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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Mikah', מַיכָה [in Judges 17:1; Judges 17:4, the prolonged form Mika'yehu, מַיכָיְהוּ, is used], a contracted form of the name Micaiah; Sept. Μιχά, but Μιχαία in 2 Chronicles [18:14, where the name is for that of "Micaiah," and is so rendered in the Auth. Vers.] 34:20; and Μιχαίας in Jeremiah 26:18; Micah 1:1), the name of several men. (See MICAIAH); (See MICHAH); (See MICHAIAH).
1. An Ephraimite, apparently contemporary with the elders who outlived Joshua. B.C. cir. 1590-1580. He secretly appropriated 1100 shekels of silver which his mother had saved; but being alarmed at her imprecations on the author of her loss, he confessed the matter to her, and restored the money. She then forgave him, and returned him the silver, to be applied to the use for which it had been accumulated. Two hundred' shekels of the amount were given to the founder, as the cost or material of two teraphim, the one molten and the other graven; and the rest of the money served to cover the other expenses of the semi-idolatrous establishment formed in the house of Micah, of which a wandering Levite, named Jonathan, became the priest, at a yearly stipend (Judges 17). Subsequently the Danite army, on their journey to settle northward in Laish, took away both the establishment and the priest, which they afterwards maintained in their new settlement (Judges 17). (See DAN); (See JONATHAN).
The establishments of this kind, of which there are other instances — as that of Gideon at Ophrah — were, although most mistakenly, formed in honor of Jehovah, whom they thus sought to serve by means of a local worship, in imitation of that at Shiloh (see Kitto's Daily Bible Illustra. ad loc.). This was in direct contravention of the law, which allowed but one place of sacrifice and ceremonial service; and was something of the same kind, although different in extent and degree, as the service of the golden calves, which Jeroboam set up, and his successors maintained, in Dan and Bethel. The previous existence of Micah's establishment in the former city no doubt pointed it out to Jeroboam as a suitable place for one of his golden calves. — Kitto. (See JEROBOAM). The preservation of the story here would seem to be owing to Micah's accidental connection with the colony of Danites who left the original seat of their tribe to conquer and found a new Dan at Laish-a most happy accident, for it has been the means of furnishing us with a picture of the "interior" of a private Israelitish family of the rural districts, which in many respects stands quite alone in the sacred records, and has probably no parallel in any literature of equal age. But apart from this the narrative has several points of special interest to students of Biblical history in the information which it affords as to the condition of the nation, of the members of which Micah was probably an average specimen.
(1.) We see how completely some of the most solemn and characteristic enactments of the law had become a dead letter. Micah was evidently a devout believer in Jehovah. While the Danites in their communications use the general term Elohim, "God" ("ask counsel of God," Judges 18:5; "God hath given it into your hands," Judges 18:10), with Micah and his household the case is quite different. His one anxiety is to enjoy the favor of Jehovah (Judges 17:13); the formula of blessing used by his mother and his priest invokes the same awful name (Judges 17:2; Judges 18:6); and yet so completely ignorant is he of the law of Jehovah that the mode which he adopts of honoring him is to make a molten and a graven image, teraphim or images of domestic gods, and to set up an unauthorized priesthood, first in his own family (Judges 17:5), and then in the person of a Levite not of the priestly line (Judges 17:12) — thus disobeying in the most flagrant manner the second of the Ten Commandments, and the provisions for the priesthood-laws both of which lay in a peculiar manner at the root of the religious existence of the nation. Gideon (Judges 8:27) had established an ephod; but here was a whole chapel of idols, "a house of gods" (Judges 17:5), and all dedicated to Jehovah.
(2.) The story also throws a light on the condition of the Levites. They were indeed "divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel" in a more literal sense than that prediction is usually taken to contain. Here we have a Levite belonging to Bethlehem-judah, a town not allotted to the Levites, and with which they had, as far as we know, no connection; next wandering forth, with the world before him, to take up his abode wherever he could find a residence; then undertaking, without hesitation, and for a mere pittance, the charge of Micah's idol-chapel; and, lastly, carrying off the property of his master and benefactor, and becoming the first priest to another system of false worship, one, too, in which Jehovah had no part, and which ultimately bore an important share in the disruption of the two kingdoms. It does not seem at all clear that the words "molten image" and "graven image" accurately express the original words Pesel and Massekah. (See IDOL). As the Hebrew text now stands, the "graven image" only was carried off to Laish, and the "molten" one remained behind with Micah (Judges 18:20; Judges 18:30; comp. 18). True the Sept. adds the molten image in Judges 18:20, but in Judges 18:30 it agrees with the Hebrew text.
(3.) But the transaction becomes still more remarkable when we consider that this was no obscure or ordinary Levite. He belonged to the chief family in the tribe; nay, we may say to the chief family of the nation, for, though not himself a priest, he was closely allied to the priestly house, and was the grandson of no less a person than the great Moses himself. For the "Manasseh" in 18:30 is nothing less than an alteration of "Moses," to shield that venerable name from the discredit which such a descendant would cast upon it. (See MANASSEH), 3. In this fact we possibly have the explanation of the much-debated passage, Judges 18:3 : "They knew the voice of the young man the Levite." The grandson of the Lawgiver was not unlikely to be personally known to the Danites; when they heard his voice (whether in casual speech or in loud devotion we are not told) they recognized it, and their inquiries as to who brought him hither, what he did there, and what he had there, were in this case the eager questions of old acquaintances long separated.
(4.) The narrative gives us a most vivid idea of the terrible anarchy in which the country was placed when "there was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes," and shows how urgently necessary a central authority had become. A body of six hundred men completely armed, besides the train of their families and cattle, traverses the length and breadth of the land, not on any mission for the ruler or the nation, as on later occasions (2 Samuel 2:12, etc.; 2 Samuel 20:7; 2 Samuel 20:14), but simply for their private ends. Entirely disregarding the rights of private property, they burst in wherever they please along their route, and, plundering the valuables and carrying off persons, reply to all remonstrances by taunts and threats. The Turkish rule, to which the same district has now the misfortune to be subjected, can hardly be worse.
At the same time it is startling to our Western minds — accustomed to associate the blessings of order with religion — to observe how religious were these lawless freebooters: "Do ye know that in these houses there is an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? Now therefore -consider what ye have to do" (Judges 18:14). "Hold thy peace and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest" (Judges 18:19). —
(5.) As to the date of these interesting events, the narrative gives us no direct information beyond the fact that it was before the beginning of the monarchy; but we may at least infer that it was also before the time of Samson, because in this narrative (Judges 17:12) we meet with the origin of the name of Mahaneh-dan, a place which already bore that name in Samson's childhood (Judges 13:25, where it is translated in the Auth. Vers. "the camp of Dan"). That the Danites had opponents to their establishment in their proper territory before the Philistines entered the field is evident from Judges 1:34. Josephus entirely omits the story of Micah, but he places the narrative of the Levite and his concubine, and the destruction of Gibeah (chapters 19:20, 21) — a document generally recognised as part of the same (see Bertheau, Kommentar, page 192) with the story of Micah, and that document by a different hand from the previous portions of the book at the very beginning of his account of the period of the judges, before Deborah or even Ehud (Ant. 5:2, 8-12). This is supported by the mention of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, in Judges 20:28. An argument against the date being before the time of Deborah is drawn by Bertheau (page 197) from the fact that at that time the north of Palestine was in the possession of the Canaanites — "Jabin, king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor," in the immediate neighborhood of Laish. The records of the southern Dan are too scanty to permit our fixing the date from the statement that the Danites had not yet entered on their all of men that is to say, the allotment specified in Joshua 19:40-48. But that statement strengthens the conclusion arrived at from other passages, that these lists in Joshua contain the towns allotted, but not therefore necessarily possessed by the various tribes. " Divide the land first, in confidence, and then possess it afterwards," seems to be the principle implied in such passages as Joshua 13:7 (comp. 1); 19:49, 51 (Sept. "So they went to take possession of the land").
The date of the insertion of the record may perhaps be more nearly arrived at. That, on the one hand, it was after the beginning of the monarchy is evident from the references to the ante-monarchical times (Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; Judges 21:25); and, on the other hand, we may perhaps infer from the name of Bethlehem being given as "Bethlehem-judah," that it was before the fame of David had conferred on it a notoriety which would render any such affix unnecessary. The reference to the establishment of the house of God in Shiloh (Judges 18:31) seems also to point to the early part of Saul's reign, before the incursions of the Philistines had made it necessary to remove the tabernacle and ephod to: Nob, in the vicinity of Gibeah, Saul's head- quarters. Some, like Le Clerc, argue for a later date, from the phrase, "until the day of the captivity of the land," in Judges 18:30, as if it necessarily referred to the Assyrian invasion. The reading is doubtful. Studer and Hitzig take the 30th verse as a later interpolation; Kimchi, Havernick, Hengstenberg, and Bleek refer the phrase to the captivity of the ark in the time of Eli, but on no good ground, unless the reading הָאָרֶוֹ be changed, as some prefer, into הָאָרוֹן . Stahelin and Ewald, regarding the verse as a later addition, place the composition about the period of Asa or Jehoshaphat; Stiahelin insisting, too, that the diction does not belong to the purer period of the language. Judges 18:30; indeed, does not quite agree with 31, which seems to limit the duration of the Danite idolatry to the period of the station of the-ark at Shiloh; and the phrase, "until the day of the captivity," as Keil remarks (Commentary, ad loc.), may refer to some unknown invasion on the part of the neighboring Syrians. Besides, it can scarcely be supposed that this idolatrous cultus, so directly and openly opposed to the spirit and letter of the Mosaic law, would have been allowed to stand in the zealous days of Samuel and David. See Stanley's Lectures on the Jewish Church, pages 296, 297. (See JUDGES, BOOK OF).
2. The son of Mephibosheth, or Meribbaal (son of Jonathan and grandson of king Saul), and the father of several sons (1 Chronicles 8:34-35; 1 Chronicles 9:40-41). B.C. post 1037. In 2 Samuel 9:2, he is called MICHA.
3. The first in rank of the priests of the Kohathite family of Uzziel, under the sacerdotal arrangement by David (1 Chronicles 23:20). B.C. 1014. He had a son named Shamir, and a brother Isshiah (1 Chronicles 24:24-25; Auth. Vers. "Michah").
4. The son of Shimei and father of Reaia, of the descendants of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:5). B.C. ante 782.
5. A prophet, apparently of the kingdom of Judah, and contemporary with Isaiah (Micah 1:1). B.C. cir. 750. He is styled "the Morasthite," as being a native of Moresheth of Gath (Micah 1:14-15), so called to distinguish it from another town of the same name in the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:44; 2 Chronicles 14:9-10). Micah is thus likewise distinguished from a former prophet of the same name; called also Micaiah, mentioned in 1 Kings 22:8. The above place of Micah's birth "Jerome and Eusebius call Morasthi, and identify ‘ with a small village called Eleutheropolis, to the east, where formerly the prophet's tomb was shown, but which in the days of Jerome had been succeeded by a church (Epit. Paulle, c. 6). As little is known of the circumstances of Micah's life as of many of the other prophets. Pseudo Epiphanius (Opp. 2:245) makes him, contrary to all probability, of the tribe of Ephraim; and besides confounding him with Micaiah the son of Imlah, who lived more than a century before, he betrays additional ignorance in describing Ahab as king of Judah. For rebuking this monarch's son and successor Jehoram for his impieties, Micah, according to the same authority, was thrown from a precipice, and buried at Morathi in his own country, hard by the cemetery of Enakim' (Ε᾿νακείμ , a place which apparently exists only in the Sept. of Micah 1:10), where his sepulchre was still to be seen. The Chronicon Paschale (page 148 c) tells the same tale. Another ecclesiastical tradition relates that the remains of Habakkuk and Micah were revealed in a vision to Zebennus, bishop of Eleutheropolis, in the reign of Theodosius the Great, near a place called Berathsatia, which is apparently a corruption of Morasthi (Sozomen. H.E. 7:29; Nicephorus, H.E. 12:48). The prophet's tomb was called by the inhabitants Nephsameemana, which Sozomen renders μνῆμαπιστόν."
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Micah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/micah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27