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Judges: Chapter 18

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1In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking for itself a territory to live in; for until then no territory among the tribes of Israel had been allotted to them. 2So the Danites sent five valiant men from the whole number of their clan, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it; and they said to them, “Go, explore the land.” When they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they stayed there. 3While they were at Micah's house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they went over and asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 4He said to them, “Micah did such and such for me, and he hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5Then they said to him, “Inquire of God that we may know whether the mission we are undertaking will succeed.” 6The priest replied, “Go in peace. The mission you are on is under the eye of the LORD.”

7The five men went on, and when they came to Laish, they observed the people who were there living securely, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking a Symmachus: Heb with anyone nothing on earth, and possessing wealth. b That is Camp of Dan Furthermore, they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with Aram. c Compare 17.4, 5; 18.14: Heb teraphim and the cast metal 8When they came to their kinsfolk at Zorah and Eshtaol, they said to them, “What do you report?” 9They said, “Come, let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and it is very good. Will you do nothing? Do not be slow to go, but enter in and possess the land. 10When you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people. The land is broad—God has indeed given it into your hands—a place where there is no lack of anything on earth.”

11Six hundred men of the Danite clan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12and went up and encamped at Kiriath‐jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called Mahaneh‐dan d Cn Compare verse 7: Heb with anyone to this day; it is west of Kiriath‐jearim. 13From there they passed on to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.

14Then the five men who had gone to spy out the land (that is, Laish) said to their comrades, “Do you know that in these buildings there are an ephod, teraphim, and an idol of cast metal? Now therefore consider what you will do.” 15So they turned in that direction and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and greeted him. 16While the six hundred men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate, 17the five men who had gone to spy out the land proceeded to enter and take the idol of cast metal, the ephod, and the teraphim. e Another reading is son of Manasseh The priest was standing by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war. 18When the men went into Micah's house and took the idol of cast metal, the ephod, and the teraphim, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19They said to him, “Keep quiet! Put your hand over your mouth, and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one person, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20Then the priest accepted the offer. He took the ephod, the teraphim, and the idol, and went along with the people.

21So they resumed their journey, putting the little ones, the livestock, and the goods in front of them. 22When they were some distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah's house were called out, and they overtook the Danites. 23They shouted to the Danites, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter that you come with such a company?” 24He replied, “You take my gods that I made, and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then can you ask me, ‘What is the matter?’ ” 25And the Danites said to him, “You had better not let your voice be heard among us or else hot‐tempered fellows will attack you, and you will lose your life and the lives of your household.” 26Then the Danites went their way. When Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home.

27The Danites, having taken what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, put them to the sword, and burned down the city. 28There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with Aram. a Gk OL: Heb prostituted herself against It was in the valley that belongs to Beth‐rehob. They rebuilt the city, and lived in it. 29They named the city Dan, after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was formerly Laish. 30Then the Danites set up the idol for themselves. Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, b Gk: Heb she brought him to and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity. 31So they maintained as their own Micah's idol that he had made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

Notes:

c Symmachus: Heb with anyone

d That is Camp of Dan

e Compare 17.4, 5; 18.14: Heb teraphim and the cast metal

a Cn Compare verse 7: Heb with anyone

b Another reading is son of Manasseh

c Gk OL: Heb prostituted herself against

d Gk: Heb she brought him to

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

17.1–18.31 : Difficulties with domestic idols.

The first conclusion should be read in the light of Deut 12.1–13.1 , which insists on centralized worship. It is the thematic antithesis of that passage.

18.1–31 : The migration of the tribe of Dan.

The story of the Danite migration starts with a partial repetition of the refrain. The ellipsis of the second line forces the reader to supply the thought (see 17.6 for the full refrain). The Danites could not control their allotment in the south (Judg 1.34 ). They abandoned this and migrated to the far north of Galilee.

1–6 :

The Danites seek an oracle from the Levite serving at Micah's shrine; the Levite's oracle to them assures them of divine support.

5 :

Here to inquire of God refers to divination.

7 :

Laish (modern Tel Dan) was a city in the upper Jordan valley at the foot of Mount Hermon. Living securely means “undefended.” Sidon was a Phoenician city along the Mediterranean. It was too far from Laish to offer it effective protection. Aram was to the northeast of Laish. Without proper defenses or effective alliances Laish was easy prey.

11–26 :

On their way to Laish, the Danites stole Micah's religious objects and induced his priest to join them. Six hundred men is reminiscent of the Philistine contingent that Shamgar defeated (Judg 3.31 ).

15–17 :

The Danites, who properly should have destroyed Micah's shrine (according to Deut 2.2–3 ), instead find it worthy of acquisition, even if by means of theft. This further deprecates northern worship.

18–20 :

The Levite joined the Danites, who made him a better offer.

27–31 :

The Danites took Laish, renamed it, and installed Micah's images and the Levite there.

30 :

A priesthood descended from Moses is associated with this illegitimate worship at Dan (see Ex 2.22; 1 Chr 23.14–15 ). If the grandson (rather than descendant) of Moses is intended, this story is clearly out of chronological order.

31 :

A Deuteronomistic indictment against the shrine at Dan that became an important center of worship for the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12.29 ). Shiloh, see 21.12n .

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