Day 3: Tue 11/18/08
When thinking about historically/biblically important cities and/or archaeological sites, the ancient city of Dan might not make the top of your list. However, as I found out today, it is actually very important for several reasons.
First, from the archaeological evidence in the layers of the city, we can tell that there were three distinct times when the city was completely destroyed and then rebuilt. The first dates back to the time of the Exodus/ Conquest of Canaan (ca. 13th Cent. BC). The second dates back to the 11th Cent. BC, which lines up perfectly with the biblical account of the tribe of Dan’s moving from southern Israel to the northernmost territory and destroying the city of Lashish. The third destruction layer dates to the approximate time of the Assyrian invasion of Israel.
Secondly, it confirms the account in the Old Testament of King Jeroboam’s construction of two cult centers for Israel, one of which was right here in Dan. The remains of the foundation for a large altar have been discovered, along with the foundation of what could have been a replica of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. This is where the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom would come and make sacrifices to an image of a golden calf, similar to the one built by Aaron at Mt. Sinai.
Thirdly, this city gives insight into the strategy involved in developing an ancient city. Three key ingredients to insuring the life of a city are water, fertile land surrounding the city, and a major trade/ travel route nearby. The location of Tel-Dan has all three. The city was built along the larger of the two tributaries which make up the Jordan River, flowing down from Mt. Hermon. The land surrounding the city is some of the most fertile land in Galilee. Also, there is a major trade route which was used to carry goods from the Mediterranean Sea all the way in to Damascus in order to avoid the mountainous region to the north.
The Nature Reserve around the city is one of the more beautiful places in all of Israel. There are trees and shrubs, vines and wildflowers, all flourishing around the rushing waters which flow into the Jordan.
Another amazing discovery near Tel-Dan is part of a wall from the time of Abraham. In fact, Abraham most likely saw and walked through the gate in the wall which has been preserved for nearly 4000 years. This section of the wall/ gate also contains one of the oldest arches in the world.
Tel-Dan has been one of my favorite historical sites thus far simply because it has shed so much light on some stories of the Bible. It has really brought life to the Old Testament.