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

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sun Nov 11 03:03:41 EST 2007

Dear Karl,

You wrote:
> 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
> them.

I've been studying the history of the ANE for 20 years and have never heard 
of such a place. But I don't claim to know everything. As I wrote, please 
provide a refernce. Besides which, the Dan refered to in Gen. 14 must be 
generally between Hebron and Damascus. I wrote: "The Dan that we know is 
situated right near this major route". Your reaction was:
> But not on it. The text as I read it indicates that this Dan was on the 
> route.

That's "as you read it". The Bible is not a geography textbook or a road 
atlas. All the author wanted to do was to provide a reference for his 
readers. He MIGHT have even intended to state that Abraham had left the 
borders of what would later become "Israel", although that needs some 
thinking through. In any case, in the pre-Roman world, "highways" were not 
paved, or even signposted roads. Especially in non-hilly territory, people 
travelled a general path, not a specific lane. That path could and did shift 
seasonally, so Dan's nearness to the "highway" is a matter of perspective.

I wrote:
>> 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.
To which you responded:
> You are speculating here.

True. I don't really know what the situation was or what "isolated" means. 
Neither do you.

The rest of your claim rests upon the assumption that Genesis was written by 
"one of Abraham's sons, and the audience Jacob and his sons". This is not 
claimed anywhere in the text, nor even by the most "conservative" tradition. 
Note that the first person in the entire Bible who is said to have written 
anything is Moses. There is also no external evidence of it. All of Western 
Semitic linguistics and epigraphy show that the Hebrew of the Pentateuch is 
at the earliest a first millennium dialect. If you mean that the story was 
conveyed orally by Abraham's decsendants until it was written by Moses, then 
we are back where we started. I also agree that the last chapter of Deut. 
was written after Moses' death. But the same "redactor" who added a chapter 
to Deuteronomy could have also "updated" geographical references in Genesis. 
Then we get back to "archaeology of the text" (AKA "higher criticism"), 
which is a fun intelectual game but really gets us nowhere.

Your claims about "ideological naturalism" are nonsense, and Yitzhak has 
already answered you at length. The only one being "post-modernist" here is 
you, by claiming that there are no absolutes in scientific meathod.

Yigal Levin 

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