Judges 17

The Word Made Fresh

1A man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim 2said to his mother, “I heard you pronounce a curse over the silver coins, eleven hundred of them, that had been taken from you. I have those coins. I took them.”

His mother cried, “The LORD bless you, my son!”

3He said, “I am returning them to you now.”

She responded, “I am going to devote that silver to the LORD for you, my son. I will give on your behalf two hundred of the coins to have an image and an idol made of silver.”

4He returned the coins to her and she gave two hundred of them to a silversmith to fashion the image and the idol. She had them placed in Micah’s house.

5Micah built a shrine in which he placed priestly vestments and an idol. He clothed one of his sons in the vestments and made him his priest. 6Israel had no king back then, and people just did whatever they wanted.

7There was a young Levite man who lived in Bethlehem in the tribal territory of Judah. 8He left Bethlehem to search for another place to live, and eventually came to Micah’s house in the hill country of Ephraim.

9“Where are you from?” Micah asked.

“I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah,” he said, “and I am seeking a place to settle down.”

10Micah said, “Stay here! You’ll be like a father to me, and you’ll be my own personal priest. I’ll give you ten silver coins per year, plus all your clothing and your food.”

11The Levite agreed, and stayed, and was treated like one of Micah’s sons. 12Micah officially installed him as his priest, and he became a member of Micah’s family. 13Micah said, “Now I am certain the LORD will make me prosperous. I have a real Levite as my priest!”

Commentary

1-6: Up in the hills of Ephraim a dishonest man named Micah seems to get religion and give back the money he has stolen from his mother. She, being a religious woman (though not a worshiper of the true God) uses part of the silver to have an idol made, which Micah then sets up as a shrine in his house complete with priestly garments (an ephod), idols (teraphim), and a priest (his own son). “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” No kidding!

7-13: Now another character enters the story. A young Levite from down south in Bethlehem wanders into the hills of Ephraim looking for a place to stay and winds up at Micah’s house. Micah figures he has a genuine priest on his hands now and offers the young fellow a job. (Of course, not all the Levites were priests – most of them were temple servants.) The Levite’s name is never given (nor is the name of Micah’s son, who apparently turned out poorly as a priest and was soon forgotten). Micah thinks having a Levite in employment will secure God’s blessings for him and make him prosperous. As we will see, it didn’t work. It never does.

Takeaway

The time of judges has passed with the death of Samson, and the moral fiber of Israel continues to decline. A man named Micah sets up his own personal shrine, complete with his own priest. In subsequent chapters we will read about the tribe of Dan slaughtering an innocent village and setting up their own worship place. Then the tribe of Benjamin will demonstrate how perverted they have become when they commit an outrage that results in an inter-tribal war. Thankfully, we will soon pass on to the book of Ruth and meet some decent people!