Title: Judges 18. The first appendix: The tribe of Dan seeks land that God hasn't given.
I don't work to get blessed by God, I already am by grace due to the efficacious sacrifice of our Lord. My life will be one of that very blessing when I think and walk in that very blessing I have received. By grace I have received and by grace there go I.
The believer can only walk in the plan of God according to the strict guidance of NT doctrine and the power of G/HS. The experience of prosperity lies nowhere else.
When a person performs some sort of evil he will become more evil. If he hates then he will be cruel, and the ones he is cruel towards, he will hate even more. In history we witness this any time there is great anti-Semitism in a country. The more you hate the more cruel you will become and then you will hate more and you will become more cruel and the vicious cycle goes on and on.
"Good and evil within a person both increase at compound interest. This is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today might be the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible." [C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity]
JDG 18:1 In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel.
Verse 1 repeats the theme of the appendices: there is no Jehovah in their hearts and no strong central government with an army. Everyone did as they pleased.
There is no such thing as absolute freedom. When people are allowed to do what they want, without restraint they create chaos and evil and eventually death. The instance that the theme is repeated is the migration of the tribe of Dan.
In chapter 18 we move from the apostasy of an individual to the apostasy of a tribe.
"an inheritance had not fallen to them as a possession…"
The English translation makes it look like Joshua didn't give them an allotment, but we read in Jos 19 that they were the last to received one. The Hebrew word naphal ("not been allotted") has a variety of meanings (to fall, to lie down, to be cast down, or to fail). In the context it means that the land had not lied down for them. They failed to remove the Amorites from the land given to them and then they failed to remove the Philistines. The Philistines could move the Amorites but Dan could not.
For a tribe of this size, the land assigned by Joshua to the tribe of Dan, with all the towns that it contained, was amply sufficient. But from JDG 1:34 we learn that the Amorites forced the Danites into the mountains, and would not allow them to come down into the plain where the good soil existed for cultivation. Consequently they were confined to a few towns situated upon the sides or tops of the mountains, which did not supply all the room they required.
Dan was the second most numerous tribe, but was allotted the smallest portion of land. However, the portion they received was bordered by Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah, which made their borders secure and the plains that they possessed, running down to the Mediterranean coast was some of the richest soil in Israel. This rich land was occupied by the Amorites who did not want to give it up and Dan, weak in faith, failed to remove them from it.
Feeling themselves too weak to force back the Canaanites and exterminate them, the Danites preferred to seek an inheritance for themselves somewhere else in the land.
At the last census, the sons of Dan 20 years and older were 64,400 men. So with approximately 150,000 people or more, crammed into a few cities in the hills, they were looking for more amenable lands. If they had just trusted Jehovah, they could have fought and defeated the Philistines and taken what was allotted to them by God, and they would have more than enough room containing very plush, producing land.
Later, the Philistines pushed the Amorites north and occupied the rich land. This eventually led to the conflict with Samson, also a Danite, but Dan was not delivered.
The Danites and Samson failed to remove the Philistines from their land. Their allotted land is detailed in JOS 19:40-48, but it did not come into their possession in the 300 plus years since. They were forced to live in the hills.
We must be content with what God gives us; relationships and materials. We must not covet what God gives to others.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He gives us what we need. God is also glorifying Himself and it is not up to us to determine just how He does so in our own lives.
If our happiness lies in people and things then they will eventually become objects of scorn because no thing or person can convey lasting happiness. Our happiness must be in God alone.
The leaders of the tribe of Dan decide to send out 5 scouts to go north and to find a suitable place for relocation. On their journey they happen to lodge at Micah's home and they notice the Levite priest, the idols, and especially the silver calf prominently displayed.
JDG 18:2 So the sons of Dan sent from their family five men out of their whole number, valiant men [fighting men] from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to search it; and they said to them, "Go, search the land." And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.
JDG 18:3 When they were near the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young man, the Levite; and they turned aside there, and said to him, "Who brought you here? And what are you doing in this place? And what do you have here?"
They recognized his voice. The Hebrew states this plainly. It must be that this man also ministered in Dan and they knew him well enough to recognize his voice. They didn't ask him his identity, but his purpose there and the circumstances of getting there.
JDG 18:4 And he said to them, "Thus and so has Micah done to me, and he has hired me, and I have become his priest."
"Thus and so" is the Levite relating to them the history of the previous chapter.
JDG 18:5 And they said to him, "Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be prosperous."
"Inquire of God" - they are asking him to use the idolatrous ephod. They are unconcerned about how it is being used and that it is not the one ephod in Shiloh upon the high priest.
The Danites are as ok with syncretism as the Ephraimites and the Levites and, as we may conclude, most of the Israelites. The route that the five spies were taking would have caused them to actually pass Shiloh. They could have conferred with the priests at the Tabernacle, though at this time, the ark of the covenant was no longer in the Tabernacle and the priesthood, even in Shiloh, had likely become severely degenerated. Yet these 5 spies from Dan did not care to even seek out divine counsel. They should never have asked the Levite such a question whereby the Levite would have to use Micah's fake, heathen tabernacle.
JDG 18:6 And the priest said to them, "Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the Lord's approval."
There is no word for "approval" in the Hebrew of this verse. It is: "Go in peace: before Jehovah is your way wherein you go." He never said that God would prosper them.
Perhaps his fake ephod gave him no sign. Perhaps God did give him this message. Either way, the message shows that this is no priest to Jehovah. It also shows that the Danites do not have spiritual ears to discern it.
The message is non-committal. It could mean either that Jehovah will judge them or bless them. A true priest to Jehovah would not give such a garbled message.
The Danites take the message positively. They only have blind optimism. If they were at all spiritual, they should have asked for clarification and would have determined that this so-called priest does not commune with God. But to them, if the priest didn't state fire and brimstone upon them then they're probably good.
Let's see the real ephod in action, to which the Urim and Thummim were attached.
1SA 23:1 Then they told David, saying, "Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are plundering the threshing floors."
1SA 23:2 So David inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?" And the Lord said to David, "Go and attack the Philistines, and deliver Keilah."
1SA 23:3 But David's men said to him, "Behold, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the ranks of the Philistines?"
1SA 23:4 Then David inquired of the Lord once more. And the Lord answered him and said, "Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand."
1SA 23:5 So David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines; and he led away their livestock and struck them with a great slaughter. Thus David delivered the inhabitants of Keilah.
Micah's priest gives the neutral and non-committal answer: "Go in peace, before Jehovah is the way that you go."
The priest gave a neutral answer. People often hear what they want to hear.
JDG 18:7 Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were in it living in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure; for there was no ruler humiliating them for anything in the land, and they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone.
Laish was under the rule and umbrella of Sidon, but they were far apart and between them were the Lebanese mountains. The Sidonians were occupied with maritime trade and didn't bother Laish.
The land is well watered and fertile. It is surrounded by mountains, the great Mt. Hermon in the northeast. No one exercised authority over them and they prospered greatly. The Sidonians were making tons of money in the Mediterranean trade and didn't have the time or the need to oppress and tax Laish. The Arameans/Syrians to the north also didn't oppress them since the surrounding mountains made it difficult to do so. The Laishians lived in isolation in a lush, beautiful, and prosperous place, but Dan will now attack them and there will be no one to help protect Laish.
Dan is willing to fight an unsuspecting peaceful settlement that has no defenses, but they would not fight the Amorites and Philistines in order to take the land allotted to them by God.