Judges – Chapter 18

The Levite Revealed (Gasp!)

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Despite being placed after the story of Samson, there is a consensus that it actually occurred much earlier, in the time of Osniel, the first Judge.

Scouts from the Tribe of Dan were looking for territory when they discovered the altar in Micah’s house. They asked the Levite if they would be successful in their quest and he said they would. (He answered in the name of G-d, rather than the idol. He didn’t actually believe in the idol; that was “just a job.”)

The Danites went about their mission. They reported back about Micah’s idol, which they decided to seize. The Levite opposed them, so they offered him a better job: being priest for them, rather than for Micah alone. A job’s a job, so he took the offer.

Micah found out what was going on and he opposed it. The Danite forces, who greatly outnumbered Micah’s forces, strongly suggested that he just walk away. Dan conquered the city of Laish and renamed it Dan after their ancestor. (Laish is presumably the same city as Leshem in Joshua 19). They established a house of idolatry with the Levite as priest. At this point, the Navi reveals his name: Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Menashe.

But wait! The letter “nun” in the name “Menashe” is suspended halfway above the rest of the name! It’s half in and half out. With the “nun” in, the name is Menashe. With the “nun” out, the name is Moshe!

The commentators explain that Jonathan was the grandson of Moshe (Moses). Moshe was a Levite and he had a son named Gershom, so it all makes sense. So why the “nun,” rendering his name Menashe? Out of respect for Moses, the Navi concealed that fact. (It wasn’t falsified, as the truth is still evident, but it was made more discreet.)

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