Genesis 14:14

In this often cited example, Genesis 14:14 has the updated name for the city Laish; the city of Laish was changed to Dan in Judges 18:29 roughly 400 years after Moses, yet Dan was used in Genesis 14:14.

When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (Gen 14:14)

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. (Jud 18:29)

Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, (Deut 34:1)

Laish is mentioned in the ancient Mari Tablets that date about 1800 BC and is archeologically located at the site Tell el Qadi. Some scholars maintaining Mosaic authorship believe that Dan was a city name as Matu Dan-nu-na as early as 2700 BC; however, the location of this city is unknown. (1) (2)

In Genesis 14, there are five instances where such updating has been noted. These are considered scribal glosses where scribes attempted to make the Text more relevant to their readers. But while critics use this scribal gloss as evidence of late authorship, the use of contemporary names for areas with long forgotten and precise names is evidence for the antiquity of the document.

Bela (that is, Zoar)

that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). (Gen 14:2)

And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, (Gen 14:2)

valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea)

All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). (Gen 14:2)

En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh)

Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. (Gen 14:2)

valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley)

Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). (Gen 14:2)

While archeology has not found records of the kings listed in Genesis 14:1-3, this is the only period in history when such an alliance as is depicted here would have been possible – only in the early second millennium BC. This is the only time when the Elamites were aggressively expanding their kingdom (2000-1800 BC) at the expense of Mesopotamian states, and the only period in which Mesopotamian alliances were unstable enough to permit such a confederation as is described in Genesis 14. (3)


1. Archer GL, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Chicago, IL: Moody (1974), p.221.

2. Sarna N, Genesis, New York: Jewish Publication Society (1989), p.108.

3. Kaiser WC, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press (2001), p.91.

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