Notes on Judges 18, verses 22-31
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Judges 18:22, KJV: (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.
These neighbors of Micah must have seen the 600-plus soldiers, cattle, etc., and guessed something was going on. They overtook these Danites at an unnamed location.
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?
Micah’s neighbors “cried out” to the children of Dan. They turned around, saw Micah, plus his companions, and in return asked him, “what aileth thee?” This could be rendered, “what’s your problem?”
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?
Several observations: first, the idols have just proved beyond any doubt they were not able to protect themselves. They were stolen and carried away!
Second, Micah is upset, not only because his gods were taken away but also that the priest went to apparently a higher bidder. Micah wasn’t offering the priest very much salary and not much else besides a change of clothes; perhaps the priest thought a whole tribe (he had seen at least 600 armed soldiers!) would give him a better “package”!
Third, Micah complains that “ye are gone away”—what does this even mean? Did he expect them to stay at his place and be his own private army?
Finally he asks them, “what have I more?” He apparently had plenty: he still had hundreds of silver coins, as he had only used 200 for the images; he still had his house and property; he still had his children; and he still had the opportunity to repent of his idolatry and experience God’s forgiveness.
And yet, he seems frustrated and helpless in this encounter.
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.
The men of Dan said in so many words, “Go back to your house before some ‘angry fellows’ kill you and those of your 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.
Micah had organized a (small?) group of neighbors to challenge the Danites but they accomplished nothing. The Danites, apparently far stronger than Micah’s group, continued on their way and Micah went back to his house. Nothing further is said of Micah himself in the rest of Scripture.
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.
The Danites kept possession of Micah’s idols, plus the Levite who had served as his priest—it is not very likely Micah’s son would have abandoned his father. On the other hand, after a disgrace like this, just about anything was possible. Micah’s son had been Micah’s priest but now there were no idols to serve! What Micah did after this encounter is not related.
The Danites made their way to Laish and promptly conquered the city. It is not clear why they burned the city: Israel had only burned a few cities during the conquest of Canaan (Jericho, Joshua 6:24; Ai. Joshua 8:28; and Hazor, Jos. 11:11), showing that they were “utterly destroyed”, but several generations had come and gone since those days. Whether this was the reason why the Danites burned Laish or if there was another reason is not stated.
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.
Laish apparently was alone, not being close to Zidon, no business (trade?) with anyone, and was located in a valley by the city of Bethrehob. Worse, there was no deliverer, meaning nobody could or did come to their rescue. After the conquest and destruction, the Danites built a new city and moved there.
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.
Here is another irony: the children of Dan named the city “Dan” after their father, but they were about to abandon the God of their father after stealing Micah’s idols.
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.
Now the children of Dan have lapsed into full blown idolatry. From the same tribe as Samson, a man who followed the LORD and did great things, this tribe sets up Micah’s graven image (the text does not say what happened to the teraphim, ephod, and molten image which they stole from Micah). Setting up any or all of these was a clear violation of the First and Second Commandments (Exodus 20:3-5).
Micah had believed that the LORD would bless him because he had a Levite as his priest (Judges 17:13). These of Dan had done worse by coveting and then stealing Micah’s idols and then setting up priests who were apparently not related to Aaron. Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Manasseh may or may not have been the original Levite-priest who had joined, then left, Micah.
How could they expect God’s blessings when they had rejected the worship of the One True God? Or, were they worshiping Micah’s idols (no names for these are given) alongside the God of Israel? We may never know the answers.
31 And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
The “house of God” is another name for the tabernacle. Israel had set up the tabernacle at Shiloh during Joshua’s days (Josh. 18:1), several generations before Micah’s days. The tabernacle stayed there until the time of Eli and Samuel (1 Sam. 1:24) but the amount of time between Micah’s days and Samuel’s days is not specified.
This chapter begins with a tribe seeking a new area in which to live, finding it, and adopting a new religion or at least a “supplement” to the worship of the God of Israel. May we never abandon the God of our fathers, after He has given us victory over anything.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).