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Judges 18:1 . Inheritance had not fallen to them. Dan had the seventh lot, but not enough for all his families.
Judges 18:5 . Ask counsel of God. Here was another total breach, both with God’s sanctuary and with the highpriest, whose right it was to consult the oracle. We marvel that Micah, cursed by his mother for sacrilege, should by some be washed white, and made a pure worshipper of the true God!
Judges 18:6 . Go in peace. The young levite either gave this answer, or the devil spake through the idol, as Menochius observes. Though the name of Jehovah be used here, he could give an oracle against a Sidonian colony which was not of the seven nations, to surprise and exterminate an unoffending people against the Hebrews. If the Lord, the high and holy One, had given an oracle at all, it had not been to rob Micah, and set up the calf in Dan.
Judges 18:7 . Laish, called Leshem. Joshua 19:47. They afterwards called it Dan, after the name of their father. It was pleasantly situate at the foot of mount Lebanon, and near the springs which form the little Dan or weaker arm of the Jordan. Jeroboam afterwards built a temple in Dan for the golden calf, for Dan was a friendly soil for the growth of idolatry. This city was in the northern extremity of the promised land, as Beersheba was in the south. The inhabitants lived at ease, in luxury, idleness, and vice. They had no king, and refused all restraints from the civil power. But though they lived like the Zidonians; yet as they had no allies, it is supposed they were a branch of the seven devoted nations.
Judges 18:17 . Graven image, ephod, teraphim, in the plural number, molten image. This verse illustrates what is said above, that Micah had a house or temple of gods, which identifies him with idolaters. Laish, now Dan, being in the extremity of the land, it was not easy either for David or Solomon to put these idols down.
Judges 18:30 . Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh. The Vulgate reads, the son of Moses. The apology for this variation is, that a letter is wanting in many Hebrew manuscripts. This family, it appears, kept their places as priests in the idol temple of Dan, until the day of the captivity of the land. Others read, as cited by Du Pin: “until the day of their transmigration, after the ark was removed from Shiloh.” It is evident enough, from Judges 1:21, that the Benjamites could not drive out the Jebusites, which dwelt in Jerusalem. The book of Judges was therefore written before David took the fortress of Jebus, to which he gave the name of Zion.
What then is meant by “the captivity of the land?” Not the partial advantages of Philistia, west of the Jordan, nor the captivity of the remains of the ten tribes by Salmaneser; but the final captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. Now when Ezra and others transcribed the sacred books, it is probable, if they did not find the frequent phrase until this day, that merely for the sake of illustration, they transcribed into the text what at first had stood as a marginal note.
Much of Dan’s lot, through inaction and want of spirit, remained occupied by the Philistines; and being deficient of inheritance they sent out an armed colony towards Assyria. Before they left home they were prudent enough to send five men to explore a situation; and the inhabitants of Laish little thought, on seeing those men, that they were the harbingers of destruction. So it sometimes happens that vengeance bursts in a moment on those who are secure and rioting in sin.
Micah was the first to have his hopes blasted by this expedition. Happy if he had abode in the good old way, conformably to the covenant so often renewed. He discovered a sordid soul, and served God for the good things of this life; but the Lord, indignant at so mean a motive, requited him with shame and loss. Mark how the Danites deride his cries: “What aileth thee, what aileth thee?” Have thy gods forsaken thy temple? Were they so blind as not to apprize thee of danger: and so weak as not to protect thee when it came? So shall every man be derided who makes an idol of his gold, or places his hopes in an arm of flesh.
But the character of this young levite is most to be abhorred. He wandered in poverty to seek his bread; and had most need to adhere to his father’s God, that he might enjoy the supports of piety. When Micah made the daring overture to this stranger, instead of advocating the cause of true religion, he had the art to combine his interest with his profession, an art worthy of execration. This man, having once betrayed his conscience and his God, betrayed next his generous benefactor. The moment a proposal of preferment offered, he joined himself to the emigrants, and became a principal in the plot for the robbery of Micah. How detestable is the ministerial character when destitute of all those virtues which constitute its real glory, and command the veneration of men. If he preach against vice, the wicked will soon say, hold thy peace, and go with us. But did the levite prosper in his treason? Did the Danites keep faith with a man who had kept no faith with heaven? No: they placed Jonathan in the new pontificate, and degraded this man to humble servitude. When was any man happy, faithless to his God, and apostate from his profession.
Mark also the dreadful contagion of apostasy and vice. An old woman, affected probably with some roots of Egyptian superstition, hoarded up money for an ephod, a teraphim, and a couple of idols. She corrupted her son, and her neighbours. The Danites also who robbed this temple became corrupted with the sacrilege to future ages, and involved themselves in greater punishments than Micah’s loss. How zealous then should magistrates and ministers be for the suppression of vice, and the preservation of religion. By the vigorous suppression of a single vice in the bud, they may prevent calamities for ages to come.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 18". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/