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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sun Nov 11 09:01:59 EST 2007

Dear Yigal:

On 11/11/07, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:
> 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.

I heard about it over 30 years ago, and as I could not afford the
books, I left them in the library.

> .... But I don't claim to know everything. As I wrote, please
> provide a refernce.

Thanks to George Athas, he has more information than I presently do here.

> ... 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.
Unless the kings did not travel the main route to Damascus, they would
have travelled to the east of the Sea of Galilee to avoid the
mountainous areas. The later tribal area was in the mountainous area.

> 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.
But avoided the mountainous areas.

> 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".

Please be more careful, that is not what I wrote.

> ... This is not
> claimed anywhere in the text, nor even by the most "conservative" tradition.

Did you read what I wrote, not only in the last message, but in
earlier ones as well?

> Note that the first person in the entire Bible who is said to have written
> anything is Moses.

Specific mention of writing. That does not mean that the patriarchs
were illiterate. It is just as likely that they did not mention it
because they took it for granted.

If the "toldoth" formula is a literary style, as I have been told, a
claim that I find believable, then its presence in Genesis is evidence
of literacy prior to Moses.

> .... There is also no external evidence of it.

You are asking for the near impossible. You are asking for the
discovery of legible scrolls from a millennium before the DSS. What is
the likelihood of that?

> ... All of Western
> Semitic linguistics and epigraphy show that the Hebrew of the Pentateuch is
> at the earliest a first millennium dialect.

You have no evidence of that. All you have is a lack of evidence,
either way, and a lack of evidence is not necessarily evidence of

> ... 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.

Conveyed, how? By written documents?

> ... 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.
That intellectual game gets no-one anywhere.

> 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.
This is just the opposite of what I was taught about the scientific
method. The absolutes are that scientific method is based on
observation, and that observation has to be repeatable. Even when I
debated evolutionists on whether or not evolution can be a scientific
theory, even though they were hostile to my thesis, they admitted that
my reading of the scientific method was accurate (though I had to
quote pages of text for some to admit it) (I don't want to quote pages
of text on this list because it is off topic). Further I took the
definition of evolution from the same sources, ......

> Yigal Levin

The only reason that this discussion of science is even peripherally
topical for this list is because it impinges on how we understand the
history and development of the Hebrew language. The reason I think
there is evidence that Hebrew was largely dropped as a language
learned at mothers' knees during the Exile is because I do not hold to
a rigidly naturalistic view of the universe. Those who rigidly follow
ideological naturalism must disallow certain observations, such as
internal dates of documents, and outside of B-Hebrew, many physical
artifacts as well. Further I take a similar view of history as I take
of science, that what we can know is limited to what we can observe,
either directly or in reading written texts that have survived to the
present either as originals or as copies.

To get back to the question as to where was Dan in Genesis, the answer
is that we don't know. It could have been in the Jordan Valley to the
south of the Sea of Galilee. It could have been on the plains to the
east. There is no requirement that it was a town at all. It could have
been just the name of a geographical feature. All we have is that it
was on the way from Sodom to Damascus. And with no evidence for or
against, some conflate all mentioning of Dan to  refer to the same

Karl W. Randolph.

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