Judges 18


Some Danites, seeking an inheritance, send five men to search

the land, who arrive at the house of Micah, 1, 2.

They employ the Levite, who served to his house as priest, to

ask counsel for them of God, 3-5.

He inquires, and promises them success, 6.

They depart, and go to Laish, and find the inhabitants secure,


They return to their brethren, and encourage them to attempt

the conquest of the place, 8-10.

They send six hundred men, who, coming to the place where Micah

dwelt, enter the house, and carry off the priest and his

consecrated things, 11-21.

Micah and his friends pursue them; but, being threatened, are

obliged to return, 22-26.

The Danites come to Laish, and smite it, and build a city there,

which they call Dan, 27-29.

They make the Levite their priest, and set up the images at this

new city, 30, 31.


Verse 1. There was no king in Israel] See Jud 17:6. The

circumstances related here show that this must have happened about

the time of the preceding transactions.

The tribe of the Danites] That is, a part of this tribe; some

families of it.

All their inheritance] That is, they had not got an extent of

country sufficient for them. Some families were still unprovided

for, or had not sufficient territory; for we find from Jos 19:40,

&c., that, although the tribe of Dan did receive their inheritance

with the rest of the tribes of Israel, yet their coasts went out

too little for them, and they went and fought against LESHEM,

(called here Laish,) and took it, &c. This circumstance is marked

here more particularly than in the book of Joshua. See on

Jos 19:47.

Verse 2. Five men-men of valour] The Hebrew word chayil

has been applied to personal prowess, to mental energy, and to

earthly possessions. They sent those in whose courage, judgment,

and prudence, they could safely confide.

Verse 3. They knew the voice of the young man] They knew, by his

dialect or mode of pronunciation, that he was not an Ephraimite.

We have already seen (Jud 12:6) that the Ephraimites could not

pronounce certain letters. See the note there.

Verse 5. Ask counsel-of God] As the Danites use the word

Elohim here for God, we are necessarily led to believe that they

meant the true God; especially as the Levite answers, Jud 18:6,

Before the LORD ( Yehovah) is your way. Though the

former word may be sometimes applied to idols, whom their votaries

clothed with the attributes of God; yet the latter is never

applied but to the true God alone. As the Danites succeeded

according to the oracle delivered by the Levite, it is a strong

presumption that the worship established by Micah was not of an

idolatrous kind. It is really begging the question to assert, as

many commentators have done, that the answer was either a trick of

the Levite, or suggested by the devil; and that the success of the

Danites was merely accidental. This is taking the thing by the

worst handle, to support an hypothesis, and to serve a system. See

the end of the preceding chapter. Jud 17:13

Verse 7. After the manner of the Zidonians] Probably the people

of Laish or Leshem were originally a colony of the Sidonians,

who, it appears, were an opulent people; and, being in possession

of a strong city, lived in a state of security, not being afraid

of their neighbours. In this the Leshemites imitated them, though

the sequel proves they had not the same reason for their


They were far from the Zidonians] Being, as above supposed, a

Sidonian colony, they might naturally expect help from their

countrymen; but, as they dwelt a considerable distance from Sidon,

the Danites saw that they could strike the blow before the news of

invasion could reach Sidon; and, consequently, before the people

of Laish could receive any succours from that city.

And had no business with any man.] In the most correct copies of

the Septuagint, this clause is thus translated: καιλογοςουκην

αυτοιςμετασυριας; and they had no transactions with SYRIA. Now

it is most evident that, instead of adam, MAN, they read

aram, SYRIA; words which are so nearly similar that the difference

which exists is only between the resh and daleth, and

this, both in MSS. and printed books, is often indiscernible. This

reading is found in the Codex Alexandrinus, in the Complutensian

Polyglot, in the Spanish Polyglot, and in the edition of the

Septuagint published by Aldus. It may be proper to observe, that

Laish was on the frontiers of Syria; but as they had no

intercourse with the Syrians, from whom they might have received

the promptest assistance, this was an additional reason why the

Danites might expect success.

Verse 9. Arise, &c.] This is a very plain and nervous address;

full of good sense, and well adapted to the purpose. It seems to

have produced an instantaneous effect.

Verse 11. Six hundred men] These were not the whole, for we find

they had children, &c., Jud 18:21; but these appear to have been

six hundred armed men.

Verse 12. Mahaneh-dan] "The camp of Dan;" so called from the

circumstance of this armament encamping there. See Jud 13:25,

which affords some proof that this transaction was previous to the

days of Samson.

Verse 14. Consider what ye have to do.] They probably had formed

the design to carry off the priest and his sacred utensils.

Verse 18. These went unto Micah's house] The five men went in,

while the six hundred armed men stood at the gate.

Verse 19. Lay thine hand upon thy mouth] This was the token of

silence. The god of silence, Harpocrates, is represented on

ancient statues with his finger pressed on his lips.

Verse 20. Went to the midst of the people.] He was glad to be

employed by the Danites; and went into the crowd, that he might

not be discovered by Micah or his family.

Verse 21. The little ones and the cattle, &c.] These men were so

confident of success that they removed their whole families,

household goods, cattle, and all.

And the carriage] kebudah, their substance, precious

things, or valuables; omne quod erat pretiosum, VULGATE: or rather

the luggage or baggage; what Caesar calls in his commentaries

impedimenta; and what the Septuagint here translate βαρος,

weight or baggage. We are not to suppose that any wheel carriage

is meant.

Verse 24. Ye have taken away my gods] As Micah was a worshipper

of the true God, as we have seen, he cannot mean any kind of idols

by the word elohai here used. He undoubtedly means those

representations of Divine things, and symbols of the Divine

presence such as the teraphim, ephod, &c.; for they are all

evidently included under the word elohai, which we translate my


Verse 25. And thou lose thy life] This was argumentum ad

hominem; he must put up with the loss of his substance, or else

lose his life! It was the mere language of a modern highwayman:

Your life or your money.

Verse 27. Unto a people-at quiet and secure] They found the

report given by the spies to be correct. The people were

apprehensive of no danger, and were unprepared for resistance;

hence they were all put to the sword, and their city burnt up.

Verse 28. There was no deliverer] They had no succour, because

the Sidonians, from whom they might have expected it, were at too

great a distance.

Verse 29. Called the name of the city Dan] This city was

afterwards very remarkable as one of the extremities of the

promised land. The extent of the Jewish territories was generally

expressed by the phrase, From DAN to BEER-SHEBA; that is, From the

most northern to the southern extremity.

Verse 30. The children of Dan set up the graven image] They

erected a chapel, or temple, among themselves, as Micah had done

before; having the same implements and the same priest.

And Jonathan the son of Gershom] Either this was the name of the

young Levite; or they had turned him off, and got this Jonathan in

his place.

The son Manasseh] Who this Manasseh was, none can tell; nor does

the reading appear to be genuine. He could not be Manasseh the son

of Joseph, for he had no son called Gershom nor could it be

Manasseh king of Israel, for he lived eight hundred years


Instead of Manasseh, the word should be read Mosheh,

MOSES, as it is found in some MSS., in the Vulgate, and in the

concessions of the most intelligent Jews. The Jews, as R. D.

Kimchi acknowledges, have suspended the letter: nun, over the

word , thus,

-which, by the addition of the points, they have changed into

MANASSEH, because they think it would be a great reproach to their

legislator to have had a grandson who was an idolater. That

Gershom the son of Moses is here intended, is very probable. See

the arguments urged by Dr. Kennicott, Dissertation I., p. 55, &c.;

and see the Var. Lect. of De Rossi on this place.

Until the day of the captivity of the land.] Calmet observes,

"The posterity of this Jonathan executed the office of priest in

the city of Dan, all the time that the idol of Micah (the

teraphim, ephod, &c.) was there. But this was only while the house

of the Lord was at Shiloh; and, consequently, the sons of Jonathan

were priests at Dan only till the time in which the ark was taken

by the Philistines, which was the last year of Eli, the high

priest; for after that the ark no more returned to Shiloh." This

is evident; and on this very ground Houbigant contends that,

instead of haarets, the LAND, we should read haaron,

the ARK; for nothing is easier than the vau and final

nun to be mistaken for the final tsade, which is the only

difference between the captivity of the LAND and the captivity of

the ARK. And this conjecture is the more likely, because the next

verse tells us that Micah's graven image, &c., continued at Dan

all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh; which was,

till the ark was taken by the Philistines. Those who wish to see

more on this subject may consult Calmet, and the writers in Pool's

Synopsis. This chapter is an important supplement to the

conclusion of the 19th chapter of Joshua, on which it casts

considerable light.

THE Danites were properly the first dissenters from the public

established worship of the Jews; but they seem to have departed

as little as possible from the Jewish forms, their worship being

conducted in the same way, but not in the same place. Surely it

was better to have had this, allowing it to be unconstitutional

worship, than to have been wholly destitute of the ordinances of


I think we have not sufficient ground from the text to call

these persons idolaters; I believe they worshipped the true God

according to their light and circumstances, from a conviction that

they could not prosper without his approbation, and that they

could not expect that approbation if they did not offer to him a

religious worship. They endeavoured to please him, though the

means they adopted were not the most proper.

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