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The Danites seek an inheritance, and in the journey enter into the house of Micah, and carry off his image and his priest: they take the city Laish, which they burn, build another in its place, and set up there Micah's graven image.
Before Christ 1426.
Judges 18:1. In those days there was no king in Israel— The exact period here referred to is uncertain; but it is generally supposed to have been before there was a judge in Israel, between the death of Joshua and the elders who survived him, and the time of Othniel, who was the first judge raised up for them by God. See Josephus, Antiq. lib. 5: cap. 2 and the note on the first verse of the former chapter. Houbigant renders the latter part of this verse, for not yet, even to this time, they had sufficient inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Instead of the tribe of the Danites, some would read a tribe, or family, &c.
Judges 18:5. They said unto him, ask counsel, we pray thee, of God— These two verses prove, what we have before observed on the 5th verse of the foregoing chapter, that this sanctuary of Micah was dedicated to the true God, and not to idols. Before the Lord is your way signifies you are under the immediate guidance and protection of the Lord; under his eye: an answer framed, no doubt, by the Levite, as we cannot conceive that he could, in such a case, have any answer from God. Strange folly! to ask direction of idols, when Shiloh was so nigh; and prefer an intruding self-made priest to the anointed of the Lord. Thus still the blind lead the blind, and the people love to have it so.
Judges 18:7. Came to Laish— See on Jos 19:47 where this history is briefly told by way of anticipation. The Zidonians were a powerful people in a strong city; and therefore they indulged securely in peace and luxury, and in these particulars were imitated by the men of Laish, who had not the same reasons for their security. The people of Laish were probably a colony of the Zidonians.
Judges 18:9-10. And they said, Arise, &c.— There cannot be a more infallible presage of the ruin of any people or nation, of the immediate destruction of a city or a kingdom, than when they dwell quiet and secure, when they are careless, as if nothing could befal them; when the magistrates are as careless as the people, or care not to put the people to shame for any thing. As good to be without any magistrates, as to have such as will neither instruct nor punish those who do amiss. They who were sent from the children of Dan to spy out the land, and to search out an inheritance to dwell in, (Judges 18:1-2.) thought that they need go no farther, when they had found in what condition and manner the people of Laish lived; that they dwelt careless, quiet, and secure, and that there was no magistrate in the land that might put them to shame in any thing: there was no more to be done, than to return to those who sent them, with the advertisement, Arise, &c.
Note; (1.) If there be no magistrate to bear the sword, or negligence let it sleep in the scabbard, barefaced iniquity will quickly walk in triumph. (2.) Shame is a great restraint on sin; when that is lost, men grow utterly abandoned. (3.) The security of sinners is their ruin.
Judges 18:19. And they said unto him— They, that is, the five men who had entered the house.
Judges 18:24. Ye have taken away my gods, &c.— The word rendered gods is elohim, which, as in other places, would be more properly rendered, my god; and must, undoubtedly, mean the symbol of the Divine presence; as we cannot conceive that Micah, who was a worshipper of Jehovah, could have been so absurd as to think that he could make his god.
REFLECTIONS.—The priest, surprised to see the men return with his treasure, expostulates with them against the theft; but his complaints are easily silenced: no sooner do they propose to him to go along with them, and set in his view better wages and greater preferment, than he very readily consents to follow, and leave a private cure for a fee, little concerning himself about the charge, or the infamous means of his advancement. Note; (1.) When a priest's heart is more anxious after his preferment, than concerned about the weight of his office, it is a sure sign that he serves an idol god. (2.) When a man chooses to minister for the salary, not the souls, he must scandalize his profession.
Judges 18:29. They called the name of the city Dan— It was situated at the extremity of the north of Judea, though the tribe of Dan had their lot in the south-west. Hence came the common saying afterwards, (when they would express the whole length of their country,) from Dan to Beersheba.
Judges 18:30. The son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh— As this Manasseh certainly cannot mean him who was the head of the tribe so called; it is generally thought, that some other Manasseh of the tribe of Levi is understood. Dr. Kennicott, however, strongly contends for the reading of the Vulgate, the son of Moses. "We know," says he, "that Gershom was the son of Moses; and there are strong reasons for believing that the word here was Moses, and not Manasseh. For, first, Saint Jerome has expressed it Moses, and so has the Vulgate likewise; and farther, that the Septuagint, as well as the Vulgate, formerly read Moses, we may infer from Theodoret, who reads the verse thus: 'Jonathan, the son of Manasseh, the son of Gershom;' and from the existence of both these words we may infer, that some copies read the latter, and some the former; while others, that they might be sure of the right word, inserted both. The Jews, as Kimchi and Aben-dana confess, struck with deep concern for the honour of their law-giver, and distressed to think that a grandson of Moses should be the first priest of idolatry, have ventured upon a pious fraud; placing over the word משׂה Moseh, Moses, the letter נ nun, which might intimate it to be מנשׂה Manasseh. This additional letter, being variously placed over the word, has at length slipped down into the same rank with the original letters; and the word Manasseh, which was designed to be read, has now supplanted Moses. We are told, indeed, that this relation is figurative, meant of a similitude in idolatry, and not of natural consanguinity: but that any man who lived eight hundred years before Manasseh should be called a descendant of Manasseh, because Manasseh acted like him eight hundred years afterwards, is absurd. That this word should mean Manasseh the son of Joseph, is impossible, because that Manasseh had no son called Gershom; but that Gershom was the son of Manasseh is certain from many texts of Scripture. And lastly, the time of this first apostacy to idolatry farther confirms the present argument. It is allowed, that the events recorded in the five last chapters of Judges happened soon after the death of Joshua, and are prior to those recorded in the former chapter; and as this idolatrous establishment in Dan was soon after Joshua's death, that will be perfectly coincident with the life of Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses; for Joshua, being in the vigour of life at the death of Moses, must be cotemporary with Gershom, the son of Moses; and would at his death leave Jonathan the son of Gershom in the vigour of life, or at least capable, in point of age, of being an idolatrous priest, at such a time as the sacred history here most impartially represents him." See his Diss. p. 51-55, and p. 559.
Until the day of the captivity of the land— All the later Jews agree, that this passage refers to the captivity of the ark of the covenant, which happened after the Philistines had subdued the Israelites.
REFLECTIONS.—Proceeding on their expedition, the Danites arrive at Laish, where, according to the report of the spies, the people were in perfect security; but when sinners cry, Peace, peace, then cometh the sword.
1. They smote them without any resistance, put the people to the sword, and burnt the city, which they afterwards rebuilt, and called it Dan, to preserve their connection with their brethren, lest, by their distance from them, they might afterwards be disowned.
2. They set up Micah's images there, probably imputing their success to their presence; and the Levite and his sons were priests there till the ark was taken by the Philistines in the time of Eli. And though this worship seems to have been suppressed during the days of Samuel, David, and Solomon, yet enough of the old leaven remained to make Jeroboam's calves welcome. Note; (1.) Prosperity in an evil way encourages the heart to persevere in it. (2.) If pious parents could look out of their graves upon their degenerate children, it would shock and grieve them to see their ways. (3.) When bad habits are long indulged, it is very hard to eradicate them; and if, for a season, they are restrained, yet relapses are greatly to be feared.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Judges 18". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13