The City of Dan was an important biblical city in the Upper Galilee in the biblical times.

Tel Dan is one of the most important sites for the archaeological and historical research of ancient Land of Israel and Land of Canaan.

The Tel Dan National Park includes and area of ancient biblical city of Dan or Laisha and a Natural Reserve around the River Dan banks.


Dan is situated in the north of Israel. To the west is the southern part of Mount Lebanon; to the east and north are the Hermon mountains. The Nachal Dan provides the majority of the water of the Jordan River, making the immediate area highly fertile. The lush vegetation that results makes the area around Dan seem somewhat out of place in the otherwise arid region around it. Due to its location close to the border with Syria and Lebanon at the far north of the territory which fell under the British Mandate of Palestine, the site has a long and often bitterly contested modern history, most recently during the 1967 Six-Day War.

A city in northern Galilee, in the Huleh Valley at the southwestern foot of Mt. Hermon. One of the springs which serves as a source of the Jordan River issues from under Tel Dan/Tell el-Qâḍi (2112.2949), the site of the ancient city. A major north-south road, connecting the Syrian city of Qatna with the Galilean city of Hazor, passed just west of Dan.

Second-millennium Mesopotamian and Egyptian records mention the city of Laish (“Lion”), the city’s name before its conquest by the Danites, who renamed it after their ancestor (Judg. 18; “Leshem,” Josh. 19:47).

Judg. 18 tells of the founding of the city and of its sanctuary. The Danite conquerors brought with them a levitical priest and cultic paraphernalia (Judg. 18:19-20). A priesthood which traced its roots to Moses (Judg. 18:30) served at the Danite shrine. After the split of the monarchy, the Israelite king Jeroboam made the shrine of Dan (along with Bethel) one of the two sanctuaries for the northern kingdom. Amos condemned these shrines (Amos 8:14), in which Jeroboam installed images of bull calves (1 Kgs. 12:29-30; 2 Kgs. 10:29).

Dan was conquered by Ben-hadad of Aram ca. 900 B.C.E. (1 Kgs. 15:20); this underscores the perennial threat Syria posed to Dan, which was much closer to Damascus than to Samaria, much less Jerusalem. Dan remained Israelite until 732, when Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) ended the Israelite era at Dan with his conquest of the Galilee and subsequent exile of many of its inhabitants (2 Kgs. 15:19, 29). There is archaeological evidence for settlement at the site through the Roman period.


The Stele of Dan Discovery

It was here, 2900 years ago, that King Hazael of Damascus punctuated his invasion of Israelite territory with the erection of the famous House of David inscription, the oldest document to mention the historical King David.

 it is now widely regarded (a) as genuine and (b) as referring to the Davidic dynasty and the Aramaic kingdom of Damascus.

It is currently on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Lester L. Grabbe.

Stele of Dan

Fragments A and B of the Aramaic Tel Dan inscription, which contains perhaps the only extrabiblical reference to the “house of David” (bwt dwd) (Tel Dan Excavations, Hebrew Union College)

As a frontier post, Dan was memorialized in the common phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” (e.g., Judg. 20:1; 1 Sam. 3:20) which marked, respectively, the northern and southern limits of Israel.


Excavations at Tel Dan, led by Avraham Biran, have uncovered remains of the Israelite sacred precinct and a 9th-century Aramaic inscription which mentions the “house of David” (byt dwd), the sole extant extrabiblical reference to King David.

Bibliography. A. Biran, Biblical Dan (Jerusalem, 1994).

“DAN,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 310-311.