1: In those days (Chs. 17-21 thought by some to record earlier events in the days of Otniel by Fig. Hysterêsis ) there was no king in Israel (no true "house of God" religiously [17:5], leads to "no king" nationally [18:1]; and nationally to apostasy. See 17:6):
A² d -1. Danites. Inheritance. e f 2-6. Mision of spies. g 7-10. Security of Laish. e f 11-26. Expedition of Danites. g 27-29. Conquest of Laish. d 30,31. Danites. Idolatry.
and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in (see Gen. 49:17); for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen to them among the tribes of Israel.
2: And the sons of Dan sent of their family five men from their borders, sons of valor, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said to them, “Go, search the land:” who when they came to the hill country Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.
3: When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite (cp. 17:7): and they turned in to that place, and said to him, “Who brought you to this place? and what do you in this place? and what have you here?”
4: And he said to them, “Thus and thus deals Micah with me, and has hired me, and I am his priest.”
5: And they said to him, “Ask counsel (by use of the ephod. See 17:5), we pray you, of Elohim, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.”
6: And the priest said to them, “Go in peace: before the Lord is your way wherein you all go.”
7: Then the five men departed, and came to Laish (= lion. Called Leshem. Josh.19:47), and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure (probably arising from the enervating effects of malaria now endemic there. If so, it may be identified with Tel-el-kadi in the fever-ridden district at the head of the Jordan); 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 (Heb. ’adãm = human, mankind).
8: And they came to their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said to them, “What say you all?”
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.
f h 11-13. Expedition. i 14-20. Interview with Levite. h 21. Expedition. i 22-26. Interview with Micah.
11: And there went from that place of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men girded with weapons of war.
12: And they went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan (= camp of Dan) unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjath-jearim.
13: And they passed from that place to the hill country Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.
14: Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said to their brethren, “Do you all know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what you all have to do.”
15: And they turned from that place-ward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even to 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 from that place, 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 (the Sept. reads "and the ephod". Cp. v.17. The Hebrew text has "the carve image of the ephod"), and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest to them, “What do you all?”
19: And they said to him, “Hold your peace, lay your hand upon your mouth (Fig., put for "be silent"), and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better (man's priest soon gets promotion) for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or that you be a priest to 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.
21: So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the goods before them (Fig., put for things carried).
22: And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah's house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan.
23: And they cried to the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said to Micah, “What ails you, that you come with such a company?” (Heb. "that you have called yourself out")
24: And he said, “You all have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you all are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that you all say to me, ‘What ails you?’ ”
25: And the sons of Dan said to him, “Let not you voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon you, and you lose your life (= soul), with the souls of your household.”
26: And the sons of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.
27: And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came as far as Laish, to 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 dealings with any man; and it was in the valley that lies by Beth-rehob. 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 (cp. Josh. 19), who was born to Israel: however the name of the city was Laish at the first.
30: And the sons of Dan set up the graven image (because of this, Dan is not named in Rev. 7, and Ephraim is there merged in Joseph): and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh (This word is one of the four that has a suspended letter. Here the letter nun [n], is written partly in the line and partly above the line, to show that originally it formed no part of the word, but was put in to make it spell "Manasseh" instead of "Moses". Jonathan was the grandson of Moses [his contemporary Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, being mentioned in 20:28]. This was done for two reasons: (1) to spare the honor of Moses memory and name; (2) to put the sin on the one who committed so gross a sin. The Talmud gives this latter as the reason. Jonathan's name is omitted in 1 Chron.23:15,16, and 6:24.The Chald. paraphrase says, "Shebuel", there substituted, is meant for Jonathan after his repentance and restoration. Shebuel = "he returned to God" The A.V. follows Sept. and Chald. by putting "Manasseh" in the text; R.V. follows Vulg., and those codices and earlier editions which have "n" suspended,by putting "Moses" in the text and "Manasseh" in the margin), 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.