Sunday, December 5, 2010

Judges series - Judges 18 - State of disregard, of things of the LORD

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note/What we have learnt/can learn".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 18

Danites Settle in Laish

1 In those days Israel had no king.
And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the Danites sent five warriors from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all their clans. They told them, "Go, explore the land."
The men entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night. 3 When they were near Micah's house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, "Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?"
4 He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, "He has hired me and I am his priest."
[This is a continuation of the story started in Judges 17. Here the Dan tribe was introduced. From what was said, the time period was not late into the Judges period because the Dan tribe had not been given their territorial land allocation (Some believed that by this time they could have fought the local Amorites who proved too strong for them {Judges 1:34}). The Danites were still scouting for good land to occupy in the Promised Land, and had sent out 5 warriors to spy out the land. The men came to Micah’s house and the Levite priest told them how he became a priest for Micah {given in chapter 17}.]
5 Then they said to him, "Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful."
6 The priest answered them, "Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD's approval."
[The 5 men asked the Levite priest to inquire of God about their journey, and the Levite reported back that their journey had God’s approval.]
7 So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.
8 When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers asked them, "How did you find things?"
9 They answered, "Come on, let's attack them! We have seen that the land is very good. Aren't you going to do something? Don't hesitate to go there and take it over. 10 When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever."
11 Then six hundred men from the clan of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day. 13 From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah's house.
[The 5 men left the Levite, and came to a city called Laish, a very good land, lacked nothing and without “link” to other inhabitants of the lands – ideal for take-over. 600 men were sent, and these men again reached Micah’s house.]
14 Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their brothers, "Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, other household gods, a carved image and a cast idol? Now you know what to do." 15 So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah's place and greeted him. 16 The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance to the gate. 17 The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance to the gate.
18 When these men went into Micah's house and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol, the priest said to them, "What are you doing?"
19 They answered him, "Be quiet! Don't say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn't it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man's household?" 20 Then the priest was glad. He took the ephod, the other household gods and the carved image and went along with the people. 21 Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left.
[One can’t help but remark this, “Like that also can, meh!”. The Danites thought nothing about plucking out “the house of the LORD” from Micah, complete with the Levite priest, and the Levite priest also played along since he was glad to hear that he would made be the priest for the Dan tribe.]
22 When they had gone some distance from Micah's house, the men who lived near Micah were called together and overtook the Danites. 23 As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, "What's the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?"
24 He replied, "You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, 'What's the matter with you?' "
25 The Danites answered, "Don't argue with us, or some hot-tempered men will attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives." 26 So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned around and went back home.
[Micah got some neighbors and gave chase but eventually came back empty-handed, because the Danites were too strong for him to fight.]
27 Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. 28 There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. 29 They named it Dan after their forefather Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish. [The Danite men, together with the Levite priest went on to Laish, attacked it and burned it to the ground, rebuilt it, and renamed it as Dan.]
30 There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. 31 They continued to use the idols Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh. [At this city, the Danites set up their own house of the LORD, complete with the idols from Micah’s house. According to verse 30 here, Jonathan, the grandson of Moses became the priest for them, and Jonathan’s sons did the same.
The state of affair was really bad, the grandchildren of Moses ministering here using the idols Micah made when The House of the LORD was in Shiloh, The Levitical City of the Israelites, then. Again, this showed the complacency and the lack of governance of the Levi tribe – a mockery to God.]

What we can learn here:

This is a continuation from chapter 17, and it continued to show the level of spiritual complacency and lack of governance during the Judges period, which was the period following the death of a strong leader, Joshua who took over the leadership baton from Moses. The story again showed idolatry, complacency, and presumptuousness, even lack of governance. For completeness, I repeat the matters which we should take note of (leaving out curses which was confined to chapter 17 verses 1 & 2):

1. All forms of idolatry are unacceptable, and are detestable to God

2. Spiritual adultery, even the slightest, is not acceptable to God. We are to have the LORD as the only God, He and He alone shall we worship and turn to. We cannot have another god, beside Him.

3. We are not to be complacent with the things of the LORD, and this includes His ways, His Words, which include His instructions, laws, commands, and precepts, and sensitivity to His Holy Spirit.

4. We are also to be careful that we do not act presumptuously.

5. To avoid the pitfalls of ignorance, complacency, presumptuousness, we must make an effort to be diligent in the things of the LORD.

6. It is our responsibility to ensure our spiritual heritage gets passed down the generations.

Anthony Chia – Lord, I pray that more and more of your children would take an interest in safeguarding the legacy of your truths, in the light of rampant mis-interpretations of your core scriptures in the Word. Amen.

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