Tel Dan

In the north of Israel at the foot of Mount Hermon near kibbutz Dan stretches a small nature reserve with the river Dan and archaeological park of Tel Dan with buildings of Canaanite era.

Dan was first mentioned in the book of Genesis, chapter 14, when Abraham pursued the northern kings who kidnapped his nephew Lot. At that time Dan was known as 'Lish' or 'Leshem', and the name of the king who ruled the city, according to ancient Egyptian sources was Horon Av.

It is very likely that Abraham passed through the gates of the ancient city Lish, known these days as 'the gates of Canaan'. These gates are located in the western part of the archaeological reserve. This unique monument of the Canaan era was created 3700 years ago (Middle Bronze Age) and was discovered by archaeologists in 1978. Surprisingly, the Canaanite Gate preserved perfectly. The most important attraction of the gate is that they were built of three arches. Before the gates were fully revealed, it was believed that they were of Roman origin and were created 1500 years after the era of the Canaanite gate. Now it is known that Romans only perfected the arch that already existed at that time.

Canaanite gates of Dan ascended to a height of seven meters and had a roof. Columns were placed on both sides of the gate, between which was the arch. Canaanite gate was part of the wall that surrounded the city Lish (part of which can be seen today). A lot of newcomers had to pass through the gates. To reach the gate from the west, they would climb the stone steps, twenty of which have survived to the present day. When the gates were discovered, they were almost completely covered with earth..

In the XII century BC Lish city was conquered by the Jewish soldiers of the tribe of Dan. The new settlers changed the name of the city to 'Dan' - "Judge," as it is known to this day. The city continued to grow. Dan has once again become the central city after the death of King Solomon. "Israeli Gates", which are located in the southern part of Tel Dan survived since then. This is one of the largest gate systems of ancient Israel in the country. Its mighty walls can be seen at the entrance to the reserve. Gate system consists of internal and external gates with a paved area between the gates and a wide road that leads to the top of the mound. Inner gate consists of two towers and four rooms for the guards. Threshold is paved with large basalt rocks.

To the right of the entrance there is a four-meter granite bench, which supposedly was a sitting bench for the city elders. It is assumed that either a royal throne was mounted here or it was a place for the chief judge of the city. "Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate."[ 2 SAMUEL 19: 8].

King Yerovam Ben Nevat continued to fortify the city, but the gate system and a large outer wall were completed after his death, in the days of King Ahab (860-850 BC). The era of the reign of King Ahab was an era of prosperity for the kingdom of Israel. King Ahab decided to strengthen the northern capital of Dan. Fortification of the city Dan helped to strengthen the northern border and guard it against the invading armies of Ashura and damask.

Nearby a stone structure can be seen, it was supposed to have been an altar for sacrifices. After the death of King Solomon, the country was divided into two parts: Judah and Jerusalem, where Solomon's son Rehoboam rules, and Israel, led by Jeroboam I. Jeroboam I became king of the 10 northern tribes. Since Jerusalem and the Temple were part of Judea, Jeroboam built new cult center as opposed to the Jerusalem temple and erected the "golden calf" there to be worshiped: “Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves {of} gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. [3Kings 12: 28-29]”


Sanctuary occupied an area of 60 x 45 m. It was a wide courtyard with an altar in the center, surrounded by rooms on the perimeter. In 732 BC army of Assyrian kingdom invaded the kingdom of Israel and destroyed the city of Dan by Tiglatpalasar III, despite the strong fortifications. Nevertheless, the city of Dan continued to exist until the Roman era.

Tel Dan stela was found during the excavation of Tel Dan in 1993. Three fragments of the stele were found. Stele dated to the second half of the IX century or the beginning of the VIII BC and was built as a triumphal inscription by some Syrian king (probably - Hazael) to commemorate the victory over the kings of Israel and Judah.

At the mention of the latter the title "king of the house of David" was used, which confirms the historicity of the Davidic dynasty. This is the first mention of the name of David outside the Bible.

On the stone there is practically not a single complete sentence, but of the individual words you can understand that it says about events related to the armed conflict between Israel and the kingdoms of Damascus [3 Kings 15:20]. The seventh and the eighth line refer to the kings that ruled during that time in Israel - King Joram, and in Judah - Ahaz, "the king of the house of David."