The word Dedan means "low ground". The people are called Dedanim or Dedanites.
In the Bible, it can refer to either:
- A son of Raamah (Genesis 10:7). His descendants are mentioned in Isaiah 21:13, Ezekiel 25:13 and Ezekiel 27:15. They probably settled among the sons of Cush, on the north-west coast of the present Persian Gulf.
- A son of Jokshan, Abraham's son by Keturah (1 Chronicles 1:32). His descendants settled on the Syrian borders about the territory of Edom. They probably led a pastoral life.
- a city of Arabia, modern Al-'Ula.
Dedan, in the latter meaning, is first mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel, (Chapters 27 and 38). Chapter 27 is a roster of the trading partners of the city of Tyre (today in modern Lebanon), where Dedan is noted as a nation or kingdom which traded in saddle blankets (Ezekiel 27:20).
The oasis kingdom is also mentioned in the prophetic vision of the war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38; see also, Revelation 20:8), and appears to be a nation of significance in this end-times prophecy of Ezekiel.
In Ezekiel 38:13, Dedan is joined with Sheba, and "Tarshish and all her strong lions", all these nations joining together to inquire of the advancing armies of Gog: "Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?"
Now known as Al Ula in northern Saudi Arabia, known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Hijra, Hegra or Egra, the former is about the same distance, about 250 miles north from Medina as Medina is north of Mecca. The location where the extinct tribe of Thamud used to dwell.
In the ruins of the old city there are inscriptions that indicate the Dedanites were preceded by a Minean settlement. The Mineans established a center at this desert oasis in order to protect the incense trade.
The name Dedan is assigned to two different men in the Bible. The first Dedan is a son of Raamah, son of Cush, son of Ham, son of Noah (Genesis 10:7). The second Dedan is a son of Jokshan . This Dedan is the ancestor of the Asshurim, the Letushim and the Leummim (Genesis 25:3).
The name Dedan comes possibly from the Hebrew noun (dd), meaning breast or nipple, or the Hebrew verb (dada), meaning move slowly, lead slowly (Psalm 42:5, Isaiah 38:15). It may even have to do with (dwd) the root for beloved (aunt, uncle, even the name David).
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes with (dada) and reads Leading Forward, i.e. great increase of family. The NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Low, for no discernible reason. BDB Theological Dictionary does not translate.
Also see the names Dedanim and Dodanim
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