam rose to lead the northern kingdom of Israel, while Rehoboam became the first king of Judah. 1 kings 12:25-33 states Jeroboam built up Shechem as his capital. He quickly became worried about losing spiritual face to the southern kingdom of Judah, headquartered in Jerusalem, the heart and soul of Israelite life and religion. He felt that if the people continued to go to Jerusalem to worship, they would turn on him, in favour of Rehoboam.
Jeroboam is said to have consulted his advisers for a solution to this potential problem in 1 kings 12:28-30. These were the words aaron offered to the Israelites when Moses had not come down from Mount Sinai in Exodus. Jeroboam played on these emotional words, surely known by the Israelites as the words of Aaron (a type of the false prophet). The Bible states this became a sin in the eyes of God, as people travelled as far as Dan to worship these golden calves.
Jeroboam set the precedence for the wayward religious practices of the northern kingdom. The tribe of Dan was more than willing to accept their role, as they had been practicing idolatry seemingly since they left their original allotment, perhaps as much as two centuries earlier. The tribe of Dan, thus, did judge over Israel as one of its own tribes. They became a cultic centre of worship, the symbol of the northern kingdom’s religious deviance.
Other Israelite kings, such as Ahab, strengthened Dan’s idolatrous stance. Ahab and his father Omri were strict adherents to a policy of combining Canaanite and Israelite religions, and Dan was the centre of this worship. Ahab seems to have been the king responsible for expanding the high place at Dan. Later, Ahab prostrated himself before Baal, in the temple of Baal he erected in Samaria. Further Phoenician ties can be found in Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, who was a Phoenician herself.
The tribe of Dan’s involvement in these pagan practices drew harsh criticism from the prophets of this time:
- Jeremiah 8:16-17;
- The downfall of Tyre in Ezekiel 27; and
- Amos 8:14
Note the references to “Vedan”, and “Dedan”, some associate with the tribe of Dan and the ultimate downfall of Tyre, a known associate of Dan’s.
It is quite clear the tribe of Dan quickly fell into idolatry and pagan religious beliefs and practices. Their transgression did not go unnoticed as we see from the list of the children of Israel in Revelation 7. This passage in revelation is concerned with the remnant of Israel. These 144,000 individuals are the ones sealed by God; this number is reached by taking twelve thousand people from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. However, the tribe of Dan is excluded from this list! Why Dan is excluded is not explicitly stated, but what is clear is that the tribe of Dan was to suffer the same fate as their northern compatriots.
The Assyrian king Tiglath-Pillesar ravaged the northern kingdom first, exiling the members of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. He captured the territory of Naphtali, and certain cities in Ephraim. Sargon II later completed the full destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel.
A passage in Deuteronomy 29:20,24-29 may supply a reason for the tribe of Dan not being mentioned in the book of Revelation. The tribe of Dan had sinned against God by setting themselves up as a city of pagan worship and idolatry. They had led astray untold numbers of Israelites and had rivalled the true temple in Jerusalem by erecting false idols, golden calves, and possessing high places of worship to foreign gods. A member of the tribe had blasphemed the name of God in the wilderness, and this trend was continued by the tribe of Dan itself after the division of the kingdom. This passage in Deuteronomy may provide insight into why the tribe of Dan was left off the list of twelve tribes found in Revelation.
Perhaps their willingness to intermingle with the nations, and their readiness to accept Micah’s idols, and later Jeroboam’s golden calves, led to their exclusion from the list in Revelation.
Don’t let rejection turn to division and separation from fellowship; the ultimate is assimilation to the world and camp of Satan!
The time is here when Malachi 3:1-6 will be fulfilled.