The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 84
Capture of Laish [Judges 18.27-18.31]


Scripture (KJV) Judges 18.27-31

They win Laish and call it Dan

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.
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.
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.
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.
31 And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

Please note: I have made a change to how reference material is shown. My hope is that it improves your ability to use this material by having it near the reference.

Introduction

What a way to find a new home! The Danites kidnapped the hireling priest of the false religion and stole the idols. They proceeded on their march, and, because they met with no disaster, perhaps concluded they had not done anything wrong by robbing Micah. Many justify themselves in their impiety by their prosperity. Next, they killed the innocent people of Laish who were living in ignorant isolation, a dangerous thing in that day; then they burned the city to the ground. They rebuilt the city, changed its name to Dan; and then the climax came when they set up their own center of idolatrous worship, in open disobedience to the Word of God.

They were living in a place where there was “no lack of anything that is on the earth” (see 18.10); yet they lacked everything that God wanted to give them from heaven. Their false prosperity gave them false security that could not last.

Judges 18:10 (KJV) 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.


Commentary

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—Judges 18.27 (KJV) 
27 Then, with Micah’s idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked with swords and burned the town to the ground.—Judges 18.27 (NLT)

And they took the things (the idols) which Micah had made
The things were the ephod, teraphim, and the two images. The Danites took them and went on their way with them. Note: There is a curse for the person who makes an idol (see Deuteronomy 27.15).

And they. In the Hebrew the word they is emphatic, but in English it would be better to say The children of Dan.

Deut 27:15 (KJV)— Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen. Here God openly declares that anyone who makes an idol is cursed—falls under the wrath and indignation of his Maker and Judge.

and the priest which he had;
They took him also, but it is obvious that he was willing and happy to go with them.

and came unto Laish (see Article 18.3), unto a people that were quiet and secure;
The citizens of Laish were quiet and secure, meaning they were peaceful and felt safe. Perhaps they felt so safe that they didn’t post lookouts along the roads leading to Laish to give them warning of an enemy approaching, or sentries on their walls for protection; and maybe they left their gates open, and their streets unguarded, because they were not concerned at all of being visited by an enemy, especially from Israel, given that they had not been apprized that they had any aspirations to have their city, and the land around it. It didn’t make any difference to them that the five spies (see Judge 18.7) had spent time among them and secretly reconnoitered the land, which made them a very easy prey for this little handful of men that was advancing upon them. (The report given by the spies was correct. The people were unsuspecting and unprepared for resistance; hence they were all put to the sword, and their city burnt up.

This place seems to have been a dependency of Zidon, however, Zidon was so far away that it was impossible to obtain aid from them in a sudden emergency.

Note: It’s possible for one to be destroyed by their security, because Satan gains the advantage over us when we are careless and let down our guard; therefore, a wise man is always a little fearful.

Article 18.3: Laish
LA´ISH (lion), the city which was taken by the Danites, and under its new name of Dan became famous as the northern limit of the nation. Judges 18:7, 14, 27, 29. [DAN.] It was near the sources of the Jordan. In the DAV Laish is again mentioned in the account of Sennacherib’s march on Jerusalem. Isa. 10:30. This Laish is probably the small village Laishah, lying between Gallim and Anathoth in Benjamin, and of which hitherto no traces have been found. (Fairbairn’s “Imperial Bible Dictionary” suggests that it may be the present little village el-Isawiyeh, in a beautiful valley a mile northeast of Jerusalem.—ED.)

Judges 18:7 (KJV) 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.

and they smote them with the edge of the sword;
The six hundred entered Laish, and all of a sudden attacked everyone in sight, and killed them with their swords, spears, knives, etc.

They smote them (the inhabitants) with the edge of the sword. They smote them with the edge of the sword is a phrase denoting an exterminating slaughter (see Genesis 34:26). The picture we get here is of the wholesale slaughter of men, women, children and infants, and the burning of the city might also have been an instrument in the annihilation of the population of that quiet and peaceful little city, and those in the country.  You and I might be sickened by the scene, nevertheless, if the original grant of Canaan to the Israelites gave them the divine commission and mandate for this uncomfortable venture that sanctifies all and legalizes this massacre.

Genesis 34:26 (KJV)  And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.

and burnt the city with fire;
Why did they destroy some or all of the city if their intentions, all along, was to live there? Maybe they used fire to strike terror in all the citizens; or the fire was used as a weapon against the citizens; to kill and terrorize at the same time, as they entered the city, and throw them into great confusion, so that they might become easy prey for them.

What a complete victory they obtained: They wiped them out; men, women and children, and burnt down so much of the city that they had to rebuild some of it. They met with no resistance; for the measure of the iniquity of the Canaanites was full, while that of the Danites was only beginning to fill. It is reminiscent of the destruction of Jericho at the hand of Joshua and the Israelites (see Joshua 6.24).

Josh 6:24 (KJV)  And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.

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.—Judges 18.28 (KJV)
28 There was no one to rescue the people, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. This happened in the valley near Beth-rehob. Then the people of the tribe of Dan rebuilt the town and lived there.—Judges 18.28 (NLT)

And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon,
Probably the people of Laish were originally a colony of the Zidonians; who were an affluent people, and in possession of a strong, well fortified city; consequently they believed they were safe and secure, with no reason to fear their neighbors. It seems that the Leshemites imitated them in this, though they don’t appear to have had the same reasons for their confidence. At the time, they may have been ruled by Zidon and under their protection, and though they might naturally expect help from their countrymen if they were attacked, they lived at a considerable distance from Sidon, so the Danites saw they could strike the blow before the news of the invasion could reach that city, thanks to the information provided by the five spies (see Judges 18.7, v. 27).

and they had no business with any man;
The citizens of that quiet little city had not made any treaties or alliances with others who might have been able to help them in such a disaster, neither was there anyone to warn them of the approach of the Danites or to go to the Zidonians soon enough for them to provide the city with protection. "THERE WAS NO DELIVERER."

and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob;
This place was the northern limit of the penetration of Canaan by the twelve spies sent out by Moses (see Numbers 13:21). That lieth by Beth-Rehob is literally, “which belongeth to Beth-Rehob.” It is called Beth-Rehob very much as Micah’s settlement was called Beth-Micah. It was also called Rehob for short. In the time of David (and very likely earlier), as we read in 2 Samuel 10:6; “And when the children of Ammon saw that they stank before David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Bethrehob…”; it was in Syrian hands, and its position is defined with reference to the entering in of Hamath.

Numbers 13:21 (KJV) So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath.

and they built a city and dwelt therein;
not a new one altogether, but they rebuilt and enlarged Laish, and made it convenient for them to dwell in.

 

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.—Judges 18.29 (KJV)
29 They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel’s son, but it had originally been called Laish.—Judges 18.23 (NLT)

And they called the name of the city Dan
They renamed the city Dan, no doubt to honor their tribe and their ancestor (see Article 18.2; page 776), and to be a witness for them that, though separated from their brethren by a great distance, they were nevertheless Danites by birth. We should be just as concerned about maintaining our relationship with God’s Israel and take every opportunity to preserve it. What a vast privilege it is to have the record of Israel’s history, because without it we wouldn’t be able to understand much of the New Testament, since its writers assume we know it.

Eventually this city became 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.

after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel;
Dan who was one of the twelve sons of Jacob or Israel is referred to here as "their father," meaning their "ancestor."

Laish, or Dan, was situated at the northern extremity of the land of Canaan, in a beautiful and fertile plain, at the foot of mount Lebanon, on the springs of Jordan, and, according to Eusebius, four miles from Cæsarea Philippi, or Paneas, now Banias, (with which some have confused it,) towards Tyre. Burckhardt says that the source of the river El Dhan, or Jordan, is at an hour's distance from Banias, which agrees with Eusebius.

However (or howbeit), the name of the city was Laish at first;
Laish
means "lion", and it might have been given this name because at that time it was infested with lions, which might have come from nearby Mount Lebanon. This explanation would count as fulfilled prophesy, which was, and whither Dan, as a lion's whelp, leaped, (see Deuteronomy 33:22). This place was also called Leshem, (see Joshua 19:47) and it is remarkable that Leshem is the name of the precious stone in the high priest's breastplate, on which the name of Dan was engraved, which was done many years before this city fell into the hands of the Danites.

Deut. 33:22 (KJV) And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion's whelp: he shall leap from Bashan.

Josh 19:47 (KJV) And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father.

 

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.—Judges 18.30 (KJV) 
30 Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. —Judges 18.30 (NLT)

And the children of Dan set up the graven image
After the rebuilding of Laish it was renamed Dan, and the Danites set up the pesel or image of Jehovah, which they had taken out of Micah's house of God, and carried with them to Laish. Instead of giving glory to God, for the taking of Laish, they attributed the victory to their idols, and honored them by erecting a chapel or temple for the objects of worship as Micah had done before, since they had the same implements and the same priest. It is very likely that they built it in the same place where Jeroboam, in later times, set up one of his golden calves. This house or temple was for religious worship only and though just the graven image is mentioned, no doubt the molten image, and the teraphim, with the ephod, were all placed within the house for devotion and consultation. It was, in all probability, the long existence of this semi-idolatrous worship of the graven image at Dan that induced King Jeroboam to set up one of his golden calves at Dan, as we read in 1 Kings 12:28-30: “Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

You may be able to see the bazaar in what has happened: Through a son's stealing of his mother's 1,100 shekels, and her making of an idol from the returned money, an entire tribe has been led into sin. We often have no idea how far-reaching the effects of our sin will be; but they will never be good.

and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan:
Actually, they were not priests to the whole tribe, but to that part of it which resided in this city, called Dan; and this priest, Jonathan, seems to be none other than the Levite Micah took into his house, and made a priest out of him. The Danites took him with them to Laish, to be their priest. Here, he is said to be the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh: now Gershom was the son of Moses, and this man is thought by some to be a grandson of his; and this agrees with the time in which he lived, as Phinehas the grandson of Aaron was still living (see Judges 20:28), and so a grandson of Moses might also be living; and though he is called a young man, he might be a younger son of Gershom's; however, the fact remains that this man, and his sons in succession after him, were priests in Dan.

Judges 20:28 (KJV) And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

until the day of the captivity of the land;
Keil did not accept the view that this is an editorial insertion, but accepted it as a legitimate part of the text. Keil also refused to apply the words either to the Assyrian captivity in 721 B.C. or to the Babylonian captivity later, basing that conclusion on the basis that, "If that Danite shrine had still existed in the days of Jeroboam I, that monarch would certainly not have established a second worship in Dan of the same kind under a priesthood that was not Levitical ... The words, therefore, can only refer to some event that took place in the last years of Samuel, or the first part of the reign of Saul." I accept this alternative explanation as absolutely satisfactory and as also avoiding the allegation of an "editorial comment." The only problem with it is the fact that the Bible does not reveal any "captivity of the land" until a time long afterward. Even this, however, is not a fatal objection to Keil's explanation, because there are many, many things which happened in the history of Israel that are NOT recorded in the Bible.

"Archaeological excavations in 1826 and 1928 show that there was an extensive settlement in Shiloh in the twelfth and early eleventh centuries B.C. until its destruction around 1050 B.C." Of course, there could well have been at that time a "captivity of the land," which was left unmentioned in the sacred text.
Hervey also pointed out that, "The original image made by Micah may have been destroyed by Saul or David ... Others think that `the captivity of the land' is a reference to some deportation of the Danites by the Syrians or other neighboring enemies not recorded in the Bible. This would enable us to give what is surely the natural meaning to the words, `the captivity of the land.'"

However one may interpret this difficult passage, there is certainly nothing in it that contradicts the probability of Samuel's authorship of Judges. Again, from Hervey, "Certainty regarding the interpretation here cannot be arrived at without more actual knowledge."

 

31 And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.—Judges 18.31 (KJV)
31 So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.—Judges 18.31 (NLT)

And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made
Here; the first part of the previous verse is repeated for the sake of the great length of time expressed by what follows.

Man’s foolishness is that he could worship as god something he made with his own two hands. The only way to explain it is to refer you to the first chapter of Romans; read it with humility, because the message is that mankind is not getting better!

all the time the house of God was in Shiloh;
which, according to some Jewish writers, was three hundred and sixty years; that is, so long as the tabernacle was there, which was afterwards removed to Nob.

These words must have been written not earlier than the time of Samuel, and possibly much later. The house of God, i.e. the tabernacle, was in Shiloh from the days of Joshua (see Joshua 18:1) until the days of Eli (see1 Samuel 1:3), after which we have no report of where the house of God was until the ark was brought up to Jerusalem by King David from the house of Obed-edom the Gittite (see 2 Samuel 6:12), and placed in the tabernacle that David had provided for it (see 2 Samuel 6:17). But whether this was the tabernacle that had been pitched at Shiloh or a new one that we don’t know about, we don’t have a way to know. It is not improbable that Samuel may have moved the tabernacle from Shiloh to Ramah (see1 Samuel 7:17). The ark had rested in the house of Abinadab at Baaleh or Kirjath-jearim for twenty years (see 1 Samuel 7:2) previous to its removal by David.

Micah’s graven image was worshiped by them during the entire time that the house of God was in Shiloh, referring to the location of the tabernacle during the period of the judges. In other words, the Danites had their own private sanctuary and did not recognize the location of God’s true sanctuary at Shiloh.

Josh 18:1 (KJV) And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.

1 Sam 1:3 (KJV) And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.

2 Sam 6:12 (KJV) And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness.

2 Sam 6:17 (KJV) And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.

1 Sam 7:17 (KJV) And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.

1 Sam 7:2 (KJV) And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

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