In Numbers 16 and 17, the desert wandering is the site of conflict. In Numbers 16, “Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, became insolent and rose up against Moses.” Their challenge was defeated when “the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”
In Numbers 17, God told Moses to “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes.” When only Aaron’s staff “had budded, blossomed and produced almonds,” it sent a message to any challengers to back down.
In the Book of Kings, Tel Dan becomes a contested site. In 1 Kings 12, after Jeroboam led the northern tribes to secede from the Davidic monarchy, he established a worship center at his kingdom’s northern edge at Dan.
In 1 Kings 15, Asa king of Judah went to war against Baasha king of Israel. To better his odds, Asa “then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus.” Asa’s new ally then “Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maakah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali.”
One of the sites listed is Dan.
Just as the Bible records both building and destruction at Dan, archaeological excavations at Tel Dan record both building and destruction. The Iron IA layer is notable for its stark destruction layer. In the Iron IB layer, Phoencian, or Canaanite, pottery predominates. The Iron IIA layer that follows is the focus of archaeologists, who are working to determine if this layer is Israelite, or if this next layer was created by the Arameans, whom the Bible states defeated the Kingdom of Israel at Dan.