Biblical People
Dan (dan). [Heb. Dan, “judge.”]

1.   A son of Jacob by Bilhah, Rachel's maidservant (Gen 30:5, 6). He had one son, Hushim (ch 46:23), called Shuham in Num 26:42. Nothing is recorded of the life of Dan.

2.   The tribe of Dan, the descendants of Dan, 1. This tribe was assigned a small area in the northern Shephelah (Palestine Under Joshua and the Judges), to which belonged the cities of Zorah, Aijalon, Ekron, and Eltekeh (Jos 19:40-46; 21:5, 23, 24). The Danites, however, did not occupy all this territory (Jgs 1:34, 35), but sent out spies who found a suitable area in the north of Palestine, to which they migrated. They drove out the inhabitants of Leshem, or Laish, and occupied their territory, calling the city Dan (Jos 19:47; Jgs 18).

Oholiab, one of the craftsmen who made the tabernacle and its furniture in the wilderness (Ex 31:6), and the judge Samson (Jgs 13:2, 24) were Danites. Jacob's prophecy concerning Dan's descendants is found in Gen 49:16, 17. Dan is mentioned among the 12 tribes in Eze 48:1, 2, but not in Rev 7:4-8.

3.   A town in a fertile valley at the foot of Mount Hermon at the source of the Leddan, one of the streams forming the Jordan River (Jgs 18:28, 29; Jos. Ant. v. 3. 1; viii. 8. 4). It was the northernmost city occupied by the Israelites. The expression “from Dan even to Beer-sheba” or “from Beer-sheba even to Dan” was used to denote the whole extent of the land of Israel from its northernmost limits to its southernmost boundary (Jgs 20:1; 1 Chr 21:2; etc.). The town seems to have belonged to Sidon before Dan conquered it (Jgs 18:7, 27-29). Its original name was Leshem, or *Laish, by which name it is mentioned in the Egyptian *Execration texts and the cuneiform texts of *Mari of the 18th cent. b.c. Thutmose III lists the city among those conquered by him (Palestine Under Joshua and the Judges). When the Danites took it and made it an Israelite city they changed the name to Dan (Jos 19:47; Jgs 18:7, 29). The use of this name for the city in earlier times (Gen 14:14; Deut 34:1) is doubtless the work of later scribes who replaced an out-of-date name by a current one. The city of Dan was a seat of idolatry from the beginning of its Israelite history. Its Danite founders brought with them a graven image stolen while on their way to the north (Jgs 18:18-20, 30, 31). Later Jeroboam I of Israel built one of his 2 calf temples in Dan (1 Ki 12:28-30; 2 Ki 10:29; Amos 8:14).

Dan, with several important neighboring cities, was conquered by Ben-hadad I of Damascus (1 Ki 15:20; 2 Chr 16:4). The whole area was again conquered by Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria in the time of King Pekah of Israel (2 Ki 15:29) and incorporated into an Assyrian province (Palestine After the Fall of the Northern Kingdom). The site has been identified with the Tell elÐQaÆdi which is the equivalent of the old name, for the Arabic qaÆd\\i, like the Heb. dan, means “judge.” It has been renamed by the Israelis and is now known as Tel Dan. It is a fairly large mound of about 50 acres (c. 20 hectares) and lies in a rich and fertile valley.

Excavations of the site began in 1966 under the direction of A. Biran and the sponsorship of the Department of Antiquities of Israel. They have been conducted annually to the time of writing (1978). The excavations have shown that a large, unfortified city existed at this site around its rich springs in the 3d millennium b.c. In the 18th cent. b.c. the city was strongly fortified by massive earthen ramparts and prospered for many centuries. In the middle of the 12th cent. b.c. it was conquered by the Israelite Danites, who continued to rely on the old ramparts for protection until King Jeroboam I of Israel built a strong, 12-ft. (c. 3.6 m.)-thick wall and a city gate consisting of 2 gate towers and 4 guardrooms. On the highest point of the mound an almost square platform, 62 by 60 ft. (c. 18.9 by 18.3 m.), was discovered, to which access was gained by a 26-ft. (c. 8 m.)-wide stairway from the south. This platform may have served as an open-air sanctuary, a high place for the worship of Jeroboam's golden calf. It was built in the time of Jeroboam I and enlarged during the reigns of Ahab and Jeroboam II. During the 1976 season of excavations a votive stone slab was found containing a 4-line, bilingual inscription in Greek and Aramaic, from the Hellenistic period, which reads, “This is the vow of Zilas to the god of Dan.”

Lit.: A. Biran, EAEHL I:313-321; IEJ 26 (1976), 202-206.
Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.

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