Bible: What Does Judges 17-19 Teach Us About Idolatry and Levites?
Next, the author sets aside two chapters to recount the works of Micah, the Ephraimite (v. 1).
The text presents Micah returning one thousand one hundred silver shekels to his mother, who blesses him for his deed (v. 2).
[The number of shekels is the same amount which each Philistine lord offered Delilah for Samson's secret. Any connection?
If so, Micah had apparently concealed the money from whomever wanted to steal it and then returned it when the heat was off.
It is interesting to note that the mother curses silver dedicated to making an idol, a cursed thing.
We may say we dedicate our treasure to God, but still use it on cursed things].
She then takes a portion of the money and commissions a silversmith to make the carved and molded idol for Micah (vv. 3, 4).
[Micah's mother said that she had "wholly dedicated" the silver for the image.
Why, then, does she use less than one-fifth of the shekels (only 200)]?
Micah adds this idol to his shrine collection and makes one of his sons his priest—a practice probably prevalent in the years when no king ruled Israel (vv. 5, 6; cf. 21:25).
[A righteous king would have properly set up the priesthood].
Soon thereafter, a young Levite from Bethlehem journeys into Ephraim in search of a home and a ministry (vv. 7-9).
Micah hires him as his priest, and provides for his needs (vv. 10-12).
At this point Micah believes (falsely) that he is headed for great blessing, because he has a Levite as priest (v. 13).
[He appears to be unaware that having a private priest is not according to God's program]!
The Name of Micah's Levite
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The opening statement sets the date of these incidents in the pre-kingdom period (v. 1a).
[Whether it also means that Israelites did especially "what was right in their own eyes," and not what was according to the Law, is debatable].
The tribe of Dan has not yet taken possession of its inheritance (v. 1b), so it sends five of its finest to spy out the land (v. 2a).
These men find lodging with Micah in Ephraim (v. 2b).
There they also encounter and interrogate a past acquaintance, the young Levite, who now serves as Micah's priest (vv. 3-4).
They seek his guidance (perhaps through sacrifice or some other means) for their upcoming excursion into the land of their inheritance, and the Levite gives them a favorable report from God (vv. 5-6).
[Given the poor character of the Levite, as the following events will demonstrate, he had no true spiritual connection with the LORD].
Laish, their promised Land, is quiet, secure, large and fruitful, and its inhabitants have no deliverer (v. 28) and no powerful relatives (vv. 7, 28): such is their report to the brethren at Zorah and Estaol (vv. 8-10).
Therefore, six hundred warriors leave for battle, camp in Judah along the way, and then visit Micah in Ephraim (vv. 11-13).
Told that Micah possesses valuable objects (v. 14), the six hundred presumably call for the Levite to bless them as they "go into harm's way" (vv. 15-16).
Meanwhile, the five steal his priestly garb and costly idols (v. 17).
After the priest remonstrates about their actions, they convince him to become the religious leader of their tribe (vv. 18-19).
He happily agrees with their offer, and follows them to Laish (vv. 20-21).
Micah's neighbors notice that the Danite army is taking away their friend's priest and valuables, so they confront them and complain about the theft (vv. 22-24).
But Dan prevails, threatening them with death, so Micah gives up and returns home much poorer (in this world's esteem, at any rate) [vv. 25-26].
The Danites destroy Laish (Leshem, Josh. 19:47), then rebuild it and dwell there, renaming it after their father Dan (vv. 27-29).
Jonathan (the name of the Levite) takes his place as their priest, and his sons follow him in that role until the captivity (v. 30).
They set up a worship shrine there, though the house of God is in Shiloh (v. 31).
Bowing Down to Statues: Aid or Idolatry?
Do you think it is wrong to have statues in your home or church?
Another Levite from Ephraim seeks to win back his wayward concubine, who at that time is living with her father in Bethlehem (vv. 1-3a).
Her father detains him for nearly five full days, constantly eating and drinking with him (vv. 3b-9).
[Perhaps the father did not want his daughter to leave?]
The Levite, finally insisting (despite the father's pleadings) that they should depart, journeys with his small company until they come to Jerusalem, a city of the Jebusites (v. 10).
Rejecting his servant's suggestion that they lodge there among foreigners, the priest travels until nightfall and arrives in Gibeah (Benjamin) where they find no hospitality (vv. 11-15).
[What a sad commentary on the spiritual state in Israel in those days without a good king]!
However, an old laborer—also a sojourner from Ephraim—recognizes the party as travelers (vv. 16-17), and invites the disappointed Levite (vv. 18-19) into his home, knowing how perilous it would be for them to stay in the open square (v. 20; cf. Gen. 19:2, 3).
The old man provides full hospitality, tending to all their needs and also the needs of their donkeys (v. 21).
Later that night, several sodomites surround the house, demanding to "know" the Levite (v. 22).
Refusing to let them satisfy their lust in this way, the old man, nevertheless, offers to send his virgin daughter and the Levite's concubine out to them (vv. 23-24).
[How sad that these men had no respect for women!
Lot, a believer, practiced this degraded custom in earlier years (cf. Gen. 19).
Typically, the homosexuals refuse the old man's suggestion, but curiously accept the Levite's concubine when he brings her out (v. 25a).
They gang rape her all night; when dawn comes, she collapses on the Levite's doorstep and dies (vv. 25b-26).
The next day the Levite, finding her there, callously orders her to get up (vv. 27-28a).
Finally realizing that she is dead, he takes her back to Ephraim, dismembers her into twelve pieces, and sends her body parts throughout Israel (vv. 28b-29).
This "deed" causes a real stir in Israel (v. 30).
[Did it ever occur to the Levite that he might have done something wrong?
Did he expect his concubine to come back to him only “a little worse for wear”?]
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