Understanding the Old Testament

The Corrupting of the Danites

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Chapter 17 of Judges tells the strange story of Micah, a man within the territory of Ephraim whose family turned to idolatry. He later hired a Levite from Bethlehem to be his priest. Micah, it seems, wanted to cover all his religious bases.

As we have noted before, the tribe of Dan failed to conquer the territory allotted to them. (See Judges 1:34) So they sent five spies to search for a land they could conquer. The five spies traveled through Ephraim and recognized the Levite in Micah’s house, who assured them that their mission “has the Lord’s approval.” (Judges 18:6) I doubt that what the Levite said was true, but he probably told them what they wanted to hear.

The Danite spies eventually came to the city of Laish, about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. The land around Laish was spacious and rich, and the people were isolated and peaceful. (Judges 18:7, 18:27-28) So the spies returned and urged the Danites to go at once and take the land. Six-hundred warriors responded, taking their families and possessions with them (see Judges 18:11 and 18:21).

Along the way to Laish, the Danites stole Micah’s idols and convinced the Levite to accompany them and become their priest. When Micah and his neighbors discovered the theft, they pursued them, but backed down when the Danites threatened to kill them.

The Danites reached Laish, killed its people, and burned the city. (Judges 18:27) Then they rebuilt it and named it Dan.

After King Solomon’s kingdom split, Jeroboam, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, would make Dan one of two centers of idolatrous worship there.

Questions to ponder or discuss: Judges 17:6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes,” a sentiment echoed elsewhere in Judges (see Judges 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) This tells us that Judges was probably written sometime after Israel acquired a king. But it also sounds like the author is trying to use the lack of a king as an excuse for the conduct of the Danites (as well as what follows in chapters 19 through 21). Why do you think we make excuses for our bad behavior? What are some common excuses we use?

Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15):

Why Reasonable People Should Consider Christianity

Stories of the Faithful (with some church history)

Christmas Stories

Understanding the Old Testament

The Truth About America Star Books


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I am a member of Trinity Arts Writers Workshop, in Bedford, Texas.