Judges 18

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter eighteen continues the story of Micah and his hired Levite. At this point in Israel’s history, the tribe of Dan had been run out of their allotted territory by the Amorites, but they had not yet settled elsewhere (Judges 1:34; Joshua 19:40-48). Verse one contains the second reference in this story to the fact that Israel did not yet have a king (Judges 17:6; 18:1). This supports the idea that the book of Judges was compiled later, possibly by Samuel, after the monarchy had begun. In order to find a homeland, the Danites sent five men to spy out the land of Canaan to see what might be suitable for them (Judges 18:1-6). Leaving the hill country in their originally allotted land, they entered the Ephraimite hill country and came to the home of Micah and his hired Levite. After hearing the Levite’s story, the men asked him to gain an oracle from God, indicating if their search for land would be successful. He said that it would be.

When they reached the far northern part of the land, they found a peaceful area that was remote enough that the inhabitants did not have military allies (Judges 18:7-10). This encouraged them, so they returned home and confidently told their brothers to attack that peaceful area and claim it. Six hundred Danite soldiers began the march north (Judges 18:11-20). Coming again through Ephraim, they passed the house of the Levite, which the original spies told them contained a great deal of silver in idols. While the six hundred soldiers kept the Levite occupied at the gate, the spies broke in and stole the idols. When he protested, they argued that it would be better for him to serve a whole tribe rather than just one family, so he agreed to go with them.

When Micah discovered what had taken place, he and his neighbors hurried after them (Judges 18:21-26). Catching up with them, he accused them of stealing his idols and his priest. However, the Danites threatened to kill him if he crossed them, so they went their own ways. When they arrived at Laish in the north, they attacked and killed its inhabitants and took over the land, renaming it Dan (Judges 18:27-31). They established their own place of worship there, and it was Moses’ own descendants who “served as priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the exile.” Which “exile” is referred to is unknown. Constable notes that, if the Assyrian captivity is meant, this note must have been added to the book much later. This blatant unfaithfulness to God and his established structure of worship is sometimes credited for the fact that Dan is missing from the list of tribes in Revelation 7, where he is replaced by Levi.

Judges 17

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter seventeen begins the first of the last two stories in Judges. No date is given for this narrative, only that “Israel had no king” (Judges 17:6). However, the abject moral depravity displayed may indicate that this was later in the historical timeline, although the lack of a Danite homeland may imply earlier (Judges 18:1). A man named Micah had stolen “eleven hundred pieces of silver” from his mother (Judges 17:1-6). When she pronounced a curse on the thief, he confessed and returned the money. Because of his honesty, she dedicated the money to God but promptly used it to purchase or make idols, which Micah put into a shrine in his house.

At an unknown point, Micah met a young Levite from Bethlehem (Judges 17:7-13). He was traveling to find another place to live and minister when Micah hired him to serve in his house at his shrine. They agreed to an annual wage, and the Levite moved in with Micah, becoming “like a son to” him. In addition to Micah being wrong to create and worship idols and this Levite being wrong to agree to serve Micah and his idols as a priest in the name of Jehovah, Micah was also wrong to think that having a Levite on his payroll would bring God’s blessings.

Judges 16

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.

Chapter sixteen concludes Samson’s story. Although he led Israel for twenty years, we know almost nothing of his story, save the few situations recorded in these past three chapters. It seems that the Philistines were probably so afraid of him that they left Israel alone for the twenty years that Samson was a threat to them. It was such an odd “relationship” that Samson felt at ease walking into Gaza, a major Philistine port city, and hiring a Philistine prostitute with no repercussions from his enemies (Judges 16:1-3). Whether or not he knew that they had laid an ambush for him, when he left in the middle of the night, he tore the city gates off of their hinges and planted them on a hill opposite the city, maybe just to prove he could.

Once again his sexual desire drove him toward another Philistine woman, Delilah (Judges 16:4-20). Discovering that he had fallen for her, “the rulers of the Philistines” offered her “eleven hundred pieces of silver” each. Constable notes that this offer “was a fortune since a person could live comfortably on ‘10 [pieces] . . . of silver’ a year (17:10).” It seems that Samson thought that Delilah was simply playing a game with him. Each time she asked for the source of his strength, he gave her a wrong answer. When she tried it, he jumped up, showed his strength, and laughed. It seems unlikely that he would have ever told her the truth if he believed that his enemies were actually involved.

However, he finally did reveal his secret; his hair was the last part of his vow that he had never violated. His honesty was evident, and she demanded payment from the Philistines, while she watched his hair fall to the floor. When she called again, like she had before, that the Philistines were upon him, he thought the game was still in play, not realizing that God had left him, much as he had left God so long before. The Philistines had finally captured their archrival, and they led him away in chains, gouging out his eyes in triumph (Judges 16:21-22). Locked in prison, performing the most menial task possible, Samson finally repented and turned to Jehovah. As his hair grew, his attitude softened, and God turned toward him again.

One day, when the Philistine crowds wanted to laugh at him in sport, he asked God for the opportunity to die as a martyr in his holy war (Judges 16:23-31). Resting against the pillars which held up the roof porch where so many had gathered to laugh at him, Samson prayed for strength – the only time he is recorded to have done so – and pulled the pillars down, collapsing the roof on himself and others. There were three thousand on the roof alone, in addition to others in the stadium. Sadly, the number killed that day account for more Philistines than in Samson’s twenty years of leading Israel. He wasted so many years enjoying his status as a threat that he never actually delivered his nation from enemy control like the other judges had done.