Notes on Judges 18, verses 13-21
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 18:13, KJV: And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.
The Five Spies had been at Micah’s house before (see verses 2-6).
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.
These were the Five Spies who had been there before. Look at what they are proposing! They are suggesting that their tribe begin to worship the man-made idols in Micah’s house!
Had they forgotten what had happened numerous times before, when Israel worshiped other gods?
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.
These were probably all of the 600 Danite soldiers who came by Micah’s house. Earlier the Five Spies had lodged there before exploring the northernmost regions of Israel. Some, most likely the Five Spies, greeted the Levite, originally from Bethlehem-Judah, who had given them “guidance” on their journey.
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.
Why these 600 soldiers were standing by the gate is not stated here. There may be another reason, becoming more evident in the next few verses.
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.
Micah had broken at least the first two of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” and “thou shalt not make . . . any graven image . . . (Exod. 203-4)”. Judges 17 gives other information, including Micah’s strange idea that God would bless him by making these various idols!
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?
Micah had already set up or prepared a “house of gods (Judges 17:5)” in his house. Comparing this verse and the last, the Five Spies probably went into Micah’s house while the Levite-priest was dealing with the 600 soldiers. Here the Levite-priest sees the Five Spies carrying the images away and seems to be so startled that all he can do is ask, ”what are you doing?”
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?
It is not certain if the priest was speaking to the Five Spies or the entire 600. Regardless, they make him an offer he didn’t refuse. See how they appealed to his vanity: “you can be priest to an entire tribe!”
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.
He took the offer, after he took the images along with him. Who could have imagined this?
21 So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.
This refers to the entire 600 soldiers and the Five Spies, along with the cattle, “carriage” (most likely baggage or supplies) and the “little ones”. This is the first time these other “travelers” were mentioned.
Placing the little ones and cattle before the soldiers is almost like Jacob’s strategy to appease Esau just before they met for the first time in over 20 years (Genesis 32). The desired outcome is apparently quite different: Jacob was attempting to “appease” Esau (Gen. 32:20) but there is no specific reason mentioned in the text why the 600 soldiers put these “civilians” in front.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).