Judges 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 to them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.
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(2) From their coasts.—Literally, their ends (Genesis 19:4; 1Kings 12:31). Some explain it to mean “from their whole number.”

Men of valour.—Literally, sons of force (Judges 21:10).

To spy out the land.—As in Joshua 2:1.

They came to mount Ephraim.—It would have been an easier journey to pass along the Shephelah, but that was mainly in the hands of the original inhabitants.

To the house of Micah.—There is no necessity for the supposition that they did not actually lodge in the house, or, at any rate, in the khan which doubtless formed part of the settlement. The centre of a new and gorgeous worship was sure to have places around it where those could lodge who came to consult the pesel-ephod (see Judges 18:18), just as even the ordinary synagogues had lodgings for wayfarers.

Jdg 18:2-5. They lodged there — Not in the same house, but near it. They knew the voice of the young man — Having been acquainted with him before he came to live with Micah. Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God — By thine ephod and teraphim, or image, which they knew he had. This and the following verse show that this sanctuary of Micah was dedicated to the true God, and not to idols. But how ignorant were these Danites, to suppose God would be consulted here as well as in his house at Shiloh!17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.This identity of locality with the scene of Samson's birth and death indicates that both narratives are drawn from the same source, probably the annals of the tribe of Dan. CHAPTER 18

Jud 18:1-26. The Danites Seek Out an Inheritance.

1-6. In those days … the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in—The Danites had a territory assigned them as well as the other tribes. But either through indolence, or a lack of energy, they did not acquire the full possession of their allotment, but suffered a considerable portion of it to be wrested out of their hands by the encroachments of their powerful neighbors, the Philistines. In consequence, being straitened for room, a considerable number resolved on trying to effect a new and additional settlement in a remote part of the land. A small deputation, being despatched to reconnoitre the country, arrived on their progress northward at the residence of Micah. Recognizing his priest as one of their former acquaintances, or perhaps by his provincial dialect, they eagerly enlisted his services in ascertaining the result of their present expedition. His answer, though apparently promising, was delusive, and really as ambiguous as those of the heathen oracles. This application brings out still more clearly and fully than the schism of Micah the woeful degeneracy of the times. The Danites expressed no emotions either of surprise or of indignation at a Levite daring to assume the priestly functions, and at the existence of a rival establishment to that of Shiloh. They were ready to seek, through means of the teraphim, the information that could only be lawfully applied for through the high priest's Urim. Being thus equally erroneous in their views and habits as Micah, they show the low state of religion, and how much superstition prevailed in all parts of the land.

Of their family; which shows that it was but one, though a large family, which was engaged in this expedition. Eshtaol; of which see Joshua 19:41 Judges 13:2,25.

They lodged there; not in the same house, but near it, as appears from the next verse, in a neighbouring place. And the children of Dan sent of their family five men,.... According to Abarbinel one out of a family, as Moses sent one out of a tribe to spy the land; and so there must be five families concerned in this affair:

from their coasts, men of valour from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; these men were sent from the borders of the tribe, the extreme parts of it, as the word may signify, where perhaps they were the most pressed and overcrowded: Zorah and Eshtaol are particularly mentioned, and were the first cities in their lot, and were the coast of their inheritance; see Gill on Joshua 19:41 some take the phrase rendered "from their coasts" to signify persons of extreme meanness, men of the lowest class among them; but the above mentioned writers interpret it to a quite contrary sense, by "Katzinim", princes, such as Moses sent to spy the land; and this better agrees with the next clause, "men of valour": and the word used signifies not only magnanimity and fortitude of mind, but wealth and riches; and these were sent not to spy the land of Canaan, but such places as fell to this tribe, but were possessed by the Canaanites; and their errand was to observe in what condition they were, and whether fit for their purpose, and easy to obtain, and how they might get the possession of any of them:

and they said unto them, search the land; and see if some convenient place cannot be found out to enlarge their inheritance, and give them more room and liberty for their families, now pent up, and a pasturage for their flocks and herds:

who when they came to Mount Ephraim; which lay upon the borders of them:

to the house of Micah, they lodged there; that is, when they were come near to the house of Micah, as Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it, they took up their lodging in the neighbourhood of it, perhaps at a public house or inn; for the sense is not, that they lodged in Micah's house, for after this we read of their turning into it, as in the next verse. According to Bunting (r), this place was twenty four miles from Zorah and Eshtaol, from whence these men came.

(r) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 112.

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, {b} Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.

(b) For the portion which Joshua gave them, was not sufficient for all their tribe.

2. The repetitions in this verse (of their family, of their whole number; five, men, men of valour; to search it, search the land) point to a combination of the two narratives, of which the beginning can be traced in ch. 17.Verse 2. - They came to Mount Ephraim (Judges 17:1, 8). The hill country of Ephraim would be on their way to the north from Eshtaol. They would naturally avoid the plain where the Amorites and Philistines were strong. Appointment of a Levite as Priest. - Judges 17:7. In the absence of a Levitical priest, Micah had first of all appointed one of his sons as priest at his sanctuary. He afterwards found a Levite for this service. A young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who, being a Levite, stayed (גּר) there (in Bethlehem) as a stranger, left this town to sojourn "at the place which he should find," sc., as a place that would afford him shelter and support, and came up to the mountains of Ephraim to Micah's house, "making his journey," i.e., upon his journey. (On the use of the inf. constr. with ל in the sense of the Latin gerund in do, see Ewald, 280, d.) Bethlehem was not a Levitical town. The young Levite from Bethlehem was neither born there nor made a citizen of the place, but simply "sojourned there," i.e., dwelt there temporarily as a stranger. The further statement as to his descent (mishpachath Judah) is not to be understood as signifying that he was a descendant of some family in the tribe of Judah, but simply that he belonged to the Levites who dwelt in the tribe of Judah, and were reckoned in all civil matters as belonging to that tribe. On the division of the land, it is true that it was only to the priests that dwelling-places were allotted in the inheritance of this tribe (Joshua 21:9-19), whilst the rest of the Levites, even the non-priestly members of the family of Kohath, received their dwelling-places among the other tribes (Joshua 21:20.). At the same time, as many of the towns which were allotted to the different tribes remained for a long time in the possession of the Canaanites, and the Israelites did not enter at once into the full and undisputed possession of their inheritance, it might easily so happen that different towns which were allotted to the Levites remained in possession of the Canaanites, and consequently that the Levites were compelled to seek a settlement in other places. It might also happen that individuals among the Levites themselves, who were disinclined to perform the service assigned them by the law, would remove from the Levitical towns and seek some other occupation elsewhere (see also at Judges 18:30).

(Note: There is no reason, therefore, for pronouncing the words יהוּדה ממּשׁפּחת (of the family of Judah) a gloss, and erasing them from the text, as Houbigant proposes. The omission of them from the Cod. Vat. of the lxx, and from the Syriac, is not enough to warrant this, as they occur in the Cod. Al. of the lxx, and their absence from the authorities mentioned may easily be accounted for from the difficulty which was felt in explaining their meaning. On the other hand, it is impossible to imagine any reason for the interpolation of such a gloss into the text.)

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