JUDGES CHAPTER 17.
The Idolatry of Micah.
THE MAKING OF THE IMAGE. — V. 1. And there was a man of Mount Ephraim whose name was Micah. The fine meaning of this man’s name, “who is like Jehovah,” does not change the fact that the evils of the period were growing, that the decay of the priesthood had set in, that there was a general prevalence of discord and immorality, not to speak of idolatry, in Israel. V. 2. And he said unto his mother, evidently a widow to whom her husband had left a considerable sum of money, The eleven hundred shekels of silver (about $700) that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. So the awful curse spoken upon the unknown thief by his mother caused Micah to return the money to her, since he feared the effect of the curses in his case. “As one shakes off rain, so he would free himself of this curse-laden money.” And his mother said, in an effort to save her son from the effects of her terrible malediction, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my son! She praised him for his confession, although her own religion does not seem to have been any too pure any more. V. 3. And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the Lord from my hand for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now, therefore, I will restore it unto thee. The money which her son handed back to her, after having taken it secretly, she immediately consecrated to the Lord for the purpose of equipping the sanctuary which Micah had planned. V. 4. Yet he restored the money unto his mother, still from fear of the curse which she had uttered; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver (about $128), her ardor for Jehovah having evidently cooled since she actually had the money in her hands once more, and gave them to the founder, to the silversmith, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image, image and cast-work, the pedestal probably being cast, and the picture, apparently an ox or calf, being carved or chiseled; and they were in the house of Micah, they were added to the equipment of his private sanctuary. V. 5. And the man Micah had an house of gods, a place where he worshiped, and made an ephod, a garment like that worn by the high priest, with the Urim and Thummim, Ex. 39, and teraphim, small household gods, oracle gods, and consecrated one of his sons, filled his hand, made him his priest, Lev. 7, 37, who became his priest. It was a peculiar situation which obtained in the house of Micah: he and his mother had not openly broken with the worship of Jehovah,-they rather prided themselves upon their being members of His people, -but their hearts were not wholly with the true God, as the maintaining of this private sanctuary shows. The situation has its parallel in our days, when thousands of men claim for themselves the Christian name and protest their belief in the true God, while still setting up their own private gods, whom they then designate with some high-sounding name to dupe themselves and to deceive others. V. 6. In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. This note is added by the author in order to give one reason for such conditions as here described, namely, the absence of a central civil authority. The sin of Micah is committed throughout the length and breadth of the so-called civilized countries, both by gross and by fine idolatry.
A LEVITE MADE THE IDOL’S PRIEST. — V. 7. And there was a young man out of Bethlehem-judah, later the birthplace of the Savior, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there, he lived there for a while as a stranger. V. 8. And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehem-judah to sojourn where he could find a place. Many of the cities which had been allotted to the Levites being still in the hands of the Canaanites, this man had no real home, and so traveled from the territory of Judah toward the north, in the hope of finding some place that would please him. And he came to Mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, as he journeyed, the place evidently being on the main highway between the northern and southern parts of the country. V. 9. And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehem-judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. V. 10. And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, to be treated with all reverence and honor, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year (about $6.40 cash) and a suit of apparel, the necessary clothing, and thy victuals, his board was thus also included. So the Levite went in, forgetting entirely that he was consecrated to the service of Jehovah alone. V. 11. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, he made up his mind to stay; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons, he took care of him in the same manner as he did his sons. V. 12. And Micah consecrated the Levite, filled his hand, the standing expression for ordaining a priest, for inducting him into office, taken from the ceremony of laying the offerings required at the consecration of a priest upon his hands; and the young man became his priest and was in the house of Micah. V. 13. Then said Micah, Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest. It was a peculiar blindness which caused Micah to look for blessings to Jehovah against whom he was sinning with his image worship. The mere fact that the man belonged to the tribe of Levi and was really under obligation to serve at the altar of Jehovah only could never change the fact of the mortal sin which was being committed in his house day by day, for the Levite himself did wrong in permitting himself to be hired. When men who have been called to be preachers of the Gospel become chaplains in antichristian societies, in which the honor of the Savior is set aside, they are committing the same sin as the Levite of Micah.