Sunday, July 24, 2016


Acts of terrorism remind me of a historical incident that occurred in the Judges period. The account in Judges 18 makes for a terrific commentary on current events.

The land of Canaan had long been conquered; but there were some Israelites who had yet to receive an inheritance from the conquered territory. The tribe of Dan, for example, had not received an inheritance.

The Danites sent out some scouts to find some territory they could settle. On the way, some scouts stayed with a friendly and hospitable man named Micah.
Later, they found a community called Laish. Laish was the ideal soft target. They were wealthy, civilized and trusting that others are equally good natured. The defense of Laish was not their military (they didn’t have one) or their tall rock wall (didn’t have that either). They were allied with the Sidonians who lived far away down by the Mediterranean coast. The protection of Laish was the threat of retaliation against their enemies by their friends over at Sidon. While Aram was their nearest superpower neighbor (by primitive standards), Aram was not allied with Laish.

The Danites decided to go down and take Laish from the people living there. On the way, they robbed the house of Micah who had earlier provided generous hospitality to the Danite spies.

Then, the Danites continued their mission to Laish. The Bible says they “came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and put them to the sword, and burned down the city. There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with Aram” (Judges 18:27, NRSV).

The inspired historian does not moralize about this action; but he clearly did not approve. Dan set up a shrine there which was furnished with stuff stolen from Micah’s house. This sanctuary is contrasted against the legitimate sanctuary of the Tabernacle in Shiloh (vs. 31). A Levite from the family of Moses (not Manasseh, as some translations read) presided in Laish (now called Dan).

It is striking that the Danites got away with this atrocity. Sidon did not respond, possibly because there was no one left in Laish to defend or possibly because Sidon was reluctant to go up against the entire confederacy of Israel. Israel itself did not respond either. We cannot know why but the reasoning might be that the territory of Laish was seen as inheritance for Israel. It could be that the people of Laish were unrelated and therefore not a concern of Israel.
The Danites were bullies and people tend to avoid confronting bullies.
 In those days “... there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Terrorists look for soft targets that have very little retaliatory power. There are bullies in the world, in communities and in the church. It is the duty of the larger community to stand up to them (Deuteronomy 14:29; 16:19-20; 24:17; Isaiah 1:17; Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8; James 3:1-18 and many more).

Article originally published March 27, 2016

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