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(MT versing)
Micah's Idolatry Micah's Idolatry The Failures of the Israelite Tribes
Micah's Idols Micah's Domestic Shrine
17:1-6 17:1-13 17:1-6 17:1-2a 17:1-3
Micah's Priest 17:5-6
17:7-13 17:7-13 17:7-9a 17:7-13

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. This account of Micah's authorized shrine shows the corrupt nature of this period.

  2. The Danites accepted a false word from a Levite to attack and destroy a defenseless area. This was not "holy war" but "unholy war."

    They did not receive this tribal allocation from Joshua by divine lot but were willing to desert it and move. They traded a sure divine word for one that fit their plans and purposes. They may even have used Deut. 13:16 as an excuse to slaughter and burn Laish.

  3. The northern shrine at Dan becomes a rival to the legitimate southern shrines, like Gilgal (cf. Joshua 4), Gibeon (cf. 1 Kgs. 3:4; 1 Chr. 16:39; 21:20), and ultimately, Jerusalem.

  4. This appendix to Judges clearly shows that the Israelites need a godly king!


  1. The closing section of Judges 17-21 is very different from the previous section. These chapters document how far Israel had drifted from YHWH's covenant.
    1. the tribe of Dan ‒ Judges 17-18
    2. the tribe of Benjamin ‒ Judges 19-21

    It functions as an appendix documenting the atrocities of the period. There are no "judges," just terrible covenant disobedience. The chronological relationship of this five-chapter appendix to the rest of the book is uncertain.

  2. The new key phrase is found in Jdgs. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25. In the previous section the key phrase was "the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord." The Israelites needed a righteous king.

  3. Judges 17-18 explains how Dan, who was allotted land in the south to the west of Judah (cf. Jos. 19:40-48), wound up in the far north.
    1. Amorite pressure ‒ Jdgs. 1:34-35
    2. Philistine pressure ‒ Samson (Judges 13-16)

  4. This section also seems to lament the absence of a strong central government and decries the moral degradation of the amphictyony period (i.e., loose tribal associations).


1Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2He said to his mother, "The eleven hundred pieces of silver which were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse in my hearing, behold, the silver is with me; I took it." And his mother said, "Blessed be my son by the Lord." 3He then returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, "I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the Lord for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you." 4So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. 5And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest. 6In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

17:1 "Micah" His name (BDB 567) is an abbreviation of "who is like YHWH" (lit. Micayehu).

17:2 "mother. . .uttered a curse in my hearing" Micah is presented in the very poor light of being a thief who stole from his own mother who pronounced a curse on the pieces of silver.

▣ "mother. . .blessed" This was an attempt to reverse the curse!

17:3 "eleven hundred pieces of silver" This must refer to "shekels" (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 237).


▣ "I wholly dedicate the silver" The mother is also presented as a cheat. She promised to give all the silver to God but gave only 200 pieces (cf. Jdgs. 17:4).

This phrase is an intensive grammatical form, a Hiphil INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a Hiphil PERFECT VERB from the same root (BDB 872, KB 1073).

▣ "to the Lord" This makes it obvious that the image was meant to represent YHWH (cf. Jdgs. 18:31). The initial desire to worship YHWH at a private shrine became corrupted (notice all the extra cultic items mentioned in Jdgs. 17:3, 5; 18:17-18), as did the corporate shrine established by Jereboam I in Dan and Bethel (i.e., the golden calves). For YHWH there is only one official central shrine (i.e., the temple in Jerusalem, cf. Deut. 12:5, 11, 21, 23, 24; 16:2, 6, 11; 26:2). It had no images of YHWH.

▣ "a graven image" This (BDB 820) is probably carved wood overlaid with silver.

▣ "molten idol" This (BDB 651) is from the Hebrew root "to pour," i.e., solid silver. There is some question whether there were two idols or one. The text implies two (cf. Jdgs. 18:14,17-18) but the MT PRONOUN is SINGULAR (cf. Jdgs. 18:20,30). This shows the low state of knowledge of the Mosaic Law (cf. Exod. 20:4, 23; Deut. 4:16; 27:15; and Aaron's calf, Exod. 32:19-35). There were consequences for disobedience.


17:5 "ephod" The identification of this term is very uncertain. In some passages it seems to be a woven garment worn by

  1. the High Priest (cf. Exodus 39)
  2. a priest (cf. 1 Sam. 2:18)
  3. laymen (cf. 2 Sam. 6:14)
  4. Asherah's priestesses (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:7)

In other places it seems to be an idol (cf. Jdgs. 8:27; 1 Sam. 2:28; 14:3; 21:9). It is related to teraphim and divination (cf. Judges 20; Hosea 3:4), which were all ways to know God's will.


▣ "household idols" Teraphim seems to be idols. It possibly refers to ancestors (cf. Genesis 31; 1 Sam. 15:23; 2 Kgs. 23:24; Hos. 3:4-5; Ezek. 21:21; and Zech. 10:2).


▣ "consecrated one of his sons" This reflects a practice during the Patriarchal period (i.e., the father acted as spiritual leader/priest for the family).

17:6 This is the key phrase of the closing section of Judges 17-21 (cf. Jdgs. 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). It reflects the disobedience and apathy of Israel during the period of the Judges.

7Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he was staying there. 8Then the man departed from the city, from Bethlehem in Judah, to stay wherever he might find a place; and as he made his journey, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9Micah said to him, "Where do you come from?" And he said to him, "I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find a place." 10Micah then said to him, "Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your maintenance." So the Levite went in. 11The Levite agreed to live with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah. 13Then Micah said, "Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest."

17:7 "he was staying there" This phrase has the same consonants as the name "Gershom" (REB, cf. Jdgs. 18:30). The UBS Text Project (p. 116) gives the phrase an "A" rating (i.e., high probability). Levites had no tribal inheritance (cf. Joshua 20-21). They were classed in legal code with aliens, widows, and orphans (cf. Deut. 12:12; 14:29; 26:12).

17:10 "and be a father and a priest to me" This means to act as a teacher and worship leader. In the OT fathers were given the teaching and spiritual leadership responsibilities for their families.

▣ "clothes" This may refer to the priestly garment known as "ephod."

17:13 This seems to reflect a selfish motive in a personal shrine (Jdgs. 17:5).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. The character of Micah is clearly seen in Jdgs. 17:2. Why did he return the money?
  2. How do you explain the difference between 1,100 pieces returned and only 200 given to God?
  3. Did the image represent the gods of Canaan or YHWH?
  4. Were there two images or only one?
  5. List and define the items in Micah's "house of Elohim."
  6. Why did Micah think a Levite would help YHWH accept his shrine?

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