In Judges 5: 17, Deborah sang that Dan remained on ships. Did the Israelites have ships in the time of the judges? Is 'ships' the correct translation? Is there an explanation for this curious mention?
Dvorah is calling out all the tribes that sat on their hands and refused to fight. Each tribe sat on its hands in its characteristic way. Dan is famous for trading in ships, so they stayed by their ships. As opposed to Reuben, who more or less stayed by their sheeps.
The nautical tendencies of Dan are mentioned in the old Jewish Encyclopedia. This verse is the only reference in the Hebrew Bible to the tribe of Dan as old salts, so if you were looking for other information about that, I don't think that there is any to find.
Dan's tribal boundaries (prior to their migration north) was on the southern coast. Their location was very suited to marine activity so it should not be surprising if boats made up a significant part of their economy. Attached is my map showing Dan's original allotment as described in the book of Joshua 19:40-48
Relevant to this question is the invasion of the 'Sea People' known in the Bible as 'Philistines', and by the Egyptians as 'Sherden.' They partly dislodged Dan from about this period, and it is not a coincidence that the Philistine's forte was also ships. Unfortunately, the Hebrew people were squeezed back into the hill country until the time of David.
It's not mainstream history, but many people believe that the tribe of Dan became a seafaring people, now known as the Danes.
After the death of Saul, all the tribes other than Judah remained loyal to the House of Saul. During the conflict of this period, Eldad ha-Dani states "Dan refused to shed his brother's blood ; and, rather than go to war with Judah, he left the country, and went in a body to Greece, to Javan, and to Denmark. — (Tribe of Dan - Wikipedia)
The Hebrew word “ish” means “man”. “Danish” would mean “Dan man” or “man of Dan”.
The chain of etymological identification leading from Isaac to the Sacae was continued to the Saxons (interpreted as Sac's sons - the sons of Isaac), who are portrayed as invading England from Denmark, the 'land of the Tribe of Dan'. They saw the same tribal name, left by the wanderers, in the Dardanelles, the Danube, Macedonia, Dunkirk Dunglow in Ireland, Dundee in Scotland, and London, and ascribed to this lost tribe the mythical Irish Tuatha Dé Danann. — (British Israelism - Wikipedia)
The word “Tuatha” is old Irish for “Tribe”.
If you are interested, a Google search for:
denmark "tribe of dan" will provide many other references.
Why did Dan remain on ships?
Judges 5:17 (NASB)
17 “Gilead remained across the Jordan; And why did Dan stay in ships? Asher sat at the seashore, And remained by its landings."
From the map below you will notice that Joppa was a sea port in the original territory and the fact that Judges 5:17 associates the tribe of Dan with ships, this probably means that the Danites controlled the seaport of Joppa.
For the construction of the temple during Solomon's reign ,the Tyrians floated the timber logs from the forests in Lebanon on rafts to the port of Joppa.
2 Chronicles 2:16 (NASB)
16 "We will cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you on rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may carry it up to Jerusalem.”
Also the prophet Jonah tried to flee from his mission, boarded a ship at Joppa
Jonah 1:3 (NASB)
3 "But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."
You may view territories of ancient Israel on link below.