And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.Jdg 17:1. Here begins what may be called a supplement to the book of Judges; which gives an account of several memorable transactions, in or about the time of the judges: whose history the author would not interrupt, by intermixing these matters with it, but reserved them to be related apart by themselves, in the five following chapters. In these he first gives an account how idolatry came into the tribe of Ephraim; which he doth in this chapter: secondly, How it came to be introduced in the tribe of Dan, chap. 18. And then he relates, in chap. 19., a most barbarous and shameful act done by some Benjamites, and the entire destruction of that tribe, except six hundred men, for countenancing it, chap. 20. And lastly, in chap. 21., he relates how the tribe of Benjamin was kept from being extinguished. Whose name was Micah — When Micah lived, and did what is related in this chapter, we may with some certainty gather from Jdg 17:6, which tells us, there was no king in Israel at that time; that is, no supreme governor, with a power to keep the people to their duty; which is supposed by learned men to have been between the death of those elders who survived Joshua, and the first oppression of Israel by Cushan. In which space of time, it is manifest, the Israelites first fell from the worship of God, and polluted themselves with idolatry, Jdg 2:13, and Jdg 3:7. The beginning of which defection from God’s described briefly in this chapter.
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.Jdg 17:2. About which thou cursedst — That is, didst curse the person who had taken it away. The mother seems to have uttered this curse in the hearing of her son; who, being struck therewith, confessed that he had taken the money; upon which his mother wishes that her curses may be turned into blessings upon him.
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.Jdg 17:3. I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the Lord — The meaning seems to be, that when she had lost the money, she vowed, that if she recovered it, she would dedicate it to the Lord, and her superstitious ignorance made her conceive that she could do this in no better way than in laying it out in images of some kind to be made use of in his worship. In the Hebrew here, the word for Lord is Jehovah, the incommunicable name of the true God, whereby it is apparent that neither she nor her son intended to forsake the true God, but only to worship him by an image, which also the Israelites designed to do when they made the calf in the wilderness, (Exodus 32:1,) and Jeroboam afterward. Hence this Micah rejoiced when he had got a priest of the Lord’s appointment. Their error lay in worshipping God according to their own fancies, and not as he had commanded. But this chapter and the following show that the Israelites were at this time fallen into a most deplorable and shameful ignorance of God and his law. For my son — For the benefit of thyself and family; that you need not be continually going to Shiloh to worship, but may do it at home. Therefore I will restore it unto thee — To dispose of it, as I say, in making an image.
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.Jdg 17:4. Yet he restored the money to his mother — Though she allowed him to keep it, he persisted in his resolution to restore it, that she might dispose of it as she pleased. His mother took two hundred shekels — Reserving nine hundred either for the ephod, or teraphim, or other things relating to this worship.
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.Jdg 17:5. The man Micah had a house of gods — The Hebrew בית אלהים, Beth Elohim, may more properly be translated a house of God; that is, he had made, or at least intended to make, in his own dwelling, an imitation of the house of God in Shiloh. And teraphim — A sort of images so called. And consecrated one of his sons — Because the Levites, in that corrupt state of the church, neglected the exercise of their office, and therefore they were neglected by the people, and others put into their employments.
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.Jdg 17:6. There was no king in Israel — No judge to govern and control them; the word king being used largely for a supreme magistrate. God raised up judges to rule and deliver the people when he saw fit; and at other times for their sins he suffered them to be without them, and such a time this was; and therefore they ran into that idolatry from which the judges usually kept them; as appears by that solemn and oft-repeated declaration in this book, that after the death of such or such a judge, the people forsook the Lord, and turned to idols. His own eyes — That is, not what pleased God, but what best suited his own fancy.
And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.Jdg 17:7. Beth-lehem-judah — So called here, as Matthew 2:1; Matthew 2:5, to distinguish it from Bethlehem in Zebulun. There he was born and bred. Of Judah — That is, of or belonging to the tribe of Judah; not by birth, for he was a Levite; but by his habitation and ministration. For the Levites were dispersed among all the tribes: and this man’s lot fell into the tribe of Judah. Sojourned — So he expresseth it, because this was not the proper place of his abode, this being no Levitical city.
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.Jdg 17:8. To sojourn where he could find a place — For employment and a livelihood; for the tithes and offerings, which were their maintenance, not being brought unto the house of God, the Levites and priests were reduced to difficulties.
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.Jdg 17:10. Be unto me a father — That is, a priest, a spiritual father, a teacher or instructer. He pretends reverence and submission to him; and what is wanting in his wages, he pays him in titles.
And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.Jdg 17:11-12. The Levite was content — Being infected with the common superstition and idolatry of the times. As one of his sons — That is, treated with the same degree of kindness and affection. Micah consecrated the Levite — To be a priest, for which he thought a consecration necessary, as knowing the Levites were no less excluded from the priest’s office than the people. The young man — Instead of his son, whom he had consecrated, but now it seems restrained from the exercise of that office, devolving it wholly upon the Levite, who was nearer akin to it.
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.Jdg 17:13. Do me good — I am assured God will bless me. So blind and grossly partial he was in his judgment, to think that one right circumstance would answer for all his substantial errors, in making and worshipping images against God’s express command, in worshipping God in a forbidden place, by a priest illegally appointed. “He persuades himself,” says Calmet, “that the people, seeing his chapel served by a man of the family of Levi, will come thither with greater confidence, and that this concourse, together with the offerings to be brought, will procure him considerable gain. It is evidently this gain which he here calls the blessing of God. How just a representation is this of those superstitiously covetous persons who would connect religion with the love of riches, and who, as St. Paul expresses it, fancy that piety should serve as a means of enriching themselves.”