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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.


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 and the 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:

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.