The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Judges 17

Jdg 17:1

Date of last section: see Jdg 20:28. Prob during Joshua's days, since Aaron's grandson was ministering (cp Jdg 18:12n). Notice Joshua's counsel in Jos 24: Put away the strange gods!

"The story of Samson is the proper end of the Book of Judges. With that the reader is brought almost, if not quite, to the time of Samuel. There are, actually, three appendices to the book:
The indications are that all these three appendices belong to the early days of the judges, but in none is there any mention of a 'judge'. From that point of view they are not part of the original purpose and plan of the book at all.

'In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.' This expression, which comes four times altogether (Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25), implies that the Judges narrative was compiled during the reign of one of the kings. It might be read, also, as indicating a state of anarchy in Israel, when the national organization had gone to pieces. But this was far from being the case, for there are various allusions to a system of ordered government (eg Jdg 18:2,8; 20:1,2,12,13,18; 21:10,16).

"It is often overlooked that identical words are applied to Israel in the wilderness: '(When ye are come into the Land) ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes' (Deu 12:8). When those words were spoken Israel did not lack cohesion or orderly government, but there are indications enough that at that time men served God or disregarded His law as they chose. It is in this sense that the words must be read concerning the period of the judges" (WJR).

MICAH: "Who is like Yah". The man who should have had the answer to Isa 46:5: "To whom will ye liken me?"

Jdg 17:2

1,100 SHEKELS: The price of Samson's betrayal (Jdg 16:5).

"There was a woman in mount Ephraim who had lost eleven hundred shekels -- more than sixty thousand pounds (1989 inflation). The rabbis, seizing on the coincidence of this sum of money with that paid to Delilah (Jdg 16:5), supposed that the woman was none other than Delilah herself. This is hardly likely, for wasn't that amiable lady paid her eleven hundred shekels five times over? In any case, the allusion to Mahaneh-Dan (Jdg 18:12) implies that this strange episode takes place before the time of Samson (Jdg 13:25)" (WJR).

Jdg 17:3

The psychology of apostasy: a blending of false and true, prob to pacify conscience.

Jdg 17:5

"A SHRINE": "A house of GODS" (KJV), or "a house of GOD" (RV mg). Micah was too lazy to go to Shiloh, which was very nearby -- but very industrious to build his own house of gods.

"It is appropriate to consider here one of the main problems of this incident, namely, the nature of the worship which Micah instituted in his own home. Several times over, there are mentioned four articles of devotion: a graven image, a molten image, an ephod and teraphim (17:4,5; 18:14,17,20).

"These accoutrements of Micah's home-made religion present a strange mixture of the true and the false, the hallmark of apostasy from time immemorial.

"It is not unlikely that the graven image and the molten image [ie KJV text] are the same, one in apposition to the other. The golden calf made by Aaron is described in both ways (Exo 32:4).

"The ephod was, of course, a normal priestly garment. There is some evidence that the high-priest's ephod was a kind of corselet -- linen stiffened by gold wire -- made vivid with the divine colours.

"Archaeologists have established, by comparison with similar features in contemporary religion, that the teraphim were small objects like children's dolls. It would appear that in some way they were associated with right of inheritance to the family property; hence the great fuss made by Laban and his sons over Rebekah's theft of her father's teraphim (Gen 31:19-55).

"There is little difficulty in harmonizing Micah's home-made system of approach to God with his evident belief in Jehovah as the covenant God of Israel. The fault lay in the blithe assumption that God would be well-pleased with a self-consecrated priest ministering in a sanctuary which the man himself had fashioned and located in a site convenient for himself, rather than in a place which the Lord his God had chosen. The service and worship in Micah's private tabernacle might be -- doubtless was -- both sincere and devout, and in many of its features correct, but in certain big essentials, there was gross departure from the Law given through Moses. 'I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me' (Lev 10:3). 'It shall be that the man whom the Lord doth choose, HE shall be holy' (Num 16:7)" (WJR).

Jdg 17:8.

Vv 8,9: "He was the grandson of Moses [Jdg 18:30]. He was a leader in Israel -- leading the people into idol worship and away from God. How did it happen? This young Levite had left Bethlehem in Judah in search of some other place to stay. It seems he had nothing to do, he was idle and needed a job. So when Micah offered him something to do, a job as a priest to Micah's idols, he leapt at the chance -- after all, it was better than wandering around bored.

"It was the priests and Levites who were supposed to be keeping Israel on track to serve and obey the LORD. They should have been busy teaching the people, serving at the tabernacle and helping with the offerings to the LORD. But this Levite had gone wandering, having nothing to do. I believe that his idleness was what turned him to idols. If he had been doing what he was supposed to be doing he would not have had the time nor inclination to commit such a great sin. It is just the same with us. When we have nothing to do and we are idle we can find ourselves turning to other gods: television, entertainment, gossip, etc. The solution? Keep busy at all times doing the work of the LORD" (RP).

Jdg 17:10

The first record of a hired priest: a so-called "father" who is treated as a "son" -- completely supported by his congregation.

TEN SHEKELS: Out of 1,100? A bit "frugal"!

Jdg 17:13

A superstitious reliance on the outward religious forms. A right form is no insurance of one's ultimate success.

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