Genesis 49:17

17 Dan 1shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider falls backward.

Genesis 49:17 Meaning and Commentary

Genesis 49:17

Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path
Or be like that sort of serpents called the adder; or rather, that which has the name of Cerastes, which lies among sand, and being of the same colour is not easily discerned, and is often trampled upon unawares, and bites at once, unexpected; as Bothart F8 from various writers has shown; particularly Diodorus Siculus F9 says, of this kind of serpents, that their bites are deadly, and being of the same colour with the sand, few discern them, so that many ignorantly treading on them fall into danger unawares; and so Onkelos paraphrases it, that lies in wait by the way; and is by another writer F11 interpreted, a very grievous and hurtful serpent as the adder is: that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward;
for this sort of serpents lying in horse ways and cart ruts, snaps at and bites horses as they pass along, which bites affecting their legs and thighs, cause them to fall and throw their riders: this, by the Jewish writers, who are followed by many Christian interpreters, is applied to Samson, who by craft and policy managed the Philistines, as in the affair of the foxes, and especially in his last enterprise, when he got placed between the two pillars of the house, which answer, as some think, to the horse heels, as the multitude on the roof of the house to the riders: but though this may be illustrated in a particular person in this tribe, as a specimen of the genius and disposition of the whole tribe, yet the prophecy respects the whole tribe, and points at the situation of it, which was "by the way", at the extreme part of the country; so that they had need of craft and policy as well as power to defend themselves against encroachers and invaders, and describes the general temper and disposition of this tribe, of which an instance may be seen in ( Judges 18:1-31 ) and it may have respect to the stumblingblocks and offences laid in this tribe to the rest of the tribes, by the idol of Micah, and more especially by the golden calf set up in Dan by Jeroboam.


F8 Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 3. c. 12. col. 418, 419, 420.
F9 Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 183.
F11 R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed. fol. 57. 1.

Genesis 49:17 In-Context

15 He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor.
16 "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider falls backward.
18 I wait for your salvation, O LORD.
19 "Raiders shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels.

Cross References 1

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.