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Tel Dan

From Academic Kids

Tel Dan is an area in upper Galilee in Northern Israel; fed by melt water from the snows of mount Hermon, it is well watered by streams and covered with lush vegetation that seems out of place amidst its arid surroundings.

It is quite securely identified with Dan mentioned in Judges 18:29. In ancient times the area was the principal settlement of the Tribe of Dan, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The city of Laish, razed and rebuilt many times over by many different rulers, was the predecessor of Dan. Tel Dan has had a long and often bitterly contested history, most recently during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Tel Dan Stele is a fragment (in two sections) of an Aramaic inscription on basalt, which appears to be from a stele erected for Ben-Hadad of the Aramean nation, an enemy of the kingdom of Israel, possibly dating about 802 BCE. Very little of the inscription remains, but the excitement it has generated is concentrated on the letters 'ביתדוד' which many see as referring to the "House of David." If the reading is correct, it is the first time that the name "David" has been found in any archaeological site.

It was found not in situ, but reused in ancient times in the city wall near the entrance of the outer gate of the city of Dan. In 1992, in order to tidy up the site for presentation to visitors, a heap of debris was removed which dated from the time of the Assyrian destruction of the city by Tiglath-pileser III in 733/2 BCE, a legacy of his campaign against northern Israel that is described in 2 Kings 15:29. Unexpectedly, a hitherto unknown earlier gateway to the city was uncovered. The entrance complex led to a courtyard paved with stone where stood a low stone platform. The fragments may have formed part of a memorial stele which was placed in the wall sometime before the Assyrian destruction.

It has been understood that in a thirty year period (ca. 885-855 B.C.E.) Dan changed hands four times between Ben Hadad I (or "Bar Hadad", the "son" of Hadad) and the northern kingdom of Israel under Ahab and his successors around the time when the stele was believed to be written. Most scholars have concluded that Ahab smashed Ben Hadad's stele and that his builders reused a piece of it in paving the square. It also appears that the inscription's author claims to have caused the deaths of kings. "Though this claim may be exaggerated, it is the case that two kings of Israel and Judah may have died in 803-802 B.C.E. Joash of Judah reigned forty years, probably from 841-802 B.C.E. 2 Kings 12:2 and Jehoahaz of Israel reigned seventeen years 2 Kings 13:1 thus, probably around 819 to 802 B.C.E. Joash is said to have been assassinated 2 Kings 12:21-22 and Jehoahaz to have died peacefully 2 Kings 13:9 but Ben-Hadad may have claimed either direct or indirect responsibility for their deaths"[1] (http://www.otal.umd.edu/~knobloch/dan.htm).

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