Micah and the Levite
17 There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”
Judges 17 Commentary
by Hank Workman
It is the strangest of stories. Judges 17 sets the table for the remaining chapters with Israel’s moral decline and the people following their own ways instead of God’s. What will become a resounding echo through this entire book is summed up in verse 6.
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
Israel’s calling was known to all. Sadly, these people became morally depraved in their actions based on what was in their hearts. The calling sidelined, they only sought God when it was convenient. The stark reality is selfish obedience doesn’t take us far.
So, here’s the deal. Micah and his mother seemed to outwardly be fairly good and moral people. Although he had stolen a shed load of money from her at one point, he did return it. So, okay there’s a conscious. He also desired to worship God, or so it seems. Okay, so onlookers could remark of how good this mother-son were from observance. But, and it’s a huge but, Micah went about his desire to worship God in his own way and actually was completely disobedient in the process. This shows the absolute spiritual confusion found among the mindsets of the people.
You see, ‘everyone did as they saw fit’. They were just making things up as they went.
More to the point, although there is a story to come of the absolute degradation of these people in their behavior, this story alone shows it wasn’t just tapping into their hedonistic ways. These people were making it up as they went in their religion as well.
Could not these same statements be made of the 21st Century? Sadly, I believe so. God has standards. He has not left things to us in our own attitudes or conduct. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but our opinions on matters of following are not set by ourselves. Yet, how much of this have we made the case? We have put our interests first. By and large, it seems that most have rejected God’s way of right living. We’ve even made up our own homemade version of following Him, much like Micah did.
If we are not submitting to our God daily, we too will end up doing whatever seems right to us at the time. It’s obvious this mindset had affected the priests and Levites as well. Their own moral decay is put on display as they were easily purchased for a price, worshiped idols and wanted position of recognition.
There is a very scary thing that happens when we begin to operate on the basis of what seems right at the time. God can remove His hand.
So, who’s calling the shots these days in your decisions? Who is dictating your response to others needs? Who is more important in pleasing when all is said and done? These are the questions to ponder. For if we are pursuing our own happiness, our own status, our own packed bank account – beware. We are doing what seems right in our own eyes. We may give the impression of followers but possibly our fragrance to Christ is repugnant.
Judges 17 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
If you have been following along in Judges, then you know that Israel’s decline has been building. Chapters 2-16 are the meat and potatoes of this book, describing the foreign threats to Israel, the backslide into sin, and God’s calling of particular individuals as judges. The last several chapters are considered appendixes, though the timeline of events is confusing. To fully make sense of them, we must understand when they actually occurred.
For whatever reason, the author decided to include them later in the book when they are actually dated earlier in the period of Judges. We know this because certain biblical characters (i.e. Phinehas) are still ministering in roles described earlier in Numbers and Joshua. In every chapter from here on out (except 20), we read the phrase, “there was no king in Israel.”
Judges 17:6 NASB In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
When putting the two above points together and placing this theme before the stories of the judges, we can see the overwhelming message the writer is communicating. It is inferred to the reader that a king would have been ideal to keep Israel away from sin. We can read into Samuel and beyond to know this isn’t true, but it still highlights the cold hard truth – Israel (and humanity) couldn’t stop rebelling against God.
The climax of this idea that every man did what he wanted is found in the character of Samson who was supposed to be set apart as a Nazarite and judge. Instead, he did what he desired, leading to his own death among the Philistines.
It was not just Samson, though. There were many. Take Micah, for example. He decides to set up his own private worship center, which was a perversion of the worship practices that were set by God previously. Not only that, but he recruits a Levite priest to legitimize his sanctuary. In Joshua 21, when land was distributed, the Levites were not given a share, but rather, were given 48 cities scattered around the tribes with the responsibility of ministering and teaching.
This young Levite was from Bethlehem, which was not one of the 48 cities, so it’s possible he had already compromised on his duties. He accepts this position as priest over Micah’s sanctuary, compromising both his purpose and his God-given ministry.
Things were beginning to break down. Man did what he wanted while ignoring God. One final note that is easy to miss… remember in verse 5 when Micah consecrated his own son to be priest?
Judges 17:5 NASB And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest.
I wonder, what happened to him? We read at the end of the chapter that Micah welcomes this Levite as a priest and they become like father and son. Did he just abandon his son from earlier? Was he demoted? This only speaks further to the fact that this generation was corrupted by the lusts of the eye. If Micah was willing to abandon his commitment to his son as soon as something “better” came along, it’s very telling of how bad the times were.