The final five chapters of Judges point to the Israel’s wholesale abandonment of God. The writer attributes this apostasy to a lack of leadership (a king), but he will go on in the books of Samuel to point out that a human king will not solve the problem either.
The tribe of Dan had been allotted land just a little north of Judah. But it was a small piece of land, occupied by people they were unable (or unwilling) to displace. Eventually, the tribe set out to find a different land, and they did so far away from their own people in the northern reaches of the Promised Land. They’ve rejected God’s inheritance, and are seeking to make their own.
Though Israel has been given the land Dan desires, the writer of Judges points out the inequity of this particular conquest. Twice he says the natives have no protection, and they are a “peaceful and unsuspecting people.” The poor character of the Danites is further described as they enter the land of the Ephraimites and discover an apostate priest serving an apostate family. The Danites appropriate the priest and his contingent of gods for themselves and threaten their own countrymen with slaughter if they object.
This is the kind of society you end up with when God is not regarded as supreme. Though we often speak of the Church as the Kingdom of God, the fact is, God’s kingdom is where God rules. When God ceases to rule the hearts of His people, they may continue being the people of God, but they cease being His kingdom.