"Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse's heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Gen. 49:16-18). With this prophecy of Jacob concerning the tribe of Dan should be compared that of Moses, recorded in Deuteronomy 33:22, "And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan." It is to be seen that both predicted evil of that tribe, around which there seems to be a cloud of mystery.
The first thing that Scripture records of Dan is his low birth. (See Gen. 30:1-6). Next, he is brought before us in Genesis 37:2, though he is not there directly mentioned by name. It is highly significant that of the four sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, Dan was the oldest, being at that time twenty years of age, and so, most likely, the ringleader in the "evil" which Joseph reported to their father. Next, in Genesis 46, reference is made to the children of Jacob's sons: the descendants of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and the others, being specifically named in order. But when Dan is reached, the names of his sons are not given; instead, they are simply called by the tribal name- Hushim or Shuham. (See Gen. 46:23). This is the more striking, because in Numbers 26 we meet with the same thing again: the children born to each of Jacob's twelve sons are carefully enumerated until Dan is reached, and then, as in Genesis 46, his descendants are not named, simply the tribal title being given. (See Num. 26:42). This concealment of the names of Dan's children is the first indication of that silent "blotting out" of his name, which meets us in the total omission of this tribe from the genealogies recorded in 1 Chronicles 2 to 10, as well as in Revelation 7, where, again, no mention is made of any being "sealed" out of the tribe of Daniel There seems to have been an unwillingness on the part of the Holy Spirit to even mention this tribe by name. In cases where the names of all the tribes are given, Dan is generally far down, often last of all, in the list. For example, we read in Numbers 10:25, "And the standard of the camp of the children of Dan set forward, which was the rearward of all the camps throughout their hosts." Again, Dan was the last of the tribes to receive his inheritance when Joshua divided up the land- "This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages. When they had made an end of dividing the land for inheritance by their coasts, the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua" (Josh. 19:47-49). Note again that in 1 Chronicles 27:16-22, where all the tribes are referred to, Dan is mentioned last!
Putting together the several prophecies of Jacob and Moses we find two traits met in Dan- treachery "a serpent by the way, an adder in the path"; and cruelty: "Dan is a lion's whelp; he shall leap from Bashan." In Judges 18 the Holy Spirit has recorded at length how these predictions received their first fulfillment. The attack of this tribe on Laish was serpentile in its cunning and lionlike in its cruel execution. Then it was that Dan leaped from Bashan, and from the slopes of Mount Hermon (which was in the territory of this tribe) like a young lion and like an adder springing on its prey. From Judges 18:30 we learn that Dan was the first of the tribes to fall into Idolatry. Apparently they remained in this awful condition right until the days of Jeroboam, for we find that when this apostate king set up his two golden calves, saying, "Behold thy gods, O Israel," he set up one in Bethel and "the other put he in Dan" (1 Kings 12:28, 29). And, as late as the time of Jehu these two golden calves were still standing, and it is a significant and solemn fact that though there was a great reformation in his day, so that the prophets and worshippers of Baal were slain and the images were burned and the house of Baal was broken down, yet we are told, "Howbeit, from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan" (2 Kings 10:29).
One other item in Jacob's prophecy concerning this tribe remains to be noticed- "Dan shall judge his people." This received a partial fulfillment in the days of Samson- though we doubt not that its final fulfillment awaits the time of the great tribulation. Joshua 19:41 informs us that among the towns allotted to this tribe were Zorah and Eshtaol. Compare with this Judges 13:2, which tells us that the parents of Samson belonged to the tribe of Dan and had their home in Zorah. How remarkably the prophecies of Jacob and Moses combined in the person of Samson (one of Israel's "judges") is apparent on the surface. Serpent-like methods and the lion's strength characterized each step in his strange career. How Samson "bit," as it were, "the horse's heels" in his death!
It is to be noted that after Jacob had completed his prophecy concerning Dan, and ere he took up the next tribe, that he said, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Gen. 49:18). This is very striking and significant, coming in just where it does. Having spoken of Dan as "a serpent by the way," the Holy Spirit seems to have brought to his mind the words spoken by God to that old Serpent the Devil, recorded in Genesis 3:15. The eye of the dying patriarch looks beyond the "Serpent" to the one who shall yet "bruise his head," and therefore does he say, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord." No doubt these very words will yet be appropriated in a coming day by the godly remnant among the Jews. If, as it has been generally held by prophetic students, both ancient and modern, both among Jews and Gentiles, that the Anti-Christ will spring from this tribe of Dan, the ancient prophecy of Jacob concerning the descendants of this son will then receive its final fulfillment. Then, in a supreme manner, will Dan (in the person of the Anti-Christ) "judge" and rule over "his people," i.e., Israel; then, will Dan be a "serpent in the way" and "an adder in the path," then will he treacherously and cruelly "bite the horse's heels." And then, too, will that faithful company, who refuse to worship the Beast or receive his "mark," cry, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord?'
"Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last" (Gen. 49:19). The Hebrew word for troop here signifies a marauding or plundering troop. The cognate to this word is rendered "companies" in 2 Kings 5:2- "And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid." The same word is translated "bands" in 2 Kings 24:2- "And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the Word of the Lord, which He spake by His servants, the prophets." When, therefore, Jacob said of this tribe, "Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last," the reference seems to be to alternate defeat and victory. This tribe was to be in a constant state of warfare, leading like the Bedouin Arabs a wandering, wild, and unsettled existence. One wonders whether the (slangy) expression "Gad about" may not have its origin in the character of this tribe."
We may notice, once more, how closely parallel with this prediction of Jacob is the prophecy of Moses concerning this tribe: "And of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated" (Deut. 33:20, 21). The first part of this prophecy emphasizes the unsettled and warlike character of Gad. The second statement that Gad "provided the first part (of the inheritance) for himself," has reference to the fact that this tribe sought and obtained as their portion the land on the east side of the Jordan, and this before Canaan was divided among the tribes in the days of Joshua. This portion of Gad's became known as "the land of Gilead" (See Deut. 3:12-15). Note, further, that Moses said, "Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad." The fulfillment of this may be seen by a reference to 1 Chronicles 5:16, where we read that the children of Gad dwelt in "all the suburbs of Sharon." Note that in Joshua 13:24-28 no mention is made of Sharon: their border was thus "enlarged!"
The position that Gad occupied was a precarious one. Being cut off from that of the other tribes, they were more or less isolated. They were open, constantly, to the attacks from the desert bands or troops, such as the Ammonites and Midianites, and consequently, they lived in a continual state of warfare. Jacob's words were being repeatedly fulfilled. Gad suffered severely from their lack of faith and enterprise in asking for the territory they did. Their choice was almost as bad as Lot's, and proved as disastrous, for they were among the first tribes that were carried into captivity. (See 1 Chron. 5:26).
For particular illustrations of the fulfillment of Jacob's prophecy we may note the following: "And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel." Note now, the portion of Israel which they assailed: "And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: and they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.. Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpah. And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? (Judg. 11:4-6, 11, 12). "Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh-gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee" (1 Sam. 11:1). But in the End-time Gad "shall overcome." It is to this, we believe, that Jeremiah 49:1-2, refers: "Concerning the Ammonites thus saith the Lord; hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? why then doth their king inherit Gad, and his people dwell in his cities? Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will cause an alarm of war to be heard in Rabbah of the Ammonites; and it shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters shall be burned with fire: then shall Israel be heir unto them that were his heirs, said the Lord." And again in Zephaniah 2:8-9, "I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached My people, and magnified themselves against their border. Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of My people shall spoil them, and the remnant of My people shall possess them."
"Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties" (Gen. 49:20). Asher's descendants, in common with the tribes of Zebulun, Naphtali and Issachar, were settled in the northern part of Palestine, which was called by the general name of "Galilee of the Gentiles," which name was perfectly appropriate to Asher, for from first to last this was a half Gentile tribe. Asher's territory lay in the extreme north of Palestine between Mount Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea, and included within its borders the celebrated cities of Tyre and Sidon (See Josh. 19:24-31). The portion of this tribe was better known by its Grecian name of Phoenicia, which means "land of the palms," so designated because of the luxuriant palms which abounded there. It was to this land, preeminently rich and beautiful, Jacob's prediction looked.
"Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield ROYAL dainties." Let us turn now to a few Scriptures which furnish illustrations of the repeated fulfillment of Jacob's prophecy.
"And Hiram, king of Tyre, sent messengers to David, and cedar trees and carpenters and masons, and they built David a house" (2 Sam. 5:11). This city of Tyre was, as pointed out above, within the territory of the tribe of Asher (Josh. 19:29), and here we learn how the king of Tyre yielded or provided "royal dainties" by furnishing both material and workmen for building a house for king David.
We behold a repetition of this in the days of Solomon. In 1 Kings 5 we read: "And Hiram, king of Tyre, sent his servants unto Solomon, for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was ever a lover of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, Thou knowest how that David, my father, could not build a house unto the name of the Lord his God, for the wars which were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent. And, behold, I purpose to build a house unto the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spake unto David, my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build a house unto my name. Now, therefore, command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants; and unto thee will I give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timbers like unto the Sidonians. And it same to pass, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly, and said, Blessed be the Lord this day, which hath given unto David a wise son over this great people. And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for: and I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea, and I will convey them by sea in floats unto the place that thou shalt appoint me, and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and thou shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household. So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees according to all his desire" (1 Kings 5:1-10). Thus again do we see how Asher "yielded royal dainties."
Jacob also said: "Out of Asher his bread shall be fat." Is it not striking to discover that in the time of famine in the days of Elijah that God sent his prophet to the widow in Zarephath, saying: "Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee" (1 Kings 17:9). Note Zarephath was in Sidon (see Luke 4:26) and Sidon was in Asher's territory (Josh. 19:28). In 2 Chronicles 30, we have another illustration, along a different line, of how Asher yielded "royal dainties." It was at the time of a great religious revival in Israel. King Hezekiah "sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel" (2 Chron. 30:1). Then we are told, "So the posts passed from city to city, through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them" (2 Chron. 30:10). But in marked and blessed contrast from this we read: "Nevertheless, divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 30:11).
The New Testament supplies us with two more illustrations. In Luke 2 we learn of how one who belonged to this Tribe of Asher yielded a most blessed "dainty" to Israel's new-born King, even the Lord Jesus. For when His parents brought the Child Jesus into the Temple, following the beautiful Song of Simeon, we read, "And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the Tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the Temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:36-38).
Finally, note in Acts 27 we are told that when the apostle Paul was being carried prisoner to Rome, that when the ship reached Sidon (which was in the borders of Asher) that "Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself" (Acts 27:3). Thus, once more, do we read of "bread" out of Asher.
"Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words" (Gen. 49:21). The word Naphtali means "wrestling" (see Gen. 30:8). "Naphtali is a hind let loose"; it was as though Jacob said, Naphtali is as a deer caught in the toils of the hunters, hemmed in by them, but by his struggles she escapes from their snares. Naphtali would be a hind "let loose." This expression has a double meaning. In the Hebrew the word signifies, first, "sent" or "sent forth," just as a stag driven from its covert goes forth, scattering her pursuers. But the word also means "let loose" or "let go." It is the term used of Noah when he "sent forth" the raven and the dove from the ark; as also of the priest, when at the cleansing of the leper, he let go or let loose the living bird. The word expresses the joy of an animal which has been made captive and, in its recovered liberty, bounds forth in gladness, just as we have often seen a dog jumping for joy after it has been unchained. Jacob, then, pictures Naphtali rejoicing as a freed hind. Then he foretells the joy which the Tribe shall express after its escape- "goodly words" he shall give forth. After it regains its liberty, the Tribe shall sing a Song of Praise.
The striking fulfillment of this prediction by our dying patriarch is seen in the victory of Barak, the great hero of this Tribe (see Judges 4:6), who, sent forth as a hind from its cover in the mountains of Galilee, came down Mount Tabor to face on foot the hosts of Sisera with his nine hundred chariots of iron. Barak, like a hind let loose, was at first timid of responding to Deborah's call. He had not dared to go forth with his little handful of men unless Deborah had sent for him and assured him of success. Read through Judges 4, and note the hindlike swiftness of his onslaught down the slopes of Tabor. It is significant that the name "Barak" means "lightning," and, like lightning he burst as a storm on the startled hosts of Sisera, which were scattered by the hand of God at his unexpected approach. (Note Judges 4:14). "So Barak went down from Mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him," not "with him"- he running ahead of all!
The battle was not of Barak's choosing, rather was it forced upon him by Deborah. He was literally "sent forth" into the valley. (Note "sent" in Judges 5:15). In the heights of Tabor, Barak and his men were beyond the reach of Sisera's cavalry and chariots. But down in the valley, on foot, they would be like a herd of defenseless deer, unarmed, without either spear or shield, for attack or defense. (See Judges 5:8). In the defenselessness of Naphtali- deserted by their brethren (see Judges 5:15-18)- hemmed in by the hosts of the Canaanites, they were indeed a picture of helplessness. Nevertheless, the hand of the oppressor was broken. God interposed, and Naphtali was "set free," and the exuberance of their consequent joy found expression in the Song of Deborah and Barak recorded in Judges 5. There were the "goodly words" which Jacob had foretold. Thus Naphtali was a hind "let loose" in the double sense- "sent forth" by Deborah and "set free" from the yoke of the Canaanites by God!
But if this Tribe is interesting to us from its Old Testament association, it has far deeper interest for us from its New Testament connections. Zebulun and Naphtali were closely linked together, yet each had a separate interest. The land of Zebulun provided a "haven" of rest for the Lord Jesus during the first thirty years that He tabernacled among men; but it was in the bounds of Naphtali in the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin, and other places, that He went about doing good and ministering the Word of Life. In His preaching of the Gospel to the poor were the "goodly words" of which Jacob spoke!
"Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob (from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel); even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren" (Gen. 49:22-26).
These words of Jacob concerning Joseph are to be divided into two parts: what is said in Genesis 49:22-24 is mainly retrospective; what is recorded in Genesis 49:25, 26 is prospective. This appears from the change of tense: in the first part the verbs are in the past tense, in the second part they are in the future. As Jacob reviews the past he mentions three things in connection with his favorite son. Genesis 49:22 seems to view Joseph as a youth in his father's house, as an object of beauty, of tender care, and as well pleasing to his father's heart- all pictures under the beautiful figure of a "fruitful bough by a well." Next, Jacob refers to the bitter enmity and fierce hatred which were directed against him- the archers sorely grieved him; they shot at him their cruel arrows, they vented upon him their unreasonable spite. But through it all Joseph was Divinely sustained. The arms of the Eternal God were beneath him, and the Angel of the Lord encamped round about him. "His hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob."
Some have experienced difficulty with the wording of Genesis 49:24; even the translators do not appear to have been clear upon it. Inserting the word "is" in italics the verse as it stands in the Authorized Version reads as though it were a prediction concerning Christ. But many other plain Scriptures show that this is a mistake. The Messiah was not "from" the Tribe of Joseph, but came of the Tribe of Judah, just as Messianic prophecy declared He should. The little word "is" in italics should be omitted, and the verse punctuated thus- "His hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty (One) of Jacob, from thence the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel." It was "from thence," i.e., from the Shepherd and Stone of Israel, came all of Joseph's strength and blessing.
The prominent feature about this prophecy concerning Joseph is fruitfulness, and this received its fulfillment in the double Tribe which sprang from him- Ephraim and Manasseh, like two branches out of the parent stem. Joseph received a double portion in the land, viz., the firstborn's "birthright," this being transferred to him from Reuben. (See 1 Chron. 5:1, 2). So, too, shall it be in the Millennium. Concerning the coming Kingdom, of which Ezekiel's closing chapters treat, we read: "Thus saith the Lord God, This shall be the border, whereby ye shall inherit the land according to the twelve tribes of Israel: Joseph shall have two portions" (Ezek. 47:13). It is noteworthy that "Ephraira" means "fruitfulness," and of Manasseh Jacob had predicted, "Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." Finally, it should be pointed out that Joshua was from one of the tribes which sprang from Joseph (Num. 13:8), and in him Jacob's prophecy concerning his favorite son received its main fulfillment.
"Benjamin shall raven as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil" (Gen. 49:27). What a striking evidence is this of the complete setting aside of the natural man by God! Surely it is clear that had Jacob followed the inclinations of his heart he would not have said this of Benjamin, his youngest and dearly loved son! But this divine prediction was unmistakably fulfilled as the Scriptures which bear upon this tribe plainly show.
Benjamin is here likened to a "wolf," which is noted for its swiftness and ferocity. Benjamin was the fiercest and most warlike of the tribes. For illustrations, note the following passages; Judges 19:16; 2 Samuel 2:15, 16: "Then there arose and went over by number, twelve of Benjamin, which pertained to Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. And they caught every one his fellow by the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow's side; so they fell down together" (See also 1 Chron. 8:40; 1 Chron. 12:2; 2 Chron. 17:17).
The heroes of this tribe were marked by fierceness and wolf-like treachery. Ehud was of this tribe. (Read Judges 3:15-22). King Saul was a Benjaminite. (Read 1 Samuel 22:17-20). Mark the wolf seizing the helpless sheep as recorded in 2 Samuel 4:1-6. Saul of Tarsus, who first persecuted the Church, was also of this Tribe (Rom. 11:1).
In closing our study of this remarkable prophecy from the dying Jacob, let us mark how everything good which he severally predicted of his sons finds its realization in the Lord Jesus.
1. The prophecy concerning Reuben (Gen. 44:3) reminds us of the Excellency and Dignity of Christ's person: He is the "Firstborn," in whom is "the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power."
2. The prophecy concerning Simeon and Levi (Gen. 49:5-7) may well speak to us of Christ on the Cross: then it was that "instruments of cruelty" were used against Him; Jacob says: "O my soul, come not thou into their secret"- he would have nothing to do with them: so on the Cross, Christ was forsaken by God and man; a "curse" is here pronounced by Jacob upon them, as Christ, on the Cross, was "made a Curse for us."
3. The prophecy concerning Simeon and Levi anticipated our Lord's Priesthood, for Levi became the priestly Tribe.
4. The prophecy concerning Judah (Gen. 49:8-12) pictures our Lord's Kingship.
5. The prophecy concerning Zebulun (Gen. 49:13) looks at Christ as the great Refuge and Haven of Rest.
6. The prophecy concerning Issachar (Gen. 49:14, 15) prefigures His lowly Service.
7. The prophecy concerning Dan (Gen. 49:16-18) views Him as the Judge.
8. The prophecy concerning Gad (Gen. 49:19) announces His triumphant Resurrection.
9. The prophecy concerning Asher (Gen. 49:20) looks at Him as the Bread of Life, the One who satisfies the hearts of His own.
10. The prophecy concerning Naphtali (Gen. 49:21) regards His as God's perfect Prophet, giving forth "goodly words."
11. The prophecy concerning Joseph (Gen. 49:22-26) forecasts His Millennial reign.
12. The prophecy concerning Benjamin (Gen. 49:27) depicts Him as the terrible Warrior (Cf. Isaiah 63:1-3).
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