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Story of the Bible by  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
Table of Contents


 

 

THE IDOL TEMPLE AT DAN, AND ITS PRIEST

Judges xvii: 1, to xviii: 31.

[241]

W HILE the judges were ruling in Israel, at one time there was living in the mountains of Ephraim, near the road which ran north and south, a man named Micah. His mother, who was dwelling with him, found that some one had stolen from her a large sum of money. Now, the money had been taken by her son Micah, and after a time he said to her:

"Those eleven hundred pieces of silver which you lost, and of which you spoke, are with me; for I took them myself."

And his mother answered, "May the blessing of God rest upon you, my son, for bringing again to me my silver. This money shall be the Lord's. I will give it back to you, to be used in the service of the Lord."

But instead of taking the money to the Tabernacle of the Lord at Shiloh, Micah used it to make two images of silver, one carved and the other cast in metal. These he set up in his house to be worshipped. He appointed one of his sons as a priest, and thus made of his house an idol temple.

One day a man on a journey was passing by Micah's house. Micah saw from his dress that he belonged to the tribe of Levi, from which the priests came. He said to him, "Who are you? From what place do you come?"

The young man said, "I am a Levite, from Bethlehem in the land of Judah, and I am trying to find a place where I can earn my living."

"Stay here with me," said Micah, "and be a priest in my house. I will give you your food, and a place to sleep, and for each year a suit of clothes and ten pieces of silver."

[242] The Levite was well pleased at this, and stayed in Micah's house, and became his priest. And Micah said to himself:

"I am sure that now the Lord will be pleased with me, since I have a house with gods and a Levite as my priest."

Already many in Israel had forgotten that God would not bless those who set up idols when they should worship the Lord God.

The tribe of Dan was living at that time between the country of the Philistines and the tribe of Benjamin, having Judah on the south and Ephraim on the north. The Philistines pressed closely upon them, and they sought some place where they could live with more room and at peace.

They sent out from their tribe-land five men as spies, to go through the country and find some better place for the home of their tribe. These five men walked through the land, and they came to the house of Micah. Micah took them into his house, for it was the custom thus to care for people who were on a journey.

These men from Dan, who were called Danites, had seen Micah's priest before in his earlier home. They knew him, and asked him how he came to be there. The young Levite told them that Micah had hired him to become his priest. He took them into the temple-room and showed them the images and the altar, and he offered a sacrifice and a prayer for them.

Then the five men left Micah's house and went on their way. They walked through all the tribes in the north; and far up among the mountains, near one of the great fountains where the river Jordan begins, they found a little city called Laish. The people of Laish were not Israelites, but came from the country of Zidon. The Danites saw that their little city was far from Zidon, and that its people were living alone, with none of their own race to help them.

The men of Dan walked back over the mountains to their own people, near the Philistine country; and they brought back an account of their journey through the land. They said:

"We have found a good place, far up in the north, where there is room for us, and a rich soil, and plenty of water. Come with us, and let us take that place for our home."


[Illustration]

A HARVEST FIELD IN THE TIME OF THE JUDGES

So a large part of the tribe of Dan, with their wives and their children, went up toward this place. Among them were six hundred men with shields, and swords, and spears for war. As they [243] came near to Micah's house, one of the five men who had been there before said to them:

"Do you know that in one of these houses there is an altar, and a carved image, and another image, both of silver? Now think what you would better do."

Then the five men came again into Micah's temple while the six hundred soldiers stood outside. They were just about to carry away the silver images when the Levite said to them, "What are you doing?"

And the men said to him, "Never mind what we are doing. Keep still and come with us. Is it not better for you to be a priest to a whole tribe than to one man?"

Then the young priest said no more. He took away all the priestly robes, and the silver ornaments, and the images, and went away with the people of Dan. When Micah came home he found that his temple had been robbed and his images and his priest were taken away.

He gathered some of his neighbors, and they hastened after [244] the people of Dan. When they caught up with them Micah cried out aloud to them. The men of Dan turned, and said to Micah:

"What is the matter with you, that you come after us with a company and make such a noise?"

And Micah answered, "You have taken away my gods which I made, and my priest; and now what is left to me? And you say to me, 'What is the matter?' "

Then the men of Dan said, "Be careful what you say, or you may make some of our men angry, and they will fall on you, and then you will lose your life!"

Micah saw that the men of Dan were too strong for him to fight them, so he went back to his house without his priest and without his images. The Danites went up to the little city of Laish, in the north. They took it, and killed all the people who were living there. Then they built the city again, and changed its name to Dan, the name of the father of their tribe.

There, at Dan, they built a temple, and in it they set up the images, and this Levite became their priest. And the strangest part of all the story is, that this Levite was a grandson of Moses, the man of God and the great prophet. So soon did the people of Israel fall into sin, and so deeply, that the grandson of Moses became the priest in a temple of idols. And at this time the house of God was at Shiloh; yet at Dan during those years and for many years afterward was a temple of idols, and within its walls a line of priests descended from Moses were worshipping and offering sacrifices to images.

And as the temple of idols in Dan was much nearer to the people in the northern part of the land than was the house of the Lord, the Tabernacle at Shiloh, very many of those who lived in the north, went to this idol-temple to worship. So the people of Israel were led away from God to serve idols. This was very displeasing to God.


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