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Judges Chapter 18



Last week we began our study on Micah who turned out to be a very unusual person.  Because during this time, every man did that which was right in his own eyes, Micah decided to setup his own little god house and hire his own private priest.  But we found that this was nothing more than idol worship, and only by serving the true and living  God will we find happiness and joy.  Micah's mother did not give him good advice, but advised him to use the silver to make an image unto the Lord.  We know this violates the very first commandment.  This week we begin our study when there was no king in Israel. 


I.          The Spies Are Sent Out to seek a place for the Danites 

Judg 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. 

We are told that there was no king in Israel.  This was the time of the judges, and God had not yet set up the government where they had one earthly king.  As we mentioned earlier, this was a time when every man did that which was right in his own eyes.  This made for many bad decisions by the people, just like we have happening here in America today.  The Danites had not possessed all of their inheritance that God had given them due to fear of the Canaanites and Philistines. 

Judg 18:2  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. 

So the children of Dan sent out spies to go in and search for a territory that them might take and settle in that land.  These five men went northward and camped at Micah's home.  When they heard Jonathan speaking, they recognized his voice. 

Judg 18:3  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? 

The Danite spies conversed with Jonathan and learned what his situation was as the high priest for Micah.  The men look over Micah's little personal god house, and they admire the images and the way things were setup.  You and I need to be careful not to get too wrapped up in looking at the way men can set up religion where is very entertaining and pleasing to the mind and eye.  God's house is not to be made into a social entertainment center, and many today go from one church to another looking for the newest and greatest fad.  I've read about everything from big screen projectors to sing the music from without hymnals in a church near Dallas to contemporary bands taking over the music service and playing music that is hard to even tell that it has a gospel message, if it does at all.  There are many good social issues discussed, many good book reports read, many evils of society discussed and debated from pulpits all across our land, but while all of this might be fine in a social environment, it is far removed from what God wants to be proclaimed from His pulpits.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our foremost and main objective as a church, and any church that fails to proclaim that Gospel that Jesus brought, that Paul took to the Jews and the Gentiles, the same Gospel that John the Baptist came proclaiming in the wilderness, that church is missing its main focus.  God help us to not be like the Laodicean church who had put God on the outside and he was there knocking, asking that He might come back in. 

Rev 3:14  And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Rev 3:15  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Rev 3:16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Rev 3:17  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Rev 3:18  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Rev 3:19  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Rev 3:20  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Rev 3:21  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Rev 3:22  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

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

Judg 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.

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

After admiring the way things were setup by Micah, they ask Jonathan to inquire through his idols as to whether God would bless their journey in search of new land.  He tells them to go on for the Lord would prosper their journey.   This would be like us coming to God's house today and calling the Psychic Friend's Network to ask if someone was going to be saved.   Sure, these folks can tell you a lot of things for your money, but they are not things of the Lord.  Don't be surprised if witches can not come up with some things that seem magical, but their powers are not from God, but from Satan.  We know before God setup David as King of Israel, Saul went to the witch at Endor to try and talk with Samuel.  And this was very displeasing to God.  When we have questions about the work of God, we should seek God's face, no one else.  And do it directly through prayer, not thru a medium or some incantation of men.  If we want to know God's Will for our lives, go to God.


Judg 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. 

So the spies proceed north to the area of Lebanon, to a city called Laish.  Here they found Sidonian people who were secure that were not bothering anyone.   While these were heathen, the fact that they were quiet and minding their own business made me think of the verse where God commands his people to be that way.    

1 Th 4:11  And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

1 Th 4:12  That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.


Matthew Henry said this about the inhabitants of Laish.                                                       

The observation which the spies made upon the city of Laish, and the posture of its inhabitants, v. 7. Never was place so ill governed and so ill guarded, which would make it a very easy prey to the invader.

1. It was ill governed, for every man might be as bad as he would, and there was no magistrate, no heir of restraint (as the word is), that might so much as put them to shame in any thing, much less put them to death, so that by the most impudent immoralities they provoked God’s wrath, and by all manner of mutual mischiefs weakened and consumed one another. See here, (1.) What the office of magistrates is. They are to be heirs of restraint, that is, to preserve a constant entail of power, as heirs to an inheritance, in the places where they are, for the restraining of that which is evil. They are possessors of restraint, entrusted with their authority for this end, that they may check and suppress every thing that is vicious and be a terror to evil doers. It is only God’s grace that can renew men’s depraved minds and turn their hearts; but the magistrate’s power may restrain their bad practices and tie their hands, so that the wickedness of the wicked may not be either so injurious or so infectious as otherwise it would be. Though the sword of justice cannot cut up the root of bitterness, it may cut off its branches and hinder its growth and spreading, that vice may not go without a check, for then it becomes daring and dangerous, and the community shares in the guilt . [1]  

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

Judg 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 spies return to their brethren and report what they have found.  They advise the people to go up against the people in northern Lebanon, and to take the land.  They tell them that the land is very good.  Apparently they had found the land to be outstanding with much fruit and vegetation for the animals.  This is typically what we of the world see, the things that appeal to the flesh.  But we need to look beyond the natural eye, and look into the deeper things and be sure what we are doing is in the exact will of the Lord.  Sometimes He will let us have our wants, but we are commanded to crucify the flesh each day by taking up our cross.  As mentioned last week, the cross always speaks of death.  As Jesus died on the cross at Calvary to free us from the penalty of sin, you and I are to die to ourselves to make us vessels mete for the master's use.   A humble and contrite heart is of much value to the Lord. 

Judg 18:10  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. 

The spies say some of the same things that Caleb and Joshua had told the nation of Israel when they came over and spied out Canaan for the first time.  God has given it into your hands, just go and take it.



II.        The Danite Army Prepares to Go 

Judg 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.

Judg 18:12  And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim. 

The tribe of Dan prepares to go to war.  They went up and setup a large camp at Kirjathjearim which became known as Mahanehdan.  (Camp Dan was the meaning.) 

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

Judg 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. 

When they arrive at Micah's house, the spies told the rest of the tribe about his well equipped personal god-house.   

Judg 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.

Judg 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.

Judg 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. 

As we studied last week, there was a graven image, an ephod, and a teraphim in the gold house along with a molten image.  The armed men stood by the entering of the gate.  It is likely that they were showing their strength in case Micah did not to give them the false gods they desired.  They stood waiting as the 5 spies went up to Micah's house and took the gods they desired. 


III.       The Protest of the Priest 

Judg 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?

Judg 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?

Judg 18:20  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.

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

Jonathan asks what they were doing.  They offer to make him priest of the entire tribe of Dan if he would come with him.  Power and money will cause many to become corrupt.  Instead of being priest of one family, he will now be the priest of an entire tribe.  There appears a lot of honor and glory goes with the job, so he accepts the position.  We are told that this pleased Jonathan well.  After they make the deal, they continue on with their journey.  When you and I make a decision about taking a job, we should prayerfully seek God's face on the issue.  I have done this several times in my life, and when I knew the Lord's Will for sure, it came easy to say yes or no to the opportunity.  And God has always provided and took care of us by doing things according to His Will.


IV.  Micah sets out after the Danites 

Judg 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.

Judg 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? 

It appears that Micah did not know what was happening when the Danites were robbing him of his idols.  They had gotten far down the road when Micah aroused his neighbors and they joined him in attempting to retrieve his possessions.  Perhaps some of the neighbors had come to Micah's god house to worship.  Either way, they soon overtook the Danites.  The children had been put in front of the marching group.   The men ask what is the problem?


Judg 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?

Judg 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. 

Micah explains how that they had taken his idols, and his priest, and they were off with them.  The tribe of Dan gives Micah some straight advice.  They tell him to hold his tongue, lest some one of them become angry and they run upon him and kill the people with him.  Most likely there were fewer people with Micah than there was in the tribe of Dan.


V.       The Danites Continue their Journey 

Judg 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. 

Micah realizes that he can not win a battle against so many, so he turns back without his idols.  He did not realize it, but they were really doing him a favor.   If someone came and took something from us that keeps us from serving the Lord with a complete heart, we would be blessed.  But only by a close walk with the Lord will we realize it. 

Micah should have realized how worthless these man made gods were, and turned to serve the true and living God.  God could bless him with much, much more than what he had lost to the tribe of Dan. 

Judg 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.

Judg 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 Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. 

The tribe of Dan descends on the city of Laish and overthrew it with the edge of the sword.  They slaughtered the inhabitants and burned the city.  Laish was in the valley next to Bethrehob, a plain of the upper Jordan through which the river flows toward the sea of Galilee.   

Judg 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. 

After destroying Laish, they built their own city, which they named Dan.


VI.  The Danite Idolatry 

Judg 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.

Judg 18:31  And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. 

When they all settled in, the Danites arranged their own temple and made Jonathan their priest like they had promised.  We learn who this priest was and his ancestors.  Some say that the word Manasseh actually pointed to Moses.  Jonathan's sons served as priest of the Danite idols throughout the period of judges.  (All the time that the tabernacle stood in Shiloh.) 

J. Vernon McGee spoke of the apostasy of Jonathan. 

Here is a picture of real apostasy, friend. Who is Jonathan? He happens to be the grandson of Moses! These people had gone a long way from God. Remember that Moses had said, speaking for the Lord, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exod. 20:3–4). And here is Moses’ grandson, a priest with an idol! This is tragic.

When I was a young man studying for the ministry, I was shocked to learn some of the things that were going on within the organized church. Because I had not been brought up in the church, it was a new world and a new life for me. I was deeply impressed with the life and ministry of Dwight L. Moody and considered him a real saint of God—which he was, by the way. Then a man who knew him and knew his family told me, “One of his sons holds an office in the most liberal organization in this country.” During those early days nothing hurt me as that did. I just couldn’t understand how a son of a man like Moody could depart from the gospel of Jesus Christ and from the integrity and inerrancy of the Word of God!

My friend, apostasy is an awful thing. And a nation’s problems begin with religious apostasy. This is what happened to the nation of Israel. Here we see Moses’ grandson serving as priest with Micah’s graven image!



There are several lessons to be learned from Judges Chapter 18. 

1.   Consecration to God is not in the word or outward act, but in the heart.

2.   Many who claim to serve the Lord are deceivers only and bring no benefit to those who think they will profit by association with them.

3.   A god who can be possessed today and lost tomorrow is not a god who can save his worshippers.

4.   A false system of worship, even when of long standing, is none the better than a new found system, for both are abominable to the Lord.

5.   Even a good man cannot be assured that all of his descendants will follow in his footsteps, or that some will not shame his memory. 


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. 




Practice Random Acts of Kindness.  Each act spreads, and many will be blessed. 


[1]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[2]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.