To read Part I, click here.
Nethanel wrapped his fingers around the stone his father dropped into his hand. He was curious about this ancient connection to his ancestors, but it looked just like any other stone on the ground.
“Why did our ancestors pass down this stone?” he asked.
His father gazed at the hills on the horizon. “My father could never tell me that either, except that it is a memento of sorts given to the first lad who settled here with his father—his name was Seth, that much I do know.”
So it was that, only a few days later, Nethanel found himself marching side by side with his sister, mother, father and six hundred men and their families through the countryside that had been his home for as long as he could remember. They were on a quest for a new inheritance. Nethanel hardly knew what to think of such a grand adventure, but he did know that he would miss his beloved home with its beautiful valleys and majestic mountain crags.
After days of weary marching, the whole company finally pulled up before a strange, closed-in cottage. The men who had scouted the area before seemed excited, and they eagerly gestured as they stormed the gate. Nethanel watched with squinted eyes, fearful of what was about to happen. But to his surprise, before long the men came out peacably enough with another man—a priest, and curious statues.
Nethanel eyed the statues with suspicion, and whispered to his sister, “What are those?”
“I think…aren’t they idols?” she replied with hesitation.
Nethanel felt a cold rush of shock. Idols? Wouldn’t father have something to say about that? He stole a glance at his father, but he was calmly helping load the idols onto a donkey. Nethanel fingered the stone and pondered, but the presence of those ghoulish statues seemed to bother no one else. In any case, he soon forgot the dilemma in the excitement of the attack on Laish.
It was a thrilling and decisive victory. But when the men captured Laish with the edge of the sword and burned it to the ground, Nethanel asked his father, “Why couldn’t we have done that to those strange pagans that had inhabited the valley near where we used to live?”
“Don’t ask useless questions, son,” his father answered shortly. Again, no one could answer him.
The leaders of the tribe of Dan set up the idols and told all the people that now the tribe of Dan would be great, that now they would be mighty as they used to be, and when no one said anything different, Nethanel stopped asking questions, and he almost began to believe them.
He would stare at his stone and wonder again what it was a memento of, but whatever secrets it held, they were lost to him forever. And on the day the idols were set up in a hallowed place for him and his family to worship, he stopped bothering to remember.
It was on that day the simple stone became not a reminder to remember, but a reminder that he had forgotten.
“So they set up for
themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of
God was in
Shiloh.” Judges 18:31
"The mounds of ruins which mark the site of the
city [of Dan] show that it covered a considerable extent of ground. But there
remains no record of any noble deed wrought by the degenerate tribe. Their name
disappears from the roll-book of the natural and the spiritual
-Manning, Those Holy Fields Israel
The tribe of Dan left just a petty part of their job undone, but that carelessness meant that generations down the line saw nothing wrong with blatant idolatry and covetousness. Dan would never again be great. The tribe of Dan would be mentioned only a few more times in Scripture, after the record of their idolatry, but it disappeared completely from the genealogies in I Chronicles, and is not mentioned as one of the tribes sealed by the angel in Revelation 7.
Ironically, the defeat they chose to accept was in a land in which God had already handed them victory. So the pattern continues today in our own lives.
Photo Credit: Brian Auer
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.