Judges 18:1: Danites Unfaithful in Conquest

[circa 1406 BC] Verse 1:[1] In (Judg. 17:6; 21:25) those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days (Josh. 19:47) the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.

In those days; not long after Joshua’s death, of which see on Judges 17:6.

[Unto that day, etc., לֹא־נָ֙פְלָה לּ֜וֹ עַד־הַיּ֥וֹם הַה֛וּא בְּתוֹךְ־שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּנַחֲלָֽה׃] For the lot had not fallen to him unto this day in the midst of the tribes of Israel for an inheritance (Pagnine), or, in an inheritance (Montanus). Enough had not fallen to him…among the tribes of Israel in his possession (Junius and Tremellius, Dutch). But this is a harsh and uncommon ellipsis (Dieu). To him had not fallen a possession, supplying נַחֲלָה/possession from the preceding member (Piscator). To him had not fallen…a lot of inheritance in the midst of the tribes, etc. (Munster, Tigurinus). For the inheritance had not been divided unto that day among the tribes of Israel (Syriac, similarly the Arabic). To fall is the proper verb in this matter. To him had not fallen, supply, the lot, or line. Thus Numbers 34:2;[2] Joshua 13:6;[3] Psalm 78:55;[4] Proverbs 1:14;[5] and elsewhere (Drusius).

[He had not received a lot] It is not to be understood, that absolutely no lot had fallen to them (Munster): but not the whole lot (Vatablus); not a sufficient lot (Piscator); not fit and proper lot, which would be enough for so numerous a Tribe (Junius, Piscator). The Spanish translation thus; it had not yet reduced the cities of their lot unto rule, or ejected the Canaanites from there (Malvenda). They were not able to seize from the Canaanites the lot that Joshua had assigned to them, Joshua 19:40 (Grotius). With the Philistines steadfastly resisting from one direction, and the Amorites constricting them from another direction, as it is said in Judges 1:34, they were dwelling in too small a space, and they sought new seats (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Lyra). In any case, even the very names of Zorah and Eshtaol[6] demonstrate that Dan had his own lot bestowed upon him (Junius, Piscator). Therefore, possession is here to be understood by a Synecdoche of genus of a sufficient possession (Piscator). This verse has a difficulty, that contrary to trustworthiness of the history it appears to have been denied that an inheritance was allotted to the Tribe of Dan. We thus relieve the difficulty. שֵׁבֶט does not always denote an entire tribe, but sometimes the family of one Tribe, and means the same thing as מִשְׁפָּחָה/family. Thus, in Judges 20:12, שִׁבְטֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙, the tribes of Israel are said to have sent envoys בְּכָל־שִׁבְטֵ֥י בִנְיָמִ֖ן, unto all the families of Benjamin: thus, in Isaiah 19:13, פִּנַּ֥ת שְׁבָטֶֽיהָ׃, the principal men of its families, seduced Egypt. Thus in this place, In those days a Danite family was seeking for itself a possession to inhabit, because a possession had not fallen to it unto this day in the midst of the tribes of Israel. For, since it is evident that to the Tribe of Dan a lot less than was equal fell, it is not surprising that there was a certain family, even perhaps of the greater families, that hitherto had found no possession, but dwelt among the other precariously, as it were. Certainly in verse 11, only six hundred men are said to have gone out, and to have gone out מִמִּשְׁפַּ֣חַת הַדָּנִ֔י, from the family of the Danites; and these same men are called שֵׁבֶט הַדָּנִי, the tribe of the Danites, in verse 30. But in verse 19 they are called a שֵׁבֶט/tribe and a מִשְׁפָּחָה/family at the same time, that is, a priest of a family of the whole Tribe. Moreover, of the tribe שֵׁבֶט דָן, the tribe of Dan, or מַטֶּה דָן, the tribe/rod of Dan, is always used, never הַדָּנִי, of the Danite; but the latter is used of this that is denominated by that tribe, as here,[7] verse 11,[8] and Judges 13:2.[9] Whence also Jonathan translates it, the Tribe of the house of Dan; not, the very house, that is, the posterity of Dan in general, but a certain lesser Tribe, or family, of it. Moreover, בְּנַחֲלָה נָפְלָה does indeed signify elsewhere to fall for an inheritance, but then another noun precedes, by which the verb נָפַל, to fall, is governed; as in Numbers 34:2, the land that shall fall, etc. But, since in this place no noun precedes, either אֶרֶץ/ land is to be understood, or בְּנַחֲלָה (with no reason found for the ב/in) is to be taken for נַחֲלָה/inheritance in the nominative case; the Septuagint also translates it, an inheritance had not fallen to them; which the Vulgate, Pagnine, and the Dutch follow. Drusius rejects this. But we think that it is by no means to be rejected. Among the Arabs it is quite common to mark the nominative with a ב: thus they say, I myself am in believing, that is, believing. Thus in Luke 5:12, and behold, in a man full of leprosy, that is, a man full of leprosy. Thus in Acts 3:2, in a man lame, that is, a man lame. We seem to have observed not a few places of this sort in a Hebraism, which are not able suitably to be explained otherwise except by force: which indeed it seemed good now to gather together here. Thus in Exodus 32:22, כִּ֥י בְרָ֖ע הֽוּא׃, that it is evil;[10] in Deuteronomy 28:62, ye shall be left בִּמְתֵ֣י מְעָ֔ט, few men;[11] in 1 Kings 13:34,וַיְהִי֙ בַּדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה לְחַטַּ֖את, and this thing was for sin; in 1 Chronicles 7:23,בְרָעָ֖ה הָיְתָ֥ה בְּבֵיתֽוֹ׃, adversity was in his family; in 1 Chronicles 9:33,כִּֽי־יוֹמָ֥ם וָלַ֛יְלָה עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם בַּמְּלָאכָֽה׃, for day and night the work was incumbent upon them; in Ezra 3:3,כִּ֚י בְּאֵימָ֣ה עֲלֵיהֶ֔ם, because fear was upon them; in Job 18:8, שֻׁלַּ֣ח בְּרֶ֣שֶׁת בְּרַגְלָ֑יו, a net was cast upon his feet; in Psalm 55:18, כִּֽי־בְ֜רַבִּ֗ים הָי֥וּ עִמָּדִֽי׃, for many were with me; Psalm 68:4, כִּי בְּיָהּ שְׁמוֹ,[12] for Jehovah is His name; in Ecclesiastes 7:12,כִּ֛י בְּצֵ֥ל הַֽחָכְמָ֖ה בְּצֵ֣ל הַכָּ֑סֶף, for wisdom is a shade, money is a shade; in Isaiah 26:4, כִּ֚י בְּיָ֣הּ יְהוָ֔ה צ֖וּר, for the Lord is a rock; in Isaiah 40:10, יְהוִה֙ בְּחָזָ֣ק יָב֔וֹא, mighty Jehovah will come; in Hosea 13:9, כִּֽי־בִ֥י בְעֶזְרֶֽךָ׃, for in me is thine help (Dieu).

The tribe of the Danites; a part or branch of that tribe, consisting only of six hundred men of war, Judges 18:16, with their families, Judg 18:21: or, a family of the Danites; for the word שֵׁבֶט/ schebet, which properly signifies a tribe, is sometimes taken for a family, as Judges 20:12, as elsewhere family is put for a tribe, as Zechariah 12:13. All their inheritance had not fallen unto them; the lot had fallen to them before this time, Joshua 19:40, etc., but not the actual possession of their lot, because therein the Philistines and Amorites opposed them, not without success. See Joshua 19:40; Judges 1:34.

[1] Hebrew: בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֔ם אֵ֥ין מֶ֖לֶךְ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וּבַיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם שֵׁ֣בֶט הַדָּנִ֞י מְבַקֶּשׁ־ל֤וֹ נַֽחֲלָה֙ לָשֶׁ֔בֶת כִּי֩ לֹֽא־נָ֙פְלָה לּ֜וֹ עַד־הַיּ֥וֹם הַה֛וּא בְּתוֹךְ־שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּנַחֲלָֽה׃

[2] Numbers 34:2: “Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance (זֹ֣את הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֙ר תִּפֹּ֤ל לָכֶם֙ בְּֽנַחֲלָ֔ה), even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:)…”

[3] Joshua 13:6: “All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephoth-maim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance (רַ֠ק הַפִּלֶ֤הָ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּֽנַחֲלָ֔ה), as I have commanded thee.”

[4] Psalm 78:55: “He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line (וַֽ֭יַּפִּילֵם בְּחֶ֣בֶל נַחֲלָ֑ה), and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.”

[5] Proverbs 1:14: “Cast in thy lot among us (גּ֭וֹרָ֣לְךָ תַּפִּ֣יל בְּתוֹכֵ֑נוּ); let us all have one purse…”

[6] See Joshua 15:33; 19:41; Judges 16:31; 18:2, 8, 11.

[7] Judges 18:1a: “In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites (שֵׁ֣בֶט הַדָּנִ֞י) sought them an inheritance to dwell in…”

[8] Judges 18:11: “And there went from thence of the family of the Danitesמִמִּשְׁפַּ֣חַת) הַדָּנִ֔י), out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war.”

[9] Judges 13:2: “And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites (מִמִּשְׁפַּ֥חַת הַדָּנִ֖י), whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.”

[10] Exodus 32:22: “And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief (כִּ֥י בְרָ֖ע הֽוּא׃).”

[11] Deuteronomy 28:62: “And ye shall be left in number few (בִּמְתֵ֣י מְעָ֔ט), whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God.”

[12] This reading has little textual support. Psalm 68:4: “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah (סֹ֡לּוּ לָרֹכֵ֣ב בָּ֭עֲרָבוֹת בְּיָ֥הּ שְׁמ֗וֹ), and rejoice before him.”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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