The tribe of Dan was the group of people who descended from the fifth son of Jacob, Dan. Jacob had twelve sons who became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. The history of the tribe of Dan is especially instructive in that it contains multiple examples of the tendency of people to follow a man-made religion over biblical faith in God. This is totally contrary to the Scriptures that teach “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law” (Romans 3:20) and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
As the Israelites came into the land of Canaan, by lot certain areas of territory were assigned to each tribe. The tribe of Dan was given a tract of land that was smaller than the other land grants but was fertile and also had a boundary along the Mediterranean Sea where there was fishing and commerce available to them.
However, the tribe of Dan never fully conquered this area as a result of a lack of faith in God. This was true of the other tribes as well, as the early chapters of the book of Judges teach, and led to a time during the period of Judges where it was said, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6
Judges 18:1–31 tells the story of the people of Dan falling into idolatry. They also did not like the territory that was theirs, so they sent out spies to find a better area. In the north, some representatives of Dan learned of an area where a peaceful group of people lived. The tribe of Dan took things into their own hands and wiped out the people of that land so they could then move the entire tribe up to a region close to the sources of the Jordan River, just south of present-day Lebanon. There they established their main city and called it Dan.
Later in the history of the Hebrews, the kingdom was divided after the reign of Solomon. The kingdom split into Israel’s ten tribes in the north and Judah’s two in the south. The people of Dan were in the northern kingdom of Israel. We learn in 1 Kings 12:25–33 that King Jeroboam was afraid that those who lived in his kingdom in the north would still go down to the southern kingdom to worship at Jerusalem, since that was where the temple that God had authorized was located. So Jeroboam built two additional altars for the people of his nation to worship. He established worship in the south at Bethel and in the north at Dan. He built a golden calf at each location and instituted special days and feasts when people would meet. Sadly, this man-made worship at Dan has been one of its lasting legacies.
The specifics of Dan being the lost tribe is connecting to their activities, and seen most clearly in the advent of the New Jerusalem that comes down from Heaven, which has twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on the gates. These names are the twelve sons of Jacob, who were the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:14). Their names are Judah, Reuben, Gad, Aser, Napthali, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Isachar, Zabulon, Joseph and Benjamin (Exodus 1:1-6, Gen. 35:23-36, Rev. 7:5-8)
The twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem have the names of the twelve Apostles of Jesus in them (Rev. 21:14). The names being Peter, James, John, Andrew, Phillip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James “son of Alpheus”, Simon Zelotes, Juda “brother of James son of Alpheus” and Matthias. (Acts 1:13, 26, Ephesians 2:20-22)
These two groups represent the twenty-four elders - “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” Revelation 4:4
The white raiment they are wearing are robes. The word “raiment” in “Greek” is “Stole” or “Stol-Ay” meaning mark of dignity. The white robes these elders are wearing symbolizes that they are in right standing with God. These elders are not sitting on Thrones in this initial vision. They are in seats around the thrones, meaning they are men and not Angels. This is what the tribe of Dan lost.
Of the twelve tribes depicted, Ephriam the son of Joseph (Genesis 41:50-52) and Dan, the son of Jacob (Genesis 35:23-25; Exodus 1:1-6) are not numbered among the final twelve tribes of Israel. They lost their place because of idolatry. The twelve tribes include Manasses, but not Dan (Rev. 7:5-8). The Anti-Christ is thought to come out of the tribe of Dan.