Israel's Emblems - Then and Now

Banner and Ensign of DanBanner and Ensign of Dan The Tribe of Dan

Dan was the fifth son of Jacob and the firstborn of Bilhah (Rachel's maid). It can be reasoned from several sources that Dan adopted four, possibly five, tribal emblems. For the purpose of this article, our concentration will centre on the horse emblem.

Israel, the father of Dan (remember Jacob's name was changed to Israel) passed on this blessing: "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horses heel, so that his rider shall fall backward" (GENESIS 49:16-17).

During their sojourn in the wilderness the tribes were instructed to camp by the ensigns of their father's house. Considering his father's blessing, Dan was entitled to use a serpent, horse or even scales (symbolising judgement) on his standard. However, Moses' blessing to Dan before his death stated: "Dan is a lions whelp (a rampant young lion): he shall leap from Bashan" (DEUTERONOMY 33:22).

A silver coin struck by the Celts in Hungary in the second century B.C.A silver coin struck by the Celts in Hungary in the second century B.C. As each tribe camped around the tabernacle (circa 1400 B.C.) they gathered under four main brigade emblems. Judah in the east, Reuben (south), Ephraim (west), and Dan to the north.

In a vision applicable to God's kingdom, both Ezekiel and John described four living creatures that supported the throne. They were the man, lion, ox and eagle, which also represented the brigade emblems encompassing the tabernacle (See EZEKIEL 1:10; REVELATION 4:7).

Reuben was identified with the man, Judah the lion, Ephraim the ox (or bullock) and Dan the eagle. The completion of the camp was established with two other tribes camped under these emblems also.

It is satisfactory to say that Dan has five emblems associated with its tribe - the horse, serpent (snake), lion's whelp, scales and the eagle. Each of these devices will enable the seeker of God's truth to identify Dan in these last days (GENESIS 49:1).

The arms of Scotland (left) and EnglandThe arms of Scotland (left) and England During the Israelite's invasion of Canaan, a census was conducted of their fighting strength and Dan was found to have 62,700 men, second only to that of Judah (NUMBERS 1:39). Despite this large contingent, Dan experienced great difficulties in removing the Philistines. Success only came through the actions of courageous leaders like Samson, though the initiative was short lived (JUDGES 15:20).

Finally they established themselves far from the coastline, up in the hills, to eventually move away from this region altogether. "And the coast of the children of Dan..." we read in JOSHUA 19:47, "...went out too little for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it... and called it Dan, after the name of Dan their father."

In JUDGES chapter 18 it is recorded that the Danites took Kirjath-Jearim, "...wherefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan unto this day..." (JUDGES 18:12).

At this point of history the fighting prowess of Dan was reduced to only 300 (See JUDGES 18:11). An interesting question must be asked at this stage, what has happened to the remainder? Fortunately there are a number of scriptural references that give some clue to the whereabouts of the tribe.

One colony lived on the sea coast of Palestine. They were principally seamen, and it is recorded that they "abode in ships".

Deborah, a prophetess and judge of the tribe of Ephraim, resided over the defeat of the Canaanites under Sisera. In the book of Judges we read one of the oldest poems in the Bible which is a commemoration of that victory. She lamented Dan's inactivity in this battle: "...the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty... and why did Dan remain in ships?..." (JUDGES 5:13,17,1-31).

Ezekiel's lament for Tyre, describes Dan's association with that city: "Danites and Greeks from Uzal bought your merchandise..." (EZEKIEL 27:19-36). The commerce of the Phoenicians as sea traders is well documented; Tyre being their main sea-port. Joppa was also a well known sea-port of the tribe of Dan (See JOSHUA 19:46).

Dan, like all of the tribes, became an idolatrous people erecting idols in their land, including one of Jeroboam's golden calves (1 KINGS 12:28-29) which was steeped in pagan worship from Egyptian days.

With Amos, God declared that he was going to judge his unfaithful, disobedient, covenant-breaking people: "And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it" (AMOS 8:12).

When Assyria captured Israel the tribe of Dan struck out in their ships and sailed west through the Mediterranean. David had declared of Dan, "Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind" (PSALM 48:7). An east wind travels westward. Along the shores of the Mediterranean they have left their trail in Den, Don and Din. In the peninsula of Spain their waymark names such as Me-din-a, and Si-don-ia, remain to this day.

Irish annals and history show that the new settlers of Ireland at this time were the Tuatha de Danaans, which translated means, "Tribe of Dan". We find many of these waymarks are still remaining, and Dun-sowar ("Dan's resting place"), and Dun-sobairse ("Dan's habitation") are placenames on the Irish coast. The name "Dunn" in the Irish language means the same as the Hebrew "Dan" - Judge.

Dan's appearance in ancient Ireland is also confirmed in Ptolemy's ancient map of Europe. Other waymarks of Dan throughout Europe are too numerous to mention, although, best known of these are Dan-mark, Mace-don-ia, the Dan-ube, Scan-din-avia, Dun-kirk, E-din-burgh and Lon-don, to name but a few.

With the aforementioned evidence, we would expect the emblems of Dan to be found among the people of Europe, the horse in particular. An example of an early European people carrying a horse emblem is the Celts, considered by many historians to be the forefathers of the British people.

The white horse emblem is found carved into the hillsides of southern England, revealing the white chalk under the surface. The two most important are found in Wiltshire at Bratton Hill and Berkshire at Uffington. In view of the impermanent nature of chalk, the Uffington Horse is one of the most remarkable ancient monuments of Europe (Chambers Enc. Vol.14).

In Denmark, the horse appears on the shield of the Royal Arms, and it also appears in the Netherlands, and in the crest of various families throughout Scotland.

The evidence is once again conclusive, Dan, one of the tribes of Israel, did move through Europe and settle in northern Europe and the British Isles.


Emblems are signs the Bible uses to identify various nations, and although names and places may change their emblems seldom do. In this way it is still possible to identify people and their origins. Bible promises and prophecies still influence the affairs of nations today and in this way history can be a vehicle to help understand past events.

The Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai were instructed: "Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father's house: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch" (NUMBERS 2:2). It is not possible to know exactly what these standards looked like, but we can imagine an Egyptian influence having recently left this rich and ancient culture. It is possible to uncover the designs of standards from various scriptural sources. The Bible states, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter" (PROVERBS 25:2). The Bible also says that spirit-filled believers are kings and priests to serve God (REVELATION 1:6).

Let Our Search Begin

There were three main blessings given to the children of Israel through Jacob, Moses and Balaam. All confirm the Israelite leaders as having qualities associating their characters with that of an animal (See GENESIS 49; DEUTERONOMY 33; NUMBERS 24). We will now investigate the references to Naphtali and follow with the other tribal emblems in future articles.

Banner and Ensign of NaphtaliBanner and Ensign of Naphtali Naphtali was the sixth son of Israel by Bilhah the handmaid to Rachel and his tribe escaped to the north of the congregation of Israel in the Sinai, next to Asher (GENESIS 30:8; NUMBERS 2:29). At his deathbed Jacob said of his son: "Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words" (GENESIS 49:21).

Moses shortly before his death also described Naphtali: "And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the LORD: possess thou the west and south" (DEUTERONOMY 33:23). A hind is the Middle-Eastern equivalent of the European deer. In heraldic associations the hind can be likened to other animals from the deer family.

Fox-Davies book on heraldry says - "The stag in the generic sense, under various other names of deer, buck, roebuck, hart, doe, hind, reindeer or springbok, and other varieties, is constantly found in British armoury." ('Complete Guide to Heraldry' p.208).

Naphtali is given the characteristic of an animal that is vigorous, active, and let loose, and is displayed as rampant or rearing up.

A curious fact that should be pointed out is that Naphtali did not possess the southern or western territories of Canaan, but rather the north, as it also did around the tabernacle. What did Moses mean when he said, Naphtali should possess the west and south? Where is Naphtali in these last days as intimated by Jacob's blessing? The mystery broadens when we read in the scriptures that the Israelites would always exist, but would become Gentilised (JEREMIAH 31:36).

Reconstruction from fragments of Scottish stones and the Book of KellsReconstruction from fragments of Scottish stones and the Book of Kells Part of the mystery is unravelled in the Bible. The children of Israel lost God's favour because of idolatry. They were punished seven times (the equivalent of 2520 years), chastised by God, who used enemy nations, and then scattered them among the heathen, laying waste their cities (See LEVITICUS 26:28-33). This is the story of the Assyrians when they took Naphtali captive and deported them back into Assyrian territories (2 KINGS 15:29).

We should not expect the tribe of Napthali to maintain its name because the Israelites would lose their name and identity during their wanderings through the Gentile nations (HOSEA 1:9; 8:8).

The hind emblem of Naphtali is easy to trace through artefacts of the La Tene Celts of Europe and Ireland. In John Sharkey's book called 'Celtic Mysteries' there is an illustration of a hind carved into a rock. He states, "The art and literature of the Celts contains a rich bestiary, the most favoured animals being the stag, bull, boar, and horse... part of the very old Indo-European tradition suggests that animals were identified with the ancestral spirit who presided over the fortunes of the tribe." Could this ancestral spirit be the blessing and adopted standard of their ancestor Jacob, transcribed into mythology, when the people became further embedded in paganism? It is quite easy to identify many of their pagan artefacts, but not necessarily their stories, for they were passed down from generation to generation orally.

The arms of Northern IrelandThe arms of Northern Ireland Generally speaking, the Children of Israel moved in a westward direction across Europe, but it is also known that some moved southward into India and would become known as the Aryian people. Could this be Moses' meaning when he said Napthali would possess the west and south? Perhaps this prophecy could be taken chronologically, when they moved west, first into Britain, then south into the colonies of Britain.

Finally, Jacob tells us that various signs (markings) would identify his sons in the last days. The Arms of Ireland display a rampant stag and in the family charts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, too numer­ous to mention, we also find this animal being used.

This is not to suggest that these families are direct ancestors of the tribe of Naphtali, rather these emblems have been adopted by a people with particular reference to the promises of God.

The coincidence becomes even more profound when we trace a further nineteen or more emblems of the lost tribes of Israel in subsequent issues.

Source: 'Voice of Revival'