Sefer Shoftim-Chapter 18: The tribe of Dan captured Pesel Micha and worships it

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Chapter 18: The tribe of Dan captured Pesel Micha and worships it

1. The tribe of Dan searches for an inheritance:

  • In those days there were no kings amongst Israel, and the tribe of Dan began to request a portion of land to dwell in, as they had yet to receive their portion of inheritance amongst the tribes.
  • The tribe of Dan send five spies: The tribe of Dan sent five distinguished men of war, each from one family of Dan, from Tzara and from Eshtaol, to spy the land and investigate it. The spies arrived all the way to the mountains of Efraim, to the house of Micha and slept there.

2. The spies inquire from the Levite lad if they will be successful in battle:

  • The spies meet the Levite lad: They recognized the voice of the Levite lad, and inquired of him as to how he ended up there. So, he told them the entire story of how he became hired by Micha to be a priest for him.
  • The lad is asked to inquire from his idols as to whether they will be successful in war: They asked the lad to ask his idols [the Terafim[1]] as to whether they will be successful at war. The priest replied to them that they should go in peace as G-d will help them be successful.

3. The men spy on the city of Laysha:

  • The five men arrived by the city of Laysha, and they saw its inhabitants living there happily and securely. They were not accustomed to war, and had no pacts with other peoples. They were a great distance from the Tzidonim, and had no one who claimed their land after them.
  • The men return with a good report: The spies arrived back to their brothers by Tzara and Eshtaol, and they were asked for their report. They replied that they saw the land and that it is very good. They asked their brothers to not be lazy and to come with them and wage war to inherit the land. G-d has given the land to you, and it is a spacious land that lacks nothing from the ground.

4. Six hundred men prepare for battle and take the Levite priest and Micha’s idols:

  • Camping by Kiryat Yearim: Six hundred warriors from the family of Dan traveled from Tzara and Eshtaol, and they encamped in Kiryat Yearim, within the territory of Yehuda. This area is called Machaneh Dan until this day.
  • Arriving to the house of Micha: They traveled from there to the mountain of Efraim, and arrived to the house of Micha. The five spies told the soldiers that inside the home there is an Eiphod, Terafim and an idol and sculpture. They told them to figure out a way [to capture them]. They arrived at the home of Micha which house the Levite man and asked him as to how he is doing.
  • The Terafim are stolen and the Levite priest joins the tribe of Dan: Six hundred men of armor from the tribe of Dan were surrounding the opening of the gate [of Micha’s home]. The five spies went into the home of Micha and stole the Terafim, Eiphod, and the idol, all while the priest stood by the gate opposite the six hundred men and watched. The priest asked them as to what they are doing, stealing his idols. They told him to be quiet, and to come with them to be their priest, as it is better to be a priest of an entire tribe than a priest of a single man. The priest agreed to go with them, and so he took the Eiphod, Terafim, and idol and went with them.

5. Micha confronts the men of Dan for stealing his idols and priest:

  • The men left the area and sent their [wife] children and cattle away to travel before them [while they go to war]. As they distanced from the city, Micha and the men of his household gave them chase, and they managed to reach them. They called to the members of Dan, who turned around their faces and asked Micha what he wants, and why he is chasing after them? Micha replied: The idols that I have made you took, and the priest has gone with you. What do I have left, and what is this that you asked me as if you are surprised at why I am chasing after you?
  • The people or Dan reply with a threat: The people of Dan replied to him that he should stop talking, lest people of wrath come attack him and his family and kill them. So, Dan went on his way, and Micha who saw that they were stronger than he went and returned home.

6. The city of Layish is destroyed:

  • The people of Dan took the idols of Micha and his priest and went to the city of Layish.
  • They annihilated the city inhabitants with the sword, and set the city afire. No one came to help the inhabitants to protect them, as the city is a distance from Tzidon, and they have no communication with other men.
  • The city is settled: The people of Dan rebuilt the city and settled there. They named the city Dan, after their father Dan.

7. The Pesel of Micha:

  • The name of the priest who served the idol: The tribe of Dan established the idol of Micha [in their city] and Yehonason, the son of Gershom, the son of Menashe [i.e. Moshe Rabbeinu[2]], and all his descendants, served as priests for the idol and tribe of Dan until they became exiled from the land.
  • The idol of Micha stood throughout the period of the Temple in Shiloh.


[1] Rashi 18:5

[2] Rashi 18:30; Bava Basra 109b

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