Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.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".
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.Of their family; which shows that it was but one, though a large family, which was engaged in this expedition. Eshtaol; of which see Joshua 19:41 Judges 13:2,25.
They lodged there; not in the same house, but near it, as appears from the next verse, in a neighbouring place.
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?They knew the voice of the young man; either,
1. By his manner of pronunciation, which was differing and distinguishable in several tribes, as appears from Judges 12:6 Mark 14:70. Or,
2. By the celebration of some part of his office, which they, then lodging in the neighbourhood, might be invited to. Or rather,
3. By some acquaintance which some of them formerly had with him which they might have upon many occasions.
What makest thou in this place; this being not thy usual place, nor proper for thy employment?
And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, to wit, by thine ephod, or teraphim, or images, which they knew he had, Judges 18:14.
And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.Your way, i.e. your journey or design, is under the eye of God, i.e. under his care, and protection, and direction, which the eye of God being upon a person commonly notes in Scripture, as Psalm 32:8 34:15. Compare Jeremiah 39:12 40:4. So the phrase is here taken in a restrained sense, which is elsewhere taken more largely, as Proverbs 5:21. This answer he either feigns to gratify their humour, or did indeed receive from the devil, who transformed himself into an angel of light, and in God’s name gave them answers, and those not seldom very true, which God suffered for the trial of his people. See Deu 13:1-3. But it is observable, that his answer was, as the devil’s oracles usually were, ambiguous, and such as might have been interpreted either way, as they had success or disappointment.
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.Laish, called also Leshem, Joshua 19:47.
After the manner of the Zidonians, who living in a very strong place, and abounding in wealth, and understanding that they were not a part of that land which God gave to his people, and perceiving that the Israelites never attempted any thing against them, were grown secure and careless.
That might put them to shame in any thing, or, that might rebuke or punish any thing, i.e. any crime; Heb. that might put any thing to shame, or, make any thing shameful. Putting to shame seems to be used metonymically for inflicting civil punishment, because shame is generally the adjunct or 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 league of confederacy, nor much converse with other cities, it 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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Are ye still, Heb. silent? Silence is oft put for stillness or cessation from action or motion, as Exodus 14:14 Isaiah 62:1 Lamentations 2:18. For they do not accuse them for want of speaking, for that they did; but for want of doing, and putting their words and resolves into execution.
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.God hath given it into your hands: this they gather partly from God’s word or promise, which they supposed they had from the Levite’s mouth; and partly from his providence, which hath so disposed them, that they will be an easy prey to you.
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.Of the family; by which it again appears, that the tribe, Judges 18:1, is put for family.
And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.Kirjath-jearim, called Kirjath-baal, Joshua 15:60; a city lying in the northern parts of Judah, in the road to Laish; yet not in the city, but in the fields belonging to it, as the following words evince.
Behind Kirjath-jearim, i.e. westward from it, as the western sea is called the hindermost sea, Deu 11:24; and as, on the contrary, the east is called Keedem, which signifies the forepart.
And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.i.e. To the town in which his house was, for they were not yet entered into it.
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.Then answered, i.e. spake, the word answering being oft used in Scripture of the first speaker, as 1 Kings 1:28 13:6 Ezra 10:2 Isaiah 14:10.
In those houses, i.e. in one of these houses, the plural number for the singular, as Judges 12:7.
Consider what ye have to do, i.e. whether it be not expedient, either,
1. To consult them again for your own satisfaction; or rather,
2. To take them away for your further use, as you shall have occasion; for their action is the best comment upon their words.
And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.Heb. asked him of peace, i.e. if he were in peace, peace being commonly put for health and prosperity.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Come in thither, to wit, into the house, and that part of it where those things were.
In the entering of the gate; whither they had drawn him forth that they might without noise or hinderance take them away.
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?These, to wit, the five mentioned Judges 18:17.
What do ye? what do you mean to do? I hope you will not do so impious and injurious an action.
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?Lay thy hand upon thy mouth, i.e. be silent, as this phrase is used, Job 21:5 29:9 40:4 Proverbs 30:32. The same thing repeated in other words.
A father and a priest: see Poole on "Judges 17:10".
A family in Israel, to wit, a tribe that is (and being oft put for that is) a family. For it is certain this was not an expedition of the whole tribe, which numbered 64,000 men, Numbers 26:43, but only of one family, which it seems were more vexed with the Philistines or Amorites, and therefore resolved to seek new habitations at a great distance from them. And after this time we find the body of the Danites in their old and proper portions in Samson’s time, which, though placed before this, was long after it.
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.The priest’s heart was glad; being wholly governed by his own interest, and making all his obligations of justice and gratitude give place to it. But it is not strange, if he who was before perfidious to God, should prove so to men.
In the midst of the people, i.e. among the people; or properly in the midst, both for the greater security of such precious things, and that Micah might not be able to come at him, either to injure or upbraid him; and it may be, because that was the place where the ark used to be carried.
So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.For their greater security, if Micah should pursue 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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?So far was he besotted with superstition and idolatry, that he esteemed those gods which were man’s work. But he could not be so stupid as to think these were indeed the great Jehovah that made heaven and earth; but only a lower sort of gods, by whom, as mediators, he offered up his worship unto the true God, as it is manifest divers of the heathens 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 apparently value their worldly conveniences more than all the concerns even of the true religion, and of their own salvation.
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.Thy voice; thy complaints and reproaches.
Angry fellows; the soldiers, who are in themselves sharp and fierce, and will soon be inflamed by thy provoking words.
And thou lose thy life; which, notwithstanding all thy pretences, thou dost value more than thy images, as indeed appeared from his following practice.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Not wholly, but in great measure, to strike the greater terror into the inhabitants, and to make their conquest of the place more easy.
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.Beth-rehob; a place near Libanus and Hamath; of which see Numbers 13:21 Joshua 19:28 21:31 Judges 1:31.
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.After the name of Dan their father; that it might be manifest that they belonged to the tribe of Dan, though they were seated at a great distance from them, even in the most northerly part of the land; whereas the lot of their tribe was in the southern part of Canaan.
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.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 they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.No text from Poole on this verse.