Judges 17

This Micah is a thief. His mother utters curses, but spoils him when he confesses, and makes an idol.  Like the Samson story, meant to shock our sensibilities as a nazirite drinks, whores around, and eats from a dead carcass, this is supposed to offend us – even though there are no extra adjectives, just verbs for behaviours.

The Levite is no model either.  He’s sojourning in Benjamin, but neither of that clan nor of Judah – he heads north too, into Ephraim.  Again, I find the mendicant travelling evangelist a positive thing, but the implication of the text is less positive – he has no family ties.   Worse, he’ll take pay to pray for this guy’s private idol, rather than serve his people like a good Levite.  

The summary warning should be familiar by now: in those days there was no king, and people did whatever was right in their own eyes.   This will be the problem to be addressed in 1 Samuel – but isn’t it our problem too?  ‘You do your thing, I do my thing, and if by chance we meet, that’s beautiful?’   There’s an ad for Diet Pepsi on that line.

Peter Emberley of University of Ottawa wrote 15 years ago that our society shares moral norms, but not moral sources.  He described that as a situation that works, but won’t work for long, as context changes from our current status quo and modus vivendi….

There was a man
 in the hill country of Ephraim
whose name was Micah.

 2He said to his mother,
 ‘The eleven hundred pieces of silver
 that were taken from you,
 about which you uttered a curse, 
and even spoke it in my hearing—
that silver is in my possession;

 I took it;
 but now I will return it to you.’

 And his mother said, 
‘May my son be blessed by the LORD!’

 3Then he returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver
to his mother;
 and his mother said,
 ‘I consecrate the silver
 to the LORD
 from my hand
 for my son,
 to make an idol
of cast metal.’

 4So when he returned the money to his mother, 
his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, 
and gave it to the silversmith,
 who made it into an idol of cast metal; 
and it was in the house of Micah.

 5This man Micah had a shrine, 
and he made an ephod and teraphim, 
and installed one of his sons,
 who became his priest.

 6In those days
 there was no king in Israel;
 all the people did what was right
 in their own eyes.

7 Now there was a young man
of Bethlehem in Judah,
 of the clan of Judah. 

He was a Levite residing there.

 8This man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah, 
to live wherever he could find a place. 

He came to the house of Micah
in the hill country of Ephraim
to carry on his work.

9Micah said to him,
 ‘From where do you come?’

 He replied,
 ‘I am a Levite
 of Bethlehem in Judah, 
and I am going to live
wherever I can find a place.’

 10Then Micah said to him, 
‘Stay with me, 
and be to me a father and a priest,
 and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, 
a set of clothes, and your living.’ 

11The Levite agreed to stay with the man;
 and the young man became to him
 like one of his sons.

 12So Micah installed the Levite,
 and the young man became his priest
 and was in the house of Micah.

 13Then Micah said,
 ‘Now I know
that the LORD will prosper me,
 because the Levite
has become my priest.’