Genesis 49:16
Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.
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(16, 17) Dan.—In passing on to the sons of the handmaids it was necessary to assure them of an independent rank among their brethren. The four tribes descended from them did always hold an inferior position, but Jacob by his words to Dan prevented their ever becoming subject states. Playing, then, upon the name Dan (a judge), he says that he shall judge his people as a distinct and separate tribe, possessed of all those rights of self-government and tribal independence which this rank implied. It seems also that Dan’s symbol was a serpent, and from this Jacob prophesies that though too weak a tribe to take the foremost place in war, yet that Dan should not be without military importance; and this was especially the case in the days of Samson. The word rendered adder is more exactly the arrow-snake, which lies in wait in the “path,” a narrow track, and springs upon its prey as it passes. A horse bitten in this way would rear and throw its rider, who would then be in the power of his assailant.

Genesis 49:16. Daniel shall judge his people — Jacob alludes to the name Dan, which signifies to judge, or judging. Onkelos, a famous Jewish rabbi of the first century, and the author of a Targum or paraphrase in the Chaldee language on the books of Moses, the most simple and the most esteemed of all the Targums of the Jews, expounds the passage thus: “A man shall arise out of the tribe of Dan, in whose days his people shall be delivered;” referring to Samson, who was of that tribe, Jdg 13:2, and who judged Israel twenty years, Jdg 15:20. But the latter part of the verse seems not perfectly to agree with this, as all the tribes did not produce judges. The meaning, therefore seems rather to be, Though he be the son of one of my concubines, yet he shall not be subject to any other, but shall be a tribe governed by judges of his own, as well as any of the other tribes. And what is said of him is to be understood of the rest of the sons of the concubines, and hereby all difference between them and the sons of the wives is taken away. It is spoken of Dan, because he is first mentioned of that sort.

49:13-18 Concerning Zebulun: if prophecy says, Zebulun shall be a haven of ships, be sure Providence will so plant him. God appoints the bounds of our habitation. It is our wisdom and duty to accommodate ourselves to our lot, and to improve it; if Zebulun dwell at the heaven of the sea, let him be for a haven of ships. Concerning Issachar: he saw that the land was pleasant, yielding not only pleasant prospects, but pleasant fruits to recompense his toils. Let us, with an eye of faith, see the heavenly rest to be good, and that land of promise to be pleasant; this will make our present services easy. Dan should, by art, and policy, and surprise, gain advantages against his enemies, like a serpent biting the heel of the traveller. Jacob, almost spent, and ready to faint, relieves himself with those words, I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord! The salvation he waited for was Christ, the promised Seed; now that he was going to be gathered to his people, he breathes after Him to whom the gathering of the people shall be. He declared plainly that he sought heaven, the better country, Heb 11:13,14. Now he is going to enjoy the salvation, he comforts himself that he had waited for the salvation. Christ, as our way to heaven, is to be waited on; and heaven, as our rest in Christ, is to be waited for. It is the comfort of a dying saint thus to have waited for the salvation of the Lord; for then he shall have what he has been waiting for.The sons of the handmaids follow those of Leah. "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel." He will maintain his position as a tribe in the state. When threatened by overwhelming power he will put forth his native force for the discomfiture of the foe. The adder is the cerastes or horned serpent, of the color of the sand, and therefore, not easily recognized, that inflicts a fatal wound on him that unwarily treads on it. The few facts in the history of Dan afterward given correspond well with the character here drawn. Some of its features are conspicuous in Samson Judges 13-16. "For thy salvation have I waited, O Lord." The patriarch, contemplating the power of the adversaries of his future people, breaks forth into the expression of his longing desire and hope of that salvation of the Almighty by which alone they can be delivered. That salvation is commensurate with the utmost extent and diversity of these adversaries.Ge 49:16-18. Dan—though the son of a secondary wife, was to be "as one of the tribes of Israel." i.e. Rule and govern them. Though he be the son of my concubine, yet he shall not be subject to any other tribe, but shall have an absolute power within himself. What is said of him is to be understood of the rest of the sons of the concubines, and hereby all difference between the sons of the wives and concubines is taken away. It is said of

Dan, because he is the first mentioned of that sort. As the rest of the tribes do, having distinct governments and governors amongst them. See Numbers 1:4,16.

Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. There is an elegant paronomasia, or an allusion to the name of Dan in those words, which signifies to judge, and the sense of them is, there should be heads, rulers, and judges of it, as the other tribes had; and this is the rather mentioned of him, because he is the first of the children of concubine wives as yet taken notice of; and what is here said of him is also to be understood of the rest of the sons of the concubines; for the meaning is not, that a judge should arise out of him as out of the other tribes, that should judge all Israel, restraining it to Samson, who was of this tribe, as the Targums and Jarchi; for no such judge did arise out of all the tribes of Israel; nor was Samson such a judge of Israel as David, who, according to Jarchi, is one of the tribes of Israel, namely, of Judah; for David did not judge as Samson, nor Samson as David, their form of government being different. Dan {m} shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.

(m) Shall have the honour of a tribe.

16. Dan] In this and the following verse we have two independent oracles concerning the tribe of Dan. (1) Genesis 49:16 deals with its position in Israel; (2) Genesis 49:17, with its attitude towards its foes.

judge] For the play on the name Dan, see Genesis 30:6. The word “judge” carries with it the sense of “pleading the cause of” and “helping.” Cf. Jeremiah 22:16, “he judged the cause of the poor and needy.” Targum of Onkelos understood a reference to Samson to be contained in the word “judge” (Judges 13-16.).

his people] The people of his tribe; not the people of Israel generally. The tribe possessed independence, not supremacy.

As one of the tribes] Dan, though smaller than other tribes (cf. Joshua 19:47-48; Jdg 1:34-35; Jdg 18:11), will not be inferior in position and power, within its own domains, to the other tribes. It seems probable that Dan, standing here after Zebulun and Issachar, represents only the small northern portion of the tribe. Cf. Jdg 18:1; Jdg 18:29.

Verses 16-18. - Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. With a play upon his name, the firstborn son of Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah, is described as one who should occupy an important place and exercise highly beneficial functions in the future commonwealth, enjoying independence and self-government as one of the tribes of Israel (Herder, and others), and performing the office of an administrator among the People not of his own tribe merely, but also of all Israel, a prediction pointing perhaps to the transient supremacy enjoyed by Dan over the other tribes in the days of Samson (Onkelos, et alii). Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. The שְׁפִיפון, from the Syriac שֶׁפַפ, to glide (Gesenins), from שׁוּפ, to sting (Kalisch), שָׁפַפ, to bite (Furst), was the horned serpent, cerastes, of the color of sand, and marked with white and black spots, which was exceedingly dangerous to passers-by, its bite being poisonous and fatal. The allusion has been almost unanimously explained as pointing to Samson (Judges 16:28), but the tribe in general appears not to have been entirely destitute of the treacherous and formidable characteristics here depicted (Judges 18:27). "It is certainly observable that the first introduction of idolatry in Israel is ascribed to the tribe of Dan (Judges 18.), and that in the numbering of the tribes in Revelation 7. the name of Dan is omitted. From these or other causes many of the Fathers (Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine, Theodoret) were led to believe that Antichrist should spring from the tribe of Dan" ('Speaker's Commentary'). I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord. To discover in this beautiful and tender ejaculation of the dying patriarch an apprehensive sigh lest his strength should be exhausted before his benediction was completed (Tuch), or a prayer that God might speedily effect his painless dissolution (Hengstenberg), or a device for dividing his benedictions, and separating the group of Judah from that of Joseph (Lange), is surely to fail in seizing its hidden spirit. It is doubtful if even the usual interpretation, that Jacob here expresses his hope and expectation that God would help and succor his descendants (Calvin, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, and others), exhausts its rich significance. That, speaking in their name, he does anticipate the deliverance of Jehovah" In thy help do I hope, O Jehovah! - is apparent; but nothing surely can be more natural than to suppose that the dying patriarch, at the moment when he was formally transmitting to his children the theocratic blessing, had his thoughts lifted up towards that great salvation, of which all these material and temporal benedictions pronounced upon his sons were but the shadows and the types, and of which perhaps he had been incidentally reminded by the mention of the biting serpent, to which he had just likened Dan ('Speaker's Commentary'). It is noticeable that this is the first occurrence of the term salvation (יְשׁוּעָח, from the root יָשַׁע, unused in Kal, to be roomy or spacious, hence in the Hiphil to set free or deliver). Genesis 49:16"Dan will procure his people justice as one of the tribes of Israel. Let Dan become a serpent by the way, a horned adder in the path, that biteth the horse's heels, so that its rider falls back." Although only the son of a maid-servant, Dan would not be behind the other tribes of Israel, but act according to his name (ידין דּן), and as much as any other of the tribes procure justice to his people (i.e., to the people of Israel; not to his own tribe, as Diestel supposes). There is no allusion in these words to the office of judge which was held by Samson; they merely describe the character of the tribe, although this character came out in the expedition of a portion of the Danites to Laish in the north of Canaan, a description of which is given in Judges 18, as well as in the "romantic chivalry of the brave, gigantic Samson, when the cunning of the serpent he overthrew the mightiest foes" (Del.). שׁפיפן: κεράστης, the very poisonous horned serpent, which is of the colour of the sand, and as it lies upon the ground, merely stretching out its feelers, inflicts a fatal wound upon any who may tread upon it unawares (Diod. Sic. 3, 49; Pliny. 8, 23).
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