MLToday: [Judges Chapter Eighteen]: City of Judgment or City of Judah? In this chapter we see the tribe of Dan overthrowing the city of Laish. The name of this city means “city of the Lion”. They were a peace loving people, secure in their borders who minded their own business and lived in security. The tribe of Dan at this time had failed to capture the land God gave them through Moses so they saw Laish as an easy target – choosing to overthrow a peace loving people instead of doing what God called them to do. As a result they rename the city after themselves. Dan means judgment. Is the church a “city of Judgment” or a city of the Lion?

[Jdg 18:1-31 KJV] 1 In those days [there was] no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day [all their] inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel. 2 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, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there. 3 When they [were] by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this [place]? and what hast thou here? 4 And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest. 5 And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. 6 And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD [is] your way wherein ye go.

In the previous chapter a man named Micah steals from his mother without her knowledge. She curses the thief and he confesses and the mother tries to undo the curse with a religious pretense. In so doing she lies about a gift of silver supposedly dedicated to the Lord but instead she kept back part of it for herself (as Ananias and Sapphira did in the book of Acts). As a result of lies and deceit the family erects an illegitimate altar to cover up the sin in their household and fracture in their relationships. They seduce a Levite to forsake his duties in Shiloh and to come and be the religious officiate over their altar of corrupted worship of Jehovah. In all of this the matter took place within the environs of Micah’s home over the course of two generations. Now in this chapter we see that the fracture in Micah’s home now infects the tribe of Dan and eventual becomes a stain of idolatry on Israel for her entire history up to the Persian captivity.

The chapter begins by stating that this was a time when there was no king in Israel and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. The implied solution is that if a king had been over the people these things had not happened. However in 1 Sam. 8:7 the Lord tells Samuel that in demanding a king the people are rejecting God. So in this statement “there was no king in Isreal…” there is an implied accusation. When the people wanted Gideon to rule over them he declined saying “… nay let the Lord rule over you …” which was God’s intention when the people first came into Canaan. Because Gideon though he was a great deliverer would not give the people what they wanted we see at the end of the Gideon narrative they people “did not show kindness to Gideon”. In all of this the political sentiment discussed each night around the dinner table was “…if we had a king we wouldn’t have these problems…” But God didn’t want them to have a king – he intended them to follow him under what amounted to a theocratic rule through a partnership of the priesthood and the leadership of prophets and deliverers like Gideon, Jephthah and Samson and so on. The implied accusation is similar to the complaint of Adam when God asked him why he hid himself in the garden. Adam’s reply in effect was “… if you weren’t so scary I wouldn’t have to hide…” This is the character of fallen nature. To lay the blame on God or on others for our own sins and mistakes. Adam goes on to blame God “… if you hadn’t given me that woman none of this would have happened….”

So now we see that the tribe of Dan hadn’t come into their inheritance. All the other tribes had secured the land that Moses appointed them but the tribe of Dan still had not conquered the territory God had given them. Instead if you look back to Gideon and Jephthah’s time you will see they lived on ships and pursued a maritime occupation. When battles ensued instead of joining with their brothers they would board their ships and wait till the battle turned in the favor of the Israelites and then come to the scene complaining that they weren’t called to share in the victory. This is similar to what the Ephraimites did as well. Why would they hold back like this? Well the name Dan means “judge”. In looking at Gideon, or Jephthah they didn’t think Gideon with merely three hundred men, or Jephthah with his questionable heritage could gain a victory. So they were judgmental and they only showed up in support when they could see plainly that victory was in hand. They believed only what they could see. They had no faith. You cannot be judgmental and have faith these two things are mutually exclusive one of another.

So the Danites did not secure the borders God gave them so they sent a small group of spies into Ephraim to look for a land and a city they could easily conquer. Along the way they stop off at the house of Micah and hear the Levite attending the altar made from the stolen silver in the previous chapter. They ask him to bless them and without consulting the Lord at all he immediately says “yes” the Lord will be with them and sends them on their way.

7 Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that [were] therein, how they dwelt careless [read securely], after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and [there was] no magistrate in the land, that might put [them] to shame in [any] thing; and they [were] far from the Zidonians, and had no business with [any] man. 8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What [say] ye? 9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it [is] very good: and [are] ye still? be not slothful to go, [and] to enter to possess the land. 10 When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where [there is] no want of any thing that [is] in the earth. 11 And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war. 12 And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, [it is] behind Kirjathjearim. 13 And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah. 14 Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do. 15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, [even] unto the house of Micah, and saluted him. 16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which [were] of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. 17 And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, [and] came in thither, [and] took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men [that were] appointed with weapons of war. 18 And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye? 19 And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: [is it] better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? 20 And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.

The five Danites were sent from the tribe of Dan to find a city they could easily conquer and live in. They came to the city of Laish which means “Lion”. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. They saw that the people dwelled “carelessly” – the word here actually means securely. They saw that they “had no business with any other man…” In other words they were self contained and not meddlesome. They were peace loving, secure and occupied about their own business. Rather than admire the people of the city of the Lion they instead saw them as easy prey – an easy city to defeat and take over for their own. This is the attitude of a judgmental person. The arm chair quarterback sits in his chair eating Cheetos and hotdogs irritated and complaining that the footballers on his favorite team are not playing the game right. Yet if this man was on the field he wouldn’t make it one or two plays before he collapse. Sloth is at the heart of a judgmental attitude. A judgmental person wants what others have worked for or at least want to put their stamp of opinion on what others have built. A judgmental person cannot sit idly by and allow others to live their lives in peace. The Danites had no peace because they weren’t willing to do the work to have peace in their borders. Neither were they willing to allow the people of Laish to live in peace either. They planned to conquer the city all under the religious pretense of their God given right to an inheritance in Israel. It was a small detail to them that they had neglected their own heritage choosing rather to take from others what they had not worked for. In the process they visit again the house of Micah and steal his idols and convince the foolish Levite to join them. Thus the theft and lies that Micah’s house and false temple were built on come to their end. As the scripture says in 1 Peter:

[2Pe 2:19 KJV] … of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

Micah and his mother and the Levite were liars, thieves and cheats who covered their deceit and sin with the religious pretense of a corrupt altar. This was attractive to the Danites because they likewise were corrupt in their character so they take from Micah that which he had stolen from God.

21 So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them. 22 [And] when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that [were] in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan. 23 And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company? 24 And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what [is] this [that] ye say unto me, What aileth thee? 25 And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household. 26 And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they [were] too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house. 27 And they took [the things] which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people [that were] at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. 28 And [there was] no deliverer, because it [was] far from Zidon, and they had no business with [any] man; and it was in the valley that [lieth] by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. 29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city [was] Laish at the first. 30 And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

The Danites emboldened by the false words of the corrupt Levite and their stolen altar attack the Laish (the city of the Lion) and make it their own. They name the city after themselves thus changing the meaning from the “city of the Lion” to the “city of Judgment”. Now the sin of Micah becomes a cultural phenomena that takes hold in Israel and actually remains through out the time of the kings right down to the taking of Israel into captivity to Persia.

This battle for the city of Laish continues today in Christian culture. Throughout the bible the church and the people of God are spoken of as a city. Augustine in the fourth century wrote a book call “City of God” comparing all of human civilization as being on the foundation of the “city of God” or the “city of man”. The churches we have been a part of in our lifetimes were they the “city of Judgment” or the “city of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah”? When the world looks at the church do they see Judgementalism or the character of Christ? Let us purpose in our hearts not to be a spiritual Danite – judging others and stirring up strife just to hear our own voice speaking. Let us look in our own households rather and JUDGE OURSELVES. Have we swept our sins under the rug like Micah – hiding theft and lies under a religious pretense while neglecting the true worship of God at Shiloh? God has something better for us than all of this. Let us return to Shiloh and accept the sacrifice of cleansing and offer there the burnt offerings of consecration to God afresh and anew today.

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