Who and what is…

Hebrew: דָּן —transliteration: Dan —meaning: a judge

This is the name of a biblical man, his tribe of descendants and of places.

  1. Dan, the 5th son of Jacob

    His mother was Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Genesis 30:6, “He judged” or “God hath judged me.”

    The blessing pronounced on him by his father was, “Dan shall judge his people” (49:16), probably in allusion to the judgeship of Samson, who was of the tribe of Dan.


    Sons of Israel (Jacob), listed by mother

    1. Sons of Bilhah: Naphtali, Dan

    2. Sons of Leah: Judah, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun

    3. Sons of Zilpah: Gad, Asher

    4. Sons of Rachel: Joseph, Benjamin

  2. Tribe of Dan

    These are the descendants of Jacob’s son Dan. They were called Danites. There territory in the Promised Land of Israel was coastal.

    This tribe had their place in the march through the wilderness on the north side of the tabernacle (Numbers 2:25, 31; 10:25). It was the last of the tribes to receive a portion in the Land of Promise. Its position and extent are described in Joshua 19:40-48.

    Biblical territory of Danites

    Map of the ancient Israelite tribal territories in the Promised Land. CC BY-SA 3.0
    Dan is shaded in DARK GREEN, but does not include the city of Dan which was far to the north.

    This map shows the approximate location and boundaries of the 12 Israelite tribes, based on records in the Book of Joshua. This, and more, was The Promised Land given by God to the descendants of Israel, the grandson of Abraham. The full extent of the Canaanite land promised was never acquired, due to the repeated disobedience of the Israelites during the their commanded conquest of this very idolatrous, heathen land, after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt and the following 40 years of Divine punishment wandering in the wilderness, before Joshua and the living descendants were allowed to enter the land, following the death of Moses.

    The territory of Dan extended from the west of that of Ephraim and Benjamin to the sea. It was a small territory, but was very fertile. It included in it, among others, the cities of Lydda, Ekron, and Joppa, which formed its northern boundary. But this district was too limited. “Squeezed into the narrow strip between the mountains and the sea, its energies were great beyond its numbers.”

    Cities of Dan (partial list)

    Ancient Wars

    The Tribe of Dan tended to be restless and war-like.

    Being pressed by the Amorites and the Philistines, whom they were unable to conquer, the Danites longed for a wider space. They accordingly sent out 5 spies from two of their towns, who went north to the sources of the Jordan, and brought back a favorable report regarding that region.

    “Arise,” they said, “be not slothful to go, and to possess the land,” for it is “a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the Earth” (Judges 18:10).

    On receiving this report, 600 Danites girded on their weapons of war, and taking with them their wives and their children, marched to the foot of Hermon, and fought against Leshem [a city], and took it from the Sidonians, and dwelled therein, and changed the name of the conquered town to Dan (Joshua 19:47).

    Prophecies about Dan

    BOOK OF REVELATION — Revelation 7:4–8 mentions that people from the 12 tribes of Israel will be sealed by an angel of God. The selection of the 12 tribes does not include the names of Dan Ephraim, although their names are among the 12 tribes that settled in the Promised Land. It has been suggested that this might be because of their exceptionally strong waywardness from God, including idolatry and pagan practices. For whatever reason, Dan will not be a part of the 144-thousand Israelite evangelists for Christ during The Great Tribulation.

    And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:

    of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;
    of tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed;
    of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.

    Jacob (aka Israel) prophecied that,

    “Dan shall be a serpent by the way,
    A viper by the path,
    That bites the horse’s heels
    So that its rider shall fall backward.
    I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!” —Genesis 49:17 NKJV

    The Danite tribe is spoken of prophetically by Moses.

    “Dan is a lion’s whelp;
    He shall leap from Bashan.” —Deuteronomy 33:22b NKJV

    The prophet Ezekiel declared the Tribe of Dan will have an area of land during the Millennial Kingdom of God on Earth.

    “…there shall be one section for Dan…” —Ezekiel 48:1 NKJV

    Despite the waywardness and great sins of Dan and every other tribe of Israel, the Apostle Paul tells us that,

    “All Israel will be saved” —Romans 11:26

  3. City of Dan

    formerly known as: Laish and Leshem

    This new city of “Dan” became a new home to the Danites, and was spoken of as the northern limit of Israel, the length of which came to be denoted by the expression “from Dan [the city] to Beersheba”, i.e., about 144 miles.

    “But like Lot under a similar temptation, they seem to have succumbed to the evil influences around them, and to have sunk down into a condition of semi-heathenism from which they never emerged. The Tribe of Dan was guilty of gross, long-term idolatry.

    The mounds of ruins which mark the site of the city show that it covered a considerable extent of ground. But there remains no record of any noble deed wrought by the degenerate tribe. Their name disappears from the roll-book of the natural and the spiritual Israel.” —Samuel Manning, Those Holy Fields: Palestine (1874)

    Archaeology of the city of Dan (Tel Dan)

    This old border city was originally called Laish (aka Leshem). Its modern name is Tel Dan (formerly Tell el-Kady or Tell el Kâdy)—“Hill of the Judge”). It is just outside of the modern town of Dan and stands about four miles below Caesarea Philippi, in the midst of a region of surpassing richness and beauty. Archaeologists found that the city was very well fortified.

    Location of the ruins of the city of Dan (now called Tel Dan) and the nearby modern town of Dan—satellite view

    Tel Dan Stele

    Tel Dan Stele at the Israel Museum.
    Tel Dan Stele on display at the Jerusalem’s Israel Museum (2016). It is written in Old Aramaic and provides archaeological evidence in support of Biblical history.
    Photographer: Oren Rozen. License: CC BY-SA 4.0
    Bible Archaeology
    Learn about archeology and the Bible

    The Tel Dan Stele is a broken stele (an inscribed stone) discovered in 1993–94 during excavations at Tel Dan. It consists of several fragments making up part of a triumphal inscription written in Aramaic.

    The likely candidate for having erected the stele is King Hazael of Aram-Damascus (an important regional figure in the late 9th century B.C.), whose language would have been Aramaic, and who is mentioned in 2 Kings as having conquered the Land of Israel, though he was unable to take Jerusalem.

    The king (unnamed on the stele) boasts of his victories over the king of Israel and his ally the king of the “House of David”.

    The inscription dates to 9th century B.C. and details that an individual killed Jehoram, the son of Ahab, king of Israel and the king of the house of David. These writings corroborate passages from the Bible, as the Second Book of Kings mentions that Jehoram, also Joram, is the son of an Israelite king, Ahab, by his Phoenician wife, Queen Jezebel.

    This stele is considered the earliest widely accepted reference to the name David as the founder of the Kingdom of Judah outside of the Bible, though the earlier Mesha Stele (Moabite Stone) contains several possible references with varying acceptance. (also see: What does the Moabite Stone reveal about the Biblical revolt of Mesha? Answer)

  4. Another Dan (disputed as a place)

    This place name occurs in the King James Version of Ezek 27:19

    Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.” —KJV

    NKJV: “Dan and Javan paid for your wares, traversing back and forth. Wrought iron, cassia, and cane were among your merchandise.”

    GW: “Danites and Greeks from Uzal traded for your merchandise. They exchanged wrought iron, cassia, and sugar cane for your goods.”

    There is confusion about how the Hebrew should be translated in this verse. Some translators believe the Hebrew here should be rendered “Vedan.” Vedan is thus thought to be an ancient Arabian city, from which various kinds of merchandise were brought. Some suppose it to have been the city of Aden in Arabia.

    NASB: “Vedan and Javan paid for your wares from Uzal; wrought iron, cassia and [o]sweet cane were among your merchandise.”

    CJB: “V’dan and Yavan from Uzal traded ironwork, cassia and aromatic cane for your goods.”

    Others translate the verse differently.

    ESV: “and casks of wine from Uzal they exchanged for your wares; wrought iron, cassia, and calamus were bartered for your merchandise.”

    NABRE: “Javan exchanged wrought iron, cassia, and aromatic cane from Uzal for your wares.”

    ICB: “The Greeks from Uzal…”

Brother Tribes

  1. Asher
  2. Benjamin
  3. Ephraim
  4. Gad
  5. Issachar
  6. Judah
  7. Levi
  8. Manasseh
  9. Naphtali
  10. Reuben
  11. Simeon
  12. Zebulun
  13. also see: Joseph, son of Jacob

More information

Article Version: July 27, 2021