Judges 17: Michah’s Idols
To my mind, this passage starts out strangely:
Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.”
Then his mother said, “The LORD bless you, my son!”
It just seems to start awkwardly; instead of starting with Micah taking the money, or even starting with his mother’s curse, it starts with Micah explaining the situation to her. This isn’t strange in any kind of religious sense, just stylistically.
But the next thing that happens is strange in a religious sense: Michah’s mother takes the silver back, says that she is consecrating it to the LORD, and has it brought to an idol maker, to have it made into a carved image and an idol. And Michah is fine with this, apparently, because he has the idol put in his house. He sets up a shrine, and has one of his sons acting as a priest. And why? Because…
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (verse 6)
But this doesn’t last too long. After a while a Levite happens to come by, who is looking for a place to stay. Michah finds out that he’s a Levite, and asks him to stay, and be his priest. He’ll pay him his food and lodging, along with 110 grams of silver per year, and the priest agrees. Because of this, Micah believes that the LORD will be good to him, since he has a Levite as his priest.
There’s a lot of strange stuff happening in this chapter. First, there is Michah’s mother: She seems to have no idea about who the LORD is, or what His requirements for worship are. She says that she is consecrating her silver to Him, but she is doing that by creating an idol, which He has stated that He abhors. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 7.) If she knew anything about Him, she’d know that this is not consecrating the silver to Him, this is just idolatry.
Similarly, Michah installing his son as a priest is bad for two reasons: his son isn’t really a priest, per the LORD’s laws, but of course that’s just a very minor problem compared with the fact that this “priest” is ministering to an idol. And then the Levite joining up with Micah as his priest is also pretty messed up. A Levite should have known better.
Finally, Micah thinks that having this Levite in his house, ministering as a “priest” before his false idol, will somehow buy him favour with the LORD, when anyone who knows anything about God would know that the opposite would be the result.
The one main thing I came away with, from this chapter: The people in Israel have forgotten the LORD. They don’t know who He is, and they don’t know what He requires. They don’t seem to know anything about Him. This is scary, although I’ll refrain from comparing this to modern day North America. I think even we know more about the LORD than the Israelites seemed to, at this point in their history. (Maybe not. I definitely wouldn’t argue the point.)