Judges 18:1
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.
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(1) In those days . . .—The repetition of the phrase does not necessarily prove the use of different documents. It may only emphasise the reason for the occurrence of such disorders and irregularities.

The tribe.Shebet sometimes means a whole tribe, and sometimes apparently the division of a tribe (Judges 20:12).

The tribe of the Danites.—There seems to be a difference between “tribe of Dan” (Shebet Dan) and “tribesmen of the Danites” (Shebet had-Dani). In Judges 18:11 they are called Mishpecath had-Dani; but the distinctions between Mishpecath (“family”) and Shebet (“tribe”) do not seem to be accurately kept. (See Notes on Judges 18:19 and Judges 20:12.)

Sought them an inheritance.—See Judges 1:34; Joshua 19:47-48.

Unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them.—Their inheritance is described in Joshua 19:40-46. The inheritance had been assigned to them; but they had not been able to conquer it, owing to the opposition of the Philistines and the Amorates. The English Version interpolates the words “all their” before “inheritance,” apparently to avoid difficulties. But these glosses, however well meant, are almost always a violation of the primary duty of translation, which is to be rigidly faithful to the* original. The failure of the Danites to conquer their allotment, and the low condition to which they dwindled, are the more remarkable because in the wilderness they were the strongest of all the tribes, numbering 62,700, and because they received the smallest assignment of land of all the tribes.

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.

17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.This shows the ignorance as well as the superstition of the age (compare 2 Kings 18:22), and gives a picture of the lawlessness of the times. The incidental testimony to the Levitical priesthood is to be noted; but the idolatrous worship in the immediate neighborhood of Shiloh is passing strange. CHAPTER 18

Jud 18:1-26. The Danites Seek Out an Inheritance.

1-6. In those days … the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in—The Danites had a territory assigned them as well as the other tribes. But either through indolence, or a lack of energy, they did not acquire the full possession of their allotment, but suffered a considerable portion of it to be wrested out of their hands by the encroachments of their powerful neighbors, the Philistines. In consequence, being straitened for room, a considerable number resolved on trying to effect a new and additional settlement in a remote part of the land. A small deputation, being despatched to reconnoitre the country, arrived on their progress northward at the residence of Micah. Recognizing his priest as one of their former acquaintances, or perhaps by his provincial dialect, they eagerly enlisted his services in ascertaining the result of their present expedition. His answer, though apparently promising, was delusive, and really as ambiguous as those of the heathen oracles. This application brings out still more clearly and fully than the schism of Micah the woeful degeneracy of the times. The Danites expressed no emotions either of surprise or of indignation at a Levite daring to assume the priestly functions, and at the existence of a rival establishment to that of Shiloh. They were ready to seek, through means of the teraphim, the information that could only be lawfully applied for through the high priest's Urim. Being thus equally erroneous in their views and habits as Micah, they show the low state of religion, and how much superstition prevailed in all parts of the land.Those of the tribe of Dan, having not sufficient inheritance, send forth five men to spy out a place; they come to the house of Micah, and desire the Levite to ask counsel of God touching their journey, Judges 18:1-5. He encouraging them, they spy out the city Laish; and at their return instigate their brethren to set upon the city, Judges 18:6-10. Six hundred go forth armed: in their march they seize upon Micah’s priest and idols; which he in vain, demandeth again, Judges 18:11-25. They pull down Laish; build it again; inhabit it; and call it Dan, Judges 18:26-29; consecrate their priest, and set up Micah’s images, Judges 18:30,31.

In those days; not long after Joshua’s death, of which See Poole on "Judges 17:6".

The tribe of the Danites; a part or branch of that tribe, consisting only of six hundred men of war, Judges 18:16, with their families, Judges 18:21: or, a family of the Danites; for the word schebet, which properly signifies a tribe, is sometimes taken for a family, as Judges 20:12, as elsewhere family is put for a tribe, as Zechariah 12:13. All their inheritance had not fallen unto them; the lot had fallen to them before this time, Joshua 19:40, &c., but not the actual possession of their lot, because therein the Philistines and Amorites opposed them, not without success. See Poole on "Joshua 19:40"; See Poole on "Judges 1:34".

In those days there was no king in Israel,.... No supreme magistrate, no judge, for it was before the time of the judges, after the death of Joshua and before Othniel the first judge; this is observed before, Judges 17:6 and here repeated to account for the evil things done by the Danites, their consulting Micah's oracle, taking away his priest and his gods, and setting up his graven image in Dan, by which means idolatry was spread in Israel, and brought on their servitude to Chushanrishathaim, from which Othniel the first judge was their deliverer:

and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; that is, a family of them, as in the next verse, not the whole tribe; for as a family is sometimes put for a tribe, Joshua 7:17 so a tribe for a family, Judges 20:12.

for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen to them among the tribes of Israel: we rightly supply the words "all their"; for otherwise an inheritance had fallen to them by lot, as the other tribes. Joshua 19:40, but that was not only too little for them, Joshua 19:47 but all that was allotted to them did not come into their possession, but a part remained unsubdued; and some they had possession of they could not keep, either through the superior strength of the Amorites, or their own sloth and cowardice, or for want of the help of their brethren; see Judges 1:34.

In those days there was no {a} 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.

(a) Meaning, no ordinary magistrate to punish vice according to God's word.

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.

Verse 1. - In those days, etc. See Judges 17:6. The tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance, etc. This does not mean that the whole tribe of Dan were still seeking their inheritance. The bulk of the tribe, as we read in Joshua 19:40-48, did receive their inheritance by lot before the death of Joshua (ibid. ver. 49) and Eleazar (ibid. ver. 51). But as long as any part of the tribe was not settled, the tribe as such, in its unity, was still seeking a settlement. The land for their inheritance had not yet fallen to the tribe in its integrity. This is in part accounted for by what we read Judges 1:34, that the Amorites would not suffer the children of Dan to come down to the valley, so that those who could not get possession of their land there would be crowded into other parts of the tribal territory. These Danites, of whom we are here reading, were dwelling in Zorah and Eshtaol (Judges 13:1, 25), as we see by vers. 2, 11. Unto that day, etc. Translate this clause, For unto that day the land (meaning the whole land) had not fallen unto them in the midst of the tribes of Israel for an inheritance. The words the land must be supplied after the analogy of Numbers 34:2. What follows in this chapter is a more detailed account of what was briefly mentioned in Joshua 19:47, where, however, the A.V. went out too little for them is not a translation of the Hebrew text, which is very difficult to explain. Houbigant, by an ingenious conjecture, gives the sense was too narrow for them. Prom the mention of this migration in the Book of Joshua, it is probable that it took place not many years after Joshua's death. Judges 18:1This took place at a time when Israel had no king, and the tribe of the Danites sought an inheritance for themselves to dwell in, because until that day no such portion had fallen to them among the tribes as an inheritance. To the expression נפלה לא (had not fallen) we must supply נחלה as the subject from the previous clause; and בּנחלה signifies in the character of a nachalah, i.e., of a possession that could be transmitted as hereditary property from father to son. נפל, to fall, is used with reference to the falling of the lot (vid., Numbers 34:2; Joshua 13:6, etc.). The general statement, that as yet no inheritance had fallen to the tribe of Dan by lot, has its limitation in the context. As the Danites, according to Judges 18:2, sent out five men from Zorea and Eshtaol, and, according to Judges 18:11, six hundred men equipped for fight went out to Laish, which the spies had discovered to be a place well fitted for a settlement, and had settled there, it is very evident from this that the Danites were not absolutely without an inheritance, but that hitherto they had not received one sufficient for their wants. The emigrants themselves were already settled in Zorea and Eshtaol, two of the towns that had fallen to the tribe of Dan by lot (Joshua 19:41). Moreover, the six hundred equipped Danites, who went out of these towns, were only a very small part of the tribe of Danites, which numbered 64,400 males of twenty years old and upwards at the last census (Numbers 26:43). For a tribe of this size the land assigned by Joshua to the tribe of Dan, with all the towns that it contained, was amply sufficient. But from Judges 1:34 we learn that the Amorites forced the Danites into the mountains, and would not allow them to come down into the plain. Consequently they were confined to a few towns situated upon the sides or tops of the mountains, which did not supply all the room they required. Feeling themselves too weak to force back the Canaanites and exterminate them, one portion of the Danites preferred to seek an inheritance for themselves somewhere else in the land. This enterprise and emigration are described in Judges 18:2. The time cannot be determined with perfect certainty, as all that can be clearly inferred from Judges 18:12, as compared with Judges 13:25, is, that it took place some time before the days of Samson. Many expositors have therefore assigned it to the period immediately following the defeat of Jabin by Barak (Judges 4:24), because it was not till after the overthrow of this powerful king of the Canaanites that conquests were possible in the north of Canaan, and the tribe of Dan at that time still remained in ships (Judges 5:17), so that it had not yet left the territory assigned it by the sea-shore (Joshua 19). But these arguments have neither of them any force; for there is nothing surprising in the fact that Danites should still be found by the sea-shore in the time of Deborah, even if Danite families from Zorea and Eshtaol had settled in Laish long before, seeing that these emigrants formed but a small fraction of the whole tribe, and the rest remained in the possessions assigned them by Joshua. Moreover, the strengthening of the force of the Canaanites, and the extension of their dominion in the north, did not take place till 150 years after Joshua, in the days of Jabin; so that long before Jabin the town of Laish may have been conquered by the Danites, and taken possession of by them. In all probability this took place shortly after the death of Joshua, as we may infer from Judges 18:30 (see the exposition of this verse).
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