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The Danites Seek a New Location
v. 1. In those days there was no king in Israel, this fact being noted here again to explain the behavior of the Danites and to register the author's disapproval of their action; 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. Dan had indeed been given an allotment, in Northern Philistia, in the foothills and in the plain along the Mediterranean, Joshua 19:40-48, but their territory had been insufficient for their needs from the beginning, chiefly because they could not summon the necessary courage and warlike valor to force out the heathen inhabitants of that country.
v. 2. And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men specially qualified for that purpose, selected from their whole tribe, men of valor, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, two cities in the eastern part of their territory, to spy out the land and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land, namely, for a place where they might settle without great trouble; who when they came to Mount Ephraim, on that great highway from the south to the north, to the house of Micah, they lodged there, in some part of Micah's great establishment.
v. 3. When they were by the house of Micah, probably on the next morning, when they passed the apartments of the family, they knew the voice of the young man, the Levite, they recognized the dialect of his speech, which differed from that of the Ephraimites, or they heard the sound of the bells on his priestly garments; and they turned in thither, their curiosity having been aroused, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? And what makest thou in this place? And what hast thou here? The situation seemed so strange to them that they demanded a detailed explanation.
v. 4. And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, giving an outline of his history, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.
v. 5. And they, also so weak in their religious convictions and knowledge that they found no fault with the man for his action, said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous; the Levite's oracle was to give them information concerning the probable success of their undertaking.
v. 6. And the priest, after having made a great show with his copy of the priest's ephod and his teraphim, said unto them, Go in peace; before the Lord is your way wherein ye go. The answer, "Your way is in the sight of Jehovah," was thoroughly ambiguous, but they chose to explain it in a manner favorable to their enterprise, as the Levite intended them to do.
v. 7. Then the five men departed, continuing their scouting expedition, and came to Laish, in the extreme northern part of Canaan, east of the headwaters of Jordan, and saw the people that were therein, who belonged to the Canaanitish tribes of Northern Palestine, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, to whom they were probably related, quiet and secure, concerned chiefly with commercial interests and not given to warlike enterprises; and there was no magistrate in the land that might put them to shame in any thing, no hereditary ruler to oppress them in any respect, no conqueror, no tyrant, bothered them; and they were far from the Zidonians, their city may have been a colony of Zidon, but they were so far from the coast of the Mediterranean that assistance from there could hardly be expected, and had no business with any man, they had entered neither into an offensive nor a defensive alliance with any of the neighboring cities. They hurt no man, and therefore did not expect to be hurt by any one, although they belonged to the nations whom the children of Israel had been commanded to exterminate.
v. 8. And they, the spies, came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol, they returned with their report; and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?
v. 9. And they said, Arise, that ye may go up against them; for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good; and are ye still? The Danites were sitting there inactive, while they had such a fine opportunity to gain this city. Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.
v. 10. When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, living in careless security, and therefore easily overcome, and to a large land, with room for expansion on all sides; for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth, with all the wealth and attractiveness which distinguished the rest of Canaan.
v. 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, fully armed for battle, each man with his family.
v. 12. And they went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah, on the northern boundary of Judah, wherefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan (camp of Dan) unto this day; behold, it is behind Kirjath-jearim. An expedition for the purpose of planting a colony in this manner was at that time such an extraordinary event that the name of the camp was ever afterward remembered. But the entire undertaking was a self-appointed task on the part of Dan and was not commanded by God. It is God's will that we remain in our station and take its burdens upon us, until He Himself shows us another way. Then His mercy and blessings will be with us.
The Priest of Micah Taken to Laish
v. 13. And they passed thence unto Mount Ephraim, along the way taken by the spies, and came unto the house of Micah.
v. 14. Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, giving in advance the information which the members of their tribe would presently ask for, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image, a carved and chased idol with its molten pedestal? Now, therefore, consider what ye have to do, the suggestion of the spies being that the Danites should not overlook this opportunity to provide themselves with a worship of their own.
v. 15. And they, acting upon the hint received, turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man, the Levite, where this private sanctuary was, fully equipped with everything needed in such an institution, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him, they greeted the priest most kindly.
v. 16. And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate, at the entrance to the enclosure, near the sanctuary.
v. 17. And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, being familiar with the location of everything from their previous visit, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image, all the equipment of the sanctuary, the objects used in worship by Micah; and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. This strange behavior of the priest in permitting the robbery of the sanctuary for whose care he was hired is now explained, for this paragraph is here entered, although the event took place before the Levite deserted his post.
v. 18. And these went into Micah's house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, it was then that he had tried to interfere, What do ye?
v. 19. And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, be absolutely quiet; lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest, the position which he had occupied in the house of Micah, Judges 17:10. Is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? That was the argument which had appealed to the Levite's ambitious and avaricious heart and caused him to turn his back when the five spies plundered Micah's sanctuary.
v. 20. And the priest's heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people, where he was safe.
v. 21. So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage, all their most valuable possessions, before them, to have them safe in case they should be attacked by Micah and his men.
v. 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, both those belonging to his own establishment and those of the village which arose near the sanctuary, were gathered together and overtook the children of Dan.
v. 23. And they cried unto the children of Dan, hailed them, bidding them stop. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee that thou comest with such a company? They feigned ignorance of any happening concerning Micah.
v. 24. And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away; and what have I more? He no longer tries to deceive himself and others that it was really Jehovah's worship which he was carrying on in his house, but calls his sin by the right name, confessing his idolatry. And what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee?
v. 25. And the children of Dan said unto him, depending upon their superior power and holding that might makes right, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows, men bitter of soul, of a fierce disposition, run upon thee, and thou lose thy life with the lives of thy household, any rash act on his part would cause not only his own death, but that of his entire family.
v. 26. And the children of Dan, having bullied Micah into silence, went their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house. He was a sadder and a wiser man, who, strictly speaking, had no redress, as he had sinned against Jehovah and could not appeal to the Lord of Israel for revenge.
v. 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, v. 7; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, in a sudden attack, and burned the city with fire.
v. 28. And there was no deliverer, as the spies had rightly reported, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Beth-rehob, extending to that city, along the valley of the upper Jordan. And they built a city and dwelt therein.
v. 29. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan, their father, their progenitor, who was born unto Israel; howbeit the name of the city was Laish, or Leshem, Joshua 19:47-48, at the first.
v. 30. And the children of Dan set up the graven image, for idolatrous purposes; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, rather, the descendant of Moses, for that, apparently, was the name of the idolatrous priest, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land, namely, when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and became masters of the entire country, 1 Samuel 4:21-22.
v. 31. And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. Mark: Idolatry in every form, false doctrine, quickly and easily finds adherents and is hard to eradicate when once established. He that is guilty of introducing false doctrine not only deceives himself, but also gives occasion to others to fall. The harm usually extends to many generations and destroys many souls.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Judges 18". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/