Backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical Archaeology

1171 – Abraham’s Gate at Dan


News reports say that Abraham’s Gate at Tel Dan is now open to the public, and it’s the oldest arched mud brick gate in the world. Well, not so fast. First of all, what does open to the public mean? Can the public walk through the gate? No indication of that. As far as we know the far side of the gate is still covered with fill, after being originally excavated three decades ago. It seems as if the gate today is just as open as it was a year ago when we visited it during out 25th anniversary Book & the Spade tour. Oops, just added the photo from last year and I guess it wasn’t as open as I thought. Let’s say it’s now as open as it was the previous time we visited, about ten years ago. They’ve done some work on it to protect it from the elements, but still, I don’t think you can walk through this gate like you can the remains of the mud brick arched gate at Ashkelon.

And that brings up the other issue, Ashkelon also claims to be the oldest mud brick arched gateway in the world. Both date to approximately 1750 B.C. Which is oldest? We put the question to archaeologist Ross Voss, who has worked at both sites. He says the Ashkelon gate that you see at Ashkelon today is one of a succession of four gates, and the Ashkelon gate that is seen is slightly older than the Dan gate, by a decade or two. Which isn’t much when we’re talking almost 4,000 years ago.

The final issue, Abraham probably didn’t go through that Dan gate. The Bible says he chased the kidnappers of Lot to the area of Dan, but doesn’t necessarily say he went through the gate. Many Bible scholars would date Abraham a century or two previous to the Dan gate, also.

So that’s what we talked about this week.

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