Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Dan, Tribe of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 38:27-30

Of course, the purpose of the thread was to mark the firstborn son—the one who would receive the birthright. The breach, or the potential for estrangement between the brothers, lay in the unexpected reversal of birth order: The boy ready to be born, Zerah, as marked by the thread, became the second born. His older brother was named Perez. David and his dynasty were descendants of Perez. Christ also came through this line (Matthew 1:3-5, 16; Luke 3:23-33).

Whatever happened to Zerah and his descendants?

Cheated of their birthright, the descendants of Zerah separated from the children of Israel soon after the Exodus. This separation explains why so few references to Zerah appear in God's Word. Some of the children of Zerah went north to Greece. Others went to Troy, near the Dardanelles, which, by the way, bears the name of Zerah's fifth son, Darda. After Troy's fall to the Achaeans (Greeks), a group of Zerahites under the leadership of Brutus migrated to Britain via Malta. In England, they founded "New Troy," which the Romans much later renamed Londinium, now London.

Other Zerahites settled down in Ireland, after residing for a time in Spain, where they founded the city of Saragossa, literally, the City of Zerah. By the time of David, a princely clan of Zerahites was established as Ireland's royal family, ruling a part of the tribe of Dan, the Tautha de Danann (that is, tribe of Dan) of Irish legend, which had also settled there.

Therefore, because of the Zerahite monarchy, the scepter did not depart from Judah (Genesis 49:10) with the dethroning of Zedekiah and the death of his sons.

However, this fact in itself does not address the question of David's monarchy, which God said was to be everlasting. It fails to address this issue because Zerah's monarchy was not David's monarchy. While related, they remained separate monarchies, God having established David's much later than Zerah's. The Davidic monarchy was not linked to its Zerahite counterpart. Hence, we cannot claim that God fulfilled His promise of a perpetual throne to David through the Zerahite monarchy.

To resolve this issue, God connected the two monarchies. To see how, we must return to the time of Jerusalem's fall.

The Babylonians appointed Gedaliah as Nebuchadnezzar's vassal to rule Judah. Jeremiah 41 relates how Ishmael, who was of the "royal family" (verse 1), assassinated Gedaliah (verse 2), probably out of jealousy over the power the Babylonians had bestowed on him. Ishmael took a number of prisoners (verse 10), probably as bargaining chips should his schemes go sour. And sour they went. Ishmael was forced to flee to Ammon (verse 15). His prisoners escaped. Verse 10 mentions something about those prisoners the casual reader might miss. Among them were some VIPs: "Then Ishmael carried away captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king's daughters. . . ."

While none of his sons survived Jerusalem's fall, Zedekiah was survived by at least two daughters. One of these daughters had recently married an Irish prince of the line of Judah through Zerah. In fact, the marriage took place during (or shortly before) the siege of Jerusalem. Thus, Zedekiah's daughter, who was a descendant of Perez, married a man descended through Zerah. Both had Judah as a common ancestor.

It is not fanciful to adduce that an Irish prince was visiting Jerusalem in the sixth century BC. The ancients were more traveled than many today want to believe, and international relations, complete with ambassadors, protocols, and "diplomatic immunity," were extant as well. Nehemiah 11:24 mentions a certain Pethahiah, who was probably one such ambassador. More importantly, he was "of the children of Zerah, the son of Judah, [and] was the king's deputy in all matters concerning the people."

The word deputy literally means "hand." In modern idiom, Pethahiah was the Persian king's "right-hand man." As strange as it may seem, several generations after Jeremiah's day, there was a highly placed Jew (that is, someone of Judah) in the Persian court whose task it was to look after the Jews in Palestine.

We do not need to read too much between the lines to understand from this scripture that Ireland had diplomatic relations with the Persians, and Pethahiah, possibly of the Irish royal family, was sent to Persia to represent the interests of the Jews in Palestine. That is, the Irish king, himself a Jew in that he descended from Judah, felt responsible for the Jews in Palestine. Since he did not enjoy hegemony over that part of the world, he looked after their interests through a highly placed person—virtually an ambassador—in the Persian court. Even in today's complex world of foreign relations, this technique is a common method through which a leader can exercise a measure of control over an area outside his immediate authority.

The marriage of one of Zedekiah's daughters—of the Perez branch of Judah—to a prince of the Zerah branch healed the breach in Judah's family. Through this healing, God

» perpetuated the Davidic monarchy, as required by the unconditional promise to David in II Samuel 7:16. The offspring of the Irish prince and Zedekiah's daughter would legitimately bring the two branches together indefinitely, as one family, one monarchy.

» maintained the authority of the Davidic monarchy over the "house of Israel," as God prophesied in Jeremiah 33:17.

Jeremiah received the job of transporting the royal couple back to Ireland.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Nine): The Migration of a Monarchy

Related Topics: Dan | Dan, Tribe of | Descendants of Perez | Perez | Zerah


Genesis 49:16-18

Dan would judge, though he would have to wait for his salvation. He is also described as a viper who lies in wait, biting "the horse's heels so that its rider shall fall backward." Snakes leave markings as they crawl over the ground. Everywhere Dan has traveled, he has left his name as a marker.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Two): Blessings in Faith

Related Topics: Dan | Dan, Tribe of


Genesis 49:17

God Himself told Ephraim to mark their way so that they could return one day to the Promised Land: "Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities" (Jeremiah 31:21). How were they to do this?

One of the main ways involves the prophecy of Jacob about the tribe of Dan. "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path" (Genesis 49:17). A serpent or snake leaves a mark behind it as it moves over the earth; some snakes, like rattlesnakes, leave very distinctive trails. So does the tribe of Dan.

Though Joshua had allotted land to Dan in Canaan, the Danites found it to be difficult to hold and settle because of its proximity to the Philistines. They began to look elsewhere for living space.

And six hundred men of the family of the Danites went from there, from Zorah and Eshtaol, armed with weapons of war. Then they went up and encamped in Kirjath Jearim in Judah. (Therefore they call that place Mahaneh Dan [Camp of Dan] to this day. There it is, west of Kirjath Jearim.) (Judges 18:11-12)

Finally, they came to the city of Laish, in the far northern reaches of Israel, and they took it. "And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel. However the name of the city was formerly Laish" (verse 29).

And thus they have been naming places after their ancestor ever since! A good map of Europe will show dozens of place names carrying the name of Dan within them. The Don, Dnieper, Dniester and Danube rivers all flow into the Black Sea. The Romans knew the Rhine and Rhone rivers as the Eridanus and the Rhodanus. Denmark (literally, "Dan's Land") and Sweden are both northwestern European countries. The English escaped from Dunkirk (literally, "Dan's Church") during WWII. One can find similar place names sprinkled heavily throughout England, Scotland, and especially Ireland, where dun means "judge," just as dan does in Hebrew!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Israel: Present


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