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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


—Biblical Data:

  1. The name of Jacob's fifth son (Genesis 30:6), whose mother was Bilhah, Rachel's handmaiden (ib. 30:3, 35:25). He was therefore a full brother of Naphtali (30:8). Dan's name occurs also in Genesis 49:16 et seq.; Judges 18:29; 1 Chronicles 2:2, and in all the passages where his sons are mentioned (Genesis 46:23 et seq.).

The Tribe.

  1. "Dan" designates one of the twelve tribes of Israel, both in poetic (Deuteronomy 33:22; Judges 5:17) and in prose passages (Numbers 1:12; 2:25,31; Deuteronomy 27:13; Judges 13:25, 18:12; Ezekiel 48:1,32 et seq.; 1 Chronicles 27:22; 2 Chronicles 2:13); but it generally occurs in combinations such as "the sons of Dan" (Numbers 1:38, 2:25, 7:66, 10:25, 26:42; Joshua 19:47), "the generations of Dan" (Numbers 26:42), "the tribe of the sons of Dan" (Numbers 34:22; Joshua 19:40,48), or, simply, "the tribe of Dan" (Exodus 31:6, 35:34, 38:23; Leviticus 24:11; Numbers 1:39, 13:12; Joshua 21:5,23). The following are detached details from the history of the tribe given in the Old Testament. The artist Aholiab or Oholiab, who took part in the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:6, 35:34, 38:23), was a member of this tribe, as was also the mother of a man who blasphemed the name of Yhwh (Leviticus 24:11). At the time of Moses, Dan is represented as one of the larger tribes of the children of Israel, and as numbering 62,700 men of twenty years of age and upward (Numbers 1:39, 2:26). Somewhat later, when the tribe of Benjamin, for instance, is reported as having only 35,400 (Numbers 1:37) or 45,600 men (ib. 26:41), the number in the tribe of Dan is given as 64,400 (ib. 26:43). Its men able to bear arms were among the three tribes (Dan, Asher, and Naphtali) whose army in the wilderness of Sinai covered the northern flank (Numbers 2:25-31, 10:25-27). Ammiel, one of the twelve spies (ib. 13:12), belonged to Dan; and its prince was Bukki (ib. 34:22). On entering Canaan the representatives of Dan, together with those of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, took their position on Ebal, the mount of the curse (Deuteronomy 27:13). In Moses' blessing Dan is characterized as "a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan" (ib. 33:22). The latter clause, however, does not fit Dan, since that tribe did not live in the well-known plain of Bashan east of the Jordan.

The Territory.

The land assigned to the tribe of Dan was in western Canaan, its several cities and boundaries being enumerated in Joshua 19:40-46. Noteworthy among the cities are Zorah, Eshtaol, Thimnathah or Timnah, Ajalon (near which was fought the famous battle described in Joshua 10:12), and Ekron, which is found in the cuneiform inscriptions as "Amḳarruna." On the north the territory of Dan ended opposite Joppa, the modern Jaffa. This territory, not very extensive originally, was soon diminished by its dangerous neighbors, the Philistines. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Danites had great difficulty in conquering the country that had been assigned to them (Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:1). Accordingly, they sent a deputation to find a district suitable for the reception of a part of the tribe. This was found in the vicinity of the city of Laish (Judges 18:7-27; see below, 3). Another indication that the tribe of Dan was harassed is found in the sentence "Why did Dan remain in ships?" (Judges 5:17). This probably had reference to the fact that members of the tribe of Dan had enlisted on the ships of the Phenicians (see Budde, "Kurzer Handcommentar," 1897, and Nowack, "Handcommentar," 1900).

The distress of Dan increased when, toward the end of the period of the Israelitish judges, the Philistines, receiving reenforcements from their former home (Guthe, "Gesch. des Volkes Israel," 1899, p. 65), endeavored to invade the middle territories of Canaan (Josephus, "Ant." 5:8, § 1). Then help arose for Dan in the person of the hero Samson (Judges 13:2-16:31), whose work was brilliantly continued by Samuel (1 Samuel 7:11), and then by David and other kings. This explains why the tribe of Dan is mentioned in the accounts of David (1 Chronicles 27:22) and Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:13), and in later times (Ezekiel 48:1,2,32).

  1. The later designation for the Canaanite city Laish (Judges 18:7,14,27,29) or Leshem (Joshua 19:47), the latter name being probably derived from "Lesham." The city lay in a deep valley near Beth-rehob (Judges 18:28), on the northern frontier of Palestine, at the place where "men come to Hamath" (Numbers 13:21). According to Josephus ("Ant." 5:3, § 1), it was not far from the sources of the lesser Jordan, and, according to the "Onomastica Sacra" (s. "Dan"), three or four Roman miles from Paneas. In the Book of Enoch (13:7) it is said that "Dan lay south of the western side of Mt. Hermon." Originally inhabited by Canaanites, it was captured by a part of the tribe of Dan, whose territory in southwestern Palestine was invaded by the Philistines (Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:1 et seq.), and who named it after their tribal ancestor (Joshua 19:47). The mention of the name of Dan as early as the time of Abraham and Moses (Genesis 1414; Deuteronomy 34:1) is therefore anticipated by the later chronicler (compare "Beth-el" in Genesis 12:8 and 28:19). Consequently there is no reason to assume, from Genesis 14:14 and Deuteronomy 34:1, the existence of another city of Dan.

The place seems to be identical with Dan-jaan (2 Samuel 24:6), which was situated east of the Lake of Gennesaret toward Sidon; and as this was the route on which Laish-Dan lay (Judges 18:7,29), it is probable that "Dan-jaan" is a corruption of"Dan-jaar" (Dan in the wood), and that this was merely an occasional designation of the city of Dan.

The place is often mentioned in the phrases "from Dan even to Beer-sheba" (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10; 17:11; 24:2,15; 1 Kings 4:25; Amos 8:14) and "from Beer-sheba even to Dan" (1 Chronicles 21:2; 2 Chronicles 30:5); while in Jeremiah 4:15 and 8:16 it is mentioned as a northern frontier town of Palestine.

Dan is also referred to in connection with the ritual; for, according to Judges 18:31, a graven image stood there up to the time of the destruction of the sanctuary at Shiloh, which sanctuary is mentioned for the last time in 1 Samuel 4:12. Jeroboam I. set up at Dan one of the two golden calves which he intended as symbols for Yhwh (1 Kings 12:29). Many persons of the northern tribes of Israel, therefore, made pilgrimages to Dan (Amos 8:14; 2 Kings 1029); but the city soon fell into the hands of Israel's northern enemies (1 Kings 15:20; 2 Chronicles 16:4).

A hill near the valley in which lay the ancient city of Dan is to-day called "Tall al-Ḳaḍi"—e., "Hill of the Judge"—the name being, perhaps, a reminiscence of the name Dan = "judge."

  • Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1:124,146;
  • Cornill, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1898, p. 32;
  • Guthe, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1899, pp. 5 et seq.;
  • Winckler, Gesch. Isr. in Einzeldarstellungen, 1900, 2:63 et seq.;
  • Holzinger on Genesis 30:24, in Kurzer Handcommentar, 1898;
  • Gunkel on Genesis 29:23, in Handcommentar, 1901;
  • Cheyne, in Encyc. Bibl. s. Dan;
  • Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästinas, 1896, § 124.

E. G. H.
E. K.

—In Rabbinical and Hellenistic Literature:

Dan plays a peculiar rôle in rabbinical tradition. Owing to the fact that his name, as the name of a tribe, is connected with the blasphemer (Leviticus 24:11), and with the idolatry of northern Israel (Judges 18:30; 1 Kings 12:29; Amos 8:14), while Samson, the judge of the tribe of Dan, proved faithless to his nazirate (Judges 13:2), Dan came to be regarded as the black sheep of the house of Jacob. His hatred of Joseph, because he brought to his father evil reports against the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, induced him to plot against Joseph's life, and he advised the brothers to deceive their father by telling that they had found the coat of Joseph dipped in blood (Test. Patr., Zebulon, 4; Dan, 1; Gad, 1). Dan and Gad were in league with the crown prince of Egypt against Joseph and Asenath (see see Asenath, Prayer of).

As early as the days of Moses the tribe of Dan worshiped idols, wherefore the pillar of cloud failed to protect it, and consequently Amalek smote Dan, who was the "hindmost" and "feeble" because "he feared not God" (Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 25:18; Pesiḳ. 3:27b; Pesiḳ. R.; Tan., Ki Teẓe). Being "the rearward of all the camps" (Numbers 10:25), Dan fell a victim to "the fire that devoured the uttermost part of the camp because of the idol which provoked the anger of the Lord" (Targ. Yer. to Numbers 11:1, Hebr.). It was also Dan's idolatry which induced Balaam to order altar and sacrifices for the defeat of Israel (Targ. Yer. to Numbers 22:41, 23:1). Dan's idolatry restrained Abraham in his march against the Babylonian kings (Genesis 14:15; Gen. R. ) and appalled Moses in his vision of the future (Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 34:1; Sifre, Debarim, 357). The children of Dan taught their sons the idolatrous Amorite practises contained in the books hidden under Mount Abarim (Gaster, "Chronicles of Jerahmeel," 1899, p. 167).

Jacob's blessing of Dan, in which he is compared to a serpent (Genesis 49:16-18), is referred to Samson (Gen. R. ), and the serpent is said to have been made the emblem of the tribe on its standard (Num. R. ).

Dan, Type of Antichrist.

But Dan became the very type of evil-doing. He was placed to the north (Numbers 2:25), this being the region of darkness and evil (Jeremiah 1:14), because of his idolatry which wrapped the world in darkness (Num. R. ). Still further goes a tradition which identifies the serpent and the lion (Genesis 49:17 and Deuteronomy 33:22) with BELIAL (see the literature in Bousset's "Antichrist," 1895, pp. 87, 113). Irenæus ("Adversus Hæreses," 5:302), Hippolytus ("De Christo et Antichristo," pp. 14, 15), and other Church fathers have a tradition, which can not but be of Jewish origin, that the ANTICHRIST comes from the tribe of Dan, and base it upon Jeremiah 8:16: "The snorting of his [the enemy's] horses was heard from Dan"—a verse referred also in Gen. R. to Dan's idolatry. Irenæus remarks that Dan is, in view of this tradition, not in the Apocalypse (Revelation 7:5-7) among the 144,000 saved ones of the twelve tribes. Nor is the omission of Dan in 1 Chronicles 4 et seq. unintentional. Bousset, who has a special chapter devoted to the Dan Antichrist legend (c. pp. 112-115), believes that the connection of Dan with Belial in Test. Patr., Dan, 5 points to the same tradition. This seems to find corroboration in Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 34:3, where the war against Ahriman ()and Gog or Magog in the vision of Moses seems to refer to Dan, 1 (compare Sifre, c. to ; also Dan, in see Ten Tribes, The Lost.)


—Critical View:

Kuenen ("Theologisch Tijdschrift," 5:291) and others after him, such as Cheyne ("Encyc. Bibl." s.), have argued that "Dan" is the title of a deity. In the etymology adduced in the explanatory remarks attributed to Rachel (Genesis 30:6) nothing is said about the character of the child. The judgment referred to is by God, and is passed upon Rachel. The reference to the name "Daniel" and to the cuneiform name of a king, "Ashur-dan," in support of the critical view has not been regarded by conservative scholars as sufficient to prove the contention in issue. Still, the analogy with other names, both tribal (GAD) and personal, is strongly in favor of the views advanced by Kuenen and his successors. "Daniel," in all probability, means "Dan is El" (compare "Eliyahu") and not "God is my judge"; and "Ashur-dan" is also a combination of two names of deities.

The personal existence of a son of Jacob bearing the name "Dan" has also been denied by modern scholars. This is in accord with the general doubt cast on the patriarchal biographies and genealogies. It is contended that no clan or tribe ever sprang from one ancestor. While among the tribes one ofthe name of Dan may have existed, the designation is that of an eponym, assumed after the tribe had come to reflect upon its own origin and its relations to other tribes (Cornill, "History of Israel," p. 32; Stade, "Gesch. des Volkes Israel," 1:124,146; Guthe, "Gesch. des Volkes Israel," pp. 5 et seq.; Holzinger, "Kurzer Handcommentar," on Genesis 30:24; Gunkel, "Handcommentar," on Genesis 29:35; Cheyne, in "Encyc. Bibl." cols. 992 et seq.).

The assumption that Dan was the son of Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah, whose other son was Naphtali, signifies, according to the modern view of the ideas underlying such genealogies, that the tribe of Dan recognized a closer geographical or historical connection with that of Naphtali, in common with which it was regarded, or regarded itself, as somehow in a position subordinate to the tribes that traced their descent directly through Rachel from Jacob. The universal applicability of this principle has been doubted by König ("Bibelkritisches," 1902). In the case of Dan, tradition furnishes only scant material by which to test the theory. Yet, as the genealogies and biographies of other tribal eponyms appear to justify the general principle, there is no reason, from the point of view of the critical school, to question its applicability to Dan (TRIBES, THE TWELVE).

E. G. H.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Dan'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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Dan Ashkenazi