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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Son of Jacob

Dan, son of Jacob by the concubine Bilhah (; ), and founder of one of the tribes of Israel. Dan had but one son, called Hushim (): notwithstanding which, when the Israelites came out of Egypt, this tribe contained 62,700 adult males (), which made it the second of the tribes in number, Judah only being above it. Its numbers were less affected in the desert than those of many other tribes; for at the census, before entering Canaan, it mustered 64,400 (), being an increase of 1700, which gave it still the second rank in population. But there is nothing in the history of the tribe corresponding to this eminence in population: the most remarkable circumstance in its history, however, is connected with this fact. The original settlement assigned to the tribe in south-western Palestine being too small for its large population, a body of them went forth to seek a settlement in the remote north, and seized and remained in permanent occupation of the town and district of Laish, the inhabitants of which dwelt in greater security and were more easily conquered than the neighbors of the tribe in its own proper territory (;; Judges 18). The district regularly allotted to the tribe, although contracted, was very fertile. It had the country of the Philistines on the west, part of Judah with Benjamin on the east, Ephraim on the north, and Simeon on the south. The territory proved inadequate chiefly from the inability of the Danites to expel the Philistines and Amorites, who occupied parts of the land assigned to them. There is no doubt that the territory as allotted, but not possessed, extended to the Mediterranean through the country of the Philistines. Samson was of this tribe, and its proximity to the Philistines explains many circumstances in the history of that hero. It appears from that history that there was an under-current of private and social intercourse between the Philistines and the Danites, notwithstanding the public enmity between Israel and the former (Judges 13-16).

Town of Dan

Dan, the town, anciently called Laish, or Leshem, mentioned in the preceding article as having been conquered by a warlike colony of Danites, who named it after their tribe. The terms in which the condition of Laish is described, previously to the conquest, indicate that the place belonged to the Sidonians, and that the inhabitants lived quiet and secure, 'after the manner of the Sidonians,' enjoying abundance of all things (). They seem to have derived their security from the absence of any adverse powers in their neighborhood, and from confidence in the protection of Sidon, which was, however, too far off to render aid in the case of such a sudden assault as that by which they were overpowered. This distance of Sidon was carefully noted by the Danite spies as a circumstance favorable to the enterprise; and it does not appear that Sidon ever made any effort to dispossess the intruders. Dan afterwards became a chief seat of Jeroboam's idolatry, and one of the golden calves was set up there (). It was conquered, along with other towns, by the Syrians (); and the name is familiar from the recurrence of the proverbial expression, 'from Dan to Beersheba,' to denote the extent of the Promised Land (;; ) [BEER-SHEBA.] In the days of Eusebius, Dan was still a small village, which is placed by him four miles from Paneas, towards Tyre. As this distance corresponds to the position of the fountain at Tel el-Kadi, which forms one of the sources of the Jordan, and is doubtless that which is called Dan by Josephus (Antiq.i. 10, 1), the situation of the city of Dan could not therefore have been that of Paneas itself, with which it has been in later times confounded [CAESAREA PHILIPPI]. There are no longer any ruins near the spring at Tel el Kadi, but at about a quarter of an hour north, Burckhardt noticed ruins of ancient habitations; and the hill which overhangs the fountains appears to have been built upon, though nothing is now visible.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Dan'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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