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Tribe of Dan

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1695 Eretz Israel map in Amsterdam Haggada by Abraham Bar-Jacob
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According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Dan, also sometimes spelled as "Dann", (Hebrew: דָּן, Modern Dan Tiberian Dān ; "Judge") was one of the Tribes of Israel.

Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BCE[1], Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes. Dan was allocated the most northerly region, to the north of the Galilee, and west of the Jordan, stretching north as far as Laish, Dan's main city (which became known as Dan). (Joshua 19:40-48)

In the Biblical census of the Book of Numbers, the tribe of Dan is portrayed as the second largest Israelite tribe (after Judah).[2] Some textual scholars regard the census as being from the Priestly Source, dating it to around the 7th century BC, and more likely to reflect the biases of its authors, though this still implies that Dan was one of the largest tribes at a point fresh to the memories of the 7th century BC.[3][4] In the Blessing of Moses, which some textual scholars regard as dating from only slightly earlier than the deuteronomist,[5] Dan is seemingly prophesied to leap from Bashan; scholars are uncertain why this should be since the tribe are not recorded as having ever been resident in the Bashan plain, which lies to the east of the Jordan.[6]

From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BC, the Tribe of Dan was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed, and in times of crisis the people were led by ad hoc leaders known as Judges. (see the Book of Judges) With the growth of the threat from Philistine incursions, the Israelite tribes decided to form a strong centralised monarchy to meet the challenge, and the Tribe of Dan joined the new kingdom with Saul as the first king. After the death of Saul, all the tribes other than Judah remained loyal to the House of Saul, but after the death of Ish-bosheth, Saul's son and successor to the throne of Israel, the Tribe of Dan joined the other northern Israelite tribes in making David, who was then the king of Judah, king of a re-united Kingdom of Israel. However, on the accession of Rehoboam, David's grandson, in c. 930 BC the northern tribes split from the House of David to reform a Kingdom of Israel as the Northern Kingdom.


12 staemme israels

The territory of Judah appears in orange at the south on this map of the tribes. The text is in German.

According to the Torah, the tribe consisted of descendants of Dan a son of Jacob and Bilhah, Rachel's maidservant (Genesis 30:4). In the Biblical account, Dan is one of the two children of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid and one of Jacob's wives, the other child of Bilhah being Naphtali. Scholars see this as indicating that the authors saw Dan and Naphtali as being not of entirely Israelite origin (hence descendants of handmaids rather than of full wives).[7] It is worth noting that the territory of the handmaid tribes happens to be the territory closest to the north and eastern borders of Canaan; they were the most exposed to Israel's immediate enemies - Assyria and Aram.[8]

According to the biblical narrative, the tribe had originally tried to settle in the central coastal area of Canaan, but due to enmity with the Philistines who had already settled there, were only able to camp in the hill country overlooking the Sorek Valley, the camp location becoming known as Mahaneh Dan ("Camps of Dan"). (Joshua 19) The region they were trying to settle included the area as far north as Joppa, and extending south into the Shephelah in the area of Timnah; as a result, the modern state of Israel, as well as some zionists, refer to the region as Gush Dan (the Dan area). However, as a consequence of the pressure from the Philistines, the tribe abandoned hopes of settling near the central coast, instead migrating to the north of the country, and after conquering Laish, refounded it as their capital (renaming it Dan). (Judges 18)

Modern artists use the "scales of justice," a pagan symbol, to represent the Tribe of Dan due to Genesis 49:16 referencing Dan judging his people. However, more traditional artists use a snake to represent Dan, based on Genesis 49:17. The most famous Danite was Samson.


As part of the Kingdom of Israel, the territory of Dan was conquered by the Assyrians, and exiled; the manner of their exile led to their further history being lost. In modern day Ethiopia Beta Israel, a group of Jews are claiming to be descendants of the Tribe of Dan.

According to the Book of Revelation (7:4-8), the tribe of Dan is the only original tribe of Israel which is not included in the list of tribes which are sealed. No mention is made of why they are excluded. It could be a textual error (Menasheh substituted for Dan) or it could be because of their pagan practices.

This made Hippolytus of Rome and a few Millennialists apparently claim that the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan.

The tribes of Joseph and of Levi are mentioned in Revelation 7:5-8, while they were not commonly counted as tribes elsewhere. In most listings of the twelve tribes Levi is omitted, since the inheritance of Levi are the sacrifices of Israel and not an allotment of territory. Ordinarily Ephraim and Menasseh take the place of Joseph to keep the number of tribes at twelve once Levi is excluded. If Dan were excluded from Revelation 7:5-8 due to its being a seat of idolatry in the Northern Kingdom, perhaps the same reasoning might account for the exclusion of Ephraim since the other seat of idolatry in the Northern Kingdom was Bethel, situated in the territory of Ephraim. However, in Numbers 1:32, the tribe of Ephraim is clearly referenced as representing the "children of Joseph," thus, Ephraim appears to be a euphemism for Joseph, explaining Ephraim's apparent omission in Revelation chapter 7.

See also


  1. Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), "On the Reliability of the Old Testament" (Grand Rapids, Michigan. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)(ISBN 0-8028-4960-1)
  2. Numbers 1:39
  3. Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (Harper San Francisco) (1987) ISBN 0-06-063035-3
  4. Jewish Encyclopedia, Book of Numbers
  5. Richard Elliott Friedman, Who wrote the Bible?
  6. Jewish Encyclopedia, Dan
  7. Jewish Encyclopedia
  8. Peake's commentary on the Bible

External links

ru:Дан (Библия) sh:Dan (pleme) zh:但

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