Picture of the Month

September 2013

The “Judgment Seat” at the gate of Tel Dan

Tel Dan is near the northern most boundary of Israel. The Old Testament often mentioned the boundaries of Israel as “from Dan to Beersheba” (Judges 20:1, I Samuel 3:30, II Samuel 3:10, 17:11, 24:2, etc.) The city of Dan was called Laish (Judges 18:27), which was mentioned in ancient Egyptian records. When Joshua entered the land of Canaan, he first gave the tribe of Dan the flat land near the coast. But the Danites were unable to stand the pressure from the Philistines and moved to the north. When they reached Laish, they liked it and annihilated the people there. They then changed the name of the city to Dan. Israel often fought with her neighbors Aram (today’s Syria) and Assyria (today’s Iraq). The city was often destroyed and rebuilt. (Please refer to the Picture of the Month of May 2013 regarding the record of one of the conflicts with Aram.) In 732 B.C. Tiglath-Pileser, the King of Assyria, conquered northern Israel and took away the people. Tel Dan remains in ruins till now.
This is the remains of the city gate. There is a square in front of the gate. According to Chapter 21 of Deuteronomy, all criminal and civil cases should be brought to the Elders at the gate for hearing and judgment. There is indeed ruins of the “Judgment Seat” at the gate. The stones and pillar bases can be traced back to the time of ancient Israel. We can imagine the scene described in Chapter 4 of Ruth: Boaz might have waited at the gate similar to this one for the “kinsman-redeemer” to come to settle the estate of Naomi and the marriage of Ruth. He has invited ten Elders to sit there and to serve as witnesses.