The Idol Temple at Dan and its Priest
Judges xvii: 1, to
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
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
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."
The Levite was well pleased at this, and stayed in
Micah's house, and became his priest. And Micah said
"I am sure that now the Lord will be pleased with
me, since I have a house with gods and a Levite as
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."
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 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
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
He gathered some of his neighbors, and they hastened
after 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.