Judges 17

CHAPTER XVII

Micah, an Ephraimite, restores to his mother eleven hundred

shekels of silver, which he had taken from her, 1, 2.

She dedicates this to God; and out of a part of it makes a

graven image and a molten image, and gets them up tn the

house of Micah, 3, 4;

who consecrates one of his sons to be his priest, 5.

He afterwards finds a Levite, whom he consecrates for a priest,

and gives him annually ten shekels of silver, with his food and

clothing, 6-13.

NOTES ON CHAP. XVII

Verse 1. And there was a man of Mount Ephraim] It is extremely

difficult to fix the chronology of this and the following

transactions. Some think them to be here in their natural order;

others, that they happened in the time of Joshua, or immediately

after the ancients who outlived Joshua. All that can be said with

certainty is this, that they happened when there was no king in

Israel; i.e., about the time of the Judges, or in some time of the

anarchy, Jud 17:6.

Verse 2. About which thou cursedst] Houbigant and others

understand this of putting the young man to his oath. It is likely

that when the mother of Micah missed the money, she poured

imprecations on the thief; and that Micah, who had secreted it,

hearing this, was alarmed, and restored the money lest the curses

should fall on him.

Verse 3. I had wholly dedicated] From this it appears that

Micah's mother, though she made a superstitious use of the money,

had no idolatrous design, for she expressly says she had dedicated

it layhovah, to Jehovah; and this appears to have been the

reason why she poured imprecations on him who had taken it.

Verse 4. A graven image and a molten image] What these images

were, we cannot positively say; they were most probably some

resemblance of matters belonging to the tabernacle. See below.

Verse 5. The man Micah had a house of gods] beith

Elohim should, I think, be translated house or temple of God; for

it is very likely that both the mother and the son intended no

more than a private or domestic chapel, in which they proposed to

set up the worship of the true God.

Made an ephod] Perhaps the whole of this case may be stated

thus: Micah built a house of God-a chapel in imitation of the

sanctuary; he made a graven image representing the ark, a molten

image to represent the mercy-seat, teraphim to represent the

cherubim above the mercy-seat, and an ephod in imitation of the

sacerdotal garments; and he consecrated one of his sons to be

priest. Thus gross idolatry was not the crime of Micah; he only

set up in his own house an epitome of the Divine worship as

performed at Shiloh. What the teraphim were,

See Clarke on Ge 31:19; for the

ephod, See Clarke on Ex 25:7; and for the

sacerdotal vestments in general, See Clarke on Ex 28:4, &c.

Who became his priest.] cohen, which the Targum translates

chumera. The word cohen is the common name in Hebrew for a

priest of the true God; but sometimes it is applied to

idolatrous priests. When it is to be understood in the former

sense, the Targum renders it cahen; when in the latter, it uses

the word chumera, by which it always understands an

idolatrous priest. But that this was not a case of idolatry, and

that the true God was worshipped here, is evident from the word

Jehovah being used, Jud 17:4, and

oracular answers being given at this house, as we see from

Jud 18:6 &c.

Verse 6. There was no king in Israel] The word melech,

which generally means king, is sometimes taken for a supreme

governor, judge, magistrate, or ruler of any kind; (see

Ge 36:31, and De 33:5;) and it is likely it should be so

understood here.

Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.] He was his

own governor, and what he did he said was right; and, by his

cunning and strength, defended his conduct. When a man's own will,

passions, and caprice, are to be made the rule of law, society is

in a most perilous and ruinous state. Civil government is of God;

and without it the earth must soon be desolated. There was a time

when there was no king in England; and that was, in general, a

time of scandal to religion, and oppression to men.

Verse 7. Of the family of Judah] The word family may be taken

here for tribe; or the young man might have been of the tribe of

Judah by his mother, and of the tribe of Levi by his father,

for he is called here a Levite; and it is probable that he might

have officiated at Shiloh, in the Levitical office. A Levite might

marry into any other tribe, providing the woman was not an

heiress.

Verse 8. To sojourn where he could find] He went about the

country seeking for some employment, for the Levites had no

inheritance: besides, no secure residence could be found where

there was no civil government.

Verse 10. Be unto me a father and a priest] Thou shalt be master

of my house, as if thou wert my father; and, as priest, thou shalt

appear in the presence of God for me. The term father is often

used to express honour and reverence.

Ten shekels of silver] About thirty shillings per annum, with

board, lodging, and clothes. Very good wages in those early times.

Verse 11. The Levite was content] He thought the place a good

one, and the wages respectable.

Verse 12. Micah consecrated the Levite] vayemalle

eth yad, he filled his hands, i.e., he gave him an offering to

present before the Lord, that he might be accepted by him. He

appointed him to be priest; God was to accept and consecrate

him; and for this purpose he filled his hand; i.e., furnished him

with the proper offering which he was to present on his

inauguration.

Verse 13. Now know I that the Lord will do me good] As he had

already provided an epitome of the tabernacle, a model of the ark,

mercy-seat, and cherubim; and had got proper sacerdotal vestments,

and a Levite to officiate; he took for granted that all was right,

and that he should now have the benediction of God. Some think

that he expected great gain from the concourse of the people to

his temple; but of this there is no evidence in the text. Micah

appears to have been perfectly sincere in all that he did.

I HAVE already remarked that there is no positive evidence that

Micah or his mother intended to establish any idolatrous worship.

Though they acted without any Divine command in what they did; yet

they appear, not only to have been perfectly sincere, but also

perfectly disinterested. They put themselves to considerable

expense to erect this place of worship, and to maintain, at

their own proper charges, a priest to officiate there; and without

this the place, in all probability, would have been destitute of

the worship and knowledge of the true God. His sincerity,

disinterestedness, and attachment to the worship of the God of

his fathers, are farther seen in the joy which he expressed on

finding a Levite who might legally officiate in his house. It is

true, he had not a Divine warrant for what he did; but the state

of the land, the profligacy of his countrymen, his distance from

Shiloh, &c., considered, he appears to deserve more praise than

blame, though of the latter he has received a most liberal share

from every quarter. This proceeds from that often-noticed

propensity in man to take every thing which concerns the character

of another by the worst handle. It cannot be considered any

particular crime, should these notes be found at any time leaning

to the other side.

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