For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

18:1.  “In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.”

When the Lordship of Christ is refused the result must always be anarchy, for only He is capable of reigning.

The KJ rendering of this verse obscures the correct meaning.  It isn’t that Dan’s inheritance hadn’t been allotted (it had, see Jos 19:40-48); they had failed to take possession (see Jg 1:34-35; 5:17).  Their lot was “too little” (Jos 19:47) simply because they had refused to expel the enemy, and had allowed that enemy to drive them out of the valley and into the mountain (Jg 1:34).  There is every reason to believe that Jos 19:47 describes, not what was in the days of Joshua, but what developed after his death.

18:2.  “And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valor, 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.”

Five is the number of responsibility, something Dan had signally failed to fulfill; but as always, they would cloak their delinquency under the guise of much activity which God had not commanded.  Christendom is guilty of the same dissimulation.  And there is peculiar irony in their being described as “men of valor,” the very quality so obviously lacking in the tribe that had failed to take possession of its God-given inheritance.  Many professing Christians are also regarded by their fellows as men of valor in spiritual things, when, in fact, their activity is wholly of the flesh.

It is instructive to note that the two places mentioned in connection with their disobedient mission, Zorah and Eshtaol, are also the very first two places mentioned as boundary points of their proper inheritance (Jos 19:41), for Zorah means she was smitten with leprosy; and Eshtaol, I will be entreated.  As has been noted already, this is the symbolic assurance that the God Who had appointed their lot in Canaan, was He Who has never failed to respond to the entreaty of even the vilest spiritual leper.  Had they been obedient, there would have been no need to seek an inheritance outside the boundaries He had appointed.  Instead of having to send men to “search the land,” they could have been living in the enjoyment of what God had already given.

The knowledge that we too live in covenant relationship with that same gracious God, should preserve us from the folly of walking in Dan’s disobedient footsteps. 

In a good context Ephraim double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful, speaks of fruitfulness in the things of God; but in a bad context, it speaks simply of the “religious busyness” that is so frequently mistaken for true spiritual fruitfulness.  It isn’t surprising therefore that they should have arrived in mount Ephraim, nor that they should have found lodging in the house of Micah.  The believer’s disobedience very often brings him to the same destination spiritually.  Refusing to do what has been commanded, he busies himself with what God has not commanded; and forsaking the fellowship of a Scripturally ordered assembly, he “lodges” in what man’s disobedience has substituted - a “house” associated with idolatry, and the travesty of a manmade priesthood.

18:3.  “And when they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here?”

It isn’t surprising that they “knew the voice of the young man the Levite,” for the language of disobedience is universal; nor is it surprising that they should have “turned in thither,” for as obedience has a common center, Christ, so does disobedience have a common center: Satan.

“Who brought thee hither?” is a question that young Levite would have done well to ponder, for since God certainly hadn’t sent him there, he had no business being there.  We too would be well advised to consider that same question relative to our own positions, for no matter how warm and friendly, and no matter how much its religious activity, if that fellowship isn’t functioning according to Scripture, God didn’t bring us there, and we have no business being in it.

The first question had to do with his authority for being there, and the other two had to do with the business that had brought him, and that had kept him in that place; and as with the first question, so also with these two: we too would do well to ponder them.  What was the purpose in our first coming to the place where we now fellowship?  Was it so that we could worship, serve, and fellowship according to God’s Word; or was it so that we could enjoy the social activities for ourselves, and the programs for our children?  And what keeps us in that fellowship, particularly if we have learned that much of its activity lacks the sanction of a “Thus saith the Lord.”

18:4.  “And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.”

Conspicuously absent is any reference to God’s direction in the whole matter.  As noted already, it was self-will that had brought him there; and it was self-will and cupidity that kept him there.  His whole talk was of how Micah had hired him, and made him a priest; his ignorance of God’s order so great, that not only did he not mention God, but obviously neither he nor Micah saw anything wrong in connection with the whole ungodly arrangement.

So is it in much of Christendom today.

18:5.  “And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.”

The ignorance of God’s ways was universal.  So steeped had the nation become in idolatry, that they had long since passed the point where they had any awareness of wrongdoing.  Disobedience long practiced had so seared the national conscience that it no longer functioned.  We would do well to consider the lesson relative to our own lives.

Had they retained any knowledge of God, they would never have made such a statement, for their disobedience was so blatant as to be obvious to all but spiritually blind eyes.  To engage in the pretense of seeking divine guidance in such circumstances simply declared their utterly deadened spiritual state.  An equally spiritually deadened professing church is also unconscious of its own apostate state.

18:6.  “And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the Lord is your way wherein ye go.”

As ignorant of God as those who sought the guidance of the charlatan “priest,” the Levite gave the answer they wanted to hear, and thus assured, they went on their disobedient way, even though the assurance was utterly groundless.  So also today does a spiritually blind Christendom pursue its rebellious path, being assured by its equally blind priests that the blessing of God rests upon every activity.  They the people, having “itching ears” (2 Tim 4:3), hire those who will preach what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

18:7.  “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.”

Laish means a lion, and is connected also with the thought of kneading or crushing (as under a lion’s paw); while Zidon means a hunting: fishery.  The place was also called Leshem (Jos 19:47), meaning a gem, possibly a jacinth.  There is much connected with these names to suggest that in this city we have a symbolic picture of the world under the dominion of him of whom Peter writes, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pe 5:8).  The hunting and fishing associated with the name Zidon, reminds us that this world is not only the place where Satan hunts for men’s souls to destroy them, but where God fishes for men’s souls to save them; while the gem would remind us that this world is also the place where God has His “gems” - Israel, the treasure hid in the field; and the Church, the pearl of great price (Mt 13:44-46).  Their being “careless ... quiet and secure,” gratifying their lusts, with no one to “put them to shame in anything,” continues to paint the picture of this present evil world.  The sudden destruction that came upon them at the hand of Dan judging: a judge reminds us that similar destructive judgment is soon to descend upon this whole corrupt world system.

Their being “far from the Zidonians” is taken by many to indicate that they may have been also Zidon-ian­s, but living in independence of the parent city; while their having “no business with any man” is understood also by many to mean that they had no treaties (of mutual protection) with their neighbors.

18:8.  “And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?”

Oblivious of the need to know what God had to say, their whole attention was focused on the report of the returned spies, man’s word alone being deemed sufficient, even though they ought to have remembered the disastrous results that had attended the failure of Israel to consult God when another team of spies had returned from Ai in the days of Joshua (Jos 7:2-5).  And, as noted already, the meanings of Zorah and Eshtaol should have reminded them of their spiritually leprous state, and of the urgent need to entreat God.

An apostate church, however, as spiritually leprous, and also as spiritually blind and deaf, is equally ready to heed the voice of mere men suffering from the same spiritual malaise, as ignorant as were those Danites, of the enormity of their offense against God.

18:9.  “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.”

The very men who had displayed such apathy relative to taking possession of their God-appointed lot, evinced amazing zeal when it came to taking possession of a lot that God hadn’t given them.  The same anomaly is seen everywhere in Christendom today.  The command of Christ is “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature,” yet most professing Christians seem to be eager to do everything except that.

It is interesting to note the contrast between the report of these spies and those who had been sent to reconnoiter Canaan in the days of Moses (Nu 13:31-33).  When it concerned what was the will of God, man would discourage obedience, but when it involved what was contrary to God’s will, he would encourage disobedience!

We should note too that the experience of the five spies is very similar to that of Lot as recorded in Ge 13:10, when he beheld the plain of Jordan as being also a very desirable place.  He too failed to consult God, and learned the folly of that failure when that same well watered plain became a smoking desolation.

He is a fool who fails to consult God relative to every event of life.

18:10.  “And 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.”

Looking beyond the literal, we see in this a picture of the world today, and as it will be in the first half of the Tribulation, resting in the flimsy security of a false peace, saying “Peace, peace,” when, in fact, sudden destruction is about to fall.  Even today, though confronted with incontrovertible evidence that the very foundations of society are crumbling, a world estranged from God, continues to delude itself that there will yet be recovery, and that man himself will eventually create a Utopia.  The Tribulation beast ruler will in fact appear to be the very man through whom that Utopia will be brought into existence. 

But what, then, does Dan portray in this context. It is difficult to see him as representing anything other than the judgment of which his name speaks. 

The fact that their camping place in Judah was called Mahaneh-dan camping place of Dan may be to emphasize the spiritual lesson that judgment had come to Judah, and to remind us that judgment is in the midst of professing Christendom, the day fast approaching when the true Church will be raptured to heaven, and the full storm of divine wrath will break upon the apostate harlot system that will be left behind on earth.

Its being “behind” i.e., west of, or in the western part of Kirjath-jearim should hold some message relative to approach to God, for that is what is associated with the west, just as departure from God is associated with the east, but it is difficult to see how the rebellious activity of Dan could be associated in any way with approach to God, unless it is meant to point to the fact, that not only Dan, but the whole nation had fallen into such a terrible spiritual state that they imagined themselves drawing near, even though the worship by which they approached Jehovah was an empty ritual practiced in conjunction with their worship of the Baals of Canaan.

Its being a “large land” would speak, in a good context, of freedom and blessing; but in the present context it is much more likely to speak of liberty to live in independence of God.  There being no want of anything “that is in the earth” suggests also the carnal state of the Danites.  They were more interested in earthly things than in spiritual, and so are many professing believers today. 

18:11.  “And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war.”

We have already noted the evil significance of their leaving Zorah and Eshtaol, and the number six hundred continues to speak of evil, for six is the number of man, sin, weakness, failure.

18:12.  “And they went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjath-jearim.”

We trace here in symbol the progress of rebellion.  First, these Danites had left the portion assigned them by God, abandoning it to the enemy whom they had been commanded to destroy.  Next they were found in Ephraim, the tribe that represents fruitfulness, but in the case of a disobedient Ephraim, the dead works which are the substitute produced by carnality and unbelief.  The presence of those Danites in Ephraim is the symbolic announcement that the judgment of God had come to Ephraim, but since each tribe is but the portrait of a characteristic of Israel as a nation, it declares that the judgment of God lay upon the whole rebellious nation. 

Keeping in mind that Judah represents praise or worship, the presence of the Danites in their midst declares that the judgment of God lay upon the empty ritual that passed in Israel for true worship.  That same judgment lies no less upon the travesty which an equally apostate professing church calls worship.

The specific place where they camped in Judah was Kirjath-jearim, meaning city of forests, but since trees are one of the Biblical symbols of humanity, this would speak of their coming to mere men just as rebellious as themselves, for Judah had also been delinquent in expelling the enemy from the valleys (Jg 1:19), i.e., from the place that represents the sphere of fruitfulness and service.

Mahaneh-dan means the camp of Dan, but I can’t read the spiritual significance of this, other than that since Dan represents judgment, it may point to the fact that as Dan was to be the instrument for the destruction of Laish, so in the Tribulation will man also be one of the instruments used by God to execute His judgment upon the Tribulation-age earth.

Its being behind Kirjath-jearim is literally west, the direction that speaks of approach to God, but since Kirjath-jearim was itself west of Jerusalem and of Shiloh, the two places associated with the presence of God, Dan’s going even farther west speaks symbolically of going beyond what God has authorized relative to worship and service.  This is the sin of the professing but apostate church today.  She too has gone beyond what God has ordered.  Man’s order has replaced God’s.

18:13.  “And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.”

Since we have already looked at the spiritual significance of this in verse 2, we need only note here that their rebellious steps had brought them back to Micah’s idolatrous house in Ephraim, the spiritual lesson being that both carnality and mere empty profession almost invariably follow the same path - they will busy themselves with religious activity of their own invention, while worshipping the idols revered by the rest of the world - money, fame, pleasure, ease, education, etc.

18:14.  “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.”

The ephod is the symbolic announcement of the fact that today’s apostate church has sought to hide the evil within it under the mask of religion, while the teraphim (household gods) remind us that that same church is also filled with the things men worship in place of God.  The graven image and the molten image direct attention to what passes for corporate worship in the apostate travesty that calls itself the church of God, the graven image being the symbolic announcement of the fact that as the smith labored in forming it, so has the apostate church labored in producing a form of worship which is an abomination to God.  The molten image, on the other hand, produced by pouring the molten metal into a mold, or over a carved image, portrays the truth that what passes for worship in the harlot church is largely the result of heated emotion divorced from the control of God’s Word as ministered by the Holy Spirit.  It is sensual, and designed to appeal to man’s fallen, corrupt emotional nature.

Keeping in mind that they were in Ephraim, which we have already seen to speak (in a good context) of fruitfulness and service, but in the present context, of mere busy religious activity, their intention to take from there to Laish, all the idolatrous trappings associated with Micah’s house, would remind us that the self-willed religious activity of carnality, or of mere profession, is also associated with the idolatry discussed in our study of the preceding verse.

The words “consider what ye have to do” very obviously imply that their intention was indeed to appropriate for their own use, all of Micah’s idolatrous paraphernalia.  This would remind us how quickly evil spreads.  The idolatry of one man soon became that of a tribe.  

18:15.  “And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.”

This continues to focus attention on the potential for the spread of evil through the disobedience of just one man.  Had this young Levite maintained his proper place, he would never have come to Micah’s house, and would therefore never have become the link that brought the Danites into contact with Micah’s idolatry.  Each of us has a very great responsibility as to how we live, lest we cause others to stumble.

18:16.  “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.”

The six hundred Danites continue to point to the fact that the spiritual lesson here is related to judgment, with man as the instrument in the hand of God, for as noted already, six is the number of man; Dan represents judgment, and the gate is associated with government.

18:17.  “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.”

It is emphasized that it was the five spies who actually purloined the images, etc., from Micah’s house, while the six hundred stood guard.  Since five is the number of responsibility, this points to the truth that God would hold them, as He will all men, responsible for what they do; and as Israelites, their sin was compounded, for they had been given direct revelation from God relative to His abhorrence of idols.  Responsibility is in proportion to light given.  We who have been given His revelation in fuller measure than the men of any other age, have a corresponding responsibility to obey God.

The readiness of the hireling priest to stand with those who robbed his benefactor, is simply the disclosure of the character of the present day hireling clerics of whom he is the type.  Having no loyalty to God, it is not to be expected that these clerics will have any to man; and experience, in fact, shows that like their OT type, they too are governed by self-interest.  It is the Lord Himself Who has declared “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (Jn 10:11-13).

18:18.  “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?”

Having regard to the kindness and generosity with which Micah had treated him, this base Levite was a contemptible unprincipled wretch, and a disgrace to the tribe whose name he bore, but all of this simply points to the fact that his is the character of all hirelings, no matter how pious their profession.  In the light of verse 20, his question “What do ye?” can hardly be considered a protest.

18:19.  “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?”

In this verse is summed up the philosophy of apostate Christendom, for she is as blind to her fallen spiritual state as was Dan in the days of the Judges.  In the view of the apostate church bigger is better, so that success is measured, not by spirituality, but by numbers.

18:20.  “And the priest was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.”

Like his hireling counterpart of today, that wretched Levite was blind to everything except his own advancement.  Idolater though Micah was, he had been kind and generous to this ingrate who cared nothing that his benefactor’s house was being plundered, and who in fact helped to carry off the stolen property.  Such is the hireling in every age.  As he had been “a father and a priest” to Micah, so would he be also now to the tribe of Dan.  It is to be noted, however, that this was his promotion to a position of authority over the very men who hired him, and who were his masters.  So is it also in Christendom today.  Unconverted, or spiritually ignorant believers will ordain their own priests to positions of authority, submitting themselves to their hirelings in what they deem to be spiritual things, yet retaining authority over the hirelings in what they regard as temporal affairs, the whole unscriptural arrangement being, by its very

nature, conducive to abandonment of sound doctrine, for the hireling is well aware that his position is tenuous, lasting only as long as he doesn’t offend his masters.  He therefore preaches only what will please the itching ears of those who have made him their priest.  This possibility is eliminated when the Scriptural pattern is followed, for the gifted servants given to the Church by her risen Head, are neither subject to human ordination nor dismissal.  Such a man is servant of all, but employee of none.

18:21.  “So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.”

This strategy implies that they anticipated pursuit, and were ensuring that they themselves, armed, would be between their families and goods, and the pursuers.  The same astute care for temporal things marks apostate Christendom, there being a corresponding lack of care relative to spiritual matters.

18:22.  “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.”

As was noted at the beginning of our study of chapter 17, Micah represents the spiritual state of Israel at the time of the Lord’s earthly ministry, and his pursuit of the Danites who had robbed him of all that constituted his religious life, speaks of the determination of unbelieving Israel to cling to the empty religious form (so dear to them, but so abhorrent to God) taken from them in the judgment which Dan represents.  But Israel is the mirror in which God bids every man see his own reflection, so that Micah’s determination to recover what Dan had plundered, reminds us of the evil tendency in each one of us to retain the empty religious form after spiritual reality has gone.  The houses “near to Micah’s house” represent all the religious forms which unbelieving men have substituted for divine order.

18:23.  “And they cried unto the children of Dan.  And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?”

Since Micah represents apostate Israel, particularly at the time when Judaism was being replaced by Christianity, Dan may well represent, not only the judgment that ended Judaism, but also the “Christian” travesty that replaced the Jewish, for the professing church has simply carried off and adapted for its own use the same empty ritual as characterized Jewish religion.  Micah’s crying unto the Danites depicts the bitter antagonism of Judaism against, not only mere professing Christianity, but also against genuine believers.  The haughty response of Dan portrays the disdainful attitude of professing Christianity against Judaism.

18:24.  “And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee?”

This continues to picture the chagrin of apostate Israel at the adoption of their empty religious forms by an equally apostate professing Christianity.  To deprive the Jew of his religion is to rob him of his most valued possession, his estimate of its worth being measured in the fanatical determination with which he has clung to it for almost two thousand years, even though it is his religion that has so often provoked the animosity of the Gentiles amongst whom he has been scattered.

18:25.  “And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household.”

In Dan’s arrogant threatening response we are being shown the attitude which apostate Christianity has adopted towards the Jew for the past two thousand years, history revealing that many times during those years “angry fellows” have indeed “run upon” him taking his life and the lives of his household.

18:26.  “And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.”

The Jew likewise, finding apostate Christianity “too strong for him” has also “turned and (gone) back unto his house,” a house, which his rejection of Christ has made desolate, as declared by the Lord Himself, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate, for I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt 23:37-39). 

In Micah’s returning to his desolated house, God would teach all men the worthlessness of mere religion.

18:27.  “And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had , and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire.”

In this may be seen what developed in the fifth century out of apostate Christianity’s seizure of Judaism’s empty religious forms.  When political Rome fell in 476 A.D., an unsuspecting world, represented by Laish, suddenly found itself the hapless victim of a religious Rome whose tyranny was far more terrible than that of the Caesars, for that iniquitous system ruled, not only the bodies, but also the souls of men.

Laish, incidentally, means a lion, a meaning which seems to confirm the view that Laish is a type of the world as the domain of Satan, who is described in Scripture as a lion, see 1 Pe 5:8.  In Dan’s seizure of Laish we are presented with the symbolic picture of Satan’s imposing upon his duped slaves the murderous tyranny of religious Rome.

Practically, in Dan’s destruction of the unsuspecting Laish, God would remind men that similar unexpected judgment is soon about to fall upon an equally complacent world, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Th 5:3).

It is instructive to note that Laish was also known as Leshem, meaning a gem.  As Laish it portrays the world of apostate religion; but as Leshem it reminds us that in that same world God has two gems: one, Israel, the treasure hid in the field; and the Church, the pearl of great price.  In the Millennium Israel, God’s treasure, repentant and converted,  will be lifted up to her proper place of exaltation and glory over the nations; but before the Millennium, and before the Tribulation which will bring Israel to repentance, the Church, the pearl of great price, will be caught up to her proper place of exaltation and glory: to heaven, from which she will reign with Christ over the millennial earth.

18:28.  “And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Beth-Rehob.  And they built a city, and dwelt therein.”

As noted in earlier studies, Zidon meaning a hunting: a fishery, represents the world as the place where Satan hunts for men’s souls to destroy them; but where God, through the Gospel, fishes for men’s souls to save them.  Since this hunting and fishing are related to what men label religion, the spiritual lesson of Laish’s being far from Zidon, is that the world which Laish represents, is “far from” i.e., has no interest in spiritual things.  The absence of a deliverer being linked with their being far from Zidon, is the symbolic announcement that he who has no interest in spiritual things is far from Christ, the only One Who can deliver men from destruction.

Their having “no business with any man” is generally taken to mean that they had dwelt in such isolation from others that they had no mutual treaties of defence with their neighbors, so there was no one to come to their aid, and in this God would remind us that in the matter of the soul’s salvation, man is incapable of redeeming even his own soul, much less that of another, as it is written in Ps 49:7-8 “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever).”

Its being “in the valley that lieth by Beth-rehob” has also something to teach us, for Beth-rehob means house of the broad way, a meaning which immediately recalls the Lord’s words relative to the path upon which sinners travel towards death, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Mt 7:13).  The men of the world which is represented by Laish, travel that “broad” way, its breadth signifying the moral latitude that permits the indulgence of every lust.  And since the valley is the Scriptural symbol of the sphere of man’s activity, their dwelling in that valley lying by “the house of the broad way” reminds us that all the activity of the unconverted is marked by the same sinful license.

Dan’s rebuilding of Laish, but changing its name, declares that apostate Christendom permits itself the same sinful latitude as do those who make no profession, but they would disguise the evil under the cloak of religion.  It shouldn’t be forgotten that it was in the name of religion that papal Rome has slaughtered countless multitudes of true believers who refused to deny their Lord, and accept Rome’s false teaching.

18:29.  “And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.”

No more fitting name could have been given the city, for the wrong judgment that had led them to build it, guaranteed that the judgment of God would fall upon them and their city; but since it represents apostate Christendom, the assurance extends also to that evil system similarly conceived and built by man’s wrong judgment.

Nor should we miss the significance of its being said that Dan was the son of Israel, rather than of Jacob as we might have expected.  The lesson is plain.  The righteous character of the father wasn’t automatically transmitted to the son.  The evil portrayed by the activity of Dan in relation to Laish warns us that present good is no protection from future evil, a fact attested by the presence on earth of Christendom’s apostate system.  That too developed out of what had been good, the true Church.  And there is further warning in the reminder that the city had formerly been Laish, symbolic, as already noted, of what belongs to, and is under the control of the ravening lion, Satan.  The change of name did nothing to alter that fact; nor does its Christian name alter the fact that apostate Christendom belongs to, and is controlled by Satan.

18:30.  “And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.”

Dan’s self-willed departure from the southern portion allotted him by God, to this northern place which he himself had chosen, is the symbolic revelation of the truth that in his case faith, which the south represents, had given place to human intelligence, which is Biblically associated with the north.  It is the same with Christendom’s apostate system.  It too is the result of having exchanged the path of faith, for the road dictated by human intelligence functioning apart from the will of God, a road in regard to which Scripture warns, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr 14:12).

Their setting up the graven image was simply the culmination of the rebellion that had begun long before, when they had failed to expel the Canaanites as instructed by God.  And so is it with professing Christendom.  The flagrant rebellion apparent everywhere didn’t just appear suddenly.  It too began with disobedience in small things related to the divine

order.  And so is it in our individual lives.  Rebellion almost always develops by slow degrees, its encroachment so subtle as to be scarcely noticeable.

It is generally assumed that this Jonathan is the young Levite, and if so, then in him too we see the development of evil, beginning with a disobedience that grew until it became full blown idolatry.  This brings the lesson down to individual level, and we are reading this verse wrongly if we fail to recognize that it has been preserved to warn us against similar folly.

His name Jonathan has a good meaning Jehovah is giver, reminding us that the good name, Christ, called over us, is no guarantee against the folly which attends self-will.

Gershom likewise has a good connotation, for it means a stranger there: a stranger desolate, and was the name of the son of Levi who had charge of transporting the curtains, cords, etc., of the Tabernacle.  And the third name in the genealogical line is Manasseh, but it is to be noted that it is generally agreed that the proper name here is Moses rather than Manasseh, the change being attributed to a scribe who sought to dissociate the name of Moses from dishonor.

Nor should we fail to note the long continuation of the evil begun with the first disobedient step taken by the young Levite.  It was perpetuated through his sons “until the day of the captivity of the land.”  Scholars are disagreed as to which captivity this is, nor is it of vital importance for us to know, though many believe that the reference is to the destruction of Shiloh by the Philistines, and their carrying away the Ark in the days of Eli the priest.  The truth being declared is that sin continued in, leads to the same end - captivity.  We find ourselves become the captives of whatever leads us away from God, as Paul warns in Ro 6:16 “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey: whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

18:31.  “And they set themselves up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.”

The exact date of the establishment of that idolatrous worship by Dan isn’t known, though there is reason to believe that it was early in the days of the Judges.  There were therefore for a long time, two centers of worship in Israel: the divinely authorized center at Shiloh, and this idolatrous center established by Dan.  It is significant also that it was at Dan that Jeroboam set up the two idolatrous golden calfs, and established a center of false worship in opposition to that established by God in Shiloh, see 1 Ki 12:26-30.

[Judges 19]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough