Q: #532. In (Gen 14:14) it says that Abram "pursued them to Dan." However "Dan" was not established until generations later. If Moses wrote Genesis as thought, or as tradition says how could this be, since Dan did not exist until long after Moses' death?
A: Great question! The likely answer to this question is found in the Book of Judges, Chapter 18. In verse 27 of this chapter, we see the Danites capturing the land called “Laish” (or “Leshem”), killing all of the residents, and then burning down the city. In verse 28, we are told that they then “rebuilt the city and lived in it.” Finally, verse 29 (NASB) tells us, “They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father who was born in Israel; however, the name of the city formerly was Laish.” (Also see: Josh 19:47-48)
***Note: “Laish” is now known as modern day “Tell el-Qadi.” (or Tel Dan) in northern Palestine.
This being the case, this would mean that the city where Abram ended his pursuit of those who had taken his nephew Lot was actually called “Laish,” and not “Dan” as is mentioned in (Gen 14:14). “Laish” would be renamed “Dan” many years later. So, why is the name “Dan” used when that city did not yet exist? Three possible explanations are given.
1. The most likely explanation is that this was simply what some call an “editorial update.” In other words, those who later copied what Moses wrote, likely “updated” the city that Moses had called “Laish” to what the city was called when they copied his writings: “Dan.”
2. Another possible explanation is that Moses actually did use the word “Dan” when writing, and therefore he would have been prophesying what the land would be called in the future.
3. Finally, some speculate that there might have been actually have been a different city called “Dan” in the time of Abram, and that city either ceased to exist later, or was renamed.
Since we (obviously) only have a copy of what Moses wrote, and not the original writings, we cannot know for sure which explanation is true, but I am going with #1.