“Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider shall fall backward. I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!” (Genesis 49:16–18).

He easily qualifies as one of the worst judges in history, so says one judicial report. Thomas Maloney was a judge in Cook County, Illinois, until he was indicted for bribery in 1991. After an FBI investigation, he was convicted on four counts of accepting bribes, which included fixing three murder cases. When he became a judge in the Illinois Supreme Court, he became known in criminal circles as a judge who could be bought.

Maloney maintained until his death that he was a victim of “overreaching” prosecutors and “scumbag” witnesses who were “from the bottom of the barrel.” The convicted judged served twelve years and three months in federal prison and remained embittered toward those who put him there. One federal prosecutor called Maloney a man who “rewrote the meaning of corruption.” The Chicago Tribune said in his obituary that Maloney was “the first—and remains the only—Cook County judge to be convicted of rigging murder cases for cash.”

The fifth son of Jacob (and the firstborn of Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah) was named Dan, which means “a judge.” When Jacob gave his blessing to Dan before his death, the elderly father predicted that this son’s descendants would serve with important duties in Israel. This came to pass when Samson, a Danite, judged Israel for twenty years.

The prophetic blessing wasn’t all roses. Jacob foresaw that this cunning tribe would be like a serpent. The sad story of the Danites introducing idolatry to Israel (see Judges 18) apparently disqualified them from being listed among the twelve tribes who are sealed in Revelation 7.

God hates bribery and warns us to not make money an idol. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have” (Hebrews 13:5). Someday all who live corrupt lives will pay the penalty.

O Lord, You alone are the righteous Judge over all the earth. I gladly put my trust in Your just decisions.

For Further Study: Exodus 23:8; Proverbs 15:27; Isaiah 33:22

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