1These things happened before kings ruled Israel.
The Tribe of Dan Takes Micah's Priest and Idols
About this time, the tribe of Dan was looking for a place to live. The other tribes had land, but the people of Dan did not really have any to call their own. 2The tribe chose five warriors to represent their clans and told them, “Go and find some land where we can live.”
The warriors left the area of Zorah and Eshtaol and went into the hill country of Ephraim. One night they stayed at Micah's house, 3because they heard the young Levite talking, and they knew from his accent that he was from the south. They asked him, “What are you doing here? Who brought you here?”
4The Levite replied, “Micah hired me as his priest.” Then he told them how well Micah had treated him.
5“Please talk to God for us,” the men said. “Ask God if we will be successful in what we are trying to do.”
6“Don't worry,” answered the priest. “The Lord is pleased with what you are doing.”
7The five men left and went to the town of Laish, whose people were from Sidon,#18.7 whose people … Sidon: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. but Sidon was too far away to protect them. Even though their town had no walls, the people thought they were safe from attack. So they had not asked anyone else#18.7 anyone else: Hebrew; one ancient translation has “the Arameans,” who were a short distance to the north. for protection, which meant that the tribe of Dan could easily take over Laish.#18.7 which … Laish: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
8The five men went back to Zorah and Eshtaol, where their relatives asked, “Did you find any land?”
9-10“Let's go!” the five men said. “We saw some very good land with enough room for all of us, and it has everything we will ever need. What are you waiting for? Let's attack and take it. You'll find that the people think they're safe, but God is giving the land to us.”
11Six hundred men from the tribe of Dan strapped on their weapons and left Zorah and Eshtaol with their families.#18.11 Eshtaol with their families: Hebrew “Eshtaol” (see verse 21). 12One night they camped near Kiriath-Jearim in the territory of Judah, and that's why the place just west of Kiriath-Jearim is still known as Dan's Camp.#18.12 Dan's Camp: See the note at 13.25. 13Then they went into the hill country of Ephraim.
When they came close to Micah's house, 14the five men who had been spies asked the other warriors, “Did you know that someone in this village has several idols and a sacred priestly vest? What do you think we should do about it?”
15-18The 600 warriors left the road and went to the house on Micah's property where the young Levite priest lived. They stood at the gate and greeted the priest. Meanwhile, the five men who had been there before went into Micah's house and took the sacred priestly vest and the idols.
“Hey!” the priest shouted. “What do you think you're doing?”
19“Quiet!” the men said. “Keep your mouth shut and listen. Why don't you come with us and be our priest, so you can tell us what God wants us to do? You could stay here and be a priest for one man's family, but wouldn't you rather be the priest for a clan or even a whole tribe of Israel?”
20The priest really liked that idea. So he took the vest and the idols and joined the others 21from the tribe of Dan. Then they turned and left, after putting their children, their cattle, and the rest of their other possessions in front.
22They had traveled for some time before Micah asked his neighbors to help him get his things back. He and his men caught up with the people of Dan 23and shouted for them to stop.
They turned to face him and asked, “What's wrong? Why did you bring all these men?”
24Micah answered, “You know what's wrong. You stole the gods#18.24 gods: Or “god.” I made, and you took my priest. I don't have anything left.”
25“We don't want to hear any more about it,” the people of Dan said. “And if you make us angry, you'll only get yourself and your family killed.” 26After saying this, they turned and left.
Micah realized there was no way he could win a fight with them, and so he went back home.
The Tribe of Dan Captures Laish
27-28The tribe of Dan took Micah's priest and the things Micah had made, and headed for Laish, which was located in a valley controlled by the town of Beth-Rehob. Laish was defenseless, because it had no walls and was too far from Sidon for the Sidonians to help defend it. The leaders of Laish had not even asked nearby towns to help them in case of an attack.
The warriors from Dan made a surprise attack on Laish, killing everyone and burning it down. Then they rebuilt the town and settled there themselves. 29But they named it Dan, after one of Israel's#18.29 Israel's: Israel was another name for Jacob, the father of the twelve ancestors of the tribes of Israel. sons, who was the ancestor of their tribe.
30-31Even though the place of worship#18.30,31 place of worship: The Hebrew text has “house of God,” which at this time was probably the sacred tent. was in Shiloh, the people of Dan set up the idol Micah had made. They worshiped the idol, and the Levite was their priest. His name was Jonathan, and he was a descendant of Gershom the son of Moses.#18.30,31 Moses: Some manuscripts of two ancient translations; the Standard Hebrew Text has “Manasseh,” but written in a special way that tells the reader “Moses” had been changed to “Manasseh.” His descendants served as priests for the tribe of Dan, until the people of Israel were taken away as prisoners by their enemies.