5 June Judges 17:1-13

5 June. Micah makes an idol and appoints a Levite as a priest

“There was a man named Micah who lived in the mountains of Ephraim. He said to his mother, ‘I heard you speak a curse about the 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you. I have the silver with me; I took it.’ His mother said, ‘The LORD bless you, my son!’”

“Micah gave the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. Then she said, ‘I will give this silver to the LORD. I will have my son make an idol and a statue. So I will give the silver back to you.’”

“When he gave the silver back to his mother, he took about 200 pieces and gave it to a silversmith. With it he made an idol and a statue, which stood in Micah’s house. Micah had a special holy place, and he made a holy robe and some household idols.”

“Then Micah chose one of his sons to be his priest. At that time Israel did not have a king, so everyone did what seemed right.”

“There was a young man who was a Levite from the city of Bethlehem in Judah who was from the people of Judah. He left Bethlehem to look for another place to live, and on his way he came to Micah’s house in the mountains of Ephraim.”

“Micah asked him, ‘Where are you from?’ He answered, ‘I’m a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah. I’m looking for a place to live.’ Micah said to him, ‘Live with me and be my father and my priest. I will give you 10 pieces of silver each year and clothes and food.’”

“So the Levite went in. He agreed to live with Micah and became like one of Micah’s own sons. Micah made him a priest, and he lived in Micah’s house. Then Micah said, ‘Now I know the LORD will be good to me, because I have a Levite as my priest.’”

          (Judges 17:1-13)



If you’ve already come to the conclusion that the Book of Judges tells us a lot about the immorality of the Israelites after their arrival in the ‘promised land’ of Canaan, then you won’t be too surprised to learn that the last five chapters of this book confirm the Israelites’ ungodliness and depravity during the time of the ‘judges’.

Samson is the last of the ‘judges’ that we’re told about in the Book of Judges. The final five chapters form a kind of ‘appendix’, and may well have been written much later and then added to the book when the original Hebrew manuscripts were combined and edited into the Old Testament as we know it today.

The Book of Judges as we read it today probably dates to the century after the establishment of the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah under King David in 1004BC. The editor brought together and combined two different traditions of the history of the Jewish people – one (known as the ‘J’ source) written in the southern kingdom of Judah and the other (called the ‘E’ source) written in the northern kingdom of Israel.

The narratives recorded in the last five chapters of ‘Judges’ do not follow the earlier events in chronological order, and, in reality, occurred much earlier than the time of Samson. They were added later in order to explain two aspects of the history of Israel to later generations of Israelites: firstly, how the city of Laish came to be conquered by the tribe of Dan; and secondly, why the tribe of Benjamin was punished by the other tribes and the city of Gibeah destroyed.

The story of Micah and his idols – the subject of today’s passage – is unusual in several respects:

Firstly, it shows the immorality and godlessness of the Israelites during the time of the ‘judges’. The story begins with Micah – a man from the hill country of Ephraim - admitting that he’d stolen 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother. Given that we’re told later that 10 pieces of silver constituted the annual wage of his priest, the amount stolen would have made Micah a ‘millionaire’.

Secondly, we’re told that Micah’s mother celebrated the restoration of her fortune by spending 200 pieces of silver on a pagan idol to thank the gods for the return of her wealth.

Thirdly, we’re told that Micah hired a young man to be his ‘shaman’ or ‘holy man’. But if you look closely at the text, you’ll realise that two conflicting accounts of the story have been cobbled together by the redactor. In verse 5, we’re told that Micah “chose one of his sons to be his priest”, but in verses 10 and 11 we’re told that it was a young Levite from Bethlehem who became Micah’s ‘priest’ and “agreed to live with Micah and become like one of Micah’s own sons.”

The whole story is very unusual, and doesn’t really begin to make sense until we read on into Chapter 18 (tomorrow!) and discover that today’s passage is just an introduction to the story of the capture of Laish by the tribe of Dan.

The photo shows the wooded hill country of Ephraim where Micah lived.

You can read more about the editing of different accounts of Israelite history into the ‘Old Testament’ we know today @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/22-the-world-of-the-old-testament-journeys/who-wrote-the-old-testament.

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