“Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backward.” (Genesis 49:16-17)
The name Dan means “to judge” and carries the connotation of judging a situation in order to “defend” or, in some cases, “to avenge.” An example of how the tribe of Dan was used in this fashion can be found in the book of Judges in the days of Samson. Jacob’s assertion that Dan is “a viper by the path” waiting for someone to come along hints at the idea that, acting as a judge, the tribe of Dan would be skilled in the art of guerilla warfare. Again, consider the story of Samson and how he employed this kind of tactic in waging war against Israel’s enemies. In short, Dan is a tribe that strikes the enemy in defense of the entire nation.
Later Scripture informs us that, as Israel journeyed through the wilderness, the camp headed by the tribe of Dan acted as a rear guard for the people. They were the camp charged with protecting the rear of the column (Numbers 10:25) even as Judah proceeded in advance of the other tribes. In this way, we see a connection between Judah and Dan -– Judah was the first, Dan was the last. Judah was the beginning and Dan was the end. One tribe spearheaded the course as they were led by the pillar of cloud and fire; the other served to ensure that no one was left behind and that all made it to the next destination.
In this we see a principle that holds great importance for you and me. We understand that our King is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and that we, as His people, are to follow Him as He leads us through this life. We understand that He has given us great and powerful promises and that He leads us in paths of righteousness. But we are also to understand that He is the One who protects us from the rear; He is the One who, acting as a judge, defends and, in some cases, avenges us of our enemies. Through Isaiah, the Almighty said:
“For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12)
When the Messiah referred to Himself as the First and Last, the Beginning and the End, in a manner of speaking, He was saying, “I am the One who goes before you and I am the One who will be your rear guard.” He is the One who sets our course in life and, if we are faithful to follow Him, leads us in the way that results in blessing and prosperity. At the same time, He is the One who acts on our behalf to make sure we are not attacked from behind. He works on our behalf to make certain what He has started in us will be accomplished in the end. Because He is the only Righteous Judge, acting as our Protector, He will make certain that we come into the fullness of what He has ordained for our life; because of Him, we can make it to our final destination.
Blessings and Shalom,