Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.III. THE APPENDIX: ISRAEL’S INTERNAL CORRUPTION
1. Micah’s and Dan’s Idolatry and Its Punishment
CHAPTER 17 The Images Made and the Hired Priest
1. The stolen money restored and the images (Judges 17:1-6)
2. The Levite hired for a priest (Judges 17:7-13)
The last five chapters of the book form an appendix. The events given did not occur after Samson’s death, but they happened many years before. These chapters are not in chronological order but arranged in this way to teach the root of the evil and its results. This answers much, if not all, of the objections of the critics. These chapters reveal the internal corruption which existed in Israel during the different declensions. Idolatry and lawlessness are the two characteristic features. True worship and dependence on God is given up and then follows the dreadful fruit of this, which is hatred, strife culminating in lawlessness. The predictions in the New Testament reveal the same two phases. Departure from the faith is followed by moral corruption (1Timothy 4:1; 2Timothy 3:1-4). Then we find in these chapters a statement which does not appear elsewhere in the book. “There was no king in Israel” is the statement made four times (17:6; 18:1, 19:1; 21:25). A king was needed to remedy these sad internal conditions, this departure from God and strife of one against the other. This is an evident link with and preparation for the history which follows. Even so in this age of evil, darkness and cunning lawlessness; what the world needs is a king, the King of Righteousness and Peace. When He comes, order will be brought out of chaos, all strife and war, all bloodshed and lawlessness will cease.
Into what a scene this chapter introduces us! The thieving son, the cursing mother. He, for the fear of the curse (true faith was not there, but superstition), restores the money and that ungodly woman can say, “Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.” Then she used two hundred shekels of silver and has two images made. Micah, whose wicked life belies his name (Micah means “who is like Jehovah”), had a house full of gods, made an ephod, teraphim and then “ordained” one of his sons for a priest. Then a wandering Levite passed by and to make his idolatrous worship a little more “religious” he hires the Levite to be a “father” and “a priest.” He also promises him a yearly salary, his board and clothing. Then he settled down and said, “Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.”
There is no need of much comment. The typical application is seen at a glance. Here is a man-made god, a man-made worship and a man-made priest. Such is the state of ritualistic Christendom. Much of that which is called worship is simply man-made and dishonors God as much, or even more, than the idolatry of heathendom. And how the false priesthood is here typified! We have but one Priest as the people of God and that is our gracious Lord. Through His infinite grace all true believers are constituted priests with Him. We are a holy and a royal priesthood. Any other priesthood is man-made and a wicked assumption which has corrupted and is corrupting Christianity. The hirelings too are represented in this scene. Religious service is so much reduced to a commercial basis. And there is the delusion of thinking that the Lord must surely bless and give prosperity.
The Levite himself is another sign of the times. He is of the Levites of Judah, has been for a while in Bethlehem-judah and wandered away again to find, where he may, another temporary resting place. His is the restless foot of a stranger where he might have claimed inheritance, and he is ready to find a home where he should have been a stranger. Little solicitation prevails with him: his sustenance, a suit of clothes, a salary, has prevailed with many in all ages of the world, and the Levite exchanges his ministry for priesthood in the house of Micah, where the idolatry of the place is sanctified with Jehovah’s name. All this is simple enough to read by those that care, and Christendom has exhibited every detail of this transformation--not, alas, as it would seem, a long process: a manufactured priesthood for manufactured gods, all covered with a fair name of orthodoxy, and men doing with great satisfaction what is right in their own eyes!