Journey Through The Scriptures

The Twelve Tribes of Israel, Part II

Lesson 4: Three Great Warrior Tribes

(Scripture to Read: Genesis 49:16–17, 19, 21; Judges 1:33–34; 13:1–25; 18:1–31)

The tribes of Dan, Naphtali, and Gad were similar in being great warriors who were often on the frontlines in battle. The Danites were strong and valiant, while the tribe of Naphtali was placed at the forefront of many battles because of their fierce fighting skills. But the history of the Danites, in particular, shows a failure to live up to their name. Dan means “judge,” but instead of providing justice for the nation, Jacob prophesied that Dan would prove treacherous. Judges 18 shows that the Danites were responsible for the first major appearance of idolatry in Israel.

Perhaps this resulted from the failure of the Danites to completely separate themselves from the Canaanites. The Bible also says that the Naphtalites did not drive out the Canaanites (Judges 1:33), a dangerous practice that both ignored God’s command and led to intermarriage and idolatry. Samson was the most famous of the Danites, but he was weak in faith and mixed with the idolaters around him. The territory of Dan marked the northernmost point of Israel, and the name was often used as a synonym for the nation’s northern border.

Study Questions

  1. How could tribes so strong and courageous be absorbed and disappear?
  2. Why was it important not to allow the Canaanites to influence the people of Israel?
  3. What was the historical significance of these warrior tribes?
  4. According to Judges 1:19–32, many other tribes besides Dan and Naphtali failed to rid their land of the Canaanites. Can you name these tribes?
  5. What was special about Samson's birth, and how well did he live up to his calling?

Something to Think About

We too can win battles for God, if we are careful to do what He tells us to do. God can use physical ability to achieve great things, but he is more interested in His people remaining faithful and obedient to Him.