Northern city and site of golden-calf worship
plus the House of David Inscription

The spring at Dan is one of the primary sources of the Jordan River.
Posted sign states: "Largest karst spring in the Middle East.
Flow rate - 240 million cubic meters per year."

Dan is mentioned 62 times in the Old Testament, three of which are directly regarding the person Dan (Genesis 30:6; 35:25; 46:23), son of Jacob, after whom the city and tribe were subsequently named (and one is in regards to another city - see Judges 18:12).

Ancient wall of Dan

The name "Dan" became associated with a specific city, rather than a region, because the tribe of Dan had been unable to subdue the region, settling for a primary city.

Joshua 19:47 (But the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory, so they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their forefather.) (NIV)

Judges 18:27-30 Then they took what Micah had made [the idols], and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. 28 There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. 29 They named it Dan after their forefather Dan, who was born to Israel - though the city used to be called Laish. 30 There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. (NIV)


The ancient gate of Dan dating back to around the time of Abraham

The Bible notes that the city, now called Dan (or Tell Dan in modern times), was originally named Leshem or alternatively Laish around the time of the conquests of Joshua. Because Scriptures refer to it by the name "Dan" during a much earlier period, that of Abraham, some have speculated that the city was originally called Dan and only temporarily changed to Leshem/Laish by the Sidonians who had later possessed the city. This coincidence is highly unlikely and it is far more likely that God allowed the more recent name to be subsequently substituted into the account in Genesis, updating the location reference, making it easier for future generations to understand what was being referenced.

Genesis 14:11-14 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. 13 One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (NIV)

Closer view of the ancient gate. Shows restoration work in front of original.

On site artist's rendering of what the Canaanite gate looked like

Gate after partial restoration - 2009

Closer view of the gate - 2009. Notice the archway that was the original gate.
Contrary to popular opinion, arched gates did not originate with the Romans.


Due to Dan's location at the northernmost part of Israel, it became synonymous with saying "north (Dan) to south (Beersheba). Likewise, using the phrase "Dan to Beersheba" was to include all the people of Israel.

1 Samuel 3:20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. (NIV) [See also Judges 20:1; 2 Samuel 3:10; 2 Samuel 17:11; 2 Samuel 24:2, 15]

Perhaps the only time in Israel's history that they fully controlled all the territory between these to destination was during the kingdom of Solomon.

1 Kings 4:25 During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree. (NIV)

During the divided kingdom, Ben-Hadad, a Syrian king, betrayed Baasha, king of Israel (north) in favor of Asa, king of Judah (south). Dan is listed as one of the cities subsequently attacked and conquered (though it appears to have remained Israeli until the exile - see Judges 18:30 again).

2 Chronicles 16:2-4 Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the Lord's temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 3 "Let there be a treaty between me and you," he said, "as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me." 4 Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim and all the store cities of Naphtali. (NIV) [Also 1 Kings 15:20]

High Place altar with standing stones

Sign at Tell Dan


Dan had become an important city very early in the divided kingdom. Shortly after Jeroboam had successfully claimed Israel (north), leaving the son of Solomon, Rehoboam, only with Judah (south), Jeroboam made Dan a religious destination. In order to dissuade the people of Israel from going to Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam created two counterfeit places of worship, installing golden calf idols at each. To go with this new system of worship, and adulterated priesthood and multiple high places, such as those of the pagan nations, were installed throughout the land.

1 Kings 12:26-31 Jeroboam thought to himself, "The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam." 28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan . 30 And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there. 31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. (NIV)


High Place of Jeroboam (Temple and Altar Area)

Metal frame shows size of altar

Upper temple platform (i.e. holy of holies)

Another view of the altar, author (Brent) standing on stairs for size perspective

Stairs up to the altar (1 of 2 sets). Contrast what God said to do...

Exodus 20:26
And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it. (NIV)

While subsequent reforms dealt with aspects of the paganism which had spread throughout the region, the golden calves remained an ongoing abomination - one singled out by Scriptures.

2 Kings 10:28-29 So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. 29 However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit - the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. (NIV)

In the eighth century, just prior to the fall and captivity of the northern kingdom, the prophet Amos again singles out the false god of Dan. Perhaps the surprise of his words should be that Beersheba, in the far south of Judah, is also identified as a place that had followed suit.

Amos 8:14 They who swear by the shame of Samaria, or say, 'As surely as your god lives, O Dan,' or, 'As surely as the god of Beersheba lives'- they will fall, never to rise again." (NIV)

With Israel falling to Assyria (Tiglath-Pileser III, see 2 Kings 15:29) and the subsequent exile, Dan fell into ruin and oblivion.

City Gate of Tell Dan from time of the divided kingdom.

Inside the gate area (see previous photo). Canopied throne site.


Artist's rendering of people appearing before the ruler at the gate.


The House of David Inscription!

One major find at Tell Dan is a late 9th century BC inscription, referencing the "House of David", becoming one of the earliest references outside of Scriptures to king David. In fact, this wording parallels that of Scriptures. The Tell Dan Stele is a black basalt stele erected by an Aramaean king. It contains an Aramaic inscription commemorating his victory over the ancient Israelites. The king is most likely that of neighboring Damascus, with language, time, and location, making it plausible that the author was Hazael or his son, Bar Hadad, both known enemies of the kingdom of Israel.


From the seventh, eighth and ninth lines...

[I killed Jo]ram son of [Ahab] king of Israel,
and I killed [Achaz]yahu son of [Joram kin]g
of the House of David.

The Tell Dan Stele was found in these ruins.