Genesis 49:15-16 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:54 mins 19 secs

Dan and the Development of Idolatry; Genesis 49:15-16


Dan never gets their priorities right, never trusts God, and as a result always have failures. In is not a matter of typical human resources in terms of natural intelligence or education or money or anything of that nature, it is always a matter of the grace of God.


They key verse that is repeated twice in the book of Judges in our chapter, Judges 17:6 NASB "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." It is found also in Judges 19:1. When you reject the authority of God in your life then a proper and true understanding of authority breaks down all the way down the line because your core understanding of authority is that there is a creator over against the creation, and that creator has the right to dictate policy to His creation. He is the one who defines everything, determines right and wrong, and establishes values. But once you get rid of that authority then all other authority becomes a matter of either personal taste, personal preference, or it becomes a matter of power and the imposition of authority in terms of tyranny. This is why in the context of paganism you have a breakdown in the family: a breakdown of parental authority, a breakdown of the authority of men, and there is a role reversal trend that goes on inside the culture where the women don't understand what it means to be feminine anymore and men do not understand what true masculinity is as coming from the hand of God. So there is a perversion of the two roles and what is played out is that curse that is announced in Genesis 3:16: that the woman would desire to exercise authority over the husband in the home.


The Jews of the period of the Judges were as corrupted by the paganism of the culture as the people around them are. It was no longer possible to see a distinctiveness. In the 18th century the people of were theistic, they had a theistic worldview, and they believed the Bible was the Word of God. That doesn't mean everybody was a Christian but they thought like Christians think. The culture was completely different. People had honour, integrity, and they had absolutes, and people understood that law was law, and that it came from God ultimately. In the culture today there is rebellion everywhere. So we live in a time that is comparable to then period of the Judges: there was no king in the land, everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes.


Samson was the worst of the judges and when he dies he hasn't delivered the nation, it is still under the thumb of the Philistines, and he is just as pagan in his life as anyone around him. But God gave him grace at the end to judge the Philistines.


Chapters 17 & 18 of Judges need to be taken as one episode. Chapter 17 is actually the prelude or background information to what happens in the idolatry in chapter 18. Chapters 19 and 20 are a completely separate episode. What these two episodes show is the corruption in the priesthood and the people. We are introduced to a man named Micah, an Ephraimite. Judges NASB 17:2 "He said to his mother, 'The eleven hundred {pieces} of silver which were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse in my hearing, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.' And his mother said, 'Blessed be my son by the LORD.'" The mother's response indicates absolutely no discipline, and what she says is actually calling upon God to bless her son despite his thievery. That is using God's name in vain.


Judges 17:3 NASB "He then returned the eleven hundred {pieces} of silver to his mother, and his mother said, 'I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you.'" Rather than take the money to the tabernacle where hopefully it would be used correctly she decides that she is going to keep that money for herself  and she is going to define the right way that money should be used for the Lord. That is what happens when we get into apostasy and into arrogance: we become out own little gods and we start dictating right and wrong. She is going to take this money to make a carved image and a moulded image—two different images, one out of wood and one out of some kind of metal. Then she is going to identify these as some kind of representation of Yahweh. That is exactly what happens in numerous churches every week in America. They have a false theology, they generate their own view of God which is not a biblical view of God, and then they say that is God. That is taking God's name in vain; they are creating a false religion.


So there is a breakdown in authority orientation which is characteristic of any pagan culture, where the son is stealing from his mother and his mother just is very permissive about the whole thing. That really is symbolic of a breakdown in the whole relationship with God.


Judges 17:4 NASB "So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred {pieces} of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. [5] And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest." It is really amazing what religion can lead people to do. This is a picture of the apostasy of the whole nation. Micah is establishing his own counter shrine to the tabernacle and he is establishing his own counter priesthood to the legitimate Levitical priesthood. Here we see the superstition that runs through a lot of false religion: using God as a talisman or a good luck charm. As long as you say the right words, as long as we give some kind of credence or nod to God then everything is going to be fine.


Judges 17:7 NASB "Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he was staying there. [8] Then the man departed from the city, from Bethlehem in Judah, to stay wherever he might find {a place;} and as he made his journey, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. [9] Micah said to him, 'Where do you come from?' And he said to him, 'I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find {a place.}' [10] Micah then said to him, 'Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten {pieces} of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your maintenance.' So the Levite went {in.}" What was the going Canaanite religion at the time? It was the fertility religion; it was an agricultural society. In a fertility religion in agriculture everything is about prosperity, about fertilizing the soil and growing crops so that you have a prosperous season. The old Baal religion and the fertility cult was nothing more than a primitive form of the modern prosperity theology that we hear proclaimed on television today. It is no different, it is people generating their own religion and promoting a false gospel. …[13] "Then Micah said, 'Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest.'" This is just the blindness and arrogance of false religion. It is using God's name in vain, thinking that if they use God's name, if they call the idols after the name of Yahweh then somehow God is going to be good to them, so they just use Him for a lucky charm.


In 18:1 we are reminded that in those days there was no king in Israel, and in those days the tribe of the Danites were seeking an inheritance for themselves. They are still trying to figure out where their property is because they never could defeat the Amorites. [2] "So the sons of Dan sent from their family five men out of their whole number, valiant men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to search it; and they said to them, 'Go, search the land.' And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there." They haven't been able to take the land that God had allotted them so they are going to attempt to steal it from somebody else. So what is the first thing that comes to mind? They are totally paganised, they have rejected God, rejected His provision, they don't want to get God's property God's way, so they are going to get their own their own way, and this shows the complete breakdown of authority orientation in the tribe of Dan.


While these five men are there in the house of Micah they discover this young Levite and begin to interrogate him. He tells them the whole story about how Micah hired him, that he is now a priest in this shrine in Ephraim. Judges 18:5 NASB "They said to him, 'Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be prosperous.'" They are using God as just a good luck charm. Notice, they referred to God using the generic Elohim, and the priest uses Yahweh. The priest is ion carnality, disobedience but he is at least trying to have a façade of legitimacy. This is like so many people. They want God's approval on whatever it is they are doing. There is still this biblical talk of God-speak, but the culture isn't godly, it doesn't have any more spiritual value to it than it does anywhere else, it just has this residual veneer left over from generations ago. There are still people who because it is culturally the norm will go to church on Sunday morning, and that afternoon it is just as if they'd never heard anything that was said that morning. This is primarily because of the bad teaching on Sunday morning but also because they have created a compartmentalization of doctrine. That is what we believe but this is  where we live. We compartmentalize the Word of God. That is how our culture teaches us to be able to live in a pagan society without challenging every word that comes out of everybody's mouth around us. So what happens is a gradual road of compromise that dilutes and diminishes our own spiritual power. Where it leads is before long you are talking the language but it doesn't mean anything. Where this leads is before long they continue to live on the basis of a completely relativistic, immoral set of values. It doesn't affect how they do business, it doesn't affect how they conduct their professional lives, because they don't understand the difference between being a doctor who is a Christian and a doctor who has thought through the entire medical practice from a biblical framework.


God is not talking to this priest and he just comes back, like the most priests of most pagan denominations and religions who say "God will be with you." It sounds so good and so holy, like "God bless you." Nobody knows what the word means and it is just watered down jargon. Judges 18:6 NASB "The priest said to them, 'Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the LORD'S approval.'"


So the spies go on up to the northern part of Israel to the old Canaanite city of Laish, later renamed Dan. They discovered that the inhabitants there were related to the Sidonians. They were Canaanites who had not been kicked out of the land and they decided that they could conquer them. So they headed back to their fellow members of the tribe of Dan and gave them the report that they could easily conquer this area. Judges 18:9 NASB "They said, 'Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you sit still? Do not delay to go, to enter, to possess the land.'" God has not given them this land, it is not theirs, but they are going to go steal it. [10] "When you enter, you will come to a secure people with a spacious land; for God has given it into your hand, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth." Notice how they use God to justify their own decisions. [12] "They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim."


They come by the house of Micah. When they get there the five men who had served as the advance patrol said: "Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod and household idols and a graven image and a molten image? Now therefore, consider what you should do." What they said in effect was, "If we really want to be successful we ought to take these idols with us, they are going to be our good luck charm and God will be on our side." So they went into the house to steal God so that God would bless them in their conquest!


The apostate Levitical priest wakes up and decides to stop them. But they said if he came with them they would build him an even better shrine, they'd make his name famous, they'd put him on television! You can build your own ministry. That is basically the idea in the primitive sense. Judges 18:20 NASB "The priest's heart was glad, and he took the ephod and household idols and the graven image and went among the people."


When they were some distance from Micah's house the people who lived in that area suddenly realized that their god had been stolen. They chased down the Danites and when they didn't have enough men the Danotes told them they'd better keep their mouth shut and go home because we have your gods and we will overpower you. And that is what they did. When you don't have a solid moral system you can't fight for freedom because you don't have any absolutes to fight for. So they gave up. Judges 18:26 NASB "So the sons of Dan went on their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house."


In verses 27-31 we see what happens in the north. Judges 18:27 NASB "Then they took what Micah had made and the priest who had belonged to him, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and secure, and struck them with the edge of the sword; and they burned the city with fire. [28] And there was no one to deliver {them,} because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with anyone, and it was in the valley which is near Beth-rehob. And they rebuilt the city and lived in it. [29] They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father who was born in Israel; however, the name of the city formerly was Laish."


The real clincher is when we get into verse 30: "The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh [Moses], he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land." Now we are told who the priest was.  The NASB uses the name Manasseh, but it should be Moses. Later on after the exile it was a little too much for some of the scribes to handle, so in some of the MSS they inserted "Manasseh." The only difference between Moses and Manasseh was the n in Hebrew, so they inserted an n because they couldn't associate this kind of evil idolatry with Moses, but they could with the evil king Manasseh. So what this tells us is that this priest is a direct descendant of Moses. This gave him legitimacy in the eyes of the people—Moses' great, great grandson! He has established our temple and he is our priest; God is really blessing us! This is how apostate religion works. It has this veneer of legitimacy that looks very good, and unless you are willing to study and dig beneath the surface you are going to be sucked into it.



1)  Religion doesn't restrain morality or promote virtue. These people are very religious but they are lying, stealing, and are complete reprobates in terms of personal ethics. Only when you have a God who is bigger than creation can you have a set of absolutes that are large enough to provide a foundation for ethics.

2)  Religion doesn't always deny the teaching of Scripture. Often it completely affirms everything that the Scripture says and then it adds something to it; which is what we have here. Nobody is denying the legitimacy of Moses or the law of Moses or the tabernacle, they are just adding to it. This is the same kind of thing we have with Charismatics: they add to scripture. There are two trends throughout history. You either take away from Scripture or you add to Scripture. The liberals come along and take out their razor blades and say God didn't say this, Jesus didn't say that, and they decide in their arrogance what could never happen, what probably never happened, what possibly never happened, what might have happened, and what did happened. Liberalism always comes in and takes away from the Word. Then we have mysticism which adds to the Word—always more revelation.

3)  False religion treats God like a talisman, a magic charm, that if you just say the right words, do the right things, give the right money then right way, say the prayer of Jabez fifteen or twenty times a day, then God is going to bless you and prosper you.


That is how Dan introduces idolatry into the nation and we see as we study through the Old Testament that it never changes. The idolatrous nature of the Danites is further developed after the break-up of the nation into the northern and southern kingdoms.


The history: There is the period of the conquest under Joshua which is the high water mark of the Israelites history, when they were at their greatest level spiritually. They had the conquest of Jericho and Ai, conquest of the southern confederacy and the northern confederacy of Canaanites. Then it is up to each tribe to do the mopping up operation in their own territory. That is when failure enters in, they begin to compromise with the Canaanites. That is the period of the Judges, a period of 450 years or so of complete anarchy that is the result of moral relativism. This ends with the last judge who is Samuel, the king anointer. Then there is the united monarchy which is Saul and David and Solomon. Saul fails to obey God and so the kingdom is taken from him and given to David. Solomon built a power base in the government. His authority tended towards tyranny and tyranny of taxation and when he died his son Rehoboam became the king of all Israel. But he listened to his peers who advised to keep taxing the people and that caused a rift in the nation. A major civil war takes place and the ten northern tribes split off. The first king in the north is Jeroboam I and he understands that if he is going to be able to unite his people he has to do it on a religious basis that competes with the religious foundation of the nation. So he rewrites history, introduces historical revisionism because that is going to give them a legitimate bassi for their existence. But then he reasons that somehow he has to get God on his side, so he is going to pull the same kind of religious operation to give themselves a sense of legitimacy and to get God on their side as we saw earlier with the Danites.

1 Kings 12:25 NASB "Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim [where we have just been with the Danites], and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. [26] Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David." This gives him his rationale. Why would the kingdom go back to David? If the people are following the Mosaic law they have to go to Jerusalem at least three times a year to the temple. The temple is what unites the people, so he has to find some way to keep them from going down to Jerusalem to worship the Lord because if they do that it is just going to be pressure to reunite with the south. [27] "If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, {even} to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah. [28] So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.'" He was a student of history perhaps, because he said exactly what Aaron said when he created the golden calf. [29] "He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan." Convenient.

1 Kings 12:30 NASB "Now this thing became a sin, for the people went {to worship} before the one as far as Dan. [31] And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi." This is just following in the steps and the precedent that was established by Dan.

Nothing good is said about Dan in the rest of the Old Testament, but Dan is given an allotment is the future kingdom. Dan is not mentioned in Revelation chapter seven where we have the 12,000 evangelists from the twelve tribes of Israel. There is no 12,000 evangelists from Dan because of their spiritual apostasy. However, God is gracious. No matter how much we fail, no matter how apostate we become, if we are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ God has a plan for us and there is a future of eternal life. The same is true for the tribe of Dan. In Ezekiel 48:1, 2, 32 we have a description of the land allotment for Dan in the future Millennial kingdom. So there is grace to them despite their failure and disobedience. Even though Dan is a tribe of apostasy there is a future in God's plan for them.