Dictionary of Bible Names

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Bible Meaning: A judge
Strong's Concordance #H1835

Dan is the name of Jacob's (Israel's) fifth son out of twelve he produced. He is his firstborn son, however, through Rachel's maid Bilhah (Genesis 30:6). The only other son he had through Bilhah, and the only full brother of Dan, was Naphtali (verses 7 - 8).

Dan was one of thirteen Israelites tribes that left Egyptian slavery, under Moses, for the Promised Land of Canaan. When they finally entered the land forty years later they had amassed 64,400 men, aged twenty and above, who could go to war (Numbers 26:42 - 43). Their tribal size was second only to Judah, who could muster 76,500 fighting men (Numbers 26:22).

A new home

The tribe, who received land populated by the powerful Amorites (Judges 1:33) and close to the war-like Philistines, were unable to fully secure their inheritance.

In desperate need for more territory, the tribe decided to attack the northern city of Leshem (Joshua 19:47), which was also called Laish (Judges 18:7). The name Leshem means "precious stone" (Strong's #H3959) while Laish means "lion" (Strong's #H3919).

Location of Dan in Ancient Israel Map

The city the Danites want, however, is in the territory given to the tribe of Naphtali. As Dan was the older brother of Naphtali, the tribe likely felt their incursion would be tolerated and free from any reprisals by their younger brother's descendants. After slaughtering the city's inhabitants, they rename the town in honor of the tribe's founder. The city is soon used as an Old Testament reference to designate the northern-most point of Israel.

Later history

In 930 B.C., Israel splits into two separate nations. The new Kingdom of Israel (the northern ten tribes), and its new King Jeroboam, considers the city of Dan to be an important spiritual and strategic location. The city is fortified as a border fortress and has idols representing Yahweh placed within in to discourage visits to Jerusalem.

The city's isolated location makes it vulnerable to attacks (see 1Kings 15:20). The city is one of the first areas conquered by the Assyrian Empire when the people in the land are taken into captivity (2Kings 15:29).

Dan is also the only Israelite tribe not listed in Revelation 7.

Important Verses


Genesis 30:5 - 6
And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

Tribal name / City

Genesis 49:16 - 17
And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel . . . (he) shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.

Joshua 19:47
And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore (they) went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein . . .

1Kings 12:26 - 29
And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their Lord . . .

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy Gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

2Kings 10:28 - 29
Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.

Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.

Additional Studies

Dictionary of Biblical Names
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Series Notes
References are based on the
King James Bible translation (KJV).