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Eve of Pentacost
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 18

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.

In those days ... the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in. The Danites had a territory assigned them as well as the other tribes. But they were the last of the tribes to whom, in the division of the land, an allotment was assigned. Their portion was small, and, small as it was, it suffered diminution by the encroachments of their powerful neighbours, the Amorites (Judges 1:34), and still more of the Philistines. It was the most exposed part of the country, not only on the seacoast, where at Joppa (Jaffa) foreign invaders might easily at any time debark to attack them, but on the side of the Philistines; because the plain of Sharon is only a continuation of their country, and there was no kind of barrier or protection between them and the Shephelah.

In consequence of this annoying exposure, and also of being straitened for room, a considerable number resolved on trying to effect a new and additional settlement in a remote part of the land. A small deputation being despatched to reconnoitre the country, arrived on their progress northward at [bÂȘ-, near] the residence of Micah; and recognizing this priest as one of their former acquaintances, or perhaps by his provincial dialect, they eagerly enlisted his services in ascertaining the result of their present expedition. His answer, though apparently promising, was delusive, and really as ambigious as those of the pagan oracles. This application brings out still more clearly and fully thin the schism of Micah the woeful degeneracy of the times. The Danites expressed no emotions either of surprise or of indignation at a Levite daring to assume the priestly functions, and at the existence of a rival establishment to that of Shiloh. They are ready to seek, through means of the teraphim, the information that could only be lawfully applied for through the high priest's Urim; and, being thus equally erroneous in their views and habits as Micah, showed the low state of religion, and how much superstition prevailed in all parts of the land.

Verses 2-6

And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.

The five men departed, and came to Laish - or Leshem (Joshua 19:47), supposed to have been populated by a colony of Zidonians. The place was very secluded, the soil rich in the abundance and variety of its produce, and the inhabitants, following the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, lived in their fertile and sequestered valley, according to the Zidonian style of ease and security, happy among themselves, and maintaining little or no communication with the rest of the world. The discovered of this northern paradise seemed, to the delight of the Danite spies, an accomplishment of the priest's prediction, and they hastened back to inform their brethren in the south both of the value of their prize and how easily it could be made their prey.

Verses 8-10

And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 11

And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war.

There went from thence of the family of the Danites ... six hundred men. This was the collective number of the men who were equipped with arms to carry out this expeditionary enterprise, without including the families and furniture of the emigrants (Judges 18:21). Their journey led them through the territory of Judah, and their first halting-place was "behind," that is, on the west of, Kirjath-jearim, on a spot called afterward 'the camp of Dan.' Prosecuting the northern route, they skirted the base of the Ephraimite hills; and on approaching the neighbourhood of Micah's residence, the spies having given information to the exploring party that a private sanctuary was kept there, the priest of which had rendered them important service when on their reconnoitering expedition, it was unanimously agreed that both he and the furniture of the establishment would be a valuable acquisition to their proposed settlement.

A plan of spoliation was immediately formed. They went to the residence of the young Levite, adjoining to the mansion of Micah, and while the armed men stood sentinels at the gate, the five spies broke into the chapel, pillaged the images and vestments, and succeeded in bribing the priest also, by a tempting offer, to transfer his services to their new colony. Taking charge of the ephod, the teraphim, and the graven image, "he went in the midst of the people" - a central position assigned him in the march, perhaps for his personal security; but more probably in imitation of the place appointed for the priests and the ark in the middle of the congregated tribes, on the marches through the wilderness. This theft presents a curious medley of low morality and strong religious feeling. The Danites exemplified a deep-seated principle of our nature-that mankind have religious affections, which must have an object on which these may be exercised, while they are often not very discriminating in the choice of the objects. In proportion to the slender influence religion wields over the heart, the greater is the importance attached to external rites; and in the exact observance of these the conscience is fully satisfied, and seldom or never molested by reflections on the breach of minor morals.

Verses 12-21

And they went up, and pitched in Kirjath-je'arim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjath-je'arim.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 22

And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah's house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan.

The men that were in the houses near to Micah's house were gathered together. The robbery of the chapel having been discovered, though not until the expeditionary party were a considerable way on their journey, a hot pursuit was forthwith commenced by Micah, at the head of a considerable body of followers. The readiness with which they joined in the attempt to recover the stolen articles affords a presumption that the advantages of the chapel had been open to all in the neighbourhood; and the importance which Micah, like Laban, attached to his teraphim, is seen by the urgency with which he pursued the thieves, and the risk of his life in attempting to procure their restoration.

Verses 23-24

And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 25

And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household.

The children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us ... Both Micah and the Danites attached great importance to the possession of lifeless images as guaranteeing the power and favour of Yahweh: both thought that, by the forcible transfer of a little silver from one party to the other, the one had lost and the other had gained the surest means of prosperity. Finding his party, however, not a match for the Danites, Micah thought it prudent to desist, well knowing the rule which was then prevalent in the land, that

`They should take who had the power, And they should keep who could.'

Verse 26

And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 27

And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire.

They ... came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them ... and burnt the city. 'We are revolted by this inroad and massacre of a quiet and secure people. Nevertheless, if the original grant of Canaan to the Israelites gave them the warrant of a divine commission and command for this enterprise, that sanctifies all, and legalizes all' (Chalmers). This place seems to have been a dependency of Zidon, the distance of which, however, rendered it impossible to obtain aid thence in the sudden emergency. Tyre was twenty miles distant, but it had not risen into importance at that early period.

Verse 28

And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein.

Built a city ...

Verse 29

And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.

Called the name of the city Dan. It was in the northern extremity of the land; and hence, the origin of the phrase, "from Dan to Beer-sheba."

Verse 30

And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.

The children of Dan set up the graven image. Their distance secluded them from the rest of the Israelites; and doubtless this, which was their apology for not going to Shiloh, was the cause of perpetuating idolatry among them for many generations.

Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh. [The best MSS. universally have Mosheh (H4872) Moses, not MÂȘnaseh (H4519), Manasseh.] A sad proof of the degeneracy of the great law-giver's family, as well as of the religious disorders of that age.

Until ... the captivity of the land - i:e., until the overthrow of the kingdom.

Verse 31

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

They set them up Micah's graven image ... all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. This early apostasy to idolatry, with the infamy subsequently attached to Dan, by its being the chosen site of one of Jeroboam's calves, is supposed to be the reason why this tribe is omitted in the enumeration of the tribes in the Apocalypse (Revelation 7:1-17).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Judges 18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/judges-18.html. 1871-8.
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