Dan was the fifth son.
His mother was Bilhah, maidservant of Rachel.
The precious stones of the Breastplate are listed in Exodus chapters 28 and 39. Each stone represented a tribe. There are differences of opinion concerning which order the stones are listed whether by birth, mothers, etc. There are also different views as to what the stones cactually were.
In the future we hope to examine this subject more closely.
The fifth stone is called “Leshem” in Hebrew and we identify this as the stone of Dan since the Midrash Rabah does. Leshem is the fifth stone and Dan was the fifth son in order of birth.
Leshem was also the name of a city the Danites conquered and renamed Dan after their forefather. Some say “Leshem” was an opal but other suggestions have been made and for the time being we have adopted the opinion that it was a jacinth of orange type color. The Midrash Rabah says that the color of the standard of Dan was like that of a stone called “sapir” but “sapir” is the stone of Issachar. We are therefore seeking something like unto a sapphire yet noticeably different. We also assume that the color of each tribe was reflected in the precious stone that represented them.
Dan and Judah
Dan was born after Judah and may have been about the same age. Perhaps they were companions from birth?
Dan had an affinity with Judah though they were extremely different.
Groups from Dan were to be found alongside Judah and offshoots from Judah settled besides Dan.
The extraordinary fact seems to be that Judah is occupied with the here-and-now whereas Dan worries about the hereafter!
Judah as an Existentionalist
For all his religiosity Judah lives in the present. There may be an extensive Jewish literature concerned with the next life but Jews don’t usually read it and suspect those who do of being oddballs! Jews are concerned more with what has to be done, with keeping the law, and doing things for their own sake. Reward and punishment, resurrection of the dead, an afterlife etc are all fundamentals of Judaism but not studied that much. The obsession with heaven and hell found in some Christian sects is strange to Judaism.
This also extends into the political spheres with movements in Israel like “Peace Now” and the willingness of politicians to make concession at the expense of future generations.
Dan and the “Afterwards”
Dan on the other hand does worry about what will come afterwards. Dan may live a dissolute life, mistreat his spouse and children, but then begin to worry about his grandchildren and his own soul “getting into heaven”.
Judah could use an element of Joseph and Dan in its own sphere. The pioneers in North America and Australia who displaced the native peoples may have committed morally questionable acts but they do seem to have had in mind the generations that would come after them.
There were Danites amongst them especially those on the frontier.
Dan is a pioneer, a trailblazer.
Descendants of Dan
We trace Dan to Denmark and also to Ireland and Wales.
In Ireland we consider Dan to have been prominent in the north around Ulster, Cavan, and Donegal and maybe in the Viking city settlements.
Most Irish of Israelite descent however probably belong to other Tribes.
Characteristics of Dan
Dan is like a snake, devious and crafty. He may also be like a lion pouncing on his victim: Or like a lion and serpent together. Dan may also be symbolized by an eagle.
The griffon is a combination of a lion and serpent and the griffon was a symbol of the Hycsos rulers of Egypt amongst whom Dan was prominent. Dan also helped found Mycenean Greek civilization.
There was a Dan element amongst the Khazars.
Dan contributes greatly to other peoples as well as to Israelites.
Dan in tradition was more pulled to idolatry than other tribes and more involved with non-Israelites and absorbed their values. Dan was close to Amalek the arch-enemy of Israel. Dan was the rear-guard. He is conservative and aggressive. He also has a tendency to waste himself, to abuse his relationships with others, and to squander his wealth if he has any. All the while he is doing this he hopes to make it all up some time in the future. Dan was a warrior.
Samson came from Dan and according to one source so will the mother of the future Messiah. Samson was like a prophet and one meaning of the word “Navi” i.e. prophet in Hebrew is connected with a word root (NBE) connoting “expression”. Prophecy in the form of Samson took the form of superhuman strength and will power, of sheer effrontery, of courting the powers of the other side in order to take revenge from them, of individuality, and of guerrilla “partisan” type warfare. Samson used word-games and riddles. He has a sense of humor and personality. Even his enmies seem to feel it an honor to be undone by him. Samson does what other men cannot. Samson gives expression to the potentiality of Dan and Danites.
A Jewish legend says that Dan left the Land of Israel before the other tribes since Dan did not want to participate with King Jeroboam in hostilities against Judah. Dan is a peace-maker amongst the tribes, an avoider of fraternal conflict yet definitely not weak or afraid. Dan is a doer of justice, and a litigator. Lawyers and judges and legally-minded types often come from Dan.
Dan however tends to argue legal points and interpret the Law rather than formulate it.
Dan is fair-minded. Dan comes from the north and the place of darkness. Dan worships idolatry. Dan can be very bad and sometimes borders on becoming an outcast from Israel.
Some Medieval Christian traditions said that the anti-Christ comes from Dan since in the Book of Revelation the Tribe of Dan is not listed amongst the other tribes.
[Oh well, we cannot have everything can we?]
Dan has been given a “bad press” in both Jewish and Christian traditions.
The song “Oh Danny Boy” was adopted by Americans of Irish descent as representing something typically Irish even though it was not.
The words of the song are those of a woman longing for her lover. Nevertheless this song captures something of the spirit of Dan, of a longing for eternity, of loyalty to an ancestor.
The roar of the lion in the Hills of Bashan and the snake lying in wait by the wayside to ambush the horseman passing by tells us something about Dan. He was a prolific tribe with few individual clans but a large number of offspring.
Dan is basically a conformist whose great men all break away from the mass in order to achieve greatness.
Fighting Dan and Manic Depression
Dan is a good fighter. The eagle, serpent, and lion are all symbols of Dan and all of them have the gift of being able to suddenly strike out of the blue, when least expected, and penetrate what were formerly defensive positions.
The migrating warriors of Dan described themselves as “angry fellows” (Judges 18:25) implying that they were highly dangerous. The expression translated as “angry fellows” in Hebrew is “mari-nefesh” meaning literally “bitter of soul”.
The “berserker” or crazed inspired warrior of Scandinavian tradition reflects an aspect of Dan. Samson also exhibited qualities of the berserker. The personality of Dan includes an element of manic depression, resentment, and hidden anger.
At the individual level this may have been triggered off by long-forgotten childhood experiences or still-fresh adolescent ones but potentially it is always there.
What could otherwise be considered a negative attribute of ever-smouldering grudges is alleviated by Dan having a sense of justice and not blaming others were they are not to blame though if they give him reason he may take it out on them as well.
Dan would be difficult to live with were it not for alleviating factors. He has a sense of humor and can add a feeling of adventure and purpose to otherwise mundane experiences. He is also romantic and sentimental.
Unexpected Tribal Personality Attributes of Half the Tribes
The tendency to manic depression found in Dan brings us to the point of hidden or guarded personality attributes that need to be gotten used to and learned about. The Sons of Jacob were twelve. They came from four mothers. Six came from Leah. All the sons of Leah are more or less above board. What you see is what you get. There are no surprises, just refinement and variations of the main templates. The six sons of Rachel and the Maidservants (Bilhah and Zilpa) however all have some personality quirk of their own “hidden up their sleeve”.
In Dan it is resentment, “a chip on the shoulder”.
In Naphtali, the need for a partner.
In Gad: a seeking of peer group approval.
In Asher – a need for renewal of commitment of the other side.
Joseph through Ephraim has an inclination towards unpredicted change of policy.
Manasseh of “cashing in his chips” i.e. taking advantage of relative advantage.