Judges 18 is the continuation of yesterday’s story in 17. An Ephraimite name Micah sets up a private temple and hires for himself a private priest, a Levite from Bethlehem (Side note: the tribe of Ephraim and territory of Bethlehem are very important as they link this story with the following story, and the book of Ruth, creating what some call the Bethlehem trilogy).
This first story of 17 and 18, along with the second story of 19–21 form a sort of appendix to the book of Judges. There isn’t a judge present in these stories, instead we see the depth of the consequences of disobedience and sin. These events, from the people’s perspective, happen because “In those days there was no king of Israel” (18:1).
Chapter 18 is somewhat reminiscent of Israel’s entering the Promised Land. However, this displaced people was a result of their own disobedience. The Danites were to have conquered the land that they were allotted, yet were unable to do so (Judges 1:34). The fact that they never conquered their own land and pushed out the Amorites, meant they were squished into a smaller territory than their tribe could comfortably occupy. Thus, they felt the need to find a new place where they could spread out a little more—so they headed north.
While the sin of Micah and his personal priest were bad, what the Danites did was even worse. Not only were they guilty of the same level of idolatry as Micah, but they slaughtered the peaceful, if not innocent, people at Laish (18:27).
Instead of taking what God had provided for them, the Danites disobeyed and took for themselves a land not promised to them. They murdered the people living there and set up alters to idols. The author makes note that this was done “all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh” (18:31).
That statement, “all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh” (18:31), is incredibly important as we think about heeding the warning of this passage. God dwelled in the tabernacle at Shiloh, while the tribe of Dan moved far away and set up their own objects of worship. Because God was at Shiloh, he was not with the Danites.
We understand that as believers today, we have the indwelling of the Spirit, so God is ever-present. But, ask yourself today, “where is God present (or not present) in your life right now?” For example, God was not in the Danites’ taking of Laish because it was sin, is there any sin hindering God’s activity in your life? Where God is active, get busy! Where God is absent, repent and turn away!
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate