Judges 18 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Judges 18)

Verse 1

[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.

Those days — Not long after Joshua's death.

The tribe — A part of that tribe, consisting only of six hundred men of war, with their families, verse 16,21.

Inheritance — The lot had fallen to them before this time, but not the actual possession, because the Philistines and Amorites opposed them.

Verse 2

[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.

There — Not in the same house, but near it.

Verse 3

[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?

Knew — By the acquaintance which some of them formerly had with him.

Verse 5

[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.

Ask — By thine Ephod, and Teraphim, or images, which they knew he had, verse 14.

Verse 6

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

Before the Lord — That is, your design is under the eye of God; that is, under his care, protection and direction. This answer he either feigns to gratify their humour; or, did indeed receive from the devil, who transformed himself into an angel of light, and in God's name gave him answers, and those not sometimes very true, which God suffered for the trial of his people. But it is observable, his answer was, as the devil's oracles usually were, ambiguous, and such as might have been interpreted either way.

Verse 7

[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.

Manner of the Zidonians — Who living in a very strong place, and abounding in wealth, and perceiving that the Israelites never attempted anything against them, were grown secure and careless.

Put to shame — Or, that might rebuke or punish any thing, that is, any crime. Putting to shame seems to be used for inflicting civil punishment, because shame is generally the effect of it.

Zidonians — Who otherwise could have succoured them, and would have been ready to do it. No business-No league or confederacy, nor much converse with other cities, it being in a pleasant and plentiful soil, between the two rivulets of Jor and Dan, not needing supplies from others, and therefore minding only their own ease and pleasure.

Verse 10

[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.

Given — This they gather partly from God's promise which they supposed they had from the Levite's mouth; and partly from his providence, which had so disposed them, that they would be an easy prey.

Verse 12

[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.

Mahaneh-dan — That is, the camp of Dan.

Verse 13

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

To the house — That is, to the town in which his house was, for they were not yet entered into it.

Verse 14

[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.

Answered — That is, spake, the word answering being often used in scripture of the first speaker.

These houses — That is, in one of these houses.

What to do — Whether it be not expedient to take them for your farther use.

Verse 17

[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.

Thither — Into the house, and that part of it, where those things were.

The gate — Whither they had drawn him forth, that they might without noise or hindrance take them away.

Verse 18

[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?

These — The five men.

Verse 19

[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?

Lay thy hand — That is, be silent.

A family — Namely, a tribe, that is, a family.

Verse 20

[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.

Was glad — Being wholly governed by his own interest.

The midst — Both for the greater security of such precious things, and that Micah might not be able to come at him, to injure or upbraid him; and, it may be, because that was the place where the ark used to be carried.

Verse 21

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

Before them — For their greater security, if Micah should pursue them.

Verse 24

[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?

I made — So far was he besotted with superstition and idolatry, that he esteemed those gods, which were man's work. But he could not be so stupid, as to think these were indeed the great Jehovah that made heaven and earth; but only a lower sort of gods, by whom, as mediators, he offered up his worship to the true God, as divers of the Heathen did.

What have I — I value nothing I have in comparison of what you have taken away. Which zeal for idolatrous trash may shame multitudes that call themselves Christians, and yet value their worldly conveniences more than all the concerns of their own salvation. Is Micah thus fond of his false gods? And how ought we to be affected toward the true God? Let us reckon our communion with God our greatest gain; and the loss of God the sorest loss. Wo unto us, if He depart! For what have we more.

Verse 25

[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.

Thy voice — Thy complaints and reproaches.

Angry fellows — The soldiers, who are in themselves sharp and fierce, and will soon be enflamed by thy provoking words.

Thy Life — Which, not withstanding all thy pretences, thou dost value more than thy images.

Verse 27

[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.

Burnt — Not wholly, but in great measure, to make their conquest more easy.

Verse 28

[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.

And they built a city — That is, rebuilt it.

Verse 29

[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.

Of Dan — That it might be manifest, that they belonged to the tribe of Dan, though they were seated at a great distance from them, in the most northerly part of the land; whereas the lot of their tribe was in the southern part of Canaan.

Verse 30

[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.

Image — Having succeeded in their expedition according to the prediction which, as they supposed, they had from this image, they had a great veneration for it.

The captivity — When the whole land of the ten tribes, whereof Dan was one, was conquered, and the people carried captive by the Assyrian, 2 Kings 17:6,23, which is called by way of eminency, the captivity. It is not said, that the graven image was there so long, for that is restrained to a shorter date, even to the continuance of the ark in Shiloh, verse 31, which was removed thence, 1 Samuel 4:3-5. But only that Jonathan's posterity, (so his name is at last mentioned) were priests to this tribe or family of Dan, which they might be under all the changes, even 'till the Assyrian captivity, sometimes more openly, sometimes more secretly, sometimes in one way of idolatry, and sometimes in another.