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Go to Bible: Judges 18
“In those days there was no king in Israel.” This statement occurs in Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, and 21:25, thus it appears near the beginning and also the very last sentence of Judges, thus setting apart the last five chapters from the rest of Judges (see commentary on Judg. 17:6).
“their inheritance had not fallen to them.” Joshua had given the Danites an inheritance, but they could not manage to dispossess the Amorite population from their territory. Instead of doing what it took to take their territory from the native Canaanite population, they left the area and went north and conquered Laish. There were, however, some cities in the area Joshua assigned to Dan that continued to be inhabited by Danites. Zorah, where Samson was from, was one of those cities, and Samson was a Danite. More about Dan is in Joshua 19:40-48 and Judges 1:34. So the inheritance had “fallen” to them in the sense the Danites had been given it, but it had not “fallen” to them in the sense that they had conquered and controlled it.(top)
“to spy out the land and to explore it.” This sounds like a good idea, but the better idea would have been to believe God’s original allotment to the tribe of Dan was the will of God, and they needed to fight for that instead of fighting and conquering the inhabitants of Laish and rename it “Dan.”(top)
“at the house.” There would have been more than one “house” or living quarters at the “house” of Micah.
“they recognized the voice of the young man the Levite.” This is an amazing coincidence. But how would these five warriors from Dan recognize the voice of the Levite? As we learn from Judges 18:30, this young Levite was none other than the grandson of Moses, the genealogy being Moses, Gershom, then Jonathan, this young priest. When we examine the chronology, we can see how the men would have known this priest.
Moses fled from Egypt and went to Midian, where he married Zipporah, who bore Gershom (Exod. 2:22). It is most likely that Zipporah did not bear Gershom for a long time, because it seems he was still young when Moses when back into Egypt (Exod. 4:24-26). Even if Gershom was very young at that time, he would have spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness with the rest of the Israelites, and during that time he married, which we know because he had a son, Jonathan. The fact that Jonathan was a young man in this record in Judges 18 means that he had been born late in the 40 years of wilderness wanderings. But even if he had been born in the thirtieth year of the wanderings, he would have been ten when Israel crossed the Jordan and seventeen by the time the wars of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land were over, and then a little older by the time the Danites had settled in the inheritance given to them by God but had become dissatisfied with it and decided to move. Also, although the text refers to him as a young man, any age less than thirty would have been considered young for a priest.
During those final years in the wilderness, and during the wars of conquest, there were many times that the men of Israel gathered together with Joshua to ask the counsel of Yahweh, and no doubt as the son of Moses, Gershom would have been there with his son Jonathan. Also, these five warriors that came from Dan were valiant men, obviously seasoned warriors, who would have been with Moses and Israel in the camp in the wilderness in the last years of the wilderness wanderings and then with Joshua through the years of war. That means that they would have seen and heard this young man quite a few times, first in the wilderness and then with Joshua, and so now, in the house of Micah, they recognized his voice. His appearance was likely changed somewhat due to his age and now having a full beard, but his voice would not have changed.(top)
|Jdg 18:4||- (top)|
|Jdg 18:5||- (top)|
“Acceptable before Yahweh is your way on which you are going,” The Hebrew is “Before Yahweh,” and the text can have the meaning of Yahweh being ahead of the people and/or Yahweh being present with the people, and thus making their endeavor successful.
We should note that what the priest said is wrong. Yahweh had assigned an allotment to Dan, and they, by their inaction and lack of trust in Yahweh’s guidance, rejected it. Now they went to the far north of the allotted territory of Israel and as a result were the first to be attacked by every army that came through. Furthermore, the roots of their new location were founded in idolatry. They started with a priest who set up idols instead of establishing the pure worship of Yahweh (Judg. 18:31).(top)
“Then the five men departed and came to Laish.” The Danites moved from the territory allotted to them by Joshua in west-central Israel, to the far north of Israel. They could not move just slightly north, or east, or south because those areas were inhabited by other tribes of Israel. They could have moved south, but that would have almost certainly involved a war with Egypt. So, far to the north seemed logical. Also, it likely helped their situation somewhat that they, as Danites, moved next to the tribal area of Naphtali, and Dan and Naphtali were the two full brothers who were born of Jacob and his wife Rachel’s slave, Bilhah (Gen. 30:1-8). That meant that there would have been less tension between Dan and Naphtali, than if Dan had moved next to another tribe, and Naphtali might have even been inclined to provide some help and support to Dan.
“lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth.” Other versions take the Hebrew text in a different direction. For example, the JPS has, “for there was none in the land, possessing authority, that might put them to shame in any thing.”
“with anyone.” Some Hebrew manuscripts read “Aram” instead of “Adam,” making the text say that the people of Laish had no dealings with the Syrians to the north.(top)
“What do you think?” The Hebrew uses an idiom: “What are you?”(top)
“And they said, “Arise, and let us go up against them.” It would have been nice if the Danites had this much fervor in conquering the land God originally gave them.
“Do you stand still?” This can be a question or statement, depending on the intonation. Also, the word “still” can also be “silent,” such as “you are silent.” This may also indicate there were some Danites that were uncomfortable leaving their God-given inheritance.(top)
“the land is wide.” The Hebrew idiom is “wide of hands,” implying as wide as outstretched hands.
“for God has given it into your hand.” This was inaccurate. God would not give them new land that He had not given them via Joshua while not giving the land he originally gave them via Joshua. People who try to convince others to act often lie or bend the truth of the situation.(top)
“600 men of the family of the Danites.” Not all the Danites moved. For example, the family of Samson stayed (the Samson record predates this move of the Danites.”(top)
“Mahaneh-Dan.” See Judges 13:25.
“it is west of Kiriath-jearim.” The Hebrew text is “behind Kiriath-jearim,” but it means “west of.”(top)
“they passed from there to the hill country of Ephraim.” So the Danites are moving north through Judah and on into Ephraim.(top)
“in these houses.” The “house of Micah” consisted of houses for his family, “his house” (cp. Judg. 18:3).
“teraphim.” The word teraphim is plural and refers to household gods. The number, identity, size, and purpose of the household gods varied from person to person and from region to region, although the Bible shows that at least sometimes they were involved in divination and thus determining the will of God (or the gods). [For more on teraphim, see commentary on Judges 17:5].
“a carved image and a cast metal image.” See the commentary on Judges 17:3.(top)
“and greeted him.” The Hebrew text is, “asking him about peace,” which is idiomatic still today and is a standard greeting in a similar fashion to the English, “How do you do,” although no one is actually asking about “how” or what the person is “doing.”(top)
“stood by the entrance of the gate.” This was likely a “gate” to some kind of outer enclosure around the houses. Although it is unlikely it was very strongly fortified, it would have at least kept animals in to keep them from being stolen (cp. Judg. 18:17).(top)
|Jdg 18:17||- (top)|
“engraved image, the ephod.” The Hebrew text is more literally, “the engraved image of the ephod,” suggesting that those two objects are somehow associated.(top)
“father.” Here used as “mentor” and “guide.” See commentary on Judges 17:10. Even today in some Christian denominations the priest is called a “father.”(top)
|Jdg 18:20||- (top)|
“goods” More literally, “heavy stuff,” but the “heavy” might refer to valuables as well as physical weight. The LXX refers to glorious things, which might indicate valuable as well.(top)
|Jdg 18:22||- (top)|
“the Danites.” The Hebrew is just “they,” but having “they” in the English could be confusing.
“that you have gathered yourselves together to fight.” The idea of the gathering together was to fight.(top)
|Jdg 18:24||- (top)|
“angry men.” The Hebrew is more literally, “men bitter of soul.”(top)
|Jdg 18:26||- (top)|
“and struck them with the mouth of the sword.” The Danites could conquer a city with 600 men, but they could not conquer the land that God had given them.(top)
|Jdg 18:28||- (top)|
“Dan their father, who was born to Israel.” That is, Dan their ancestor who was born to Israel (Jacob).(top)
“Moses.” The Hebrew scribes purposely changed the text from “Moses” to “Manasseh” to protect the reputation of Moses. It was embarrassing to them that the grandson of Moses would be an idolatrous priest. However, the scribes noted the change, which is how modern scholars know about it and many modern Bibles change “Manasseh” back to “Moses” like the REV does. A person can do their best to be godly, but each person decides for themselves whether they will obey God or not. [For more on Jonathan being the grandson of Moses, see commentary on Judg. 18:3].
“Jonathan...he and his sons were priests.” So Jonathan the young priest got married and had sons who followed in his footsteps.
“the day of the captivity of the land.” This could well refer to the time when the Philistines overran and controlled the land. The verse says nothing about the Israelites being exiled in the days of Assyria, although that is a common belief and may be true. This verse refers to the “land” being captured (or “uncovered”). There was a significant Philistine presence in the Promised Land in the days of Saul.(top)
“the house of God.” This refers to the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle). Solomon’s Temple was not built for many years to come.(top)