The Missing Tribe of Dan
June 17th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
THE MISSING TRIBE OF DAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-17-62 7:30 p.m.
In your Bible, let’s turn to the Book of the Revelation; all of us, to the Book of the Revelation. Been preaching out of chapter 7 for several Sundays, I just thought I would do the same thing tonight; Revelation chapter 7. As our people know who come to the services on the Lord’s Day morning, in our preaching through the Bible, we have come after these many years to the last book, the Book of the Revelation. And now for over a year and a half, we have been preaching in this blessed Apocalypse and have finally come to chapter 7, after a year and a half. Now tonight we are going to read the first eight verses, and if you cannot pronounce the names of all those tribes, it does not matter, just say something anyway, the first eight verses of the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation. And we are going to preach tonight on The Missing Tribe of Dan, the lost tribe of Dan. Now let us read it together, everybody:
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand,
Of the tribe of Asher were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Naphtali were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Manasseh were sealed twelve thousand,
Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand,
Of the tribe of Zebulon were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand, of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
And in that roll call in heaven, all of these tribes are named. Even Ephraim is called by the name of his father Joseph. They are all named there, all except one – the tribe of Dan. And in the roll call in heaven, the name of Dan, his family, his tribe, his people are lost; they are omitted. They are unnamed. Now why? For it is an unusual thing that happened to the tribe of Dan; had he been like Benjamin – small, always small, and at one time in the story of his life, almost destroyed – had he been like Benjamin and had fallen out and away, I might not have suspected otherwise or been astonished to find his name omitted from the list. But not Dan, for the tribe of Dan in the Exodus was second only to Judah [Numbers 1:27, 39]. The tribe of Dan, as they entered the conquest to conquer, to take possession of the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan had sixty-four thousand fighting men able to bear arms [Numbers 26:43]. And they marched and they stood next to Judah himself, in strength and in power to conquer.
Dan was one of the most honored of all of the tribes of Israel. In the formation of the camp, Dan was located to the north, there with Asher and Naphtali [Numbers 2:25-31]. And he bore his standard, made out of a flag that was red and white, and had an insignia of the top of the standard; a flying eagle. In the prophecy that their father Jacob made of Dan, he said Dan shall be a serpent, "He shall be a serpent by the way,he shall be an adder in the path" [Genesis :17]. And as the sign of a tribe that destroyed serpents, they chose as their ensign, as their marching aegis, they chose an eagle that destroys serpents.
Out of the tribe of Dan came two illustrious men of God, one of whom was the strongest of all of the men who’ve ever lived, whose name was Samson [Judges 13:2, 24]. Now when Dan approached the conquest of Canaan, he was allotted a beautiful and a splendid section. Dan was given the maritime plain that you call Sharon, and the piedmont, the foothills that lie back of the mountains – that lie before the mountains of Palestine [Joshua 19:40-48]. It was not particularly a large part of the country, but it was unusual fertile – fertile above any of the other of the allotments. And being a maritime plain, it had a great seacoast which meant they had the traffic and the commerce of the world before them with all of the fishermen and all of the wealth of the sea.
Now in that allotment, all of the tribes were given a section of the land to conquer: Judah to conquer this part, and that was to be their home and their inheritance; Ephraim to conquer this part, and Gad, and Naphtali, and Asher, and Issachar, and Simeon, and Reuben, and all of them; the land was parceled out and each one was to conquer it. Now the part of the land, as I said, that was given to Dan was this fertile plain of Sharon and the piedmont hills that lie immediately back of it toward the mountains. The only thing was, the Philistines lived in the plain, and the Amorites possessed the hills of the piedmont. But the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Jebusites, the Gergashites, and the Hittites, and all of the rest of those "-ites" possessed all of the land. And in the conquest of Canaan, it was no different for Dan than it was for Judah or for Ephraim or for any of the other of the tribes; they had to take it, had to possess it. They had to take it by conquest.
Now, there was a great spirit among some of God’s soldiering men. For example, Caleb said, "Give me the city that belongs to the Anaks," to the Anakim, to the giants, "Give it to me!" "Yes, but," they said, "that is the most difficult fortress to storm in all of the allotment of Judah." But Caleb said, "The Lord God that was with me in the days of my youth will be with me now that I am eighty years old. Give me Hebron," he said, "and let that be my inheritance." And Caleb, in the power and in the trust and in the almightiness of God, took his inheritance for himself and for his children [Joshua 14:6-15]. Was there a spirit like that in the camp of Dan, in the tribe and family of Dan? No! No, for when Dan looked upon his inheritance – sixty-four thousand marching, fighting men – they quailed. There were the Philistines, and they were afraid of them; and there were the Amorites, and they were cowards before them. And instead of possessing their inheritance, they turned aside from it in ignominious fear and in cringing, shameful servitude. So the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Judges begins, "And in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in" [Judges 18:1]. They refused God’s challenge, and God’s allotment, and God’s inheritance, and God’s elective purpose for their lives, and they rather chose to find some place that they had not to fight for, some place that just fell into their hands without effort, without sacrifice, without march, and without conquest. Isn’t that an amazing and unusual thing?
When the allotments were made, had the plain of Philistia been given to the Danites, and had the piedmont hills been given to the Danites, they would have accepted the gift with great alacrity, "We are happy to have it if somebody will buy it for us, if somebody will conquer it for us, if somebody will take it for us. We would be very happy to receive it – very happy to have it, very happy to get it. But we are not going to fight for it, and we are not going to march for it, and we are not going to war for it, and we are not going to take it like God says. We are not going to do it." So they turned aside from their inheritance and left it in the hands of the Philistines and in the hands of the Amorites.
But they had to dwell somewhere, so this they did: the most astonishing and amazing and the most shameful thing that mind could imagine. They chose out of their family, out of the tribe, five men and said, "You go take out a place that is easy. Find one, find one where we can dwell, where we do not have to war, do not have to fight. See if you can." So those five men went through all of the land and they came back, and they said, "Up there at the head waters of the Jordan River, there is a section of the land that is isolated from Sidon. And the Zidonians live there and they are a peaceful people. And they cultivate the rich soil and they live in the beautiful plains over which tower the great Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges. And they are a quiet people, and they are unprotected. Let’s go up there, and let’s fall upon them, and in the nighttime," like scoundrels and like jackals and like dogs, "let’s destroy them. Then let’s possess their city and their land, after we have murdered their people." [Judges 18:7-19]
Why, just to say the thing they planned brings its own unholiness and its own condemnation in what these people were supposed to do. God never said anything about an allotment up there! God never said anything about those peace-loving Zidonians up there; God never mentioned it in the allotment to the tribes. But they were looking for an easy place, and they found it in that quiet and beautiful district at the headwaters of the Jordan River at the base of Mount Hermon. And so they went with their men and in the nighttime, in ambush, they smote the city with the edge of the sword and they burned it with fire. And they dwelt there, and they named the city Dan, after their tribal patriarchal father. That is where you get the word "from Dan to Beersheba," from the far north to the far south. That is how they came to live in the far northern part of Palestine.
All right, another thing that the Danites did: we haven’t time to mention the story of Micah and his idol. But as the Danites made their trek from the inheritance God had given them to possess that land for which they had murdered, and burned, and stolen, in shame and in ignominy – on the way up there to live, they passed by a man who had an idol in his house. And he had consecrated a priest to be a father unto him, before whose idol he bowed down, and the priest ministered in the name of the idol. And the Danites took that idol and they took that priest and in their city of Dan, there they erected that graven image, and there they consecrated that priest to be a father unto them. And they set up Micah’s graven image which he made.
All the time that the house of God was in Shiloh, and all the time that the house of the Lord was in Jerusalem, where God said, "My name shall be there in that house of prayer," Dan is up there, bowing down before his idols. Such a thing is impossible to be persuaded of. And so confirmed was Dan in idolatry, that when Jeroboam II took the northern ten tribes away from the house of David, he built his golden calves of idolatry at Bethel, and he built his golden calves of idolatry at Dan; for Dan was an atmosphere, and a tribe, and a people, and a family where idolatry was known from its beginning. And all the time that God’s people went up to the tabernacle of Shiloh to call on His name, these in Dan were bowing down before their graven image. And all the times that the tribes were singing the songs of ascent, the songs of degrees, going up to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, "I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go up to the house of the Lord" [Psalm 122:1], and all the times the tribes were going up to Jerusalem to call on the name of the true Jehovah God, the Danites were bowing down before their idol. And while the hope, the blessed hope was built by the prophets and by the preachers and by God’s servants in the heart of the people of Israel, the Danites were bowing down before their graven image.
When Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth. And though worms through this skin destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" [Job 19:25, 26]. While Job was saying those words, Dan was bowing down before a graven image. And when David was saying, "Thou hast promised unto Thy servant a son who shall sit upon his throne forever" [2 Samuel 7:12], and "Thou will not suffer Thine holy one to see corruption" [Psalm 16:10], but out of the depths of the grave shall He stand to live and to reign forever – when David was saying those words, the Danites were bowing down before a graven image.
And when Isaiah was making his great prophecies:
The lamb shall lie down with the leopard and the kid and the fatling together.
And the lion shall eat straw like an ox,
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all Mine holy mountain.
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters over the sea
While Isaiah was prophesying of the great and blessed hope of the coming of the great King, the Danites were bowing down before a golden graven image. And while Micah was saying, "But thou Judah, thou little Bethlehem-Ephrata, though thou be the least among all of the cities of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come who shall rule My people Israel" [Micah 5:2, 3]. And while Micah the prophet was making his great announcement of the coming of the Lord, the Danites were bowing down before a graven image. And when Malachi made his great announcement, "Behold, He cometh to His temple whom you seek, whom you love, whom you desire, whom you pray for" [Malachi 3:1]. And "the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings" [Malachi 4:2], the Danites were bowing down before their graven image.
And the Lord looked upon it and the Lord said, "It is enough. It is enough. It is enough." And Dan was left out of the list, and Dan was left out of the roll, and Dan was left out of the number of the tribes; for he had given himself to unbelief, and to rejection, and to blasphemy, and to idolatry, and to sin, and to wantonness, disobedience. And God said, "And it is enough! And it is enough!"
I want you to look at this: these one hundred forty-four thousand are sealed for the service and ministry of Christ. Twelve thousand from Judah, called and elected to a great ministry and service for Jesus; twelve thousand from Reuben, twelve thousand from Gad, twelve thousand from Asher, from Naphtali, from Manasseh, from Ephraim – twelve thousand from each one. These are the called of God for the ministry and service of the Lord Christ in the earth. But there is no call and there is no place and there is no ministry for the Danites, who rejected the call and the purpose of God. And they are left out; and they are left out. And that thing that was true of the tribe of Dan is true of our families and of our people and of us as individuals today. When we turn aside from the call and the elective purpose of God for our lives, the day comes when God says, "And it is enough!" And He leaves us out and He passes us by. One of the saddest things in life: in life, these sealed for service, but not Dan; but not Dan.
We were in a revival meeting in the little town in which I grew up, and there was a fine and able preacher who was holding the services under a tent in the middle of the little town. And at a morning hour, when the moving Spirit of God was in the service, he gave an invitation. That preacher, he gave an invitation for any there who felt called of God to answer an elective purpose of heaven for his life to come forward and to give the preacher his hand. For a long, long time, I had felt in my heart that God was calling me to be a preacher of the gospel of the Son of God. And when the preacher made that invitation, for all who felt called to give themselves to a full-time ministry of Christ to come forward, I stepped out into the aisle, toward the front to give my hand to the preacher.
When I did so, there was an older man. Now that I have reached majority myself, I have often wondered just how old that man was. He seemed to me ready for the grave. But when I was a boy, ten and eleven years old, a fellow forty years old, it seemed to me, was ready for the grave. He had already lived his life out. He was already done. I cannot recall it, except just it came to me that that old man was ready for the grave. Anyway, he was the brother of the evangelist, and he stepped out in front of me. And the two of us walked the center aisle in that tent up to the preacher – he first and I second. And he went up to his brother, and his brother came down out of the pulpit. And the brothers put their arms around each other, and they wept and they cried and they rejoiced. And that old man seemed old to me, and that old man who was the brother of the evangelist, standing right there I could listen to what he said. And that brother said to the evangelist, he said, "Brother, I have been called of God to preach all the years and the years of this life. I felt that call when I was a youth, when I was a boy. And I fought against it and I’ve struggled against it. But now, brother," he said, "after the passing of these years, I surrender to the will of God, and I give my life to Jesus to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ." And the brother rejoiced and he put his arms around him. I knew him – knew him ever since I was a little, bitty fellow. He was a farmer who lived several miles outside of the town. And I looked at him: he was burned crisp under the dark and heavy suns, under those fierce storms and winds. All his life he had been out there on those high, dry plains. Well, when they got through rejoicing, I gave the preacher my hand and said, "God has called me to preach, and I am giving my life publicly for that holy purpose today." And he patted my hand and said, "God bless you, son," and I sat down.
So it was announced that the following Sunday afternoon: the preacher’s brother who, after these years and years, had given his life to preach the gospel – who felt called of God when he was a boy, and who turned the call of God down for the years of his life – he was going to preach that Sunday afternoon. And the whole wide world was invited to hear him. So we all were there, the folks out in the country, and the folks in the little town, and the kinfolk, and all were there to hear him preach his first sermon. And I was there on the front seat. And when he mounted the pulpit and stood up to preach, I thought I could hear the bones creak as he stood up. He tried to bring a message. He hardly knew how to read. He had no background; he had no education, he had no preparation. For the years of his life he’d been saying no to God. When he was a boy, he said no. When he was a youth, he said no. When he was a young man, he said no. And in the strength of his manhood, he said no. And now, in his age, he decides to say "Yes, I will give my life to be a preacher." I never heard, even as a boy, and without understanding and education and preparation myself – but even as a boy, I thought as I sat there on the front row and listened to him, I thought, "That is the sorriest, no-accountest, good-for-nothingest sermon I’ve ever heard in my life!" And so far as I know, that was the one, the only and the last sermon that the old man ever preached. He never tried it again.
There is an awful law in life, and that is illustrated here by the tribe of Dan: when God has called you, and God sent for you, and God has spoken to you, and God says, "Now is the time, and now is the day, and now is the hour," and we say no, no, no, no – then someday, when God calls the roll of His heroes, and God seals those who are His servants, God passes you by. And He speaks of Judah, and He speaks of Levi, and of Simeon, and of Issachar, and of Asher, and Naphtali, and Manasseh, but He does not speak of Dan. He passes Him by. His day of grace he flung away.
I had a second part of my sermon to preach tonight, but I haven’t time even to mention it. That same thing is true when the roll is called in glory and we say no to Jesus and no to God; when the roll is called, our name isn’t there. The Book of Life is empty for us. Oh, if we’re going to serve God, do it now. If God has called you, answer now. If the Lord speaks to your heart, come now. If God says, "This is My will for you," do it now." To trust in Jesus, come. To give your life in His elective purpose and choice for you, come. To put your life in the circle of our church, come. A whole family of you, come. One somebody you, come. A youth, come; a child, come; a couple, come. As God shall say the word, shall speak to us, shall call now, come. This is God’s day and this is God’s hour. Make it now: "Here am I, Lord, send me, use me," while we stand and while we sing.