Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jacob’s Prediction About Dan - Genesis 49:16-18

“Dan shall judge his people, As one of the tribes of Israel.  Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse’s heels, So that his rider falls backward.  For they salvation I wait, O Lord.”

Dan was Jacob’s fifth son, and the first from Bilhah, the handmaiden of Rachel, his second and most beloved wife.  His Hebrew name means ‘judge’ as we read in Genesis 30:6 that Rachel said, “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.”

So indeed, Jacob, as guided by God, predicts that Dan and Dan’s tribe will be a judge over the people.  In fact, later in Scripture we read that this tribe provided one of Israel’s greatest judges, Samson.

From there though the text becomes more complex.  It speaks of where Dan’s tribe will reside.  They will be so located (as indeed they were) in a place that is between the mountains of current day Lebanon and the Golan Heights.  Given that, and being a tough and hardy tribe (a serpent, a horned snake), they would protect the nation of Israel (be in the way of) from the attacks of enemies (bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward) coming from the north.  We would do well to also remember that this might apply simply to Samson himself who did indeed deliver the Israelites from the Philistines, both through his judgments and his physical actions.

But the reference to be “a serpent” may also allude to the fact that they are not all they should be for later we discover that it was Dan’s tribe that introduced idolatry to the people of Israel and Jeroboam set up an idol of a calf in the city of Dan, known as the center of idol worship.

It is also interesting to note that while Dan was a son of a concubine, yet he and his descendants were to be a tribe among God’s people.  This may well be an indication that in God’s society, or as Matthew Henry says, “in His spiritual Israel” there is not distinction between those that were from bondage and those that were free.

As I study this section on Jacob’s predictions about Dan, I realize that one could make a study of comparing Jacob’s predictions for each of his sons with what Scripture later says about either the son, or a descendant of the son, by examining other texts in the Bible which refer to the son’s name or to the son’s tribe.

This present section, however, does end with what I would call an emotional insert – perhaps a last plea to one’s God, an expression of one’s greatest desire – as one approaches his death.   Jacob has made predictions for seven of his sons and has five more to go.  I can imagine him having become very physically exhausted at this point, given his age, his health, and the heaviness of the implications of his words.  It is at this point that Jacob gives his audible aside – perhaps speaking for himself more than for his sons, although how wonderful it would be if they too were of the same mind.  Totally unrelated to any of the prophecies he has so far uttered, he says, “I wait for your salvation, O Lord.”

Let me suggest that this personal testimony to the hope in His God may well have been placed right here just to ensure that he simply got it said.  The risk was that he might not have been able to finish all his predictions about the remaining five sons, and might have died in the process without having made it clear to God, and to those willing to hear, that Jacob’s life was indeed all about “waiting for the Lord’s salvation”.

It is important to find some foundational tie to this ‘salvation’ Jacob was crying for in his last days.  First, we may notice the relationship of this plea to an earlier statement Jacob had made as part of his prediction about Judah in verse 10 of this chapter.  Clearly, there, the reference is to Christ, the Prince of Peace (Shiloh).  Now again here in this verse, he makes a direct reference to the fact that he personally is waiting for that Prince of Peace, that salvation, the Hebrew word for which is “Yashua” or Jesus.  In verse 10, Jacob has stated it as a fact – peace, salvation will indeed come.  In verse 18, he personalizes it, owning it, declaring it as his very own desire.

What then can we gain from this small section on Dan, but more significantly on Jacob’s signature line, “I wait for your salvation, O Lord”?

First, we need to realize that being in a position to ‘judge’ for or on behalf of others is a serious responsibility.  Those that are granted that privilege, especially in the body of God’s people, are to understand that they must rely on God’s wisdom and His direction in how they are to rule or judge.  And the rest of us have an obligation to pray for such judges that they may be ‘godly’ in the carrying out of their responsibilities.  One of the biggest problems with our world today is that men and women have attained seats of unquestionable authority such as in the Supreme Courts of our countries and have left God waiting on the sidewalk outside the hallowed chambers in which they rule.  But perhaps some of the blame for that must go towards the absence of prayers on their behalf from God’s people, from you and I.

Second, we need to accept, like Jacob, the fact that there is “salvation” to be found.  The Prince of Peace does exist and He does save.

Third, we need to personalize that “salvation”.  Jesus Christ must be our Lord, our Savior, our Hope, and our Salvation.

Finally, we are to be thankful that we, in one sense, have an advantage over Jacob.  We don’t have to wait for Shiloh.  The Prince of Peace has come.  Our Salvation is here.  And if we accept Him, we are saved – now, today, and forever.  We can rejoice in that as we in turn wait for His physical return.

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