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Bible Commentaries
Judges 18

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-6

Judges - Chapter 18

Danite Search Party, vs. 1-6

Notice is again made that there was no king in the land of Israel at this time. The inference is that had there been he might have subjected the enemy of the Danites and allowed them to possess their inheritance, or else he might have forbidden them to leave their inheritance and go to another area possessed by another people. Looking back to Joshua 19:40-48 it is found that the present incident was anticipated there. It is stated that their coast "went out too little for them." Why was this? The area allotted Dan was ample, as large as some of the other tribes. The reason is that they lacked the faith to believe they could take it by the power of the Lord out of the hands of the Philistines, though the Lord had promised to give it to them (Joshua 1:3-4). The land had been subjected in the conquest under Joshua, but the tribes allowed the return of the pagan Canaanites and the infiltration of the Philistines so that the conquest was lost to them in many areas.

The weakness of faith and lack of trust in the Lord on the part of the Danites is quite evident in this account under study. It persisted through the years, so that several centuries later in the time of Samson, there was still the same old problem of domineering Philistines and weak Israelites. Rather than turn to the Lord in faith these early Danites decided to take affairs in their own hands. They would search out and find a place which they could wrest from the inhabitants with relative ease and move there. The very area they left from was the later home of Manoah and Samson. Five men were sent to spy out a place for them.

When these spies were passing the god-house of Micah they heard a familiar voice. It was Jonathan, the young Levite priest Micah had installed in his god-house. Evidently that young rover in his roaming had been in Dan where he had become known to these Danite men. They talked to him and learned how he had come to such good fortune as he now seemed to enjoy. Since he was a purported priest they asked him to inquire of the Lord whether the journey they were on to seek another homeland would be prosperous. Jonathan went through the pretense of seeking the will of the Lord in the matter, coming up with the answer he knew they wanted, "Go in peace: before the Lord is your way wherein ye go."

Verses 7-21

Danites Rob Micah, vs. 7-21

The five spies turned northward in their quest and reached the area of Joshua’s most northern conquests. They settled on the small town of Laish, which was peopled by Phoenician folk from Zidon. These had ventured a considerable distance from other Phoenician settlements, but felt secure, inasmuch as they were in an isolated and unsettled land which no one evidently claimed. They had no magistrate, or form of government, over them, so no laws were enforced in their behalf. Their being quiet and careless means they caused no trouble, expected no trouble, and lived in a carefree manner. They were also a self-sufficient people, carrying on no trade with others.

This seemed to be exactly what the Danites were looking for, so they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, gathered the elders, and announced their findings. They strongly advised that it be possessed, believing that it was of the will of the Lord they should have it. They may have based this latter on the inquiry of Jonathan the Levite of Micah’s god-house for them. The land was so good, they believed they would find everything they needed in it, and all they needed to do was to rise up, go, and possess it.

Nevertheless, they armed six hundred men for any eventuality. Their trek carried them through the tribe of Judah, where they camped for a time west of Kirjath-jearim. The place got a permanent name, Maheneh-dan, which means "Dan’s Camp." Then they moved into Ephraim, and as they passed the god-house of Micah the five spies remembered their visit there previously. Informing their compatriots of the "holy things (?)" housed there, they suggested that these might be useful to them in the furtherance of their project. So the entourage turned aside to the house of Micah and accosted the Levite.

While the Levite was engaged in conversing with the six hundred armed men the five spies went into the god-house and began stripping it of its images, teraphim, and ephod. The Levite protested, but was soon quieted by the proffer of a new position which filled him with pride. Instead of remaining a priest for a lone man and his family, why not take the gods and other paraphernalia and come with them, be a father (spiritual adviser) and priest (mediator) to an entire tribe. This appealed to Jonathan’s pride and he readily accepted the offer. He took the things in his personal possession, and went in the midst of the men, protected by them. They now returned on their way, but took the precaution of putting the children and their goods in the forefront lest trouble come upon them from the rear.

Verses 22-31

City of Dan, vs. 22-31

The whereabouts of Micah while the Danites were robbing him is not told in the record. It seems he must have been absent, though he may have waited until he-could raise a force to try to reclaim his gods. The migrating Danites had proceeded some distance on their way before they were overtaken by Micah and some of his neighbors, who probably worshipped at his god-house also.

Micah’s pursuing forces overtook the Danites screaming at them about their crime. The Danites, however, acted very innocent and naive in the matter. On the other hand, the anxiety and plea of Micah is somewhat humorous because of the whole ridiculous nature of it. It was not of course any ways humorous to Micah. Their theft of his. gods represented a great material loss to him.

The Danites asked Micah, "What ails you? following us with such a company," just as though they had no idea what could be the matter with him. Micah complained that they had taken all that he had and gone away with it, stripped him to poverty, and they had the audacity to ask, "What ails you?" Then the Danites threatened Micah and his neighbors. They warned him to back off lest some forward man among the Danites attack and they be killed, and their households with them. Then, they turned and resumed their way.

Poor Micah! Poor godless Micah! Poor Godless Micah! He placed his hope, his trust, his confidence in these images of silver, thinking they could protect him when they could not even protect themselves. How foolish he was. He was not just then without a god. His gods were no gods, (Psalms 115:4-9). He had been without God in his heart and life from the beginning. It was good that he lose these worthless gods, if it would awaken him to their uselessness and cause him to turn to the true God. Micah, however, saw he could not regain his gods from the Danites and returned homeward. Nothing more is known of him.

The Danites went on to Laish carrying Micah’s gods. It was a cowardly thing they did, attacking a little peaceful town who had no idea it had an enemy in the world. They put it to the sword and burned it to the ground. No one really cared about the people of Laish, for probably few outside of themselves knew they existed. The Danites leveled the place and built their own town, which they named Dan after their patriarchal, tribal father. It was to be the northernmost city in Israel. An expression arose in Israel, "From Dan to Beersheba," meaning the whole of Israel. Dan was in the far north, Beersheba in the far south.

The Danites set up the idols of Micah and other paraphernalia in the city of Dan, where they remained and were worshipped throughout the period when other Israelites were worshipping at Shiloh, at the tabernacle, and even through the many centuries to the ultimate captivity of the land, about 721 B.C. Jonathan was installed as their priest, and his sons succeeded him. It is now revealed that Jonathan was the grandson of the great leader, Moses. The King James Version of our Bibles says "Manasseh," but Scholars agree that the name of Moses had the letter nun ( English N) inserted by the copyists to protect the family of Moses from the scandal. However, the father of Jonathan was Gershom, the son of Moses. Sons of great men have often turned out to be very bad men.

Many lessons may be derived from this shameful episode in the history of Israel: 1) the easy way out of a problem is never right when it is not God’s way; in fact, God’s way is easier; 2) those who trust in material things for life will be left empty and deprived of those things; 3) those who take the empty things which have failed others are among the greatest of fools; 4) a bad start will never improve until men return and start over aright; it will lead even generations to false hope and eternal condemnation.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Judges 18". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/judges-18.html. 1985.
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