JUDGES CHAPTER 18
1 The Danites send five men to seek out an inheritance. 3 At the house of Micah they consult with Jonathan, and are encouraged in their way. 7 They search Laish, and bring back news of good hope. 11 Six hundred men are sent to surprise it. 14 In the way they rob Micah of his priest and his consecrate things. 27 They win Laish, and call it Dan. 30 They set up idolatry, wherein Jonathan inherited the priesthood.
Verse 1 In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in; for until that day their inheritance among the tribes of Israel had not fallen to them.
No king in Israel. The author probably wishes to explain that the following lawless action of the Danites could take place only because there was no sovereign king to keep law and order.
Untill that day. The allotted territory of Dan was on the lowland between the sea and the hills, but the Danites were unable to take it from the native inhabitants. They had been forced by the Canaanites to move back into the mountainous country (1:34).
Verse 2 So the children of Dan sent five men of their family from their territory, men of valor from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and search it. They said to them, “Go, search the land.” So they went to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.
To spy out. They saw no prospect of being able to conquer the territory allotted to them; therefore they sent some of their tribe out looking for a place where they might be able to establish themselves with less difficulty.
In doing so they went contrary to the original plan of God who had given them their inheritance within the inheritance of Judah.
Trust in God would have enabled them to drive out the inhabitants of the land. The migration northward was an open admission of their unwillingness to follow the plan of God.
Verse 3 While they were at the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. They turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What do you have here?”
Recognised the voice. This may mean either that they had been acquainted with the Levite before he came to Micah and recognized his voice, or that they recognized he was a Levite by the way he spoke as he conducted a service in the private chapel.
If he was the grandson of Moses (see verse 30), the Levite may have been well known.
Verses 5,6 He said to them, “Thus and so Micah did for me. He has hired me, and I have become his priest.”
So they said to him, “Please inquire of God, that we may know whether the journey on which we go will be prosperous.”
Upon learning that the Levite had objects for consulting deity, an ephod and teraphim, the Danite spies requested that he inquire of the Lord whether their exploratory tour would turn out successfully.
Verses 6,7 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The presence of the Lord be with you on your way.”
So the five men departed and went to Laish. They saw the people who were there, how they dwelt safely, in the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure. There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame for anything. They were far from the Sidonians, and they had no ties with anyone.
The Levite was practicing the worship of the true God under forms of worship forbidden in the Mosaic law.
Laish. Called Leshem in Joshua 19:47. After the Danites captured it, its name was changed to Dan (Judges 18:29).
Under this name it was often mentioned in the Old Testament in the expression “from Dan even to Beer-sheba.” It was Israel’s northernmost settlement (Judges 20:1; 1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Sam. 3:10; etc.). It was near the foot of Mt. Hermon in the vicinity of the headwaters of the Jordan River.
Careless. beṭach, “securely,” or “safely.” The inhabitants of Laish were so isolated from troublesome people that they had evidently not built large walls for protection, nor had they defended their city by setting guards.
Manner of the Sidonians. The Sidonians were not a warlike people, but devoted themselves to commerce.
Verses 8-11 Then the spies came back to their brethren at Zorah and Eshtaol, and their brethren said to them, “What is your report?”
9 So they said, “Arise, let us go up against them. For we have seen the land, and indeed it is very good. Would you do nothing? Do not hesitate to go, and enter to possess the land. 10 When you go, you will come to a secure people and a large land. For God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth.”
11 And six hundred men of the family of the Danites went from there, from Zorah and Eshtaol, armed with weapons of war.
Six hundred men. The whole clan did not migrate, but perhaps only the more enterprising members and those who did not have suitable land.
Inasmuch as the 600 men took their families with them (v. 21), the whole group probably numbered from 1,500 to 2,000 people.
Verse 12 Then they went up and encamped in Kirjath Jearim in Judah. (Therefore they call that place Mahaneh Dan to this day. There it is, west of Kirjath Jearim.)
Kirjath-jearim. Signifying “city of forests.” From the days of Eusebius (4th century) it has been identified with Tell el–Azhar, near the modern Karyat el–‘Inab, and about 8 mi. (12.8 km.) from Jerusalem on the road to Jaffa.
Kirjath-jearim was originally one of the cities of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:17). In the time of Samuel it was inhabited mainly by tribesmen from Judah.
Mahaneh-dan. That is, “camp of Dan” (see on ch. 13:25).
Verses 13,14 And they passed from there to the mountains of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.
14 Then the five men who had gone to spy out the country of Laish answered and said to their brethren, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod, household idols, a carved image, and a molded image? Now therefore, consider what you should do.”
House of Micah. Probably as a proper name Beth-micah. Perhaps a settlement had grown up around Micah’s home and sanctuary, and the village came to be known as Beth-micah. The migrating Danites camped in the vicinity on their way northward.
These houses. The term could be equivalent to “this village.”
Consider. That is, consider what to do in order to get the ephod, teraphim, and graven image into the possession of the Danites.
From what follows, it was evidently decided that one group would engage the Levite in conversation, and meanwhile others would slip into the shrine and appropriate to their own use its religious objects.
Verses 15-17 So they turned aside there, and came to the house of the young Levite man — to the house of Micah — and greeted him. 16 The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the children of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 Then the five men who had gone to spy out the land went up. Entering there, they took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image. The priest stood at the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men who were armed with weapons of war.
Entrance to the gate. Evidently there was a protecting wall around the small village, at least around Micah’s house and shrine. The main body of the Danites engaged the Levite in conversation at the gate (see v. 17).
The five men. Meanwhile, the five scouts who had been in the houses before and knew their way around slipped away unobserved and stole the religious objects from Micah’s shrine.
Verses 18-20 When these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”
19 And they said to him, “Be quiet, put your hand over your mouth, and come with us; be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?” 20 So the priest’s heart was glad; and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and took his place among the people.
What do ye? When the five men returned to the gate with the cult objects, the startled priest cried out, “What are you doing?”
Put your hand over your mouth. The laying of the finger on the lips is one of the most universal of gestures (see Job 21:5; 29:9; Prov. 30:32).
Was glad. The deception of this Levite is noteworthy. He had first of all betrayed the pure worship specified by the law of Moses to minister before Micah’s idol for the sake of the money offered him.
Now he abandoned his benefactor who had treated him as a son (ch. 17:11) and gladly accompanied those who were taking that which did not belong to them.
We must notice that none of the characters of the narrative were at all exemplary. Micah himself was a thief. The Levite was mercenary. The Danites were lawless freebooters.
Verse 21 Then they turned and departed, and put the little ones, the livestock, and the goods in front of them.
Little ones. That this was a regular migration involving women and children is brought out only in this incidental way.
In front of them. The women, as well as the children, were evidently placed in front of the armed men, since the Danites were apparently expecting pursuit. The women are not mentioned, though most certainly present (see Gen. 34:29; 2 Chron. 20:13).
Verses 22-24 When they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house gathered together and overtook the children of Dan. 23 And they called out to the children of Dan. So they turned around and said to Micah, “What ails you, that you have gathered such a company?”
24 So he said, “You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you have gone away. Now what more do I have? How can you say to me, ‘What ails you?’ ”
The theft of the images was regarded as the loss of the entire village and not of Micah alone.
Turned around. Probably without even stopping their march.
My gods. Micah does not scruple to call the images and teraphim his gods. Though a professed worshiper of Jehovah (see on ch. 17:2, 3), he held much of the pagan concept of deities.
Which I made. The expression is startling coming from the lips of an Israelite.
How can you say to me. Micah was angry at their pretense of innocence and their attempt to throw the matter off as if it were a jest. Evidently the Danite force was far larger than Micah’s, or the Danites would not have acted with such impudence (see v. 26).
verse 25,26 And the children of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry men fall upon you, and you lose your life, with the lives of your household!” 26 Then the children of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.
Angry men. Literally, “men bitter of soul,” that is, men of fierce dispositions and hot tempers.
The Danites said in effect, “Do not bother us with your complaints lest you provoke hot-tempered men among us to attack you.” See 2 Sam. 17:8, where the temper of David and his companions was compared to a she-bear robbed of her cubs.
Verses 27,28 So they took the things Micah had made, and the priest who had belonged to him, and went to Laish, to a people quiet and secure; and they struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28 There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no ties with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth Rehob. So they rebuilt the city and dwelt there
Far from Sidon. The unfortunate colony was too far from Sidon, which was probably the mother city, to obtain any help, and, inasmuch as the inhabitants of Laish apparently had not made a league with any of the neighboring Aramaic tribes or towns, there were no friendly forces to come to their rescue.
‘n Vriend was naby is, is beter as ‘n broer wat ver is.
Valley. Probably the depression through which the headwaters of the Jordan flow at the foot of the lowest range of Lebanon, north of the now drained Lake Huleh.
Beth Rehob. Signifying “house of the street.” A small state of Aramaic-speaking people, according to 2 Sam. 10:6, 8.
Built the city. Upon the blackened ruins of Laish the Danites built a new city. This was the manner in ancient times.
Cities were built near sources of water and on the highest point feasible for purposes of protection. Accordingly, the same sites were chosen for successive cities.
Verse 29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel. However, the name of the city formerly was Laish.
Dan. They named their new headquarters city after the name of their tribe, which in turn was named after Dan, whom Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid, bore to Jacob.
Dan’s location in the north is mentioned in the song of Deborah (5:17). This clearly shows that the migration described chapters 17 and 18 took place in the earliest part of the judges period.
It probably occurred during the days of the elders who followed Joshua, prior to the judgeship of Othniel.
This migration and the idolatry described in connection with it were depicted by the author of Judges as illustrative of the apostasy and lawlessness of the period which resulted in the successive invasions and oppressions.
Verse 30 Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.
Jonathan. This is the first time the name is given of the Levite who served first Micah and then the tribe of Dan.
Manasseh. Some of the Septuagint manuscripts and the Vulgate give “Moses” instead of “Manasseh.”
It is true that Gershom, unless another is referred to, was the son of Moses, not of Manasseh (Ex. 2:22; 18:3).
In the Hebrew (not taking into account the vowel points) the only difference between the words for Moses and Manasseh is that the word for Moses does not have the letter n.
It is an interesting observation that in the Hebrew manuscripts and Bibles, edited by the Masoretic scholars, the letter n is inserted in the name in a very odd way, being “suspended” above the line, strongly indicating that it was probably added later.
The Hebrew Bible shows other instances of the “suspended” letters (Ps. 80:14; Job 38:13, 15).
Ancient Hebrew rabbis and scholars, as well as modern scholars, both Jewish and non-Jewish, assert that this letter was inserted into the name Moses by rabbis or scribes to change it to Manasseh and thus spare the reputation of Moses by covering up the fact that his grandson was a renegade priest of the famed idol in the sanctuary at Dan.
The Talmud says that Jonathan was the grandson of Moses, but because he did the deeds of Manasseh, the later king of Judah, the Scripture assigns him to the family of Manasseh.
Incidentally, if, as seems obvious, Jonathan was the grandson of Moses, the great antiquity of the event of ch. 18 is borne out by the fact that the Levite who served Micah was separated from Moses by only one generation.
Captivity. This probably refers to an unrecorded carrying away of the northern tribes by some foreign power, such as the Aramaean states of adjoining Syria.
It could hardly refer to the captivity of the northern tribes by Assyria in the days of Tiglath-pileser, for the following verse in describing the same period says that the period was “all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (see 1 Sam. 1:24).
Verse 31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.