The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
CONFUSION AND STRIFE IN ISRAEL
- We noted last week that this period in the history of Israel was a time of corruption and a time of confusion (cf. 17:6).
- Micah (not the prophet) was a thief who started his own idolatrous religion on Mount Ephraim. Chapter 17 tells how at first he consecrated one of his sons to be his priest.
- Of course this was all contrary to the Word of God. Micah set up his own temple of idols (17:4-6).
- Then a Levite wandered into town looking for a place to stay. Micah invited him to stay with him and become his priest (17:12).
- Micah was so confused that he thought God was going to bless him for his idolatry and disobedience (17:13). After all, this was the way he was brought up. He stole eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother, and rather than rebuke him she blessed him (17:2).
- We see Micah and his backslidden priest again in Judges 18, along with men from the tribe of Dan. The men of Dan were called Danites (18:1). You will recall that Samson was a Danite from Zorah (13:1).
- The Danites were discontented. They wanted to move. There is nothing wrong with moving if God wants you to move, but it is a sin to move away from where God places you. God had already given the Danites their allotment (cf. Joshua 18:10; 19:40-48).
- Why were the Danites eager to relocate? They were unable to defeat and dispossess the land God gave them. God told them to drive out the Canaanites and Amorites but they didn't (cf. Judges 1:34).
- I believe when God tells us to do something He enables us to do it. The Danites should have did things God's way. Instead they coveted someone else's land and took it by violence (18:27-29).
THE DISOBEDIENCE OF DAN (18:1-12).
- Dan had no business leaving the territory God had given them. We can see from these Scriptures that they never asked the Lord for help or guidance (18:1, 2).
- Moses and Joshua were careful not to move without directions from the Lord.
- Now it is true that these five men of Dan asked the Levite to inquire of God for them, but they should have known that this Levite was false teacher (18:3-6). Certainly they must have seen the idols in Micah's house (18:2; cf. 17:4, 5).
- The Levite admitted that Micah had "hired" him (18:4). The Danites must have known that this arrangement was contrary to Scripture.
- But the days of the Judges were days of apostasy and anarchy. It was a time of declension and confusion. So the Danites were happy to move into Laish, foolishly thinking that they were in God's will (18:6, 7).
- The Israelites were influenced greatly by their pagan neighbors. The Canaanites were always inquiring of their priests and their seers. But Israel was not instructed to do so.
- After leaving the young Levite, the five men (scouts) from Dan moved on to Laish, where they observed that the city was "quiet and secure" (18:7).
- The Zidonians had been protecting them but at this time they were "far" away and the men of Laish had grown "careless" (18:7). They were over confident and unprepared for an attack.
- Let me make an application: oftentimes Christians get careless because they are far from God or far from His Word or far from church, etc. That makes them vulnerable to an attack from the devil.
- The five scouts returned to their people and gave them a promising report (18:8-12). Without spending too much time with this, let us remember that the Danites were not willing to fight for their own land but now they were willing to go and kill innocent people in order to seize land that God had not given them.
THE THIEVERY OF DAN (18:13-26).
- As the 600 men of Dan (along with their women, children, and cattle – 18:21) moved toward Laish, they stopped off at Micah's house (18:13).
- While the 600 men of war stood by Micah's gate, the five scouts went inside and stole his graven image, and his ephod, and his teraphim (little household gods) and his molten image (18:13-18).
- The Levite stood by and only spoke up when he saw them carrying the idols out of Micah's house (18:18b).
- Reading this passage I am reminded of Psalm 115:4-8.
- Then the Danites made a proposition to this hireling priest. Was it better for him to be a priest to just one man (Micah) or to a tribe and a family in Israel? (18:19).
- This was a golden opportunity for this shameless young opportunist. Not only did he consent to the robbery but he was "glad" to leave with them (18:20, 21).
- Although Micah had no right to start his own false religion and establish his own house of gods, neither did these thieving Danites have any right to steal it from him.
- From reading Judges 17 & 18 we get the impression that stealing had become commonplace in Israel in those days. Micah had robbed his mother and had not been reprimanded for it.
- Now the Danites and the backslidden Levite robbed Micah. The 8th commandment says, "Thou shalt not steal" (Ex. 20:15), but during this time of lawlessness everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.
- We do not know where Micah was during the robbery but he could not have been too far away because Judges 18:22 tells us that he gathered a posse and caught up with the children of Dan.
- When Micah protested that they had taken away his gods and his priest, the Danites warned him to be quiet and go back home (18:23-25).
- Micah's group was not large enough or strong enough to fight the Danites, so he had no choice but to turn around and go home (18:26).
THE IDOLATRY OF DAN (18:27-31).
- I remember back in the Bible college, one of my teachers giving his explanation as to why the tribe of Dan is not mentioned in Revelation 7. He said it was because Dan was the first tribe to go into idolatry (18:30, 31).
- Since then I have heard several preachers and Bible teachers say the same thing.
- The Danites, along with the Levite (we're told his name was Jonathan – 18:30) went on to Laish (18:27). They burned the city with fire, rebuilt it, and changed its name to Dan (18:27-29). Jacob's prophecy came true (Gen. 49:17).
- The Danites, with the help of Jonathan and Micah's collection of idols, set up their own heathen temple in their new city.
- Years later, when the northern kingdom split from the southern kingdom, King Jeroboam set up one of his golden calves in Dan (I Kings 12:29).
- False religions tend to spin off one another. Micah started his own religion, hired his own priest, and then his priest relocated it in Dan. (From SDA came the JW's; then later David Koresh, etc. Pentecostalism has spread into many different strains, etc.).
- The Holy Spirit adds these words, "all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh" (18:31b).
- I think the reason the Holy Spirit placed that there is to remind us that the true house of God was in Shiloh, and that what the Danites were doing was contrary to God's Word.
- I mentioned last week that the events in Judges 17-21 occurred early in the period of the judges (cf. Ussher's dates in Scofield Bible). The writer of the book of Judges (Samuel?) put these events together as a sort of appendix to the book to show how wicked the people had become.
- You will recall the cycle in Judges – rebellion, retribution, repentance, restoration. God had to allow the heathens (Canaanites, Philistines, Amorites, Moabites, et al) to oppress and vex the Israelites in order for them to recognize their need for repentance.
- Their grievous sin withheld God's blessings then, and it is the same way today.
- God's people need to realize the awfulness of sin and we must make every effort to put it away.