Seizure of Micah’s Cultic Objects [Judges 18.14-18.20]
Scripture (KJV) Judges 18.14-20
On the way they rob Micah of his priest and his consecrated things
14 Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.
15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.
16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate.
17 And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war.
18 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?
19 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?
20 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.
The Danites determined to take Micah's gods with them. Oh the foolishness of these Danites! How could they imagine those gods would protect them, since they could not keep themselves from being stolen! To take them for their own use, was a double crime; it showed they neither feared God, nor respected man, and that they were both godless and dishonest. Micah’s great foolishness is obvious when he calls those gods he made, his gods, when He who is the only God we are to worship as the God that made us! We are concerned when anything is put in God's place, because the entire Christian religion is all wrapped up in who He is. If people will walk in the name of their false gods, how much more should we love and serve the true God!
14 Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.—Judges 18.14 (KJV)
14 The five men who had scouted out the land around Laish explained to the others, “These buildings contain a sacred ephod, as well as some household idols, a carved image, and a cast idol. What do you think you should do?”—Judges 18.14 (NLT)
Then they answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish
The Danites had sent out their spies (1-4) to find a country suitable for them to live in. Their search was successful in finding Laish, which had everything they wanted. They returned to report to their tribal leaders; who, after some debate sent a family (2,000-3,000 people) to take and occupy Laish. But now, in route to Laish they have arrived at a place that the five spies were familiar with, since they had been inside Micah’s house, and talked with him and his priest and seen his idols and the objects of worship. They didn’t mention this part of their expedition to their brethren until seeing Micah’s house brought it to mind. Now they offer some additional information— they tell them where there are gods: "Here, in these houses, there is an ephod, and teraphim, and a great many fine things for devotion, things we don’t have in our country; now therefore consider what you have to-do."
and said unto their brethren, do ye know that there is in those houses;
Brethren, here is a reference to the people of his tribe. One of them (one of the original five spies), pointing to the houses that made up this small village or town, asks do ye know that there is in those houses? The village is Beth-Micah, the “house of Micah”, which was in fact a small village (see ver. 18.22), where Micah has his residence.
In the following lines, one of the spies tells about those things they discovered there; a private sanctuary, the priest which had rendered them an important service, the gods, and the clothes and objects of worship.
an ephod (see Article 8.5; page 307) and teraphim (see Article 17.2; page 758), and a graven image, and a molten image? These were religious items; the ephod and teraphim belonging to a Hebrew priest and used when seeking guidance from the God who made all things. The images were idols, false gods worshipped by heathen nations.
now therefore consider,
Think about it, for we need to decide what to do with these things
what ye have to do;
It was a done deal; they had probably, by now, formed a plan to carry off the priest and his sacred paraphernalia. So what was left that they needed to consider? It was whether or not, it would be proper to consult them again, or should they take them with them, to consult as the occasion may require; they thought of them as tokens and pledges of God being with them; and so they had reasons to believe that everything will succeed according to their wishes.
______________verse 14 notes___________________
(Judges 18.1-4; NKJV) In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in; for until that day their inheritance among the tribes of Israel had not fallen to them. So the children of Dan sent five men of their family from their territory, men of valor from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and search it. They said to them, "Go, search the land." So they went to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. While they were at the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. They turned aside and said to him, "Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What do you have here?" He said to them, "Thus and so Micah did for me. He has hired me, and I have become his priest."
(Judges 18.22; NKJV) “When they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah's house gathered together and overtook the children of Dan.”
15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.—Judges 18.15 (KJV)
15 Then the five men turned off the road and went over to Micah’s house, where the young Levite lived, and greeted him kindly.—Judges 18.15 (NLT)
And they turned thitherward
They consulted among themselves and thought they had come up with a good answer to the question, “what ye have to do;" they were worth having (that is, having upon the worst terms), and they were worth stealing. They hoped
They may have thought “If we can make ourselves masters of these gods, we may prosper, and make ourselves masters of Laish.” So far they were in the right, since it was desirable to have God’s presence with them, but they were pitifully mistaken when they took Micah’s images (which were more suited for use in a puppet-play than in acts of devotion) for tokens of God’s presence. They thought a prophet would be valuable to them in their venture, and instead of convening a council of war to consult in every emergency; they would have a priest to consult with God for them. They were aware that the place where they would settle was far from Shiloh; therefore, they needed a house of gods more than Micah did. They might have made an ephod and teraphim themselves, and they would probably be as good as these were, and they would have served their purpose just as well. They were familiar with these types of worship objects, and they had, in fact, worshipped them for several years; hence, they had a strange veneration for this house of gods. Perhaps they would have quickly dropped these idol-gods if they had enquired into their origin, and examined them to see whether there was anything divine about them.
Following the plan they made, they turned from the road, and went to the house of the young Levite, the house of Micah. It seems as if the house lay a little out of their way, and therefore they turned off the road and entered the village.
and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah;
The young man's house was an apartment within Micah's house, and it was probably next to the room that housed the images, and the religious clothing; they were kept near the young man’s apartment because they were under his care.
and saluted him;
They asked him about his welfare (In Hebrew, they wished him peace-see Luke 10.5) in a kind and courteous manner, in order to ingratiate themselves to him.
________________verse 15 notes_________________
(Luke 10.5; NKJV) But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'
16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate.—Judges 18.16 (KJV)
16 As the 600 armed warriors from the tribe of Dan stood at the entrance of the gate,—Judges 18.16 (NLT)
And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war,
This notable description of the outrageous robbery of Micah is its own commentary.
The word appointed means that these six hundred men were “selected” for a reason; they may have been experienced warriors, or perhaps they were chosen because they were willing to fight for their tribe. They wore armor and were equipped with a variety of weapons; swords, spears, bows and arrows, knives, etc.
which were of the children of Dan;
Everyone with a part in this expedition was a Danite, since no one else was concerned with their cause.
Stood by the entering of the gate.
The intimidating presence of six hundred armed men at the gate of Micah's compound insured that none of Micah’s neighbors would try to help him, and those that were in his employee dared not defend his property.
17 And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war.—Judges 18.17 (KJV)
17 the five scouts entered the shrine and removed the carved image, the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the cast idol. Meanwhile, the priest was standing at the gate with the 600 armed warriors.—Judges 18.17 (NLT)
And the five men that went out to spy the land went up and came thither
The continued description of the spiritual wickedness of the time is clearly evident in this account.
The first place the five spies went was to Micah's house, where they saluted the young man that served there as a priest, and after that greeting they told him there was six hundred of their brethren at the gate of the city. He was probably glad to see the five, since he knew them from a previous visit and they may have been glad to see him. Then the young man went with them to the gate, because he wanted to appear gracious to the five and he wanted to be introduced to the men at the gate. They introduced him, and then they left him in a discussion with several of the soldiers, while they returned to his apartment.
went up and came thither may mean that the five spies went into Micah’s house and then went upstairs and into the chapel, which was in an upper room of the building or on the roof (see 2 Kings 23:12; Jeremiah 19:13).
and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image;
The five men that went to spy out the land knew the house and the street to it, and particularly the chapel; they went back to Micah's chapel and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image, and brought them to the gate where the priest was talking to the 600 men.
Superstition blinded them so that they thought Gods power was in the idols, and that they would have good success because of them, though they took them away by robbery and violence. The Danites were determined to take these gods along with them, therefore, we are told how they stole the images and enticed the priest, and later on they frightened Micah to keep him from attempting to rescue them. Here is a strange combination of low morality and strong religious feeling; like feeling that you really want to get into God's Word, so you steal someone's Bible. During the Los Angeles riots, a reporter came across three looters leaving a store. He asked them what they took, and the first two told him off with profanity; but the third man said, "I got some gospel music. I love Jesus!"
and the priest stood in the entering of the gate, with the six hundred men that were appointed with the weapons of war;
It was unanimously agreed that the young priest and the idols, clothing and furniture of the chapel would be a valuable acquisition to their proposed settlement. A plan that included theft was immediately formed. While the six hundred armed men stood guard at the gates, and kept the priest talking the five men went to Micah’s house and stole the above things. See what little care this sorry priest took of his gods; while he was strolling around at the gate, and gazing at the strangers, his treasure (such as it was) was gone.
______________verse 17 notes___________________
(Judges 18:1-2; KJV) And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.
(2 Kings 23:12; NLT) Josiah tore down the altars that the kings of Judah had built on the palace roof above the upper room of Ahaz…Altars were built on the flat roof of the house. Such altars were erected to the sun, moon, stars, etc.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Jeremiah 19:13; NLT) Yes, all the houses in Jerusalem, including the palace of Judah’s kings, will become like Topheth—all the houses where you burned incense on the rooftops to your star gods, and where liquid offerings were poured out to your idols. roofs -- being flat, they were used as high places for sacrifices to the sun and planets (Jer 32:29 2Ki 23:11, 12 Zep 1:5).—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18 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?—Judges 18.18 (KJV)
18 When the priest saw the men carrying all the sacred objects out of Micah’s shrine, he said, “What are you doing?”—Judges 18.18 (NLT)
And these went into Micah's house
They went into that part of the house where his gods were; not the six hundred Danites, since they stayed by the gate, but the five spies because they were familiar with the house and the chapel and they knew where the religious objects were kept.
and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image;
Do you see how helpless these sorry gods were; they could not even keep themselves from being stolen. It is a valid criticism of these idols that they themselves had gone into captivity, (Isaiah 46:2; KJV)). Oh the foolishness of these Danites! How could they imagine those gods would protect them, when they could not keep themselves from being stolen? Yet they had to have them, because they went by the name of gods, as if it were not enough that they had the presence of the invisible God with them, or due to their standing as one of the twelve tribes of Israel, they could worship at the tabernacle, where there were visible tokens of His presence. None of the stolen objects will serve them, but they must have gods to go before them. It didn’t matter that they didn’t make them, and they didn’t feel bad about stealing them from Micah’s house. Their idolatry began with this theft; it was a proper prologue for the melodrama that will soon play out. In order to break the second commandment, they begin with the eighth, and take their neighbor’s possessions to make them their gods. The holy God hates robbery, but the devil loves it. Had these Danites seized the images to deface and destroy them, and the priest to punish him, they would have done like Israelites should do, and they would have appeared to be jealous for their God as their fathers had been (Joshua 22:16); but to take them for their own use was a complicated crime that showed they neither feared God nor regarded man; they were godless and dishonest.
We read that the five spies fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image; then they took them to the priest who was still engaged in a conversation with the soldiers who stood at the gate. Now, the priest has something to say when he sees that the five have taken the religious items that were in his care…
then said the priest to them, what do ye?
What a timid question by this young priest, what do ye? If we were in his place we might have said something like this, “What do you mean by this? Is this how you return my kindness; by taking away what has been placed in my care, and on which my livelihood depends? And do you consider the wickedness, the sin of sacrilege you are guilty of, for taking away these sacred things, these objects of religious devotion?”
_____________verse 18 notes_________________
(Isaiah 46:1-2; KJV) They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.
(Joshua 22.16; KJV) Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD? The sin described is an act of rebellion.
19 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?—Judges 18.19 (KJV)
19 “Be quiet and come with us,” they said. “Be a father and priest to all of us. Isn’t it better to be a priest for an entire tribe and clan of Israel than for the household of just one man?”—Judges 18.19 (NLT)
And they said unto him, hold thy peace
When those (five) men went boldly into Micah's house, and had taken (stolen) the idols and the ephod, etc., and the priest had said to them, what are you doing? They said to him, be quiet! And lay thy hand upon thy mouth.
lay thy hand upon thy mouth;
This was the sign of silence. The Egyptian god of silence, Harpocrates, is represented on ancient statues with his finger pressed on his lips (Job 21:5).
and go with us;
Here they begin to apply pressure to the priest, because they wanted him as well as his gods; since, without him they didn’t know how to make use of them; therefore, they flatter him by inviting him to go with them
Evidently, these men were very ignorant; and they came to the absurd conclusion that they would, by taking Micah's gods, secure the presence and favor of the God of Israel, in their expedition and settlement. Perhaps they had come to believe that the uprightness of their motives, and the goodness of their end, would justify the means. But, the sleazy robbery of Micah, aggravated by the Levite's ingratitude, and the threats by the Danites would eventually create problems for them.
and be to us a father and a priest;
He would have the very important position of PRIEST; as the only priest in the new settlement, he would direct them, instruct them, perform acts of devotion for them, and ask for divine guidance on their behalf.
It seems as if it was common in those days to call a priest father, (see Judges 17:10). Jesus said this about calling any man father; and don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father, (Matt 23:9; NLT). Let us see to it that we retain the full spirit of this warning against that itch for ecclesiastical superiority which has been the blight and the scandal of Christ's ministers in every age. I am curious how any Christian denomination can justify calling their ministers “father.”
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?
They suggested that it must be much more honorable for him, and more to his advantage, to officiate as a priest to a body of people, that might be called a tribe, or to a family consisting of various houses, than to serve in the house of a private person. They left him to mull over these things and decide the course of his future.
Observe how they tempted him. They assured him that he would be better off with them than he was with Micah. It would be more honorable and more profitable to be chaplain to a regiment (though they called themselves a tribe) than to be only a domestic chaplain to a private gentleman. If he goes with them, there would be more people depending on him, more sacrifices brought to his altar, and more fees for consulting his teraphim, than he had with Micah. And then, they succeeded in bribing the priest when they offered to transfer his services to their new colony. Add to that the order of six hundred armed men for him to keep his mouth shut, their offer to him of permanent employment as their priest, and the evident fact that Micah was not present; perhaps he was in the fields with his men, or, if he was aware of what was happening, he may have been afraid to interfere.
The reason he agreed to go with them is probably one of the above; but one would like to think it was a case of a true “call” which influenced the priest.
________________verse 19 notes_________________
(Job 21:5; KJV) Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth. Mark me, and be astonished—Consider and compare the state in which I was once, with that in which I am now; and be astonished at the judgments and dispensations of God. You will then be confounded; you will put your hands upon your mouths, and keep silent. Putting the hand on the mouth, or the finger on the lips, was the token of silence. The Egyptian god Harpocrates, who was the god of silence, is represented with his finger compressing his upper lip.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Judges 17:10; NKJV) Micah said to him, "Dwell with me, and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten shekels of silver per year, a suit of clothes, and your sustenance." So the Levite went in. Be unto me a father and a priest—Thou shalt be master of my house, as if thou wert my father; and, as priest, thou shalt appear in the presence of God for me. The term father is often used to express honor and reverence.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
20 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 18.20 (KJV)
20 The young priest was quite happy to go with them, so he took along the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the carved image.—Judges 18.20 (NLT)
And the priest's heart was glad
He was delighted to be offered such a great opportunity, because it fit-in well with his covetous, ambitious, rambling, and unsettled disposition. His heart was glad because he was filled with mercenary ambition; he cared nothing for Micah, though Micah regarded him as one of his sons (Judges 17.11): He only cared for the pay and status that he might get by being the priest for a whole tribe instead of only one family. He is like the man depicted in Philippians 3.19.
He had no reason to say that Micah was unfair and didn’t treat him well; Micah had not deceived him, or lowered his wages. His conscience didn’t bother him at all for the attention he gave to a graven image. He could, at any time, have gone away to Shiloh to minister to the Lord’s priests, according to the duty of a Levite, and he might have been welcomed there (Deuteronomy 18:6, 7), and his relocation would have been commendable; but, instead of this, he takes the images with him, and carries the infection of idolatry into a whole city. It would have been very unjust and ungrateful to Micah if he had only gone away himself, but it was much worse for him to take the images along with him, because he knew the heart of Micah, and that he was devoted to them. But what would you expect from a treacherous Levite? How could you ever come to trust one who deserted a house of the Lord? Or what kind of friend would a man be that has been false to his God? He could not pretend that he was under some compelling force by the Danites, since he was glad in his heart to go.
Distrust and distortion of the true worship of the Lord are clearly evident in the mercenary Levite’s obvious intent and willingness to promote himself. The prospect of greater dignity and greater compensation stifled all sentiments of gratitude and loyalty to Micah, and made him cheerfully conspire in an act of theft and sacrilege. He was glad to be employed by the Danites; and went into the crowd, so that he might not be discovered by Micah or his family.
and he (the priest) took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image;
and no doubt the molten image also, out of the hands of the five men into his own, agreeing to go with them, and officiate for them. Verses 17 and18 declare that the religious items were taken by the five former spies, but the statement here that the priest "took them" does not contradict that. The five took them from Micah's house of gods, and the priest took them from the Danites when he accepted their invitation to go with them as their priest.
The next line gives the departure of the six hundred armed men, who carried with them not only all the sacred articles of Micah's shrine, but the happy young priest also, who was delighted with his "promotion"!—what a thumbnail picture we have here of the whole raid!
and went in the midst of the people;
With the support of the six hundred warriors they persuaded the Levite to accompany them and serve as the priest for the entire tribe. It should be noted that a man who would be willing to hire his services out in the first place would always be willing to accept a better offer from someone else.
The six hundred armed men placed the priest in the center position for their march, either to provide security for him, in the event that Micah would raise a fighting force from his servants, and his neighbors, to pursue them, and regain his images and priest; or, as others have said, the order of march was an imitation of the priests bearing the ark, who in journeying through the wilderness marched in the middle of the camp; or perhaps they placed him there to prevent him from going back himself, if he changed his mind.
The fact that Micah himself was a gross unrepentant sinner does not diminish the unscrupulous transgression by the Danites of all the laws of hospitality and brotherhood as exhibited in this selfish looting of Micah's illegal shrine.
Let’s bear in mind that the text says that the priest’s heart was glad; and so they departed with their families, the priest, and the cult objects, assuming that all of these would bring the blessing of God. Their attitude is not much different than that of the ungodly Philistines who assumed that cultic objects were good luck charms that would automatically bring the blessing of heaven.
America Told the Truth is a study based on an extensive opinion survey which guaranteed the anonymity of its participants. And the truth was shocking! Let me give you a brief sampling of their findings:
Only 13% of Americans see all Ten Commandments as binding and relevant; 91% lie regularly, both at work and in their homes; most American workers admit to goofing off for an average of seven hours, almost one whole day per week; and half of our work force admits that they regularly call in sick when they feel perfectly well.
One particular question on the survey really grabbed me: "What are you willing to do for $10 million?" (Are you sitting down?) 25% would abandon their families; 23% would become a prostitute for a week; 7% would murder a stranger!
Why did I mention this? Can we say we wouldn’t do what this priest did by leaving Micah? Are we more trustworthy? You decide!
________________verse 20 notes_________________
(Philippians 3:19; KJV) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
(Deuteronomy 18:6, 7; KJV) And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose; Then he shall minister in the name of the LORD his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the LORD. if a Levite . . . come with all the desire of his mind -- It appears that the Levites served in rotation from the earliest times; but, from their great numbers, it was only at infrequent intervals they could be called into actual service. Should any Levite, however, under the influence of eminent piety, resolve to devote himself wholly and continually to the sacred duties of the sanctuary, he was allowed to realize his ardent wishes; and as he was admitted to a share of the work, so also to a share of the remuneration. Though he might have private property, that was to form no ground for withholding or even diminishing his claim to maintenance like the other ministering priests.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
six hundred warriors. With the six hundred men; there must have been 2,000-3000 when women and children are included.
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