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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 18

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Verses 1-2


What is found in the previous chapter with the Levite, we will see in this chapter with an entire tribe. The Levite searched in good luck for a place where he can go, without wondering what the LORD wants. Just like the other tribes, the tribe of Dan was given an inheritance, but did not take possession of it due to unfaithfulness. Now they are also in good luck looking for a place where they can settle. In this chapter they meet each other. The sin of the individual becomes the sin of an entire tribe.

Seeking an Inheritance

The tribe of Dan has proven to be the weakest tribe when conquering the land. We have seen this in Judges 1 (Judges 1:34). They lacked the strength to take possession of the inheritance allotted to them. In the days when there is no king in Israel, they wander around looking for an inheritance. If there is no looking upward to God and no attentive ear for His directions, the result is disobedience and doing one’s own will. This is indicative of the lack of strength.

In Joshua 19 God has given a clear description of the area He has reserved for the Danites (Joshua 19:40-1 Corinthians :). However, they avoid the enemy, who they let live on their allotted inheritance and now go in search for an easier prey. The spies who are sent out come from the same area where Samson grew up (Judges 13:25).

Sending spies is reminiscent of what Moses did (Numbers 13:2). This was done at the request of the people (Deuteronomy 1:22). It is not proof of simple trust in what the LORD has said. Why should spies be sent out when God has made promises?

With the tribe of Dan everything happens from their own reasoning. Faith is nowhere to be discovered. But what about us? God has also given us our own inheritance. What do we do with that? If we do not take possession of that, we will focus on something else. The tribe of Dan is here a picture of God’s people seeking a place on earth because taking possession of the heavenly inheritance demands too much of them.

If we refuse God’s choice for us, we search for ourselves, but then we are not in God’s way. We finally arrive at the house and religion of Micah. The sequel shows that Micah’s religion fits seamlessly with the Danites’ mindset.

Verses 3-4

Question and Answer

When the Danites come to Micah’s house, the Levite stands out by his way of talking. Apparently he doesn’t belong here. To satisfy their curiosity, they ask him a few questions. These questions could have opened the Levite’s eyes to the wrong he did and the false position he is in.

At question one, the honest answer should have been that his own will had brought him here. But that question is not answered. The other two questions are answered correctly. He exercises the priesthood for Micah, who gives him money for it and allows him to enjoy other benefits as well (Judges 17:10). The Levite is a by men ordained priest and must do what Micah expects of him.

We know this phenomenon today. In 2 Timothy 4 it says that there will be a time when people will “[wanting] to have their ears tickled, … accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3). In that time we live. For practicing their religion, people are looking for people who can speak nice and good, as long as their conscience is set aside. They have to talk about the pleasant things of life. They may quote the Bible, as long as they explain it in the way they like. What is said must not be allowed to condemn them, because then they choose another preacher. The norms and values given by God in the Bible should not be too clear.

As a result, Christianity today shows no other image than the time we have before us in the book of Judges. The introduction of a clergy into Christianity began very early. It has been forgotten that it is not men who can appoint someone to a particular service, but that the Lord Jesus Himself has given gifts to His ‘body’, that is the church. We read “and He gave some [as]” (Ephesians 4:11), and “but now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (1 Corinthians 12:18). This does not involve negotiations on employment conditions, as is currently the case with the clergy.

The gifts are for the whole church, not for a separate group. No group can claim a gift for itself. By the willful actions of man this is denied and pushed aside. Each group has its own prominent leaders. Also in this respect there is nothing new under the sun. This evil is already found in the church in Corinth. The apostle Paul addresses this matter in his first letter to them directly in the first chapter (1 Corinthians 1:10-1 Chronicles :).

Verses 5-6

Again Question and Answer

Apparently convinced by the answers the Levite gave to their questions, the Danites see in him someone through whom they can ask the will of God. God is involved, but only to serve as a kind of stamp of approval on their actions. They ask the way of someone who has departed from God himself. By asking such a man the will of God, the tribe of Dan betrays his own spiritual condition. They do not wonder whether the position of the Levite has any right of existence for God. He presents himself as a clergy man, holds that position with Micah and so he is acceptable to the Danites.

They get the answer they want to hear. They flatter him by acknowledging him in his position. He flatters them by giving them the answer they want to hear. He doesn’t have to think about this answer for a second. There is no indication whatsoever that he is really engaging God. He tells them that they can go in peace, indicating that they will triumph over their enemies.

Verse 7

A Prosperous Journey

What the Levite predicted comes true. They arrive in an area that meets all their desires of laziness and selfishness. The people who live there, live withdrawn, do not care about anything and have nothing to do with anyone. It is a people who live lawless: “There was no ruler.” They are not accountable to anyone.

Lawlessness does not necessarily mean all kinds of atrocities. Lawlessness is to live without regard to the authority that is set above us. For every human being this is in any case the authority of God. We can say that in 1 John 3 we have the definition of sin: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

The people discovered by the Danites are not people of what we would call great sinners. They live neatly and peacefully. Yet they are not less sinners because of that. This is also shown by the fact that they live “after the manner of the Sidonians”. What the Sidonians propose, we saw during the discussion of Judges 3 (Judges 3:3). There we saw that the Sidonians are people characterized by greed. They have an insatiable hunger for money. In the same way the people that the Danites find in that place live.

We can compare them to people who work hard and live soberly, but only do so to hoard. They count, so to speak, their money every day and conclude with pleasure that again it is slightly more than the previous day. The possession of money is their everything. Giving something away is the worst thought that might come to mind. They live for themselves and do not want to have anything to do with anyone; that would only be difficult because it could cost money. The Danites want to take over this place and position. The area is attractive to them. The discovery of this area seems to be an affirmative answer to their question to God through the Levite.

This is a lesson for us that an answer we receive, which is to our liking, does not always mean that we are in the Lord’s way. It is important in what mind we have prayed. Sometimes God allows us to get what we ask for because He sees that we are determined in our own will. Such a thing always causes horrible damage: “So He gave them their request, But sent a wasting disease among them” (Psalms 106:15).

Asking for the will of God presupposes sincerity toward Him and the awareness that He really knows what is best. Paul encourages us: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Then he does not say that we will also receive what we have asked for, but: “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). By bringing everything to the Lord and entrusting ourselves to Him, we keep peace and rest in our hearts. Suffering spiritual poverty is not an issue then.

Verses 8-10

The Report of the Spies

The tribe mates are very curious about the findings of the spies. They report enthusiastically and insist on immediate action. What they have seen exceeds the wildest expectations. In their passionate story there is even room for God. Here too God is ‘called in’ to put the stamp of approval on their report.

Nobody wonders if this is the land God has thought good for them. After all, all the circumstances already make it clear that God has given this land into their hands, don’t they? With the same eyes and mindset, Lot used to look at the region of Sodom and Gomorrah. It looked “like the garden of the LORD” (Genesis 13:10), a jewel of a place to dwell. Lot did not wonder what the LORD wanted. He followed with his heart what his eyes saw. We read in Genesis 19 about the misfortune that this brought to him and his family (Genesis 19:1-Zechariah :). The Danites possess exactly such a spirit as Lot.

Verses 11-21

The Promotion of Micah’s Priest

The call of the spies is answered. An army of six hundred men sets out to take possession of ‘the promised land’. Via Kiriath-jearim they reach the house of Micah. Then follows a remarkably detailed and vivid description of the way in which the Levite of Micah is taken over by the tribe of Dan.

The five men of the first mission lead the six hundred. Five is the number of responsibilities. Just as they are responsible for recommending the tribe’s new home area, so they are also responsible for the way this expedition is conducted. They take the floor and the initiative. Obviously, before taking possession of the area in question, they had planned to recruit the Levite as a tribal priest. After all, he made them hear a very favorable statement from God, which has come true. They can use such a man in their tribe very well.

They also tell their contemporaries of the other discovery they made, of the idols in the houses of Micah. They don’t have to explain what they mean. Their tribesmen have the same spiritual mindset as they.

When they arrive at the house, the five men first enter the house, while the others wait at the gate. The five take away the idols. If the priest sees this, he objects. However, that does not impress in any way. A self-willed priesthood is nothing. It serves only to satisfy religious feelings. The tribe of Dan is looking for this. Therefore, the Levite is silenced without pardon and they make him an enticing proposal.

The priest’s mood changes immediately when he hears what is promised. This proposal means an important improvement in his position and a larger circle within which he can exert his influence. The whole thing is so attractive, that he doesn’t even think about his obligations towards Micah anymore. He packs his things and goes with the Danites. The thought of asking about God’s will does not arise in him at all.

This kind of thing is not strange to us. Although we may not be asked, we are all sensitive to spiritual promotion. Imagine that we can choose from two occasions where we can tell something about the Lord Jesus. On one occasion we can expect a few hundred people, while on the other we can be happy when twenty people come up. What opportunity would we prefer? Isn’t it to that place where we can tell hundreds of people something about the Lord Jesus? It is to be desired that we first speak to the Lord about it. Then He will make it clear where we have to go.

The point is, that we are naturally inclined to look at what see, isn’t it? Let us be honest. What the Levite does is in our blood. The only thing that can preserve us from such human and carnal motives is a sincere questioning of the will of God. Let us not lose sight of the danger of the financial aspect either. The temptation to be guided by this is at least as great as the size of the hearing. Places where they reward a spiritual service well are more popular than those where they don’t rattle with the moneybag.

Anyone who may do a service for the Lord must take such dangers into account. We can learn this from the negotiations between the Danites and the Levite. The only client must be the Lord. Our only motive must be to serve Him. Everything else we can leave to Him.

Verses 22-26

Micah’s Protest

Then Micah comes to the discovery that his house gods and his priest are lost, consequently, he drums up his men and starts the chase. After they have overtaken the Danites, the deeply sad testimony of Micah follows. Now that his idol and his priest are gone, he has nothing left. He feels he has been robbed of all spiritual support. Because a simple calculation teaches him that he with his small army can never take on the Danites, he goes home like a beaten dog. Apparently it does not occur to him to ask for the true God. So great is the spiritual decay in the people of Israel.

The Danites, however, are not better. Without a trace of pity they snarl poor Micah, despite the fact that he is a fellow countryman of them. When the true God no longer has His unifying place among His people, it is done with the unity of that people. There is therefore no respect for each other anymore. The following chapters will prove this abundantly.

Micah is not a man of faith. He relies on external things. The grip of his life is anchored in what is tangible. If that is taken away from him, he is adrift. How many Christians have not unconsciously relied on the certainties with which they have surrounded themselves? For us, an idol is something that separates us from God, something that makes us independent of Him in our actions. Those who rely only on their driving abilities in traffic and not on the preservation of God, have made these abilities an idol. That is what he admires, without including God who gave him those capacities. Those who rely solely on their insurance policies in case of setbacks and keep God out of those setbacks, have given their insurance the status of idolatry.

A man of faith may well possess certain external things, but his faith does not rely on them. It is the state of his heart towards God that is decisive, and in that mind he also looks at all kinds of external things. This is missing with Micah.

What Micah does and says here reminds us of what his ancestor Abraham once did, but in all respects in the greatest possible contrast with Micah. Abraham also chases with a small army of three hundred and eighteen men a large army (Genesis 14:10-Nehemiah :). He does not do this to bring back idols, but to free his deviated brother Lot. He does not negotiate, but defeats the united armies of no less than five kings and frees his brother and nephew Lot.

It is not for nothing that Abraham is called “the father of the believers”. In him we see a shining example of how faith in God works. From him we can learn how to do it and from Micah how not to do it.

Verses 27-31

The Conquest of Laish

The idols and the priest of Micah are taken away by the Danites as a kind of mascot. It will certainly ensure success in the assignment for which they are on the road. And so it happens. Laish offers no opposition. Because of their secluded position, there is no one around to catch a possible emergency signal and come to their aid.

God uses the tribe of Dan to judge them for their selfish, money-minded lifestyle. The fact that the tribe of Dan itself can be condemned does not prevent God from using them to punish others. Several histories in this book are proof of this. All the nations used by God to judge His people for their unfaithfulness are nations that must be judged themselves. That has happened, or will happen.

The city built instead of Laish, is called Dan. This city of Dan becomes the proverbial north of Israel, which encompassed everything between “Dan and Berseba” (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10).

The Levite Jonathan seems to be a grandson of Moses (Exodus 2:22). It is assumed that here in Judges 18:30 it should be read for Manasseh Moses. There is only one letter difference in Hebrew between the words Manasseh and Moses. It is shocking to see that someone from his descendants, and already so soon, officially gives idolatry within a tribe of Israel a right of existence. This is yet another proof that godliness and grace are not inheritances. Both the history of Israel and that of Christianity provide blatant examples of this. We also see it in families of faithful believers.

The history of Micah, the Levite and the tribe of Dan ends with the mention of the two religious systems that exist side by side: the man-made religion and the place where God in that time has His house, Shiloh. In the eyes of men, the two may be able to go together, but in the eyes of God that is impossible.

The service in Shiloh will end. This happens when Hophni and Phinehas, two ungodly priests, take the ark as a mascot and it is captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:10-1 Kings :). But as long as the tabernacle is still there, it is possible for people like the God-fearing Hannah in Shiloh to meet the LORD (1 Samuel 1:9-1 Kings :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Judges 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/judges-18.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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