Shabbos 67b says Gad was the name of an idol of the Amorites, and Dan was an idol of Samaria. If we're not supposed to even say the name of idols, how could Yaakov name his sons after them? (or is it the other way around?)


2 Answers 2


In my newest book, God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry (Mosaica Press, 2018) on pg. 322, I address this question:

R. Chaim Palagi (1788–1868) asks why Jacob allowed his son to be called Gad if that was an idol’s name. To resolve this difficulty, R. Palagi supposes that Jacob lived before the idol Gad came into existence. Others answer that while Jacob’s son’s name is spelled the same as the deity in question, the vowelization of the two differs slightly: Jacob’s son was named /gɒd/ (גָד), while this deity was called /gæd/ (גַד).

SOURCES: Yismach Chaim (Izmir, 1874), p. 6b, and Ruach Chaim, vol. 1 (Izmir, 1874), p. 159b and S. Lifshitz, Sharvit ha-Zahav ha-Chadash ha-Nikra Bris Avos (Munkatch, 1914), p. 65b.


I do not know for sure if the names of the Shevatim preceded the names of the idols, however from the Torah it is clear that the name was given for a reason.

By Dan it says in Breishis 30:6 - וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל, דָּנַנִּי אֱלֹהִים, וְגַם שָׁמַע בְּקֹלִי, וַיִּתֶּן-לִי בֵּן; עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, דָּן.

And by Gad it says in Breishis 30:11 וַתֹּאמֶר לֵאָה, בגד; וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, גָּד.

In addition the Gemara in Shabbos brings proofs that these names are names of idols from Nach which is later than the stories of the Avos. האומר גד גדי וסנוק לא אשכי ובושכי יש בו משום דרכי האמורי ר' יהודה אומר גד אינו אלא לשון ע"ז שנאמר (ישעיהו סה) העורכים לגד שלחן הוא בשמה והיא בשמו יש בו משום דרכי האמורי דונו דני יש בו משום דרכי האמורי ר' יהודה אומר אין דן אלא לשון ע"ז שנאמר (עמוס ח) הנשבעים באשמת שומרון ואמרו חי אלהיך דן

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