The Theft: Scouts from the small tribe of Dan pass Micah’s house in search of land to settle. Later they return with their army, steal Micah’s household gods, and offer the Levite a position as priest to their whole tribe. The Levite gladly agrees. When Micah complains, the Danites threaten to kill him and his family. The Danites then attach a “peaceful and unsuspecting” city in violation of the law’s rules of warfare (Deut. 20:10).
Then the five men who had gone to spy out the country of Laish answered and said to their brethren, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod, household idols, a carved image, and a molded image? Now therefore, consider what you should do.” 15 So they turned aside there, and came to the house of the young Levite man–to the house of Micah–and greeted him. 16 The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the children of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 Then the five men who had gone to spy out the land went up. Entering there, they took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image.
The Danites’ offer to Micha’s Levite – be a father and a priest to us – was the same plea Micah had made earlier (17:10). Yet their offer was more attractive, for it allowed him to be priest over an entire tribe. The Levite’s cynical acceptance of this opportunity for greater prestige indicates further how debased conditions had become. Even Levites were selling false spiritual services to the highest bidder.
18:30 The Danites priest and his descendants served the tribe for many years. A reminder of Dan’s later apostasy. Jeroboam I would establish idolatrous shrines in Dan and Bethel (1 King 12).
The priest stood at the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men who were armed with weapons of war. 18 When these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19 And they said to him, “Be quiet, put your hand over your mouth, and come with us; be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?”… Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.