Judges 18:30
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.
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(30) Set up the graven image.If this pesel was in the form of a calf, the tradition of this cult may have given greater facility to the daring innovation of Jeroboam (1Kings 12:30). In any case, it would make the inhabitants more ready to accept a cherubic symbol of Jehovah; for we may fairly assume that the “image” was not dissociated from the worship of God, whether as Elohim or Jehovah. Jonathan and the Danites both acknowledged Him under the name Elohim (Judges 18:5; Judges 18:10), and Micah, in spite of his images, acknowledged God as Jehovah (Judges 17:2; Judges 17:13; Judges 18:6), to whom, indeed, the very name of Jonathan (“gift of Jehovah”) bore witness. Whether this, or rather the smallness of Dan, is the reason for its exclusion from Revelation 7:4 must remain uncertain. The Fathers thought, for this reason, that Antichrist would spring from the tribe of Dan.

Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh.—The extreme reluctance to admit this fact—the disgrace involved against the memory of Moses by this rapid and total degeneracy of his grandson—is probably the reason why up to this point in the narrative the name has been withheld. There can, however, be no doubt that Jonathan was the young Levite who has all along been spoken of. The reading of MANASSEH for MOSES is by the confession of the Jews themselves due to the same cause. Moses is in Hebrew מֹשֶׁה‎, Manasseh is מְנַשֶּׁה. It will thus be seen that (without the points) the names only differ by the letter n (נ). But in what is called the Masoretic text—i.e., the text edited by the Jewish scribes—the נ is not boldly inserted, but is timidly and furtively suspended—thus MSSH—and is called nun thaīûyah (n suspended). This was done to conceal from the uninitiated the painful fact. It was known to St. Jerome, and accordingly the Vulg. reads “son of Moses,” which is also found in some MSS. of the LXX. Theodoret has “son of Manasseh, son of Gershom, son of Moses.” The Jews distinguish between the “text” (Kethib “written”) and the margin (Keri “read”), and Rabbi Tanchum admits that here “Moses” is written, though “Manasseh” is read. The Talmud says that he was grandson of Moses; but “because he did the deeds of Manasseh” (the idolatrous king, 2 Kings 21), “the Scripture assigns him to the family of Manasseh” (Babha Bathra, f. 109, 2); and on this a later Rabbi remarks that “the prophet”—i.e., the sacred author—“studiously avoided calling Gershom the son of Moses, because it would have been ignominious to Moses to have had an ungodly son; but he calls him the son of Manasseh, suspending the n above the line to show that he was the son of Manasseh (in a metaphorical sense) by imitating his impiety, though a son of Moses by descent.” The Talmudists account for the distasteful tact by saying that the degeneracy was due to the wife

of Moses, who was a Midianite, so that there was a taint in the blood of the family. It is not, however, the sacred author who is guilty of this “pious fraud,” but the Masoretic editors. The rarity of the name Gershom (which means “a stranger there,” Exodus 2:22) would alone be sufficient to betray the secret. The extravagant and superstitious letter-worship of the scribes did not suffice to prevent them from tampering with the letter, any more than it prevented the Rabbis from entirely explaining away the obvious spirit of the Law which they professed to adore. The only uncertainty in the matter is whether this wandering Levite, this young Jonathan who for less than thirty shillings a year becomes the priest of an idolatrous worship, was the actual grandson, or only a later descendant of Moses, since the Jews often omit steps in their genealogies. There is, however, no reason why he should not have been the actual grandson, since he is contemporary with Phinehas (Judges 20:28), who was, without any question, the actual grandson of Aaron. This rapid degeneracy may perhaps account for the obscuration of the family of Moses, which never seems to have subsequently risen into any importance, and of which no more names are preserved. Jonathan’s name is excluded, perhaps deliberately, from 1Chronicles 23:15-16. Or is he indeed Shebuel, as St. Jerome avers, probably from Jewish tradition?—and has his name been purposely altered? It is probably from a similar dislike to reveal the disgrace which thus fell on the family of the great law-giver that Josephus entirely omits the story. It is impossible that he should not have been perfectly acquainted with it. The identity of Jonathan with Shebuel in 1Chronicles 23:16 is asserted in the Targum, which says that “Shebuel, that is, Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, returned to the fear of Jehovah, and when David saw that he was skilful in money matters, he appointed him chief over the treasures.”

Until the day of the captivity of the land.—(1) If the expression meant “the captivity,” as ordinarily understood, the meaning could only be that these descendants of Moses continued also to be priests of the calf-worship for nearly two centuries, until the ten tribes were carried captive by Shalmaneser and Tiglath-pileser. (Comp. 1Chronicles 5:22.) If so, there would be a strong additional reason for identifying this worship with the calf-worship, and the fact might then be supposed to account for there being no mention of non-Levitic priests at Dan, but only at Bethel (1Kings 12:33). (2) Some suppose that we should read “ark” (aron) for “land” (arets). (See 1Samuel 4:21-22.) But this conjecture of Houbigant is not supported by a single MS. or version. (3) It is far from impossible that “the captivity” may mean the Philistine captivity, which resulted from their terrible sack of Shiloh after the battle of Aphek (1Samuel 4:11; 1Samuel 4:22). It is called “a captivity” in the passage which so graphically describes the scene in Ps. 88:58-61. Otherwise we may suppose (4) that “the land” has here a circumscribed sense, and that “the captivity” alluded to is one inflicted on the Danites by the kings of Zobah. or some other Syrian invasion (1Samuel 14:47). The third explanation is, however, rendered almost certain by the following verse.

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. 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.In the Hebrew text the name here rendered Manasseh is written MN)- SH. Without the "N" (nun) suspended over the line, the word may be read: Moses, whose son was Gershom Exodus 2:22, whose son or descendant Jonathan clearly was. The Masoretes, probably grieved that a descendant of Moses should have been implicated in idolatrous worship, adopted this expedient for disguising the fact without absolutely falsifying the text. The Vulgate has "Moses", the Septuagint "Manasses".

These verses seem to tell us that Jonathan's descendants were priests to the tribe of Dan until the captivity 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 17:6; and that the graven image was in their custody until David's time, by whose order, perhaps, it was destroyed, though the idolatrous worship continued, or was revived, at Dan.

Jud 18:30, 31. They Set Up Idolatry.

30, 31. the children of Dan set up the graven image—Their distance secluded them from the rest of the Israelites, and doubtless this, which was their apology for not going to Shiloh, was the cause of perpetuating idolatry among them for many generations.

Having succeeded in their expedition according to the prediction which, as they supposed, they had from this image, they had a great veneration for it.

Until the day of the captivity of the land; either,

1. When the ark and the Israelites were taken captives by the Philistines, 1 Samuel 4:10,11; though there is no mention of any who were then taken captives, or that the Philistines did pursue the victory, and conquer the land at that time, for their victory was quickly damped, and turned to mourning, 1Sa 5. Or,

2. After that time, when the Philistines slew Saul and Jonathan, and discomfited the whole host of Israel, and made the rest of the people flee out of their cities, and took possession of their cities and land. Or,

3. When the whole land of the ten tribes, whereof Dan was one, was conquered, and the people carried captive by the Assyrian, 2 Kings 17:6,23. which is called by way of eminency the captivity, 1 Chronicles 5:22. But against this it is objected, that it is not probable that this idolatry should continue so long in such a public place and manner; or that David and Solomon would suffer it.

Answ. It is not said that the graven image was there so long, for that is restrained to a shorter date, even to the continuance of the ark in Shiloh, Judges 18:31, which was removed thence, 1Sa 4; but only that Jonathan’s posterity were priests to this tribe or family of Dan, which they might be under all the changes, even till the Assyrian captivity, sometimes more openly and allowedly, sometimes more cunningly, sometimes more secretly, sometimes in one way of superstition or idolatry, and sometimes in another; and in and after Jeroboam’s time, in the worship of the calves, for which service, though he did make priests of the meanest of the people, 1 Kings 12:31, yet that was not by choice, but out of necessity, because the priests and Levites generally forsook him, 2 Chronicles 11:13,14; and therefore when he could engage any of the priests or Levites in that service, he was doubtless very glad of them to gain reputation to his impious and absurd device. And the children of Dan set up the graven image,.... In their new city Dan, and very probably had a house built for it, peculiar to it, in the same place where Jeroboam, in later times, set up one of his golden calves. The Danites having succeeded, according to the oracle in Micah's house, they had a very great veneration for the images they brought away with them from thence, and set them up for religious worship in a proper place; for though only mention is made of the graven image, yet no doubt the molten image, and the teraphim, with the ephod, were all placed together for devotion and consultation:

and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan: not to the whole tribe, but to that part of it which resided in this city, called Dan; and this Jonathan seems to be no other than the Levite Micah took into his house, and made a priest of; and whom the Danites took with them to Laish, to be their priest, who is said to be the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh: now Gershom was the son of Moses, and this man is thought by some to be a grandson of his; and with this agrees the time in which he lived, for as Phinehas the grandson of Aaron was now living, Judges 20:28 so might a grandson of Moses; and though he is called a young man, he might be a younger son of Gershom's; nor is his being a Levite any objection, since it is a clear case that Moses made no provision for his family, so disinterested was he, which may be observed against the deists: and it is remarkable that the "nun", or "N" in Manasseh, is suspended over the other letters in our printed copies of the Hebrew Bible, and so without it may be read, Moses; and the Jews (c) have a notion, that this was done for the honour of Moses, and to observe that he was more like a son of Manasseh than of Moses; though rather this being the first letter of "to forget", may suggest, as Alting (d) observes, that he had forgot the virtues of his grandfather; and the Vulgate Latin version reads, the son of Moses; and some (e) are of opinion that this is the true reading of the text; though it may be that another Gershom than the son of Moses, and another Manasseh we know nothing of, are here intended, so Marcus Marinus (f): however, this man, and his sons in succession after him, were priests in Dan:

until the day of the captivity of the land; not till the captivity of Sennacherib or Salmaneser, when Dan, with the rest of the ten tribes, were carried captives, as Jarchi; for this idolatry, and these idolatrous priests, can hardly be thought to be continued here through the times of Samuel, David, and Solomon: nor is it to be understood of the captivity of Israel by Jabin king of Canaan, as Ben Gersom; for as the other is too long a time, this is too short, since it is clear, by the next verse, that this idolatry continued all the time the house of God was at Shiloh; and which directs us to the captivity here spoken of, when the ark was carried captive by the Philistines, and the house of Shiloh was forsaken; which is the sense of Kimchi, R. Isaiah, and Abarbinel; and may be illustrated and confirmed by some passages in Psalm 78:58.

(c) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 109. 2.((d) Shiloh, l. 4. c. 28. p. 334. (e) See Dr. Kennicott's Dissertation 2. p. 51, &c. (f) Apud Glassium in Philolog. Sacr. l. 1. tract. 1. sect. 2.

And the children of Dan set up the {n} 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 {o} captivity of the land.

(n) Thus instead of giving glory to God, they attributed the victory to their idols, and honoured them therefore.

(o) That is, till the Ark was taken, 1Sa 5:1.

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.Verses 30, 31. - And the children of Dan, etc. It was probably the long existence of this semi-idolatrous worship of the graven image at Dan that induced King Jeroboam to set up one of his golden calves at Dan, as we read 1 Kings 12:28-30. And Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh. The Hebrew text really has the son of Moses. But a little n is written above the line between the M and the S of Moses (Mosheh), so as to be read Manasseh, as thus: MSH; so that they avoided the pain of reading aloud that the grandson or descendant of Moses was an idolatrous priest, without actually altering the written text. It is indeed most sad that it should have been so, though like examples are not wanting, as, e.g., the sons of Eli and of Samuel. For Gershom the son of Moses see Exodus 2:22; Exodus 18:3; 1 Chronicles 23:14-16. It does not follow that Jonathan, the priest of the Danites, was literally the son of Gershom. It may merely mean that he was of the family of which Gershom was the head. Until the day of the captivity of the land. There is great diversity of opinion as to the meaning of this phrase. Many understand it, as is the obvious meaning of the words, of the Assyrian captivity (2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 17:6). But some of the best commentators, as Kimchi among the Jews, and many moderns, think it refers to the taking captive of the ark by the Philistines in the days of Eli, because this is the time indicated in the next verse by the mention of the house of God in Shiloh. The ark of God never returned to Shiloh after it was taken thence (1 Samuel 4:3, 4) and captured by the Philistines (ibid. ver. 11). It is also noticed that the expression, The ark of God is gone into captivity (is taken, A.V.), occurs in 1 Samuel 4:21, 22. It certainly would be strange that one verse (30) should speak of the worship of the graven image lasting till the Assyrian conquest of the land, and the next verse (31) limit it to the time that the house of God was in Shiloh, some 300 years earlier. At the same time it should be noticed that ver. 30 speaks of the time that Jonathan's sons were priests to the tribe of Dan, and ver. 31 of the worship of Micah's image. It is quite possible that the descendants of Jonathan may have been appointed priests at Dan to Jeroboam's golden-calf worship, though the original graven image of Micah may have been destroyed by Saul or David; and in the interval between such destruction of Micah's image and the setting up of Jeroboam's calves they may have been the priests of an irregular worship on a high place at Tell-el-Kady. And this would enable us to give what is certainly its natural meaning to the words, "the captivity of the land." But no certainty can be arrived at without more actual knowledge. Many commentators adopt Houbigant's conjecture to read ark for land at the end of ver. 30 (aron for aretz). Others think that some deportation of the Danites by the Syrians or other neighbouring people not recorded in history is here spoken cf. All the time the house of God, etc. This must have been written not earlier than the time of Samuel, and possibly much later. The house of God, i.e. the tabernacle, was in Shiloh from the days of Joshua (Joshua 18:1) till the days of Eli (1 Samuel 1:3), after which we have no account of where the house of God was till the ark was brought up to Jerusalem by King David from the house of Obed-edom the Gittite (2 Samuel 6:12), and placed in the tabernacle that David had pitched for it (2 Samuel 6:17); but whether this was the tabernacle that had been pitched at Shiloh or a new one does not appear. It is not improbable that Samuel may have moved the tabernacle from Shiloh to Ramah (1 Samuel 7:17). The ark had rested in the house of Abinadab at Baaleh or Kirjath-jearim for twenty years (1 Samuel 7:2) previous to its removal by David.

And when he replied, "Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have departed; what is there still to me (what have I left)? and how can ye say to me, What is to thee?" they ordered him to be silent, lest he should forfeit his life: "Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest men of savage disposition (נפשׁ מרי as in 2 Samuel 17:8) should fall upon thee (vid., Judges 15:12; Judges 8:21, etc.), and thou shouldst not save thy life and that of thy household," i.e., shouldst bring death upon thyself and thy family. ואספתּה is also dependent upon פּן.
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