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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 18

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-28


(vv. 1-10)

At that time, though the tribe of Dan had been allotted territory west of Benjamin, bordering the Mediterranean Sea (Joshua 19:40-48), yet this was largely occupied by Philistines whom Dan did not have energy to expel.Thus verse 1 says that their inheritance had not fallen to them.Therefore they sent five men to look for what they considered a more suitable country (v. 2). Going northward they came to the mountains of Ephraim and found Micah's home a convenient place to lodge.

There they heard and recognized the voice of the consecrated Levite and asked him what brought him there. He told them Micah had hired him be be his priest (v. 4), and they were impressed enough to think him qualified as an intermediary on whom the could depend to inquire of God for them (v. 5) as to whether their way would be prosperous. The Levite did not need to inquire from God.He knew these men wanted a prosperous journey, so he gave them just the message they wanted, to go in peace, and that God's presence would be with them (v. 6).This poor man had no idea of the truth that Paul insists upon in Galatians 1:10, "If I still pleased men, I should not be a bondservant of Christ."

Proceeding much farther north, these five spies came to Laish beyond the borders of Naphtali, and found people living there in peace, having no near neighbors and no necessity for armaments or walled towns, with no king and no affiliation with any other people.This was just what they spies had been looking for, though it was a most unusual situation, much different than what Israel's 12 spies found when they went to spy out Canaan (Numbers 13:28-29).

When reporting back to their brethren in Zorah and Eshtaol, they urged them to take advantage of this opportunity of possessing a very good land without any significant opposition (vv. 8-10). They tell them God has given this land into their hand, though nothing is said of theirinquiring of God or of God's directing them.

Six hundred men were considered sufficient for the expedition. They camped one night in Kirjath Jearim in Judah, and the next day came to the mountains of Ephraim, to where Micahlived.

Instead of avoiding the place they knew to be a house of idol worship, the five men told their company that in that house there were an ephod, household idols, a carved image and a molded image, -- in other words all they needed to have a well rounded-out religion! (v. 14). So it was not only Micah who had succumbed to the idolatry of the Canaanite nations, but in this case all the 600 men of Dan, who were willing to boldly rob Micah so that they themselves could be religious!What a condition was this so soon after Israel's entering into the land as recorded in the Book of Joshua!

While the 600 men waited at Micah's gate the five men went in and took all the things they had spoken of (vv.16-17).The consecrated Levite asked them what they were doing and was told to keep quiet, and go with the 600 men.For they asked him if it was not better for him to be a priest to a tribe of Israel than only of one man (vv. 18-19). When he heard this the pseudo-priest was glad. It meant nothing to him to steal the property of the man who had consecrated him and to leave his employment for a more lucrative job! (v. 20). But mere religion can make one a robber without conscience!

When Micah became aware of what happened, he gathered some of his neighbors and pursued the 600 men, calling out the them. They answered him by asking what ailed him that he would come after them with such a company (v. 23). Micah answered, "You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you have gone away. What more do I have? How can you say to me, "What ails you?" (v. 24) Micah did not realize that he was far better off without these things. He had said before he knew the Lord would be good to him because he had a Levite as priest(tie. 17:13). But now the Lord was being good to him in depriving him of the priest and his idols.

The Danites abruptly told him to silence his voice, with the threat that angry men might attack and kill him and the members of his household (v. 25). Such was the cruelty of Israelites toward Israelites that early in their history in the promised land. What could Micah's small company do against 600armed men? They could only retreat to their own homes and leave their unprofitable idols to the detriment of the Danites (v. 26).


(vv. 27-31)

The 600 men likely felt that now they had some good spiritual guidance with the Levite as priest and idols and ephod, and they continued their journey north to Laish.The city had no defense and no other nearby cities to help them, so that they easily killed the people, burning the city.They probably did not like the buildings in the city so burned it so as to rebuild as they desired (vv. 27-28). They renamed it Dan (v. 29). The women and others no doubt followed them soon after.

Dan, having settled in the north of the land of Israel, became guilty of the great spiritual evil of public idolatry. Using the idols that had belonged to one disobedient man, they adopted a worship totally opposed to the law of the God of Israel.Together with this they had the Levite, Jonathan the son of Gershom, and his sons, established as priests (v. 30). This type of spiritual corruption has been sadly repeated in the professing Church today. Men who have some ability as servants of God, able to preach, have been given the place of spiritual intermediaries between the people and God, and even called "priests" in some denominations -- that is, priests in contrast to the common people. But whether called "priest" or "reverend" or given any other distinctive title, this is contrary to the truth of Christianity, having in it the element of idolatry, for it really usurps God's place in the thoughts of people.

Verse 31 adds significantly "all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh." God did have a center in Israel, though not yet in Jerusalem, but the Danites could assume they did not need that center since they had a worship of their own! As well as being against God, their false worship divided them from their brethren.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 18". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/joshua-18.html. 1897-1910.
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