Dan was the fifth son of Jacob, but the first of Jacob and his wife’s handmaid, given to him by his wife Rachael when she could not have children. The sons of Jacob hated their brother Joseph, whom their father favored. After he received a prized coat of many colors from their father, and spoke of visions received about his future as a leader, theydecided to sell him to a group of Ishmeelite or Midianite merchantmen. To cover their sin, they dipped his coat into animal blood to convince his father he had been killed by animals. They were reunited with him after he was grown and serving the Pharaoh. There was a famine and they went to Egypt to get grain. They eventually realized the person they were receiving it from was their brother and the family was reunited.
When Jacob was dying, he called his sons together to receive revelation concerning their futures.
Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 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 (Genesis 49:16-17).
Dan traveled with his brothers from Egypt to return Jacob’s body to Canaan, where he was buried.
One of his descendants was Aholiab, who was an artisan. Aholiab was inspired to work on the building and furnishing of the tabernacle. Moses chose Ahiezer, son of Ammishaddai, to lead Dan’s tribe. There were 157,600 in his camp.
Dan’s son was Shuham and his descendants were known as Shuhamites. When Moses and Eleazer did a census of men twenty and older, there were 64,400 Shuhamites.
Bukki was the prince of Dan’s tribe and it was his responsibility to divide the inheritance of the tribe among the descendants.
As the Israelites crossed over Jordon into Canaan to claim the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan was among those chosen to stand on Mount Ebal to curse.
Joshua divided the promised land among the people by casting lots and the seventh lot fell to the tribe of Dan. They felt their lot was too small, so they smote Leshem and took that land. However, they were unable to get the Amorites out of Canaan, so they had to retreat to the mountains. Eventually, they were able to make the Amorites tributaries.
Samson, a descendent of Dan, was the subject of a prophecy given his father Manoah. Manoah’s wife was unable to have children, but Manoah was promised she would have a son and that the son would begin to deliver Israel from bondage to the Philistines.
Adapted from Every Person in the OT by Lynn F. Price; Horizon Publishers and the Bible Dictionary.