When and How Was the
City of Dan Sanctified?
After leading his revolt, establishing the Kingdom of Israel, and splitting the tribes of Israel from the tribe of Judah — thus disassociating his new kingdom from the Davidic dynasty and its capital, Jerusalem — Jeroboam son of Nebat was in need of an alternative capital. Jerusalem was not only the administrative seat of the Kingdom of Judah but its religious heart, in which was kept the Ark of the Lord, the Ark that had accompanied Israel since the days in the wilderness and signified the presence of God and His approval of the Temple, His dwelling place. The book of Kings reports King Jeroboam’s fear that the people will continue to cling to Jerusalem: “Jeroboam said to himself, ‘Now the kingdom may well return to the House of David. If these people still go up to offer sacrifices at the House of the LORD in Jerusalem, the heart of these people will turn back to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and go back to King Rehoboam of Judah’” (1 Kings 12:26–27). The king thus resolved to fashion two golden calves in commemoration of the wilderness tradition and as a substitute for the Ark, which was in Jerusalem (see chapters 11 and 24). He placed the calves in the Kingdom of Israel’s temples, considered sacred for generations: “He set one in Bethel and placed the other in Dan” (v. 29).
The tradition of Bethel’s sanctity roots itself in the Patriarchal stories, particularly the story of Jacob’s dream, where Jacob sees that “a stairway was set on the ground and its head reached to the heavens, and angels of God were going up and down on it” (Genesis 28:12), after