Chapter 17

JUDGES CHAPTER 17

Epilogues (17:1-21:25)

          • HCSB makes this important notation, “The first 1 chapters of the book of Judges generally follow a chronological order. Chapters 17-21, however, present events that occurred during the early part of the time of the Judges. These concluding chapters appear to have been intentionally placed out of chronological sequence to reveal the extent of Israel’s degradation and the emphasize the justification for a monarchy to rule God’s people…”

Micah and the Tribe of Dan (17:1-18:31)

Micah’s Idols

        • There was a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim. He told his mother, “I heard you pronounce a curse on the person who took 1,100 pieces of silver from you. I have the silver with me- I took it.” His mother said, “Yahweh bless you, my son.” He gave the 1,100 pieces of silver back to his mother and she said, “I dedicate this silver from my hand to Yahweh for the benefit of my son, to make an idol of cast metal; I will return them to you. So when he gave the silver back to his mother, she took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith. He made it into an idol of cast metal, and it was in Micah’s house.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “This same large number was given to Delilah (Judges 16:5). It was probably Micah’s mother’s life savings or dowry.”

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “In general, the text indicates a conditional curse, in this case the invocation of some horrendous fate on someone who commits a crime. By exchanging the curse for a blessing, Micah’s mother seeks to prevent the disaster threatened by the previous curse…The fact that Micah’s mother commends Micah to Yahweh, rather than Baal or some other Canaanite deity, suggests that she is devoted to the covenant God of Israel- though this devotion is not firm, as the sequel demonstrates.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “In the ancient world, the manufacture of images of gods was a complex process that began with the consecration of the materials out of which the images were to be made…divine images were often carved out of wood and then plated with precious metals…”

        • Guzik says, “This account reveals a lot about the character of Micah, his mother, and the general spiritual state of Israel during this period…God strictly forbade such an image, whether it was meant to represent the true God or not…The sense of this passage is that Micah did all this easily. It wasn’t hard to have an idol made in Israel at that time. This shows how Israel’s society was bent towards idolatry.”

        • Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household idols, and consecrated one of his sons to be his priest. In those days, there was no king in Israel, and everyone did whatever seemed right in his own eyes.

        • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds the following context:

          • Shrine, Lit. ‘house of god,’ which reflects the primary function of temples in the ancient world- a residence for a diety. Being a family shrine or chapel, the present structure must have been modest in size, perhaps consisting of a small building in which the image was housed. The shrine was intended to serve the needs of the family by providing a means of securing divine assistance in conception and childbirth, fertility of flocks and fields, and protection from natural calamities and enemies.

          • In Ge 31:19, the Hebrew word rendered ‘household gods’ (teraphim) seems to refer to miniature images of ancestors…But the form and function of these ‘teraphim’ in the ancient Near East remains unclear. The most likely explanation refers to ‘a spirit which can on some occasions be regarded as protective and on others as malevolent.’ Zec 10:2 links idols with diviners who prophesy through visions and dreams, suggesting these objects may have had a divinatory function. The fact that in 1 Sa 19:11-17 Michal made use of one that was mistaken for a sick man suggests these images were anthropomorphic, lending support to the view that they were figurines representing deceased ancestors.”

            • installed one of his sons as his priest. In most instances, the Hebrew idiom for ‘installation’ (lit. ‘to fill the hands’) is used of the consecration of priests. The Hebrew word suggests it involved the placement of some symbol of authority into the hands of the person being installed. This action posed a direct challenge to the officially authorized Aaronic priesthood.”

          • Guzik writes, “This refers to the radical individualism that marked the time of the Judges. People looked to self for their guide to morality and ethics. The people genuinely felt that they did what was right, but they measured it only by their own eyes…This is very much like the modern, ‘follow-your-heart’ or ‘let-your-heart-be-your-guide’ thinking. Modern culture regards this as the ideal state of society. Yet the Bible and common sense tell us that this kind of moral, spiritual, and social anarchy brings nothing but destruction.”

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “In those days there was no king in Israel. This suggests that the final edition of Judges was sometime during the period when Israel had a king. This phrase is also found at 18:1; 19:1; and 21:25.”

        • There was a young man, a Levite, from Bethlehem in Judah, from the family of Judah, and he was living as a foreigner there. He left the city of Bethlehem in Judah to find a place where he could live as a foreigner. As he journeyed, he came to Micah’s home in the hill country of Ephraim.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Not much about this Levite fits into orthodox biblical categories. Some Levites were priests, while others were temple servants (cp Num 3-4). Levites were scattered throughout Israel (Gen 49:5-7; Josh 21). This young man, apparently a descendant of Gershom (Judg 18:30; cp Exod 2:21-22), was based in Judah, but not in a Levitical town, and was looking for another place to live.”

        • Micah asked him, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I’m a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I’m going to live wherever I can find a place.” So Micah replied, “Stay here with me and be my father and priest, and I’ll give you ten pieces of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your food. So, the Levite went in. He agreed to live with Micah, and the young man became like one of his sons. Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in Micah’s house. Then Micah said, “Now I know Yahweh will make me prosperous because I have a Levite as my priest.”

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “The Pentateuch never stipulates the salary for priests or Levites, who would theoretically be provided for by sacrifices. The offering of precious metals constitutes a bribe.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “The contract priest, in Micah’s view, conferred some additional legitimacy on the shrine, though his expectation that the Lord would bless him was based on superstition rather than obedience to the Lord. Micah’s abandonment of God’s covenant would bring a curse on him that no unemployed Levite could ward off. Micah was not the last Israelite to seek out a priest or Levite in an attempt to legitimize irregular religious practices (cp 1 Kgs 12:28-31; 2 Kgs 16:10-18).”