The Period Of The Judges

 Chapter 80
Report of the Spies [Judges 18.7-18.10]

 


Scripture (KJV) Judges 18.7-10

They search Laish, and bring back news of hope

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.
8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?
9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.
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.

 

Introduction to verses 7-10

The five men departed, and came to Laish--or, "Leshem" (Joshua 19:47[1]). It was believed to have been populated by a colony of Zidonians. The place was very secluded--the soil rich in the abundance and variety of its produce, and the inhabitants, following the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, lived in their fertile and sequestered valley, according to the Zidonian style of ease and security, happy among themselves, and maintaining little or no communication with the rest of the world. The discovery of this northern paradise seemed, to the delight of the Danite spies, an accomplishment of the priest's prediction. They hastened back to inform their brethren in the south both of the value of their prize, and how easily it could be made their prey.

__________________introduction notes____________________
[1](Josh 19:47; NKJV) And the border of the children of Dan went beyond these, because the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem and took it; and they struck it with the edge of the sword, took possession of it, and dwelt in it. They called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father. the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem -- The Danites, finding their inheritance too small, decided to enlarge its boundaries by the sword; and, having conquered Leshem (Laish), they planted a colony there, calling the new settlement by the name of Dan.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Commentary

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.—Judges 18.7 (KJV) 
7 The five men left there and came to the city of Laish. They saw that the people there lived without a care. These people were like the people of Sidon. They were peaceful and secure. There was no one around who threatened to take away their property by force. They were far from the people of Sidon and totally independent.—Judges 18.7 (GW)

And the five men departed…
So the five men journeyed on from Mount Ephraim, and Micah's house. The northward journey of the spies would take them about one hundred miles from their original starting point in an attempt to find a new settlement. They wandered beyond the region occupied by the Israelites into a small, fertile valley populated by people of Phoenician origin (Zidonians).

In this passage, we have the observation which the spies made upon the city of Laish, and the military capability of its inhabitants,

and came (or went) to Laish;…
According to Bunting, Laish was one hundred and four miles from Mount Ephraim, and the same distance from Jerusalem. It was situated at the furthest northern border of the land of Canaan, and at the foot of Mount Lebanon, near one of the largest fountains in the world, called El Leddan, which, according to Josephus, is the source of the lesser Jordan. Jerom says it was four miles from Paneas, as you go toward Tyre; it is the Caesarea Philippi of the New Testament, and it is also called Leshem, (See Joshua 19:47[1]) Also, Campbell, a frequent visitor to this area, gave this quotation from a fellow visitor: "Water comes from every rock and hill, pouring down from the nearby mountains of Lebanon. Like Scotland, this part of Galilee is green and overgrown with all forms of vegetation. The tribe of Dan had seized upon a veritable paradise on earth."

The original name of the area was Laish, and it is referred to as Leshem in Joshua 19:47[1] and appears as Lus in the Egyptian texts of the nineteenth century B.C. It has been identified by archaeologists as modern Tell el-Qadi, being about half a mile in diameter and 26 air-miles due east from Tyre.

and saw the people that were therein;…
They went into the city in order to make first-hand observations of the inhabitants; their number, strength, and manner of living.

how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure;…
They noticed that the inhabitants of Laish were similar to the Zidonians, in the way in which they went about their lives. Probably the people of Laish were originally a colony of the Zidonians, a group that God had told Israel to drive out of the land of Canaan (Joshua 13:4, 6)[2]. They might have imitated their customs, used their laws, and lived under their government, since they are said to have no magistrate in their land. Furthermore, they appeared to be careless and overconfident; attitudes that might have grown out of their faith in their strong fortifications; or it could have been due to their belief that their city, and the land adjacent to it, did not belong to the land of Israel, and they did not know of any claim on the land by the Israelites. Therefore, they seemed to live quite trouble-free, and in no fear of them; they didn’t have a watchmen to guard their city, and they, like the Zidonians, did not furnish themselves with weapons of war for their defense. They didn’t fear the Israelites because their city, besides being a strong and fortified one was not within the land of Canaan, though it was near the border of it. They lived by trade and commerce in the manner of the Sidonians, who did not go out to war, and no conqueror was troubling them in any way.

They were quiet and secure. Though they were an open and inland town, they lived secure, like the Zidonians (who were surrounded by the sea and were well fortified both by structures and nature). It is clear enough that the citizens were a peaceable, prosperous, quiet and non-violent people, occupying what they no doubt considered to be an isolated part of the earth where no one would bother them.

It was not well guarded. The people of Laish were careless, quiet, and secure; their gates left open, their walls in need of repair, because they were under no apprehension of danger in any way, though their wickedness was so great that they had reason to fear divine vengeance every day. It was a sign that the Israelites, through their sloth and cowardice, were not now such a terror to the Canaanites as they were when they first came to this land that God gave them, or else the city of Laish, which probably knew it was assigned to the tribe of Dan, would not have been so very secure.

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, had grown secure and careless.

and there was no magistrate in the land that might put them to shame in anything;…
Laish and the surrounding land did not have a magistrate to restrain them from immorality, and punish them for it, or even to scold and correct them, and so it says to put them to shame; or to criticize them publicly, so they might experience disgrace over their shameful lives. Hence, they lived in a disorderly and degenerate manner, by which they became easy prey to others. The sense is; there was no king, which is how Kimchi interprets it, so that there was no one to stop them from taking the place. Jarchi takes the sense to be, that no one needed to turn his back on his neighbor, since there was no lack of anything.

There may never have been a place with a worse government, and so poorly guarded, which would make it very easy prey to the invader. It was poorly governed, since every man could be as bad as he wanted to be, and there was no magistrate to shame them for anything, much less put them to death. So they were people without God, without a magistrate, and without a conscience. It is no wonder then that they did the most disrespectful and immoral acts that provoked God’s wrath.

What is the function of a magistrate?... By definition they are an officer of civil law, that is, they preserve the peace by the application of power in places where there is nothing that is able to restrain that which is evil. They are entrusted with their authority for this end, that they may curb and defeat everything that is vicious and be a terror to evil doers. It is only God’s grace that can renew men’s depraved minds and turn their hearts from evil; but the magistrate’s power may restrain their bad practices and tie their hands, so that the wickedness of the wicked may not be either as injurious or as infectious as it would otherwise be. Though the sword of justice cannot cut up the root of bitterness, it may cut off its branches and hinder its growth and its spreading, so that vice does not go unchecked, because if it is not stopped, it becomes daring and dangerous, and the community shares in the guilt.

What method must be used to restrain wickedness? Sinners must be put to shame, so that those who will not be restrained by the shamefulness of their sin before God and their own consciences may be restrained by the shamefulness of their punishment before men. All ways must be tried to drive out sin, and to make people ashamed of their idleness, drunkenness, cheating, lying, and other sins.

It is true, people are miserable, and run the risk of being ruined in those places that don’t have magistrates, for there the wicked walk on every side; Psalm 12:8 . And all those who have good laws and a good government are happy.

Put to shame…Putting to shame seems to be used for inflicting civil punishment, because shame is generally the effect it causes.

and they were far from the Zidonians;…
The Zidonians were the only people that could help them, seeing that they were their only friends; and it may be they were under their government, since they are said to be about eleven miles from them; Josephus says, a day's journey. If it is true that they were a Sidonian colony, they might naturally expect help from their countrymen; but, as they lived a considerable distance from Sidon, the Danites saw that they could strike the blow before the news of invasion could reach Sidon; and, consequently, before the people of Laish could receive any help from that city.

and had no business with any man;…
In the most correct copies of the Septuagint, this clause is translated: and they had no transactions with SYRIA. It may be proper to observe, that Laish was on the frontiers of Syria; but as they had no interaction with the Syrians, from whom they might have received the promptest assistance, this was an additional reason why the Danites might expect success.

They did not trade with their neighbors or with anyone else, for that matter, but lived independent of others. They could do it because the land provided them with everything they needed. Laish was blessed with rich and plentiful soil and two streams, Jor and Dan. They did not need supplies from others, and therefore they lived a life of ease and pleasure. Now, the downside of being an affluent society and not being in any league or alliance with other people was that they didn’t have anyone to call on in case they were attacked. They cared for nobody and therefore nobody cared for them.

______________verse 7 notes___________________
[2](Joshua 13:4, 6; NKJV) from the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorites;… all the inhabitants of the mountains from Lebanon as far as the Brook Misrephoth, and all the Sidonians--them I will drive out from before the children of Israel; only divide it by lot to Israel as an inheritance, as I have commanded you. them will I drive out -- The fulfillment of this promise was conditional. In the event of the Israelites proving unfaithful or disobedient, they would not subdue the districts now specified; and, in point of fact, the Israelites never possessed them though the inhabitants were subjected to the power of David and Solomon.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

 

 

8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?—Judges 18.8 (KJV)
8 The men went back to their relatives in Zorah and Eshtaol. Their relatives asked them, “What did you find?”—Judges 18.8 (GW)

And they came unto their brethren (brothers) to Zorah and Eshtaol…
After they had walked the streets of Laish, talked to some of the people, and I presume they thought they had seen enough, they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol.

and their brethren (brothers) said unto them, what say ye?...
They asked the five spies, upon their return, what tidings do you bring? What account can you give of the place and country where you have been? “How did it go?”

 


9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.—Judges 18.9 (KJV)
9 They replied, “Get up, let's attack Laish. We saw the land. It's very good! “Don't just sit there! Go at once and take the land.—Judges 18.9 (GW)

And they said, arise, that we may go up against them…
On their return, the spies said to their fellow-citizens, in reply to the question, "What have you accomplished?" "Get up; let us go up against them (the inhabitants of Laish). In other words, prepare for war, get ready; go up against Laish in a hostile manner and you will easily defeat them.       
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good…
They represent the place as desirable: "If you will trust our judgments, we have seen the land, and we all agree, that it is very good. It is far better than this mountainous country into which we have been crowded by the Philistines. You will live comfortably there, because it is a land with very good pasture, and fertile soil, abounding with fruits of all kinds; you will have all you need.”  And that was substantiated by Josephus.

and are ye still?...
“How can you set still and remain silent after hearing this good news. Why don’t you get up and get yourselves ready to go up and possess such a good country that can be taken so easily?” or, they might have said, "You still sit in silence; you don’t make an attempt to answer my question, and you seem careless and indifferent about the matter;” or the expression may be taken as an exhortation, "be silent." These people should keep quiet for a couple of reasons: First, they don’t want the people of Laish to know that they are coming to attack their city, because that may give them time to prepare a defense. Second, Abarbinel has held that, in the event that the other tribes of Israel should hear about it, they might go ahead of them and take the city for themselves.

be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land;…
Probably the Danites had the notion that the enterprise involved certain insurmountable difficulties that made it impossible to ever make themselves masters of Laish, and therefore they never  attempted to take possession of it. Perhaps they suggested to one another, that it was not a country worth going so far and running such a risk for. But the spies had been there, and they reported that there was little more to be done than to go and take possession of Laish, and that it would be entirely due to their sloth and laziness if they did not.

 


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.—Judges 18.10 (KJV)
10  When you get there, you will come to a secure people. The land is wide open to you. God will hand it over to you. It's a place where you will have everything you could want.”—Judges 18.10 (GW)

When ye go, ye shall come to a people secure, and to a large land…
Laish was only one city, but the territory it was in was very large, and there might have been many villages belonging to it. The people living there felt secure and had become careless; therefore, they might easily be taken by surprise and overcome. These are the arguments used by the spies to encourage their countrymen to go up and take it.

See what a good land Canaan was; it was a good land to live in, and Laish was the best place of all, since it was situated on a fruitful spot that supplied everything they needed. It was in the north and was located in the extreme corner of the country. There, the land is said to be broad on both sides, meaning, there was plenty of space for them to live in.

The native population has a false sense of security, which has caused them to become careless and let down their defenses—the more secure is always the less safe.

for God hath given it into your hands;…
They concluded from the state and condition of the people who lived there that God hath given it into your hands. They believed it, because the people were thoughtless and defenseless; or it may be on account of the oracle in Micah's house they had consulted (Judges 18.6)[3], and to which they gave credit; though some think their faith was grounded upon the history of this place being given by lot to the tribe of Dan, but this does not appear to be the case.

“God has given it into your hands, and it is yours for the taking.” This they gather partly from God's promise which they supposed had come from the Levite's mouth, but we are not at liberty to believe that his words were the truth, despite their turning out to be accurate in the events which followed; and partly from God’s providence, which had so predisposed them, that they would be an easy prey.

The spies stirred them up for the undertaking: "Arise, that we may go up against them; let us go about it speedily and determinedly.” They argue within themselves over their delays, and scold them for their sluggishness: Are you still? Be not slothful to go. Men need to be stirred up even to act in their own interest. They represent conquering Laish as attainable. They do not at all question that with God’s blessing, they may soon get possession of it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth;…
The meaning is that there was nothing in the whole land of Canaan that will not also be found in Laish, such as wheat and barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olives, and honey, with all the other necessaries and conveniences of life. Friends: Heaven is a very good land, where there is no want of anything; our God has, by the promises in His word, given it into our hands; let us not then be slothful in making it sure, and laying hold on eternal life, but strive to enter.

______________verse 10 notes___________________
[3] (Judges 18.6; GW) The priest told them, “Go in peace. The LORD approves of your journey.”

 

Summary

God had already revealed His will by giving each tribe its own original territory. But the Danites were unfaithful to this covenant and decided to search for new territory through their own methods. Their cynical inquiry of the Lord was matched by an equally cynical priest who reassured them in their unjust exploits and who proved to be more interested in money than in the true worship of the Lord. “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?  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?  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” (Judges 18:18-20; KJV)

 

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