And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.
When Jacob blessed his twelve sons, he told them each what would happen in the future. When it came to Dan, the old patriarch said,
Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 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. For your salvation I wait for your salvation, Adonai. (Genesis 49:16–18)
The text of the prophecy seems to be disjointed. The sages of Judaism commented on this and said, "Our forefather Jacob foresaw Samson and thought that he was the Messiah. But when he saw his death he exclaimed, ' For your salvation I wait for your salvation, Adonai.'"
Samson was a descendant from the tribe of Dan and a Nazirite by birth. He is the fruit of a miraculous birth announced to his parents by an angel (Judges 13:3); his ways left his people wondering about him; he even lived outside of Israel with the Gentile Philistines for a while. He was a Nazirite but seemed to carelessly come in contact with what should be considered unclean to him. In the end, Samson vanquished the Philistines, the powerful enemy of Israel, by giving his life.
Jacob was not out of his mind when he thought he saw Messiah in Samson. As iconoclastic as he was, Samson foreshadowed David's victory over Goliath. David did not die in battle giving his life, but he did spend some time living with the Philistines when he was in disfavor with Saul.
Further down the messianic genealogies, Samson does foreshadow Messiah, Messiah whose miraculous birth was announced to his parents by an angel, who spent some time ministering outside of Israel, who took a nazirite vow before he died, and who gave his life defeating the enemy of our souls forever.
What about the snake in the prophecy?
Jacob may have seen how through Jeroboam, the tribe of Dan led the Northern Kingdom to idolatry and heresy. They even used the brazen snake Moses was asked to make in the desert (Numbers 21:9).
Come to think of it, Yeshua also compared himself to that snake. As we look up to him raised on the wooden pole, we live (John 3:14).
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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