Judges 18


‘In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. So the Danites sent five of their leading men from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all the Danites. They told them, “Go, explore the land.” So they entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night. When they were near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?” He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, “He has hired me and I am his priest.” Then they said to him, “Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful.” The priest answered them, “Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD’s approval.” Judges 18:1-6

The Danites Settle in Laish

The author of Judges begins with the words, ‘in those day Israel had no king’, which implies there’s no leadership and what we’re about to read isn’t going to be God led. Israel has the appearance of formal religion, but their religion isn’t based upon God’s Word.

Remember, in the Book of Joshua we find that the tribe of Dan had the least success in conquering their allotted territory, so they seek out other lands.

And so in these lawless circumstances, a group of Danites are looking for a place to settle down with their families and they send out five strong men to find a suitable spot.

While they’re in Micah’s town, they recognise his Levite priest, whom they had bumped into before. When they see that he’s become a priest, they ask him to counsel with God to see where they should go to find a home, even though God had already told them where to live.

The Levite tells them that God will help them and they find a really nice, spacious, secure city called Laish whose people don’t guard it very well.

‘So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, at peace and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else. When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their fellow Danites asked them, “How did you find things?” They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over. When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.” Judges 18:7-10

The Danites found a city nearby that was not occupied by Israelites, Laish was a Canaanite city about 77 miles north of Mount Ephraim. Notice they lived in safety like the Sidonians, this was a group that God told Israel to drive out of the land of Canaan, Joshua 13:4.

Seeing that the land was good and the city was not heavily defended, the Danites believed this would be a good city to conquer and take as their own territory.

The residents of this village made the same mistake as the Israelites at this time in their history. They lived independently from anyone with whom they could unite if they were attacked by others. Because of their desire to live so independently from others, they were more prone to attacks from raiders as no one would come to their help.

‘Then six hundred men of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day. From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah’s house. Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their fellow Danites, “Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, some household gods and an image overlaid with silver? Now you know what to do.” So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance of the gate. The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate. When the five men went into Micah’s house and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” The priest was very pleased. He took the ephod, the household gods and the idol and went along with the people. Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left. When they had gone some distance from Micah’s house, the men who lived near Micah were called together and overtook the Danites. As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, “What’s the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?” He replied, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter with you?’” The Danites answered, “Don’t argue with us, or some of the men may get angry and attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.” So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned around and went back home.’ Judges 18:11-26

The spies decide that Laish is the place for them, and they return to their families and gather 600 warriors. On their way to conquer Laish, they pass near Micah’s house and the five spies go with their army to say hi to their Levite friend.

While they’re there, they decide to steal Micah’s idols and convince their friend to leave Micah’s house and be their priest instead.

When Micah discovers what has happened, he goes on to protest about what they have done. When the Danites took Micah’s silver idols and graven images, and his priest, they had essentially taken his riches and his religious security.

Micah has no idea that his priest has betrayed him, he has no idea that his priest has left for a better offer. And so, as they’re making off like bandits, Micah and his friends chase them but went back home when they realised that the Danites were simply too strong for him.

What Micah had was a perversion of religion, it was a mixture of pagan idolatry and Judaism. And if he was alive today, he would be the type of man who would likely consult his daily horoscope or call a psychic. But his problem began long before his assets were stolen, he had next to nothing anyway, he just didn’t realize it.

The irony in all this is, is that Micah’s name means ‘who is like God?’, yet God was far from being involved in his life. Micah had long lost God before he lost his idols and so it shouldn’t be a surprise to him when his things get stolen, after all, ‘in those days Israel had no king’, Judges 18:1.

‘Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish. There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.’ Judges 18:27-31

After taking Micah’s idols, graven images and priest, the Danites go on to conquer Laish and move in because there were no kings or judges, there was no one to stop them and they also rename it, Dan. The city of Dan became the northernmost outpost of the nation of Israel in the land of Palestine, Judges 20:1 / 1 Samuel 3:20.

Jonathan was probably the name of Micah’s Levite priest, Judges 17:7-13. The Jew believe that Gershom was indeed the son of Moses.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following concerning ‘the captivity of the land’.

‘It is amazing to this writer that the same radical scholars who can find thirty ‘interpolations’ or ‘glosses’ in a single chapter are absolutely blind to such a thing when they actually encounter one. That there are indeed editorial additions to the sacred text here and there cannot be denied, as for example in those places where the sacred writer’s death and burial are recorded. An example is found in Joshua 24:29-30, and another is in Deuteronomy 34:5-8.

The phrase noted here is possibly an editorial addition at a later time than that of Samuel’s narration. If these words mean ‘after the Assyrian captivity’, then Samuel who died centuries earlier could not have written them. Baigent stated that ‘until the day of the captivity’ is a later editorial insertion, and the date indicated here is probably that of the fall of the Northern Israel, circa 721 B.C. Furthermore, this appears to mean that the apostasy of Dan was never healed but continued until the Assyrians captured and depopulated Northern Israel.’

It’s interesting to note that the house of God, that is, the tabernacle was in Shiloh. In other words, because the Danites had set up their own place of worship, there were two places of worship, one for the true God and one for idolatry.

This was the beginning of established idolatry in Israel in the Promised Land. What started as individual idolatry in Micah’s home, Judges 17:1-6, led to the tribe of Dan becoming idolaters.

All this happened because ‘in those days Israel had no king’, Judges 18:1.

Go To Judges 19


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