Judges 18
Pulpit 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.
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.
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.
Verse 2. - They came to Mount Ephraim (Judges 17:1, 8). The hill country of Ephraim would be on their way to the north from Eshtaol. They would naturally avoid the plain where the Amorites and Philistines were strong.
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?
Verse 3. - When. Rather, while. By the house. Rather, in or at the house. They knew the voice, having, as some think, known him before he left Bethlehem, or perceiving a southern accent. But it may merely mean that they discerned his voice as he was singing or reciting prayers in the house of God. Micah's house seems to have been a collection of houses (vers. 14, 22), approached by one gateway (ver. 16), in one of which the Levite dwelt. They turned in thither. This seems to have been next morning, when they were starting on their journey. Hearing the Levite's voice, they turned aside into his house. What makest thou, etc. Rather, What doest thou in this place? and what is thy business here?
And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.
Verse 4. - And I am his priest, or, to be 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.
Verse 5. - Ask counsel of God, or simply Ask God, as the identical phrase is rendered in Judges 1:2, where see note.
And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.
Verse 6. - And the priest said, etc., having first, it is to be presumed, put on the ephod (see Judges 8:26, 27, note; Judges 17:5). Before the Lord is your way, i.e. he looks upon it with favour, has respect unto it, and will make it successful, as it is said in Psalm 34:15: "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous." "Whether," says Bishop Patrick, "he had any answer from the teraphim, or feigned it out of his own head, is uncertain."
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.
Verse 7. - To Laish. Called in Joshua 19:47 Leshem, which is perhaps a corruption caused by the statement that they called it after the name (Ke-shem) of Dan, or it may be only another form. The name is strangely corrupted in the Septuagint of ver. 29 of this chapter into Oulamais, and in Joshua 19:47 into Lesem-dan. St. Jerome, misled by the Septuagint, has Lesem Dan. Laish was situated four Roman miles from Bahias, on the road to. Tyre, on one of the sources of the Jordan. Robinson identifies it unhesitatingly with Tell-el-Kady, "the mount of the judge" (where Kady has the same meaning as Dan), close to the great fountain, "one of the largest fountains in the world," called el-Leddan, which is the source of the lesser Jordan (Josephus), and which may very possibly be the ultimate form of ed-Dan, corrupted into Eddan, el-Eddan, Led-dan, el-Leddan, by successive incorporations of the article el into the word itself, of which there are other examples. The remainder of this verse is exceedingly obscure; a probable translation is as follows: "And they saw the people that was in the midst of it dwelling in security after the manner of the Zidonians, 'quiet and secure, and none doing any injury to any one in the land, possessing wealth;' and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man." The words in italics are probably a poetical quotation, descriptive of the people of Laish, which would account for the peculiar diction and the grammatical changes; for whereas the word dwelling is in the feminine gender, agreeing with people, the words quiet and secure and possessing are in the masculine, which can be readily accounted for if they are a quotation. This would also account for the tautology, "dwelling in security," "quiet and secure," and for the poetical character of the phrase "possessing wealth," and for the unusual form of the word here rendered wealth (etzer with an ain, instead of the usual otzar with an aleph), in accordance with the Septuagint and Vulgate and Gesenius, who derive the meaning of wealth from collecting, from which the common word atzereth derives its meaning of a collection or congregation of people.
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.
Verse 9. - To go, and to enter. The exact meaning is, Be not slothful to go (i.e. to go on your way from hence), so as to enter in and possess the land. This would be expressed by leaving out to before enter - to go and enter.
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.
Verse 10. - Translate, "When ye come, ye shall come unto a people secure; and the land is very large (for God hath given it into your hands), a place where there is no want," etc. The Hebrew of very. large is, literally, wide on both hands. The parenthetic for God hath given it into your hands, merely explains why they speak so confidently about it (cf. Deuteronomy 8:9).
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.
Verse 11. - The family - meaning the tribe (see Judges 13:2, note, and cf. Joshua 7:17). Possibly a reason for the use of the word family here and in ver. 2, as applied to Dan, may be that there was only one family in the tribe of Dan, that of the Shuhamites (Numbers 26:42). Six hundred men. With their wives and sisters and children (see ver. 21), the whole company, must have amounted to two or three thousand souls.
And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.
Verse 12. - Kirjath-jearim (city of forests), otherwise called Kirjath-Baal and Baalah, in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15:60). It, lay on the border of Benjamin (Joshua 18:14, 15). Its modern representative in all probability is Kurit-el-enab, nine miles from Jerusalem, on the road to Joppa. The district is still very woody. Mahaneh-dan, i.e. the camp of Dan (see ch. 13:25). Behind, i.e. to the west cf. The exact site of Mahaneh-dan has not been identified with certainty. Mr. Williams was shown a site called Beit-Mahanem in the Wady Ismail which answers well in position, but it has not been noticed by any other traveller ('Dictionary of Bible').
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.
Verse 14. - In these houses, showing that Beth-Micah, the house of Micah, was in fact a small village (see ver. 22).
And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.
Verse 15. - Even unto the house, etc. Rather, at Beth-Micah.
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.
Verse 17. - Went up, viz., into the upper chamber, where it appears the chapel wan So we read in 2 Kings 23:12 that there were altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz (cf. Jeremiah 19:13). And came up, and took. There is no and in the Hebrew, and the tense of the verb is changed. A fuller stop must be put after went up. And then the account proceeds, with a certain solemnity of diction, They came in thither; they took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image (full stop). The narrative goes on, Now the priest was standing in the entering of the gate, etc. But these five went into Micah's house, etc., as just related, and of course brought them out to the gate where the priest was standing with the 600 Danites.
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?
Verse 18. - The carved image. It should be the graven image, as elsewhere. The Hebrew text here has the graven image of the ephod, as was noticed in Judges 17:3, note. But it is very possible that the ray, and, has fallen out of the text by accident, and it does not seem likely that a different phrase should be adopted in this one place from that followed throughout in the enumeration of the articles in Micah's chapel, so that the A.V. is probably right. Then said the priest, etc. When he saw the idols and teraphim in the hands of the five men he cried out in alarm. It is remarkable that here and in the preceding verse he is styled the priest.
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?
Verse 19. - Lay thine hand upon thy mouth. Cf. Job 21:5; Job 29:9; Job 40:4. A father and a priest. See Judges 17:10, note.
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.
Verse 20. - The priest's heart was glad, etc. The prospect of greater dignity and greater emolument stifled all sentiments of gratitude and loyalty to Micah, and made him cheerfully connive at an act of theft and sacrilege.
So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.
Verse 21. - They turned, i.e. turned their backs upon Beth-Micah, and went on their way to the north. The little ones. The term necessarily includes the women of the emigrant party. Compare Jacob's care for his wives and children (Genesis 33:1-5); only Jacob expected an attack from Esau in front, the Danites an attack from Micah from behind. The carriage. It is the same word as is translated in Genesis 31:1 glory; it might be rendered valuables. It would no doubt include the precious images and ephod which they had just stolen.
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.
Verse 22. - The houses near to Micah's house. See ver. 14, note. Year to, the same Hebrew word as is rendered by in ver. 3, where see note.
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?
Verse 23. - That thou comest, etc. - literally, that thou art gathered together, the same word as in ver. 22. It is the idea of the clan, or family, or tribe which causes the phrase. Just as Israel or Judah designates the whole nation, or the whole tribe, under the name of their patriarch, so here Micah would include all the clan who dwelt in Micah's house; and hence the Danites speak of Micah being gathered together.
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?
Verse 24. - My gods, or, as some render it, my god. But the plural is probably right, as Micah was thinking of the molten and graven images, and the teraphim, and called them gods, without perhaps meaning to imply that there was any God but Jehovah.
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.
Verse 25. - Run upon thee. Rather, run, or fall, upon you; it is the plural pronoun, comprehending the whole party. The argument of the Danites was the argument of the stronger.
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.
Verse 26. - The verse tells us what the two parties did, but not in the Order in which an English writer would express it; for no doubt the Danites, encumbered with their women, and children, and baggage, did not go on their way till Micah and his party had turned back, though in English the contrary order is rather implied. The Hebrew merely puts the actions side by side, and leaves the order to be inferred.
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.
Verse 27. - And they. In the Hebrew the they is emphatic. It would be better expressed in English by repeating The children of Dan. The repetition of the epithets quiet and secure, as applied to the people of Laish, rather seems to indicate the writer's reprobation of the deed as cruel, like that of Simeon and Levi in slaying Hamor and Shechem. They smote them with the edge of the sword - a phrase denoting an exterminating slaughter (Exodus 34:26; Joshua 19:47; 1 Samuel 15:8, etc.). And they burnt the city, etc. Perhaps they had made the people and city a cherem, a devoted thing, and therefore slew the one and burnt the other (cf. Numbers 21:3; Joshua 8:19; Joshua 11:11, etc.); or the burning of the city may have been one of the means by which they destroyed the people.
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.
Verse 28. - Because it was far, etc. He reverts again to the description given in ver 7. That lieth by Beth-Rehob. It is literally, which belongeth to Beth-Rehob, i.e. the valley here spoken of was part of the territory of the Syrians of Beth-Rehob in the time of David (and very likely earlier), as we read in 2 Samuel 10:6. It seems to have taken its name, House of Rehob, from Rehob the father of Hadadezer, king of Zobah (2 Samuel 8:12), and to have been called Beth-Rehob very much as Micah's settlement was called Beth-Micah. It was also called for shortness Rehob, as Numbers 13:21; Judges 1:31; 2 Samuel 10:8. It was situated, as we learn from Judges 1:31, in the bounds of the tribe of Asher, in the extreme north of the Holy Land, near the entering in of Hamath, the site of which, however, is unknown (see Numbers 13:21). The valley is that through which the Leddan fountain flows (ver. 7, note), and is the upper part of the plain called el-Hulleh, which is the northern continuation of the Jordan valley. They built a city. Rather, they rebuilt the city.
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.
Verse 29. - Howbeit Laish was the name, etc. The strange form here given in the Septuagint, Oulamais, arises from their having taken the Hebrew word for howbeit (oulam) as part of the name, and left out the L of Laish (see ver. 7, note).
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.
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 they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
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