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Migration of the Danites. 1In those days there was no king in Israel.a In those days the tribe of the Danites were in search of a heritage to dwell in, for up to that time no heritage had been allotted* to them among the tribes of Israel.b
2So the Danites sent from their clans five powerful men of Zorah and Eshtaol, to reconnoiter the land and scout it. “Go, scout the land,” they were told. They went into the mountain region of Ephraim, and they spent the night there. 3While they were near the house of Micah,c they recognized the voice* of the young Levite,d so they turned aside. They asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing here? What is your interest here?” 4“This is what Micah has done for me,” he replied to them. “He has hired me and I have become his priest.”e 5They said to him, “Consult God, that we may know whether the journey we are making will lead to success.”f 6The priest said to them, “Go in peace! The journey you are making is under the eye of the LORD.”
7So the five men went on and came to Laish. They saw the people there living securely after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and trusting, with no lack of any natural resource. They were distant from the Sidonians and had no dealings with the Arameans.* 8When the five returned to their kin in Zorah and Eshtaol, they were asked, “What do you have to report?” 9They replied, “Come, let us attack them, for we have seen the land and it is very good. Are you going to hesitate? Do not be slow to go in and take possession of the land! 10When you go you will come to a trusting people. The land stretches out in both directions, and God has indeed given it into your power—a place where no natural resource is lacking.”g
11So six hundred of the clan of the Danites, men armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12They marched up into Judah and encamped near Kiriath-jearim; for this reason the place is called Mahaneh-dan* to this day (it lies west of Kiriath-jearim).h
13From there they passed on into the mountain region of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah. 14Then the five men who had gone to reconnoiter the land spoke up and said to their kindred, “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, teraphim, and an idol overlaid with silver?i Now decide what you must do!” 15So turning in that direction, they went to the house of the young Levite at the home of Micah and greeted him. 16The six hundred Danites stationed themselves at the entrance of the gate armed with weapons of war. 17The five men who had gone to reconnoiter the land went up 18and entered the house of Micah with the priest standing there. They took the idol, the ephod, the teraphim and the metal image. When the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19they said to him, “Be still! Put your hand over your mouth! Come with us and be our father and priest.j Is it better for you to be priest for the family of one man or to be priest for a tribe and a clan in Israel?” 20The priest, agreeing, took the ephod, the teraphim, and the idol, and went along with the troops. 21As they turned to depart, they placed their little ones, their livestock, and their goods at the head of the column.
22k When the Danites had gone some distance from the house of Micah, Micah and the men in the houses nearby mustered and overtook them. 23They called to the Danites, who turned and said to Micah, “What do you want that you have called this muster?” 24“You have taken my god, which I made for myself, and you have gone off with my priest as well,” he answered. “What is left for me? How, then, can you ask me, ‘What do you want?’” 25The Danites said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard near us, or aggravated men will attack you, and you will have forfeited your life and the lives of your family!” 26Then the Danites went on their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned back and went home.
27l Having taken what Micah had made and his priest, they marched against Laish, a quiet and trusting people; they put them to the sword and destroyed the city by fire. 28No one came to their aid, since the city was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with the Arameans; the city was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. The Danites then rebuilt the city and occupied it. 29They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel.m But Laish was the name of the city formerly. 30* The Danites set up the idol for themselves, and Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses,n and his descendants were priests for the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity. 31They maintained the idol Micah had made as long as the house of God was in Shiloh.*
* [18:1] No heritage…allotted: according to Jos 19:40–48, the Danites received an allotment in the central part of the country (cf. note on 13:2 above). The point here may be that since they were unable to take full possession of that original allotment, as indicated by the notice in Jgs 1:34, they are now seeking territory elsewhere.
* [18:3] Recognized the voice: this might indicate that the Danite scouts were personally acquainted with the young Levite, but it is more likely to mean that, being originally from Judah, his dialect or accent was noticeably different from others in Micah’s household.
* [18:7] The Sidonians…the Arameans: the people of Laish were not in regular contact with their neighbors, including the Sidonians or Phoenicians in the coastal district to the west and the Arameans in the regions to the north and east. This isolation is mentioned to underscore the vulnerability of the peaceful and unfortified city.
* [18:12] Mahaneh-dan: Hebrew, “camp of Dan.”
* [18:30] Micah’s shrine is now reinstalled at Laish-Dan. In the time of the kings of Israel and Judah, Dan was the site of one of the two national sanctuaries of the Northern Kingdom, both of which are strongly condemned by the editors of the Books of Kings, who regarded Jerusalem as the only acceptable place for a temple (1 Kgs 12:26–30). This verse draws a direct connection between Micah’s temple and the later royal sanctuary at Dan. Seen in this light the account of the establishment of Micah’s shrine, with its idol cast from stolen silver, becomes a highly polemical foundation story for the temple at Dan. Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses: Micah’s Levite is now identified as the son or descendant of Gershom, Moses’ eldest son (Ex 2:22; 18:3). In the traditional Hebrew text an additional letter has been suspended over the name “Moses” to alter it to “Manasseh,” thus protecting Moses from association with idol worship. Captivity: although Samaria fell in 722/721 B.C., much of the northern part of the country, probably including Dan, had been subjugated about a decade earlier by the Assyrian emperor Tilgath-pileser III.
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