views updated May 08 2018


DAN (Heb. דָּן), the fifth son of Jacob and the firstborn of *Bilhah, Rachel's maid (Gen. 30:1–6).

The Name

The narrative attributes the origin of the name Dan to Rachel, who said: "God has vindicated me (dananni); indeed, He has heeded my plea and given me a son" (30:6). The name would thus be derived from the verb dyn ("to judge or vindicate"; cf. Gen. 49:16). Some scholars see in the name Dan the divine epithet dayyan, while others regard it as a divine name in itself. Most likely, however, the literal meaning intended by the biblical etymology is correct, and the name Dan should be regarded as a short form of Dan(ann)iel or the like.

The Tribe and Its Inheritance

Dan is listed first among the handmaid tribes in Jacob's blessing (Gen. 49:16–18), but second in the blessing of Moses (Deut. 33:22) and the Song of Deborah (Judg. 5:17). In tribal genealogies, only one clan is attached to Dan, Hushim (Gen. 46:23 or, by metathesis, Shuham, Num. 26:42). In the wilderness wanderings, the tribe encamped north of the Tabernacle together with Asher and Naphtali (Num. 2:25–29). It numbered 62,700 and 64,400 adult males respectively in the two censuses taken in this period (Num. 2:26; 26:43). The territorial inheritance of the tribe was decided by lot at Shiloh (Josh. 19:40–48). It is stated to have bordered the territory of Ephraim to the north, Benjamin to the east, and Judah to the south, and to have extended

into the maritime plain. Seventeen settlements, most of which have been definitely identified, are included within the borders of Dan, but there is no unanimity as to whether the list reflects the Danite occupation before the migration northward, or a later period. Y. Kaufmann is convinced of the former, while A. Alt assigns the list of cities to the period of Josiah. Between these two extremes, B. Mazar steers a middle course by dating the list to the period of the United Kingdom. According to him, it reflects the historic and geographic development of the territory of Dan in the course of time. He divides the list of settlements into four groups or, more accurately, into four districts. The first includes Zorah, Eshtaol, and Ir-Shemesh (Beth Shemesh) in the southeast section of the coastal plain, and is the area of the initial settlement of the Danites. The second district includes Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, and Elon in the Valley of Aijalon area. This constituted a mixed settlement, in which the struggle between the Israelites and the native population continued until the time of David. These two districts, including those cities which became Israelite, formed one administrative unit in the reign of David, and fell within the province of the second of Solomon's commissioners (i Kings 4:9). As to the two additional districts – Timnah, Ekron, Eltekeh, Gibbethon, and Baalath (i.e., the region of the Wadi Sorek and north of it), and Jehud, Bene-Berak, Gath-Rimmon, Me-Jarkon, and Rakkon, with its boundary close to Jaffa – they appear to have been annexed to the kingdom of Israel following the westward extension of its borders into Philistine territories. For these reasons, Mazar places the list of Joshua 19:40–48 in the period of Solomon. According to Y. Aharoni, the list of Danite cities represents the earliest stage of Solomon's second administrative district, while i Kings 4:9 reflects the reduction in the region made toward the end of his reign. Four levitical cities situated in the territory of Dan are among the cities listed in Joshua 19:40–48, i.e., Aijalon, Gibbethon, Eltekeh, and Gath-Rimmon (Josh. 21:23–24). If the levitical cities were administrative centers and store cities built by Solomon in which he settled the levites "for all the work of the Lord and for the service of the king" (i Chron. 26:30–32), then this would support Mazar's dating of the list of Danite cities to the days of Solomon.

The History of the Tribe

Dan was the only one of the handmaid tribes originally to settle among the tribes of Leah and Rachel. Its inheritance bordered on Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah. It would seem that, at first, its territory was limited to the area between Zorah and Eshtaol. Here, however, they were under pressure from Amorites on the west (Judg. 1:34), and perhaps also from the house of Joseph on the east (1:35). There may even have been pressure from *Judah (15:11). At any rate, the tribe of Dan was forced to search for a new area of settlement (18:1). The story of this second attempt is related in detail in a unique narrative which may have wider significance (Judg. 18). The Danite experience possibly constitutes the paradigm for all movements and migrations of the tribes of Israel during the period of settlement. The operation began with the dispatch of scouts (cf. Num. 13) to gather information about a suitable location. Five "able men" were sent from Zorah and Eshtaol "to spy out the land and to explore it" (Judg. 18:2). The spies found Laish and its environs to be adequate to their needs because it was fertile country, rich and spacious (18:9–10). Its conquest would present no great military problems since the city was isolated due to its distance from the Sidonian metropolis (18:7, 10, 27–28). Three references in ancient Hebrew poetry reflect the history of the Danites during the period of the Judges and the beginning of the monarchy. These are the allusions to be found in Jacob's blessing (Gen. 49), the blessing of Moses (Deut. 33), and the Song of Deborah (Judg. 5), short poetic utterances in which, however, there is more that is obscure than is clear. Jacob's blessing appears to reflect the earliest period in the history of the Danites, describing a tribe which, on the one hand, is struggling for recognition, participation, and responsibility within the tribal confederacy (Gen. 49:16) and, on the other, is fighting for its survival against nomadic tribes or even the Amorites (49:17). In the Song of Deborah the tribe is berated for not having participated in the war against the Canaanites. With biting irony the question is asked, "… and Dan, why did he abide with the ships?" (Judg. 5:17). It is not clear from this verse exactly where Dan resided at the time of Deborah's war, whether in the south across from Jaffa on the coast before the migration northward (cf. Josh. 19:46), or already in the north following the migration. Scholarly opinion generally favors the presence of Dan already in the north at this time, since it appears in the Song of Deborah together with the northern tribe of Asher. In the blessing of Moses it is clear that the tribe is in its northern location, since it is described as "a lion's whelp that leaps forth from Bashan" (Deut. 33:22), and is also coupled with the northern Naphtali, its "brother" tribe (cf. Gen. 30:6–8). The *Samson narratives indirectly give information concerning the Danite families which remained in their southern inheritance during the period of the Judges (Judg. 13–16). Those families in Mahaneh-Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol (Judg. 13:25) were subjugated by the Philistines together with the tribes of the house of Joseph and Judah, though they suffered more than the others since they were the first to be affected by the Philistine eastward expansion. Samson's guerrilla activities led to a hardening of Philistine rule (15:9). At the same time, Samson's experiences show that despite the attempt to preserve the purity of the family, tribe, and nation by not intermixing with the nations of the land (14:3), social contact and even marital ties were established between the Danite clans and the Philistines. According to Y. Yadin, the biblical references prove that at a certain stage of Dan's settlement the tribe enjoyed the closest relations with the Sea Peoples, that Dan was an ancient tribe that extended over the entire east, and that during this early period it had no connection with the confederacy of the tribes of Israel. It gradually moved closer to the tribes of Israel until it was accepted into the amphictyony and became one of them. Its original area of settlement was along the coast near Jaffa, in the region between the settlements of the Philistines and those of the Tjeker mentioned in Egyptian records. In Yadin's view there is a close relationship between the tribe of Dan and the tribe of Danaoi whose members were clearly seafarers who had a propensity for the worship of the sun and whose heroes excelled in their talent for solving riddles. Factions of the tribe wandered as fighting troops, spread to different places, and founded cities which they named for the patriarchs of the tribe. These groups of the tribe of the Danaoi were particularly attracted to the east Mediterranean coast in general and the Jaffa area in particular. The similarities between their history and that of the tribe of Dan led Yadin to suggest the identification of the two. It is possible, however, to explain the parallels as resulting from contact and influence. Moreover, there does not appear to have been any contact between the Sea Peoples and the tribe of Dan before the migration of the latter to the north under Amorite pressure (Judg. 1:34). The information about Dan from the period of the monarchy until the destruction is negligible. It would seem that with the founding of the monarchy the Danite clans in the south were assimilated into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel and lost their distinctiveness. As for those in the north, they appear to have been concentrated around the city of Dan, the importance of which increased after the division of the kingdom. Jeroboam son of Nebat, the first king of Israel, established a central royal sanctuary in Dan, the northern end of his kingdom, and placed in it one of the two golden calves for the worship of the God of Israel, in an attempt to renew the ancient cultic centers and to revive the early traditions, in order to remove the members of the northern kingdom from contact with Jerusalem and its Temple (i Kings 12:28–30). The Danite clans of the north apparently intermingled with their neighbors, especially the tribe of Naphtali (cf. i Kings 7:13 with ii Chron. 2:13) and even with the people of Tyre (ibid.). The territory of Dan in the north constituted the northern flank of the kingdom of Israel and it suffered in the struggles and wars between Israel and Aram and between Israel and Assyria. In the time of King Baasha of Israel, the cities of Dan (Ijon, Dan, and Abel-Beth-Maacah) were conquered by Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, who had been hired by King Asa of Judah (i Kings 15:16–20). In the time of Pekah, king of Israel, the territory of Dan together with that of Naphtali and the whole of Galilee was conquered by Tiglath-Pileser iii (732 b.c.e.), and its inhabitants were exiled to Assyria (ii Kings 15:29). In this region, he established the Assyrian province of Megiddo.

[Isaac Avishur]

In the Aggadah

When Bilhah called her first son Dan ("judge"), she also prayed that it would be given to Samson, his descendant, to judge his people, and that they would not fall into the hands of the Philistines (Targ. Yer., Gen. 30:6). Similarly Jacob's deathbed blessing to Dan centered principally around Samson, who would bring victory to his people unaided (Gen. R. 98:13). In the same blessing Jacob ranked Dan equally with Judah, in that Samson's father would be of the tribe of Dan and his mother of Judah (ibid.; cf. Num. R. 10:5; 13:9), the Messiah to be descended from Dan on his mother's side. Dan, more than all his brothers, desired to slay Joseph hoping thereby that Jacob's love for Joseph would be turned to him (Test. Patr., Dan 1:4–7). Dan's only son was called Hushim ("rushes") because his children were destined to be as numerous as rushes (bb 143). Dan was one of Jacob's five weak sons (Rashi on bk 92a but see Gen. R. 95:4 for the opposite view). His descendants were all idol worshipers (pdrk 27b).


A. Alt, in: pjb, 35 (1939), 38–39; Y. Kaufmann, The Biblical Account of the Conquest of Palestine (1953); Z. Kallai, in: vt, 8 (1958), 134–60; idem, Naḥalot Shivtei Yisrael (1967), 304–12; B. Mazar, in: bies, 24 (1960), 8–16; Aharoni, Land, index; Y. Ben-Zvi, in: Oz le-David Ben-Gurion (1964), 177–82; Y. Yadin, in: Ha-Ḥevrah le-Ḥeker ha-Mikra (ed.), Ma'aravo shel ha-Gallil… (1965), 42–55; A. Malamat, in: Biblica, 51 (1970), 1–16; Ginzberg, Legends, index.


views updated May 08 2018


DAN (Heb. דָּן).

(1) Biblical city in the Ḥuleh Valley near the sources of the Jordan. It was originally called Laish and was dominated by the Phoenicians of Sidon (Judg. 18:7, 27ff.). Laish is mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts of the early 18th century b.c.e. and in the list of cities conquered by Thutmose iii (c. 1469 b.c.e.). Leshem is a variant spelling of Laish (Josh. 19:47). When the tribe of *Dan, under pressure from the Amorites, left their original territory and moved northward, they captured the city of Laish in a surprise raid and renamed it Dan. At the same time a sanctuary was established there with *Micah's idol and descendants of Moses acting as priests (Josh. 19:47; Judg. 1:34; 18:2ff.). The sanctuary continued to function until Tiglath-Pileser iii's conquest in 733 b.c.e. and his exile of the inhabitants to Assyria (ii Kings 15:29, where Dan, however, is not explicitly mentioned). The Bible anachronistically calls the city Dan already in the account of Abraham's pursuit of the four kings (Gen. 14:14) and when Moses before his death was shown "all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan" (Deut. 34:1). From the time of the Judges onward, Dan was regarded as the extreme northern point of Ereẓ Israel with Beer-Sheba as the southern (Judg. 20:1, etc.). Jeroboam erected a temple and set up a golden calf at Dan, and a second one at Beth-El (i Kings 12:29ff.); these rivals to Jerusalem were vehemently criticized by the prophets (Amos 8:14). During the reign of his successor Baasa, the city was sacked by Ben-Hadad, king of Aram-Damascus (i Kings 15:20). Dan was the gateway for all northern invasions of Ereẓ Israel (Jer. 4:15; 8:16). In the Hellenistic period it was apparently called Antioch; it marked the northernmost point of Alexander Yannai's conquests (Jos., Ant., 13:394; Wars, 1:105). The city subsequently failed to recover and remained a village called Kefar Dan in the Talmud (tj, Dem. 1:1, 22c). Dan is identified with Tell al-Qāḍī (now Tell Dan) on one of the main sources of the Jordan.

Excavations begun in 1966 and directed by Avraham Biran have confirmed the identification of the site, with the discovery of a bilingual dedicatory inscription in Greek and Aramaic "To the God who is in Dan." The site was apparently first settled during the Neolithic period in the fifth millennium b.c.e. Strong fortifications and building remains from the Early Bronze Age have been uncovered; its name at that time may very well have been Laish (cf. Judges 18:29, which equates Laish with Dan). The Middle Bronze Age ii at Dan is represented by massive fortifications, with earthen ramparts and a remarkably well-preserved mud-brick triple-arched gateway. The site prospered throughout the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. Mycenaean imports, including a complete charioteer vase, and a large quantity of vessels and ivory objects were found in a specially built tomb dated to the 14th century b.c.e. The Early Iron Age is represented at the site by a change in the character of the settlement, with vessels and other artifacts suggesting that the population was mixed, some local with others from Cyprus, Phoenicia, and southern Israel and Jordan. From the latter part of the Iron Age are the remains of a cultic high place (cf. the setting up of a golden calf at Dan by Jeroboam i of Israel; i Kings 12:20). The ninth century b.c.e. is well represented at the site by fortifications, gates, and a stonepaved piazza with standing stones (maẓẓevot). Fragments of an important stele inscribed in Aramaic and mentioning the "king of Israel" and the "house of David" were discovered in this area (for the various interpretations and discussions, see Bibliography below). Additional remains from the Iron Age ii, as well as from the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods, have also been uncovered at the site.

[Michael Avi-Yonah /

Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]

(2) Kibbutz in northern Israel in the Ḥuleh Valley near the spring of the Dan River. The kibbutz, affiliated with Kibbutz Arẓi ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, was founded on May 4, 1939, one day after neighboring *Dafnah, as the second of the complex of settlements called the "Ussishkin fortress." Situated until 1967 directly on the Syrian border, Dan, together with Dafnah, had to repel enemy attacks in the early months of the War of Independence (1948). In the two subsequent decades it often came under Syrian artillery fire, particularly in the period preceding the Six-Day War. Its founders were pioneers from Romania, later joined by newcomers from various countries. The kibbutz economy was based on three industries: irrigation systems, polycarbonates, and pvc. Its farming was based mainly on fishery but also included field crops, orchards, and beehives. In the mid-1990s the population was approximately 560, dropping to 421 in 2002. Bet Ussishkin, a museum for vegetation, wildlife, antiquities, and settlement history of the region, is located there.

[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]


J. Braslavski, Ha-Yadata et ha-Areẓ, 1 (19556), 176ff.; Avi-Yonah, in: bjpes, 10 (1943), 19–20; Dothan, in: Eretz Israel, 2 (1953), 166ff.; Aharoni, Land, index; Press, Ereẓ.; Albright, in: aasor, 6 (1926), 16ff. add. bibliography: excavations: A. Biran, Biblical Dan (1994); idem, "Sacred Spaces: Of Standing Stones, High Places and Cult Objects at Tel Dan," in: Biblical Archaeology Review, 24:5 (1998), 38–45, 70; A. Biran, D. Ilan, and R. Greenberg, Dan i: A Chronicle of the Excavations, the Pottery Neolithic, the Early Bronze Age, and the Middle Bronze Age Tombs (1996); A. Biran and Rachel Ben-Dov, Dan ii: A Chronicle of the Excavations andthe Late Bronze Age "Mycenaean Tomb" (2002); D. Ilan, "Tel Dan in the Early Iron Age: A Cultural Crucible," in: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, 22 (2004): 69. aramaic stele fragments: A. Biran and J. Naveh. "An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan," in: iej, 43 (1993), 81–98; idem, "The Tel Dan Inscription: A New Fragment," in: iej, 45 (1995), 1–18; E. Ben Zvi, "On the Reading 'bytdwd' in the Aramaic Stele from Tel Dan," in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 64 (1994) 25–32; F.H. Cryer, "On the Recently Discovered 'House of David' Inscription," in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 8:1 (1994), 3–19; idem, "A 'Betdawd' Miscellany: Dwd, Dwd' or Dwdh?" in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 9:1 (1995), 52–58; idem, "King Hadad," in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 9:2 (1995), 223–35; idem, "Of Epistemology, Northwest-Semitic Epigraphy and Irony: The 'bytdwd/House of David' Inscription Revisited," in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 69 (1996) 3–17; B.I. Demsky, "On Reading Ancient Inscriptions: The Monumental Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan," in: Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society, 23 (1995), 29–35; N.P. Lemche and T.L. Thompson. "Did Biran Kill David? The Bible in the Light Of Archaeology," in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 64 (1994), 3–22; G.A. Rendsburg, "On the Writing of bytdwd in the Aramaic Inscription from Tel Dan," in: iej, 45 (1995), 22–25; V. Sasson, "The Old Aramaic Inscription from Tell Dan: Philological, Literary and Historical Aspects," in: jss, 40 (1995), 11–30; W.M. Schniedewind, "Tel Dan Stela: New Light on Aramaic and Jehu's Revolt," in: basor, 302 (May 1996), 75–90; T.L. Thompson, "'House of David': An Eponymic Referent to Yahweh as Godfather," in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 9:1 (1995), 59–74; idem, "Dissonance and Disconnections: Notes on the bytdwd and hmlk.hdd Fragments from Tel Dan," Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 9:2 (1995), 236–40. website: www.galil-elion.org.il


views updated Jun 08 2018

Dan in the Bible, a Hebrew patriarch, son of Jacob and Bilhah, or the the tribe of Israel traditionally descended from him. Dan is also the name of an ancient town in the north of Canaan, where the tribe of Dan settled.
from Dan to Beersheba proverbial expression used to indicate a farthest extremity; in biblical times Dan marked the farthest northern point of the ancient Hebrew kingdom, and Beersheba the southern point.


views updated May 18 2018

Dan. One of the twelve tribes of Israel.