The tribe of Dan

Michael Banyai Banyai at
Sun Sep 15 13:53:00 EDT 2002

I beg your pardon, Shoshanna and Ian, but I have the vague feeling, that in spite of the correct reading of "Dan, as a tribe in Israel", meaning "like / as if", you entirely missed its meaning since you have torn it out of its context, which would have allowed a better understanding.

We already had an argument, Ian, about the benediction of Moses, Deut.33:1-29. In short the argument for its interpretation as  a blessing brought at the coronation of Gideon ran as follows:

1.      From Deut.33:5: “there arose a king in Jeshurun 
 when the leaders of the people    assembled” and from Deut. 33:20-21 “ 
where the allotment of the commander was    (Moses' grave)
 there came together the heads of the people
” follows a coronation    ceremony taking place by mount Nebo in Gad. We read in Jgs.8:22 about the Israelites    making Gideon the offer of the kingship (Jgs. 8:13-21) somewhere by Succoth in Gad.
2.         A further indicator is Deut. 33:12 “ Benjamin
the High God surrounds him 
 and between his shoulders should he dwell.”. The image of the shoulder is known only from Gen.48:22 in a riddle involving the name of Shechem – shoulder – place of the main Israelite sanctuary till Abimelech´s  destruction. The place Benjamin occurs in Deut. 33 is not its canonical one, prevailing in cases where there is no other reason, geographic or else to override it. We may conclude that Benjamin is a later pious insertion as the sanctuary moved to Jerusalem. But Benjamin originally entirely lacked to the text of Deut. 33, as we may see from Deut.33:7: “O Lord give heed to Judah and bring him to his people.” Judah was apparently isolated from the rest of the amfictyony by the defection of Benjamin (and of Dan - because notice, the southern Dan lacks entirely in Jgs. 33:22) to another political alliance, we are alluded of in Jgs. 19-21 (and for Dan in Jgs. 14-16). The mention of Shechem limits our date for Deut.33 to a period previous to Abimelech.

The conclusion from the lack of the southern Dan, the presence of northern Dan, the isolated position of Judah is obvious.

Now we can undertake a similar analysis on Gen. 49 under following aspects:

   1.   Gen. 49:20 dates the text into a period as there was a king over Israel
   2.    Gen. 49:8-12 offers the same situation as Deut. 33, with an isolated Judah, but    unlike in Deut.33:12 is Shechem not anymore the main temple of the amfictiony, but    Shiloh, appearing in Gen.49: 10, saying that Judah should have an independent kingdom,    "until it comes to Shiloh", thus it breaks its geographic isolation. Shiloh became the    main temple by the time of Abimelech. The ark was brought to Shiloh according to    Ginzbergs "Legends of the Jews" by a certain Zebul (featuring in Judges as the commander    in Shechem under the orders of Abimelech).
   3.   Gen. 49:5-7 contains a curse on the Levites, seen here as an object of the rage of    God. There is only a single period in the history of Israel, that during the reign of    Abimelech, as a real adversity towards the Levites existed.
   4.    Benjamin and Dan are negatively presented either as ravenous wolf, or as snake by    the roadside in  line with Deut. 33, where they are entirely lacking, because they have    left the Israelite alliance (the northern Dan is however still member of the alliance).

Thus we can add and conclude, that if one departs from the supposition, that both Deut. 33 and Gen. 49 have a historical kernel, than Gen. 49 is a text missattributed to Jacob (because of Shiloh - which according to the tradition by his time took the place of Shechem as main Israelite temple, and because it should make disappear the memory of the Gideon dynasty) instead of Abimelech, and Deut. 33 pertains to the time of Gideon (on the same grounds).

Damnatio memoriae.

The text of Gen.49:16, "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel", means "Dan shall judge his people according to the law, as if he would still be a people of Israel".

Nota bene, this has nothing to do with the Sea peoples since Dan features in Deut. 33 (Gideons period) as a fashionable tribe of Israel.

Deut.33 precedes the text of Gen. 49.

All the best,

Michael Bányai
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