Idolatry in the Tribe of Dan
1Now in those days Israel had no king. And the tribe of Dan was trying to find a place where they could settle, for they had not yet moved into the land assigned to them when the land was divided among the tribes of Israel. 2So the men of Dan chose from their clans five capable warriors from the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol to scout out a land for them to settle in.
When these warriors arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, they came to Micah’s house and spent the night there. 3While at Micah’s house, they recognized the young Levite’s accent, so they went over and asked him, “Who brought you here, and what are you doing in this place? Why are you here?” 4He told them about his agreement with Micah and that he had been hired as Micah’s personal priest.
5Then they said, “Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.”
6“Go in peace,” the priest replied. “For the Lord is watching over your journey.”
7So the five men went on to the town of Laish, where they noticed the people living carefree lives, like the Sidonians; they were peaceful and secure.*18:7 The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. The people were also wealthy because their land was very fertile. And they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby.
8When the men returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their relatives asked them, “What did you find?”
9The men replied, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. What are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to go and take possession of it. 10When you get there, you will find the people living carefree lives. God has given us a spacious and fertile land, lacking in nothing!”
11So 600 men from the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12They camped at a place west of Kiriath-jearim in Judah, which is called Mahaneh-dan*18:12 Mahaneh-dan means “the camp of Dan.” to this day. 13Then they went on from there into the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.
14The five men who had scouted out the land around Laish explained to the others, “These buildings contain a sacred ephod, as well as some household idols, a carved image, and a cast idol. What do you think you should do?” 15Then the five men turned off the road and went over to Micah’s house, where the young Levite lived, and greeted him kindly. 16As the 600 armed warriors from the tribe of Dan stood at the entrance of the gate, 17the five scouts entered the shrine and removed the carved image, the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the cast idol. Meanwhile, the priest was standing at the gate with the 600 armed warriors.
18When the priest saw the men carrying all the sacred objects out of Micah’s shrine, he said, “What are you doing?”
19“Be quiet and come with us,” they said. “Be a father and priest to all of us. Isn’t it better to be a priest for an entire tribe and clan of Israel than for the household of just one man?”
20The young priest was quite happy to go with them, so he took along the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the carved image. 21They turned and started on their way again, placing their children, livestock, and possessions in front of them.
22When the people from the tribe of Dan were quite a distance from Micah’s house, the people who lived near Micah came chasing after them. 23They were shouting as they caught up with them. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?”
24“What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?’” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!”
25The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.” 26So the men of Dan continued on their way. When Micah saw that there were too many of them for him to attack, he turned around and went home.
27Then, with Micah’s idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked with swords and burned the town to the ground. 28There was no one to rescue the people, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. This happened in the valley near Beth-rehob.
Then the people of the tribe of Dan rebuilt the town and lived there. 29They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel’s son, but it had originally been called Laish.
30Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses,*18:30 As in an ancient Hebrew tradition, some Greek manuscripts, and Latin Vulgate; Masoretic Text reads son of Manasseh. as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. 31So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.