Dan in Northern Israel, Syria, Greece, and Elsewhere.
THE TRIBE OF DAN
The Tribe of Dan when it came out of Egypt with the rest of the Children of Israel was, after Judah, the most populous of Israelite Tribes with 62,700 males between the ages of 20 and 60 apart from women, children, and the elderly (Numbers 2;26).
The son of Dan was called "Hushim" (Genesis 46;23) who gave rise to the Danite clan known as Shuhami (Numbers 26;43). Symbols associated with the Tribe of Dan include a lion, snake, eagle, griffin, and dragon. Aholiab of the Tribe of Dan assisted Betzaleel of the Tribe of Judah in building the Tabernacle in the Wilderness (Exodus 31;2 6).
Character appraisals of Dan in tradition appear contradictory. One source (Talmud, Shabat 67) says that all the children of Dan were idolaters. It also says that Dan received the north side "whence darkness comes". A Midrash states that Samson the legendary judge hero had a Danite father and a mother from Judah whereas the future Messiah will have a father from Judah and a mother from Dan or from Nephtali (Genesis Rabah 98;13).
The mother of Dan was Bilhah who also bore Nephtali. Dan and Nephtali are often linked with each other. We identify Napthtali with Norway and Dan with Denmark as well as in part Wales and Ireland. Bilhah was the maidservant of Rachel mother of Benjamin and Joseph, and here too parallelisms are noticeable.
Eldad HaDani (ca.800 c.e.) quotes an old legend according to which the Tribe of Dan left the Land of Israel after the Ten Tribes separated themselves from Judah. The Northern Ten Tribes under Jeroboam ben Nebat warred against Judah in the south and so Dan rather than engage in a fratricidal struggle went into voluntary exile.
SAMSON was from the Tribe of Dan. Samson was an heroic saviour of superhuman strength given to him at moments of Divine inspiration.. He became the prototype for Hercules. In Greek Classical Mythology Hercules appears to frequently represent peregrinations of migrating Phoenicians and Israelites.
At first the Tribe of Dan received an inheritance around the area of Joppa (modern Jaffa- Tel Aviv). Most of the inheritance of Dan in the south was to be lost to the Amorites and Philistines and later regained by the Israelite Tribes of Ephraim and Judah BUT NOT DAN.
"And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:
"But the Amorites would dwell in Mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries" (Judges 2;34 35)..
When Dan had been in the south they were unable to conquer all of the territory allotted to them and apparently moved off and it would seem that the forces of Joseph did manage to later take over the areas originally allotted to Dan.
The Bible says that Danites from the south went out (northward) and conquered a place called Leshem (Joshua 19) that they renamed Dan: They did the same thing with another place called Laish (Judges chapter 18). It is often assumed that Laish and Leshem are different names for the same city but we will show that they were totally different areas.
The populous Tribe of Dan was to launch forward and conquer an area in the Upper Galilee, another region in Cilicia (southeast Turkey), establish settlements in Anatolia, engage in an attempted invasion of Egypt, establish a base in Libya, conquer Greece, Cyprus, and Crete, and establish a presence in Bronze Age Scandinavia, Britain, and Ireland.
See our article on the Northern borders of the Land of Israel in Biblical Times.
It had been prophesied that Dan in his own way would become a formidable force:
"Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse's heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. I wait for thy salvation, O LORD" (Genesis 49;16 17).
"And of Dan, he said, Dan is a lion's whelp that leaps from Bashan" (Deuteronomy 33;22)
The period of the Judges was a cruel age and even one setback could have near fatal consequences. This explains how and why the Tribe of Dan would suddenly come, like a leaping lion, conquer and when beaten be forced to move on, to conquer elsewhere.
The Book of Judges (chapter 18) relates how 600 men from Dan in the south went north and found a place named Laish whose inhabitants lived like Sidonian-Phoenicians. They conquered Laish, wiped out the inhabitants, and renamed the place Dan.
"In those days there was no king in Israel and the tribe of the Danites was looking for territory to occupy, because they had not so far come into possession of the territory allotted to them among the tribes of Israel. The Danites therefore sent out five fighting men of their clan from Zorah and Eshtaol to prospect. The five men went on their way and came to Laish. There they found the inhabitants living a carefree life, in the same way as the Sidonians, a quiet carefree folk, with no hereditary king to keep the country under his thumb. They were a long way from the Sidonians and had no contact with the Aramaeans.....
"And so six hundred men from the clan of the Danites set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. They went up country and encamped in Kiriath jearim, in Judah: this is why that place to this day is called Mahaneh dan [i.e. "The Camp of Dan"]; it lies west of Kiriath jearim. From there they passed on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah's house.
".....The five men entered Micah's house and took the idol and image, ephod and teraphim......
"Thus they carried off the priest and things Micah had made for himself, and attacked Laish....They put them to the sword and set fire to the city....the city was in the vale near Beth Rehob. They re built the city and settled in it, naming it Dan after the name of their forefather Dan, a son of Israel; but its original name was Laish. The Danites set up the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses [other versions: Menasseh] and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the people went into exile. They set up for themselves the idol which Micah had made, and it was there as long as the House of God was at Shiloh" (Judges chapter 18).
The Book of Joshua related a very similar account which should be considered since we believe (contrary to most others) that an entirely different situation is being discussed:
"And the coast of the children of Dan went out [(too little)] for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father" (Joshua 19;47).
Both versions relate how the inheritance of the children of Dan in the south was either too small for them (Joshua ch.18) or how they had not taken possession of that which had been allocated to them (Judges ch.19). Both tell how Danites went north seized a city, slew its inhabitants and re-settled it naming it after DAN their father.
There are however several differences between the two accounts:
1. In the Book of Joshua the children of Dan had received an inheritance in the south but it was insufficient for them and so they went to fight against Leshem. In Judges though the Danites were in the region of Zorah and Eshtaol (in the south) they had yet not taken possession of their own.
2. In Judges, at least at first, only six hundred went forth after receiving the report of a reconnoitering mission: on the other hand, the Book of Joshua may be understood to say that all (or nearly all) of Dan went to fight.
3. In the Book of Joshua the city taken is called Leshem: In Judges the city is called LAISH. Some Commentators have tried to state that "Leshem" and "Laish" are different forms of the same word but "leshem" in Hebrew is a type of precious stone (maybe amber) while "laish" means a young male lion.
As stated, most (IF NOT ALL) Commentators have assumed that the accounts in the Books of Joshua and Judges are relating to one and the same event and that Leshem and Laish are variations of the same name. Nevertheless, it now seems certain that LESHEM and LAISH were two different places!
The place called Leshem and renamed Dan in the Book of Joshua appears to be the site of DAN in northern Galilee otherwise known as Daphne. On the other hand, LAISH which was also renamed DAN and is recalled in the Book of Judges is identical with a centre which gave its name to LUASH of the DANANU! LUASH adjoins Smal of Cilicia in modern southeast Turkey. The distance on foot between the two locations, Leshem of Dan in the northern Galilee and Luash of the Dananu in north Syria, is more than three hundred miles!!
The identification of Luash with Liash involves identifying the Dananu who lived in or besides Luash with the Danites of Israelite Dan.
1. The area hereby identified as that within which Liash-Dan is to be found is that known in ancient times as the Kingdom(s) of Smal of the Dananu and of Yadi and of Luash and Hamath. This encompassed the areas in Ptolemy's Map (of Arabia Deserta and Syria) depicting Chalybonitis, Cyrrestica, Commagena, Cilicia, and extending into Armenia Minor. To the east and southeast of this region were the territories of Bathanaei and Bathanaea Regio (i.e. Kingdom of Bathanaea) and Bathan is an Aramaic ("Syrian") pronounciation of BASHAN. Moses had blessed the Tribe of Dan (Deuteronomy 33;22): "Dan is a lion's whelp, he shall leap from Bashan". The area of Luash may also be considered part of Bashan. "LIASH" means young male lion and therefore connects with the expression "Dan is a lion's whelp", i.e. Dan is a young "Liash" leaping forth from the Bashan: Luash-Liash may be considered a geographical extension, a "leaping forward" from the area denoted as Bathan or Bashan.
2. The names LIASH and LUASH are similar. The place-name Luash is renderable as "LA'AS" which is close in sound to "Liash".
3. Near Luash was the entity of Yadi which was an enclave of Judaeans adjoining the Dananu of Smal and usually ruled by the same monarch. "Yadi" is referred to as "Hamath" which was restored to "Judah in Israel" (2 Kings 14;28) meaning that part of Judah that was attached to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Dan and Judah were neighbours in both north and south Israel. Dan in the south had centred on the port of Joppa and adjoined the territory of Judah. In the northern Galilee Judaeans in Gilead of Machir are believed to have bordered Dan and to be those named "Judah upon Jordan toward the sunrising" in the Book of Joshua (19;34). In Jewish tradition Judah and Dan are often juxtapositioned. Samson the superman-hero came from the Tribe of Dan but his mother was from Judah. Samson, in some respects, was considered a forerunner of the Messiah who will come from Judah but his mother, according to the Midrash, will be of the Tribe of Dan. Both Judah and Dan were represented by a lion, though Dan has additional symbols such as the snake and dragon.
THE BIBLE MENTIONS YAIR OF JUDAH (DEUTERONOMY 3;14) IN THE BASHAN. YAIR WAS CONNECTED BOTH WITH MENASSEH AND WITH THE CHELUBIE OF JUDAH. THE CHELUBIE ARE RECALLED IN CHALYBONITIS which was to the northwest of Bathanae (Bashan) on Ptolemy's Map. Yair was mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as the IARI in the region of Chalybonitis and the surrounding area (including at times in Gauzanitis and elsewhere) raiding and waging wars on both sides of the Euphrates River. Since Yadi was settled by Judaeans and these were united with the Dananu so is the case strengthened for the Dananu having come from Dan in Israel. (This may seem obvious, but it is still not conventionally entirely recognised). The name Yair is often transliterated as "Jair".
"Jair the son of Menasseh took all the country of Argob unto the coasts of Geshuri and Maachathi; and called them after his own name Bashan Havoth Jair, unto this day" (Deuteronomy 3;14).
Hezron (son of Judah) begat both Chelubai and Segub the father of Jair. Jair was therefore the nephew of Chelubai and familial relationships often presaged political and settlement combinations amongst the descendants (1 Chronicles 2:3,4,9,21,222,23).
4. In both accounts the conquered and re-settled city is renamed DAN "after the name of their forefather Dan a son of Israel". This may reflect a Tribal characteristic and some have interpreted the phrase "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path .." (Genesis 49;16) as referring to a Tribal Trait of leaving their namesake everywhere like the trail of a snake print showing the wriggling of his passage, e.g. "Mahaneh Dan" (Judges 18;12), Don, Daneister, Danaper, Danube, Denmark, Dannonia....
5. Laish "was in the valley that lieth by Beth Rehob" (Judges 18). Beth Rehob is identifiable with "REHOB" in the northern territory of the Tribe of Asher (Joshua 19;28, 30) and as "Rehob as men come to Hamath" (Numbers 13;21). HAMATH is the name of an area and the city of Hamath (said Rashi) is identical with that known as Antiochea on the Orontes River in north Syria. Hamath was a kingdom which may have included HOMS in east Syria but nevertheless Scripturally should be identified more with the area of Antiochea which was more to the north. Similarly DAMASCUS was far to the north near (or in Cilicia) and not Damascus of today. Eliyahu ("The Gaon") of Vilna (ca.1700 c.e.) (on Joshua 19;28) identified REHOB with Beth Rehob and placed the border of Asher in the north by Hamath, Antiochea and "Damascus of the North" which was near Cilicia in southeast Turkey. |Nadav Naaman ("Hazael of Amqi and Hadadezer of Beth-Rehob" UF27 (1995) has also shown that Beth-Rehob was identiqal with Amqi in Northwest Syria by the presentday Turkish border adjoining Cilicia.
The Yadi ruled over the Mushkabim who (according to a bi-lingual Phoenician-Hittite inscription) are apparently identical with the Moshki or people of Mopsus who were also subjects of the Dananu king. The names Mushkabim and Moshki support the notion that Smal and Yadi are identical with the Biblical Da-Meshek i.e. Damascus:- "Damascus [i.e. Da-Meshek] and Hamath to Judah in Israel" (2 Kings 14;28). Both the Danites and Yadi of Judah ruled over the same subject Moshki people who later were known as Muski and are identified with the Phrygians. There were periods when both the Dananu and Yadi were ruled by the same monarch. At some stage they separated, Kalamu a king of Yadi backed the subject Mushkabim (i.e. Moshki) against the Baririm or nobility of his own people and also enlisted Assyrian help against the Dananu. The ultimate result was that both kingdoms were destroyed and the Yadi and Dananu exiled. Centuries later the Jutes (from "Yadi"?) were to settle in Denmark and a Danish tradition traced the Jutes to Judah and the Danes to Dan.
6. In the Book of Ezekiel (48;1) it says concerning the future apportionment of the Promised Land amongst the Israelite Tribes,
"From the north end to the coast ..as one goes to Hamath...the border of Damascus northward, to the coast of Hamath..a portion for Dan".
This verse according to Commentaries indicates that Dan is destined to receive a portion stretching beyond Hamath (Antiochea on the Orontes) and into the region northward of it. This Millenial Promise seems to have had an historical precedent.
7. The Orontes enters the Mediterranean Sea at Antiochea (modern: Antakya) in northern Syria. North of the Orontes River were the lands of Alasiya or Luash (i.e. Liash). Zakir, the King of Hamath in one inscription bears a Hebrew name and uses a type of Aramaic influenced by Hebrew. He is entitled "King of Hamath and LUASH". Zakir also ruled over Chazrik in this same region.
8. The king of Sma'al in the valley north of ASI (Orontes embouchemont) on the edge of LUASH (LIASH) called himself "KING of the DANIM" i.e. of the Danes of Dan. The Danes (Dananu) also controlled the neighbouring area of Cilicia and at one stage their capital was Adana by Tarsis of Cilicia and their suzerainity reached as far north as Karatepe. A bi-lingual inscription of theirs found at Karatepe employs a Phoenician type of Hebrew and a version of Hittite. Branches of the Hittites in Anatolia neighboured the Dananu of Cilicia. This northern portion of Dan is referred to variously as Dananu, Danau, Denye, Denyen, Danuna. They are probably identical with the original Danaioi of Classical Greek writings.
9. A Phoenician inscription discovered in 1855 in a cave outside of ancient Sidon speaks in the name of "Ashmunezer king of Sidon". The text is of unknown date and may be copied from an original written anytime in the period 1000 b.c.e. to 600 b.c.e. The text is transmitted by A.Markuswho claimed that the Phoenician form of Hebrew appears like a foreign language in the Phoenician mouth and did not sit easily with them. Nevertheless, about half the words are Hebrew words and are comprehensible (with some effort) to a Hebrew reader. The text may be translated directly approximately as follows:
(18) ......The Lord of the Kings exiled and gave unto us (19) Doar (i.e. Dor) and Jaffo lands of the mighty Dagan which are of the root of Dan, who were experienced in power, which he exercised and added the port (20) onto the borders of my lands to regulate my land for ever".
The inscription appears to link Dan with Dagan god of the Philistines. It testifies to the prestige the Tribe of Dan once held in those maritime parts. It links Dan with both Dor and Jaffo off the coast of Israel and thus with the Sea Peoples. This inscription recalls the Biblical Statement which speaks of a time when the Phoenicians of Sidon and others oppressed Israel: "The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand" (Judges 10;12). It is interesting to note that the Maonites ("Maoni") were a people who lived to the east of Israel as well as in Lydia (northwest Turkey) where they were seafarers.
10. The names by which the Dananu (Denye, etc.) are known are those which would be expected in foreign parts for Dan. There is an identity between the Danaoi of Greek tradition, the Dananu of Cilicia, and Dan of Israel*24.
11. Egyptian accounts of the Dananu connect them with the northern region of Israel, with Cilicia, Cyprus, and with other groups whose names and characteristics appear Hebraic and with the Philistines who neighboured (and at times controlled) the Tribe of Dan in the south.
12. The Danaioi of Greek Mythology were described by the Greeks as having come out of Egypt and as being brothers to the Jews. This identifies the Danaioi of Greek tradition with Dan of Israel. The Danaioi are associable with the Danuna of Cilicia.
13. Greek sources speak of the people of Mopsus of Anatolia who have been identified (thanks to a bi-lingual inscription) with the Dananu of Cilicia. The "people of Mopsus" (i.e. the Dananu) in legendary accounts also parallel Dan of Israel and Samson the judge hero of Dan.
14. The Dananu ruled Cyprus which was named "Yadnana" ("Isle of the Dana") in their honour. Other sources indicate a strong Israelite influence in Cyprus at some time or other. Culturally Cyprus was very much a Phoenician island. This shows the possibility of an overlap between Dan and the Phoenicians.
15. Mutual cultural influences between northern Syria, Cilicia, Anatolia, and Israel confirm the impression of close contact between these regions consistent with colonisation of Israelites in the north..
16. The Tribe of Dana (Tuatha de Danaan) according to different accounts of Irish Mythology had been in both the northern land of Israel and in the area of Greece and displays Israelite characteristics. Taking the facts at their face value a simple solution is available concerning the identity of the Tribe of Dana in Irish Mythology: The Dana of the Irish were Israelites from the Tribe of DAN and probably at least contained elements from the Dananu in Smal who were also from Dan of Israel.
17. Solinus said that before the rise of Assyria, Cilicia was one of the four great powers of Asia. Cilicia was the region from which the Dananu made their power effective.
DAN AND GREECE.
The Tribe of Dan in the land of Israel were seafarers from an early stage:
"Why did DAN remain in ships?" (Judges 6;7) asked the Prophetess Deborah.
The Prophet Ezekiel linked Dan together with Javan (i.e. Ionia in west Anatolia or Greece in general) as trading with Phoenician Tyre:
"Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in the fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market" (Ezekiel 27;19).
The above verse is alternatively translatable (from the Hebrew) as saying:
"Dan and Yavan from Uzzal were your sub-contracting intermediaries, they produced iron manufactures, alloyed, and in bars. They were amongst your guarantors" (Ezekiel 27;19).
Cilicia was one source of iron and the Dananu were in Cilicia.
The chief port of Cilicia was Tarsis. Long after the Danites had departed, Samson, the deliver-hero of Dan, was still worshipped in Tarsis under the name of Sandon.
Danaus: Greek tradition related how Danaus after coming out of Egypt came with his daughters to Greece whereas his brothers went to Jerusalem. In Greece the daughters of Danaus intermarried with the local aristocracy and their children became rulers. In honour of Danaus the local Pelasgian Ionian Greeks renamed themselves DANAIOI by which term the early Greeks are often referred to by Homer, though some say that by "Danaoi" Homer was referring more to a specific ruling warrior class..
"Danaus, the father of fifty daughters on coming to Argos took up his abode in the city of Inarchos and throughout Hellas [i.e. Greece] he laid down the law that all people hitherto named Pelasgians were to be named Danaans" (Strabo 5.2.40 quoting Euripides ca. 480-406 BCE).
Diodorus Siculus (i;28;1 5; 90-27 BCE) reported:
"They say that those who set forth with Danaus, likewise from Egypt, settled what is practically the oldest city of Greece, Argos, and that the nations of the Colchi in Pontus and that of the Jews, which lies between Arabia and Syria, were founded as colonies by certain emigrants from their country..."
i.e. This source is implying that Danaus had the same origin as the rest of Israel.
The Philistines are believed to have been of the same stock as the Greek Pelasgians and the term "PELAST" (meaning Philistine) in early Greek inscriptions is considered interchangeable for Pelasgian. As suggested, the struggle of the Danites with the Philistines within the Land of Israel may be somehow connected with the coming of the Danaoi to Greece. There is an opinion that the Danaioi formed a peculiar military class amongst the Mycenean Greeks. At all events the Greek account may be understood as saying that a small number of DANITES came to Greece, intermarried with local rulers, gave their name to an early already present segment of the population, and not much more than that.
Archaeologists now believe that an offshoot of the Hyksos, about the time when they were expelled from Egypt came to Greece, conquered it, and laid the basis for Mycenean civilisation. They identify these Hyksos with the Danaioi of Greek tradition. This version also infers that the Danaioi were relatively few in numbers though qualitatively determinative.
DAPHNE AND MOPSUS.
The Dananu of Cilicia were to be connected in Greek Mythology with a hero named Mopsus. Mopsus in turn was linked with Daphne and Apollo. The legendary Daphne was the supposed mother of Mopsus and she had established the colony of Colophon in Ionia. Ionia was in western Anatolia (modern Turkey) opposite Greece. Most of Ionia belonged to Javan and the two names ("Yavan" and "Ionia") are essentially the same. To the east of Ionia was originally a Hittite Empire which was destined to be destroyed and ultimately replaced by Lydians and Phrygians and others. The time of destruction of the Hittite Empire was around that of the Dorian invasions of Greece, the Sea peoples' attacks on Egypt and maybe the destruction of Troy. Troy was to the southwest of Ionia. Troy overlooks the Hellespont (Dardanelles) where according to Saxo Grammaticus once existed a settlement named Dan whence the Danites sailed to Scandinavia.
Apollo was originally a Hittite thunder god who in Greek Mythology through Daphne fathered Mopsus. From his base in Colophon (Ionia) Mopsus joined a group returning from the Trojan War. Mopsus founded colonies in southern Anatolia (Aspendus) and in Cilicia. Strabo (14;4;3) said that the Tribe of Mopsus invaded the eastern Mediterranean area and settled the coasts of Cilicia, Syria, and Phoenicia. Mopsus wandered about with his band of warriors, was famous for his riddles, and according to Xanthus died in Ashkelon of snakebite. The Danite hero, Samson was also famous for his riddles (Judges 15;12), and gave his life apparently in Gaza (Judges 16;21) which like Ashkelon was a Philistine city not far from Gaza. Samson's death was caused by his deliberately collapsing the two supporting pillars of the building he was in, in order to destroy its occupants at that moment. In Talmudic tradition Samson's death was likened to that of a snake who bites the horse's heel in order to kill the rider but is himself crushed by the horse collapsing upon him.
"Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse's heels, so that his rider shall fall backward" (Genesis 49;17).
The Talmud (Jerushalemi Sotah 9;b-10;a) adduced additional reasons for likening Samson to a snake by the wayside which strengthen the similarity between Mopsus and Samson of Dan.
The Tribe of Dan as described in the Bible may also well be likened to a wandering group of warriors. If the equation Dan and Dananu is accepted then (like the people of Mopsus) the Danites did settle along the coasts of Syria, Phoenicia, and Cilicia and from one point of view these places are merely different parts of the Land of Israel. The mother of Mopsus was called Daphne which according to Josephus was the name given to a spot at the head reaches of the Jordan River on which the centre of DAN IN THE GALILEE was founded. It was on this spot that King Jeroboam ben Nebat set up one of his golden calves for the Ten Tribes to worship. Incidentally, the Heraclidae (Sons of Hercules) who led the Dorian invasion of Greece believed themselves descended from Hercules and a slave girl named JARDANUS (Herodotus 1;7). This name is derived from the Hebrew "Jordan". One Talmudic explanation of this name (applied to the Jordan River) was "Descend (Yored) from Dan". The Geographical location of Dan in the Galilee contains a spring which is one of the sources of the River Jordan. Josephus says that Dan in the Galilee was also known as "Daphne" which was the name given to the mother of Mopsus! Another form of the name Samson is Sandon which is the name given to the patron-idol of Tarsis in Cilicia and probably identical with Mopsus.