In those days there was no king in Israel: 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.Jdg 18:1. In those days there was no king in Israel — These words seem to be repeated in order to assign the reason of such enormous practices as are recorded in this and the preceding chapter. They appear to have taken place not long after Joshua’s death, probably between his death and that of the elders who survived him, and the time of Othniel, who was the first judge raised up for them by God. The tribe of the Danites — A part of that tribe, consisting only of six hundred men of war, with their families, Jdg 18:21. Sought them an inheritance — An inheritance had been allotted them as well as the rest of the tribes, (Joshua 19:40, &c.,) but partly by their indolence, and partly for want of that brotherly assistance which ought to have been afforded them by other tribes, a considerable portion of this inheritance could not be acquired by them. Wanting room, therefore, for all their people and cattle, and being unable to contend with the Amorites, they sent some, as it here follows, to search out a new dwelling elsewhere.
And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.Jdg 18:2-5. They lodged there — Not in the same house, but near it. They knew the voice of the young man — Having been acquainted with him before he came to live with Micah. Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God — By thine ephod and teraphim, or image, which they knew he had. This and the following verse show that this sanctuary of Micah was dedicated to the true God, and not to idols. But how ignorant were these Danites, to suppose God would be consulted here as well as in his house at Shiloh!
When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here?
And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.
And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.
And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.Jdg 18:6. The priest said, Before the Lord is your way — Your design is under the eye of God; that is, under his direction, protection, and care. The priest undoubtedly feigned this answer; for it is not to be imagined that he could, in such a case, have any answer from God, either through his ephod and teraphim, or in any other way. From hence, however, we may infer, Micah and his priest gave out that God might be inquired of by their means as well as at his oracle at Shiloh.
Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.Jdg 18:7. After the manner of the Zidonians — Who, dwelling in a very strong place, and abounding in wealth, lived securely in peace and luxury, and were imitated therein by the people of Laish, who were grown secure and careless, because they perceived that the Israelites never attempted any thing against them. There was no magistrate that might put them to shame — That is, rebuke or punish them for any thing they did. Putting to shame seems to be used for inflicting civil punishment, because shame is generally the effect of it. They were far from the Zidonians — Who otherwise could have succoured them, and would have been ready to do it. Had no business with any man — No commercial connection, or any alliance with the neighbouring nations, nor much intercourse or converse with other cities, the place being in a pleasant and plentiful soil, between the two rivulets of Jor and Dan; not needing supplies from others, and therefore minding only their own ease and pleasure.
And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?
And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.
When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.Jdg 18:10. God hath given it into your hands — This they gather partly from God’s promises, which they supposed they had from the Levite’s mouth, and partly from his providence, which had so disposed them that they would be an easy prey.
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.
And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.Jdg 18:12-14. Mahaneh-dan — That is, the camp of Dan. They came unto the house of Micah — That is, to the town in which his house was, for they had not yet entered into it. Then answered the five men — That is, they spake; the word answering being often used in Scripture of the first speaker. There is in these houses — That is, in one of these houses. Consider what ye have to do — Whether it be not expedient to take them for your further use. Perhaps the remembrance of the ark being carried before their ancestors in former times, in all their expeditions, as a mark of God’s presence being among them, might incline them to the foolish and impious thought of taking with them Micah’s ephod and teraphim.
And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.
Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.
And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.
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.
And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war.Jdg 18:17-19. The five men came in thither — Into the house and that part of it where the things were. The priest stood in the gate — Whither they had drawn him forth, that they might without noise or hinderance take the things away. And these went into Micah’s house — Namely, the five men, to whom when they were fetching out the image, &c., the priest said, What do ye? And they said, Lay thy hand upon thy mouth — That is, be silent. A priest unto a tribe and a family — A tribe or family.
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, What do ye?
And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: 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?
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.Jdg 18:20-21. The priest’s heart was glad — As he was promised promotion, he not only consented to the fact, but assisted them in it, being wholly governed by a regard to his own secular interest. He went in the midst of the people — Both for the greater security of such precious things, and that Micah might not be able to come near him to injure or upbraid him; and, perhaps, also, because that was the place where the ark used to be carried. They put the little ones, and the cattle, &c., before them — For their greater security, if Micah should pursue them.
So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.
And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah's house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan.
And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?
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? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee?Jdg 18:24. My gods which I made — Or, rather, my god, as the Hebrew word generally signifies, meaning the image, which he considered as a symbol of God’s presence with him; for he could not be so stupid as to think it to be the great Jehovah, who made heaven and earth, and whom he professed to worship, but merely as a medium through which he offered up his worship to him, as many of the heathen did. What have I more? — I value nothing I have in comparison of what you have taken away. Which zeal for idolatrous trash may shame multitudes that call themselves Christians, and yet value their worldly conveniences more than all the concerns of their own salvation. Is Micah thus fond of his false gods? And how ought we to be affected toward the true God? Let us reckon our communion with God our greatest gain; and the loss of God the sorest loss. Wo unto us, if He depart. For what have we more?
And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household.Jdg 18:25. Let not thy voice be heard — Thy complaints and reproaches. Lest angry fellows run upon thee — The soldiers, who are sharp and fierce and will soon be inflamed by thy provoking words. And thou lose thy life — Which, notwithstanding all thy pretences, thou valuest more than thy image, teraphim, and ephod.
And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.
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: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire.Jdg 18:27-29. And burned the city with fire — Not wholly, but in a great measure, to make their conquest more easy. They built a city — Or, rather, repaired and enlarged that which they found there. After the name of Dan — That it might be manifest they belonged to the tribe of Dan, though they were settled at a great distance from them in the most northerly part of the land; whereas the lot of their tribe was in the southern part of Canaan.
And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein.
And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.
And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.Jdg 18:30. The children of Dan set up the graven image — Having succeeded in their expedition, according to the prediction they supposed they had through the image, they had a great veneration for it. And as soon as they had completed their city, they set it up, and chose a minister to officiate for them, probably the Levite who had acted as priest for Micah, and is, at length, named here, Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh: not of that Manasseh who was the head of the tribe so called, for he had no son named Gershom, but, as is generally thought, of some other Manasseh of the tribe of Levi; Gershom and Manasseh being names common in Israel. Until the day of the captivity — When the whole land of the ten tribes, whereof Dan was one, was conquered, and the people carried captive by the Assyrians, (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 17:23,) which is called, by way of eminence, the captivity. The Jewish rabbis, however, Kimchi and Ralbeg, argue, that it is altogether unlikely this image should be suffered to continue in the days of David, who was sedulous to destroy idolatry, and advance true religion to the utmost of his power, all the country over from Dan to Beer-sheba, and who is therefore said to be a man after God’s own heart. Hence, they conclude, that by the captivity of the land here is meant the taking of the ark by the Philistines, and carrying it captive into the temple of Dagon. The later Jews, in general, approve of understanding the words in this sense; and “it is surprising,” says Houbigant, “that they have not seen that הארוןhaaron, the ark, should have been read here for הארצ haarets, the land.” But it ought to be observed, that it is not said here, the graven image was there till the captivity of the land, but only that Jonathan’s posterity were priests till that time, to this tribe or family of Dan. This they might be, under all the changes which took place, even till the Assyrian captivity, sometimes more openly, sometimes more secretly, sometimes in one way of idolatry, and sometimes in another. In the mean time, it is only affirmed, that the Danites had the graven image with them while the house of God was in Shiloh, which was removed thence when the ark of God was taken, 1 Samuel 4. So that the captivity of the land, here spoken of, may be that by Shalmaneser, as stated above, and yet David, during his reign, may have destroyed all idols out of the land.
And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.