Tragedy in the Making

Bible Book: Judges  18 : 1-31
Subject: Apostasy; Idolatry; False Religion

The nation of Israel quickly experienced spiritual decline after a new generation took over, a generation that knew neither Joshua nor Joshua’s God. ((Judges 2:7, 10) Israel was a tragedy in the making. The eighteenth chapter of Judges starts by reminding us "that there was no king in Israel." The nation of Israel had rejected their true King, God. Many of the people in Israel were going their own way, much like the people of today.

Israel continued to sink into apathy and into apostasy. The nation was becoming more of a land filled with chaos and confusion. This is clearly seen in this chapter.


 A. REASON FOR THE SPIES. (v. 1) "sought an inheritance to dwell it"

The tribe of Dan had been unable to conquer the territory from the Canaanites that had been assigned to them. (Judges 1:34, 19:40-48) They were in need of more space. They sent out their spies to find a suitable location so they could enlarge their land.

B. RESULT OF THE SPYING. (v. 7-13, 27-29)

The Danites found a city that was not occupied by other Israelites. The city belonged to the Sidonians.

This was a group that God told Israel to drive out of the land of Canaan. (Joshua 13:4) The land was very good and was not well protected. The spies believed their people could conquer Laish. The Danites assembled an army of 600 men to take the city. The Danites conquered Laish and it became Israel's northern most city. They changed the name to Dan after their father.


The spies lodged in the house of Micah. (v. 2) They recognized the voice of the young Levite. As they questioned the young man, they discovered he was Micah's priest. In verse thirty, we discover the name of the young man was Jonathan. (v.30)

A. MOTIVE OF THE PRIEST. (v. 4) "Micah … hath hired me"

When the spies inquired of Jonathan, he frankly said that Micah had hired him to be his priest. The motive of the priest was money. Jonathan served as Micah's priest for ten shekels of silver, a suit of clothing and his meals. (Judges 17:10)

B. MISLEADING OF THE PRIEST. (v. 5-6) "the LORD is your way"

Moses was instructed to build the tabernacle of God while Israel was in the wilderness. The tabernacle was the portable dwelling place for God's divine presence from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan. The tabernacle of the congregation was placed in Shiloh after the Conquest of the Promised Land. (Judges 18:31) The tabernacle remained in Shiloh during all the period of the judges until the ark fell into the hands of the Philistines.

The spies would have passed the house of the LORD at Shiloh. They could have inquired from the God of Israel about their mission. Instead, the spies inquired of Jonathan the priest if their mission would be successful. We see the irony in this that an idolatrous priest was inquiring of the LORD for a bunch of idolatrous spies. He gives them a very vague answer. "And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go." (Judges 18:6) He did not say if they would be successful or not, but that their way was before the watchful eye of the LORD. The priest's mention of the name of the LORD gave his message a ring of truth. Jonathan the priest told them what they wanted to hear. He sent these spies away with God's blessings. There is no mention of Jonathan seeking the LORD. He immediately told the spies they would be able to take the city of Laish. Many people believe if they desire something and call on God's name they are assured of receiving their request.  

This is like many people today. They like listening to those preachers who promise them wealth. Those types of preachers tell their people that God wants them to be rich. Preaching like this appeals to those who have covetous hearts and are living for worldly things. 


This man would do whatever was necessary to advance his pay, position and status. He compromised his religious upbringing just so he could be Micah's priest. He had no problem in violating the law of God. He turned from the true God to serve Micah's idols. He left Micah when he was offered the position of being the priest to the whole tribe of the Danites. He could have himself a mega-church. When the Danites entered Micah's house and robbed him of his gods, the priest had no problem with their action after they asked him to be their priest. The Bible says that Jonathan's heart was glad and he took the ephod, the teraphim and the graven images that belonged to Micah and went with the Danites.

There is a problem today among preachers and religious teachers. Many view their religion as a profession, rather than a ministry, a choice rather than a calling from God. They are willing to compromise God's truth to get ahead in this world.

Somebody once said, “The Gospel came to the Greeks, and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy. The Gospel came to the Romans, and the Romans turned it into a system. The Gospel came to the Europeans, and the Europeans turned it into a culture. The Gospel came to America, and the Americans turned it into a business.”

When the truths of God are abandoned, people will do what is right in their own eyes. The belief that everything is relative, that there are no absolute rights or wrongs, has strongly influenced the way Americans live. Have you accepted things you know to be wrong in order to accommodate your sins and lifestyle?

Three-quarters of Americans say the country's moral values are worsening. What are some of the reasons morals in America have declined?

1. Secular success:

The secular effort has been very successful in destroying the Judeo-Christian influence in America. Children have no moral standards taught to them in homes or in schools. Many Americans have been indoctrinated by social relativism. This is defined as – “The doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.” 

2. Media influence:

Television, music, internet and movies have had a devastating effect on this generation. Pornography has had a profound effect on the morals in this country. Someone has said. '"The Birth of Tragedy' where the search for meaning in a nihilistic environment leads inevitably to the perverse and degrading."

The definition of the word "nihilism is the total rejection of established laws and institutions, embracing anarchy, terrorism, and destruction. Believing in an extreme of skepticism; belief in nothingness."

3. Poor Parenting:

Morals must be taught in the home. While many parents do teach their children right from wrong other parents have very little morals of their own.

A Gallup poll found that Americans believe the most important moral problems centered on matters of civility, family structure, and religion rather than popular political issues such as abortion and gay marriage. It is interesting that the murder of babies and immoral behavior are not rated as high.

4. Religious liberalism:

The diluting of biblical truth being preached and taught has weakened the spiritual fiber of our nation. Liberalism has removed the fear of God from our society. The greatest enemy of the gospel is found in many churches and Christian colleges today. 

During the Los Angeles riots in the 1990’s, a reporter came across three looters leaving a store. He asked them what they took, and the first two told him off with profanity. But the third man said, “I got some gospel music. I love Jesus!” I guess he thought the Lord would bless him for stealing gospel music. If he really loved Jesus, he would not have been stealing. In his eyes, he had done no wrong.


1. Admission of Micah. (v. 24) "taken away my gods which I made"

Micah admitted that he made the gods he worshiped. He should have admitted that his gods were worthless. Instead, the Danites embraced these false gods as their own. The Danites took Micah's idols and Micah's priest to be their own.

2. Apostasy of Danites.

Apostasy in Christianity refers to the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly professed to be a Christian. The term apostasy comes from the Greek word meaning defection, departure, revolt or rebellion. It has been described as "a willful falling away from, or rebellion against, Christianity." In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul warned that in the last days there would be a great falling away from the faith.

The tabernacle (house of God) was in Shiloh. Shiloh was the center for the worship of the true God after Israel had entered the Promised Land.

Dan’s apostasy was making idols the focus of their worship.  Judges 18:30 says, "The children of Dan set up for themselves the graven image." They made the city of Dan their center for worshiping their idols.

The Danites departed from the true God of Israel and embraced their idols. The New Testament teaches that in the last days there will be great apostasy among those who profess Christianity. A thousand SBC churches close every year.

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths." (2 Tim. 4:3-4).


"And they set them up Micah's graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh." (Judges 18:31) Throughout its history, Dan was known as a center of idolatry and became a symbol for this apostate tribe of Israel. 

There were individuals who practiced idolatry in Israel long before this, but this is the official establishing of idolatry in Israel. The tribe of Dan became the promoter of idolatry worship and influenced the other tribes of Israel to follow their actions. Micah’s making of false gods led to false worship among an entire tribe of Israel for several generations.

We may not think our sinful actions hurt others, yet they do.


1. Sinful actions by one person can have a lasting influence on other people.

2. As America continues its drift from God, we are seeing a tragedy in the making.

3. Unless we reach this generation with God's truth, it will be said that "there arose another generation after them, who knew not the LORD."

4. Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?