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Judges: Chapter 17

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1There was a man in the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and even spoke it in my hearing,—that silver is in my possession; I took it; but now I will return it to you.” a Heb living, and the Levite went And his mother said, “May my son be blessed by the LORD!” 3Then he returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother; and his mother said, “I consecrate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make an idol of cast metal.” 4So when he returned the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into an idol of cast metal; and it was in the house of Micah. 5This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim, and installed one of his sons, who became his priest. 6In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.

7Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the clan of Judah. He was a Levite residing there. 8This man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah, to live wherever he could find a place. He came to the house of Micah in the hill country of Ephraim to carry on his work. b Cn Compare 18.10: Meaning of Heb uncertain 9Micah said to him, “From where do you come?” He replied, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to live wherever I can find a place.” 10Then 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, a set of clothes, and your living.” c Meaning of Heb uncertain 11The Levite agreed to stay with the man; and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12So Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest.”

Notes:

c Heb living, and the Levite went

a Cn Compare 18.10: Meaning of Heb uncertain

b Meaning of Heb uncertain

Text Commentary view alone

17.1–21.25 : Double conclusion.

The double conclusion is symmetrical to the double introduction (see Introduction). These describe the self‐destructiveness of the Israelites during the period of the judges. Judges 17–18 , the first conclusion, describes the difficulties with domestic idols as Israel disintegrated religiously, and Judges 19–21 , the second conclusion, describes a civil war in which the “hIerem” was being internally applied. The refrain repeated in 17.6, 18.1, 19.1, and 21.25 (see Introduction) ties both conclusions together. These conclusions also serve as a bridge to the following books of Samuel and Kings. Chs 19–21 contain several allusions to the kingship of Saul, while 17–18 focus on the illegitimate worship of the Northern Kingdom, a major theme of Kings.

17.1–18.31 : Difficulties with domestic idols.

The first conclusion should be read in the light of Deut 12.1–13.1 , which insists on centralized worship. It is the thematic antithesis of that passage.

17.1–5 : The shrine of Micah.

1 :

The hill country of Ephraim was the central highlands north of Bethel and south of Shechem. Shiloh was in this region, and the tabernacle was located there. The story begins with an ironic twist: Micah is an abbreviation of a name that means “who is like the LORD?” An Israelite with such a name built a shrine with an image!

2–4 :

Theft and return of the silver which is used to make the image, an obvious violation of the second commandment (see Ex 20.4,23; 34.17; Lev 19.4 ) as well as a specific Deuteronomic curse (Deut 27.15 ).

5 :

A shrine, lit. “house of god.” An ephod was an elaborate priestly vestment (cf. 8.27 ), though here, used in conjunction with Teraphim, it is more likely some sort of idol. Teraphim, some type of household deities used for divinatory purposes (see Gen 31.19; Ezek 21.21; Zech 10.2 ). The installation of someone other than a Levite as a priest is a violation of priestly legislation (Ex 29.9; Num 16.10 ).

6 :

The first occurrence of the refrain in full (see Introduction).

17.6–13 : Micah's priest.

An opportunistic Levite becomes Micah's priest.

7 :

This Bethlehem (see 12.8n. ) was in the territory of Judah, just south of Jerusalem. It was not a Levitical town (Josh 21.9–16 ).

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