Joshua 19:47, 48: The Founding of Dan in the Far North

Verse 47:[1] And (see Judg. 18) the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father.

[And with that border it is enclosed, וַיֵּצֵ֥א גְבוּל־בְּנֵי־דָ֖ן מֵהֶ֑ם] And the border of the children of Dan went out from them (Munster, Pagnine, Montanus, Syriac, Arabic, Masius). The sense: The Danites of old emigrated outside of themselves, that is, outside of their inheritance, and set out to seek other possessions (Masius). This does not satisfy; for this is not, the border went out from them, but, the Danites went beyond their borders (Bonfrerius). [Nevertheless, Castalio translates it thus, Now, the Danites went out from their borders.] Others thus: It went out from them, that is, it was taken from them, which is to say, it left them (Vatablus). It was less than was sufficient for them (Junius and Tremellius). Hebrew: from them, that is, smaller than them (Junius, similarly Vatablus, English, Dutch, Piscator, Serarius). It appears that קָטוֹן/smaller is missing from than them, from a comparison with verse 9, where it isרַ֣ב מֵהֶ֔ם , greater than them (Piscator). Others: and from them went out the boundaries of the children of Dan (Tigurinus), that is, in these regions he was confined (Malvenda). The border went out from them, that is, from the inhabitants of Joppa, is the same thing as it reached to them, and stopped there (Bonfrerius).

Went out too little for them; Hebrew, went out from them,[2] to wit, out of their hands or possession; for so this Hebrew word is used concerning those lands, which in the year of the jubilee are said to go out, Leviticus 25:28,[3] 30, 31, 33, that is, out of the hands of the present possessor, to the first and ancient owner. And so peradventure this may signify that many of the Danites were forced by their powerful neighbors the Philistines to relinquish their coast, and their allotted habitations; which put them upon the following course.

[And the children of Dan went up] That is, some from the children of Dan (Vatablus).

[And they fought against Leshem] These things were done after the death of Joshua. See Judges 18 (Grotius, Junius, Masius, Bonfrerius). And thence it is evident that this Record was not written by Joshua (Masius, Grotius): or rather, that many things were inserted in and added to it by one that arranged and edited it (Lapide). But why, you will ask, are they now commemorated? Namely, so that it might be shown at one and the same time in what places the Danites dwelt. Objection: But those things were transacted when the lot had not fallen to them, Judges 18:1. Response: But, that this ought to be taken concerning a lot in which they might be able to live content within their own borders, those words, and they went out from them, that is, from their borders, which they had obtain by lot, relate. But why were they less content with their lot than the other Tribes? Response: Because they were not sufficiently able to drive out the barbarous nations hostile to them, since that coast was full of harbors. See Judges 5:17. And Jacob[4] and Moses[5] testify that they were otherwise plunderers, and rapacious of the propers of others, by their own nature. But it is evident that the Danites even then dwelt at Zorah and Eshtaol (Masius).

The children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem after Joshua’s death, as appears from Judges 18 and seems to be here inserted, partly that all the chief places where the Danites (dwelt,) though far distant, might be mentioned together; and partly to give an account of this strange accident, why they removed from their appointed portion to so remote a place; which may be this, that being much molested and terrified by their bad neighbours, they thought fit to go to some place remote from them, which also they were in a manner constrained to do, because otherwise they must have taken some part of the portions of other tribes, whereas now going to the very utmost northern point of the land, they took that which did not belong to, or, at least, was not in the possession of any other tribe. See more Judges 18.

[Calling the name of it Leshem Dan[6]] That of it is to be erased; for it was not called Leshem-Dan, but Leshem itself was called Dan (Masius).


Verse 48:[7] This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּצֵ֥א גְבוּל־בְּנֵי־דָ֖ן מֵהֶ֑ם וַיַּעֲל֣וּ בְנֵֽי־דָ֠ן וַיִּלָּחֲמ֙וּ עִם־לֶ֜שֶׁם וַיִּלְכְּד֥וּ אוֹתָ֣הּ׀ וַיַּכּ֧וּ אוֹתָ֣הּ לְפִי־חֶ֗רֶב וַיִּֽרְשׁ֤וּ אוֹתָהּ֙ וַיֵּ֣שְׁבוּ בָ֔הּ וַיִּקְרְא֤וּ לְלֶ֙שֶׁם֙ דָּ֔ן כְּשֵׁ֖ם דָּ֥ן אֲבִיהֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיֵּצֵא—מֵהֶם.

[3] For example, Leviticus 25:28:  “But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubile:  and in the jubile it shall go out (וְיָצָא֙ בַּיֹּבֵ֔ל), and he shall return unto his possession.”

[4] Genesis 49:16, 17.

[5] Deuteronomy 33:22.

[6] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרְא֤וּ לְלֶ֙שֶׁם֙ דָּ֔ן.

[7] Hebrew: זֹ֗את נַחֲלַ֛ת מַטֵּ֥ה בְנֵי־דָ֖ן לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֑ם הֶֽעָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה וְחַצְרֵיהֶֽן׃

1 thought on “Joshua 19:47, 48: The Founding of Dan in the Far North

  1. John Calvin: ‘ Indeed, in its being said that the tribe of Dan took Lesen, there seems to be a tacit comparison, because the children of Naphtali did not employ arms to force their way into their inheritance, but kept themselves quietly in a subdued territory, and thus enjoyed safety and tranquillity under the faith, and, as it were, protection of Judah and the other tribes. The capture of Lesen by the children of Dan, in accordance with the divine grant which they had received of it, did not take place till after the death of Joshua. But the fact which is more fully detailed in the book of Judges is here mentioned in passing, because praise was due to them for their boldness and activity in thus embracing the right which God had bestowed upon them, and so trusting in him as to go down bravely and defeat the enemy.’

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