Confusion, Civil, and Religion & The Migration of the Danites

Wow, that’s crazy, there were no laws so people did whatever they pleased. 

Of course, in the United States there are too many laws, a lot of stupid laws. 

Yet, they had Your laws, as we also have still today.  Nothing’s really changed, most of the people then didn’t listen to You, and they don’t today either. 

I’ll tell You, if I was President of the United States, I’d get rid of all the stupid laws and live only by Your laws, but I would never want to be president.

Tel Dan in History
In a land where water is life, it’s no wonder the ancients venerated this area as sacred.

Tel Dan offers the largest of four tributaries that form the headwaters of the Jordan River.

Only the nearby Banias Spring ranks second.

When Joshua parceled out the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan received a wide strip that extended west from the Tribe of Benjamin to the coastal plain at Jaffa (Josh 19:40-46).

But the combination of the local inhabitants who pushed the tribe into the hill country, as well as the presence of the International Highway that remained the envy of all local and foreign powers, the location proved to be more than Danites could endure (Jdg 1:34).

Leaving their allotted land, they migrated north and conquered Leshem, or Laish, and renamed it Dan (Josh 19:47).

In addition to abandoning their territory, they also abandoned the God of Israel and erected a graven image to worship (Jdg 18:27-31).

From days of the Judges, through the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, the phrase, “from Dan to Beersheba,” represented the practical north-south borders of the united kingdom of Israel (Jdg 20:1; 2 Saml 24:2;1 Kgs 4:25).

But after the reign of King Solomon, the nation divided—and gave rise to a practical problem.

I don’t know why anyone would want to be president because then you have to live in Washington D.C. and worse than that is that you have to hangout with politicians.

Still no king and a certain Levite that was living on the side of Mount Ephraim took himself a concubine out of Beth-lehem-Judah.

“And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Beth-lehem-Judah, and was there four whole months. 

And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. 

And his father in law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (Jdg 19:2-4).

The father managed to convince the Levite to stay another day and a half, but then he left.  Once they reached  Jebus, which is Jerusalem, his servant wanted them to stay the night there, but they said

“…We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah…

And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah…and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.  And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging” (Jdg 19:12-15).

An old man saw them and invited them to stay with him.

“Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. 

Tel Dan’s High Place Discovered
Archaeologists have uncovered Jeroboam’s High Place at Tel Dan.

A large, excavated podium still sits at the highest point on the tell.

Cultic implements were discovered there, including a small horned altar, an incense holder, and the only 8th century incense shovels yet discovered in Israel.

Archaeologists also unearthed one horn of the main altar, the proportions of which betray an altar that once stood ten feet tall.

A massive metal frame represents these dimensions for visitors today.

Remnants of two sets of stairs at the corners show how the priests accessed the altar.

And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.

Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 

But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.

Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. 

And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 

Dan – Canaanite City
The Biblical city of Laish/Leshem.

An impressive archaeological site with unique remains of the Canaanite and Israelite cities and a Biblical High Place.

And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going.  But none answered.  Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.

And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. 

And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds” (Jdg 19:22-30).

“The Levite cutting the concubine’s body up and sending her parts all around Israel was showing that she had been raped and killed by others.  The children of Israel, 400,000 footmen, were not happy.  When they all approached the Levite he asked, Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel” (Jdg 20:7).

Sacrificial High Place
A closer view of the four-chamber inner gatehouse is in the above photo.

Two steles stand upright on both sides of the gate.

A sacrificial high place is located on the southern side of the inner gate.

The pit was found to contain bones of kosher animals.

The structure is based on large basalt stones.

It was reconstructed with wood beams to a height of 3M, and is the largest Biblical gate excavated in the Holy Land.

The area of the four-chamber gate covers 520 square meters, compared to other cities which are smaller.

“And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? 

Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. 

But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel” (Jdg 20:12-14).

“Between the Benjamines and the inhabitants of Gibeah there were 26,700 fighting men.  The 700 from Gibeah could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss” (Jdg 20:16). 

“And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first” (Jdg 20:18).

The next day the fighting began and the Benjamites and the Gibeahs killed 22,000.  Israel again went to God and asked,

“(And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?  And the LORD said, Go up against him” (Jdg 20:23).

“And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle agaisnt the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?  And the LORD said, Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hand” (Jdg 20:28).

The Israelites hid and waited round about the city of Gibeah, and after they lost 30 men they decided to flee so the Benjamines would follow them to the highways, so they went to Baal-tamar and waited.

“And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them. 

And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. 

The Tribe of Dan
A map of Dan and the 12 Tribes of Israel.

Dan is in the extreme north of the land.

The Biblical description “from Dan to Beersheba” came to denote all of the land of Israel, from north to south.

Indeed, Dan’s meaning in this phrase is twofold.

Originally, Dan settled in the southern portion of the land of Canaan, near the Philistine coast.

Later, a portion of the tribe of Dan would migrate to the north, and capture the city of Laish.

Due to this migration, Dan is listed as part of the Northern tribes of Israel, along with Asher and Naphtali.

They renamed Laish Dan, after their progenitor, the fourth son of Jacob.

The city of Dan became the northernmost limit of the land of Israel.

Thus, Dan was a tribe of the south, and the north; as well as representing the northernmost limits of Israel itself, with Beersheba representing the southernmost limits.

The Danites were the last of the tribes in the book of Joshua to receive its allotment. Yet, Nadav Na’aman asserts it is one of the most important tribes in the delineation of the boundary system within the tribes of Israel

The cities allotted to the tribe of Dan occupy the “territorial gap” (Na’aman 74) left between these three tribes.

Na’aman’s theory regarding this allotment is self-admittedly “highly conjectural”, yet, it would seem to be in accordance with the Biblical account.

The chronology of Scripture supports the theory Dan was the last to receive land.

Na’aman states the author of the town list of the Danites, found in Joshua 19:40-48, created Dan’s borders after the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim had been allotted land.

The tribe of Dan, thus, fell in the gap that existed between these three tribes.

In essence, Na’aman argues this allotment was “an artificial tribal territory”.

Not artificial in the sense of a false account, as the Bible states the tribe of Dan originally settled in this area, and Na’aman agrees. Artificial, perhaps, in the sense the allotment almost seems an afterthought, as if they had forgot Dan, and simply assigned what was left.

So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah.

And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword. 

Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city. 

And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.

But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven. 

And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them. 

Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.

Thus they enclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sun rising. 

And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valor. 

And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.

So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valor. 

But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. 

And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to” (Jdg 20:34-48).

The Migration of the Danites

The tribe of Dan was unable to occupy its assigned allotment west of Benjamin. The Dan­ites chose to migrate to Laish, which they re­named Dan’.

This took place after the time of Deborah in the late 13th century B.C., around the time of the destruction of Shiloh around 1100 B.C.

The incursion of the Philistines into the southwestern coastal plain in approximately 1177 B.C. may have precipi­tated the migration.

Laish/Dan has been identified as Tell el- Qadi, now called Tel Dan, at the foot of Mount Hermon, approximately 25 miles (40 km) north of the Sea of Galilee.

Excavations have revealed a prosperous Late Bronze Age city that was destroyed by fire early in the twelfth century B.C., most likely by the Danites.

Laish had a strong connec­tion, perhaps as a partner in international trade, with coastal Sidon, approximately 28 miles (45 km) to the northwest. 

The most impressive discovery in the destroyed city of Laish was a tomb contain­ing imported pottery from Greece.

After the destruction a nomadic or semi-nomadic culture occupied the site. This culture is distinctive for its use of pits apparently dug for storing grain.

Large storage jars, well known from the highlands where they are associated with Israelite settlement, were located in the pits.

The jars were fashioned from clay not native to the Tel Dan area, indi­cating that the new settlers had brought them from elsewhere.

Archaeologists have identified this new culture as that of the Danites.  This tribe soon became urbanized, however, and built a dense array of domestic and industrial structures across the site.

This stratum was destroyed in a fierce conflagration in the mid-11th century B.C., possibly at the hands of the Philistines at the same time Shiloh was destroyed.