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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 18

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1 IN those days when Israel had no king, the tribe of Dan was looking for territory to occupy, because they had not so far come into possession of the territory a 18:1 they had…territory: so Gk; Heb. obscure. allotted to them among the tribes of Israel. 2The Danites therefore sent out five of their valiant fighters from Zorah and Eshtaol, instructing them to reconnoitre and explore the land. As they followed their instructions, they came to Micah's house in the hill-country of Ephraim and spent the night there. 3While at the house, they recognized the speech of the young Levite, and turning they said, ‘Who brought you here, and what are you doing? What is your business here?’ 4He explained, ‘Micah did such and such: he hired me and I have become his priest.’ 5They said to him, ‘Then enquire of God on our behalf whether our mission will be successful.’ 6The priest replied, ‘Go and prosper. The LORD looks favourably on the mission you have undertaken.’

7The five men went on their way and came to Laish. There they found the inhabitants living free of care in the same way as the Sidonians, quiet and carefree with nothing lacking in the country b 18:7 with nothing…country: prob. rdg; Heb. obscure. . They were a long way from the Sidonians, and had no contact with the Aramaeans c Aramaeans: so some Gk MSS; Heb. men. .

8On their return to Zorah and Eshtaol, the five men were asked by their kinsmen for their report, 9and they replied, ‘Go and attack them at once. The land that we saw was very good. Why hang back? Do not hesitate to go there and take possession. 10When you get there, you will find a people living a carefree life in a wide expanse of open country. It is a place where nothing on earth is lacking, and God has delivered it into your hands.’

11Six hundred fully armed men from the Danite clan set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12and went up country, where they encamped in Kiriath-jearim in Judah, which is why that place is called Mahaneh-dan d 18:12 Mahaneh-dan: that is the Camp of Dan. to this day; it lies west of Kiriath-jearim. 13From there they passed on to the hill-country of Ephraim until they came to Micah's house. 14The five men who had been sent to reconnoitre the country round Laish addressed their kinsmen. ‘Do you know’, they said, ‘that in one of these houses there are an ephod and teraphim, an image and an idol? Now consider what you had best do.’

15They turned aside to e 18:15 turned aside to: so Gk (Luc.); Heb. adds the house of the young Levite. Micah's house and greeted him. 16As the six hundred armed Danites took their stand at the entrance of the gate, 17the five men who had gone to explore the country went indoors to take the image and the idol, the ephod and the teraphim; the priest meanwhile was standing at the entrance with the six hundred armed men. 18When the five men entered Micah's house and laid hands on the image and the idol, the ephod and the teraphim f 18:18 the image…teraphim: prob. rdg; Heb. the idol of the ephod, and teraphim and image. , the priest asked them what they were doing. 19They said to him, ‘Be quiet; not a word. Come with us and be to us a father and priest. Which is better, to be priest in the household of one man or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?’ 20This pleased the priest, and carrying off the ephod and the teraphim, the image and the idol g 18:20 and the idol: so Gk; Heb. omits. , he went with the people. 21They set out on their way, putting their dependants, herds, and possessions in front.

22The Danites had gone some distance from Micah's house, when his neighbours were called out in pursuit. As they caught up with them, 23they shouted, and the Danites turned round and said to Micah, ‘What is the matter with you that you have called out your men?’ 24‘You have taken the gods which I made for myself and have taken the priest,’ he answered; ‘you have gone off and left me nothing. How can you ask, “What is the matter with you?”’ 25The Danites said to him, ‘Not another word from you! We are desperate men and if we set about you it will be the death of you and your family.’ 26With that the Danites went on their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned and went home.

27Carrying off the things which Micah had made for himself along with his priest, the Danites then attacked Laish, whose people were quiet and carefree. They put the people to the sword and set fire to their town. 28There was no one to save them, for it was a long way from Sidon and they had no contact with the Aramaeans h 18:28 Aramaeans: prob. rdg, cp. verse 7; Heb. men. ; the town was in the valley near Beth-rehob. They rebuilt the town and settled in it, 29naming it Dan after their forefather Dan, a son of Israel; its original name was Laish. 30The Danites set up the image, and Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the exile. 31They set up for themselves the image which Micah had made, and it was there as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

Notes:

a 18:1 they had…territory: so Gk; Heb. obscure.

b 18:7 with nothing…country: prob. rdg; Heb. obscure.

c Aramaeans: so some Gk MSS; Heb. men.

d 18:12 Mahaneh-dan: that is the Camp of Dan.

e 18:15 turned aside to: so Gk (Luc.); Heb. adds the house of the young Levite.

f 18:18 the image…teraphim: prob. rdg; Heb. the idol of the ephod, and teraphim and image.

g 18:20 and the idol: so Gk; Heb. omits.

h 18:28 Aramaeans: prob. rdg, cp. verse 7; Heb. men.

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