The tribe of Dan initially held territory in between Ephraim and Judah (Jos. 19:40-48). Their allotment touched the western slopes of the central mountains within the rolling hills of the Shephelah and also a small part of the coastline. While the area was ideal for agriculture its location near the Sorek Valley also opened the door for invasion. Constant pressure from the Amorites and Philistines “inspired” the Danites to move northward and seek new territory (Jud. 17-18). In doing so they slaughtered the entire city of Laish and renamed it after their tribal ancestor. While the blessing of Moses recognized Dan’s military abilities (Dt. 33:22), it is Jacob’s blessing that reveals Dan’s treacherous nature (Gen. 49:16-17), foreshadowing the debacle at Laish. The new northern territory was appealing to them. The melting snow from Mount Hermon and the natural spring that was the source of the Jordan River (Jordan literally means “what comes down from Dan”) provided an ample water supply and the ready-built city of peace-loving inhabitants isolated from any assistance was easy to overtake and move into.
To make matters worse, the departure from Tabernacle worship by the man Micah (not the prophet) in Jud. 17 sets the tone for the installation of a false temple system by Jeroboam I in 1 Ki. 12:25-33. This may seem strange to us but in spite of the selfish reasons for Jeroboam doing so (1 Ki. 12:26), his constituents believed they had several reasons which made Dan a better location for worship. First, Dan was located near the border of the Promised Land. What better place for God to protect them? Second, they had an ample supply of “living water”, water which freely flowed near-by and didn’t have to be carted in like the water in Jerusalem which was brought in via aqueducts from Bethlehem. In the ancient world water equaled life and there was plenty of it in Dan. Thirdly, Dan had physical connections with Abraham, the venerable Father of the Faith (Gen. 14:1-16) whereas Jerusalem did not (Abraham was never IN Jerusalem although he was visited by a prominent figure from there; Gen. 14:17-20). And lastly, Dan was in the vicinity of Mamre, another stomping ground of Abraham’s. The historian of Kings notes that this incorrect perception of superiority further perpetuated the penchant for sin already established by the Danites’ ancestors. Using words which recall the idolatry at the time of Aaron (Ex. 32:1-35) he points the reader toward the inevitable judgment upon the people for breaking the Covenant with God (Dt. 27:11-15; 28:15, 45-46, 49). Like Pripyat whose pride in nuclear dominance led to its downfall, Dan’s pride in its self-constructed religious system led to its judgment and demise. Dan became a ghost town when the Assyrians overtook it in 722 B. C.
Listed as one of the seven deadly sins in medieval times, the course of human history has certainly shown that pride can truly be a person’s downfall. The proverb (Prov. 16:18) still remains true today. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for being so consumed with their pride it completely blinded them to their hypocrisy (Mt. 23:1-33). We are not without admonition either for Jesus said if we’re more concerned with a speck in our brother’s eye, it most likely means we’re missing the log in our own (Mt. 7:1-5). In my own personal experience I’ve come across many a Christian whose pride has blinded them and I too struggle with not succumbing to the temptation to put myself pridefully above others. How do we make sure we do not end up living in Pripyat or Dan? I know of only one way. Read Phil. 2:1-11 and do it.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 10/1/2017