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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 17

Verse 1

MICAH AND THE LEVITE, Judges 17:1-13.

1. Mount Ephraim The exact limits of this mountain range are nowhere indicated in the Scriptures. It ran midway through the territory assigned to the tribe of this name, extending as far north as Shechem, (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:21,) and at least as far south as Ramah. Judges 4:5. It was the central portion of the great mountain range that forms the backbone of Palestine, and took this name from the early allotment of this section of the country to the tribe of Ephraim.

Verse 2

2. About which thou cursedst Having missed the money, she uttered imprecations against the thief.

Also in my ears She so uttered and kept repeating her curses that among others Micah also heard her.

I took it The son had been the thief, but his mother’s curses seem to have awed him, and led him to make restitution. This act of robbery, and the thief being allowed to go unpunished, show the lawlessness of the time.

Blessed Instead of reproof and penalty for his theft he receives a blessing. This blessing sprang from sudden joy at receiving again her lost silver.

Verse 3

3. I had wholly dedicated Rather, I have wholly dedicated. Her purpose to sanctify the silver unto the Lord seems to have originated with the pleasure with which she received it from the hand of her son.

Graven image and a molten image The former was carved out of either metal or wood, the latter cast or poured; but the difference of form or make between the two is hard to determine. Keil conjectures that the graven image was an image of a bull, like the golden calf at Sinai. But these images were not meant for idols to be worshipped, though they naturally led to idolatry. They seem to have been looked upon as household or tutelary gods, not to be worshipped as gods, yet to be reverenced as talismans. This act of Micah and his mother was, however, a coming nearer to idolatry than the act of Gideon in setting up his famous ephod in Ophrah, and yet this home idolatry of Micah may have been a consequence of Gideon’s wrong example. Compare note on Judges 8:27.

Now therefore I will restore Rather, and now I restore it to thee, that is, for the purpose of making images to place in Micah’s house of gods. Judges 17:5.

Verse 4

4. Two hundred shekels Less than one fifth of the eleven hundred shekels. What was done with the remaining nine hundred? They were probably used for making the ephod and teraphim mentioned in Judges 17:5, and paying the founder who made all the images; for, according to Judges 17:3, the silver was to be in some way wholly dedicated to the Lord. This mention of the founder, or smelter, indicates the knowledge at this time in Israel of the art of metallurgy.

Verse 5

5. House of gods Or, a house of God, a sanctuary after the model of that at Shiloh. He would have a tabernacle of his own.

An ephod Probably after the fashion of Gideon’s. See on Judges 8:27.

Teraphim Idolatrous images among the Syrians, but in Israel connected rather with corrupt notions of religion than with open idolatry. It does not appear that they were ever worshipped. But see on Genesis 31:19, and Joshua 24:14.

Consecrated Literally, filled the hand, in allusion to the sacred and solemn duties which filled the hands required all the care of those who occupied the priest’s office.

One of his sons This fact affords further evidence of the looseness of that age, and shows how completely some of the most solemn enactments of the law had become a dead letter. But Micah did not feel fully satisfied with this priest of his own household, and hence his subsequent consecration of the wandering Levite.

Verse 6

6. No king This verse seems here, as everywhere, to explain the irregularities and evils of the age. It here explains how a man in central Palestine could establish such a semblance of idolatry, and profanely make a priest contrary to the requirements of the law. There was no central government to look after such irregularities, and bring the whole nation to uniform methods of worship, or counteract and destroy the growth of various evils.

Verse 7

7. Of the family of Judah This does not mean that this young man was a descendant of Judah, for he is immediately called a Levite, but that he belonged to the Levites who occupied by divine appointment cities within the tribe-territory of Judah. Compare Joshua 21:8-16. In Judges 18:30, this Levite is called “Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh.” He seems from Judges 18:3, to have been a person of some distinction, known at least to leading persons in the tribe of Dan. See notes on those passages. Beth-lehem-judah was not one of those cities allotted to the Levites, and hence it is added that this young man had only sojourned there, that is, dwelt there for a time as a stranger; it was not his native city nor his permanent home.

Verse 8

8. To sojourn where he could find a place The irregularity and neglect of sanctuary worship, and of the several enactments of the law concerning the priests and Levites, probably left many of this tribe to wander idly through the land, seeking a residence wherever they might chance to find one.

Verse 10

10. A father and a priest A spiritual counsellor as well as a priest. The word father is here a title of respect and reverence. Compare Genesis 45:8; 2 Kings 6:21.

Ten shekels of silver by the year A little more than six dollars. A small sum, indeed, but, with food and clothing, probably ample for his comfort in those simple times.

Verse 13

13. Now know I Micah had not felt easy and safe before. He seems to have feared that he had gone too far, and he evidently knew enough of the law to understand that the tribe of Levi had been set apart to the priesthood and ministry of the sanctuary. But now, having a priest from the divinely chosen tribe, he begins to feel sure of Jehovah’s favour.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Judges 17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.