A historical identity to the tribe of Dan.

Lately I have been thinking of the Exodus account and more specifically the Israelite tribe of Dan. Some of you may already be aware that my biblical related research relies heavily upon the Documentary Hypothesis. Published in my last two books, I had redefined the dating for the author referred to as the Yahwist (J) and placed him in the timeframe of 701 – 687 BCE. My latest research has led me to an understanding of the evolutionary stages that the Hebrew Bible took from conception to canonization. This research gets into more detail with the other authors: the Elohist (E), the Deuteronomist (D), the Priestly (P) and the final Redactor (R). Placed in the Biblical Origins series, the tentative title to this book is: Biblical Origins: From Eden to Yehud.

Getting back to the point of this post, my recent studies have buried me in the evolution of Hebrew Linguistics and Orthography to even Yahwistic Poetry. More recently, one archaic poem has been standing out more than the rest. Found in Judges 5, I am speaking of the Song of Deborah; more specifically 5:17.

Gilead abode beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why doth he sojourn by the ships? Asher dwelt at the shore of the sea, and abideth by its bays.

What is this about Dan being seafarers? While scholarly consensus places the tribe of Dan along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, this is the only link of Dan’s seafaring present within the Biblical works. Now why would a nomadic nation of peoples need and utilize ships? The poem places the event after Joshua’s Conquest. It is also worth noting that the Merneptah Stele confirms Israel’s nomadic past as it is the oldest reference to the nation: “Israel is laid waste; its seed is no more.” Israel (actually Isrir) is only mentioned as a nation of peoples and not as a settled state.

Now before I continue on, I would like to recommend the research of Frank Moore Cross and David Noel Freedman published in Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry. I would also like to recommend Othmar Keel’s Gods, Goddesses and Images of God in Ancient Israel. The topic of Hebrew poetry will be discussed further down in this post but the reason I wanted to cite Othmar Keel’s research is that is shows the important role of the Northern Kingdom of Israel after the time of the United Monarchy. As is confirmed with the archaeology of Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was not actively involved in commercial trade as their northern counterparts. This leaves the possibility of the coastal northern tribe of Dan engaging in seafaring trade. The Phoenicians to the north have been traveling across the Mediterranean since centuries beforehand. So have the people of Ugarit; before the Sea Peoples plundered and destroyed their land. Again, I ask: “What would a nomadic nation know of seafaring?” Could there be a slight possibility that the tribe of Dan was assimilated into the nation of Israel? Let us look at some potential evidence and come back to that question.

In Genesis 10, we read of the Table of Nations that stem from the children of Noah after the Deluge: Ham, Shem and Yapheth.

10:1 Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Yapheth; and unto them were sons born after the flood.
10:2 The sons of Yapheth: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.
10:3 And the sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.
10:4 And the sons of Javan: Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.

Who were these Dodanim, who were also grouped with other nations around the Aegean? The sons of Yapheth made up the Mediterranean nations, excluding Crete or Cyprus (Caphtorim) and the Philistines. I am quickly reminded of Danaoi of mainland Greece who were also called the Danaans (or Danites) referring to the Mycenaean Greeks in Homer’s Iliad. Could the Dodanim be a corrupted rendering of a nation of ancient Greeks?

Many have speculated that there is a link between the Greek Danaoi (or Danaans) and the groups of Sea Peoples referred to as the Danuna. The Danuna have been found in Egyptian and Hittite sources and sometimes rendered as Denyen, Danunites, Danaoi, Danaus, Danaids, Dene, Danai, to even Danaian. Much of their origins are unknown but it is generally believed that they came from the Mediterranean. Egyptian images depicting the Danuna closely resemble the image of the Philistines which seem to indicate a Greek origin.

In the inscriptions (Medinet Habu ca. 1188 BCE) of Rameses III, the Danuna seemed to have formed a confederation which included the Philistines, Tjeker, Shelelesh, and Weshesh (other groups of Sea Peoples) and attacked Egypt. They were eventually driven out of Egypt along with the rest of the Sea Peoples and eventually settled in the east (assumed coastal Near East). We are already aware of the Philistine coastal settlements.

We may have some literary evidence provided in a verse of Hebrew prose found in Exodus 12:38.

And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.

This verse is attributed to the writings of the Elohist (E) who is also regarded as the oldest of all sources under the Documentary Hypothesis. This verse implies that it was not only the Israelites who sojourned from Egypt and came into the land of Canaan but also a mixed groups of nations who accompanied them. Are the Danuna part of that mixed group?

The following evidence may not necessarily prove the overall hypothesis but it is worth noting. Excavation at Tel Dan in 1969 have unearthed a Mycenaean Tomb (known as Tomb 387) containing Mycenaean IIIA and IIIB pottery. This may hint at an early Mycenaean settlement that would have evolved over the course of time. Although, to my knowledge, this is the only one of its kind found within the area.

Moving back to the topic of Hebrew Poetry, I wish to focus on the Song of Deborah. The composition of this victory hymn has been dated ca. 1100 BCE. The poem displays characteristics common with the older Ugaritic epics. It has been suggested that the more archaic Hebrew poetry long (i.e. the Song of Deborah and Song of Miriam) predates the prose (traditionally scholars date the works of E and J no earlier than the 10th century BCE) as it was passed down orally from generation to generation; where it finally served as a common framework for the later to come prose material. If this was the case, could there be a slight possibility that Dan was included into the history of the nation of Israel, during the composition of prose material?

In summary, if not the Biblical Exodus a smaller exodus occurred during the reign of Rameses III where the Danuna, among other nations were driven to the east to eventually settle. We do know that the nomadic people of Israel were in the land as has been revealed in Merneptah’s Victory Stele. Once the Danuna settled in the land, did they intermingle with the Israelites who were most likely settling into the land themselves? Is the tribe of Dan also somehow related to the Dodanim? This just leaves us with many more questions. Just a thought.

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