Judges 18:7: The Carnal Security of Laish

Verse 7:[1] Then the five men departed, and came to Laish (Josh. 19:47, called, Leshem[2]), and saw the people that were therein, (Judg. 18:27, 28) how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate (Heb. possessor, or, heir of restraint[3]) in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.


Tel Dan


[They came to Laish] Which in Joshua 19:47 (in which this history is proleptically narrated) is called לֶשֶׁם/Leshem; and afterwards דָּן/Dan, in Judges 18:29, and, with the words compounded, לֶשֶׁם דָּן/Leshem-Dan, in Joshua 19:47; and even later, Cæsarea Philippi.[4] This city was situated in a most pleasant place, between the two streams of Jor and Dan, near the base of mount Libanus. Whence Jeroboam placed in it, and also in Bethel, his golden calves.[5] For it was the border of the land of Israel toward the North, just as Beer-sheba was toward the South[6] (Lapide, Bonfrerius).


Laish, called also Leshem, Joshua 19:47.



[And they saw a people dwelling in it without any fear, after the manner of the Zidonians, secure and quiet,וַיִּרְא֣וּ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם אֲשֶׁר־בְּקִרְבָּ֣הּ יוֹשֶֽׁבֶת־לָ֠בֶטַח כְּמִשְׁפַּ֙ט צִדֹנִ֜ים שֹׁקֵ֣ט׀ וּבֹטֵ֗חַ] [Interpreters vary here.] Where they observed that the people that was in it (as it was situated in safety, after the manner of the Zidonians), was quiet and secure (Junius and Tremellius). Concerning the situation of the city see verse 28. Securely making use of the same customs and laws as the Zidonians (Junius). But to others this appears overly harsh (Dieu). Others thus: And they saw the people that was in the midst of it dwelling, or sitting, or abiding, confidently (securely [Tigurinus, Munster], tranquilly [Syriac], in hope [Septuagint], to trust[7] [Montanus]), according to the judgment (law [Syriac], custom [Munster, Tigurinus, Arabic]) of the Zidonians, resting (quiet [Munster], peaceful [Tigurinus, Vatablus]) and being confident (Pagnine, Montanus) (secure [Munster, Tigurinus]). Here עָם/people is construed as feminine. Thus elsewhere, מַדּ֙וּעַ שׁוֹבְבָ֜ה הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֛ה, why is this people slidden back?[8] (Drusius). They refer the יוֹשֶׁבֶת/dwelling[9] to הָעָם, the people, by and Enallage of gender; because, even if with respect to gender it is referred to the city,[10] nevertheless with respect to sense it pertains to the people. But this also is harsh, that the feminine יוֹשֶׁבֶת/dwelling is used concerning הָעָם, the people, and then immediately the masculine שֹׁקֵ֣ט׀ וּבֹטֵ֗חַ, quiet and secure. And, if יוֹשֶׁבֶת־לָבֶטַח, dwelling securely, pertains to the people, for what purpose is וּבֹטֵחַ, and secure, immediately added concerning the same, which is the same thing with the former? I confess that I am going to embrace this, rather than what Junius has; for עָם/people is twice construed as feminine, as Kimchi testifies, Exodus 5:16[11] and Jeremiah 8:5, to which add Isaiah 26:20.[12] But what if we should say that neither יוֹשֶׁבֶת/dwelling nor שֹׁקֵט, being quiet, are accusatives, but that first it is narrated in general that those men entered into the city, etc., and then what sort of state belonged, 1. to the city, 2. to the people; so that that diversity of gender indicates an ellipsis, which, when restored, renders a read sense? Thus I translate it; and they observed the people in it. This city was situated securely, after the manner of the Zidonians: that people was quiet and secure (Dieu). It is indicated that they had no fear, even as the Zidonians were without fear (Munster), who, trusting in their fortifications and wealth, were fearing no external force whatsoever (Bonfrerius). The Zidonians had no fear from the Hebrews, because these were not of the seven peoples that had been delivered to them for a possession[13] (Martyr). It was written, AND THE BORDER OF CANAAN SHALL BE FROM ZIDON, etc.[14] And it is said of Zebulun, HIS BORDER SHALL BE UNTO ZIDON, in which עַל/upon is in the place of עַד/unto;[15] but Zidon was not of the land of Canaan (Kimchi in Drusius). From that time, the Zidonians were tremendously powerful, and from themselves they founded many colonies (Martyr). He says, after the manner of the Zidonians, either, because they were making use of their manners and customs; or, because they were like unto them in their profound peace and security (Menochius).


After the manner of the Zidonians, who living in a very strong place, and abounding in wealth, and understanding that they were not a part of that land which God gave to his people, and perceiving that the Israelites never attempted any thing against them, were grown secure and careless.



[With no one at all resisting them, and of great wealth,וְאֵין־מַכְלִ֙ים דָּבָ֤ר בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר] There is greater difficulty here. The noun עֶצֶר is extant only in this passage. The verb עָצַר principally signifies two things; 1. to shut up, to confine, to restrain; 2. to rule. Hence they vary (Dieu). Verbatim: and, not misrepresenting a word in the land, the one possessing retention (Montanus). And there is no one deterring, or, confounding, a word in the land, the possessor squeezing out treasures (Septuagint). In other codices it is, and not being able to speak a word in the land, the possessor of treasure (Nobilius). Thus the Vulgate refers the of great riches to the people, which, just as it was quite and secure, so it was יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר, possessing wealth shut up at home (Dieu). Possessing treasures (Grotius). There is no one that harms a word in the land, small possessors (Jonathan). יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר is translated by Jonathan as יָרוּתִין זְעִירִין, small possessors (for thus it is to be pointed, notיְרוּתִין זְעֵירִין , few possessions). The heirs were very young, as Kimchi translates it, that is, who are as yet shut up and kept at home, so that they are not able to defend their borders. Nevertheless, Rabbi Salomon appears to have taken זְעִירִין as few; for he translates it, the heirs are few, who, if they be killed, there shall not be any to fight against those invading the inheritance (Dieu). And that there is no pernicious person in that land, or who would perpetrate trouble or distress (Syriac). But there is no one in the land of those that would hurt them, and that would afflict or vex them (Arabic). That יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר Kimchi translates as heirs of authority: which most of the moderns follow, but they construe it in a variety of ways. Most take דָּבָר/word/matter for בַדָּבַר, in any thing, and they understand an accusative, in this way, who might make them ashamed, etc. (Dieu). And that there is no one that might with shame fill them in anything in the land (Pagnine). That there is no any heir of authority (Hebrew: heir of interdiction, or of prohibition, by a synecdoche of species) in that land, that with shame might afflict (Piscator our of Junius and Tremellius), that is, punish those sinning. It is a Metonymy of effect. I think that it is to be translated, as heirs of authority; so that there is an ellipsis of כ/as. But it is a periphrastic express for a King from the attached adjunct (Piscator). It signifies that the Magistrate is so lazy that he dares not tag a wicked citizens even with the least brand, or so much as repove him (for thus the verb is taken in Ruth 2:15[16]), thus allowing all things there. It also indicates that the Republic is ruled, not be a King, but by Magistrates govering by turns, to whom less authority belongs (Junius). There was no one that would undertake to inflict any injury on that land, or to receive into the possession of royal power, as it were. עֶצֶר is here taken in the place of מְלוּכָה/kingship, so that the sense might be, There was no one that might act the part of a King in that city (Munster). There was no one in that region that might put anyone to shame in any thing, nor was there one in whose hand the general welfare might rest (Tigurinus). There was no one shaming anything (a word, that is, a thing). No one injures them or afflicts them with ignominy, injuring ignominiously: nor is there an heir of the kingdom (Drusius). I repeat אֵין, there is not, from what precedes (Drusius, Vatablus). This would be less harsh, if יוֹרֵשׁ, one possessing, had a ו/and copula, into which the preceding negation might flow; as in 2 Kings 7:10,וְהִנֵּ֥ה אֵֽין־שָׁ֛ם אִ֖ישׁ וְק֣וֹל אָדָ֑ם, and, behold, there was no man there, and the voice of man, that is, there was no man there, nor the voice of man (Dieu). There is a Hebraism in this place. They had no enemies, or, there was no discord; neither was there anyone that might occupy the royal seat, or, that might be the heir of royal authority (Vatablus). No one was afflicting them in that land, neither was there anyone that might oppress by dominion: that is, they were having neither a lord, nor an enemy (Osiander, similarly Castalio). And there was no magistrate (Hebrew: possessor, or, heir of interdiction [English], or, lord of inheritance [Dutch]) in the land that might put them to shame in any thing (English, similarly Dutch). One may translate it, There was no one that might put anything to shame in the land, that is, might injure any thing: just as, in 1 Samuel 25:7, we put them not to shame,[17] that is, we did not injure, or disgrace, them: just as Jonathan rightly has it here, And there was no one that might injure anything in the land. With respect to that יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר, let the learned consider whether, with the negation omitted, one might translate it, in its inheritance it was having authority, namely, that tranquil and secure people. Not by election, which is often wont to disturb a Republic, but by inheritance, was the kingdom; and that was augmenting the security of the people. You could also, with the comma omitted, conjoin יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר with מַכְלִים in this manner, And the heir of authority, or, the one possessing authority, was not injuring anything in the land: that is, That people in itself was tranquil; it was also having a just and peaceful King. I do not see why this ought to be rejected. Neither is what Kimchi maintains likely, that Laish, an illustrious city and metropolis, was without a King. For what is said in this chapter, that there was no King in the land, is to be understood of that land that was subject to the Israelites. But Tyre and Zidon, etc., retained their Kings. Rabbi Levi maintains that the people had a Prince, but not by heredity, who therefore was not willing to expose himself to danger for the preservation of the people, nor to make sinners ashamed by reproof. Certainly this verb is taken for to reprove, to restrain, since by this shame is instilled, Ruth 2:15. But then I would prefer to translate it, And there was no possessor of authority making anything ashamed (reprehending) in the land (Dieu). There is no one that afflicts them with ignominy, and no one that possesses authority by hereditary right; as if they had had a free Republic, and had elected their governor, this or that one, who therefore was unwilling to displease them (certain interpreters in the Dutch). Rabbi Salomon interprets מַכְלִים otherwise; that there was no one that, by denying help to a poor brother, and by sending him away empty, might cover him in shame; because no one was so poor that he might need his neighbor: for which reason he maintains that the same thing is said below in verse 10. Less rightly, in my judgment (Dieu). These words teach that each did what was pleasing in his own eyes, and so their sins were ripe for Divine vengeance (Dutch). The kingdom is called עֶצֶר from restraint; for it restrains the people within the bounds of its duty (Drusius).


That might put them to shame in any thing, or, that might rebuke or punish any thing, that is, any crime; Hebrew, that might put any thing to shame, or, make any thing shameful. Putting to shame seems to be used metonymically for inflicting civil punishment, because shame is generally the adjunct or effect of it.



[And far from Zidon] Who coud have been a help to them, if they had been nearer (Malvenda out of Junius). But they were farther away than that they could bring help to them in a sudden incursion of enemies (Munster). Now, they were at a distance either of one day’s journey, says Josephus,[18] or, as others say, eleven miles (Bonfrerius). Laish was toward the eastern fountain of Jordan; Zidon, on the maritime side of the West (Tirinus out of Serarius). Perhaps they had made some covenant with the Zidonians, which, with them at such a great interval, was not very useful (Martyr, Munster). Or they were vassals, or allies, of the Zidonians (Castalio).


They were far from the Zidonians, who otherwise could have succoured them, and would have been ready to do it.


[Separated from all men, וְדָבָ֥ר אֵין־לָהֶ֖ם עִם־אָדָֽם׃] And a word was not to them with a man (Montanus); they had no commerce with anyone (Pagnine). And they had no business with anyone (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator), that is, not a single covenant/treaty: for they had so much confidence in themselves that they rejected the treaties of others. Thus below in verse 28 (Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). There were no confederates that might help them in their necessity (Drusius). There was no people conjoined to that peculiar people by any necessity; there was no one that might be willing or able to bring help (Bonfrerius). Laish appears to have been a colony of the Zidonians; but it was seated far from Zidon, conjoined to none of its neighbors by treaty, uncommonly secure, and wealthy: all which are incitements to enemies (Grotius).


Had no business with any man; no league of confederacy, nor much converse with other cities, it being in a pleasant and plentiful soil, between the two rivulets of Jor and Dan, not needing supplies from others, and therefore minding only their own ease and pleasure.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֵּלְכוּ֙ חֲמֵ֣שֶׁת הָאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ לָ֑יְשָׁה וַיִּרְא֣וּ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם אֲשֶׁר־בְּקִרְבָּ֣הּ יוֹשֶֽׁבֶת־לָ֠בֶטַח כְּמִשְׁפַּ֙ט צִדֹנִ֜ים שֹׁקֵ֣ט׀ וּבֹטֵ֗חַ וְאֵין־מַכְלִ֙ים דָּבָ֤ר בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר וּרְחֹקִ֥ים הֵ֙מָּה֙ מִצִּ֣דֹנִ֔ים וְדָבָ֥ר אֵין־לָהֶ֖ם עִם־אָדָֽם׃


[2] Hebrew: לֶשֶׁם.


[3] Hebrew: יוֹרֵ֣שׁ עֶ֔צֶר.


[4] In the extreme northern limits of the land of Israel, due north of the Sea of Galilee.


[5] Circa 975 BC. See 1 Kings 12:28, 29.


[6] See Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10; 1 Kings 4:25; 1 Chronicles 21:2.


[7] A woodenly literalistic rendering.


[8] Thus Jeremiah 8:5. שׁוֹבְבָה is a feminine perfect verb.


[9] יוֹשֶׁבֶת is a feminine participle.


[10] Judges 18:7a: “Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were in the midst of it (בְּקִרְבָּהּ, note the feminine object suffix), how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure…”


[11] Exodus 5:16: “There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own peopleוְחָטָ֥את) עַמֶּֽךָ׃, with the verb in the feminine gender).”


[12] Isaiah 26:20: “Come, my people (עַמִּי), enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself (חֲבִי, feminine imperative) as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”


[13] See Deuteronomy 7:1; Acts 13:19.


[14] See Genesis 10:19.


[15] Genesis 49:13: “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon (וְיַרְכָת֖וֹ עַל־צִידֹֽן׃).”


[16] Ruth 2:15: “And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not (וְלֹ֥א תַכְלִימֽוּהָ׃, and humiliate her not)…”


[17] 1 Samuel 25:7: “And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not (לֹ֣א הֶכְלַמְנ֗וּם), neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel.”


[18] Antiquities 2:3.

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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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