Danites Seek Territory
In those days there was no king in Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance [of land] for themselves to live in, for until then an [a]inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel. So the sons of Dan sent from the total number of their [extended] family five brave men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to scout the land and to explore it; and they said to them, “Go, explore the land.” They came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. When they passed near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice of the young man, the Levite, and they turned aside there and said to him, “Who brought you here? And what are you doing in this place? And what do you have here?” And he said to them, “Micah has done this and that for me, and he has hired me and I have become his priest.” And they said to him, “Please ask of God, so that we may know whether our journey on which we are going will be successful.” The priest said to them, “Go in peace; the journey on which you are going is acceptable to the Lord.”
Then the five men went on and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, [how they were] living securely in the style of the Sidonians, quiet and peaceful; and there was no oppressive magistrate in the land humiliating them in anything, and they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. The five men came back [home] to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, and their brothers said to them, “What do you have to report?” They said, “Arise, let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good (fertile). Will you sit still and do nothing? Do not hesitate to go, to enter, to take possession of the land. When you enter, you will come to people [feeling] safe and secure with a spacious land [widely extended on all sides]; for God has given it into your hands—a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth.”
Then from the [tribal] family of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men armed with weapons of war set out. They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they have called that place [b]Mahaneh-dan to this day; it is west of Kiriath-jearim. They went on from there to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah’s house.
Danites Take Micah’s Idols
Then the five men who had gone to scout the country of Laish said to their relatives, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod, teraphim, an image [of silver-plated wood], and a cast image [of solid silver]? Now therefore, consider what you should do.” So they turned in that direction and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and asked him how he was doing. Now the six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the sons of Dan, stood at the entrance of the gate. Now the five men who had gone to scout the land went up and entered the house and took the image [of silver-plated wood], the ephod, the teraphim, and the cast image [of solid silver], while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war. When these [five men] went into Micah’s house and took the [plated] image, the ephod, the teraphim, and the cast image, the priest asked them, “What are you doing?” They said to him, “Keep quiet, put your hand over your mouth and come with us, and be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be a priest to a tribe and family in Israel?” The priest’s heart was glad [to hear that], and he took the ephod, the teraphim, and the image, and went among the people.
So they turned and left, and they put the children, the livestock, and the valuables and supplies in front of them. When they had gone some distance from the house of Micah, the men who were [living] in the houses near Micah’s house assembled [as a militia] and overtook the sons of Dan. They shouted to the Danites, who turned and said to Micah, “What is your reason for assembling [against us]?” He said, “You have taken away my gods which I have made, and the priest, and have gone away; what else do I have left? How can you say to me, ‘What is your reason?’” The sons of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice [of complaint] be heard among us, or else angry men will assault you and you will lose your life, along with the lives of [everyone in] your household.” Then the Danites went on their way; and Micah saw that they were too strong for him, so he turned and went back to his house.
They took the [idolatrous] things that Micah had made, and his priest, and they came to Laish, to a people who were quiet and secure; and they struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. And there was no one to rescue them because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley which belongs to Beth-rehob. And they rebuilt the city and lived in it. They named the city Dan, after Dan their forefather who was born to Israel (Jacob); however, the original name of the city was Laish. The [tribe of] the sons of Dan set up the image [of silver-plated wood] for themselves; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of [c]Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity and exile from the land. So they set up for themselves Micah’s [silver-plated wooden] image which he had made, and kept it throughout the time that the house (tabernacle) of God was at Shiloh.
- Judges 18:1 Their original tribal allotment (Josh 19:40-48) was sufficient; the problem was that they did not subdue the Amorites (Judg 1:34) and the Philistines, who controlled the territory.
- Judges 18:12 I.e. the camp of Dan.
- Judges 18:30 Changed to Manasseh in the Hebrew text.
A Levite’s Concubine Degraded
Now it happened in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that a certain Levite living [as an alien] in the most remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a [a]concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah. But his concubine was unfaithful to him, and left him and went to her father’s house in Bethlehem of Judah, and stayed there for a period of four months. Then her husband arose and went after her to speak kindly and tenderly to her in order to bring her back, taking with him his servant and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him into her father’s house, and when the father of the girl saw him, he was happy to meet him. So his father-in-law, the girl’s father, detained him; and he stayed there with him for three days. So they ate and drank, and he lodged there. On the fourth day they got up early in the morning, and the Levite prepared to leave; but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen yourself with a piece of bread, and afterward go your way.” So both men sat down and ate and drank together; and the girl’s father said to the man, “Please be willing to spend the night and enjoy yourself.” Then the man got up to leave, but his father-in-law urged him [strongly to remain]; so he spent the night there again. On the fifth day he got up early in the morning to leave, but the girl’s father said, “Please strengthen yourself, and wait until the end of the day.” So both of them ate. When the man and his concubine and his servant got up to leave, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Look, now the day comes to an end; spend the night here and celebrate, enjoy yourself. Then tomorrow you may get up early for your journey and go [b]home.”
But the man was not willing to stay the night; so he got up and left and came to a place opposite Jebus (that is Jerusalem). With him were two saddled donkeys [and his servant] and his concubine. When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone, and the servant said to his master, “Please come and let us turn aside into this Jebusite city and spend the night in it.” But his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into a city of foreigners who are not of the sons (descendants) of Israel. We will go on as far as Gibeah.” And he said to his servant, “Come and let us approach one of these places: and we will spend the night in Gibeah or in Ramah.” So they passed by and went on their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah, which belongs to [the tribe of] Benjamin, and they turned aside there to go in and spend the night in Gibeah. And the Levite went in and sat down in the open square of the city, because no man invited them into his house to spend the night.
Then behold, there was an old man who was coming out of the field from his work at evening. He was from the hill country of Ephraim but was staying in Gibeah, and the men of the place were sons (descendants) of Benjamin. When he looked up, he saw the traveler [and his companions] in the city square; and the old man said, “Where are you going, and where do you come from?” The Levite replied, “We are passing through from Bethlehem [in the territory] of Judah to the most remote part of the hill country of Ephraim; I am from there. I went to Bethlehem of Judah, but I am now going [home] to my house, and there is no man [in the city] who will take me into his house [for the night]. Yet we have both straw and feed for our donkeys, and also bread and wine for me, and for [c]your handmaid, and for the young man who is with your servant; there is no lack of anything.” Then the old man said, “Peace be to you. Only leave all your needs to me; and do not spend the night in the open square.” So he brought him into his house and fed the donkeys; and they washed their feet and ate and drank.
While they were [d]celebrating, behold, men of the city, certain worthless and evil men, surrounded the house, pounding on the door; and they spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house so that we may have relations with him.” Then the man, the master of the house, went out and said to them, “No, my fellow citizens, please do not act so wickedly. Since this man has come to my house [as my guest], do not commit this sacrilege. Here is my virgin daughter and this man’s concubine. I will bring them out now; abuse and humiliate them and do to them [e]whatever you want, but do not commit this act of [f]sacrilege against this man.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man took the Levite’s concubine and brought her outside to them; and they had relations with her and abused her all night until morning; and when daybreak came, they let her go. [g]At daybreak the woman came and collapsed at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was [fully] light.
When her master got up in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, he saw his concubine lying at the door of the house, and her hands were on the threshold. He said to her, “Get up, and let us go.” But there was no answer [for she had died]. Then he put her [body] on the donkey; and the man left and went home. When he arrived at his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his [dead] concubine, he cut her [corpse] limb by limb into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] throughout all the territory of Israel. All who saw the dismembered parts said, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day that the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel, and speak [your minds]!”
- Judges 19:1 I.e. a type of secondary or inferior “wife” (often a slave), much lower in rank than the official wife who managed the household and gave birth to the “legitimate” children. Concubines had marginal rights to financial support and recognition. Their children were usually acknowledged as offspring of the man, but were of lower status than the children born to the official wife.
- Judges 19:9 Lit to your tent.
- Judges 19:19 I.e. the concubine.
- Judges 19:22 Lit treating their hearts well.
- Judges 19:24 Lit what is good in your eyes.
- Judges 19:24 I.e. despicable sin.
- Judges 19:26 Lit At the turning of the morning.