Scripture reading – Judges 18

Judges 18 opened with an observation that will be repeated in the book’s last chapters. We read, “In those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 18:1; note also Judges 17:6, Judges 19:1, and Judges 21:25). In a very literal sense, Israel had no king, ruler, or judge. There was no man of God to herald the word of the LORD, none to call on the people to repent of their wickedness and turn back to the Law and Commandments.

Five Spies of Dan and an Encounter with Micah’s Priests (Judges 18:1-6)

The tribe of Dan was the subject of Judges 18, but as you will see, Micah, the Ephraimite to whom we were introduced in Judges 17, is also a prominent figure.

Having yet to receive an inheritance in the Land, the Danites (Judges 18:1) sent five men to spy out their assigned territory in the northernmost portion of Israel, near Mount Horeb. In their journey, they camped on Mount Ephraim and lodged near the house of Micah (Judges 18:2). There they heard the voice of his Levite (Judges 18:7-13) and knew his dialect was not of that region (Judges 18:3). They questioned the young Levite, and learned Micah hired him to serve as his priest (Judges 18:3-4). Then they sought the counsel of the Levite, and he assured them their journey to Laish would be prosperous (Judges 18:5).

The Report of the Spies (Judges 18:7-10)

The five spies arrived near Laish and found the people were “careless…quiet, and secure” (Judges 18:7). The implication was that they had no enemies and were, therefore, lethargic in their defense and vulnerable to siege. Laish was distant from other cities, and the spies felt there would be no assistance when the Danites attacked the city. Returning to their brethren, the spies reported that the land was good, and they should move quickly to possess it (Judges 18:8-10).

Dan’s Plunder of Micah’s Idols (Judges 18:11-26)

Six hundred Danite men, “appointed with weapons of war” (Judges 18:11), “went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah” (Judges 18:12), and then made their way to Mount Ephraim, “and came unto the house of Micah” (Judges 18:13). There, the five spies conveyed to their fellow soldiers that in Micah’s house, there was “an ephod [a breastplate worn by a priest], and teraphim [idol], and a graven image, and a molten image” (18:14). Led by the five spies, those six hundred men stood at the gate of Micah’s house, as they stole the idols, and enticed the young Levite priest to come with them, and serve as priest to the tribe of Dan” (Judges 18:15-20).

The Danites then set out on their journey for Laish, putting their children and cattle forward, and the strong men serving as the rearward guard for their families (Judges 18:21). After a great distance, Micah and the men whom he had stirred to come with him, came upon the tribe of Dan whose strong men confronted them saying, “What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?” (Judges 18:23)

Micah complained he had been slighted, for the Danites had taken his gods and his priest (Judges 18:24). The Danites, mincing no words, threatened Micah saying, “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” (Judges 18:25). Perceiving he was outnumbered, Micah retreated, and returned to his home (Judges 18:26).

Dan’s Victory Over Laish (Judges 18:27-29)

The Danites then came upon Laish, and finding the inhabitants of the city unprepared, “they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire” (Judges 18:27). There was none that did come to the aid of Laish (Judges 18:28). There the Danites built a city, and named it Dan, for the father of their tribe.

Closing thoughts:

In closing, let us consider the depth of depravity to which Israel had descended. We have found that the people possessed idols and graven images in their households; Levites served as priests of false gods; and the LORD, His Law, and Commandments were forsaken.

Tragically, “the children of Dan set up the graven image [which they had stolen from Micah]: and Jonathan [most likely the name of the Levite priest], 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” (18:30). We read, “they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (Judges 18:31).

We will soon see how Israel’s decline into idol worship was the precursor of that nation’s plunge into moral depravation.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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