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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Nov 10 23:02:11 EST 2007

Dear Yigal:

On 11/10/07, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:
> 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?
The first reference I heard of a "Dan" outside of the Bible referred
to a kingdom in what is now southern Turkey, along the coast, that was
named Dan. That kingdom was overthrown between 1300–1100 BC. I came
across a couple of other mentioned places, but did not follow up on

> 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.
But not on it. The text as I read it indicates that this Dan was on the 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.
Who was the audience? Who was the author? If the author was one of
Abraham's sons, and the audience Jacob and his sons, then there was no
way that this could be the same Dan. Yet you are right, it is written
in a way that assumes that both the author and the audience recognize
where was meant by the place name.

As I have mentioned before, I have accepted the argument that the
'toldot' formula followed the narrative and would often indicate the
author and title of the section. If this is true, then this section
was originally written before Israel went to Egypt.

> 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
> roads.
You are speculating here. The indication from the text, not only in
Judges but also throughout all other mentions of Dan as a tribal
location, is that Dan was on the northern extremity of Israelite
settled territory. Those mentions argue against your speculation.

> 5. The book of Genesis does not "claim authorship" at all.

See above.

> .... 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.

However, the first mention of Moses' Torah is in Joshua 8:32 referring
to an event that occurred within decades of Moses' death.

> ..... 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.

Very few people claim that that final chapter was written by Moses,
and that includes strict literalists. Rather we see in Joshua 24:26
that Joshua added to and even tradition admits that the final chapter
of Deuteronomy possibly was written by Joshua.

> .... If one's approach is that of modern science, ....

Which definition of "modern science"? The unanimous definition given
by physicists, biologists, chemists and other scientists from when I
was in college? Or the post-modern one?

> .... 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?",

This "cannot use it as an answer" is not a scientific determination,
rather a religious one. This statement is an example not of
methodological naturalism, which is part of the definition of science
I was taught, rather it is ideological naturalism which is a matter of
faith. Methodological naturalism can take prophecy as an answer
because it has not closed its mind to the possibility of a universe
beyond the natural. Ideological naturalism (which is a religion) can
accept only naturalistic answers such as the following.

> .... 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.
There is no evidence to overthrow that claim. And I think there is
indirect evidence that supports it.

> Yigal Levin

Karl W. Randolph.

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