TODAY’S READING: JUDGES 17-19
In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and these things will be added to you.”
Do not worry about food, drink, or clothing. God will give you these things. Instead “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
The Greek first in this passage doesn’t mean do this first and then seek food, drink, and clothing second, and then other things third. No, the word first here means the thing of highest importance, the thing superior to everything else, the principle thing.
Therefore, our lives should wholly consist of seeking the kingdom of God and its righteousness. To seek the kingdom, we must seek its king, Jesus. When seek Jesus and his righteousness, God will give us everything else. In other words, we will receive an inheritance from God.
How interesting that immediately after this, In Matthew 7:1, Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The natural way of man is to be anxious about what he’s going to eat, drink, and wear. When we are under this manner of living, not seeking the kingdom of God, we judge. We judge who is deemed worthy to have this and that, thereby satisfying our anxiousness about the earthly things we have or don’t have.
When we live in this anxiousness, this judging, we seek an inheritance for ourselves. This is where strife, fighting, and wars come from.
James 4:1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so your murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
When we are not seeking the kingdom of God and its righteousness, when we are not seeking the king Jesus, when we do not pledge are allegiance solely to him, then we begin to seek an inheritance for ourselves, then we judge others and go to war with them.
This is just what we see in Judges 18. It is an apt description of us when we don’t make seeking the kingdom of God and Jesus the principle thing in our lives.
SEEKING AN INHERITANCE FOR ITSELF
Judges 18:1 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in.”
That there was no king in Israel sets the stage for the entire chapter. Israel did not see God as on the throne. Therefore, the tribe of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance. So, instead of seeking the kingdom and its king, Dan was seeking the things of the earth – food, drink, clothing. Dan was seeking its own inheritance, the benefits of the king, without seeking the king himself.
The name Dan means judge or judging. Therefore, just like Jesus said, Dan symbolizes how we are willing to judge others’ worthiness when we are anxious over earthly things so that we satisfy our lusts and passions.
NO INHERITANCE HAD FALLEN TO DAN
Judges 18:2 says, “For until then no inheritance among the tribes had fallen to them.”
Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks of giving an inheritance to Israel. God would give the land to Israel. Israel would not have to take it. They would just have to possess it.
God had given Dan an inheritance. This is recorded in Joshua 19:40-46. But, verse 47 says that Dan lost the inheritance that was given to them. So, Dan fought for it. They tried to take it.
Therefore, it is quite interesting that Judges 18:2 says that an inheritance had not fallen to Dan. The Hebrew word for fallen is napal. Napal means to fall, collapse; to be inferior to, fall behind; to raid, fall upon; to drop; to bring to ruin. The word is quite often used in the context of falling down dead as a result of violence.
So, Dan lost the inheritance God had given them. But, now Dan was going to take an inheritance for itself. How? As a judge. By judging others inferior to them, raiding them, bringing them to ruin so as to fulfill their passions, their lusts, and their desires.
This shows that when we are judging others as worthy or unworthy of anything we are acting in a self-serving way. But, love “does not insist on its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) Therefore, since God is love, judging others is not the way of love and not the way we are to live. In fact, Jesus pronounces his true judgement from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There is love truly not insisting on its way.
SEEKING WITH THE NATURAL SENSES
When we are judging others because we are anxious for the things of the earth, we start seeking to fulfill our needs through our natural senses.
Judges 18:2 says, “So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it.”
Why did Dan send “five able men?”
The word able in the Hebrew is actually a phrase made up of several words. The root words of the phrase mean:
- to grow profusely
- to be intimate?
- army; faculty, power, strength; wealth, property
While five can symbolize grace, it can also symbolize man. We have five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot, and five natural senses.
Therefore, I believe the idea being conveyed here is that these were men who relied on the power and strength of their five senses, their natural reasoning, to grow in an attempt to be intimate with God.
These men were from Zorah and from Eshtaol. Zorah means hornets or nest of hornets with the subtext of a place of troublesome men. Eshtaol means a strong woman. I believe Zorah speaks to those operating by the flesh and Eshtaol speaks to those operating by the Spirit. The men of Dan were trying to live by both the flesh and the Spirit.
The Hebrew word for “to spy out” means to teach; to slander; to move away from, to spy out.
Figuratively, Dan sent out five able men, men strong in their natural senses to find their own land, their own dwelling place that would be moving them away from God as they further explored the things of the earth.
So, Dan was seeking a land for themselves, an inheritance in the flesh, instead of seeking the kingdom of God. But, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Instead of asking and waiting in faith for an inheritance, Dan was seeking its own inheritance. James 1:6-8 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
We are told to seek first the kingdom. This is a spiritual endeavor. So, when we get anxious over the things of the earth, we begin seeking to fulfill our needs with our natural senses, with the flesh. Then, we are double-minded and cannot receive anything from God.
SEEKING COUNSEL FROM THE UNENLIGHTENED
So the five able men set out to explore the land to find an inheritance for themselves. They came to the house of Micah in Ephraim and stayed there.
While at the house, they recognized the voice of a young Levite. The five able men asked the Levite what he was doing there. “And he said to them, ‘This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.'”
The five able men said, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.”
The Levite responded, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”
Ephraim means fruitful. Micah means “who’s getting dim?” So, the five able men, men relying on their natural senses to find an inheritance in the earth for those that judge, lodged in the house of one who was getting dim in the land of fruitfulness.
In this house of one who was getting dim, they recognized a Levite. But, this Levite had been hired. He was a hireling. The five able men ask this hireling for wisdom from God about their search for an inheritance. Without a thought, with a prayer, the hireling agrees with their plans.
This hired Levite was serving in the house of one who was getting dim. Clearly, he did not have much light or revelation of his own. But, this is exactly the type of person those seeking their own inheritance go to counsel. They seek out the unenlightened because they want approval for their plans rather than true wisdom, true light.
In John 10:12, Jesus says, “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.”
There is nothing in for the hired hand. He will leave us at moment’s notice because he is afraid of the wolf himself. In other words, the hired hand leaves without good counsel. And, because the shepherd is not there, we go astray like sheep do.
SEEKING EVERYTHING IN THE EARTH
We saw above that Jesus said to seek the kingdom of God and its righteous and everything we need would be added to us.
But, in Judges 18, there is no king in Israel. Dan was seeking its own inheritance. In there seeking, they found “a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”
This place was Laish. The people in Laish lived in security, were quiet and unsuspecting, lacked nothing in the earth, and possessed wealth. The name means lion. There are two words for lion in the Hebrew. This word lion is used rarely and is found just three times in the Old Testament. At least two of these verses seem to speak negatively of the lion, referring to Satan as a lion roaring about seeking someone to devour.
They lived after the manner of the Sidonians. The Sidonians were fishermen and made their living on the seas. Throughout the Bible the seas are the dwelling place of death and evil. In Revelation 13:1, John saw “a beast rising out of the sea.” But, in Revelation 13:11, John “saw another beast rising out of the earth.”
In Judges 18, I think we could see Sidon as the beast rising out of the sea and Laish as the beast rising out of the earth.
So, the men of Dan want to go take the city of Laish. They are seeking everything of the earth and the wealth of it. This is a picture of those in Revelation who take the mark of the beast. These are people seeking the things the world has to offer instead of seeking the kingdom of God. They are seeking an inheritance for themselves because they have no king.
SEEKING AN INHERITANCE THROUGH VIOLENCE
Hebrews 1:2 says that God “has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things.”
How did God speak to us by his son?
Through his death in which he conquered death, Jesus became the heir of all things. Jesus inherited the world, all of creation, with a single act of violence. Isaiah 53:9 says of Jesus that “he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”
Abraham and his offspring, Jesus, had been promised this inheritance. Romans 4:13 says, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through law but through the righteousness of faith.”
Galatians 3:26, 29 says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” When we receive Christ through faith, we also receive the promise to be heirs of the world.
By faith, we are in Christ and have become children of God. Therefore, Romans 8:17 says, “If children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Jesus inherited the world after his death on the cross when he had done no violence. So, we must suffer with Christ, doing no violence, if we want to be an heir with him.
But, in Dan, we see that those who judge others are seeking their own inheritance through violence. In actual fact, they take the work of Christ, which revealed the non-violent nature of God, and use it as a pretext to judge others as unworthy of the kingdom, thereby committing violence so they can receive an inheritance.
How do we see this in Judges 18?
Judges 18:11 says, “So 600 men of the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called Mahaneh-dan to this day.”
The number six symbolizes work. Genesis 1 and 2 show that God completed his work of creation in six days. In Genesis 31:41, Jacob says he worked for Laban for six years for his flock. Genesis 16:26 says that Israel was to gather, work for, the manna for six days.
The first mention of 100 is found in Genesis 11:10, which says, “These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood.” Shem was the son of Noah that Jesus would ultimately come from.
The name Shem is the Hebrew word for name. It can also mean identity or personality. The name Arpachshad means something like “light trickles from his bosom.” Therefore, at 100 years of age, the name fathered the light that trickles from his bosom.
This alludes to God fathering his only begotten son, Jesus, the light of the world from the bosom of the Father. Jesus is the identity of God. Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God.” And, Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Jesus is the light from the bosom of the Father, or the radiance of the glory of God. Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature, the light that is the identity of the Father.
The next two mentions of 100 are related to Abraham and Issac, who are a picture of the Father and Jesus. Genesis 17:17 says, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?’” Then, Genesis 21:5 says, “Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”
Issac was the child of promise. Paul says in Galatians that Jesus is the true child of promise. Therefore, the number 100 speaks to the child of promise, Jesus.
Therefore, the 600 men of Dan represent men, those who judge, that make use of the work of the child of promise, the cross of Christ. But, the work of Jesus on the cross was one of non-violence. Jesus suffered death instead of dealing it. However, these 600 of men of Dan were armed with weapons of war. This is in direct contrast to Paul’s statements that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual. Those who truly participating in the work of the child of promise are non-violent and use the spiritual weapons of prayer and the word of God, Jesus.
These 600 men of Dan camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Kiriath-jearim means “city of forests.” It was in Judah, which means praise. There are several places in scripture where God’s people are pictured as trees. So, Kiriath-jearim in Judah represent God’s people who are praising him. But, these 600 men of Dan armed with weapons of war only camp here. In other words, this was temporary stay for them.
However, because these 600 men of Dan camped at Kiriath-jearim it became known as a Mahaneh-dan, which means “camp of judgment.” Kiriath-jearim, the city of forests in praise representing God’s people, became permanently known as Mahaneh-dan, the camp of judgment.
Is this not how the church has become know today? Instead of cities of people praising God, is not the church seen as a camp of judgment because a portion of the people of God, Dan was a tribe of Israel, are seeking to inherit the world through violence and perversion of the cross?
When the 600 men left Kiriath-jearim in Judah they went to the young Levite at Micah’s house. There they took the priest, the ephod, the household gods, the carved image, and the metal image and they told the young Levite he was going to serve them instead of Micah. So, the 600 men trusted in the idols and pagan gods when they came Laish and captured the city as an inheritance for themselves.
These 600 men of Dan represent people who are seeking to gain their own inheritance through violence by using the work of the cross of Christ as a judgment against people. In reality, the cross of Christ showed God’s non-violent to the entire world. Indeed, as he was being crucified, receiving all the violence the world could dish out, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That was the judgment of Jesus by which he, and all those of faith in him, inherited the kingdom.
SERVING IDOLS INSTEAD OF SEEKING THE KINGDOM
What is the end result of Dan, who had no king, and went out seeking their own inheritance?
Judges 18:30 says, “And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son Gershom, son of Moses, and sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.”
When we get anxious about the things of the earth, seeking our own inheritance through the judgment of others, we serve idols, false gods, carved images.
Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the Danites.
Levi had two sons – Aaron and Moses. All the priests were supposed to come from Aaron, which means bright or very high coming from the Hebrew words for light or mountain, respectively. But, Dan chose their priests from Moses. Instead of deriving from a mountain, Moses most likely means “he who draws our” or “he who draws out of the waters.” And, Moses symbolizes the law throughout scripture.
Jonathan means “the Lord gave” while Gershom means either “stranger is his name” or exile.
Could it be that the Danites served their idols through priests that symbolized the Lord giving them as exiles to the law, he who draws out? For the Danites had pledged their allegiance to idols and gods of this world.
Let us pledge our allegiance to Jesus alone and be about seeking the kingdom of God and its righteousness and not our own inheritance so that we don’t find out.