Day 6 of adventure will lead us through another packed series of sites that begins with the ancient city of Dan. Tel Dan (Tell el Qadi) is first mentioned in Scripture during the time of Abraham in (Genesis 14:4). At that time, the city was known as “Laish” (also “Leshem”) to the people. Laish appears in Egyptian Execration Texts that date back to the 18thc BC. Thutmose III also lists Laish as one of the cities he conquered. A scarab of Ramses II (1279-1213 BC) testifies of prevailing Egyptian influence in the region. The city’s name was changed to Dan after the tribe of Dan conquered it in the taking of Canaan (Joshua 19:47).
Dan is located on the northern most edge of Israel at the foot Mount Herman and near the headwaters of the Jordan River. The tel is situated at a main intersecting of roads leading to Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea. It covers approximately 50 acres and is just over 65 feet above the surround plain, at a 40° angle on the rampart. This tells us that the city had a substantial means of fortification and defense built into it for the location it was in.
Archaeologists have estimated that artifacts date the first settlement of Dan (Laish) to 5000 BC. There is a large gap of physical evidence until the 27thc BC. Several periods are representative of the settlements inhabitants over the centuries prior to the conquest by the Israelites.
It will be after the death of Solomon that Jeroboam, son of Nebat challenges Rehoboam (Solomon’s son and successor to the throne of Israel) to be king. The kingdom responds by dividing itself in a civil war. Jeroboam knows that Rehoboam has the upper hand of influence over the majority of the people though, because within his territory of Judah, Rehoboam has Jerusalem, and thus, the temple of God. To compete with this, Jeroboam builds his own places of worship to attract not only Israelites, but foreigners as well. He incorporates shrines on the “high places” in Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12) with the comingling of altars to YHWH and idols represented by golden calves (possibly the Apis Bull of Egypt, which is often considered being the idol built by Aaron in the wilderness after the exodus). The sanctuary built by Jeroboam has been discovered at tel Dan.
As mentioned prior, Dan was abundantly fortified, possibly for two main reasons. First, the city was on a main artery between major trade routes in the north. Being somewhat removed, it would be susceptible to foreign invasions, especially bordering enemy nations. Secondly, as an established religious location, even more attention would be drawn to the assumed treasuries to the idols.
Dan continued to be a place of idolatrous worship, even through the Hellenistic periods. Several coins from Antiochus IV, Demetrius V, Constantine I and Constantine II have been discovered. Inscriptions written in Greek and Aramaic giving homage to “the god who is in Dan,” remain.
- Genesis 14:4
- Joshua 19:47
- Judges 18:29; 20:1
- 1 Samuel 3:20
- 2 Samuel 3:10; 17:11; 24:2, 6(?), 15
- 1 Kings 4:25; 12:29-30; 15:20
- 2 Kings 10:29
- 1 Chronicles 21:2
- 2 Chronicles 16:4; 30:5
- Jeremiah 4:15; 8:16
- Ezekiel 48:2, 32
- Amos 8:14