1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

Lesson 46,  Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures, Tribal Distribution of Palestine, Benjamin, Dan, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar


Genesis 49:16,17,  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.


Samson may be the one indicated as an example in this blessing of Jacob because Samson embodied the characteristics of the Dan described by Jacob. 


Judges 13:1-5,  And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. 2And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. 3And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. 4Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: 5For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.


Judges 13:24,  And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.


Samson was unsteady, unscrupulous, violent, stealthy in tactics, much like a serpent in the way, an adder in the path that bit the horse’s heels and made the rider fall backwards not knowing what befell him.


As a snake can strike at the legs of a horse and overthrow the mightier animal in an act of surprise, so too would Dan be able to exert itself as one of the tribes. 


This was exemplified in Samson.


But perhaps this was also a prophesy of the treachery that would be displayed by this tribe.


Dan’s inheritance in the kingdom was a rich one, bordering on the Mediterranean and included the great seaport of Joppa. 


This area fronted on Philistine country and was constantly threatened by those war loving neighbors.


The Danites, dissatisfied with this portion, migrated north. 


Jacob described the character of Dan as a serpent by the way and that description was fulfilled when with the cunning of a serpent they took the city of Laish (Judges 18) and established themselves in the far north of Israel.


Judges 18:1-2, 7-11, 27-29,  In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel. 2And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; …….. 7Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man. 8And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye? 9And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. 10When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth. 11And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war.  and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. 28And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. 29And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.


There they faced constant pressure from hostile northern powers such as Syria. 


It was Dan that first introduced idolatry into Israel as tribal religious policy, and it was in Dan that Jeroboam set up one of his golden calves. 


There are twenty lists of tribes in the Bible and Dan appears in eighteen of them. 


Dan does not appear in the list of tribes listed in Rev 7, that compose the 144,000 servants of God who were sealed in their foreheads.


What the omission of Dan in Rev 7 means I do not know.


Like Lot the Danites seemed to have succumbed to the evil influences around them, and to have sunk down into a condition of semi-heathenism from which they never emerged.


The mounds of ruins which mark the site of the city of Dan, formerly Laish show that it covered a considerable extent of ground.


But one fact we do know and that is Jacob’s pronouncement that:


Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 


Perhaps Dan shall have a place in the kingdom that concerns the judging of matters between the people in Israel. 


The Central Tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh


Ephraim, and the half tribe of Manasseh which settled west of the Jordan, was given the land north of Benjamin. 


This territory is very fertile compared with the rocky terrain of Judah. 


The western part of Manasseh, along the Mediterranean, is known as the Plain of Sharon, a particularly fruitful area.


Northern Manasseh included the Plain of Esdraelon, or Jezreel.  


The sacred city of Shiloh, where the ark was kept in the days of Eli and Samuel, was in Ephraimite territory. 


Shechem, where Abraham pitched his tent upon entering Canaan, was located in Manasseh between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim.


The term Mount Ephraim is used for the central mountain range in the area later known as Samaria. 


Ephraim and Manasseh were closely related historically and geographically. 


They are frequently described as the “Joseph tribes” because their father was Joseph, Jacob’s favored son. 


Jacob adopted the two sons of Joseph, the beloved son of his favored wife Rachel, thus giving them tribal status.


Manasseh was unable to subdue a string of Canaanite fortresses in the Valley of Estraelon along her northern boundary:  Beth-shan, Ibleam, Taanach, and Megiddo.


Joshua 17:12,  Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. 13Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out.


Enemy occupation of these strategic fortresses posed a threat to the Israelite tribes and hindered communications with the four tribes farther north. 


At a later period Solomon made Megiddo a center of chariotry installations.   

Issachar (yis-saw-kawr')


Issachar occupied territory north of Manasseh and south of Zebulun and Naphtali. 


A ten mile stretch of the Jordan immediately south of the Sea of Galilee formed her eastern border.


It included the plain of Esdraelon (= Jezreel), which was and still is the richest portion of Palestine.


Mount Tabor, where Barak assembled his forces to fight Sisera, was on the northwestern border, between Issachar and Zebulun. 


Endor, where Saul found the woman with the familiar spirit, Shunem, where Elisha performed one of his miracles, and Jezreel, where Israelite kings had a palace and where Jezebel met her death, are among the better known places in Issachar. 


As in other tribes, Israelite occupation of Issachar was largely limited to the mountain district until the time of David.


Genesis 49:14-15,  Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:  And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.


Issachar, Leah’s fifth child by Jacob, means  he will bring a reward;  a reward for my hire of my handmaid to Jacob.


Leah gave Zilpah, her handmaid, to Jacob because she had a lapse in bearing children (she had left bearing, the Bible says) but soon after this transaction, Leah bore Issachar. 


She took this to mean that God had rewarded the gift of her handmaid to Jacob and that is why she called him Issachar, he will bring a reward. 


She took Issachar as a reward from God and perhaps that is why Jacob tells us that the character of Issachar is one of slothfulness.


Thinking of children as a reward from God instead of a responsibility that God gives may result in a child that is indulged. 


Perhaps this was why Issachar is described by Jacob as a lazy man.


And as we have seen in other tribes this character flaw will fully develop as his tribe develops. 


Jacob calls Issachar strong. 


Issachar most likely had a generous amount of physical strength. 


He is pictured as a strong ass crouching down, on all four legs folded, between two burdens. 


The burdens in this passage refers to sheepfolds or stalls where sheep are confined. 


He is crouched down between where the sheep are confined, he is pictured as an ass laying down on his four legs. 


And he is laying between the sheepfolds where the manure of the sheep was heaped. 


He was laying in dung heap. 


This strong ass choose to lay down in a dung heap because of its warmth.


He is an animal that is supposed to be working but he is in a resting position and resting in a dungheap. 


So Jacob describes the son as one willing to wallow in filth for his own comfort.


So Issachar’s tribe will have strength but the strength is not used. 


Jacob paints a picture of a lethargic and un-ambitious people.


And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.


He saw the good land, he saw a place of rest instead of a place of service and work and by not taking charge he became a charge of others. 


and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.


So the characteristic of Issachar was of one who would work for others in work that required only the contented exertion of brute strength. 


As long as the comforts of life were provided they were content to be a toiling or working labor pool. 


He was content to be a member of a subservient people under compulsory labor.


Issachar was given the gift of strength but he chose to only use that strength when forced by circumstance. 


God given strength is to be used actively and not simply passively. 


Isaiah said “Here am I send me”, Issachar would have hid in the sheepfold, and hoped the Lord would not drive him to go.


How many men and how many women are forced to hard labor, and a hard life because in youth they chose the warmth of a manure pile? 


How many believers will have nothing to lay at the Lord’s feet because they buried their talents during the years when they should have been developing and using them?