Iron and Bronze. The tribe of Dan

Yigal Levin Yigal-Levin at
Wed Sep 18 09:20:54 EDT 2002

At 07:41 AM 9/18/2002 -0500, David Stabnow wrote:
>Ian Hutchesson wrote:
>Although you said that you were "interpreting
>the text as the text reads", I see no way to go
>from k'xd $b+y y$r'l ("as a tribe of Israel") to
>the interpretation you supply ("according to the
>Torah"), hence my statement about eisegesis.
>Perhaps you could supply the linguistics to get
>to your interpretation from the text itself.
>DKS: You're right, of course.  I should have stopped with the understanding
>that Jacob was predicting/prophesying that Dan would judge in accordance
>with the norms of the tribes of Israel, or that Dan would judge in a manner
>comparable to a tribe of Israel.  Both are linguistically possible.  Either
>or both could have been understood by Jacob's original audience.  Only in
>hindsight can we interpret that "in accordance with the norms of the tribes
>of Israel" is equivalent to "by the Torah."  Jacob's audience would not
>have known that.

Of course, assuming that "Jacob's blessings" were actually composed at a
later date (and I will not even try to risk dating J, P or whatever right
now), we could try to understand the "prophecy" as reflecting a reality
that was know to the author, either from his own time or from his knowledge
of history. "As one of the tribes of Israel" DOES seem to suppose that
someone in the audience might assume that Dan was NOT "As one of the tribes
of Israel" for some reason. Ian's assumption that Dan was originally a "Sea
People" tribe does not work (in my humble opinion): Ian refuses to admit
that the author(s) of Genesis knew about the Philistines' foreign origin
but assumes that they did know just that about Dan.

My suggestion is that the statement that assures that Dan IS "as one of the
tribes of Israel" rather reflect the actual history of the tribe:
originally attempting to settle in the northern Shephelah and being pushed
out by the "Amorites" (Read Judges 1:34-35 - no Philistines there yet. Same
in ch. 18. I would think that these are the "Amorites" of Gezer, still
strong before the second phase of Philistine expansion of about 1100. Note
also 1 Sam. 7:14, where Samuel, after defeating the Philistines "from Ekron
to Gath", then makes peace with these very "Amorites".)
After part of the tribe had migrated north and part remained in the Beth
Shemesh/Zorah/Eshtaol area (eventually to get into trouble with the
Philistines), neither "camp" was able to really set up whatever
socio-political construct counted for a "tribe" (let's not get into THAT
debate right now - but it's clear that the biblical authors had SOMETHING
in mind when they used the term "Shebet"). The northern enclave was
eventually (probably quite quickly) absorbed by the tribe of Naphtali -
except for the name of the city itself, the northern Danites are never
again heard of as a "tribe". The southern branch may have lasted longer,
but were eventually absorbed by Judah and maybe Ephraim, never to be heard
of as a tribe again. 
In has long been recognized that the "Inheritance of Dan" in Josh. 19:40-48
is an artificial construct, perhaps based of the kingdom of Ekron, but
probably based on that of Gezer. The model proposed by Mazar, Kallai,
Aharoni et al., that this was part of David's administration, taking the
newly conquered "Amorite" area (maybe conquered from the Philistines) and
attempting to "resurrect" the "traditional" tribe of Dan in this territory,
works for me. Note also that Gezer itself, though right smack in the middle
of the territory, is missing from the list, since it remained "Canaanite"
until the days of Solomon. (Of course, if there was no David and no

So the assertion that Dan WILL judge "as one of the tribes of Israel",
reflects a hope that one day the "whole" 12-tribe nation of Israel will be
restored, including a tribe like Dan, which seems to have disappeared from
the map of Israel. This would probably mean that the "blessing" was
composed sometime between the time of Solomon and the post-exilic period
(very specific, right?).

Dr. Yigal Levin
Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
615 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga TN 37403-2598

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