Dan (once Canaanite Laish) stood near the junction of two major roads in the time of the First Testament. Since there were then no bridges in the land, travelers on the Great Trunk Road between Egypt and Damascus had only two options for dealing with the Upper Jordan: either to ford it on the basalt barrier east of Hazor or to circumvent its springs, including the one at Dan. The other major road also came from Damascus, stretched westward from the city and reached the sea at Tyre or Sidon. This may have been the "way of the sea" (Vulgate: via maris) of Isaiah 9:1, quoted in Matthew 4:15. The connection with Sidon is obliquely attested in Judges 18:7, The people of Laish "were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone."

A third major road passed nearby: it stretched north from Hazor to the cities of the Tigris, via Carchemish and Haran.

Having command of such a junction, Dan would not have allowed a rival to develop at the nearby spring of Banias. If you didn't pay your toll and spend your money, you would soon find out that -

"Dan shall be a serpent in the way,
A horned snake in the path,
That bites the horse's heels,
So that his rider falls backward." 
(Genesis 49:17)

The site includes a sumptuous nature reserve as well as many unique archaeological finds.

The reserve is laid out with several options for walks, including a paved path and a wooden ramp along part of the roaring river. If you want to reach the spring, however, you'll need good shoes, good balance, good bones, good luck and both hands free. 

The spring puts out about 250 million cubic meters of water per year, or roughly eight cubic meters per second. This is more than an eighth of all the water that present-day Israel uses in a year. 

Its origin is rain on the lower slopes of Mt. Hermon (9146 feet above sea level). Mixing with dead plant debris in the soil, the water picks up carbon dioxide and becomes somewhat acidic. Percolating into the mountain, this acidic solution gradually dissolves some of the rock, moving sideways along the cracks between layers and fractures, until emerging (under gravity and hydraulic pressure) as a spring. Such a spring is called "karstic." (On karst.) Here at Dan we have the largest karstic spring in the Middle East.

We sit beside it and read Psalms 42 and 43, songs of the "sons of Korah." Several names in the psalm refer to this region, although we cannot identify Mt. Mizar. (Psalms 42-43)

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(r), (c) Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. (www.Lockman.org)

© 2003 Near East Tourist Agency (NET)
Text © 2003 Stephen Langfur