Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be to Zidon.…
We come now to consider the character of Dan, the eldest son of Rachel's handmaid. The meaning of the name — "judge," is here expanded by Jacob into the character of the tribe: "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel," or in other words, Dan would procure justice to his people — to the people of Israel as truly as any other of the tribes of Israel. He would be behind none of them in that respect. The word "judge" is sometimes misapprehended. Its meaning is rather to defend than to sit in judgment upon. It is used of those who, when Israel had no king, God raised up from time to time as "judges" or "defenders" of the people, and who led them against their foes. The most conspicuous of these was Samson, who arose out of the tribe of Dan, and was himself an apt illustration of the character of the tribe. By his serpent-like arts he laid traps for his foes, and with great delight saw them fall into them one after another. This word "judge," out of which Dan's future history is evolved, is constantly used throughout the Bible with reference to God as judging His people; this judging being always a cause of thankfulness, as it meant a sure deliverance from all their foes. So much for the critical meaning of the word itself. The wisdom which is implied in the word "serpent" may be, however, of a two-fold character. It may be that wisdom which is commended by our Lord, or it may be that low cunning and craftiness which is of the very opposite character, and which stoops to the meanest arts to accomplish its ends. The expression "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel" clearly means that Dan would use his wisdom for the good of Israel generally, not for his own selfish ends but as one of the tribes of Israel. At the same time it is held by many that this form of serpent-like craft will be developed in a very special way as the end of the present dispensation draws near. The first germ of idolatry that showed itself in Israel, after their settlement in Canaan, was in the tribe of Dan. In the eighteenth chapter of Judges we are told the children of Dan found an image in the house of Micah, and that this image became an object of idolatrous worship all the time the house of God was in Shiloh. Here was a continuous system of idolatry, carried on in direct opposition to God and the worship of God, "until the day of the captivity of the land." Later on again we read that Jeroboam made two calves of gold for Israel to worship in opposition to the worship of God, and he put them, one in Bethel and the other in Dan; and it is said, "this thing became a sin; for the people went to worship before the one even unto Dan." There is also an allusion to this tribe in Jeremiah 8:16, 17; and again in Amos 8:11, 14, both of which are striking, and go far to confirm the view thus taken. In addition to this I may add the very singular fact that, in the enumeration of the tribes of Israel (Revelation 7.) as "the servants of God that were sealed in their forehead," the tribe of Dan is omitted, and the only one so omitted. And now, the patriarch, having given utterance to his prediction with reference to the future history of this tribe, suddenly exclaims, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord." There are two aspects in which those words must be viewed. In the first place, the previous declaration of Jacob that "Dan should be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward," intimated, clearly enough, that warlike times were in store for Israel, in which this tribe should take a prominent part. It would seem as if for a moment he was carried in spirit into the midst of these times, and the dangers which would on every side surround Israel, and realizing the utter insufficiency of all human help from every quarter, he gave utterance to the earnest longing of soul for God's help on their behalf in this prayer, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord." "Dan's is insufficient, Israel's tribes united are insufficient, every human arm is insufficient: O Lord, we wait for Thy salvation." But more than even this. As a true Israelite he yearns for the time when the Messiah, God's salvation, should appear for the help of His people. Accordingly the Jewish Targums have given the true view of Jacob's Words. They represent Jacob as passing over all the victories which Israel might gain in these battles, and saying, "Not for the deliverance of Gideon the son of Joash does my soul wait, for that is temporary, not for the redemption of Israel by Samson, for that is transitory, but for the redemption of the Messiah, the Son of David, which Thou through Thy Word has promised to bring to Thy people Israel; for this Thy redemption my soul waits." But there is a second aspect of these words of Jacob. He may have been carried in spirit to that time when out of this very tribe Antichrist has arisen, and as he views for a moment his own people passing through its greatest tribulations, and beholds that darkest of all dark nights through which they have yet to pass, he breathes the earnest prayer for the salvation which shall be theirs at the close of it.
(F. Whitfield, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.