Judges 18:1 says that Dan had no inheritance but Joshua 19:40-48 indicates otherwise. What am I missing?

Judges 18:1 ESV

In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them.

Joshua 19:40-48 ESV

The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the people of Dan, according to their clans. And the territory of its inheritance included Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir-shemesh, Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, Elon, Timnah, Ekron, Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, Jehud, Bene-berak, Gath-rimmon, and Me-jarkon and Rakkon with the territory over against Joppa. When the territory of the people of Dan was lost to them, the people of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and after capturing it and striking it with the sword they took possession of it and settled in it, calling Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Dan, according to their clans—these cities with their villages.


5 Answers 5


I believe you are missing the fact that chapters 17 through 21 of the book of Judges are out of chronological sequence. According to the time line provided at BibleHub, the incident recorded in Judges 18, concerning the Danites, happened only about 25 years after the land had been allotted to the tribes.

Robert Jamieson says this:

The Danites had a territory assigned them as well as the other tribes. But either through indolence, or a lack of energy, they did not acquire the full possession of their allotment, but suffered a considerable portion of it to be wrested out of their hands by the encroachments of their powerful neighbors, the Philistines. In consequence, being straitened for room, a considerable number resolved on trying to effect a new and additional settlement in a remote part of the land.
-- The Book of Judges, Chapter 18: Commentary by Robert Jamieson

Additional Note

Joshua 23 opens with:

And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.

And Joshua 24:29 records Joshua's death:

And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.

We can be confident, then, that the words of Joshua's last address to the people of Israel occurred just before he died, which means the events of Joshua 23-24 and Judges 18 are happening at much the same time, i.e. around 1375 BC.

Now, during Joshua's last speech he says:

Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward. And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.
-- Joshua 23:4-5 (KJV)

So, Joshua died before Israel had fulfilled the charge given by God to "go in and possess the land" (Deuteronomy 10:11), and what is recorded in Judges 18 simply gives us a more detailed picture of one part of the action at that time.

Chuck Smith refers to Judges 17 through 21 as an appendix to the Book of Judges.

  • 2
    I think I've heard the commentary before that by the time Israel as a whole got to Dan's territory most tribes had their land already and it was apathy by Israel as a whole to help Dan conquer their lands like Dan helped them. Just saying to maybe not put all the blame on Dan
    – Joshua
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 22:36

The phrase "for unto that day [all their] inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel - KJV" of Judges 18:1 would not appear to be a claim that the tribe of Dan had not yet received any of their inheritance since both Zorah and Eshtaol, cities of their inheritance(Joshua 19:41), were said to be under their control in Judges 18:11. Thus Judges 18:1, in my opinion, refers to their dissatisfaction with the location of their inheritance relative to the other tribes("it went out for them" - Joshua 19:47), such that they sought some more amidst the other tribes. As far as timing Judges 18(whilst chapt. 19-21 I would put earlier according to the above poster's implication), it would seem that, comparing Judges 10:15-16 with Judges 18:31, they could not have set up the 'graven image' until much later.


Per the KJV, it states in Judges 18:1 Until that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.

The key word here is all. This suggest that they had received some of their inheritance but not all of it. The tribe was expecting more. So the land which they possessed were Zorah and Eshtaol.

Hope this helps.


Judges 1:34-35 says that the Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country. The tribe of Dan had an allotment and initially took it (Joshua 19:18-40) but they failed to keep it.


Joshua 19:47 discusses how Dan took Lashem and changed the name to Dan. Judges 18:29 recounts the same event just with more detail however the name used for the city was Laish. Both Lashem and Laish are the same city. The city could be called by both names

Blue Letter Bible Strong's H3959

Outline of Biblical Usage
I. Leshem = "precious stone"
A. a city west of Mount Hermon, also called 'Laish' and later 'Dan'

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