Monday, November 10, 2008

Lech Lecha followup: Pursuing As Far As Dan

In a post from 2004, I treated vehakenaani az ba`aretz, and explained how it did not concern me. In a comment, Gilui offered another suggestion, but noted that Avraham pursuing until Dan, when Dan was not named this until Shofetim. The problematic pasuk occurs in Lech Lecha, in Bereshit 14:14:
יד וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם, כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו; וַיָּרֶק אֶת-חֲנִיכָיו יְלִידֵי בֵיתוֹ, שְׁמֹנָה עָשָׂר וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת, וַיִּרְדֹּף, עַד-דָּן. 14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued as far as Dan.
Shadal notes the concern, stating:

עד דן : איננה ליש הנקראת דן בימי השופטים ( שופטים י"ח ז' ) אלא מקום אחר, כי אפי' לדעת האומרים שנוסף אחר זמן, לא ייתכן זה, כי אז היה ראוי שיהיה כתוב וירדף עד ליש היא דן, ואז היה אפשר לומר מילים "היא דן" נוספות, אבל שיגיה אדם ויחליף מילה בתורה, לא ראינו ולא שמענו.

That is, if we look at Shofetim 18:7 and on, we read:
ז וַיֵּלְכוּ חֲמֵשֶׁת הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיָּבֹאוּ לָיְשָׁה; וַיִּרְאוּ אֶת-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-בְּקִרְבָּהּ יוֹשֶׁבֶת-לָבֶטַח כְּמִשְׁפַּט צִדֹנִים שֹׁקֵט וּבֹטֵחַ, וְאֵין-מַכְלִים דָּבָר בָּאָרֶץ יוֹרֵשׁ עֶצֶר, וּרְחוֹקִים הֵמָּה מִצִּידֹנִים, וְדָבָר אֵין-לָהֶם עִם-אָדָם. 7 Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt in security, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; for there was none in the land, possessing authority, that might put them to shame in any thing, and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no dealings with any man.
ח וַיָּבֹאוּ, אֶל-אֲחֵיהֶם, צָרְעָה, וְאֶשְׁתָּאֹל; וַיֹּאמְרוּ לָהֶם אֲחֵיהֶם, מָה אַתֶּם. 8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol; and their brethren said unto them: 'What say ye?'
ט וַיֹּאמְרוּ, קוּמָה וְנַעֲלֶה עֲלֵיהֶם, כִּי רָאִינוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְהִנֵּה טוֹבָה מְאֹד; וְאַתֶּם מַחְשִׁים--אַל-תֵּעָצְלוּ, לָלֶכֶת לָבֹא לָרֶשֶׁת אֶת-הָאָרֶץ. 9 And they said: 'Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good; and are ye still? be not slothful to go and to enter in to possess the land.
י כְּבֹאֲכֶם תָּבֹאוּ אֶל-עַם בֹּטֵחַ, וְהָאָרֶץ רַחֲבַת יָדַיִם--כִּי-נְתָנָהּ אֱלֹהִים, בְּיֶדְכֶם: מָקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אֵין-שָׁם מַחְסוֹר, כָּל-דָּבָר אֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ. 10 When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and the land is large; for God hath given it into your hand; a place where there is no want; it hath every thing that is in the earth.'
יא וַיִּסְעוּ מִשָּׁם מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת הַדָּנִי, מִצָּרְעָה וּמֵאֶשְׁתָּאֹל, שֵׁשׁ-מֵאוֹת אִישׁ, חָגוּר כְּלֵי מִלְחָמָה. 11 And there set forth from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men girt with weapons of war.
יב וַיַּעֲלוּ, וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּקִרְיַת יְעָרִים--בִּיהוּדָה; עַל-כֵּן קָרְאוּ לַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא מַחֲנֵה-דָן, עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה--הִנֵּה, אַחֲרֵי קִרְיַת יְעָרִים. 12 And they went up, and encamped in Kiriath-jearim, in Judah; wherefore that place was called Mahaneh-dan unto this day; behold, it is behind Kiriath-jearim.
Thus, Laish is renamed Machanei-Dan at this point. So how could Dan be referred to earlier?

Shadal answer is that this is a different place by the name of Dan. This is not so farfetched, IMHO. E.g. there was more than one Biblical town of Bethlehem. And if we believe those Biblical scholars who claim Dan was the name of a deity, then one could easily imagine a town named after it. Or what about rather than a city, the general territory (though that would also be determined later).

Shadal also rejects the idea that this could be a later addition. Some scholars/commentators felt comfortable claiming that certain words and phrases were later explanatory insertions, even as the main Biblical text was ancient. But Shadal argues that the construction would need to be different -- "and he pursued him until Laish -- this is Dan." Because at the time it was written, the Biblical text would have had to have said Layish. And a later editor would not have felt comfortable to switch a word, but only to add an explanatory note.

Obviously, the alternative is to say that there is late authorship of this narrative.

Rashi seems to intuit some of this difficulty. He has two comments, on pasuk 14 and then pasuk 15:
until Dan There he became weak, for he saw that his children were destined to erect a calf there (Sanh. 96a). The reference is to I Kings 12:29: “And he (Jeroboam) placed one in Beth-el, and the other he placed in Dan.”

until Hobah There is no place named Hobah, but Dan is called Hobah [culpable] because of the idolatry which would be practiced there [in the future]. [from Tan. Lech Lecha 13]
Thus, both Chovah and Dan are the same place, the place Yeravam set up his idol, which is presumably the same Machanei-Dan. But the reason Avraham stopped there is that he was enervated by the future events saw would occur there. This, of course, drags in future events as important in the present narrative. And then, the fact that Dan would be named this much later no longer seems to matter so much. Indeed, this may well be a good part of Rashi's motivation here.

Two final points on the subject. One is an interesting book written to Voltaire in defense of Judaism. In Letters of Certain Jews to Monsieur Voltaire, we have what is pictured to the right. The main text and footnote text broadly parallels the idea Shadal rejects -- that the name of the place may have been switched in later.

















Another idea, developed from the writings of Josephus, is that there is another place called Dan in play. This approximates Shadal's idea. Thus, we have what is pictured to the right:

We have reference to Dan in Devarim 34:1 as well:

א וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה מֵעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב, אֶל-הַר נְבוֹ, רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה, אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי יְרֵחוֹ; וַיַּרְאֵהוּ יְהוָה אֶת-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ אֶת-הַגִּלְעָד, עַד-דָּן. 1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan;
ב וְאֵת, כָּל-נַפְתָּלִי, וְאֶת-אֶרֶץ אֶפְרַיִם, וּמְנַשֶּׁה; וְאֵת כָּל-אֶרֶץ יְהוּדָה, עַד הַיָּם הָאַחֲרוֹן. 2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea;

Thus, it might not be referring to the town of Dan at all.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lets throw in a parsha trivia question what is Lot wifes name (the salt lady)?

Anonymous said...

This verse (ad Dan) has been cited by many of the earliest Bible critics, from whom Voltaire got this.
See Spinoza, Tractatus Theologicopoliticus. ANd Hobbes, Leviathan.

Josh L

joshwaxman said...

thanks.

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