[b-hebrew] Dan (was: Where Was Jacob's Ladder)

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Nov 10 15:37:12 EST 2007

Dear Karl,

1. While there could have been other "Dan"s in the Semitic-speaking world, I
actually don't know of any. Could you please point me to a reference?

2. Abraham set out from Hebron, either going down into the Jordan Valley and
then north, around the Sea of Galilee and up the upper Jordan, or along the
hill-country and the Jezereel Valley, and then into the upper Jordan, in any
case passing near the Dan we know on his way towards Damascus. The Dan that
we know is situated right near this major route.

3. The text does not actually say that he stopped at Dan or interacted with
its inhabitants in any way. It just uses "Dan" as a geographical marker.
This would indicate that the writer assumed that this Dan would be well
known to his audience.

4. Laish's being isolated in the time of the Judges could well have had more
to do with its geopolitical situation, as a single Canaanite city within
mostly Israelite territory, than with its actual distance from the main

5. The book of Genesis does not "claim authorship" at all. In fact, neither
does the Pentaeuch as a whole, unless one understands passages near the end
of Deuteronomy about Moses writing "et hattorah hazzot" as referring to the
entire Pentateuch and not just to either Deuteronomy or a particular
passage. It is actually tradition, firts attested hundreds of years later, 
that claims that Genesis was written by Moses. Now I have no problem if 
someone who believes that Moses, as a prophet, wrote what he did under 
divine influence, and used the name Dan because he knew that that was what 
the place would be called in the future. Moses' final vision of the Land in 
Duet. 34:1-3 does the same, naming not only Dan, but also lands of Naphtali, 
Menasseh, Ephraim and Judah, none of which were called that until after 
Moses' death. If one's approach is that of modern science, which, while not 
denying the possiblity of prophecy, cannot use it as an answer to the 
question of "where did the author get his information from?", must conclude 
that this particular passage, in its present form, must have been written at 
least after the time of the Judges. No "pious fraud" involved.

6. In short, the only reason that you have to suppose that this is a 
different Dan than the well-known city is that you pre-suppose that the 
story must have been written before Dan had become Dan. There is no evidence 
to back up your claim.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "K Randolph" <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
> While I have no problem with Bethel, the story in Genesis 28 happened
> well before Abraham's sons died, possibly before they wrote about
> Abraham's life (assuming the "toldot" referred to "biography" (or
> something like it), but does the toponym "Dan" refer to the same
> place? I don't think so.
> First of all, "Dan" was not an unusual name in the ANE. Over the
> years, I have  read of different places in Semitic speaking areas that
> were named "Dan".
> Secondly, the impression I get in Genesis 14 is that Abraham pursued
> the kings along the main highway heading north from Sodom, while Laish
> was described as an out of the way place in Judges.
> Thirdly, there is the time element: if Genesis was written well before
> the events in Judges, there is no way that the same place was referred
> to in both books. Of course, that is taken as evidence by some people
> that Genesis was "pious fraud" in that it claimed earlier authorship
> than it actually had.
> My conclusion is that there were two different places that were named
> "Dan" and mentioned in Tanakh, The former place was heading north up
> the Jordan River, the later place in northern highlands. The former
> forgotten, maybe because the latter was more important to Israel.
> Karl W. Randolph.
> _______________________________________________

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