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Bible Commentaries
Judges 18

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-6

The Danite Spies at Micah’s Shrine (18:1-6)

The writer of Judges once more reminds us that there was no king in Israel and consequently no central authority to guarantee law and order. Hence the Danites, subjected to pressures from the Amorites and possibly from Israelite neighbors, sought a place of permanent residence. They were resident in the south country just north of the area occupied by Judah, as the place names indicate. They sent out five spies to explore the land, and these men, as they moved into the hill country of Ephraim, came to the shrine of Micah, identified his Levite as a fellow countryman by his accent, and sought oracular guidance through him from God. The phrase "inquire of God" is a reminder that in these early days the priest’s major task was to administer the traditional rules of the shrine and laws of the community and to consult the oracle for divine guidance upon the decisions and conduct of the worshipers. The chief method of divination seems to have been casting the sacred lots, two objects known technically as Urim and Thummim, by the falling of which the divine guidance was ascertained. Alongside the priest there seems also to have functioned quite early in the national and tribal shrines the cultic prophet, who gave God’s word through ecstatic vision and oftentimes ecstatic utterance. Micah’s was a private shrine, however, and he had to be content with a priest instructed in the art of divining God’s will. The verdict was favorable in the case of the spies, and they were told by the Levite to proceed in peace, knowing that God was with them.

Verses 7-10

The Spies Find Laish (18:7-10)

The spies proceeded one hundred miles farther north and came upon Laish. Near the sources of the River Jordan, this city seems to have been colonized by people of Phoenician origin. The spies were impressed by the security and wealth of these inhabitants and by the fertility of the soil. Here was an easy prey — a peaceful people living in a rich area. The spies returned enthusiastically with the assurance that their people ought not to miss this God-given opportunity. That they did regard this as God-given implies a somewhat low and immoral view of the divine will. The law that might is right and that the strong have a right to dispossess the weak is a factor in the report of the spies. There is no respect for the freedom of others. The Danites were prepared to sacrifice this people’s freedom and security for their own. This is the law of the jungle. It is far removed from the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount, and yet at this low and material level it may prefigure the deeper, more spiritual, and true conviction that God fights the spiritual battle for his people and leads them into the wide open spaces of his love.

Verses 11-26

The Migration of the Danites (18:11-26)

The Danites sent six hundred men with wives and families upon the northward migration (see vss. 11 and 21). The fact that some Danites were still in the south in the Samson period indicates that this group was not the whole tribe. They camped at Kiriath-jearim and passed on into the hill country of Ephraim, arriving at Micah’s shrine. Here the spies told the migrants of the sacred objects and oracle in the shrine. The Danites entered, stole the images, kidnapped Micah’s priest, and marched northward with their spoils. The priest seems to have been more or less forcibly persuaded to accompany the migrants. Micah and his neighbors pursued them and sought to recover his sacred objects and priest, but were threatened by the Danites and returned empty-handed, the thieves too strong for them.

Verses 27-31

The Capture of Laish (18:27-31)

The prosperous city of Laish was captured by the invaders. Its peaceful inhabitants, too far from Phoenicia to receive any help, were put to the sword, and its buildings were burned to the ground. The Danites raised a new city upon the site of the old, renamed it Dan, and founded a sanctuary within it. In this sanctuary they housed the sacred objects stolen from Micah and set his priest to serve the oracle. The shrine became one of the most famous in Israel, apparently claiming for its priesthood a direct descent from Moses and declaring it to be Levite. The text indicates that the name of Micah’s Levite, who became the priest of Dan, was Jonathan and that he was the grandson of Moses (Judges 18:30). Thus the story, obviously early, is told to support the Danite claims.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Judges 18". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/judges-18.html.
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