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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Judges 17

 

 

Verses 1-13

PART THIRD

The conclusion of the Book, tracing the evils of the period, the decay of the priesthood, the self-will of individuals, and the prevalence of licentiousness, passion, and discord, to the absence of a fixed and permanent form of government.

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FIRST SECTION

The History Of Micah’s Private Temple And Image-worship: Showing The Individual Arbitrariness Of The Times, And Its Tendency To Subvert And Corrupt The Religious Institutions Of Israel

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Micah, a man of Mount Ephraim, sets up a private sanctuary and engages a wandering Levite to be his Priest

Judges 17:1-13

1And there was a man of Mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah [Micayehu]. 2And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee,[FN1] 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 Lord3[Jehovah], my son. And when he had [And he] restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, [and] his mother said, I had wholly dedicated[FN2] the silver unto the Lord [Jehovah] from my hand for my Song of Solomon, to make a graven image 4 and a molten image:[FN3] now therefore I will restore it unto thee. Yet [And] he restored the money [silver] 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 [Micayehu]. 5And the man Micah had an house of gods [a “Beth Elohim,” God’s-house], and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated [appointed] one of his sons, who [and he] became his priest 6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes 7 And there was a young man out of Beth-lehem-judah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there [temporarily] 8And the man departed out of the city from [out of] Beth-lehem-judah, to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed 9 And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Beth-lehem-judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. 10And Micah said unto him, Dwell [Abide] 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 11 And the Levite was content [consented] to dwell with the Prayer of Manasseh, and the young man was [became] unto him as one of his sons 12 And Micah consecrated [appointed] the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah 13Then said Micah, Now know I that the Lord [Jehovah] will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to [seeing the Levite has become] my priest.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Judges 17:2.—**לָדְ אֲשֶׁר לֻקַּח לָרְ is the dat. incommodi. Strictly speaking, לְ simply marks some sort of relation, the exact nature of which must be otherwise determined. The present phrase, rendered as literally as possible, is: “which (sc. כֶּסֶף) was taken for thee,” cf. our popular use of the same phrase, and the German, welches dir genommen ward. Ewald (who with characteristic self-confidence announces that he must leave the “silly absurdity” of the ordinary explanation of this passage “to those who do not hesitate to find their own folly in the Bible,”) seems to take לָדְ as the dative of the author: the money taken (received) by thee from my father. For he relates, quite in historical style, that a young man of Mount Ephraim, whose father probably died early, took the money which had been left to his mother into his own hands, in order by using to increase it (!); and that, followed by his mother’s blessing, he was fortunate, and was about to restore the money to her, as became a dutiful Song of Solomon, when she made him a present of it in the shape of a handsome (schmucken) god, etc. The perfect לָקַחְתִּי, he says, is the perfect of volition (like הִקְדַּשְׁתִּי, Judges 17:3): “I will take; it is my will to take.” But if the Hebrew author meant to tell this story, he expressed himself very obscurely. The imprecatory oath, too, is thus left without explanation. And notwithstanding all Ewald’s efforts in behalf of him, Micah is still in suspicious possession of the money (הנֵּה הַכֶּסֶף אּתִּי), before he tells his mother that he will take it. Under such circumstances, the benediction which, according to Ewald, the mother pronounces on her Song of Solomon, might be more politic than free.—Tr.]

2 Judges 17:3.—הַקְרֵּשׁ הִקדַּשְׁתִּי. Render: “I verily dedicate.” Although Dr. Cassel also translates here by the pluperfect, he explains it of the present, see below. On this use of the perfect cf. Ges. Gram. 126, 4. The word “wholly” of the E. V. is better omitted. The infin. absolute in this construction is intensive, not extensive. It does not assert the completeness of the consecration, but simply makes it prominent, as being the use to which she determines to put the money. Cf. Ges131, 3.—Tr.]

3 Judges 17:3.—פֶּסֶל וּסַסֵּכָה. Dr. Cassel: Bild und Gusswerk, “image and cast-work”; i.e., an image of wood or stone covered with a thin coating of silver or gold, see below. This explanation, although concurred in by several critics, is not yet sufficiently certain to make it worth while to disfigure our English text by inserting it.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

After the story of Samson’s heroic life and death, there follow in conclusion two narratives, of which the first embraces chaps17,18, the second chaps19–21. Though not connected with each other either by time or place, they are nevertheless not mere accidental appendages to the preceding historical narrative, but essential parts of the well-considered organism of the entire Book, in consequence of which also they received the position in which we find them. The profound pragmatism of the Book (see Introduction, sect1) designs to show, that the heroic period of the Judges is full indeed of the wonders of God’s compassion, but lacks that organic centralization and unity which only the kingly office, rightly instituted and rightly exercised, could afford. This want manifested itself even under the greatest Judges. The influence of the Judge extended, for the most part, only over the individual tribes to which he be longed, while in others it was not seldom resisted; and, being wholly personal in its nature, disappeared from his house as soon as he died.

In chaps17,18 another lesson is brought forward, hints of which had already occurred in earlier parts of the Book. The religious central point of the nation, also, became unsettled. And this was the greater danger. The sanctuary at Shiloh, the law and covenant of God that were in the sacred ark, were the real pillars of Israel’s nationality. The existence of this spiritual unity was brought out in the opening sentence of the Book: “And after the death of Joshua, the sons of Israel asked Jehovah.” It had in dark times demonstrated itself to be the guaranty of national cohesion. The tribes were twelve, indeed, and their cities lay scattered from Beer-sheba to the sources of the Jordan; but there was but one sanctuary where the God of Israel was inquired of. It appeared, however, that the long-continued want of a closer political organization, threatened also the unity of the religious organism. For not only was the service of foreign idols introduced, threatening the nerve of popular strength and national freedom, but subjective superstition, also, and inconsiderate division, asserted themselves within the religious organization. This is shown by the story of Micah’s sanctuary.

Judges 17:1. And there was a man of mount Ephraim, and his name was Micayehu. Avarice, the Apostle tells us, is the root of all evil. Covetousness, like all sin, knows no shame. Its lustful eyes profane even that which is holy. The treasures of temples have ever excited the rapacity of savage enemies. The gifts of the pious convert houses of prayer into objects of envy. Faithful Israelites, who believed in Jehovah, went to Shiloh, in Ephraim, performed there their pious duties, inquired of God after truth, prayed, and brought their offerings for the honor and maintenance of the house of God. Among those who did this, was doubtless also the father of Micayehu. For that he confessed Jehovah, is evident from the name which he gave to his son: מִיכָיְהוּ, “who is like Jehovah.” Such names are only given in homes where Jehovah is honored, at least in appearance. The mere fact, however, that persons are named “Theodore,”[FN4] “Nathaniel,” “Theophilus,” or other like names, gives no assurance that they are what their names declare them to be. The father of Micayehu must also have been rich; for he left his widow large sums of money. The latter, according to all appearances, was avaricious; and it was probably on this account that true faith in Jehovah took no root in her heart, although the name of Jehovah was often on her lips.

Judges 17:2-3. Behold, here is the money; I took it. The rich woman had been deprived of a large sum of money. Eleven hundred shekels, at that time, evidently represented a very considerable amount; large enough to be spoken of in “round figures.” The woman was beside herself; her soul was in her money: and so she cursed the thief. Cursing is still a frightful oriental custom. It was regarded as an invocation of judgments from heaven. Hence, the dread of the effects of curses, in heathenism, arose not only from faith, but still more from superstition. The sin was indeed engaged in, but the curse was dreaded; just as other thieves do not refrain from stealing, but guard themselves anxiously against the police. To this must be added that parental curses were feared as the heaviest of all bans (among the Greeks cf. Nägelsbach, Nachhom. Theol., p350). Sirach (iii9) still said in his day, that “the curse of a mother overturns the houses of children.” Micah heard the awful imprecations of his mother’s malediction, and shuddered. He could not say, “a causeless curse takes no effect” ( Proverbs 26:2). He had taken the money, which was now charged with his mother’s curses. With these he will not have it. “Here is your money back,” he says; “I took it.” As one shakes off rain, so he would free himself of this curse-laden money. “It is thy Song of Solomon,” he says, “and his house, whom thou hast cursed. Take the money—I do not wish it.” His words, so far as we can see, express more of reproach than of consciousness of guilt. And the mother resembles those people of whom James says ( Judges 3:10): “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.” She had cursed, in inconsiderate wrath, and without investigation, on account of her lost money. That being recovered, she will save her son from the effects of her malediction. As if blessing and curse were under human control, she exclaims: “Blessed be thou, my Song of Solomon, unto Jehovah.”

The son was in any case wrong in taking the money secretly. The purpose for which he took it, seems to be indicated by the context and the speech of the mother. He wished it for the purpose which he afterwards carried out. This also explains sufficiently why he took it secretly: he probably did not believe that his mother would approve his design. For the preparation of pesel and massekah, an image and cast-work, for the purpose he had in view, was itself a theft, notwithstanding that it looked like an act of service to God. But it turned out differently. It was natural that his mother should ask for what purpose he had taken it; and he replies that he had destined it for Jehovah, to fit out a private sanctuary with an image and cast-work. The mother, in order to appease him, says: then do I consecrate it for Jehovah, from my hand for my son (the formula of dedication), that he may make an “image and cast-work;”[FN5] now therefore take the money. Hereupon there arises a genuine contest of superstition. He is now afraid of the curse-laden money. And she is in dread lest the frustration of the seemingly religious end for which her son intended to use it, should fall back upon herself. He has excused his theft with the word “Jehovah;” and she seeks to cover up her curse with it. Superstition thus shows itself to be the worst profanation, transmuting eternal truth into subjective personal interest.

Judges 17:4. And his mother took two hundred shekels of silver. Micah had once more refused the money. He still fears the curse that it may bring with it. Thereupon the mother causes the “image and cast-work” to be made; applying, however, not1,100 shekels, but only200. This shows that it was only avarice, and not the fact that she had dedicated the money to religious purposes, that had inspired her curse. For even now she cannot part with more than200 shekels out of the1,100. On the other hand, it becomes evident that the purpose for which Micah took the money was the manufacture of the image; for it is set up “in his house,” and he combines with it still other operations.

Judges 17:5. And he set up an ephod and teraphim. These words give the key to the whole transaction, and even afford a clew to the time in which it took place. The paternal house of Micah, it appears, had not openly broken with the service of Jehovah. This is clear from both his and his mother’s words ( Judges 17:2-3; Judges 17:13). But their hearts were not wholly with God. This is evident from her avarice and malediction. Theirs was not a house in which the Canaanitish Baal was sacrificed to; but neither was it one in which there was more of true religion than the form and name. In the house of Joash there stood, before Gideon destroyed it, an altar of Baal and an Asherah. That was not the case here. But selfishness and superstitious egoism are idolatrous in their nature and consequences, even when Jehovah, that Isaiah, the God of Israel, is still spoken of. What R. Juda Hallevi[FN6] says of Micah and others, applies especially to him: “He resembles a man who, while incestuously marrying his sister, should strictly observe the customary laws of marriage.” He makes use of the name of God, but for that which is vanity (לַשָּׁוְא, Exodus 20:7). “He made an ephod.” The sin of which he was thus guilty, lay not in the ephod, but in the fact that he set it up. The ephod was designed for the lawful priesthood. The Urim and Thummim were intended for Israel’s high-priests ( Exodus 28:30), in order that by means of them they might be the constant organ of objective divine wisdom for the whole people, at the place where they served before God. Hence, they neither could nor ought to serve the subjective interests of individual men or tribes, or be inquired of anywhere else than where the priest was who bore them on his heart. This fact also renders the meaning of Judges 8:27 clear, where it is related that after Gideon had set up an ephod with the golden booty obtained from the Midianites, all Israel went a-whoring after it, and found a snare in it. Gideon, it is true, served Jehovah sincerely and truly, and meant only that his ephod should serve as a reminder to the people of the wonderful deeds of God; but in setting it up, he nevertheless introduced a precedent which subjective superstition misused to its own hurt. For, inasmuch as he set it up in his own house, he gave occasion for others to think that they also might do the same in their houses. The deeds in consequence of which he instituted the ephod were soon lost sight of; and the eye was directed only to the money out of which it proceeded. It may be assumed that precisely for Micah Gideon’s example proved a source of danger,—for which, however, the blame falls not on the hero, but on Micah. We thus obtain a clew to the time in which the event here related occurred. Micah was a man of Ephraim who lived not long after the days of Gideon. There was pride enough in Ephraim to arrogate to itself the right of doing what was done, however grandly and nobly, in the smaller tribe of Manasseh. It is at all times the practice of paltry selfishness to dishonor the extraordinary actions of great men, by using them as cloaks for their own mean ends. Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal secretly, and for this purpose made use of his father’s people and means without his father’s knowledge. Micah probably excused himself by this example, when he secretly took his mother’s money, in order to set up that which in his own interest he destined for God.

The anarchy of arbitrary individualism exhibits itself very strikingly here, in the fact that a mere common man (וַיְהִי אִיש, Judges 17:1), without name or merit, has the presumption to do the same thing which Gideon, the Judge and Deliverer of Israel, had undertaken to do; and that he does it on the same mountains of Ephraim on which, at no great distance, in Shiloh, the ark of God and the lawful ephod were to be found. R. Nathan[FN7] thinks that the places were so near to each other, that the smoke from both sanctuaries might commingle, as it rose upward. A mere common Prayer of Manasseh, who had nothing but money, presumed to found a sanctuary, with an ephod and a priest, and to pass this off as an oracle of Jehovah. The object he had in view can hardly have been any other than to ensnare the people who, in the pressure of their religious needs, sought for instruction, and brought votive offerings and gifts. For this purpose, the house which he founded must have been assimilated to the tabernacle; yet not so completely as to be attractive only to the thoroughly pious worshippers of Jehovah. For as these would not under any circumstances visit any sanctuary but that at Shiloh, Micah’s house would then have failed of its purpose. It could be made attractive only by making it minister to the superstition of sensual worship, and by vesting this ministry in the forms of the service of Jehovah. Hence he speaks of consecration to Jehovah, but at the same time represents the latter by means of פֶּסֶל וּמַסֵּכָה (an image and cast-work). He set up an ephod, and supplemented it with teraphim. He needed a priest; and in the absence of a Levite, he himself selects one of his sons for the office. Every part of his proceeding is thus marked by subjective arbitrariness, which under pious names concealed self-interest and superstition. The narrator strikingly points out this his sin, by means of a few delicate strokes. Hitherto the man had always been called Micayehu, distinctly bearing the name of Jehovah. But from Judges 17:5, where he sets up his sanctuary, onward, he is only spoken of as Micah. The name of God was not to be desecrated in him. And although Micah speaks of “Jehovah” ( Judges 5:13), his house is only called a Beth Elohim,—a name also given to the temples of heathen deities,—not Beth Jehovah, house of Jehovah. No description is given of what the goldsmith shaped out of the mother’s two hundred pieces of money; but it is called פֶּסֶל וּמַסֵּכָה, an image and cast-work. These words at the same time pronounce judgment against the sin that had been committed, for they are the technical expressions under which the law forbids the making of every kind of image-work for idolatrous purposes. The narrator has his eye doubtless on Deuteronomy 27:15 : “Cursed (אָרוּר) is the man that maketh פֶּסֶל וּמסֵּכָה, an abomination unto Jehovah, the work of the hands of the artificer.” He intimates, assuredly, that the same man who stood in such dread of his mother’s curse on the thief of her money, rendered himself obnoxious to the more awful curse of the divine law, when he desired, or at any rate accepted, such image-work. The form of the image cannot, however, be determined with certainty. The opinion that it represented a calf, is certainly not tenable. It is not true that Jehovah, the God of Israel, was ever or anywhere represented under the figure of a bull or calf. On the contrary, this figure was symbolical of a contrast, a national and historical contrast, with Jehovah. This appears both from the golden calf of the desert and from the history of Jeroboam.[FN8] To infer from the analogy of the latter, that Micah also cast a calf, would likewise be erroneous. For Micah’s act has no national, but only a religious significance. He does not intend to set up a contrast to Jehovah, but only a superstitious syncretism with other sanctuaries. Had the image been a calf, the narrator would have taken occasion to say so; for that of itself, in its relation to the idolatry of the desert, would have indicated the nature of Micah’s sin. Since it must be assumed that Micah intended to establish a sort of tabernacle, it is to be supposed that in his image-work also he carried out this imitation to the extreme of superstition. In the tabernacle, on the כַּפֹּרֶת [“mercy-seat”] there were two cherubim, with outspread wings; and in Exodus 25:22, God says: “I will speak with thee from upon the kapporeth [mercy-seat], from between the two cherubim.” Now, if Micah, while in general imitating this arrangement, transformed the cherubim into sphinx-like figures, such as were found in Egyptian temples, and symbolyzed (as Clem. Alex, Strom, lib. v. Judges 5, well explains,) the mysterious problems concerning the Deity, which received their solution at the hands of the priests, he would at the same time minister to the superstition of the time. And it was especially the establishment of an oracle that Micah had in view. The verb פָּסַל means to cut, to chisel, especially in wood, to carve; for the image, פֶּסֶל, can be burnt ( Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25), or sawed in pieces ( Deuteronomy 12:3). מַסֵּכָה is the coating of gold with which the image was covered (cf. Ewald, Alterthümer, p256, 2d edit.), and is therefore oftenest mentioned in connection with pesel, but frequently also without it. Such wooden images (called ξόανα, by the Greeks), says K. O. Müller (Archäologie, § 69), were adorned with chaplets and diadems, neck-chains, and ear-pendants. To this the lawgiver refers, when he says ( Deuteronomy 7:25): “The images of their gods ye shall burn with fire; thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them.” Beside the ephod Micah also made teraphim. This addition shows that he designed the ephod for divining purposes. The subject of the teraphim has hitherto remained enveloped in a great deal of obscurity. From Ezekiel 21:26 (21), 2 Kings 23:24, and Hosea 3:4, (cf. also 1 Samuel 15:23), it is certain that they were consulted, like oracles. They were shaped like human beings, see 1 Samuel 19:13; and they were small, otherwise Rachel could not have concealed them ( Genesis 31:34). Antiquity conceived of every thing connected with divination as wrapped in darkness and mystery. The heathen oracle issued out of the depth and darkness in enigmatic language. At Megara, there was an oracle of the goddess Night, represented as a high and closely veiled figure. The little teraphim also must have borne about them tokens of their mysterious nature. We may venture to recognize them in the little shapes of Greek art, enveloped in a thick mantle and hat, who constantly accompany the figures of Æsculapius, the divining god of the healing art (where also the tablets usually appear, symbolic of the responses of the god. Müller, Archäol., § 394, 1). Among the various names given to these attendant figures by the Greeks, is that of Telesphoros, end-bringing.[FN9] It is well known that oracles were most frequently consulted with reference to physical ailments. In Israel, also, in days of apostacy, idols were applied to for healing ( 2 Kings 1:2). The teraphim, accordingly, appear to represent oracles of healing. Their name, at all events, teraphim (trophim), approximates closely to that of Trophonius,[FN10] for which also the Greek language affords no suitable etymology. Trophonius is the healing oracle, who delivered his responses in a dark chasm, and who, like Æsculapius, is represented with a serpent, from which he probably derived his name (cf. שָׂרָף). The relationship of teraphim and “seraphim” is plain enough. The serpent-divination of Greece is manifestly of Asiatic origin. That the Israelites offered incense to the healing serpent erected by Moses, we learn from the history of Hezekiah, who destroyed it ( 2 Kings 18:4). The teraphim, then, explain themselves and some other matters, when we regard them as Telesphoroi, possessed of oracular healing attributes. Every passage in which they appear is in this way fully explained.

Judges 17:6. In those days there was no king in Israel. There was no central civil authority, that could interpose against sin and its seductive arts. The sentence teaches that in Israel it was considered the office of the king, not to allow such arbitrariness and sin as those of Micah to assert themselves. It was regarded as a mark of anarchy, when, alongside of the sanctuary at Shiloh, a common man took it upon himself to seduce the people into superstition. It must, however, be said, that even though the worship of God in Shiloh was strong enough to face such dangers, it is nevertheless presumptively a sign of weakness in the contemporary ministers of that worship, that Micah had the courage to do as he did. The complaint of our verse is made, because in reality Micah sinned against the very foundations of the Mosaic faith and law. It is not the freedom which permitted a man to have a chapel of his own, that is lamented; but the license which enabled him to fit out an idol-temple, to establish an oracle, and arbitrarily to disfigure the genuine national cultus. For the rest, the utterance is one that could be made only when the kingly office was either expected to exhibit or had exhibited, its efficiency in protecting the law in its purity. It was possible only until the most flourishing point of Solomon’s reign, and probable only in the times when men were seeking a king to remedy the prevalent anarchy.

Judges 17:7-12. And there was a Levite. Micah probably found that his sanctuary lacked consideration, because it had no priest. There were priests enough in Ephraim, to be sure; but it would seem that none of them were willing to serve him—which redounds to their honor. Assistance came to him, however, from another quarter. A young Prayer of Manasseh, who according to rule was settled in Judah (מִמִּשְׁפּחַת יְהוּדָה, cf. Joshua 21:4), became discontented at home, and took to travelling about, after the manner of a scholar in the Middle Ages. He stopped some time in Bethlehem, but left that place also; and on his way over the mountains of Ephraim, he came to Micah. The position of Micah’s sanctuary must have been a favorable one, near the highways from south to north; for the Danites, who came from Eshtaol and Zorah, and the young Levite, who came from Bethlehem, passed by it. Micah, hearing that the Levite was unengaged, proposed to him to take service with himself. The proposition was made sufficiently inviting. The young man was to be honored as “a father” (אָב, pater), become a priest, and be placed in good circumstances. Vanity, and the offer of a good place led the young Levite astray,—and he was not the last who fell thus. He forgot who he was (see at Judges 18:30), and whom as Levite he ought to serve, and consented (וַיּוֹאֶל, cf. on Judges 1:27). Micah took him in with great joy; so that, even beyond his promises, he received him as “one of his sons,”—an expression which stands in suggestive contrast with Micah’s promise to regard him “as a father.” For the sake of money, the Levite submitted to be “consecrated, ordained,” by an Ephraimite. (The words וַיְמַלֵּא אֶת־יַד וגי are a standing expression for to induct, to ordain The expression is derived (as Exodus 29:33 compared with17:24 clearly shows), from the ceremony of laying the offerings required at the consecration of a priest upon his hands, עַל כַּפֵּי, Exodus 29:24). At all events, Micah valued the Levitical dignity more highly than the Levite himself did. When the latter had entered his house, he exclaimed:—

Judges 17:13. Now know I that Jehovah will do me good, seeing the Levite, has become my priest. These words indicate most strikingly, the thorough self-deception of the man. He looks for blessings to Jehovah, against whom he has committed the mortal sin of image-worship. He expects these blessings on account of a Levite, who did wrong when he allowed himself to be hired. He who sets up ephod and teraphim for the enlightenment of others, has himself so little insight into the spirit of truth as not to perceive that in the falsehood of his entire establishment its downfall is already assured. Perhaps, he also found pleasure in the descent of his Levite ( Judges 18:30), although it ought rather to have frightened him. But self-love blinds him, and his soiled conscience builds hopes on the name of a Levite, whose doings in his house challenged the judgments of God. “Now know I,” he exclaims. He will soon learn how deceptive this knowing is.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Judges 17:2.—**לָדְ אֲשֶׁר לֻקַּח לָרְ is the dat. incommodi. Strictly speaking, לְ simply marks some sort of relation, the exact nature of which must be otherwise determined. The present phrase, rendered as literally as possible, is: “which (sc. כֶּסֶף) was taken for thee,” cf. our popular use of the same phrase, and the German, welches dir genommen ward. Ewald (who with characteristic self-confidence announces that he must leave the “silly absurdity” of the ordinary explanation of this passage “to those who do not hesitate to find their own folly in the Bible,”) seems to take לָדְ as the dative of the author: the money taken (received) by thee from my father. For he relates, quite in historical style, that a young man of Mount Ephraim, whose father probably died early, took the money which had been left to his mother into his own hands, in order by using to increase it (!); and that, followed by his mother’s blessing, he was fortunate, and was about to restore the money to her, as became a dutiful Song of Solomon, when she made him a present of it in the shape of a handsome (schmucken) god, etc. The perfect לָקַחְתִּי, he says, is the perfect of volition (like הִקְדַּשְׁתִּי, Judges 17:3): “I will take; it is my will to take.” But if the Hebrew author meant to tell this story, he expressed himself very obscurely. The imprecatory oath, too, is thus left without explanation. And notwithstanding all Ewald’s efforts in behalf of him, Micah is still in suspicious possession of the money (הנֵּה הַכֶּסֶף אּתִּי), before he tells his mother that he will take it. Under such circumstances, the benediction which, according to Ewald, the mother pronounces on her Song of Solomon, might be more politic than free.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Judges 17:3.—הַקְרֵּשׁ הִקדַּשְׁתִּי. Render: “I verily dedicate.” Although Dr. Cassel also translates here by the pluperfect, he explains it of the present, see below. On this use of the perfect cf. Ges. Gram. 126, 4. The word “wholly” of the E. V. is better omitted. The infin. absolute in this construction is intensive, not extensive. It does not assert the completeness of the consecration, but simply makes it prominent, as being the use to which she determines to put the money. Cf. Ges131, 3.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Judges 17:3.—פֶּסֶל וּסַסֵּכָה. Dr. Cassel: Bild und Gusswerk, “image and cast-work”; i.e., an image of wood or stone covered with a thin coating of silver or gold, see below. This explanation, although concurred in by several critics, is not yet sufficiently certain to make it worth while to disfigure our English text by inserting it.—Tr.]

FN#4 - The priest who subsequently entered the service of Micah, was named “Jonathan,” i.e., Theodore. See at Judges 18:30.

FN#5 - Bertheau assumes that the mother devoted the money to this purpose, inasmuch as her son had already a Beth Elohim. But it was only the image that could make any house a “House of God.” It is certainly more natural to suppose that, when he utterly refused to accept the money, she took it upon herself to provide the image with the money in question, in order to deliver him from the curse. She can have come to this use of the money, only because he gave it as the object for which he took it. The mother applies only two hundred shekels; the opinion that the others were used by way of endowment is at least not indicated in the text.

FN#6 - Kusari, iv14, ed. Cassel, p335.

FN#7 - The Talmud, Sanhedrin, 103 b, calls the name of the place where Micah lived, גרב, and puts it at a distance of three מיל from Shiloh. So far as the name is concerned, it appears to be only a name of reproach, with a reference to Deuteronomy 28:27; Leviticus 21:20. In Pesachim 117 a, the place seems to be named בכי [fletus, ploratus], probably is pursuance of a similar homiletical explanation.

FN#8 - Cf my treatise, Jeroboam, Erf1856. Unfortunately, Keil also thinks that this opinion is “scarcely to be doubted,” although he adduces no grounds for it. For that the term ענֶל, in Exodus 32:4, is also followed by מַכֵּכָה, is as natural as it is that this latter word is always found whenever cast images are spoken of. Cf. Exodus 34:17. The error is so widespread that it has even found a place in the reply of Thomas (Union, Kath. Kirche, p40), to Stahl’s book on “Union.” [On this question of the meaning of calf-idols in Israel, cf. Smith’s Bible Dictionary, art. “Calf.”—Tr.]

FN#9 - It is only by the gift of foretelling limit and end, from amid concealment and mystery, that the nature and symbol of the Telesphoroi can be explained; and only thus far can a connection between them and the sages of telesphoria, of which Böckh speaks, be allowed. It is only their connection with the teraphim that explains both these and them. This fact escaped both Preller (Griech. Myth., i327) and Welcker (Griech. Myth., ii740).

FN#10 - Whose connection with Serapis and Saraph is to be more minutely explained elsewhere.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Judges 17:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/judges-17.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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