Judges 18: The Danites steal Micah’s idols, and find a place to settle
This passage carries on where the last one left off. The tribe of Dan has still not found a place to settle in the Promised Land, so they send out some warriors to spy out the land, and look for a good place to settle. During their travels, they happen upon the Levite, who is living in Micah’s house. They ask him to inquire of the LORD, and find out if their trip will be successful, and he tells them to go in peace, because it has the LORD’s approval. (There is no indication that the priest actually inquired of the LORD; it seems like he just told the Danites that their trip had the LORD’s blessing, without asking. However, there is no indication that he didn’t, either—I might just be reading too much into it.)
So the men leave, and go to a place called Laish. They find that the land is very desirable, and that the people are “unsuspecting” (verse 7), so they decide that it’s the perfect place to settle, and return to tell their fellow Danites about it.
When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers asked them, “How did you find things?”
They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen that the land is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over. When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.”
So six hundred Danites get ready for battle, and start the journey to Laish. On the way they come to Micah’s house, and the five men who had been there before get an idea:
Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, other household gods, a carved image and a cast idol? Now you know what to do.” (verse 14)
And apparently they do. The Danites go in and take the idols and other stuff. The Levite priest asks them what they’re doing, and they urge him to come with them. After all, they reason, isn’t it better for a priest to serve an entire tribe, instead of just one man’s household? This makes the priest happy, and he decides to go with them. So the Danites leave Micah’s house, but they put their children, livestock, and possessions in front of them, as they leave. I am thinking this is because they think that Micah will come after them, and they don’t want their children and livestock to be between the battling men.
If that is what they are thinking, they’re right. Micah calls together some men who live in his area, and takes off after the Danites. They start shouting at the Danites, and the Danites ask what his problem is, that he’s coming to fight them.
He replied, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter with you?’” (verse 24)
But the Danites tell Micah not to argue with them, lest some of the more hot-tempered Danites attack and kill him. Micah realizes that they are too powerful for him, so he gives up and goes back home.
The Danites come to Laish, and take it over:
Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. (verses 27–28a)
I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing (see below).
Once they’ve settled the area, they set up Micah’s idols, and some priests. The passage indicates that they will be continuing to serve those idols “until the time of the captivity of the land” (verse 30)—in other words, these idols will be a snare to the Danites for the foreseeable future.
In verses 8–10 (quoted above), I’m interested in the part where the spies say, “Aren’t you going to do something?” There is no indication that the Danites were hesitating, except for the spies mentioning it. I have to wonder, since the Danites still haven’t found a place to settle by this point, if it’s not because they have a history of hesitating and waffling, instead of taking over the land as they were supposed to. But again, this could be me reading too much into the text.
For me, maybe the saddest verse in this passage is verse 24 (quoted above), when Micah laments that the Danites have taken his gods, and asks, “What else do I have?” More than any other verse, this one sums up the Israelites’ problem in this day and age: they’ve forgotten the LORD, and without Him, they are lost.
The Israelites have been commanded to take over the Promised Land, so the Danites should be following the LORD’s command by finding an area to settle in. But this passage words their takeover of Laish in a way that seems to indicate that the Danites were in the wrong, and I’m not sure why. The way it’s worded, it almost seems like the people in Laish are Israelites, but I’m not sure if this is the case or not. This is another reason that I have to wonder whether the Levite really inquired of the LORD or not, when the Danites asked him if their journey would be successful. It really doesn’t seem like this had the LORD’s blessing.