Dan (Tel Dan) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
Dan (Tel Dan)
City and ramparts
Gate of Judgment
Early Danites
Golden calf
Arched gate
On Israel's northern border today, Dan stood near the junction of two major roads in the time of the First Testament. The first was the Great Trunk Road between Egypt and Damascus. Since there were then no bridges in the land, travelers on this road had only two options for dealing with the Upper Jordan: either to ford it over the basalt barrier east of Hazor or to circumvent its springs at Dan.

The second major road also came from Damascus, stretched westward from the city and reached the sea at Tyre or Sidon. This may have been the "way of the sea" (Vulgate: via maris ) of Isaiah 9:1, quoted in Matthew 4:15-16. The connection with Sidon is obliquely attested in Judges 18:7, "They (the people of Laish, which was the name before Dan) "were far from the Sidonians, and had no dealings with any man. "

A third major road passed nearby: it stretched north from Hazor to the cities of the Tigris, via Carchemish and Haran.


Having command of such a junction, Dan would not have allowed a rival to develop at the nearby spring of Banias. If you didn't pay your toll and spend your money, you would soon find out that (Genesis 49:17):  

"Dan will be a serpent in the way,
An adder in the path,
That bites the horse's heels,
so that his rider falls backward."
The site includes a sumptuous nature reserve as well as many unique archaeological finds.

The reserve is laid out with several options for walks, including a paved path and a wheelchair-accessible wooden ramp along part of the roaring river. If you want to reach the spring, however, you'll need good shoes, good balance, good bones and both hands free. 

The spring puts out about 250 million cubic meters of water per year, or roughly eight cubic meters per second. This is more than an eighth of all the water that present-day Israel uses in a year.

Its origin is the rain and snow on Mt. Hermon, averaging 51 inches (1300 mm.). The moisture percolates into the mountain, where it enters a system of natural caves. This cave system has been formed by a lengthy process in which carbonic acid has eaten into the limestone, dissolving it. The carbonic acid (H2CO3) results when rainwater passes through soil that has dead plant debris: the rainwater (H2O) mixes with carbon dioxide (CO2). When one of the caverns strikes the surface, the water oozes out. Such a spring is called "karst." (On karst.) Here at Dan we have the largest karstic spring in the Middle East. 

We sit beside it and read Psalms 42 and 43, songs of the "sons of Korah." Several names in the psalm refer to this region, although we cannot identify Mt. Mizar.