Jeroboam’s Golden Calf at Dan

One of my favorite sites to visit in Israel is Tel Dan. Lots of trees, lots of water… a peaceful, restful place to visit. In biblical times, this was not always so.

  • Abraham came here while pursuing the captors of Lot and his family. Although the text does not mention him entering the city, it is reasonable to speculate that he may have entered to obtain supplies, news and/or information. (Genesis 14)
  • The Bible records the city’s name as Laish until warriors from the tribe of Dan took it, killed the inhabitants, and renamed it after the tribe. (Judges 18)
  • It was the northernmost city in Israel, lending itself to the expression, “from Dan to Beersheba” to describe the full length of Israel’s territory.
  • After the division of the kingdom, King Jeroboam placed golden calves here and in Bethel to create a homegrown version of Israelite religion that didn’t involve Jerusalem or its Temple. (1 Kings 12)
  • Dan was conquered by the Syrians under Ben-hadad (1 Kings 15) and would have been included in the first stages of the Assyrian conquest (2 Kings 15).

Today it is a nature park with some great archaeological remains.

Middle Bronze Age gate at Tel Dan. It is possible Abraham saw and even used this gate. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Reconstructed Iron Age walls at the ancient Israelite city of Dan. During the Divided Kingdom period, they would have been taller than this. (Photo by Royce Chandler)

Check out this short video to see what I believe is one of the most interesting biblical discoveries at Dan.

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in Bible comments, Biblical Archaeology, Interesting places to visit, Israel, Short videos, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Jeroboam’s Golden Calf at Dan

  1. meanyen says:

    nice.
    one small note about “Middle Bronze Age gate at Tel Dan. It is possible Abraham saw and even used this gate”.
    I’ve been there last year, and what i remember from what the guide said – the gate was about to collapse, and the people of the city buried it and built their wall over it. this is why it was kept in such a good form.
    probably Abe saw a similar gate. (if at all).

    • lukechandler says:

      You are correct. The gate and wall system was only in use for a brief period when all of it was buried. The right tower (looking towards the gate) has a slight bulge, reflecting some structural instability. It is not easy to see unless you are up close. Had the gate not been buried, the mud brick would have long ago been lost to the elements and/or warfare. Abraham might have seen this gate, but it’s possible it was not in use when passed through. It’s not possible to know for sure.

      When approaching the Iron Age (Israelite) gate today, you can see the large earthen ramparts that protected the city from the Middle Bronze Age until the Danite period. They are overgrown but still show the steep slope that guarded the city for some six centuries or more.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Pingback: Tel Dan « Biblicus Semitae

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