JUDGES CHAPTER 17
1 Of the money that Micah first stole, then restored, his mother maketh images, 5 and he ornaments for them. 7 He hireth a Levite to be his priest.
1. Mount Ephraim. See on ch. 2:9 and 3:27. The exact place of Micah’s home is left indefinite. The implication is that it was somewhere along the road that ran through the central mountains of Palestine in the territory of Ephraim.
Micah. Heb. mikayehu. This Hebrew form occurs only here and in v. 4. Elsewhere in this narrative the shortened form, mikah, is used. The full form of the name means “who is like God [Yahweh],” whereas the shortened form means merely “who is like.”
Beginning with ch. 17, the remainder of the book of Judges is composed of two appendixes to the history of the preceding chapters. Up to this point in the narrative of the book of Judges the incidents have centered around apostasy, oppression, and deliverance. The remaining five chapters contain the record of two events that happened earlier in the judges period. They are related to show the lawless state of affairs during this era.
Chapters 17 and 18 give incidents in the life of Micah and show the migration of a part of the tribe of Dan from its allotted territory between the sea and the southern boundary of Ephraim to the northern section of Palestine adjacent to the territory of Naphtali. The narrative falls into three parts: (1) the origin of Micah’s idolatry (ch. 17:1–6), (2) how a renegade Levite became the priest of this idolatrous worship (ch. 17:7–13), (3) how the image happened to be transferred to Dan along with the migration of a portion of that tribe. The events here described probably took place during the time of the elders that followed Joshua (ch. 2:6–10; see on ch. 18:29).
2. Eleven hundred. For an evaluation see on ch. 16:5.
Were taken. That is, stolen.
Cursedst. When the mother, who apparently was a wealthy widow living with her son, discovered that the silver had been stolen, she placed a fearful curse upon the money and the one who had taken it, perhaps never dreaming that her own son Micah was the thief. In placing the curse upon the money, she may have mentioned, as in v. 3, that she had set it aside for making an idol, thus prohibiting its use for other functions. The thief could not use it then, according to superstition, without suffering retaliation from the deity thus invoked.
In mine ears. Micah heard the terrible imprecation against the thief and perhaps immediately became troubled. In those times the power of a curse was believed to be very great and real.
I took it. Micah’s confession may have been made in the hope of allaying his conscience and avoiding the anticipated effect of the curse.
Blessed be thou. People of ancient times believed that a curse could not be withdrawn. Micah’s mother may have sought to avoid its effects by neutralizing it with a blessing.
3. Had wholly dedicated. The vehemence of her curse was due to the fact that the stolen money had been promised to “the Lord.” Yet it is not entirely clear whether she said, “I have now consecrated it” as a thanksgiving for its restoration, or, “I had done so before it was stolen.” Either meaning is possible.
Unto the Lord. Literally, “to Jehovah [Yahweh].” Thus this mother and her son were worshipers of the God of the Hebrews. But their worship had become degraded, as had that of other Israelites, to the point where they were making graven images to the Lord in direct violation of the second commandment.
A graven image. It is not clear whether the pesel (“graven image”) and the massekah (“molten image”) represent two distinct images, or one silver image adorned with sculptured ornament. Often an image was carved or graven from some base metal and then covered over by a more precious metal. One such image of a deity has been recovered from the city of Megiddo in Palestine and is now on display in the museum of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. That two images, however, were intended seems clear from ch. 18:17, where the two words are separated in a manner that the second can hardly be taken as an explanation of the first. Yet again in ch. 18:20, 30, only one is mentioned.
5. House of gods. The Hebrew may be translated “a house of God” (see ch. 18:31). It means that Micah built a private shrine or sanctuary.
Ephod. For a description of the ephod see on Judges 8:27; Ex. 28:6. The ephod was worn by the priest when inquiring of God.
Teraphim. These were household idols (Gen. 31:19, 34 [Heb. teraphim]; etc.; see on Gen. 31:19). They were also used as oracular instruments (Eze. 21:21; Zech. 10:2). Some of them seemed to be in human form (1 Sam. 19:13–17).
Consecrated. The Hebrew phrase thus translated literally means “filled the hand.” The expression may have originated from the custom of filling the hands of the newly consecrated priests with portions of the sacrifice.
One of his sons. Micah had apostatized so fully that he not only made an image and a private sanctuary but actually installed one of his sons as the priest of the sanctuary. Every one of these acts was in direct violation of the requirements of the law of Moses.
6. No king. Nor any recognized form of national government. Faithfulness to their unseen King would have provided Israel with national unity and with security against invasion and servitude to their heathen neighbors.
In his own eyes. Anarchy prevailed. Might was right, and the whims of men guided them rather than the instruction of the laws of God. The Israelites had been warned that they should not be ruled by such a philosophy of life (Deut. 12:8). The author placed these words in his narrative to explain how such violations of the Mosaic law could go on unrestrained or unpunished. This phrase seems to give evidence that the author wrote the book of Judges during the reign of a strong king who kept down lawlessness in various parts of his kingdom.
7. A young man. Strange as it may seem, this renegade Levite was probably the grandson of Moses (see on ch. 18:30).
Beth-lehem-judah. It was called thus to distinguish it from the Bethlehem in Zebulun (Joshua 19:15; see on Judges 12:8).
A Levite. How he could be a Levite and of the family of Judah as well, the record does not state. His mother may have been from one tribe and his father from the other. Bethlehem-judah may have been a center for Levites at that time (see v. 8; ch. 19:1, 18), although the place is not mentioned as a Levitical city in the list given in Joshua 21:4–41.
Sojourned. The Hebrew word indicates a temporary settlement.
8. Where he could find. Because of the prevailing apostasy the Israelites were not supporting the Levites with their tithes as they should. Inasmuch as the Levites were not given territory as were the other tribes, they could not, like the others, support themselves by their lands. This Levite was wandering about evidently looking for employment and some place to live.
10. A father. This was a title of respect given to prophets and other officers of distinction (Gen. 45:8; 2 Kings 2:12; 5:13; 6:21; etc.).
Ten shekels. The actual cash payment each year was small, but Micah also offered him, in addition, his food and apparel, as well as his lodging.
12. Consecrated. In installing this Levite in the office of the priesthood, Micah probably removed his son from the position of priest (see v. 5).
13. Seeing I have. Micah regarded it as a piece of good fortune that he had been able to obtain a Levite, one probably trained for the work of the sanctuary, to officiate at his private shrine. He had installed his son only out of need, but now he was pleased to have a professional, at least one originally called to the service of the sanctuary, filling the office. It gave him assurance that as a result of the Levite’s ministry, Jehovah would prosper him in whatever he did. One can but pity Micah in his desire for God’s blessing. Evidently unknowingly, he was violating the commandments of God in the method of his worship.
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
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