Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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JUDGES - Chapter 18

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Judges xviii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Days, after the death of Josue and the ancients. Debbora speaks of the tribe of Dan, as addicted to navigation, chap. v. 17. (Calmet) --- It had now conquered most of the enemies who had formerly forced some to seek fresh settlements, (Haydock) as it is hinted at, Josue xix. The particulars are here given in detail. (Calmet) --- Received, &c. They had their portions assigned them, Josue xix. 40. But through their own sloth, possessed as yet but a small part of it. See Judges i. 34. (Challoner; Worthington) --- Protestants supply, "all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel." (Haydock)

Ver. 2. Family. Hebrew, "From their extremity." Which may denote such as came to hand, (Calmet) or princes, (De Dieu) or people of mean appearance, (Castalion) unless we explain it "from their coasts," with Montanus, Protestants, &c. (Haydock)

Ver. 4. Voice. His pronunciation was different from that of the Ephraimites, chap. xii. 6.

Ver. 5. Lord (Elohim.) A title sometimes given to false gods. The Levite answered in the name of Jehova; whence it is inferred that they all adored the true God, though their worship was not clear of superstition. (Calmet)

Ver. 6. Looketh with approbation. (Haydock) --- It is uncertain whether this prediction proceeded from God, from the devil, or from the crafty Levite, (Calmet) who might answer as he thought the messengers wished him to do. (Menochius) --- Their undertaking proved successful. But the devil, who knew the valour of the Danites, and the security of the citizens of Lais, or even a man of moderate prudence and sagacity, might have told what would be the probable event of an attack in such circumstances. (Calmet) --- Whether God approved or condemned the Levite's worship, he might speak by his mouth, as he did by that of Balaam. (Haydock) --- But it is generally supposed that Jonathan was the organ of the devil, (Calmet) who answered with a degree of obscurity, as he was accustomed, (Worthington) that, in any case, his credit might subsist. (Haydock)

Ver. 7. Lais, four miles from Paneas, towards Tyre. It is called Lesem Dan; (Josue xix. 47.) both the ancient and the new name being joined together. --- Rich, Hebrew has almost as many different meanings as interpreters. De Dieu, "There was no one to put them to shame, no chief magistrate." (Calmet) --- Protestants, "and there was no magistrate in the land that might put them to shame in any thing." (Haydock) --- The citizens of Lais were perhaps a colony, and followed the manners and religion of Sidon, but were at a day's journey from their territory; (Josephus) so that the latter could not come to their assistance at a very short warning. The Danites were therefore encouraged to make the attack, (Calmet) particularly as this city was confident in its own strength and riches, and made no alliance with any other. (Haydock) --- Septuagint Alexandrian, &c., read, Aram instead of Adam. "They had no commerce with Syria." But the Roman edition (Calmet) has, "they are far off from the Sidonians, and have no (word or) commerce with man." The edition of Grabe repeats a great part of this verse again; ver. 9, with an obelus.

Ver. 9. There will, &c., is added to signify, that it will be necessary only to go to take possession. (Haydock)

Ver. 10. Secure. "No one is sooner overcome than the man who has no fear; and security is generally the forerunner of ruin." Velleius 2., initium est calamitatis securitas.

Ver. 11. War, besides their wives, &c., ver. 21.

Ver. 12. Behind, on the west. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. To do. Whether we must take them by force or by craft. (Haydock) --- It seems they had a premeditated design to seize them. (Calmet)

Ver. 17. They. Hebrew and Septuagint, "and the five men that went to spy out the land." (Haydock) --- Off. The Levite's attention was drawn off for a while by the 600 men, till the five, who had formerly become acquainted with him, had ransacked his little temple. (Calmet) --- Perceiving them as they came out, he began to complain, but was soon persuaded to follow the Danites, and to abandon his former protector. So little dependence can be had on those who are faithless to their God! (Haydock)

Ver. 19. Mouth; to signify that silence must be observed, Job xxix. 9., and Ecclesiasticus v. 12.[14?] Angerona, among the Romans, and Harpocrates, in Egypt, were represented in this posture; digitoque silentia suadet. (Ovid, Met. ix.)

Ver. 22. Houses. Hebrew, "near the house of Michas." The poor fellow called his neighbours, and pursued the Danites, (Haydock) despising as it were all his other effects, in comparison with his god. (Menochius)

Ver. 25. House. The violence and injustice of the Danites cannot be excused, particularly as they were stealing what they deemed sacred. (Calmet)

Ver. 27. And, &c. Hebrew, "and they took what Michas had made, and the priest,....and came." (Haydock) --- Fire, as they could not make themselves masters of it otherwise. They were forced afterwards to rebuild it. Some Rabbins have supposed, that Sidon and its colonies were not given by God to Israel: but their proofs are unsatisfactory. Lais was inhabited by the Chanaanites; and though it was in the territory of Aser, as the people of Dan had made the conquest, they were suffered to keep quiet possession of it. See Josue xvii. 10.

Ver. 28. Rohob, which stood at the foot of Libanus. The vale belonging to this city, extended for about twenty miles.

Ver. 29. Lais. Hebrew Ulam Layish, as the Septuagint express it. (Calmet) --- But the former term is explained by the Alexandrian and other copies in the sense of the Vulgate, before. (Haydock) --- Dan is often placed for the northern boundary of Palestine. (Calmet)

Ver. 30. Idol. Hebrew pasel. (Worthington) --- Grabe's Septuagint, "the graven thing of Michas, and Jonathan the son of Gersam, of the son of Manasses." The Roman copy omits "of Michas," but retains Manasses, as the present Hebrew reads, instead of Moses. (Haydock) --- It is suspected that the Jews have inserted an n over the word Mose[Moses?], that it might not be known that a grandson of their lawgiver had been guilty of such impiety. They have not dared, however, to place the letter in the same rank as the others, but have suspended it, (Calmet) as if it were suspected, says Michaelis. Abendana relates, that by (or on) the authority of the ancients, this nun was added for the honour of Moses, lest his grandson might appear to be the first little sacrificing priest of an idol. The Latin Vulgate reads the name of Moses; and I am convinced that Moses, and not Manasses, ought to be understood: for how could a Levite have Manasses for his ancestor? (Grotius, Comm. 1753.) The Jews pretend that this relationship to the idolatrous king of Juda was not real, but figurative, in as much as Jonathan acted like him. But thus the reproach would fall on Gersam, who is said to be the son of Manasses, while the idolatrous priest is only placed as the son of Gersam. It is surely very absurd to say that he was the son of Manasses, because Manasses acted like him 800 years afterwards; and Sol. Jarchi honestly confesses that, "for the honour of Moses nun was written, on purpose to change the name, and it was written suspended, to indicate that it was not Manasses, but Moses." See Talmud Bava. fol. 109. The letter has, however, sometimes been suspended half way, and sometimes uniformly inserted, so that it has at last supplanted the genuine word. Some copies of the Septuagint agree with the Vulgate. (Brug.) --- Theodoret reads, "Jonathan, the son of Manasses, of the son (uiou) of Gersam, of the son of Moses," retaining both words, in order to be sure of the right one, as the copies varied. (Kennicott, Dis. 2., see Deuteronomy xxvii. 4.) Here we have a plain proof of the liberties which the Jews have taken with their text. But the providence of God has left us means to detect their fraud, by the Vulgate, &c. In other difficulties of a like nature, the collation of ancient manuscripts and versions will generally remove the uncertainty, and we may pronounce that the word of God has not been adulterated, though perhaps no one copy may now represent it in all its genuine beauty and integrity. See Prœlog. in SS. Mariana, C. xxiii. T. iii.; Menochius, &c. Protestants here follow the corrupted Hebrew, "Manasseh." (Haydock) --- Captivity, under the Philistines, when many of their brethren were taken prisoners, (Psalm lxxvii. 61.; Tirinus) and when Samuel obliged all Israel to renounce idolatry, 1 Kings vii. 4. (Estius) --- Serarius, (q. 7.) or the sacred penman, speaks of a captivity, the particulars of which are not recorded. Salien understands it of the captivity of Nephthali, 35 years before the rest of the kingdom of Israel was destroyed: (4 Kings xv. 29.; Haydock) though Lyranus and Bonfrere explain it of the latter event, under Salmanaser, 4 Kings xvii. (Menochius) --- We may allow that some interruptions took place under Samuel, David, &c. (Salien) --- In effect, Jonathan and his posterity might serve the idol of Michas till it was destroyed, at the same time as the ark was removed from Silo; (ver. 31.) and afterwards they might relapse into their wonted impiety, and act in the character of priests to the golden calves of Jeroboam; who, no doubt, would prefer such of the tribe of Levi as would come over to him, (Ezechiel xliv. 10.) though he was generally forced to select his priests from the dregs of the people, 3 Kings xii. In this sense they might be priests in Dan, till Salmanaser led them captives. But substituting galoth or geloth, we might translate, "till the deliverance of the land," which was effected by Samuel; (Calmet) who not only repressed the Philistines, (1 Kings vii. 13.) but also persuaded all Israel to renounce the service of idols, 1 Kings vii. 4. (Haydock)

Ver. 31. In Silo. The ark was taken by the Philistines, (1 Kings iv.) after remaining at Silo 349 years, and 217 from the idolatry of Michas and of Dan. (Salien) (Haydock) --- In those. The Hebrew here commences the following chapter, which contains an account of another instance of licentiousness, which probably took place after the two former. Phinees was high priest; but there was no civil head. (Calmet)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The expedition of the men of Dan against Lais: in their way they rob Michas of his priest and his gods.

1 In those days there was no king in Israel, and the tribe of Dan sought them an inheritance to dwell in: for unto that day they had not received their lot among the other tribes.

2 So the children of Dan sent five most valiant men, of their stock and family, from Saraa and Esthaol, to spy out the land, and to view it diligently: and they said to them: Go, and view the land. They went on their way, and when they came to Mount Ephraim, they went into the house of Michas, and rested there:

3 And knowing the voice of the young man the Levite, and lodging with him, they said to him: Who brought thee hither? what dost thou here? why wouldst thou come hither?

4 He answered them: Michas hath done such and such things for me, and hath hired me to be his priest.

5 Then they desired him to consult the Lord, that they might know whether their journey should be prosperous, and the thing should have effect.

6 He answered them: Go in peace: the Lord looketh on your way, and the journey that you go.

7 So the five men going on came to Lais: and they saw how the people dwelt therein without any fear, according to the custom of the Sidonians, secure and easy, having no man at all to oppose them, being very rich, and living separated, at a distance from Sidon and from all men.

8 And they returned to their brethren in Saraa and Esthaol, who asked them what they had done? to whom they answered:

9 Arise, and let us go up to them: for we have seen the land which is exceeding rich and fruitful: neglect not, lose no time: let us go and possess it, there will be no difficulty.

10 We shall come to a people that is secure, into a spacious country, and the Lord will deliver the place to us, in which there is no want of any thing that groweth on the earth.

11 There went therefore of the kindred of Dan, to wit, from Saraa and Esthaol, six hundred men, furnished with arms for war.

12 And going up they lodged in Cariathiarim of Juda: which place from that time is called the camp of Dan, and is behind Cariathiarim.

13 From thence they passed into Mount Ephraim. And when they were come to the house of Michas,

14 The five men, that before had been sent to view the land of Lais, said to the rest of their brethren: You know that in these houses there is an ephod and theraphim, and a graven and a molten god: see what you are pleased to do.

15 And when they had turned a little aside, they went into the house of the young man the Levite, who was in the house of Michas: and they saluted him with words of peace.

16 And the six hundred men stood before the door, appointed with their arms.

17 But they that were gone into the house of the young man, went about to take away the graven god, and the ephod, and the theraphim, and the molten god, and the priest stood before the door, the six hundred valiant men waiting not far off.

18 So they that were gone in took away the graven thing, the ephod, and the idols, and the molten god. And the priest said to them: What are you doing?

19 And they said to him: Hold thy peace, and put thy finger on thy mouth, and come with us, that we may have thee for a father, and a priest. Whether is better for thee, to be a priest in the house of one man, or in a tribe and family in Israel?

20 When he had heard this, he agreed to their words, and took the ephod, and the idols, and the graven god, and departed with them.

21 And when they were going forward, and had put before them the children and the cattle, and all that was valuable,

22 And were now at a distance from the house of Michas, the men that dwelt in the houses of Michas gathering together followed them,

23 And began to shout out after them. They looked back, and said to Michas: What aileth thee? Why dost thou cry?

24 And he answered: You have taken away my gods which I have made me, and the priest, and all that I have, and do you say: What aileth thee?

25 And the children of Dan said to him: See thou say no more to us, lest men enraged come upon thee, and thou perish with all thy house.

26 And so they went on the journey they had begun. But Michas seeing that they were stronger than he, returned to his house.

27 And the six hundred men took the priest, and the things we spoke of before, and came to Lais, to a people that was quiet and secure, and smote them with the edge of the sword: and the city they burnt with fire,

28 There being no man at all who brought them any succour, because they dwelt far from Sidon, and had no society or business with any man. And the city was in the land of Rohob: and they rebuilt it, and dwelt therein,

29 Calling the name of the city Dan, after the name of their father, who was the son of Israel, which before was called Lais.

30 And they set up to themselves the graven idol, and Jonathan the son of Gersam, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests in the tribe of Dan, until the day of their captivity.

31 And the idol of Michas remained with them all the time, that the house of God was in Silo. In those days there was no king in Israel.