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Chapter 18

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Danites Settle In Laish  (ch. 18:1 - 31)


Verse 1 says, "in those days Israel had no king".  We saw these words in the last chapter.  The reason why the author states that Israel had no king was that everyone did as they pleased.  Everyone includes every tribe and really, every family and individual.  There was no central government.  There was no central civil law for the Israeli's to follow, other than the Law of Moses, which for the most part, was being forsaken.


The fact that Israel had no king is a point of discussion.  Was it God's plan, His will, all along for a  king to lead Israel?  Some say yes while others say no.  I've always thought that giving a king to Israel was an act of concession on the part of God, but not all see it that way.  I've also always felt that God wanted Israel to have a plurality of leaders. That's why He divided them into 12 tribes, but again, not all believe this, and I might be wrong on this point.   


We have to ask why the tribe of Dan "was seeking a place of their own" as verse 1 says.  They were given a certain portion of land.  Wasn't that their own?  Verse 1 also says that "they had not yet come into their inheritance".  I believe this means that they had not yet conquered the land the Lord set apart for them.  Israel was given land by God.  Each tribe had a certain portion of the land, that is, except for Levi.  Dan had been given some land.  But, all this land had to be fought for and taken.  Dan failed to win the victory for their land and therefore felt they had no land and so they went looking for another parcel of land to call their own.  I suggest that the movement of Dan was not the will of God.  The will of God was for Dan to fight the battle they were to fight and win the land the Lord designated for them.


In verses 2 to 4 we see that from the tribe of Dan 5 men were chosen to spy out the new land that Dan would relocate to.  They headed north to Ephraim, where they met up with the Levite priest that Micah had hired to be his own personal priest.  We saw this in the last chapter. 


The idea that a man could have his own personal priest as stated in verse 4 was clearly not permitted in the Law of Moses.  This reminds me of the modern day church when it comes to hiring a pastor.  A number of candidates would come on a Sunday morning and preach a sermon.  From these candidates, the congregation would vote for their favourite.  You might go as far to say that they are hiring their own personal pastor, the pastor of their own personal choice.  I'm not convinced this is New Testament thinking concerning pastors.


In verses 6 and 7 the five men ask Micah's hired priest if they should continue on their trip.  He answered by saying it was the will of the Lord.  I doubt if this man knew anything about the will of God.  He and his ministry weren't in the will of God in the first place, so how could he determine the will of God for others. 


Again, this reminds me of the modern day church.  We hire a pastor who we like and will tell us things we like to hear, whether it is God's will or not.  The apostle Paul says that in the last days people will follow after teachers as if they had itching ears. (2 Timothy 4:3) That is to say, they simply want to hear the latest new thing, the things that will make them feel good, which it is the will of God or not.  That really doesn't matter.


In verses 8 to 10 the five men return home and encourage the tribe of Dan to move north to Laish because it is a good place to live and those presently living there would be easy to attack and kick out.  In verse 11the five men actually say that the Lord is giving them this land.  I doubt that these men had any capacity to know the will of God.  They asked a man who considered himself a priest but wasn't, and he said it was God's will.  I conclude that the tribe of Dan was meant to stay in the original land God had designated for them.  Their trip north was outside of God's will.


Verse 11 to 13 simply states the route the men of Dan took on their trip north.  I will not comment on the names of towns mentioned here.


From verse 14 to 21 we see the men of Dan approach Micah's home, the man we saw in the last chapter who had fired his own priest, made and ephod, carved idols, and made a sanctuary of worship, all of which was not permitted by the Law of Moses. 


The men of Dan took all these above mentioned things and convinced the hired priest to come with them because being a priest over a whole tribe was far more impressive than being a priest over one man.  The men of the tribe of Dan were also not permitted to do this according to the Law of Moses.  Like Micah, they were not obeying the Lord.  In fact, they were leaving the land God set aside for them.  They were basically adopting pagan practices.  Again, this reminds me of the modern day church when being a pastor is climbing of the ladder of success.  You leave a church for a larger more prosperous church.  You view pastoring as a career and not a ministry, not as one who serves.


In verses 22 through 26 we see Micah and some of his friends overtake the Danites but they were too outnumbered.  They gave up.  Micah lost his idols and his priest.  We see, like we see in the so-called church today, God's people are divided.  They're not just divided.  They are actually hostile towards one another.  Nothing has changed. 


We note in verse 24 that Micah was really distraught over the fact that he lost his own personal priest, his idols, and all the trappings of his own personal religion.  Such is the way with those who put their trust in something of their own making.  Micah's personal religion was far from real, far from what Yahweh wanted.  When he lost it, he had nothing left.  This is something to think about in our world today.  Inventing our own religion, or revamping Christianity, as what is happening today, is not Biblical.   


From verse 26 to the end of the chapter the tribe of Dan went as far north as Laish, near the Lebanon Syrian border today.  They overtook Laish, killed the people who were utterly defenseless and burned their city.  They rebuilt and called the new city Dan.


In verse 30 we finally see the name of this hired priest.  His name was Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses. It is interesting to point out here a textual situation.  In many of your Bibles you will see a footnote for the word Moses that says some text may translate this as "Manasseh".   Moses is probably the right translation.  The Hebrew alphabet has no vowels.  Therefore the name for Moses and the name for Manasseh are very similar.  Some scribe who translated the book of Judges inserted the Hebrew letter that corresponds to our 'n', not in the line of the text but above the line.  Apparently the scribe was suggesting that the name should not be Moses but Manasseh.  He most likely did not want to think that any grandson of Moses could be a priest, and especially a bad priest like Jonathan. 


It's interesting to note that the "Septuagint" translated the Hebrew word as "Moses", not "Manasseh".  


The one thing verse 30 does tell us is that this chapter, along with the last chapter, and the rest of the book of Judges did take place around the same time as the first judge of Israel.  From chapter 17 to the end, when it comes to the time line of Judges, these last chapters should be at the beginning of the book, soon after Joshua dies.


Verse 30 states that the tribe of Dan continued to use these idols all the time when the house of God was in Shiloh . When there was some resemblance of true worship of Yahweh in Israel, that is in Shiloh, there was also pagan worship in other parts of Israel, much like the church today. 


We need to note here that the tribe of Dan was the first to introduce pagan worship into the worship of Yahweh.  It was actually a mixture of Judaism and paganism, and there is where it all started.  This is probably why these chapters are in the Bible. It is a significant step in Israeli history.  I say this is significant, and one reason might be seen in Revelation 7.  You have 12 tribes of Israel mentioned where the 144,000 Jewish preachers come from.  The tribe of Dan is not mentioned in the list.  Some suggest Dan is not on the list because of what we see in the book of Judges, because Dan introduced paganism into Israeli society. 


It is interesting if you go to Israel today, in the city of Tel Dan , probably where Laish was, where Dan was rebuilt in Judges, you can actually see and idol to Baal and an idol to El, a generic name for God.


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