Dan [Dăn]—he that judges. The fifth son of Jacob, and first of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid. Dan was the full brother of Naphtali and founder of a tribal family (Gen. 30:6; Exod. 31:6). The name Dan also describes the most northern city of Canaan. “Dan even to Beersheba” (2 Sam. 24:15).
With our finite minds there is a mystery about Dan we cannot solve. The history of the tribe of Dan is darker than the history of any other of the twelve tribes of Israel. When we come to the sealing of the twelve tribes (Rev. 7), Dan’s name is left out. The omission is absolute—the tribe is cut off from its brethren and its name blotted out. Yet we cannot be absolutely certain that the tribe of Dan is finally cut off, for in Ezekiel’s glowing prophecy there is a portion for Dan (Ezek. 48:1).
The prophecy of Jacob concerning Dan carries a twofold character—“Dan shall judge his people as one of the sceptres of Israel.” Tribe also means sceptre (Gen. 49:10). No man among the Judges did so much for Israel single-handed as Samson the great Danite.
A further thought is associated with Jacob’s prophecy of Dan. “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.” This is the first mention of salvation in Scripture. But Dan’s history is adverse to the salvation predicted of him. His birth arose out of jealousy and inordinate desire. Dan became the Ishmael of Jacob’s family. Persistent idolatry clung to the Danites from first to last. It was because Dan was likened unto a serpent that some of the early fathers predicted that Antichrist would come from him. “They are not all Israel which are of Israel.” As there was one among the Twelve Apostles, so there was one among the Twelve Tribes who had not the seal of God. This we do know, Dan’s glory as one of the sceptres of Israel with courage as a lion’s whelp, is of no avail without the seal of God upon his forehead.