Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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 … in Israel] An excuse for the irregularity of Micah’s proceedings as described in the foregoing verses. See Jdg 17:6 n.
and in those days … to dwell in] At first the Danites tried to settle on the low land between the coast and the hills (Jdg 1:34). Then they were forced into the hills (ib.), and we find them, both in this ch. and in the story of Samson, settled at Zorah and Eshtaol, on the W. of Judah. Now comes a migration to the sources of the Jordan in the North, cf. Joshua 19:47 JE. As we have seen, ch. Jdg 5:17 implies that Dan was already established in its northern home at the time of Deborah; the present narrative therefore carries us back to the early days.
for unto that day … of Israel] On the theory of an allotment of territory among the tribes (Joshua 13-24), a wholly different reason for the migration is suggested by these words; note the technical fallen, i.e. by lot, cf. Numbers 34:2, Joshua 17:5, Ezekiel 47:14 : obviously the comment of a later hand. The awkwardness of the original is disguised by the RV.
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.2. The repetitions in this verse (of their family, of their whole number; five, men, men of valour; to search it, search the land) point to a combination of the two narratives, of which the beginning can be traced in ch. 17.
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?3. When they were by the house of Micah] repeats what has just been said in Jdg 18:2; this verse must belong to the narrative of the young man the Levite Jdg 17:7; Jdg 17:11 b, 12a. Before he made his home with Micah, the young Levite lived, if not at Beth-lehem (his connexion with Beth-lehem Jdg 17:7 is questioned by Moore), then in the neighbourhood of the Danite villages; hence the spies were acquainted with him. Transl. They were by the house of M., when they recognized: cf. 1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Kings 14:17 b in Hebr.
And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.4. and he hath hired me] points to Jdg 17:10-11 a; so a continuation of that narrative.
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.5. Ask counsel … of God] i.e. by means of the ephod or sacred lot. To consult the divine will in this way was one of the special functions of the priesthood; see 1 Samuel 6:2; 1 Samuel 14:18 (RVm.), 1 Samuel 22:10, 1 Samuel 23:9-12 etc. So long as sacrificial acts were freely performed by laymen, the chief distinction of the priest doubtless lay in his qualification to give an oracle: W. R Smith, OTJC., p. 292.
And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.6. before the Lord] i.e. under His favourable regard. Cf. 1 Samuel 1:17, 1 Kings 22:6 for similar responses.
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.7. Laish] In Joshua 19:47 Leshem. After the place was occupied by the Danites and re-named, it became the most northerly of Israelite settlements; cf. 2 Samuel 24:6, Jeremiah 4:15, and the expression ‘from Dan to Beer-sheba’ Jdg 20:1, 1 Samuel 3:20 etc. Josephus defines the situation of Laish-Dan as ‘near the springs of the lesser Jordan’ (Ant. viii. 8, 4, cf. i. 10, 1; Jdg 18:3; Jdg 18:1). Does this mean the source at Tell el-Ḳâḍi, or the other source 3½ m. to the S.E., at Bânias (the Caesarea Philippi of the Gospels1)? Most authorities adopt the identification with Tell el-Ḳâḍi, where the Jordan, at this point called by the Arabs Nahr Leddan, gushes in powerful volume out of the western side of the Tell. G. A. Smith, however, prefers the other site (Hist. Geogr., pp. 473, 480 f.). In the background of the district rises the imposing snow-capped mountain of Hermon; cf. Psalm 42:6. The modern names Tell el-Ḳâḍi (Ḳâḍi = Dan = judge) and Nahr Leddan may preserve a reminiscence of ancient associations, but we cannot be sure.
 The reference in Eusebius, Onomasticon 275, 33 and 249, 32 is not decisive.
the people … how they dwelt in security] So LXX, correcting the text; how they dwelt is fem. and cannot agree with the people (mas.). Either, then, read the verb as mas., or suppose that the text originally ran ‘and they found the city inhabited (lit. sitting, cf. Isaiah 47:8, Zephaniah 2:15) in security, and the people that were therein … quiet and secure.’
after the manner of the Zidonians] of Zidonians; the civilization was Phoenician in character. Apparently Laish was a dependency of Zidon (cf. Jdg 18:28). Though remote from the suzerain city, the inhabitants felt secure enough, and never suspected attack from outside.
for there was … in any thing] The text is overloaded and partially corrupt. Read perhaps … quiet and secure, and there was no want of any thing that is in the earth (as in Jdg 18:10), in possession of wealth (?). The phrase possessing authority, lit. restraint (?) cannot be right. The LXX took the word rendered restraint (?), i.e. ‘eṣer, to mean treasure, i.e. ’ôṣar; altering one letter we might read ‘osher = wealth, but the corruption may well be deeper.
with any man] The LXX., cod. A and Luc., reads with Syria, i.e. Aram for adam. The change is not necessary but it gives more force to the expression. The people of Laish were not only far from the friendly power of Phoenicia, but they had not allied themselves with their Syrian neighbours (cf. 2 Samuel 10:6); this explains more distinctly why they fell such an easy prey to the Danites.
And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?8. What say ye?] A verb is wanted, such as the EV. supplies; perhaps what did ye find? or see? would be better. Moore ingeniously, on the basis of the LXX, what do ye bring back?
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.9, 10. The reply of the spies is overcharged, and the sentences out of logical order, probably owing to the combination of the two narratives. Moore thus separates the two: (a) Arise, and let us go up against them: for when ye come, ye shall come unto a people secure, and the land is large, for it is a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth; (b) And they said, We have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go and to enter in to possess the land; God hath given it into your hand. A different arrangement is proposed by Budde, who further points out that we should expect the spies to mention the name of the place which they discovered and urged their clan to seize; accordingly he reads to Laish for against them in (a), and supplies the omission in (b). He distinguishes the sources as follows: (a) And they said, Arise and let us go up [to Laish]; for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth; (b) And they said, [Why] are ye still? be not slothful to go [to Laish] to possess the land, for [Jehovah] hath given it into your hand. When ye come, ye shall come … is large. Of the two, Budde’s arrangement seems preferable; but it is impossible to reconstruct the sources with any certainty.
and are ye still?] Cf. 1 Kings 22:3. Budde’s correction, why for and, is an improvement.
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.
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.11. six hundred men] Not the whole clan, but only the more enterprising members of it; the rest remained behind in the south. The armed men took their women and children with them (Jdg 18:21); altogether the numbers must have reached a thousand.
And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.12. Kiriath-jĕârim] i.e. city of woods; cf. Joshua 9:17 P and 1 Samuel 6:21; 1 Samuel 7:1 f. Eusebius (Onom. 109, 27. 271, 40) places it 9 Roman miles from Jerusalem on the road to Lydda; hence it is generally identified with Ḳirjat el-‘enab, which is just this distance. The site would fit in well with the present narrative, making the first encampment a short day’s march from the Danite seats. The identification cannot be regarded as certain; but there is more to be said for Ḳirjat el-‘enab than for ‘Erma, a ruined site to the S.W., which some prefer. ‘Erma has nothing whatever to do with jearim. The camp of Dan is said to have been behind, i.e. west of Kiriath-jearim; contrast Jdg 13:25, where it is placed between Zorah and Eshtaol. Local tradition may well have preserved the memory of this first halting-place in an expedition which involved a lasting effect upon the life of the district.
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.14. the country of Laish] The Hebr. can only be rendered the country, Laish. Obviously the last word is a marginal note, and it is omitted in some mss. of the LXX
in these houses] Apparently Micah’s establishment was almost a small village, cf. Jdg 18:22.
and a molten image] See on Jdg 17:3.
consider what ye have to do] Cf. 1 Samuel 25:17. The Danites recognize that the God of Micah is none other than their own God.
14–18. The repetition of identical phrases leads us to suspect that the text has been encumbered by glosses. To some extent, also, the confusion may be due to the double narrative; note the young Levite in Jdg 18:15 and the priest in Jdg 18:17-18; but other criteria fail us, and any clear separation of sources is impossible. The temptation to gloss the passage was no doubt encouraged by the inevitable, but rather clumsy, repetition of defining clauses, such as an ephod and teraphim, the six hundred men, the spies etc. Thus Jdg 18:16 seems to be wholly an addition; in Jdg 18:17 came in thither … molten image is simply a doublet from Jdg 18:18.
And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.15. even unto the house of Micah] A gloss inserted to identify the young Levite’s house with that of Micah; see on Jdg 17:7. LXX. Luc omits the house of the young man the Levite.
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.16. The whole of this verse seems to be a mistaken repetition of Jdg 18:17 b; both the grammar and the construction of the sentence are faulty. Budde, however, would transpose the verse to Jdg 18:18 after molten image.
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.17. and came in … molten image] Again, the clumsy and irregular construction as well as the contents of the clause shew that it is not original; a doublet from Jdg 18:18; lit. they came in thither, they took; the RV. inserts and twice.
and the priest … with the six hundred] The text seems to say that, while the spies went up to Micah’s house, the priest and the 600 armed men stood at the entrance of the village. In Jdg 18:18-19, however, the priest is not at the entrance of the village, but at the door of the house; with the six hundred etc. should rather be and the six hundred men girt with weapons of war …, an unfinished sentence without a verb. It is impossible to recover the original form of the text here. The general sense intended may be this: while the 600 warriors stood at the entrance of the village, the five spies went up to Micah’s house, were confronted by the priest, and, silencing his expostulations, plundered the sanctuary.
by the entering of the gate] Always of the gate of a city (e.g. Jdg 9:35; Jdg 9:44, Joshua 8:29; Joshua 20:4 etc.), not the door of a house. The use of the expression here implies at least a group of houses, such as a farm, or a village.
The LXX. cod. B has a brief equivalent for Jdg 18:17, ‘and the five men who went to spy out the land went up, (Jdg 18:18) and entered into Micaiah’s house, and the priest was standing [there]; and they fetched’ etc. It is doubtful, however, whether this can be taken to represent the original text.
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?18. these went into] i.e. the spies; they knew their way about the house.
the graven image, the ephod] The Hebr. has the graven image of the ephod; probably a scribal error; LXX the graven image and the ephod. The last word in the list is not in its usual place; clearly an addition.
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?19. lay thine hand upon thy mouth] Cf. Micah 7:16, Job 21:5; Job 29:9 etc.
a father and a priest] See Jdg 17:10 n.
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.
So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.21. If there were little ones there must have been women to look after them. Budde would supply the omission, but unnecessarily.
the goods] In the Hebr. a fem. sing., the wealthy, cf. Genesis 31:1 RVm., Isaiah 10:3 (translated glory). The LXX. cod. B takes the word in its primary sense ‘the heavy baggage.’
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.22. the men that were in the houses] The sense is much improved by following the LXX behold Micaiah and the men that were etc. We need some mention of Micah joining the pursuit (Jdg 18:23).
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?24. my gods which I made] Cf. Genesis 31:30 ff. E, a passage which shews several points of resemblance to the present. For my gods, Vulgate deos meos, we might render my God, offensive though the idea is to us; Micah was a worshipper of Jehovah, see on Jdg 17:5. The LXX paraphrases ‘my graven image.’
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.25. angry fellows] See marg.; fierce-tempered as in 2 Samuel 17:8; cf. also 1 Samuel 22:2. The rough humour and insolence of the robbers are admirably described. The writer hardly disguises his relish of the scene.
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.27. that which Micah had made] Perhaps originally the God which … as in Jdg 18:24. The form of the sentence suggests that the objectionable expression has been modified.
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.28. See on Jdg 18:7. The city was too far off from the suzerain power to obtain any help; and as no alliances had been made with the Syrians (again reading Aram for adam = ‘any man’), there were no friendly neighbours to come to the rescue.
the valley that lieth by Beth-rehob] or that belongeth to B. The depression through which the Jordan flows begins to open out at the S.W. foot of Hermon; this seems to be the valley alluded to. If, as is probable, Laish-Dan occupied the site of Tell el-Ḳâḍi, Beth-rehob may be identified with Bânias. According to 2 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 10:8 Beth-rehob was a Syrian state.
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.29. howbeit … at the first] The same formula in Genesis 28:19 E; here evidently an editorial, later addition, together with who was born unto Israel.
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.30. The object of the whole story has been to trace the origin of the famous sanctuary at Dan. In this and the next verse the setting up of Micah’s image is told twice over, and a double note of time is given. The repetition suggests that we have here the two conclusions of the two narratives which have been woven together in the story. Moore thinks that Jdg 18:30 belongs to the narrative which alludes to the man—the Levite—the priest (Jdg 17:8; Jdg 17:11 a, Jdg 18:12 b, Jdg 18:3 b, Jdg 18:4-6; Jdg 18:18 b etc.), whose name now turns out to have been Jonathan, a grandson of Moses, and that Jdg 18:31 closes the other document, of which a characteristic feature is the young Levite (Jdg 17:7; Jdg 17:11 b, 12a, Jdg 18:3; Jdg 18:15 etc.). This may be so, but no kind of certainty is possible. The name of the Levite comes rather oddly at the end, instead of at the beginning of the story. If the original narrator had wished to mention it, he would have done so at Jdg 17:8; the omission is now supplied, apparently by a later hand. Thus the second half of Jdg 18:30 seems to be an editorial addition.
the graven image] Only one image is mentioned in the sequel; see on Jdg 17:3.
Jonathan … Moses] The Levite and his descendants, the priests of Dan, claimed descent from Moses. The margin notes another reading; in the Hebr. text the letter n is ‘suspended,’ or inserted above the line, thus turning Mosheh (משה) into Manasseh (מנשה). The Jews admit that the text was altered in order to repudiate the Levite’s claim; he acted, not like a son of Moses, but like the impious king Manasseh, to whom the Rabbis apply the principle, ‘every corruption is fastened upon (i.e. is named after) him who started it’; Talm. Bab. Baba Bathra 109b. Possibly the Jewish scribes had another Manasseh in their minds, the renegade priest who first ministered in the Samaritan temple on Mt Gerizim; Josephus, Ant. xi. 8, 2 ff. The LXX reads Manasseh (a group of cursives both Moses and Manasseh); the Vulgate Moysi; the Syr. Manasseh. For Gershom see Exodus 2:22; Exodus 18:3.
until the day of the captivity of the land] Either the captivity of N. Israel under Tiglath-pileser in 734 b.c., 2 Kings 15:29; or the exile after the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c., ib. Jdg 17:6 ff.
And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.31. This verse is clearly not by the same hand as the foregoing.
the house of God … in Shiloh] Not a tabernacle, or moveable tent, but a temple; see 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 3:15. We are not told when the temple in Shiloh came to an end; was it when the ark fell into the hands of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 4? In the time of Saul the descendants of Eli are found not at Shiloh, but at Nob, ib. Jdg 21:2 ff. Or was it during the Assyrian wars? The allusions in Jeremiah 7:12; Jeremiah 7:14; Jeremiah 26:6; Jeremiah 26:9 suggest a comparatively recent and well-remembered disaster. At any rate the writer does not say that the Danite shrine disappeared when the temple in Shiloh came to an end; what he means is that the local cult existed side by side with the national sanctuary. Cf. further 1 Kings 12:29 f., Amos 8:14.