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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Judges 17

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-13

At this point the book of Judges, as far as its history, ends. What remains in the book of Judges is not now in chronological order. This is an appendix to the book of Judges as we get into chapter seventeen. And it tells us basically of the moral conditions of the nation of Israel during this time after Joshua, and the stories, some of them, take us clear back to the time immediately after Joshua. So if you can now shift gears in your mind and go in reverse, we come to the end of the historic chronological order with Samson.

After Samson there arises then Samuel. We'll get that after we get through the book of Ruth. But now we're going to get into an appendix and we're going to go back in the next few chapters and examine some of the moral decay that was going on in Israel during the time of the period of the judges. It just gives us an insight to the moral corruptness that existed among God's people during this time when they lacked a real conscienceness of God as their king.

So the first story begins in chapter seventeen.

There was a man who lived on Mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said to his mother, You remember those eleven hundred shekels of silver that were stolen from you, and you cursed the person who stole them, you said, Let the person who stole this be cursed. He said, Hey mom, I did it. And here are the eleven hundred shekels back, and she said, O blessed be thou my son of the LORD [and all]. I had really intended to take that silver and make some little idols for you. And so she gave him a portion of the silver in order that he might make a little image and he gave them to the founder, who made a graven image and they were in the house of Micah. [the molten images] And the man Micah had a house of god, and he made an ephod, and a teraphim, and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. For in those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes ( Judges 17:1-6 ).

And therein is an insight into the moral degeneracy. They had lost the fact that God was to be their king. They lost the conscienceness of that fact. And every man, rather than being ruled by God, was doing that which was right in his own eyes. It was a period of anarchy. Everybody just did what he wanted to do, what was right in his own eyes. It is sort of what they are trying to bring to pass in this essentialism. Everybody just relate to experience as you feel that you should relate to it. There really isn't any right or wrong way. If it feels good, do it, you know. If it feels right, do it. And this is the kind of chaotic condition that was going on in Israel. This kind of anarchy where everyone was just doing what was right in their own eyes, not really following the government of God or the law of God.

Now Micah in making these images was not making really pagan kinds of images but images, no doubt, that would represent God to him. But in the second commandment God had expressly forbidden making any graven images or likeness of God, to bow down and worship. So he was violating the commandment of God but trying to make an image of God. He was not turning from Jehovah in that sense of making an image of Baal or Molech or one of the pagan gods but he was trying to make an image of God. And then with the teraphim and the ephod, seeking to tie the whole worship of Jehovah together, making a little worship center in his house where he has his own little idols in the house where he goes to pray and goes to worship. Now this was expressly forbidden by God, and yet, having lost the conscienceness of God's presence, he is wanting something to remind him of the presence of God. And thus, he's made his little worship center in his house with his little idols and all, the place where he can go and pray, his own little private altar.

Now whenever a person makes an idol, the very fact that he has made an idol indicates that that person has lost the conscienceness of the presence of God. The second thing it indicates is that he is desiring to regain that conscienceness of God's presence, and thus, he has set up this as a reminder to him of God's presence. And thus it is actually speaking of a desire to regain something that is lost, a vitality of relationship with God. Whenever a person has to set up an image or an idol, it is a testimony that that person has lost something vital in his relationship with God and he needs some kind of a little reminder to remind him of God's presence. And thus, it is always a mark of spiritual deterioration; any image, any idol of any thing is a mark of spiritual deterioration. So it is important to note that Micah wasn't really turning his back on Jehovah, for he even speaks of Jehovah, but he has lost something vital in his relationship with Jehovah which causes him to make these little images and set up a worship center as a place for his prayers.

Now there was a young man who lived in Bethlehem, who was a Levite: and he was living there but he departed from Bethlehem just sort of looking for a place to live. And he came to Mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, on his journey. And Micah said to him, Where you coming from? And he said, I'm a Levite from Bethlehem, and I journeying that I can find a place. Micah said unto him, If you'll dwell with me, and be a priest in my house, I will give you ten shekels of silver annually, and a new suit, and all your food. So the Levite went in ( Judges 17:7-10 ).

Now here is a deterioration in the Levite, in that he is becoming now a professional religionist. Sort of selling himself for religious purchases for an annual salary of ten shekels of silver and a new suit and his daily food.

And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his own sons. And Micah consecrated the Levite; the young man became his priest, and he was in the house of Micah. Then said Micah, Now I know that Jehovah will do me good, seeing that I have Levite as my priest ( Judges 17:11-13 ).

So it was a mercenary thing, you know. I know I'm gonna prosper now because I got a Levite for a priest. And that's the only reason why he wanted the Levite is so he could prosper. In other words, it was the idea of using God for gain.

Paul speaks in the New Testament of the error of those who think that godliness is a way to gain. He calls it a pernicious doctrine. He said, "turn away from such people who say that godliness is a way to get rich, that godliness is a way to prosperity, that godliness is a way to gain." Paul calls it an evil doctrine. Micah has that concept, "Awe, God's gonna prosper me now I've got a Levite for my priest." So he's buying his way, in a sense, into prosperity in hiring the priest. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Judges 17". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/judges-17.html. 2014.
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