Reading through the Bible together
We were told in the first chapter of Judges that the conquest of the land of Canaan was incomplete (1:27-26). This section narrates how the tribe of Dan came to possess their inheritance in northern Canaan. The identification of the Levite as the grandson of Manasseh (or perhaps Moses; 18:30) indicates these events took place fairly early in the period of the Judges. However, the focus of the narrative is not on the conquest of Laish (later called Dan). The story is included here to explain how the northernmost tribe of Israel came to set up a false Israelite religion so well established that it would last until the time of the Assyrian captivity, the same idolatrous worship that would bring about that captivity.
The narrative of Micah and the Danites also emphasize the central theme of the book of Judges: “there was no king in Israel” and “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The Lord—Yahweh—was supposed to be their King, but the Israelites ignored, corrupted, or forgot every precept of His law with devastating consequences. Both Micah and the Danites felt that they could appropriate God’s blessing by setting up their own center of worship, in competition (and opposition) to the official one at Shiloh. Jonathan the Levite, the one person in this story who should have known better, is not at all bothered with the idolatry and is glad to have the opportunity to be the high priest of this false religion (18:20, 30).
The narrative of Micah and the Danites begins with theft and idolatry and it ends with theft and idolatry. Just like the story of Samson, one sin leads to another and the moral consequences of those sins get worse with time. Sin begets sin and the reward of sin is always death. Though the Danites are successful, we should not confuse success with God’s approval. As we reflect on this story, let us pray for God to help us break the pattern of sin in our lives. Let us remember that there is a King in Israel and that Christ is our inheritance.
Justo E. Morales
Southern Adventist University