The migration of Danites (Judges 18)

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The tribe of Dan was unable to occupy its assigned allotment west of Benjamin (Joshua 19:40-46, Judges 1:34). The Danites chose to migrate to Laish, which they renamed Dan. This took place after the time of Deborah in the late thirteenth century B.C., around the time of the destruction of Shiloh around 1100 B.C. (Judges 18:31). The incursion of the Philistines into the Southwestern coastal plain in approximately 1177 B.C. may have precipitated the migration.

Laish/Dan has been identified as Tell el-Qadi, now called Tel Dan, at the foot of Mount Hermon, approximately 40 km north of the Sea of Galilee. Excavations have revealed a prosperous Late Bronze Age city that was destroyed by fire early  in the twelfth century B.C., most likely by the Danites (Judges 18:27). Laish had a strong connection, perhaps as a partner in international trade, with coastal Sidon, approximately 45 km to the northwest (Judges 18:7, 28). The most impressive discovery in the destroyed city of Laish was a tomb containing imported pottery from Greece.

After the destruction a nomadic or semi-nomadic culture occupied the site. This culture is distinctive for its use of pits apparently dug for storing grain. Large storage jars, well known from the highlands where they are associated with Israelite settlement, were located in the pits. The jars were fashioned from clay not native to the Tel Dan area, indicating that the new settlers had brought them from somewhere else. Archaeologists have identified this new culture as that of the Danites. This tribe soon became urbanized, however, and built a dense array of domestic and industrial structures across the site (Judges 18:28). This stratum was destroyed in a fierce conflagration in the mid-eleventh century B.C., possibly at the hands of the Philistines at the same time Shiloh was destroyed.


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