Judges 18 Commentary

 

 

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BELOW ARE LINKS TO
VERSE BY VERSE COMMENTARY
TO THE BOOK OF JUDGES

Judges 1
Judges 2
Judges 3 
Judges 4

Judges 5
Judges 6
Judges 7
Judges 8
Judges 9
Judges 10
Judges 11
Judges 12
Judges 13
Judges 14
Judges 15

Judges 16
Judges 17
Judges 18
Judges 19
Judges 20
Judges 21

 

Judges 18:1 In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel.
no king (KJV): The word {melek - H4428} which generally means a king, is sometimes taken for a supreme ruler, governor, or judge (see Ge 36:31. Dt 33:5;) and it is probable it should be so understood here, and in the parallel passages. Jdg 17:6 19:1 21:25
the tribe (KJV): Jos 19:40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
for unto (KJV): Jdg 1:34

A C Gaebelein's Summary of Judges 18...

The Danite Idolatry

1. The Danites seek an inheritance (Jdg 18:1-12)

2. Their robbery (Jdg 18:13-26)

3. Laish taken and idolatry consummated (Jdg 18:27-31)

The history of this chapter is closely linked with the preceding. The tribe of Dan had failed to take the God-given inheritance (Josh. 19:40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46). "The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley" (Judges 1:34). Then in self-will, entirely disregarding the will of God, they sent out spies to seek another inheritance. They meet Micah's priest, the hireling. Micah's idolatrous outfit including the hired priest are taken by the invaders. The hireling sees an advantage for himself, his "usefulness" is enlarged for filthy lucre's sake. Then they killed the people of Laish and set their city on fire. The whole tribe of Dan becomes idolatrous. We have in all a picture of complete apostasy. (Commentary on Judges - by A C Gaebelein)

IN THOSE DAYS THERE WAS NO KING OF ISRAEL:

There was no king in Israel. It was a time of utter confusion. There was no spiritual leadership by the true King, God Himself.

Donald Campbell makes this interesting association between Jdg17,18:

It seems apparent there is a direct relationship between the story of Micah & the story of the migration of the tribe of Dan (notes). The record of Micah's idolatry is graphically explained in order to show how the tribe of Dan became an idolatrous tribe.

Warren Wiersbe...

Corruption in the home will eventually spread to society; in this case, it spread to a whole tribe. False doctrine is like yeast: it grows quietly in secret and affects everything it touches (Gal. 5:7, 8, 9). (Wiersbe, W: With the Word: Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook. Nelson)

AND IN THOSE DAYS:

Apologetics Study Bible...

The first 16 chapters of the book of Judges generally follow a chronological order. Chapters 17-21, however, present events that occurred during the early part of the time of the judges. These concluding chapters appear to have been intentionally placed out of chronological sequence to reveal the extent of Israel's degradation and to emphasize the justification for a monarchy to rule God's people (Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Thus, 18:1 does not contradict Jdg 2:6 in declaring that the Danites had not been allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.

The plight of the tribe of Dan (notes) was first mentioned in Judges 1:34,35 which records that the godless...

Amorites forced the sons of Dan into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the valley; yet the Amorites persisted in living in Mount Heres, in Aijalon and in Shaalbim; but when the power of the house of Joseph grew strong, they became forced labor.

Amorites prevented the Danites from taking possession of their rightful inheritance. Is there some "Amorite" in your life that is preventing you from taking hold of your blessings in Christ, Paul reminding us that our heavenly Father has

"blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)

The Danite (notes) allotment was at the west end of the strip of land between Judah and Ephraim (Joshua 19:41-46), but caught in a squeeze between the Amorites (Judges1:34) and the Philistines to the west and the territory of Judah to the south, the Danites refused to lay hold of their inheritance by faith, letting their sight (of the Amorites) force them to seek out a new homeland. They clearly felt that the boundary lines had not fallen for them "in pleasant places" (Psalms 16:6). In short, the Danite's desire to move was a testimony to their lack of faith in the promises of the Covenant Keeping Lord who had allotted them their original territory. As detailed in this chapter the Danites instead end up in [Jdg18:30,31] capturing Laish, renaming it Dan and setting up idolatrous images for worship. The had sowed the wind, but Israel would reap a whirlwind from this faithless Danite detour, for years later, the wicked king Jeroboam I made Dan a center for idolatrous calf worship to keep the northern 10 tribes from wanting to go back to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah. God has a sure law of reaping what one sows and so you cannot help but wonder if this "Danite detour" has anything to do with the failure to find the tribe of Dan to be mentioned in the 144,000 in Revelation 7:4ff? This thought comes close to home. We sin and we think nothing of it. No consequence is obvious. Just a twinge of guilt on our conscious. But how frightening it should be to think about how far reaching the consequences of our sin can extend and how many people are eventually affected. It behooves us to pay careful attention to Solomon's warning...

"Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

The wicked man lulls himself to sleep spiritually being deceived by his own heart which...

says to himself, "I shall not be moved. Throughout all generations I shall not be in adversity." Psalm 10:6

THE TRIBE OF THE DANITES WAS SEEKING AN INHERITANCE FOR THEMSELVES TO LIVE IN:

See Dan (notes)

Most of the other tribes were able to conquer the enemy, dispossessed them, and claim their land, but the Danites coveted somebody else’s land instead and took it in a violent manner.

As mentioned above, the Danites failure to defeat and dispossess the Amorites was not a matter of not enough strength of numbers (Numbers 26:43 says that the tribe of Dan had 64,000 men) but of not enough faith in an omnipotent, covenant keeping God. The Danites had two choices: they could have taken the humble road and yet the high road of repentance and laying hold of God's promises by faith that He would go before them and drive out their enemies. God's sovereign promises always demand man's responsible choice to obey & move out in faith. The second choice the Danites had was to reject God's promises and seek their own land, looking for a new territory where the occupants would be unprepared and vulnerable to attack. God let them have their latter choice but this "success" does not signify He blessed their efforts. In fact subsequent history of the abominations set up at Dan suggest that He cursed them rather than blessing them! Mark it down beloved...

Success does not always signify God's blessing!

Recall too that Samson was from the tribe of Dan. Samson, the strongest man, came from Dan, the weakest tribe that by sheer numbers should have been one of the strongest tribes!

FOR UNTIL THAT DAY AN INHERITANCE HAD NOT BEEN ALLOTTED TO THEM AS A POSSESSION AMONG THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL:

Does this curious statement mean that God had simply forgotten about the tribe of Dan? That they would have to go it on their own? Clearly that is not the implication -- The Lord had assigned the tribal allotments under the direction of Joshua, with the help of Eleazar the high priest and the elders from the tribes at Shiloh (Joshua 19:41, 51). As He did with the nations (Ac17:26 God "determined...the boundaries of the habitation" of every nation on the face of the earth), so He did with the tribes: God put each tribe just where He wanted it. For the tribe of Dan to reject God’s assigned territory and covet another place was to oppose His divine will.

Isn’t it this "Danite Defiant" attitude that causes most of the trouble in our society today? Instead of submitting to God’s will, people want somebody else's "greener grass" and they are willing to do almost anything to get it (see the caustic comment by James 4:1-3). Peter labels this universal malady "the corruption that is in the world by lust." (2 Peter 1:4).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18. The Image-Worship Removed to Laish-Dan.—Jdg 18:1-10. Spies sent out by the tribe of Dan, to seek for a place suitable for a settlement, and their success.


Judg. 18:1. This took place at a time when Israel had no king, and the tribe of the Danites sought an inheritance for themselves to dwell in, because until that day no such portion had fallen to them among the tribes as an inheritance. To the expression לֹא נָפְלָה (had not fallen) we must supply נַחֲלָה as the subject from the previous clause; and בְּנַחֲלָה signifies in the character of a nachalah, i.e., of a possession that could be transmitted as hereditary property from father to son. נָפַל, to fall, is used with reference to the falling of the lot (vid., Num. 34:2, Josh. 13:6, etc.). The general statement, that as yet no inheritance had fallen to the tribe of Dan by lot, has its limitation in the context. As the Danites, according to v. 2, sent out five men from Zorea and Eshtaol, and, according to v. 11, six hundred men equipped for fight went out to Laish, which the spies had discovered to be a place well fitted for a settlement, and had settled there, it is very evident from this that the Danites were not absolutely without an inheritance, but that hitherto they had not received one sufficient for their wants. The emigrants themselves were already settled in Zorea and Eshtaol, two of the towns that had fallen to the tribe of Dan by lot (Josh. 19:41). Moreover, the six hundred equipped Danites, who went out of these towns, were only a very small part of the tribe of Danites, which numbered 64,400 males of twenty years old and upwards at the last census (Num. 26:43). For a tribe of this size the land assigned by Joshua to the tribe of Dan, with all the towns that it contained, was amply sufficient. But from Judg. 1:34 we learn that the Amorites forced the Danites into the mountains, and would not allow them to come down into the plain. Consequently they were confined to a few towns situated upon the sides or tops of the mountains, which did not supply all the room they required. Feeling themselves too weak to force back the Canaanites and exterminate them, one portion of the Danites preferred to seek an inheritance for themselves somewhere else in the land. This enterprise and emigration are described in vv. 2ff. The time cannot be determined with perfect certainty, as all that can be clearly inferred from v. 12, as compared with Judg. 13:25, is, that it took place some time before the days of Samson. Many expositors have therefore assigned it to the period immediately following the defeat of Jabin by Barak (Judg. 4:24), because it was not till after the overthrow of this powerful king of the Canaanites that conquests were possible in the north of Canaan, and the tribe of Dan at that time still remained in ships (Judg. 5:17), so that it had not yet left the territory assigned it by the sea-shore (Josh. 19). But these arguments have neither of them any force; for there is nothing surprising in the fact that Danites should still be found by the sea-shore in the time of Deborah, even if Danite families from Zorea and Eshtaol had settled in Laish long before, seeing that these emigrants formed but a small fraction of the whole tribe, and the rest remained in the possessions assigned them by Joshua. Moreover, the strengthening of the force of the Canaanites, and the extension of their dominion in the north, did not take place till 150 years after Joshua, in the days of Jabin; so that long before Jabin the town of Laish may have been conquered by the Danites, and taken possession of by them. In all probability this took place shortly after the death of Joshua, as we may infer from v. 30 (see the exposition of this verse). (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:2 So the sons of Dan sent from their family five men out of their whole number, valiant men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to search it; and they said to them, "Go, search the land." And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.
men (KJV): Heb. sons
Zorah (KJV): Jdg 18:8,11 13:2,25 16:31 Ge 42:9 Jos 19:41
to spy (KJV): Nu 13:17 Jos 2:1 Pr 20:18 Lk 14:31
mount (KJV): Jdg 17:1 19:1,18 Jos 17:15-18

TO SPY OUT THE LAND AND TO SEARCH IT: This Hebrew word for spy is related to the word for foot, the idea being that spies went quietly on foot, scouting what they could see. Such reconnoitering was contrived to help the conquest of enemy territory.

AND THEY SAID TO THEM, "GO, SEARCH THE LAND (See Jos19:47): Five spies were sent from the same area where Samson grew up, Zorah and Eshtaol (Jdg13:2) and were assigned to search for a new location to the north, much like the twelve men commissioned by Moses (Numbers 13:2).

Like all other tribes, Dan had a territory given them, but they failed to claim the power of God to conquer that territory (Jdg 1:34-note). This is a lesson for all believers who have everything necessary for life and godliness (2Pe 1:3-note) and yet fail to "conquer" and lay hold of "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph 1:3-note) Later they capitulated even more by accepting defeat and migrating to another territory in the N, becoming idolatrous (Jdg18). One wonders if Dan's blatant rebellion in failing to lay hold of what God promised them has anything to do with their not be mentioned in the list of tribes in [Rev7:4ff]?

WHERE IS DAN IN
REVELATION 7?

Tony Garland (see Notes on Revelation 7:4) has this explanation of why Dan is not mentioned in the list of tribes in Revelation 7...
 

As to why Dan and Ephraim are omitted from the list, there seems to be a ready explanation. God promises that any person or tribe which practices idolatry will be set apart for adversity:


So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations [e.g., idolatry], and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’ -as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law. (Dt 29:18, 19, 20, 21) [emphasis added]

 

When the tribe of Dan migrated north from their original location, they persuaded a renegade Levite in Ephraim to join them, along with his graven image. After overthrowing Laish and renaming the town Dan, they set up the carved image and a priesthood attended it (Jdg. 18:19-30). Thereafter, the town of Dan became a center for worship of one of the golden calves which Jeroboam promoted as an alternative to worship at Jerusalem during the divided kingdom (1Ki 12:28, 29, 30; 2Ki 10:29).


The Lord’s estimation of Dan and his idolatry can be seen in the decreasing role of the tribe in scriptural history. In the twenty different listings of the tribes, Dan is generally far down and often is the last in the list. Consider, for example, the order of march in the wilderness: “And the standard of the camp of the children of Dan set forward, which was over the rear guard of all the camps throughout their hosts; and over its host was Ahiezer, the son of Ammishaddai” (Nu 10:25). [See
Camp of Israel .] Dan was the last tribe to receive its inheritance in the Promised Land (Jos 19:47, 48, 49). Most striking is the total omission of Dan from the extensive tribal genealogies of 1Chr 2:10! These scriptural facts should be remembered when facing the often-asked question of why Dan is omitted in the 144,000 Jews sealed in the Tribulation period (Rev. 7:4, 5, 6, 7, 8). Evidently this is due to the problem of idolatry which plagued this tribe throughout its history. (Quote from Varner, Jacob’s Dozen: A Prophetic Look at the Tribes of Israel, 60)


Also, when Deborah and Barak led Israel to war in the time of the judges (see
Judges 4 and Judges 5), the tribes sent men to fight, but not Dan. Dan’s failure to participate is remarked upon in Scripture: “Why did Dan remain on ships?” (Judges 5:17).


Ephraim also was involved with idolatry:


Interestingly, Jeroboam’s idols were placed in the tribes of Dan and Ephraim (i.e., Bethel, 1K. 12:29). Thus, in the Revelation 7 listing, Dan was replaced by Levi (Rev. 7:7-
note) and Ephraim was replaced by his father Joseph (Rev 7:8-note), while his brother Manasseh was included to complete the twelve (Rev 7:6-note).


The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted from the list which follows, being replaced by Levi and Joseph. The reason for Ephraim’s omission is suggested by Hos 4:17. For possible reasons for Dan’s omission see the related texts . . . (Lev. 24:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Dt 29:18, 19, 20, 21. Jdg. 18:2-31. 1Ki 12:26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33). Dan and Ephraim are included in Ezekiel’s prophecy of their inheritance in the eternal earthly kingdom of Christ (Eze. 48:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 32), demonstrating God’s faithfulness to his covenant and promise (Lv 26:44. Mal 3:6. Ro 11:29-
note. Ro 15:8-note).


Although Dan is omitted here (Rev 7 passages), this should not be taken as an indication that the tribe of Dan will perish due to lack of protection during the Tribulation.

 

“In the end grace triumphs and Dan is named first in the future distribution of land amongst the tribes (Eze. 48:2), but while being first mentioned, it is the furthest removed from the temple, being situated in the extreme north.”

 

Some understand the omission of Dan as an indication that the Antichrist will arise from Dan:


He who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number [666], is truly the abomination of desolation. This, too, the apostle affirms: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them.” And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come, where he says, “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fulness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” [Jer. 8:16] This, too, is the reason that this tribe is not reckoned in the Apocalypse along with those which are saved.—Irenaeus, Against Heresies, v.xxx.ii

 

Yet, in our discussion of The Beast we identify reasons which indicate a Gentile origin for the Antichrist. See the discussion of whether the Beast will be Jewish or Gentile?

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:2. To spy out and explore the land for the object mentioned, the Danites sent out five brave men “out of their (the Danites’) ends,” i.e., from their whole body (vid., 1 Kings 12:31; 13:33, and the commentary on Gen. 19:4). They came up to the mountains of Ephraim, and as far as Micah’s house, where they passed the night  (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:3 When they were near the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young man, the Levite; and they turned aside there, and said to him, "Who brought you here? And what are you doing in this place? And what do you have here?"
they knew (KJV): They knew by his dialect or mode of pronunciation, that he was not an Ephraimite: see the parallel texts. Jdg 12:6 Ge 27:22 Mt 26:73
and what hast (KJV): Isa 22:16

WHEN THEY WERE NEAR THE HOUSE OF MICAH, THEY RECOGNIZED THE VOICE OF THE YOUNG MAN, THE LEVITE:

How so? We cannot be absolutely certain but perhaps they recognized him by his dialect or accent (cf. Jdg12:6 where Ephraimites were detected because "[the Gileadites] would say to [the Ephraimites who were crossing the fords of the Jordan], "Say now, 'Shibboleth.'" But he said, "Sibboleth," for he could not pronounce it correctly.").. Jonathan’s dialect may have attracted the attention of the five spies, because he didn’t speak quite like a man from Ephraim.

AND THEY TURNED ASIDE THERE, AND SAID TO HIM, "WHO BROUGHT YOU HERE? AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THIS PLACE? AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE HERE:

The rapid fire, repetitive questions reveal their surprise at finding a Levite in that locale but the fact that he had become a hireling did not seem to bother them at all. Compromise, Complacency, & Confusion all make for a spiritually deadly combination.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THIS PLACE?

A good question (if he is actually a Levite priest), which he answered truthfully (truthfulness is difficult to find in these last chapters), saying in the next verse that he was hired to do the job! Since somebody else was paying the bill, the spies thought it was permissible to get “spiritual counsel” from Jonathan, and he told them what they wanted to hear. The fact that Jonathan’s words came true doesn’t absolve either him or the spies from being involved in activities outside the will of God. Jonathan’s "prophecy" came true because the Danites were strong and the people of Laish were weak and unprotected.

If the tribe of Dan had really wanted God’s counsel, they could have consulted with the high priest who was also in Ephraim at Shiloh (Jdg 18:31). But they were already outside of God's will by refusing to remain in the land He had assigned to them. Therefore, it wasn’t likely God would have revealed anything to them. This spiritual principle that  knowing spiritual truth is related to obeying spiritual truth is seen in Jesus' declaration in John...

"If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself."  (John 7:17).

Spurgeon on "What hast thou here? (KJV)"

This is generally the worldling’s question—“What hast thou here?” And in this case it was well suited for a hireling priest. (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:3–6. When they were at Micah’s house and recognised the voice of the young Levite, i.e., heard his voice, and perceived form his dialect that he was not a native of these mountains, they turned aside there, sc., from the road into the house, near to which they rested, and asked him, “Who brought thee hither, and what doest thou at this place? what hast thou to do here?” When he told them his history (“thus and thus,” lit. according to this and that; cf. 2 Sam. 11:25, 1 Kings 14:5), they said to him, “Ask God, we pray thee, that we may learn whether our way will be prosperous.” שָׁאַל בֵּאלֹהִים, used for asking the will of God, as in Judg. 1:1, except that here the inquiry was made through the medium of the imitation of the ephod and the worship of an image. And he said to them, sc., after making inquiry of the divine oracle, “Go in peace; straight before Jehovah is your way,” i.e., it is known and well-pleasing to Him (vid., Prov. 5:21, Jer. 17:16). (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:4 And he said to them, "Thus and so has Micah done to me, and he has hired me, and I have become his priest."
hired me (KJV): Jdg 17:10 Pr 28:21 Isa 56:11 Eze 13:19 Ho 4:8,9 Mal 1:10 Joh 10:12,13 Ac 8:18-21 20:33 1Ti 3:3 Tit 1:11 2Pe 2:3,14,15

HE HAS HIRED ME:

GOD NEVER HIRES HIS SERVANTS; they work for him freely out of love and thanksgiving and He rewards them for faithfulness out of His grace.

AND I HAVE BECOME HIS PRIEST:

Even though he was not of Aaron's line (as far as we can tell from the text) and had no Biblical basis for assuming the role of a priest. He was deceived thinking that what was wrong in God's eyes was really "right" because that's what he believed to be right. This is the ultimate in willful deception and no man is immune to this spiritual trap when he begins to wander from the highway of holiness and soon right is wrong and dark is light (cp Isa 5:13,20,21-notes).

J. Vernon McGee writes:

"This is a period of compromise, corruption, and confusion, which are the marks of apostasy at any time. We are in a state of apostasy today. The church has compromised. It is in a state of corruption and confusion. Our problem is that it is not returning to its authority, which is the Word of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ who is revealed in the Word of God."

This is why it is so critical in what are quite likely the very "last" of the last days to hold fast to the faithful word so that we "may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus1:9-note). 

 

Judges 18:5 And they said to him, "Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be prosperous."
Ask counsel (KJV): 1Ki 22:5 2Ki 16:15 Isa 30:1 Eze 21:21 Ho 4:12 Ac 8:10
of God (KJV): Jdg 18:14 17:5,13

AND THEY SAID TO HIM, INQUIRE OF GOD, PLEASE:

God had already revealed his will by the allotments given to the various tribes (Jos19:40,41). They were searching for an oracle that would guarantee the success of their journey. Isn't this the tendency of each of our desperately sick hearts to seek opinions until we hear what we want to hear?

Spurgeon...

Little did they care whether he was a true servant of God or not. They were like many in our day, who think one religion as good as another. They saw before them a god, an ephod, and a priest, and that was enough for them. One would think that if they cared for religion at all, they would have been anxious to have the right one; but no, the very men who are careful in their eating, their clothing, their medicine, will take their faith second-hand from others, without examination. (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

THAT WE MAY KNOW WHETHER OUR WAY ON WHICH WE ARE GOING WILL BE PROSPEROUS:

Unable to possess their allotment of land, because they failed to drive out the enemy, the Danites sought God's blessing on their search for other territory. Jonathan, the pseudo-priest, told them what they wanted to hear (a "priest for hire" spouting pious platitudes to pander, please and placate).

 

Judges 18:6 And the priest said to them, "Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the LORD'S approval."
Go in peace (KJV): 1Ki 22:6,12,15 Jer 23:21,22,32
before (KJV): Dt 11:12 Ps 33:18 1Th 3:11
the Lord (KJV): As the Levite uses the word Jehovah, and as the Danites succeeded according to the oracle delivered by him, some learned men are of opinion, that the worship established by Micah was not of an idolatrous kind.

AND THE PRIEST SAID TO THEM, "GO IN PEACE:

The pseudo-priest gave them the message they wanted to hear. He was even careful to use the name of Jehovah to give the message credibility and authority. This is the sweet talk of a hired preacher who says what people want to hear, reminding us of Paul's warning that...

"the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths."  (2Ti 4:3-4)

Jeremiah also recorded this lamentable state writing that Jerusalem's...

"prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; and they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, but they have seen for you false and misleading oracles." (Lamentations 2:14)

YOUR WAY IN WHICH YOU ARE GOING HAS THE LORD'S APPROVAL:

Literally "your way is before the LORD."

He would view their actions with favor, which was the opposite of the truth. The Levite sent them on their way with a blessing, claiming their journey was "before/in front of the Lord." Though he uses the Lord's name in formulating his blessing, the text makes no mention of his inquiring of the Lord. His oracle is actually ambiguous. The phrase "before/in front of the Lord" does not necessarily convey a positive idea. In its only other use in the Hebrew Bible (Pr 5:21) it simply means that one's actions are in full view of Yahweh, who examines their ethical quality

Spurgeon...

False priests abound in soft words.

These spies fulfilled their commission, and returned to the Danites with their report; whereupon the men of war marched upon Laish, and on the road stopped at or near Micah’s house for the night, as the spies had done previously. They were ungrateful enough to repay his former hospitality by robbing him. (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

 

Judges 18:7 Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were in it living in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure; for there was no ruler humiliating them for anything in the land, and they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone.
Laish
(KJV): Jos 19:47, called Leshem
how they (KJV): Jdg 18:27,28 Rev 18:7
magistrate (KJV): Heb. possessor, or, heir of restraint, 1Sa 3:13 1Ki 1:6 Ro 13:3 1Pe 2:14

See C H Spurgeon's sermon: Judges 18:7, 27, 28 The Danger of Carnal Security

AND SAW THE PEOPLE WHO WERE IN IT LIVING IN SECURITY:

The five spies had traveled 100 miles north from their encampment at Zorah to Laish (“Leshem” in Jos19:47), a town inhabited by the Sidonians, about 30 mi East of the Med Sea. Laish is located at the foot of Mt Hermon in the extreme northern portion of Israelite territory, the city was about one hundred miles from Dan's assigned territory. Laish was conquered by the Danites and renamed Dan.

These were a peaceful people who minded their own business and had no treaties with anybody. They were “unsuspecting and secure” and “prosperous” (NIV), an isolated people, who were a perfect target for the warlike tribe of Dan. Their town was also isolated from the Sidonians by the Lebanon range of mountains, and from Syria by Mt Hermon and the Anti-Lebanon range, so that they were without close military allies.

AFTER THE MANNER OF THE SIDONIANS, QUIET (“rest” as in Jdg 3:11) AND SECURE: These folks were "quiet and secure" but in the days of the judges it was a false sense of security.

Arthur Lewis comments on the beauty of the area around the modern day tourist site of Tell Dan which includes a replica of pagan altar:

"Travelers who have visited the Huleh Valley and the vicinity of Dan expound on the natural resources and the fertility of the area. Water comes from every rock and hill, pouring down from the nearby mountains of Lebanon. Like Scotland, this part of Galilee is green and overgrown with all forms of vegetation. The tribe of Dan had seized upon a veritable paradise on earth!"

FOR THERE WAS NO RULER HUMILIATING THEM FOR ANYTHING IN THE LAND, AND THEY WERE FAR FROM THE SIDONIANS AND HAD NO DEALINGS WITH ANYONE:

There, at the foot of beautiful snow capped Mt Hermon, they discovered a highly desirable location, a long distance from potential enemies and furnished with an excellent supply of water--springs that formed one of the sources of the Jordan River. The Lebanon range protected it from interference from either Syria or Phoenicia. The residents of Laish enjoyed their secure position and had not built any defenses against invaders. It was an ideal situation for the land-hungry Danites

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:7. Thus the five men proceeded to Laish, which is called Leshem in Josh. 19:47, and was named Dan after the conquest by the Danites,—a place on the central source of the Jordan, the present Tell el Kadi (see at Josh. 19:47),—and saw the people of the town dwelling securely after the manner of the Sidonians, who lived by trade and commerce, and did not go out to war. יֹושֶׁבֶת is the predicate to אֶת־הָעָם, and the feminine is to be explained from the fact that the writer had the population before his mind (see Ewald, § 174, b.); and the use of the masculine in the following words שֹׁקֵט וּבֹטֵחַ, which are in apposition, is not at variance with this. The connection of יֹושֶׁבֶת with בְּקִרְבָּהּ, which Bertheau revives from the earlier commentators, is opposed to the genius of the Hebrew language. שֹׁקֵט וּבֹטֵחַ, “living quietly and safely there.” וְאֵין־מַכְלִים וגו׳, “and no one who seized the government to himself did any harm to them in the land.” הִכְלִים, to shame, then to do an injury (1 Sam. 25:7). מַכְלִים דָּבָר, shaming with regard to a thing, i.e., doing any kind of injury. עֶצֶר, dominion, namely tyrannical rule, from עָצַר, imperio coercere. The rendering “riches” (θησαυρός, LXX), which some give to this word, is founded simply upon a confounding of עֶצֶר with אֹוצָר. יָרַשׁ does not mean “to possess,” but “to take possession of,” and that by force (as in 1 Kings 21:18). “And they were far from the Sidonians,” so that in the event of a hostile invasion they could not obtain any assistance from this powerful city. Grotius draws the very probable conclusion from these words, that Laish may have been a colony of the Sidonians. “And they had nothing to do with (other) men,” i.e., they did not live in any close association with the inhabitants of other towns, so as to be able to obtain assistance from any other quarter. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:8 When they came back to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, "What do you report?"
 Zorah and Eshtaol  (KJV): Jdg 18:2,11 13:2 16:31

The spies bring the report.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:8, 9. On their return, the spies said to their fellow-citizens, in reply to the question מָה אַתֶּם, “What have you accomplished?” “Up, let us go up against them (the inhabitants of Laish), for the land is very good, and ye are silent,” i.e., standing inactive (1 Kings 22:3; 2 Kings 7:9). “Be not slothful to go (to proceed thither), to come and take possession of the land!”. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:9 And they said, "Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you sit still? Do not delay to go, to enter, to possess the land.
Arise (KJV): Nu 13:30 14:7-9 Jos 2:23,24
are ye still (KJV): 1Ki 22:23
be not (KJV): Jos 18:3 1Sa 4:9 2Sa 10:12 Joh 6:27 Heb 6:11,12 2Pe 1:10,11

Their positive and unanimous report, recommending an immediate attack, contrasted sharply with the pessimistic majority opinion of the spies sent by Moses to explore the entire land (cf. Nu 13:25-33). The claim of divine approval (v10), however, based on the consultation of [v6], was hardly justifiable.

 

Judges 18:10 "When you enter, you shall come to a secure people with a spacious land; for God has given it into your hand, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth."
secure (KJV): Jdg 18:7,27
God hath (KJV): Dt 2:29 4:1 Jos 6:16
where there (KJV): Ex 3:8 Dt 8:7-9 11:11,12 Eze 20:6 1Ti 6:17

A SPACIOUS LAND:

"Spacious" is literally "broad of hands"; hence the land stretched "wide to right and left" This expression was used by the leaders of Shechem in an attempt to convince the people that there was room for the family of Jacob to live among them (Ge34:21).

FOR GOD HAS GIVEN IT INTO YOUR HAND:

It is easy and convenient to rationalize selfish desires by saying that the opportunity to fulfill them is God’s guidance to do so. The Danites claimed divine support, but their confidence was based on an oracle that was sought almost as an afterthought and was acquired from a rogue priest at an idolatrous shrine. This is a good example of a character's point of view not necessarily reflecting that of God/the narrator.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:10. “When ye arrive, ye will come to a secure people (i.e., a people living in careless security, and therefore very easy to overcome); and the land is broad on both sides (i.e., furnishes space to dwell in, and also to extend: vid., Gen. 34:21, 1 Chron. 4:40); for God has given it into your hand.” They infer this from the oracular reply they had received from the Levite (v. 6). “A place where there is no want of anything that is in the land (of Canaan).”. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:11 Then from the family of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men armed with weapons of war set out.
appointed (KJV): Heb. girded, Jdg 18:11

SIX HUNDRED MEN ARMED WITH WEAPONS OF WAR SET OUT:

Compare this figure with the 62,700 Danite soldiers in Numbers 1:38, 39 and the 64,400 in Numbers 26:42, 43.

Responding to the challenge of the spies, the Danites quickly set out for this new "promised land." Yet one wonders why only six hundred are mentioned. Were they only part of a larger migrating group, or does this low number reflect the toll taken by their wars with the Philistines and Amorites? Compare the 600 men who constituted the remnant of the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:47)]

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:11–29. Removal of Six Hundred Danites to Laish—Robbery of Micah’s Images—Conquest of Laish, and Settlement There.—Vv. 11, 12. In consequence of the favourable account of the spies who returned, certain Danites departed from Zorea and Eshtaol, to the number of 600 men, accoutred with weapons of war, with their families and their possessions in cattle and goods (see v. 21), and encamped by the way at Kirjath-jearim (i.e., Kuriyet Enab; see Josh. 9:17), in the tribe territory of Judah, at a place which received the permanent name of Mahaneh Dan (camp of Dan) from that circumstance, and was situated behind, i.e., to the west of, Kirjath-jearim (see at Judg. 13:25). The fact that this locality received a standing name from the circumstance described, compels us to assume that the Danites had encamped there for a considerable time, for reasons which we cannot determine from our want of other information. The emigrants may possibly have first of all assembled here, and prepared and equipped themselves for their further march. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:12 And they went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim.
Kirjathjearim (KJV): A city of Judah, on the confines of Benjamin; distant nine miles from Alia or Jerusalem, in going towards Diospolis or Lydda, according to Eusebius. Jos 15:60 1Sa 7:1 1Ch 13:5,6 2Ch 1:4
Mahanehdan (KJV): Jdg 13:25 *marg:

 

 

Judges 18:13 And they passed from there to the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.
mount Ephraim (KJV): Jdg 18:2,3 17:1 19:1 Jos 24:30,33
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:13. From this point they went across to the mountains of Ephraim, and came to Micah’s house, i.e., to a place near it. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:14 Then the five men who went to spy out the country of Laish answered and said to their kinsmen, "Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod and household idols and a graven image and a molten image? Now therefore, consider what you should do."
Then (KJV): 1Sa 14:28
in these (KJV): Jdg 18:3,4 17:5
now therefore (KJV): Pr 19:27 Isa 8:19,20

The casualness of this decision to steal Micah’s gods stands out. None of the religious restraints God's 10 Commandments deter the Danites. Even worse, there is no feeling that a god who can be stolen is, for that reason, undesirable.

Spurgeon...

This was a hint that perhaps the gods would be worth the stealing (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:14. Then the five men who had explored the land, viz., Laish (Laish is in apposition to הָאָרֶץ, the land), said to their brethren (tribe-mates), “Know ye that in these houses (the village or place where Micah dwelt) there are an ephod and teraphim, and image and molten work (see at Judg. 17:4, 5)? and now know what ye will do.” The meaning of these last words is very easily explained: do not lose this opportunity of obtaining a worship of our own for our new settlement. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:15 And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young man, the Levite, to the house of Micah, and asked him of his welfare.
saluted him (KJV): Heb. asked him of peace, Ge 37:14 43:27 1Sa 17:22 *marg: 2Ki 4:26 Mt 10:12,13 Lk 10:4-6 Joh 14:27
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:15. Then they turned from the road thither, and went to the house of the young Levite, the house of Micah, and asked him (the Levite) concerning his health, i.e., saluted him in a friendly manner (see Gen. 43:27, Ex. 18:7, etc.). (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:16 And the six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the sons of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate.
six hundred (KJV): Jdg 18:11
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:16. The 600 men, however, placed themselves before the door.(Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:17 Now the five men who went to spy out the land went up and entered there, and took the graven image and the ephod and household idols and the molten image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war.
five men (KJV): Jdg 18:2,14
the graven (KJV): Jdg 6:31 17:4,5 Ex 32:20 1Sa 4:11 6:2-9 2Ki 19:18,19 Isa 46:1,2,7

Spurgeon...

They kept the priest in conversation while they stole the wretched gods which could not protect themselves. Does it not read like a caricature? How insane a thing, that men should steal what they had worshipped, and afterwards worship what they stole.  (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:17. Then the five spies went up, sc., into Micah’s house of God, which must therefore have been in an upper room of the building (see 2 Kings 23:12, Jer. 19:13), and took the image, ephod, etc., whilst the priest stood before the door with the 600 armed men. With the words בָּאוּ וגו׳ the narrative passes from the aorist or historical tense וַיַּעֲלוּ into the perfect. “The perfects do not denote the coming and taking on the part of the five men as a continuation of the previous account, but place the coming and taking in the same sphere of time as that to which the following clause, ‘and the priest stood,’ etc., belongs” (Bertheau). But in order to explain what appears very surprising, viz., that the priest should have stood before the gate whilst his house of God was being robbed, the course which the affair took is explained more clearly afterwards in vv. 18, 19, in the form of a circumstantial clause. Consequently the verbs in these verses ought to be rendered as pluperfects, and the different clauses comprised in one period, v. 18 forming the protasis, and v. 19 the apodosis. “Namely, when those (five) men had come into Micah’s house, and had taken the image of the ephod, etc., and the priest had said to them, What are ye doing? they had said to him, Be silent, lay thy hand upon thy mouth and go with us, and become a father and priest to us (see Judg. 17:10). Is it better to be a priest to the house of a single man, or to a tribe and family in Israel?” The combination פֶּסֶל הָאֵפֹוד (the ephod-pesel), i.e., the image belonging to the ephod, may be explained on the ground, that the use of the ephod as a means of ascertaining the will of God presupposes the existence of an image of Jehovah, and does not prove that the ephod served as a covering for the Pesel. The priest put on the ephod when he was about to inquire of God. The אֹו in the second question is different from אִם, and signifies “or rather” (see Gen. 24:55), indicating an improvement upon the first question (see Ewald, § 352, a.). Consequently it is not a sign of a later usage of speech, as Bertheau supposes. The word וּלְמִשְׁפָּחָה (unto a family) serves as a more minute definition or limitation of לְשֵׁבֶט (to a tribe). (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:18 And when these went into Micah's house and took the graven image, the ephod and household idols and the molten image, the priest said to them, "What are you doing?"

While the armed men stood at the gate of the city, the five spies, who knew Jonathan, invaded the shrine and stole the gods. When the five men, with their religious loot, arrived back at the city gate, Jonathan the "priest" was shocked to see what they had done. But the Danites silenced him by hiring him; and since he was a hireling, Jonathan was ready for a better offer. In short, the Danites not only broke into Micah's shrine and stole his gods, but they also stole his chaplain. They did what was right in their eyes but evil in God's eyes!

 

Judges 18:19 And they said to him, "Be silent, put your hand over your mouth and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?"
lay thine (KJV): This was the token of silence. These men were evidently very ignorant; and absurdly concluded that they should, by taking Micah's gods, secure the presence and favour of the God of Israel, in their expedition and settlement. They perhaps supposed the piety of their motives, and the goodness of their end, would justify the means. But it was a base robbery of Micah, aggravated by the Levite's ingratitude, and their menaces. Job 21:5 29:9 40:4,5 Pr 30:32 Mic 7:16
a father (KJV): Jdg 17:10 2Ki 6:21 8:8,9 13:14 Mt 23:9

Only one clan from the tribe of Dan is ever mentioned--Shuham (Nu 26:42; called Hushim in Ge 46:23). The Danites appealed to the Levite's vanity and materialism. It should be noted that a man who would be willing to hire his services out in the first place would always be willing to accept a better offer from someone else. He was a religious mercenary, a preacher for hire to the highest bidder!

Spurgeon...

They knew the most powerful arguments to silence this gentleman, and asked him whether it would not be more profitable to be the priest of a settlement than the private chaplain of a single man. The man who had already sold himself was easily bought. (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

 

Judges 18:20 And the priest's heart was glad, and he took the ephod and household idols and the graven image, and went among the people.
heart (KJV): Jdg 17:10 Pr 30:15 Isa 56:11 Eze 13:19 Ho 4:3 Ac 20:33 Php 3:19 2Pe 2:3,15,16
went (KJV): He was glad of his preferment among the Danites; and went into the crowd, that he might not be discovered by Micah or his family.

AND THE PRIEST'S HEART WAS GLAD: His love for money cheered his spirit when he heard the Danites' proposal. It should have been the precepts of the LORD which brought joy to his heart, but not in the days of the Judges.

Spurgeon...

Bishop Hall says, “He that was won with ten shekels, may be lost with eleven. The Levite had too many gods to make conscience of pleasing one. There is nothing more inconstant than a Levite who seeks nothing but himself.” (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

With the prospect of a higher salary and increased influence, he quickly forgot his loyalty to Micah and agreed to their terms. Instead of losing his religious equipment and perhaps his life, he gained a new position. No wonder he "cheered up" so quickly. His fickle and mercenary attitude reflects the state of the priesthood during this period. Equally deplorable is the fact that one tribe would steal from another with apparent impunity. The treacherous behavior of the tribe of Dan in dealing with Micah and the city of Laish illustrates the "serpent" nature predicted by Jacob in Ge 49:17 prophesying that...

"Dan shall be a serpent in the way, A horned snake in the path, That bites the horse's heels, So that his rider falls backward."

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:20. Then was the priest’s heart glad (merry; cf. Judg. 19:6, 9, Ruth 3:7), and he took the ephod, etc., and came amongst the people (the Danites). The first clause of this verse is attached to the supplementary statement in vv. 18, 19, for the purpose of linking on the further progress of the affair, which is given in the second clause; for, according to v. 17, the priest could only receive the ephod, etc., into his charge from the hands of the Danites, since they had taken them out of Micah’s God’s house. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:21 Then they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the livestock and the valuables in front of them.
and put (KJV): These men were so confident of success, that they removed their whole families, household goods, cattle, and all.
the carriage (KJV): {Kevoodah,} from {kavad,} to be heavy, denotes the luggage or baggage. Jdg 18:21

THE VALUABLES ["heavy goods" cognate kabod ("glory") = "wealth" in Ge31:1]: Anticipating that Micah might pursue them, the Danites sent their families and possessions on ahead of them and formed a rear guard.  The Danites put the women and children in the front since that was the safest place, because any attacks would come from the rear. So this was for protection in case of attack; (see Ge 33:2-3).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:21. The 600 anites then set out upon their road again and went away; and they put the children, the cattle, and the valuable possessions in front, because they were afraid of being attacked by Micah and his people from behind. הַטַּף, “the little ones,” includes both women and children, as the members of the family who were in need of protection (see at Ex. 12:37). כְּבוּדָה is literally an adjective, signifying splendid; but here it is a neuter substantive: the valuables, not the heavy baggage. The 600 men had emigrated with their families and possessions. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:22 When they had gone some distance from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah's house assembled and overtook the sons of Dan.

The Danites were forced to travel at a moderate pace because of the children and the livestock; so they were easily overtaken by Micah and his men.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:22, 23. The two clauses of v. 22 are circumstantial clauses: “When they (the 600) had got to some distance from Micah’s house, and the men who were in the houses by Micah’s house were called together, and had overtaken the Danites, they (i.e., Micah and his people, whom he had called together from the neighbourhood to pursue the emigrants) called to the Danites; and they turned their faces, and said to Micah, What is to thee (what is the matter), that thou hast gathered together?” (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:23 And they cried to the sons of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, "What is the matter with you, that you have assembled together?"
What aileth (KJV): Ge 21:17 1Sa 11:5 2Sa 14:5 2Ki 6:28 Ps 114:5 Isa 22:1
comest (KJV): Heb. art gathered together

The Danites pretended to be innocent of the charge hurled by Micah; but, unlike Jacob in Ge31:31-32, they did not invite a search.

 

Judges 18:24 And he said, "You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have gone away, and what do I have besides? So how can you say to me, 'What is the matter with you?'"
what have (KJV): Jdg 17:13 Ps 115:8 Isa 44:18-20 Jer 50:38 51:17 Eze 23:5 Hab 2:18,19 Ac 19:26 Rev 17:2

YOU HAVE TAKEN AWAY MY GODS WHICH I MADE: Can you see the irony? Micah was concerned about the loss of gods that could not even protect themselves.

Spurgeon...

What a mass of superstition and absurdity! Ye have stolen my gods which are my all. They are my own gods, for I made them myself, and very precious are they to my heart, so that nothing can console me for their loss. He was foolish to trust in gods which could not take care of themselves, yet while he did trust in them he showed his sincerity by grieving for their loss. In very deed, if we lose the smile of the living God, we may well say, “What have I more?” To lose the presence of God is to lose all. (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

WHAT DO I HAVE BESIDES: The agonizing cry of one whose faith is centered in helpless gods, reflecting the emptiness of idolatry -- the folly and the tragedy of religion without the true and living God. Idolaters worship gods they can carry, but Christians worship a God who carries them! Isaiah describes this spiritual dichotomy recording that...

1 Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; Their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, A load for the weary beast. 2 They stooped over, they have bowed down together; They could not rescue the burden, But have themselves gone into captivity. 3 "Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been borne by Me from birth, And have been carried from the womb; 4 Even to your old age, I shall be the same, And even to your graying years I shall bear you! I have done it, and I shall carry you; And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you. 5 "To whom would you liken Me, And make Me equal and compare Me, That we should be alike? 6 "Those who lavish gold from the purse And weigh silver on the scale Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; They bow down, indeed they worship it. 7 "They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; They set it in its place and it stands there. It does not move from its place. Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; It cannot deliver him from his distress." (Isaiah 46:1-7).


F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily

Judges 18:24

Ye have taken away my gods, and the priest.

Whatever can be taken from us has the mark and signature of man upon it. Since the Jewish priests were not permitted to continue, by reason of death, it was evident that they were men at the best; and nothing that man makes is adequate to supply the immortal cravings of the soul which, having come from God, craves for God.

Change cannot take away our High Priest. — All around us is in a state of flux. No two days in the most brilliant summer are quite the same. The hues are deepening towards autumnal decay. But He continueth ever, and hath an unchangeable priesthood. All that He was years ago, He is still, and will be. What to our forefathers, that to us — “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.”

The concerns of other souls cannot take Him away. — It is not difficult to conceive of the attention of a human priest being diverted from those who once claimed all his help, to fresh interests and younger generations. But, however many they be who flock as doves to the windows of Christ’s mercy, they will never be able to divert an atom of his love and sympathy from us.

Sins and failure cannot rob us of Him. — Indeed, they make Him nearer, dearer, more absolutely necessary. The bands of Danites left Micah wailing when he wanted the comfort of his priest most, lo, he was gone; but neither principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, can separate us from Him who ever liveth to make intercession. “Having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.”

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:24, 25. And when he replied, “Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have departed; what is there still to me (what have I left)? and how can ye say to me, What is to thee?” they ordered him to be silent, lest he should forfeit his life: “Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest men of savage disposition (מָרֵי נֶפֶשׁ as in 2 Sam. 17:8) should fall upon thee (vid., Judg. 15:12; 8:21, etc.), and thou shouldst not save thy life and that of thy household,” i.e., shouldst bring death upon thyself and thy family. וְאָסַפְתָּה is also dependent upon פֶּן. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:25 And the sons of Dan said to him, "Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest fierce men fall upon you and you lose your life, with the lives of your household."
angry (KJV): Heb. bitter of soul, 1Sa 30:6 2Sa 17:8 Job 3:5 27:2 *marg:

LEST FIERCE MEN: "Fierce" = lit "bitter of soul." Used to describe those on the verge of perishing. This expression (lit., "bitter of soul") is also used in 2 Sam. 17:8 of David and his warriors, who are compared there to a bear robbed of her cubs. When combined with nepesh, "soul," the term mar, "bitter," suggests strong emotions.

LOSE YOUR LIFE: To "lose your lives" is actually to "gather up your soul." This same idiom is often used of one who is "gathered to his people" in death (Nu20:24). If Micah wanted to die a natural death, retreat was the best policy.

The response of the Danites amounts to blatant extortion, the obtaining of something of value from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power & suggests a wringing or wresting from one who resists strongly. Once again, moral principle is irrelevant; the Danites possess the power to enforce their theft if necessary and make no attempt to be subtle in their threat to use this force. Covenant disobedience, religious syncretism, and social anarchy go hand in hand.

Spurgeon...

Those who have power on their side can generally find something to say, and they scarcely care to conceal the lion’s claw beneath the lion’s pad. (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible).

 

Judges 18:26 So the sons of Dan went on their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.

Spurgeon (The Interpreter: Spurgeon's Devotional Bible)...

And if he became a wiser man he was a great gainer by his loss. If Ritualists and others could be cured of their folly by the breaking in pieces of all their altars and the pulling down of every cathedral in the land it would be a cheap remedy. O that the Lord would visit this land, and with his great besom sweep out the priests and their idols. May he also cleanse the temples of our hearts. For this let us pray.

God is King among all nations,
God above all gods is he;
In his hand are earth’s foundations,
The strong hills and rolling sea:
He created land and ocean,
He with beauty clothes the sod;
Let us kneel in deep devotion,
Bless our Maker and our God.

From vile idolatry
Preserve my worship clean;
I am the God who set thee free
From slavery and sin.
No symbol shalt thou make,
Or graven image frame;
I am the Lord, Invisible,
Eternal is my name.
Though steeped in midnight dire as death,
The heathen scorn thy name,
And rage with bold blaspheming breath;
Dear Lord, remember them!
Darkly they roam, enslaved by lust,
Devoid of fear and shame;
Before their gods they crouch in dust;
But, oh! remember them!
Why is thy church so much defaced?
Why hast thou laid her fences waste?
Strangers and foes against her join,
And every beast devours thy vine.
Return, Almighty God, return;
Nor let thy bleeding vineyard mourn;
Turn us to thee, thy love restore,
We shall be saved, and sigh no more.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:26. Then the Danites went their way; but Micah, seeing that they were stronger than he, turned back and returned home. (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:27 Then they took what Micah had made and the priest who had belonged to him, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and secure, and struck them with the edge of the sword; and they burned the city with fire.
Laish (KJV): Jdg 18:7,10
they smote (KJV): Dt 33:22 Jos 19:47
burnt (KJV): Jos 11:11

See C H Spurgeon's sermon: Judges 18:7, 27, 28 The Danger of Carnal Security

STRUCK THEM WITH THE EDGE OF THE SWORD AND THEY BURNED THE CITY WITH FIRE: These peaceful people minding their own business and with no treaties with anyone were "unsuspecting and secure" and "prosperous", isolated and in short, were were a perfect target for the warlike tribe of Dan. With 600 armed men, plus their women and children they marched north and captured Laish, killing all the inhabitants and burning the city.

Someone has said that there are only three philosophies of life in today’s world:

(1) “What’s mine is mine, I’ll keep it”; (2) “What’s yours is mine, I’ll take it”; and (3) “What’s mine is yours, I’ll share it.” The Danites followed the second philosophy, and so do too many other grasping people. One of the current booming industries in the US is the installing of security systems in private homes. The number of shooting sprees in shopping malls, schools & fast-food restaurants prompted Time magazine Aug 23, 1993 to nickname our country as “America the Violent.”

Ralph Davis concludes that ...

our writer describes the tragedy of false religion (Jdg 18:27, 28,  29, 30, 31). The Danites reenact Micah’s folly. It grows from an idea in Micah’s mother’s perverted brain (Jdg 17:3, 4) to a reality in Micah’s used–god lot and spreads, like cancer, to a tribal group. Sadly, the lie can make progress even without evangelists. Indeed, the Danite sanctuary may not be the end of the tragedy, for, whatever the historical and critical questions involved, the existence of the Danites’ cult may have provided some of the stimulus for Jeroboam I to inject his own lethal infection into Israel’s life (1Kings 12 esp 1Ki 12:29). If so, the tragedy continues into 2Kings 17 and damns a nation. We would do well, however, not to laugh too heartily at Micah and the Danites. Even we who worship the Image of the Invisible God (Col 1:15) have our own struggles in worshiping him in wholeheartedness and fidelity. (Ralph Davis, D. Focus on the Bible: Judges)

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:27, 28. And they (the Danites) had taken what Micah had made, i.e., his idols and his priest, and they fell upon Laish (בֹּוא עַל, to come over a person, to fall upon him, as in Gen. 34:25), a people living quietly and free from care (vid., v. 7), smote them with the edge of the sword (see at Gen. 34:26), and burned down the city (cf. Josh. 6:24), as it had no deliverer in its isolated condition (v. 28a; cf. v. 7). It was situated “in the valley which stretches to Beth-rehob.” This valley is the upper part of the Huleh lowland, through which the central source of the Jordan (Leddan) flows, and by which Laish-Dan, the present Tell el Kadi, stood (see at Josh. 19:47). Beth-rehob is most probably the same place as the Rehob mentioned in Num. 13:21, and the Beth-rehob of 2 Sam. 10:6, which is there used to designate a part of Syria, and for which Rehob only is also used in v. 8. Robinson (Bibl. Res. pp. 371ff.) supposes it to be the castle of Hunin or Honin, on the south-west of Tell el Kadi; but this is hardly correct (see the remarks on Num. 13:21, Pent. p. 709). The city, which lay in ashes, was afterwards rebuilt by the Danites, and called Dan, from the name of the founder of their tribe; and the ruins are still to be seen, as already affirmed, on the southern slope of the Tell el Kadi (see Rob. Bibl. Res. pp. 391–2, and the comm. on Josh. 19:47). (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:28 And there was no one to deliver them, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with anyone, and it was in the valley which is near Beth-rehob. And they rebuilt the city and lived in it.
And there (KJV): 2Sa 14:6 *marg: Ps 7:2 50:22 Da 3:15-17
far from (KJV): Probably the people of Laish were originally a colony of the Zidonians; who being an opulent people, and in possession of a strong city, lived in a state of security, not being afraid of their neighbours. In this the Leshemites imitated them, though they appear not to have had the same reason for their confidence; and though they might naturally expect help from their countrymen, yet as they lived at a considerable distance from Sidon, the Danites saw they could strike the blow before the news of the invasion could reach that city. Jdg 18:1,7 Jos 11:8 Isa 23:4,12
Bethrehob (KJV): Nu 13:21, Rehob, 2Sa 10:6

See C H Spurgeon's sermon: Judges 18:7, 27, 28 The Danger of Carnal Security

 

 

Judges 18:29 And 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.
Dan (KJV): Jdg 20:1 Ge 14:14 Jos 19:47 2Sa 17:11 1Ki 12:29,30 15:20
who was (KJV): Ge 30:6 32:28 Laish, or Dan, was situated at the northern extremity of the land of Canaan, in a beautiful and fertile plain, at the foot of mount Lebanon, on the springs of Jordan, and, according to Eusebius, four miles from Cesarea Philippi, or Paneas, now Banias, (with which some have confounded it,) towards Tyre. Burckhardt says, that the source of the river El Dhan, or Jordan, is at an hour's distance from Banias, which agrees with Eusebius.

Then they rebuilt it and proudly called it Dan, after the name of the founder of their tribe. Click  to read about the city of Dan situated at the northern extremity of the land of Canaan, in a beautiful and fertile plain, at the foot of mount Hermon, on the springs of Jordan, and, according to Eusebius, four miles from Cesarea Philippi, or Paneas towards Tyre. Dan was Israel's northernmost settlement which gave rise to the expression "from Dan to Beersheba" to describe the extent of the land (cf. Jdg20:1; 1Sa3:20; 2Sa3:10).

 

Judges 18:30 And the sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.
set up (KJV): Ex 20:4 Lev 26:1 Dt 17:2-7 27:15 31:16,29 Jos 19:40-48 Ps 78:58-61 God had graciously performed his promise, in putting these Danites in possession of that which fell to their lot, obliging them thereby to be faithful to him who had been so to them; they inherited the labour of the people, that they might observe his statues. Ps 105:44, 45. But the first thing they do after they are settled is to break his laws, by setting up the graven image, attributing their success to that idol, which, if God had not been infinitely patient, would have been their ruin. Thus a prosperous idolater goes on to offend, imputing this his power unto his God. Instead of Manasseh, some would read Moses; as it is found in some MSS., in the Vulgate and in the concessions of the most intelligent Jews.
until (KJV): Jdg 13:1 1Sa 4:2,3,10,11 Ps 78:60-62
the land (KJV): Houbigant contends, that, instead of {haaretz,} "the land," we should read {haaron,} "the ark;" for the [Vav,] {wav,} and [Nuwn, {noon final,} might easily be mistaken for [Tsadey,] {tzadday final;} which is the only difference between the two words. This conjecture is the more likely, as the next verse tells us, that Micah's graven image continued at Dan "all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh;" which was till the ark was taken by the Philistines.

The tribe of Dan was the first tribe in Israel to officially adopt an idolatrous system of religion. Even though there was a house of God in Shiloh, they preferred their images and idols. Years later, when the kingdom divided, Jeroboam I of Israel would set up golden calves in Dan and Beersheba and encourage the whole nation to turn away from the true and living God (1Ki12:25-33).

The willful spiritual deception which produced the complacent syncretism of Micah’s household spread throughout an entire tribe and raised the corruption of the nation to a new level.

AND JONATHAN, THE SON OF GERSHOM THE SON OF MANASSEH: Jonathan is here identified as the son of Gershom, who is well known as the son of Moses, rather than of Manasseh (Ex2:22). Text critics generally conjecture that the veneration of Moses caused later scribes to substitute the name "Manasseh" for the original "Moses," which still appears in the some versions of the LXX and Vulgate. Virtually all authoritative sources agree that the original Hebrew reference was to Moses, but that the ancient scribes added the supralinear "n" (nun) thus causing the reading to be "Manasseh" rather than Moses (Hebrew has no vowels). Further support is that several of the popular Bibles including NIV, RSV, 1901 ASV translate it as "son of Moses". One version of the Septuagint translates it "Mouses" (Moses) rather than as "Manaseh". Finally, the Latin Vulgate translates it as "Moses" rather than "Manasseh".

In any case, Moses was not responsible for the idolatry in which Jonathan participated.

Comment from Expositors:

"Gershom was a son of Moses (Ex2:21,22), but the Masoretes inserted the letter "nun" in his name so that "Manasseh" was read instead...In the consonantal text the difference between Moses-- mosheh (mosheh)--and "Manasseh"-- menasheh (menashsheh)--is only the one letter. The nun (n ) was raised above the line to show that it was a later editorial insertion....Their intention was doubtless to remove any taint of idolatry from Moses' revered name, but one only has to read about the golden calf of his brother Aaron to realize the family's potential for idolatry!"

UNTIL THE DAY OF THE CAPTIVITY OF THE LAND:Either a reference to the deportation by Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria in 733-732 (2Ki15:29) or to the time of the exile of the ark from Shiloh in the eleventh century B.C. (1Sa 4:11).

Expositors comment:

"If the reference [to the captivity] is to the deportation by Tiglath-pileser III in 733-732 B.C., the verse may be a later editorial addition. Archer favors the view that this was a local captivity in the area around Dan after a border defeat during the latter period of the judges. Cundall (p192) prefers to relate this captivity to the widespread Philistine control of Israel after the death of Saul (2Sa2:8-11)"

John MacArthur:

"This idolatrous priestly service continued until the captivity. This is most likely 1) the captivity of Israel by Assyria in 722 b.c. (2 Ki15:29; 17:1-6), or possibly 2) the Philistine captivity of the ark from Shiloh (see Judg. 18:31) in 1 Sa4:11"

BKC:

"Many scholars refer this to either the Assyrian captivity of Israel in 722 b.c. (2 Ki 17:6) or the captivity of the Galilean population under Tiglath-Pileser III in 733-732 b.c. (2 Ki15:29)."

KJV commentary:

"Throughout its history, Dan was known as a center of idolatry and became a symbol of the apostate tribe of Israel. Thus, it is not named in Revelation 7 as one of the twelve tribes of the future kingdom. In the list that appears in the Apocalypse, the tribe of Levi appears in the inheritance in the place of Dan, and the tribe of Ephraim is referred to as the tribe of Joseph. Thus, in the irony of history, the tribe of Dan, which stole the Levite and the image from an Ephraimite, is replaced in the list of God’s people by those very tribes. It is not improper to suggest that the tribe of Dan is a type of Judas Iscariot, the apostate disciple. It is certainly interesting to note that while we also normally speak of twelve apostles, in reality there were thirteen. Judas, the apostate disciple, corresponds to Dan, the apostate tribe, both of whom lose their true inheritance in the kingdom of God.

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary...
 

Judg. 18:30, 31. Establishment of the Image-worship in Dan.—After the rebuilding of Laish under the name of Dan, the Danites set up the pesel or image of Jehovah, which they had taken with them out of Micah’s house of God. “And Jehonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites till the day of the captivity of the land.” As the Danites had taken the Levite whom Micah had engaged for his private worship with them to Dan, and had promised him the priesthood (vv. 19 and 27), Jehonathan can hardly be any other than this Levite. He was a son of Gershom, the son of Moses (Ex. 2:22; 18:3; 1 Chron. 23:14, 15). Instead of בֶּן־מֹשֶׁה, our Masoretic text has בֶּן־מְנַשֶּׁה with a hanging ן. With regard to this reading, the Talmud (Baba bathr.f. 109b) observes: “Was he a son of Gershom, or was he not rather a son of Moses? as it is written, the sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer (1 Chron. 23:14), but because he did the deeds of Manasseh (the idolatrous son of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 21) the Scripture assigns him to the family of Manasseh.” On this Rabbabar bar Channa observes, that “the prophet (i.e., the author of our book) studiously avoided calling Gershom the son of Moses, because it would have been ignominious to Moses to have had an ungodly son; but he calls him the son of Manasseh, raising the ן, however, above the line, to show that it might either be inserted or omitted, and that he was the son of either מְנַשֶּׁה (Manasseh) or מֹשֶׁה (Moses),—of Manasseh through imitating his impiety, of Moses by descent” (cf. Buxtorfi Tiber. p. 171). Later Rabbins say just the same. R. Tanchum calls the writing Menasseh, with a hanging nun, a תִקּוּן סֹופְרִים, and speaks of ben Mosheh as Kethibh, and ben Menasseh as Keri. Ben Mosheh is therefore unquestionably the original reading, although the other reading ben Menasseh is also very old, as it is to be found in the Targums and the Syriac and Sept. versions, although some Codd. of the LXX have the reading υἱοῦ Μωὺσῆ (vid., Kennic. dissert. gener. in V. T. § 21). Jerome also has filii Moysi. At the same time, it does not follow with certainty from the reading ben Gershom that Jehonathan was actually a son of Gershom, as ben frequently denotes a grandson in such genealogical accounts, unknown fathers being passed over in the genealogies. There is very little probability of his having been a son, for the simple reason, that if Jehonathan was the same person as Micah’s high priest—and there is no ground for doubting this—he is described as נַעַר in Judg. 17:7; 18:3, 15, and therefore was at any rate a young man, whereas the son of Gershom and grandson of Moses would certainly have passed the age of youth by a few years after the death of Joshua. This Jehonathan and his sons performed the duties of the priesthood at Dan עַד־יֹום גְּלֹות הָאָרֶץ. This statement is obscure. גְּלֹות הָאָרֶץ can hardly mean anything else than the carrying away of the people of the land into exile, that is to say, of the inhabitants of Dan and the neighbourhood at least, since גָּלָה is the standing expression for this. Most of the commentators suppose the allusion to be to the Assyrian captivity, or primarily to the carrying away by Tiglath-Pileser of the northern tribes of Israel, viz., the population of Gilead, Galilee, and the tribe of Naphtali, in the midst of which Laish-Dan was situated (2 Kings 15:29). But the statement in v. 31, “And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh,” is by no means reconcilable with such a conclusion. We find the house of God, i.e., the Mosaic tabernacle, which the congregation had erected at Shiloh in the days of Joshua (Josh. 18:1), still standing there in the time of Eli and Samuel (1 Sam. 1:3ff., 3:21; 4:3); but in the time of Saul it was at Nob (1 Sam. 21), and during the reign of David at Gibeon (1 Chron. 16:39; 21:29). Consequently “the house of God” only stood in Shiloh till the reign of Saul, and was never taken there again. If therefore Micah’s image, which the Danites set up in Dan, remained there as long as the house of God was at Shiloh, Jonathan’s sons can only have been there till Saul’s time at the longest, and certainly cannot have been priests at this sanctuary in Dan till the time of the Assyrian captivity.


There are also other historical facts to be considered, which render the continuance of this Danite image-worship until the Assyrian captivity extremely improbable, or rather preclude it altogether. Even if we should not lay any stress upon the fact that the Israelites under Samuel put away the Baalim and Astartes in consequence of his appeal to them to turn to the Lord (1 Sam. 7:4), it is hardly credible that in the time of David the image-worship should have continued at Dan by the side of the lawful worship of Jehovah which he restored and organized, and should not have been observed and suppressed by this king, who carried on repeated wars in the northern part of his kingdom. Still more incredible would the continuance of this image-worship appear after the erection of Solomon’s temple, when all the men of Israel, and all the elders and heads of tribes, came to Jerusalem, at the summons of Solomon, to celebrate the consecration of this splendid national sanctuary (1 Kings 5–7). Lastly, the supposition that the image-worship established by the Danites at Dan still continued to exist, is thoroughly irreconcilable with the fact, that when Jeroboam established the kingdom of the ten tribes he had two golden calves made as images of Jehovah for the subjects of his kingdom, and set up one of them at Dan, and appointed priests out of the whole nation who were not of the sons of Levi. If an image-worship of Jehovah had been still in existence in Dan, and conducted by Levitical priests. Jeroboam would certainly not have established a second worship of the same kind under priests who were not Levitical. All these difficulties preclude our explaining the expression, “the day of the captivity of the land,” as referring to either the Assyrian or Babylonian captivity. It can only refer to some event which took place in the last years of Samuel, or the first part of the reign of Saul. David Kimchi and many others have interpreted the expression as relating to the carrying away of the ark by the Philistines, for which the words גָּלָה כָבֹוד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל are used in 1 Sam. 4:21, 22 (e.g., Hengstenberg, Beitr. vol. ii. pp. 153ff.; Hävernick, Einl. ii. 1, p. 109; O. v. Gerlach, and others). With the carrying away of the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle lost its significance as a sanctuary of Jehovah. We learn from Ps. 78:59–64 how the godly in Israel regarded that event. They not only looked upon it as a casting away of the dwelling-lace of God at Shiloh; but in the fact that Jehovah gave up His might and glory (i.e., the ark) into captivity, they discerned a surrender of the nation into the full power of its foes which resembled a carrying away into captivity. For, apart altogether form the description in Ps. 78:62–64, we may infer with certainty from the account of the tyranny which these foes still exercised over the Israelites in the time of Saul (1 Sam. 13:19–23), that, after this victory, the Philistines may have completely subjugated the Israelites, and treated them as their prisoners. We may therefore affirm with Hengstenberg, that “the author looked upon the whole land as carried away into captivity in its sanctuary, which formed as it were its kernel and essence.” If, however, this figurative explanation of גְּלֹות הָאָרֶץ should not be accepted, there is no valid objection to our concluding that the words refer to some event with which we have no further acquaintance, in which the city of Dan was conquered by the neighbouring Syrians, and the inhabitants carried away into captivity. For it is evident enough from the fact of the kings of Zoba being mentioned, in 1 Sam. 14:47, among the different enemies of Israel against whom Saul carried on war, that the Syrians also invaded Israel in the tie of the Philistine supremacy, and carried Israelites away out of the conquered towns and districts. The Danite image-worship, however, was probably suppressed and abolished when Samuel purified the land and people from idolatry, after the ark had been brought back by the Philistines (1Sa 2ff.). (
Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Judges 18 - p432 )

 

Judges 18:31 So they set up for themselves Micah's graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh.
all the time (KJV): Jdg 19:18 21:21 Jos 18:1 1Sa 1:3 4:4 Jer 7:12

What a way to find a new home! The Danites kidnapped the hireling priest of the false religion and stole the idols. Then they killed innocent people who were living in ignorant isolation, a dangerous thing in that day. The climax came when they set up their own center of idolatrous worship, in open disobedience to the Word of God.

They were living in a place where there was “no lack of anything that is on the earth” (v10); yet they lacked everything that God wanted to give them from heaven! Their false prosperity gave them false security that could not last.

The account of Micah, Jonathan, and the Danites is more than a story from ancient history. It's a revelation of the wickedness of the human heart and the hopelessness of human society without God. Our modern world has substituted idols for the true and living God and has devised its own humanistic religion, complete with "priests"-the experts who tell us that the Bible is wrong but their way is right. But neither their idols nor their priests have any power against the violence of the human heart.

This chapter is like a preview of coming attractions for America. The home, the ministry, and society are disintegrating before our eyes, and people don't want to hear the truth! But whether they want it or not, the world must be told that Jesus Christ died for lost sinners, and that the power of Christ can transform hearts, homes, churches, and society if people will only trust Him.

English preacher John Donne wrote

"Christ beats His drum, but He does not press men. Christ is served with voluntaries."

Are you available?

SHILOH:
Click for discussion of Shiloh. Shiloh was a small village about 20 miles north of Jerusalem and was important because it served as the religious center for Israel during the period of the judges before the kingdom was united under the leadership of David. Numerous references are made to Shiloh during this period as the city where the “house of God” was located (Jdg18:31). These references are probably to the tabernacle with its ark of the Testimony—or perhaps a permanent building that housed the tabernacle—because the temple was not constructed until about 960 b.c. during Solomon’s time. Hannah prayed for a son at Shiloh. God granted this request by sending Samuel. During his boyhood, Samuel worked with the high priest Eli at Shiloh.

One of the most beautiful stories of the Old Testament is about Samuel’s response to the voice of the Lord. Thinking his master Eli was calling him, he awakened the high priest to find out what the high priest wanted (see illustration). Finally, it dawned on both that God was calling Samuel in a unique revelation of His will for the boy. Samuel’s response to God’s next call was, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears” (1 Sa3:1–10). Samuel eventually succeeded Eli.

The tabernacle was located in Shiloh during Samuel’s early years as priest (1 Sam. 1:9; 4:3, 4). However, during a battle with the Philistines, the ark of the Testimony was captured by Israel’s enemies because God had forsaken Shiloh as the center of worship (Ps78:60). When the ark was returned to Israel by the Philistines, it was not placed at Shiloh (2 Sa 6:2–17). It was lodged instead at Kirjath Jearim (1 Chr. 13:3–14).After the ark was moved to another city, Shiloh gradually lost its importance. This loss was made complete when Jerusalem was established as capital of the kingdom in David’s time. In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, Shiloh was in ruin (Jer 7:12, 14). It became an inhabited town again in the days of the Greeks and Romans several centuries later.


G Campbell Morgan
Judges 18.31


So they set them up Micah's graven image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. Judges 18.31.

Whether intentionally on the part of the writer or no, there is a touch of satire in this declaration. There, at Shiloh, was the true centre of the national life, the house of God. In connection with its worship, all the resources of national strength were to be found. Nevertheless, at Dan they gathered about the false, and rendered a worship which was destructive. The terrible decadence of the religious idea is very startlingly revealed in this whole story. The consciousness of the importance of religion was deeply embedded in the mind of the people. Micah must worship, and the Danites felt the necessity of main­taining some kind of relationship with God. Then why did .they turn from the true, to a perversion which was utterly false? The answer is found in the revelation of motive. In each case there was a prostitution of religion to purposes of personal prosperity. Micah hoped by the mainte­nance of some form of worship, and the presence of a priest, that Jehovah would do him good, by which he evidently meant that material prosperity would come to him. The Danites, going forth on the enterprise of providing more territory for themselves, were anxious for the mainte­nance of religion. Whenever religion is acknowledged and adopted merely in order to ensure material prosperity, it suffers degradation. Thus do men try to serve God and Mammon. It cannot be done. The attempt always fails. All history proves the folly of leaving the true God for the false, in the ruin which results to those who do so. God is not mocked. (Morgan, G. C. Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible)

Dan and the Levite of Judah
(Judges 18)
by Henri Rossi

This chapter shows us the connection of one of the tribes with the religious system which we have seen set up in Judges 17. Dan had proved himself to be the weakest of the tribes of Israel. Forced into the mountains by the Amorites (Judges 1:34), and lacking the faith to take possession of his inheritance, he sent out five men to reconnoiter, in order to search the portion he still lacked. Laish, a quiet and prosperous town, was situated at the northern extremity of Canaan, far from the Zidonians to whom it belonged, and did no business with any one. This city afforded Dan an opportunity for an inglorious conquest, but presented besides everything that the natural heart could desire. "A place," said the messengers, "where there is no want of anything that is in the earth" (Jdg 18:10). Apart from its wickedness, Laish, like Sodom before its destruction, was like a garden of the Lord; a conquest worthy of a Lot but not of an Abraham, but which was a temptation to the tribe of Dan in their enfeebled and lax state. Dan had a battle to fight, a victory to gain in his own boundaries, over the Amorites of the valley; but this combat would have cost him too much; he preferred a conquest without danger, won at the extremity of the land far from the eyes of Jehovah's witnesses and from the place where his real enemy was, who was left without a word in possession of Dan's true inheritance.

On their way, these five men met the Levite in the house of Micah and asked him: "Who brought thee hither? and what makest (doest) thou in this place? and what hast thou here?" (Jdg 18:3). These questions ought to have opened the eyes of the Levite, if anything could have done so. What answer, in fact, could he give? His own will had brought him there, for he sought to establish himself; he did what Micah told him to do; he had money, a salary - just so many characteristics of all ministry of human appointment, which can go on entirely without God, being dependent upon men, and working for a salary.

"And they said unto him. Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous" (Jdg 18:5). Of such an one do the men seek direction as to their course, and they get the answer that they desired: "Go in peace; before Jehovah is your way wherein ye go" (v. 6). Under penalty of not being considered a properly appointed minister, it was necessary to mix up the Lord's name to this false pretension of being the oracle of the people.

Later on, when the tribe of Dan were again passing by armed, the first thing they did was to carry off Micah's gods and take absolute possession of his priest. They set before the latter in the most dazzling way the promotion that he would obtain: "Is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe, and a family in Israel?" (Jdg 18:19). He got a call to a more influential and lucrative position. As to the will of God in the matter, that never entered the mind of the priest. His "heart was glad" at being called away to a new post, and taking "the ephod, and the seraphim, and the graven images, he went in the midst of the people" (Jdg 18:20). He took away his idols with him, and it is with this one whom the men called "their priest" that idolatry assumed an official character in Dan.

Micah ran after these spoilers and said: "Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away; and what have I more?" (Jdg 18:24). What language! They had taken away his religion and the minister that he had appointed and he had nothing left! A man of faith would not have felt the loss of these things; God Himself, His word, His priesthood and His house at Shiloh would have still remained.

The children of Dan went their way, smote Laish, seized upon the city and "called the name of it Dan, after the name of Dan their father" (Jdg 18:29). The name of Dan had more importance for them than that of Jehovah. Such was, in a few words, the dark picture of the religious history of Israel.

L M Grant...

JUDGES 18
SPIES SENT FROM DAN
TO SEEK PROPERTY
(JUDGES 18:1-10)

At that time, though the tribe of Dan had been allotted territory west of Benjamin, bordering the Mediterranean Sea (Josh. 19:40-48), yet this was largely occupied by Philistines whom Dan did not have energy to expel. Thus verse 1 says that their inheritance had not fallen to them. Therefore they sent five men to look for what they considered a more suitable country (Jdg 18:2). Going northward they came to the mountains of Ephraim and found Micah's home a convenient place to lodge.

There they heard and recognized the voice of the consecrated Levite and asked him what brought him there. He told them Micah had hired him be be his priest (Jdg 18:4), and they were impressed enough to think him qualified as an intermediary on whom the could depend to inquire of God for them (Jdg 18:5) as to whether their way would be prosperous. The Levite did not need to inquire from God. He knew these men wanted a prosperous journey, so he gave them just the message they wanted, to go in peace, and that God's presence would be with them (Jdg 18:6). This poor man had no idea of the truth that Paul insists upon in Galatians 1:10, "If I still pleased men, I should not be a bondservant of Christ."

Proceeding much farther north, these five spies came to Laish beyond the borders of Naphtali, and found people living there in peace, having no near neighbors and no necessity for armaments or walled towns, with no king and no affiliation with any other people. This was just what they spies had been looking for, though it was a most unusual situation, much different than what Israel's 12 spies found when they went to spy out Canaan (Num.13:28-29).

When reporting back to their brethren in Zorah and Eshtaol, they urged them to take advantage of this opportunity of possessing a very good land without any significant opposition (Jdg 18:8, 9, 10). They tell them God has given this land into their hand, though nothing is said of their inquiring of God or of God's directing them.

Six hundred men were considered sufficient for the expedition. They camped one night in Kirjath Jearim in Judah, and the next day came to the mountains of Ephraim, to where Micahlived.

Instead of avoiding the place they knew to be a house of idol worship, the five men told their company that in that house there were an ephod, household idols, a carved image and a molded image, -- in other words all they needed to have a well rounded-out religion! (Jdg 18:14). So it was not only Micah who had succumbed to the idolatry of the Canaanite nations, but in this case all the 600 men of Dan, who were willing to boldly rob Micah so that they themselves could be religious! What a condition was this so soon after Israel's entering into the land as recorded in the Book of Joshua!

While the 600 men waited at Micah's gate the five men went in and took all the things they had spoken of (vv.16-17). The consecrated Levite asked them what they were doing and was told to keep quiet, and go with the 600 men. For they asked him if it was not better for him to be a priest to a tribe of Israel than only of one man (Jdg 18:18, 19). When he heard this the pseudo-priest was glad. It meant nothing to him to steal the property of the man who had consecrated him and to leave his employment for a more lucrative job! (Jdg 18:20). But mere religion can make one a robber without conscience!

When Micah became aware of what happened, he gathered some of his neighbors and pursued the 600 men, calling out the them. They answered him by asking what ailed him that he would come after them with such a company (Jdg 18:23). Micah answered, "You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you have gone away. What more do I have? How can you say to me, "What ails you?" (Jdg 18:24) Micah did not realize that he was far better off without these things. He had said before he knew the Lord would be good to him because he had a Levite as priest (tie. 17:13). But now the Lord was being good to him in depriving him of the priest and his idols.

The Danites abruptly told him to silence his voice, with the threat that angry men might attack and kill him and the members of his household (Jdg 18:25). Such was the cruelty of Israelites toward Israelites that early in their history in the promised land. What could Micah's small company do against 600armed men? They could only retreat to their own homes and leave their unprofitable idols to the detriment of the Danites (Jdg 18:26).

THE DANITES SETTLE IN THE NORTH
(Judges 18:27-31)

The 600 men likely felt that now they had some good spiritual guidance with the Levite as priest and idols and ephod, and they continued their journey north to Laish. The city had no defense and no other nearby cities to help them, so that they easily killed the people, burning the city. They probably did not like the buildings in the city so burned it so as to rebuild as they desired (Jdg 18:27, 28). They renamed it Dan (Jdg 18:29). The women and others no doubt followed them soon after.

Dan, having settled in the north of the land of Israel, became guilty of the great spiritual evil of public idolatry. Using the idols that had belonged to one disobedient man, they adopted a worship totally opposed to the law of the God of Israel. Together with this they had the Levite, Jonathan the son of Gershom, and his sons, established as priests (Jdg 18:30). This type of spiritual corruption has been sadly repeated in the professing Church today. Men who have some ability as servants of God, able to preach, have been given the place of spiritual intermediaries between the people and God, and even called "priests" in some denominations -- that is, priests in contrast to the common people. But whether called "priest" or "reverend" or given any other distinctive title, this is contrary to the truth of Christianity, having in it the element of idolatry, for it really usurps God's place in the thoughts of people.

Jdg 18:31 adds significantly "all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh." God did have a center in Israel, though not yet in Jerusalem, but the Danites could assume they did not need that center since they had a worship of their own! As well as being against God, their false worship divided them from their brethren.

F B Meyer...
 

JUDGES 18
A DISTANT COLONY


We learn from Joshua 19:47 that the "coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them;' i.e., was too straitened. Probably they had not developed to the full extent the resources of their possession. Joppa -- at that time the only port in the land -- was in their territory, but the business of the sea does not seem to have afforded sufficient scope for the energies of the people, and an emigration scheme was decided upon. An embassy of five were sent out to search the land, and they came to the extreme north to the country between the tribes of Asher and Naphtali, the companions of Dan in the desert march.


Judges 18:1-10 The Danite scouts. -- There is in all hearts a longing desire to have a consciousness of God's good speed. The Italian bandit seeks a blessing on some proposed crime. And so it was with these five men.


We must not suppose, because there is no obstacle to our possession of that which we covet, but that our course is clear, that therefore God hath given it into our hand. Many a time have souls been allured to their doom because they have pursued an apparently open course. But we need also the assurance of God's counsel, seeking it, not at the hand of a man-made priest, but in communion with God Himself.


Judges 18:11-26 Micah's spoliation. -- What folly on the part of the Danites to suppose that they could be helped by gods, who could not keep themselves from being stolen, or protect the house of their proprietor (Ps. 115:8). The priest had come to Micah for wealth and left him at the first opportunity of preferment. It is a test of the true priest that he does not seek promotion, or a larger income, but is content to minister, though to the house of one man, if that be the will of God. It is of the essence of priestcraft to catch at worldly advantages and emoluments. God's Priest alone never forsakes, and "ever lives to make intercession"


Judges 18:27-31 The capture of Laish. -- There was no harm in seeking an enlarged territory, but we can only turn with a sense of horror from these acts of wholesale extermination. The conscience which is trained in the school of Christ becomes very tender and sensitive, and rightly so. But the considerations which weigh with us could not have been appreciated in those rude times.


The "captivity of the land" (Judges 18:30) was the Philistine invasion (1 Sam. 4). These people were the first among the tribes to establish idolatry. To their lasting discredit this took place while the house of God was in Shiloh (Judges 18:31). How easy it was for Jeroboam to establish in their city one of his golden calves ( Kings 12:29), and how necessary is it that our emigrants and colonists should take true religion with them to their distant homes. (F. B. Meyer. CHOICE NOTES ON JOSHUA THROUGH 2 KINGS)


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