Judges 17
Pulpit Commentary
And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
Verse 1. - We here light upon quite a different kind of history from that which has preceded. We no longer have to do with judges and their mighty deeds in delivering Israel from his oppressors, but with two detached histories, which fill up the rest of the book, relating to the internal affairs of Israel. There is no note of time, except that they happened before the time of Saul the king (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1), and. that Phinehas the son of Eleazar was alive at the time of the occurrence of the second (Judges 20:28). Both, no doubt, are long prior to Samson. The only apparent connection of the history of Micah with that of Samson is that both relate to the tribe of Dan, and it may be presumed were contained in the annals of that tribe. Compare the opening of the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1). Mount Ephraim; i.e. the hill country of Ephraim, as in Judges 3:27; Judges 7:24, etc.
And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver 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. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.
Verse 2. - The eleven hundred. See Judges 16:5, note. Thou cursedst. The Cethib and the Alexandrian Codex of the Septuagint read, Thou cursedst, i.e.. adjuredst me, which is a better reading. There is a direct and verbal reference to the law contained in Leviticus 5:1. The word thou cursedst here and the voice of swearing in Leviticus are the same root. It was in consequence of this adjuration that Micah confessed his guilt. Compare Matthew 26:63, when our Lord, on the adjuration of the high priest, broke his silence and confessed that he was Christ, the Son of God. In Achan's confession (Joshua 7:19, 20) there is no distinct reference to Leviticus 5:1, though this may have been the ground of it.
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.
Verse 3. - I had wholly dedicated. It is not clear whether the words are to be rendered as in the A.V., had dedicated, expressing the dedication of them before they were stolen, or whether they merely express her present purpose so to dedicate them. But the A.V. makes very good sense. Her former purpose had been that the money should be given for her son's benefit to make his house an house of gods. Now that he had confessed, she resumed her purpose. Now therefore I restore it unto thee - that is, in the shape of the graven and molten images, as it follows in the next verse. The narrative gives a curious example of the semi-idolatry of the times. A graven image and a molten image. There is a good deal of difficulty in assigning the exact meaning of the two words here used, and their relation to one another in the worship to which they belong. The molten image (massechah), however, seems to be pretty certainly the metal, here the silver, image of a calf, the form which the corrupt worship of Jehovah took from the time when Aaron made the molten calf (Exodus 32:4, called there 'egel massechah, a molten calf) to the time when Jeroboam set up the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28, 29). And that massechah means something molten is certain both from its etymology (nasach, to pour) and from what Aaron said in Exodus 32:24: "I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf." Here too Micah's mother gives the silver to the founder, i.e. to the fuser of metals. The pesel, or graven image, on the other hand, is something hewn or graven, whether in wood or stone, and sometimes overlaid with gold and silver (Deuteronomy 7:25). One might have thought, from the language of ver. 4, and from the mention of the pesel alone in Judges 18:30, 31, that only one image is here intended, which was graven with the chisel after it was cast, as Aaron's calf seems to have been. But in Judges 18:17, 18 they are mentioned separately, with the ephod and teraphim named between them, so that they must be distinct. From the above passages the pesel or graven image would seem to have been the most important object, and the difficulty is to assign the true relation of the massechah or molten image to it. Hengstenberg thinks the massechah was a pedestal on which the pesel stood, and that the ephod was the robe with which the pesel was clothed, and that the teraphim were certain tokens or emblems attached to the ephod which gave oracular answers. But this is not much more than guess-work. Berthean considers the ephod, here as elsewhere, to be the priest's garment, put on when performing the most solemn services, and specially when seeking an answer from God. And he thinks that the massechah formed a part of the ornament of the ephod, because in Judges 18:18 the Hebrew has "the pesel of the ephod." The teraphin he thinks are idols, a kind of Dii minores associated with the worship of Jehovah in this impure worship. But there does not seem to be any means at present of arriving at any certainty. The massechah might be a rich gold or silver overlaying of the wooden image, possibly movable, or it might be the separate image of a calf supposed to belong, as it were, to the pesel, and to symbolise the attributes of the Godhead.
Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah.
Verse 4. - Yet he restored. Rather, so he restored, repeating what was said in ver. 3, and adding the consequence, that his mother took two hundred shekels and gave them to the founder. It is a great puzzle to explain why two hundred shekels only are here spoken of, and what became of the other nine hundred. Bertheau thinks the two hundred were different from the eleven hundred, and were the fifth part of the whole value stolen, which the thief, according to Leviticus 6:5, was bound to give in addition to the principal. He therefore translates ver. 4 thus: "So he restored the money to his mother (and his mother took two hundred shekels), and she gave it (the money 1100 shekels) to the founder," etc. Others understand that two hundred only were actually made into the graven and molten image, and the other nine hundred were devoted to other expenses of the worship. In the house of Micah. This explains, Now I will restore it unto thee, and, for my son to make, etc., in ver. 3.
And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.
Verse 5. - And the man Micah, etc. It is impossible to say for certain whether the state of things here described in respect of Micah preceded the events narrated in the preceding verses, or was consequent upon them. If it preceded, then we have the reason of his mother's vow: she wished to make her son's "house of God" complete by the addition of a graven and molten image. If it was consequent upon his mother's vow, then we have in the opening verses of this chapter a history of the circumstances of the foundation of Micah's "house of God," which was to play an important part in the colony of Danites, whose proceedings arc related in the following chapter, and for the sake of which this domestic history of Micah is introduced. House of gods. Rather, of God (Elohim); for the worship was of Jehovah, only with a corrupt and semi-idolatrous ceremonial. An ephod. See Judges 8:26, 27, note. Teraphim. See Genesis 31:19 (images, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); 1 Samuel 15:23 (idolatry, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); 19:13 (an image, A.V.; teraphim, Hebrews); Hosea 3:4,to etc. They seem to have been a kind of Penates, or household gods, and were used for divination (Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2). Became his priest. One function of the priest, and for which it is likely he was much resorted to, was to inquire of God by the ephod (Judges 18:5, 6). What his other duties might be does not appear.
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Verse 6. - There was no king. This must have been written in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah, and perhaps with reference to the efforts of such kings as Ass (1 Kings 15:13) and Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:43) to put down idolatry.
And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
Verse 7. - Of the family of Judah. These words are difficult to explain. If the man was a Levite he could not be of the family or tribe of Judah. Some explain the words to be merely a more accurate definition of Bethlehem-judah, as if he would say, I mean Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah. Others explain them to mean that he was one of a family of Levites who had settled in Bethlehem, and so came to be reckoned in civil matters as belonging to Judah. Others, that he was of the family of Judah on his mother s side, which might be the cause of his settling at Bethlehem. But many commentators think them spurious, as they are not found in the Septuagint (Cod. Vat.), nor in the Peschito, nor in No. 440 of De Rossi's MSS. The Septuagint has Bethlehem of the family of Judah.
And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehemjudah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.
Verse 8. - From Bethlehem-judah. Rather, out cf. The whole phrase means, out of the city, viz., out of Bethlehem. Mount Ephraim - the hill country of Ephraim, as ver. 1, where see note.
And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place.
And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.
Verses 10, 11. - A father. This is not a common application of the word father in the Old Testament. The prominent idea seems to be one of honour, combined with authority to teach and advise. It is applied to prophets (2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14), and to Joseph (Genesis 45:8). The idea is implied in the converse phrase of son, applied to those to whom the prophets stood in 'the relation of spiritual fathers (see 2 Kings 8:9; Proverbs 4:10, 20, and frequently elsewhere). The abuse of the feeling which dictates the term as applied to human teachers is reproved by our Lord (Matthew 23:9). It has been freely used in the Christian Church, as in the titles papa or pope applied to bishops, abbot and abbas, father in God, fathers of the Church, etc. Here there is perhaps a special reference to the function of Micah's priest to ask counsel of God, and then give that counsel to those who came to inquire (see note to ver. 5). It may be added that the idea of counsellor seems to be inherent in the word cohen or priest, as in 2 Samuel 8:18; 1 Kings 4:5, etc. Ten shekels - a little over a pound of our money, but probably equivalent to £20, when considered relatively to articles of consumption. A suit of apparel. There is great doubt as to the exact meaning of the word rendered suit in this connection. The word means anything arranged, i.e. put in a rank, or row, or order. In Exodus 40:23 it is applied to the shewbread: "He ordered the bread in order." Thence it came to mean the estimation or worth of a person or thing - some-what as we use the word rank. From this last sense some interpret the word here to mean the worth or price of his clothes. Others, including St. Jerome and the Septuagint, interpret it a pair of vestments, meaning summer and winter clothing. But perhaps the A.V., suit, meaning the whole set of under and upper garments, is after all the best interpretation. The Levite went in. The Hebrew is went, i.e. according to the common use of the word, went his way. And such is probably the meaning here. He went his way to consider the proposal made to him. The result is given in the next verse: And the Levite was content, etc.
And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.
And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.
Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
Verse 13. - Then said Micah, etc. We may notice this incidental proof that the Levites in the time of Micah held the religious position which is ascribed to them in the Pentateuch. I have a Levite. Rather, the Levite, meaning the particular Levite of whom it is the question. A Levite would be without the article, as in ver. 7, or would be expressed as in Judges 19:1 (Hebrews), a man a Levite.

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