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Judges 18

The Danites seek to enlarge their inheritance, and rob Micah.

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The Danites seek to enlarge their inheritance, and rob Micah

1 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.

2 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.

3 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?

4 And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.

5 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.

6 And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.

7 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.

8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?

9 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.

13 And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.

14 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.

15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.

16 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.

17 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.

18 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?

19 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?

20 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.

21 So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.

22 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.

23 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?

24 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?

25 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.

26 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.

27 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.

28 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.

29 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.

30 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.

31 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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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Days, after the death of Josue and the ancients. Debbora speaks of the tribe of Dan, as addicted to navigation. C. v. 17. C. — It had now conquered most of the enemies who had formerly forced some to seek fresh settlements, (H.) as it is hinted at, Jos. xix. The particulars are here given in detail. C. — Received, &c. They had their portions assigned them, Josue xix. 40. But through their own sloth, possessed as yet but a small part of it. See Judges i. 34. Ch. W. — Prot. supply, “all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.” H.

Ver. 2. Family. Heb. “From their extremity.” Which may denote such as came to hand, (C.) or princes, (De Dieu) or people of mean appearance, (Castalion) unless we explain it “from their coasts,” with Montanus, Prot. &c. H.

Ver. 4. Voice. His pronunciation was different from that of the Ephraimites. C. xii. 6.

Ver. 5. Lord (Elohim.) A title sometimes given to false gods. The Levite answered in the name of Jehova; whence it is inferred that they all adored the true God, though their worship was not clear of superstition. C.

Ver. 6. Looketh with approbation. H. — It is uncertain whether this prediction proceeded from God, from the devil, or from the crafty Levite, (C.) who might answer as he thought the messengers wished him to do. M. — Their undertaking proved successful. But the devil, who knew the valour of the Danites, and the security of the citizens of Lais, or even a man of moderate prudence and sagacity, might have told what would be the probable event of an attack in such circumstances. C. — Whether God approved or condemned the Levite’s worship, he might speak by his mouth, as he did by that of Balaam. H. — But it is generally supposed that Jonathan was the organ of the devil, (C.) who answered with a degree of obscurity, as he was accustomed, (W.) that, in any case, his credit might subsist. H.

Ver. 7. Lais, four miles from Paneas, towards Tyre. It is called Lesem Dan; (Jos. xix 47.) both the ancient and the new name being joined together. — Rich, Heb. has almost as many different meanings as interpreters. De Dieu, “There was no one to put them to shame, no chief magistrate.” C. — Prot. “and there was no magistrate in the land that might put them to shame in any thing.” H. — The citizens of Lais were perhaps a colony, and followed the manners and religion of Sidon, but were at a day’s journey from their territory; (Josephus) so that the latter could not come to their assistance at a very short warning. The Danites were therefore encouraged to make the attack, (C.) particularly as this city was confident in its own strength and riches, and made no alliance with any other. H. — Sept. Alex. &c. read, Aram instead of Adam. “They had no commerce with Syria.” But the Roman edition (C.) has, “they are far off from the Sidonians, and have no (word or) commerce with man.” The edition of Grabe repeats a great part of this verse again; v. 9, with an obelus.

Ver. 9. There will, &c. is added to signify, that it will be necessary only to go to take possession. H.

Ver. 10. Secure. “No one is sooner overcome than the man who has no fear; and security is generally the forerunner of ruin.” Velleius 2. initium est calamitatis securitas.

Ver. 11. War, besides their wives, &c. v. 21.

Ver. 12. Behind, on the west. C.

Ver. 14. To do. Whether we must take them by force or by craft. H. — It seems they had a premeditated design to seize them. C.

Ver. 17. They. Heb. and Sept. “and the five men that went to spy out the land.” H. — Off. The Levite’s attention was drawn off for a while by the 600 men, till the five, who had formerly become acquainted with him, had ransacked his little temple. C. — Perceiving them as they came out, he began to complain, but was soon persuaded to follow the Danites, and to abandon his former protector. So little dependence can be had on those who are faithless to their God! H.

Ver. 19. Mouth; to signify that silence must be observed. Job xxix. 9. Eccli. v. 12. Angerona, among the Romans, and Harpocrates, in Egypt, were represented in this posture; digitoque silentia suadet. Ovid, Met. ix.

Ver. 22. Houses. Heb. “near the house of Michas.” The poor fellow called his neighbours, and pursued the Danites, (H.) despising as it were all his other effects, in comparison with his god. M.

Ver. 25. House. The violence and injustice of the Danites cannot be excused, particularly as they were stealing what they deemed sacred. C.

Ver. 27. And, &c. Heb. “and they took what Michas had made, and the priest,…and came.” H. — Fire, as they could not make themselves masters of it otherwise. They were forced afterwards to rebuild it. Some Rabbins have supposed, that Sidon and its colonies were not given by God to Israel: but their proofs are unsatisfactory. Lais was inhabited by the Chanaanites; and though it was in the territory of Aser, as the people of Dan had made the conquest, they were suffered to keep quiet possession of it. See Jos. xvii. 10.

Ver. 28. Rohob, which stood at the foot of Libanus. The vale belonging to this city, extended for about twenty miles.

Ver. 29. Lais. Heb. Ulam Layish, as the Sept. express it. C. — But the former term is explained by the Alex. and other copies in the sense of the Vulgate, before. H. — Dan is often placed for the northern boundary of Palestine. C.

Ver. 30. Idol. Heb. pasel. W. — Grabe’s Sept. “the graven thing of Michas, and Jonathan the son of Gersam, of the son of Manasses.” The Roman copy omits “of Michas,” but retains Manasses, as the present Hebrew reads, instead of Moses. H. — It is suspected that the Jews have inserted an n over the word Mose, that it might not be known that a grandson of their lawgiver had been guilty of such impiety. They have not dared, however, to place the letter in the same rank as the others, but have suspended it, (C.) as if it were suspected, says Michaelis. Abendana relates, that by (or on) the authority of the ancients, this nun was added from the honour of Moses, lest his granson might appear to be the first little sacrificing priest of an idol. The Latin Vulgate reads the name of Moses; and I am convinced that Moses, and not Manasses, ought to be understood: for how could a Levite have Manasses for his ancestor? Got. Comm. 1753. The Jews pretend that this relationship to the idolatrous king of Juda was not real, but figurative, in as much as Jonathan acted like him. But thus the reproach would fall on Gersam, who is said to be the son of Manasses, while the idolatrous priest is only placed as the son of Gersam. It is surely very absurd to say that he was the son of Manasses, because Manasses acted like him 800 years afterwards; and Sol. Jarchi honestly confesses that, “for the honour of Moses nun was written, on purpose to change the name, and it was written suspended, to indicate that it was not Manasses, but Moses.” See Talmud Bava. fol. 109. The letter has, however, sometimes been suspended half way, and sometimes uniformly inserted, so that it has at last supplanted the genuine word. Some copies of the Sept. agree with the Vulg. Brug. — Theodoret reads, “Jonathan, the son of Manasses, of the son (uiou) of Gersam, of the son of Moses,” retaining both words, in order to be sure the right one, as the copies varied. Kennicott, Dis. 2. see Deut. xxvii. 4. Here we have a plain proof of the liberties which the Jews have taken with their text. But the providence of God has left us means to detect their fraud, by the Vulg. &c. In other difficulties of a like nature, the collation of ancient MSS. and versions will generally remove the uncertainty, and we may pronounce that the word of God has not been adulterated, though perhaps no one copy may now represent it in all its genuine beauty and integrity. See Pr┼ôlog. in SS. Mariana, C. xxiii. T. iii. Menoch. &c. Prot. here follow the corrupted Heb. “Manasseh.” H. — Captivity, under the Philistines, when many of their brethren were taken prisoners, (Ps. lxxvii. 61. T.) and when Samuel obliged all Israel to renounce idolatry. 1 K. vii. 4. E. — Serarius, (q. 7.) or the sacred penman, speaks of a captivity, the particulars of which are not recorded. Salien understands it of the captivity of Nephthali, 35 years before the rest of the kingdom of Israel was destroyed: (4 K. xv. 29. H.) though Lyran and Bonfrere explain it of the latter event, under Salmanaser. ib. C. xvii. M. — We may allow that some interruptions took place under Samuel, David, &c. Salien. — In effect, Jonathan and his posterity might serve the idol of Michas till it was destroyed, at the same time as the ark was removed from Silo; (v. 31.) and afterwards they might relapse into their wonted impiety, and act in the character of priests to the golden calves of Jeroboam; who, no doubt, would prefer such of the tribe of Levi as would come over to him, (Ezec. xliv. 10.) though he was generally forced to select his priests from the dregs of the people. 3 K. xii. In this sense they might be priests in Dan, till Salmanaser led them captives. But substituting galoth or geloth, we might translate, “till the deliverance of the land,” which was effected by Samuel; (C.) who not only repressed the Philistines, (1 K. vii. 13.) but also persuaded all Israel to renounce the service of idols. ib. v. 4. H.

Ver. 31. In Silo. The ark was taken by the Philistines, (1 K. iv.) after remaining at Silo 349 years, and 217 from the idolatry of Michas and of Dan. Salien. H. — In those. The Heb. here commences the following chapter, which contains an account of another instance of licentiousness, which probably took place after the two former. Phinees was high priest; but there was no civil head. C.