Micah’s Image [Judges 17.1-17.6]
Scripture (KJV) Judges 17.1-6
The money that Micah stole, and then restored; his mother makes images
1 And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.
3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.
4 Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah.
5 And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.
6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Introduction to Chapters 17-21
The death of Samson closes the body of the book of Judges, which provides us with the history of the people of Israel under the judges in a continuous and connected form. The two accounts, which follow in Judges 17-21 are attached to the book of Judges in the form of appendices, seeing that the facts in question not only belonged to the times of the judges, and in fact to the very beginning of those times, but furnished valuable resources for forming a correct idea of the actual character of this portion of the history of Israel. The first appendix (Judges 17-18), gives the account of the introduction of image-worship, or of the worship of an imagined likeness of Jehovah expressed in the form of a molten image, by the Ephraimite Micah, and of the seizure of this image by the Danites, on the occasion of their northward emigration from their own territory. Along the way, they took the image from Micah and in due course set it up in the city of Laish-Dan, which was conquered by them. This shows us that shortly after the death of Joshua the appetite for an idolatrous worship of Jehovah manifested itself in the nation, and how this worship, which lasted for a long time in the northern part of the land, was mixed up from the very beginning with sin and unrighteousness. The second appendix (Judges 19-21) tells the story of the account of the infamous act which the inhabitants of Gibeah attempted to commit on the Levite who stayed there for the night, and which they actually did perform upon his concubine. It also gives the consequences of their actions; the war of vengeance upon the tribe of Benjamin, which protected the criminals. This proves, on the one hand that the Canaanites laid deep roots of moral corruption among the Israelites at a very early period, and, on the other hand, it shows how even at that time the congregation of Israel as a whole had kept itself free and pure, and, mindful of its calling to be the holy nation of God, and had attempted with all its power to root out the corruption that had already forced its way into the midst of it.
Introduction to Chapter 77
What is related in Verses 1-6, and the rest of the chapters to the end of this book, was done soon after the death of Joshua: “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, '"Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?'" (Judges 1:1; NKJV). It might appear that the nation was happy under the Judges, but here we will see how unhappy they were when there was no Judge. The love of money made Micah so unfaithful and uncaring toward his mother that he was willing to rob her; and the same love of money made her so unkind to her son that she cursed him. Obvious losses of material possessions drive good people to their prayers, but bad people are driven to their curses. This woman's silver was her god, before it was made into a graven or a molten image. Micah and his mother agreed to turn their money into a god, and set up idol worship in their family. What happened that would cause men to turn against Jehovah? It was simply this, every man did that which was right in his own eyes (v. 6), and then they soon did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.
1 And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.—Judges 17.1 (KJV)
1 Now there was a man from the mountains of Ephraim, whose name was Micah.—Judges 17.2 (NKJV)
And there was a man of Mount Ephraim…
This and the four following chapters contain historical facts, which were not from the time period after the death of Samson, as some have thought, mostly because of where they have been placed in the Bible; immediately following Samson’s death. The events described here and to the end of the book happened long before Samson’s time, before there were any judges in Israel, when there was no king, judge, or supreme governor among them, and that is how it appears to be in (Judges 17:6), (Judges 19:1), and (Judges 21:25). And we know these things didn’t happen between the death of Joshua and the elders, and the first judge of Israel, Othniel. Josephus agrees, and therefore, places them (chapters 17-21) at the same point in his history, and the connection to these five chapters is (Judges 2:10), which accounts for the rise of idolatry in Israel. We also discover how idolatry got into the tribe of Dan, and spread itself over all the tribes of Israel (Judges 2:11), which brought on their servitude to Cushanrishathaim. Jewish chronology places those events after the death of Joshua; and they were certainly after that, for the idolatry they fell into was the cause of their servitude; yet it could not be as early as the times of Joshua, and before his death; because in his days, and the days of the elders, Israel served the Lord. The reasons why these chapters are placed at the end of this book are, according to Dr. Lightfoot:
1. So that the reader might observe how the tribe of Dan’s policy failed and contributed to the death of Samson, who was a Danite.
2. So that God's justice might be seen in the death of Samson and 3,000 Philistines.
3. So that it might be shown that the Danites had left their religion; the worship of Jehovah.
4. So that the reader might observe that 1100 pieces of silver were given by every Philistine prince to Delilah for the betrayal of Samson, (Judges 16:5), and that we will presently observe (v. 2) the 1100 pieces of silver that were given by Micah's mother to be used for the making of an idol, which ruined religion in Samson's tribe.
5. So that the story of Micah, of the hill country of Ephraim, the first destroyer of religion, and the story of Samuel, of the hill country of Ephraim, the first reformer of religion, might be placed together and somewhat near each other.
6. So that the facts related in these five chapters can become visible:
a. The priest of the idol Micah made was a grandson of Moses, (Judges 18:30).
b. It is reported that the Danites' were seeking to expand their possessions, which was most likely to have occurred as soon as they were driven into the mountains by the Amorites, (Judges 1:34) .
c. Mahanah Dan, from where they marched, got its name from their expedition, (Judges 18:12), and is mentioned before in the history of Samson, (Judges 13:25) and therefore the expedition must be before his time.
d. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, was alive at the battle of Gibeah, (Judges 20:28) and Deborah speaks of the 40,000 Israelites slain by Benjamin during the battle, (Judges 5:8). This man with whom the idolatry began was of the tribe of Ephraim, and dwelt in the mountainous part of it.
It is extremely difficult to establish with certainty the chronology of this and the following events. Some think they belong here where they were placed by those who put the Bible together; others say that they happened in the time of Joshua, or immediately after the demise of those ancients who outlived him; still others say they happened before the time of 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, Judges 17:6.
This and the sequence of events that follow form a miscellaneous collection, or appendix to the Book of Judges. The only point of contact with the preceding history of Samson is that we are still concerned with the tribe of Dan. See Judges 18:1-2. Chapters 17 and 18 of Judges present to us a "case study" of the spiritual confusion and sin in Israel during the days when Israel was without a judge, king, or national leader, and to top it off they rejected God; it shows us just how bad things were.
whose name was Micah...
In the original it is Micajehu, with part of the name Jehovah attached to it, according to Dr. Lightfoot. Only after he set up his image was he called Micah; but, according to Abarbinel, Micajehu was his name while he was a child, and in his youth, but when he became a man he was called Micah, (Judges 17:5). Micah is a shortened form of Micaiah meaning “who is like Jehovah?” He originally lived on Mount Ephraim, but at some point he settled in Northern Palistine, in the territory belonging to the tribe of Dan; and apparently his purpose for being there was to illustrate the lawlessness of the times in which he lived.
Virtually all commentators agree that these last five chapters are out of sequence with the chronology of the first part of the book and actually occurred during the early period of the judges; one date given is B.C. 1419. Pfeiffer (p. 261) notes that rabbinic commentators placed the story of Micah in the time of Othniel; and Campbell pointed out that, "Many scholars agree with this, because of the mention of Phinehas, the son of Eleazer in Judges 20:28." These final chapters do not contain any references to great leaders or national oppressions. However, they are of great interest in the study of the history of Israel; for they reveal the condition of Israelite spiritual life during the time of the judges. While God was raising up unusual leaders from time to time to deliver the people from bondage, these incidents clearly indicate that the general quality of Israel’s spiritual life was extremely low during that entire period. Davis (p. 143) notes that these chapters deal with the subject of spiritual apostasy as it affected both individual families and the nation as a whole. Since this narrative follows the story of Samson, who was of the tribe of Dan, this section seems to have been placed here in logical, rather than chronological, order.
This episode, involving Micah, is connected with Judges 1:34. It relates to his establishment of a small sanctuary of his own—a miniature representation of the Shiloh tabernacle—which he stocked with images made to imitate the ark and cherubim. Micah and his mother were sincere in their intention to honor God. But their faith was blended with a sad amount of ignorance and delusion. The divisive course they pursued, as well as the will-worship they practiced, subjected them to the penalty of death.
______________verse 1 notes___________________
(Judges 19:1; GW) In those days when Israel didn't have a king, there was a Levite who lived in a remote area in the mountains of Ephraim. He took a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. There was no king in Israel—All sorts of disorders are attributed to the want of civil government; justice, right, truth, and humanity, had fallen in the streets.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Judges 21:25; KJV) In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
(Judges 2:10; NKJV) When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.
(Judges 2:11; KJV) And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim. Served Baalim -- The plural is used to include all the gods of the country.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
(Judges 16:5; KJV) And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.
(Judges 18:30; KJV) And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. That Gershom the son of Moses is here intended, is very probable. See the arguments urged by Dr. Kennicott, Dissertation I., p. 55, etc.; and see the Var. Lect. of De Rossi on this place.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Judges 1:34; KJV) And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley: The Amorites forced the children of Dan, etc.—Just as the ancient Britons were driven into the mountains of Wales by the Romans; and the native Indians driven back into the woods by the British settlers in America.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Judges 18:12; KJV) And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.
(Judges 13:25; GW) The LORD'S Spirit began to stir in him while he was at Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
(Judges 20:28; KJV) And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.
(Judges 5:8; NKJV) They chose new gods; Then there was war in the gates; Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. They chose new gods—This was the cause of all their calamities; they forsook Jehovah, and served other gods; and then there was war in their gates—they were hemmed up in every place, and besieged in all their fortified cities; and they were defenseless, they had no means of resisting their adversaries; for even among forty thousand men, there was neither spear nor shield to be seen. The Vulgate gives a strange and curious turn to this verse: Nova bella elegit Dominus, et portas hostium ipse subvertit; "The Lord chose a new species of war, and himself subverted the gates of the enemy." Now, what was this new species of war? A woman signifies her orders to Barak; he takes 10,000 men, wholly unarmed, and retires to Mount Tabor, where they are immediately besieged by a powerful and well-appointed army. All-of-a-sudden Barak and his men rush upon them, terror and dismay are spread through the whole Cannanitish army, and the rout is instantaneous and complete. The Israelites immediately arm themselves with the arms of their enemies, and slay all before them; they run, and are pursued in all directions. Sisera, their general, is no longer safe in his chariot; either his horses fail, or the unevenness of the road obliges him to desert it, and fly away on foot; in the end, the whole army is destroyed, and the leader ingloriously slain. This was a new species of war, and was most evidently the Lord's doings. Whatever may be said of the version of the Vulgate, (and the Syriac and Arabic are something like it), the above are all facts, and show the wondrous working of the Lord.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Judges 18:1-2; NKJV) In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in; for until that day their inheritance among the tribes of Israel had not fallen to them. So the children of Dan sent five men of their family from their territory, men of valor from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and search it. They said to them, "Go, search the land." So they went to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.
(Judges 18:1; NKJV) In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in; for until that day their inheritance among the tribes of Israel had not fallen to them.
(Judges 20:28; NKJV) and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, "Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?" And the LORD said, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand." Phinehas, the son of Eleazar—This was the same Phinehas who is mentioned Numbers 25:7, and consequently these transactions must have taken place shortly after the death of Joshua.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
will-worship--Quoting Calvin on "will worship," "By these words, all kinds of will-worship, as Paul calls it, (Colossians 2:23,) are plainly condemned. For, as we have said, since God chooses to be worshipped in no other way than according to his own appointment, he cannot endure new modes of worship to be devised. As soon as men allow themselves to wander beyond the limits of the Word of God, the more labor and anxiety they display in worshipping him, the heavier is the condemnation which they draw down upon themselves; for by such inventions religion is dishonored." [Comm. on Matthew 15:9]
2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son.—Judges 17.2 (KJV)
2 And he said to his mother, "The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you, and on which you put a curse, even saying it in my ears--here is the silver with me; I took it." And his mother said, "May you be blessed by the LORD, my son!"—Judges 17.2 (NKJV)
And he said unto his mother (see Article 17.1)…
This mother seems to have been a widow, and a very old woman since Micah had sons, and one of them was old enough to become a priest. The Scriptures do not think it worthwhile to add the name of his mother or father, or to mention the family from which he sprang.
This relationship between Micah and his mother serves as an illustration of the permissive spiritual condition that was prevalent in Israel at that time.
Article 17.1: Micah’s Unfaithful Mother
Someone had stolen 1100 pieces of silver from Micah’s mother. Thus she pronounced a curse on the money, a really fearful threat for ancient Near Eastern cultures. Whether or not she knew that her own son was the thief is not clear, but, curiously enough, she made sure to tell her son that the stolen money had become taboo because she had not only cursed it but also dedicated it to Yahweh. She believed the curse and the dedication would enhance the seriousness of the theft and increase the possibilities of recovering it.
The mother’s tactic worked: Micah confessed, and she reversed the curse by blessing him. Then, as an offering of thanksgiving, she gave a fifth of the total originally promised to Yahweh to a local silversmith to make idols for her son. She apparently wanted to worship God but was ignorant of the one true God.
This mother characterized a whole generation in Israel who did not know the Lord and who had already brought up their children in superstition. She thought that God could be manipulated by techniques of magic to fulfill human wishes of fertility and security, that God could be reduced to pottery, and that He could be carried around like a talisman of good luck. This unnamed mother, by ignoring God and His law, not only failed to obey the Lord but, more tragically, led her own son to his spiritual death.
the eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee…
Someone, (Micah according to the last half of this verse) had stolen 1100 shekels of silver from Micah’s mother. It was money she had set aside from her personal treasury, and devoted it to religious uses. Some Bible scholars have suggested that she was Delilah, Samson’s nemesis, since this is the exact sum given to her by each of the Philistine princes; (Judges 16.5). However Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it as we do, and it seems to be the best meaning. Jarchi relates, that it is a mistake to think this woman was Delilah, since she lived long before the times of Samson and Delilah:
about which thou cursedst…
When she discovered the theft of her money, she became very angry, and cursed and swore; she cursed the thief that took it, whether he was from her own family or another. She must have suspected Micah was the thief, because she immediately implored him to tell her anything he knew about it. Some think she issued a curse because the silver was devoted to religious uses. Curses were taken seriously in the superstitious pagan cultures of the ancient Near East; no doubt she was hoping to increase her chances of recovering the money. The text does not indicate that she knew that her son had taken the money. The Hebrew here is "an adjuration" instead of "a curse." Adjuration refers to “giving a command, often by exacting an oath” or “earnestly appealing to someone” (Matthew 26:63). This is a direct reference to Leviticus 5:1 which lays down God's law that anyone under such an adjuration shall respond with the truth under the penalty of God's judgment, if he should fail to do so. Both Micah and his mother were aware of this Mosaic teaching, and Micah immediately confessed to his sin. Significantly, Jesus Christ himself responded to such an adjuration in Mark 14:61-62.
It is likely that when the mother of Micah missed the money, she issued a curse upon the thief, and demanded Micah to take an oath avowing his innocence; but Micah, fearing that the curse would fall on him, admitted his guilt and returned the silver.
and spakest of also in mine ears…
It is certain he heard her pronounce the curse, and it cut him to the heart, and it convicted him in his conscience, so that he could not keep her silver any longer, because he realized he couldn’t bear his mother’s curse. The next line shows that he acted immediately by admitting his guilt, and then returning the silver.
behold, the silver is with me; I took it…
Micah had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his wealthy mother. To understand how much 1100 shekels was at that time you need to know that ten shekels was an adequate wage; thus 1,100 shekels was a great fortune. While the eleven hundred pieces of silver correlate with the amount paid to Delilah by each of the lords of the Philistines, it is highly unlikely that she is the mother in this incident. In Hebrew, Micah’s name means “who is like Jehovah.” Cassel (p. 228) notes that such names were usually only given in homes where Jehovah was at least outwardly recognized.
Fearing the power of his mother’s curse, Micah confessed that he was the one who had taken the silver. Ancient peoples greatly feared the power of a parental curse. But, it is surprising that his mother would praise him for it (see next line), but perhaps she saw in his confession a proof that, within him, there still existed a germ of the fear of God.
and his mother said, blessed be thou of the Lord, my son…
She was happy to have her money again, therefore, she reversed the curse, and pronounced a blessing on him; she didn’t scold him or punish him for his disgraceful act. Of course, this tells us much about the character of Micah, his mother, and the general spiritual state of Israel during this period.
His mother’s strange response was Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son. This is the formula used by Melchizedek in his blessing of Abraham (Genesis 14:19). First, his mother cursed him, and then, she blessed him, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing” (James 3:10). Apparently, she feared the silver had been taken by someone from whom she would never be able to get it back; and she was relieved to discover that her own son had it. The mother's prompt pronouncement of a blessing upon her son reflects another passage from the Pentateuch, “The adjuration could not be removed, but it could be counteracted by a blessing.”
NOTE: It appears that the purpose of the narrator here is to expose the wretched, sinful history of that despised sanctuary constructed by Micah (vs. 3 & 4). Its venerated image was made of silver stolen from his mother, and when the money was recovered and dedicated to Jehovah, the greater part of it, though, she kept back by fraud.
______________verse 2 notes___________________
(Matt 26:63: KJV) But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
(Leviticus 5:1; KJV) And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.
(Mark 14:61-62; GW). But he was silent. The chief priest asked him again, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “Yes, I am, and you will see the Son of Man in the highest position in heaven. He will be coming with the clouds of heaven.”
(Genesis 14:19) And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.—Judges 17.3 (KJV)
3 So when he had returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, "I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image; now therefore, I will return it to you."—Judges 17.3 (NKJV)
And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother…
He returned the whole sum, having spent none of it while it was in his hands.
his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the Lord from my hand, for my son to make a graven image and a molten image…
The question is when did she do it; when did she dedicate her personal fortune to the Lord, and was this all the money she had or was there more. The Holy Spirit has chosen not to reveal these facts, but we can say that the dedication was made either before it was stolen, which caused her to curse the man that had taken it; or it was after it was stolen, whereupon she made the dedication, thinking that she would never get the silver back, so she might as well get some respect for appearing to be generous. And then, there was the chance that by promising to put it to a good use, others might help by making a search for it.
I had wholly dedicated. From this it appears that Micah's mother, although she made a superstitious use of the money, had no idolatrous intentions, since she expressly says she had dedicated it to Jehovah; and this appears to have been the reason why she poured curses on him who had taken it.
By “the Lord” she meant Jehovah or the true God; because she had no intention of forsaking Him. She planned to worship Him, by worshipping these images, which she intended to place with her son and his family, so that they wouldn’t have to go all the way to Shiloh to worship at the tabernacle that was there.
There may be debate as to whether this is an image of a false god (such as Baal or Ashtoreth) or if it is an image of the true God; either way, this was strictly forbidden by God. The gold calf that Aaron made was actually meant to represent the true God (Exodus 32:4-5); but this was a violation of the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God“(Exodus 20:4-5). We may find it easy to fashion a god we would be happy to worship just from how we envision Him in our mind; but, even if we call Him the God of the Bible, we must be careful to take our ideas of God from the whole counsel of God's Word. But, we can’t do it because of what He says in Exodus 20.4-5.
A graven image and a molten image. There is a good deal of difficulty in assigning the exact meaning of the two words; graven image and molten image, and their relation to one another in the worship to which they belong. The molten image (massechah), undoubtedly refers to liquid metal, which is cast in a mold with the desired shape to produce a solid figure; here it is the silver supplied by Micah’s mother. The image of a calf could have been created by the mold in the same form which the corrupt worship of Jehovah took when Aaron made the molten calf at Sinai (Exodus 32:4) and when Jeroboam set up the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28, 29).
A graven image was something carved from a block of wood or sculptured from stone; actually, it was probably a representation of Jehovah as a bull carved out of wood and overlaid with silver.
In this case, was the idol a graven or molten image? And were there 2 idols (one molded and one graven) or was there only one. We know from verse 4 that only 200 shekels were given to the founder (craftsman). Probably, only one figure was made, since two hundred shekels of silver would weigh about 23 pounds, and there would only be enough silver to make one large graven statue. Hence the idol was probably carved from wood which was overlaid with a thin skin of silver. NOTE: Verse 4 makes a strong case for there being two idols; which is where I stand on the issue.
therefore I will restore it unto thee...
She gave him back the money he had stolen and then returned to her; at least some of it, 200 shekels according to verse 4. He was to use it to purchase an idol his mother designed.
The narrative gives a curious example of the semi-idolatry of the times.
______________verse 3 notes___________________
(Exodus 32:4-5) And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
(1 Kings 12:28, 29) Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. Two viewpoints are promoted concerning these calves. First, the calves were not meant to be idols of worship, but merely a visible throne upon which the invisible God, Jehovah, stood. Canaanite influence is seen, for some of the Canaanites imagined that Baal was standing upon a bull that signified strength and fertility. Second, the calves indicate Egyptian influence, for the sacred bull was worshiped in Egypt as a symbol of the goddess Hathor. Possibly Jeroboam became acquainted with this cult when he fled to Egypt in Solomon’s reign (11:40) and was now inclined to setting up calf-worship from what he had observed there (Free, pp. 180–181).
4 Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah.—Judges 17.4 (KJV)
4 Thus he returned the silver to his mother. Then his mother took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to the silversmith, and he made it into a carved image and a molded image; and they were in the house of Micah.—Judges 17.4 (NKJV)
Yet he restored the money unto his mother…
Micah had returned the total amount he stole from his mother; but perhaps, wanting to show that she forgave and trusted him, she gave the silver back to him with instructions to use it to make an image of Jehovah. Here we see that he gave it back to his mother a second time, not to show his disapproval of her idolatrous intention, but because he didn’t want to be responsible for it, and to free his mind from the disturbance this silver brought, and finally, so she could do with it anything that she wanted to.
and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image, and a molten image;
She kept the other nine hundred pieces for herself, because she regretted making her vow, and now she was unwilling to part with so much money for religious uses; or else the rest of the money was used to purchase an ephod, and teraphim, and whatever else were thought necessary for furnishing and adorning the shrine. Kimchi is of the opinion, that the two hundred shekels were what she gave the founder to use in making the images, and the nine hundred shekels was the price paid the founder for his work, and to purchase an ephod, and teraphim, and whatever else was needed. The simple truth of the matter may be that, “The woman because of her greed broke her vow and gave to God only a small part of the consecrated treasure.” The images must have been small ones, if they were made out of only two hundred shekels of silver; some have thought there was only one image, called both molten and graven; because after the silver was melted, and cast into a mould, it was fashioned with a graving tool, just like the golden calf was crafted by Aaron; but if the verse is taken literally, as I do, there were definitely two, one graven image and one molten image (Judges 18:17,18), and they were in the house of Micah; in an apartment in his house set apart strictly for them, as appears to be the case in the next verse.
Micah complied with his mother’s wishes, as any good son would do. It would seem though, when she first proposed the thing he balked at it, knowing what the second commandment said; and when she said (Judges 17:3) she planned for him to make an image, he gave the silver back to his mother (being reluctant to have a hand in making the image), and she gave it to the founder and had the thing done, perhaps blaming Micah for refusing to help her. But, when the images were made, Micah, was not only accepting of them, but greatly pleased and in love with them. It is strange how bewitching idolatry can become, and how much it was supported by traditions received from their parents; (1 Peter 1.18). But observe how the old woman's covetousness prevailed over her superstition. She had dedicated the entire 1,100shekels of silver to make the graven and molten images (Judges 17:3); but, when it came time to do it, she gave less than a fifth part to the project, 200 shekels. She thought that was enough, and indeed it was too much to give for an image that is nothing more than a man-made image, without any power. However, her concept of dedication certainly was not in accordance with the Mosaic Law since she had decided to make a graven image with it. Nevertheless, the image was made of carved wood, overlaid with silver, with the detail-work being done by a founder (or silversmith). It was indicative of her ignorance of God’s Law. Such total ignorance of the true worship of the Lord exemplifies an entire generation in Israel, who, following Joshua’s death, adopted Canaanite practices, bringing moral and religious decay to the Land; (see Judg. 2:10).
and they were in the house of Micah…
Her earlier purpose had been that the money should be given for her son’s benefit to make his house a house of gods. Now that he had confessed and returned her silver, she resumed her purpose and gave the idols to her son. Micah then set the idols in a shrine, which the AV calls a house of gods. Cundall (p. 183) rightly questions the legitimacy and sincerity of both her behavior and his. There was also an ephod and teraphim, which served as additional idols or representations thereof.
Contrary to the commandment of God and true religion practiced under Joshua, they forsook the Lord and fell into idolatry. Such a superstitious and unlawful mode of worshipping Yahweh is mentioned in Judges 8:27, “Then Gideon used the gold to make an idol and placed it in his hometown, Ophrah. All Israel chased after it there as though it were a prostitute. It became a trap for Gideon and his family;” and 1 Kings 12:28, “After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said, “You've been worshiping in Jerusalem long enough. Israel, here are your gods who brought you out of Egypt.” These verses argue that there was only a slight acquaintance with the Ten Commandments, which, due to their ignorance of reading and writing, were probably not familiar to the Israelites in those unsettled times.
______________verse 4 notes___________________
(Judges 18:17,18) And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye? In verse 22, Micah protests “ye have taken away the gods which I made.”
(1 Peter 1:18; GW) Realize that you weren't set free from the worthless life handed down to you from your ancestors by a payment of silver or gold which can be destroyed. Received by tradition from your fathers—The Jews had innumerable burdens of empty ceremonies and useless ordinances, which they received by tradition from their fathers, rabbis, or doctors. The Gentiles were not less encumbered with such than the Jews; all were wedded to their vanities, because they received them from their forefathers, as they had done from theirs. And this antiquity and tradition have been the ground work of many a vain ceremony and idle pilgrimage, and of numerous doctrines which have nothing to plead in their behalf but this mere antiquity. But such persons seem not to consider that error and sin are nearly coeval with the world itself. —Adam Clarke's Commentary
Judges 2:10 (GW) That whole generation had joined their ancestors in death. So another generation grew up after them. They had no personal experience with the LORD or with what he had done for Israel. In course of time, a new race arose who were strangers to all the hallowed and solemnizing experience of their fathers, and too readily yielded to the corrupting influences of the idolatry that surrounded them.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5 And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.—Judges 17.5 (KJV)
5 The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.—Judges 17.5 (NKJV)
And the man Micah had an house of gods…
It is impossible to say for certain whether the state of things described here in regard to Micah preceded the events narrated in the preceding verses, or was a consequence of them. If it proceeded, then we have the reason for his mother’s vow: she wished to make her son’s “house of God” complete by the addition of a graven and molten image. If it resulted from his mother’s vow, then we have in the opening verses of this chapter a history of the circumstances surrounding the founding of Micah’s “house of God,” which was to play an important part in the colony of Danites, whose actions are related in the following chapter, and for whose sake this domestic history of Micah is introduced.
Micah was not intent on worshipping Baal. He was merely adopting pagan practices into the worship of Jehovah. “Micah intended to worship Israel's God with his idols, but God not only had condemned idolatry but also the worship of the one true God by the use of images.” Micah's beth Elohim (house of God) was a domestic temple belonging to Micah's house, not to Israel or the tribe of Dan, according to Judges 18:15-18. I would say that both the mother and the son had good intentions; they wanted to worship the true God; but they went about it in the wrong way and ended up violating the commands of God.
There were two images in Micah’s …house of gods, (or rather house of Elohim) besides teraphim, which were a sort of idol; and the Targum (see Article 11.10) is a house of images, or idols; though it may be rendered "an house of God"; a temple, a place for religious worship: except Micah had introduced a corrupt and semi-idolatrous ceremonial religion. This man Micah had a house of gods, a house of God, according to the LXX, and he thought it was as good as that at Shiloh, and even better, because it was his own, his own invention and at his own disposal; since people love to have their religion under their control, to manage it as they please. But this was a house of error, a deviation from the way of truth and an inlet to all deceit. Idolatry is a great cheat, and one of the worst of errors. That which he aimed at in the progress of his idolatry, whether he planned it at first or not, was to mimic and rival both God's oracles and his ordinances. It is strange indeed that an Israelite who had personal knowledge of the Books of Moses would depart from God's Word as Micah has done in this chapter.
and made an ephod (see Article 8.5)…
This was a part of the ceremonial dress of Israel's high priest, "A sacramental vestment, richly decorated, and in design somewhat like an apron with pockets." It wouldn’t be the first time that an ephod was worshipped, since the people worshipped the one Gideon kept in his house, toward the end of his life. It is by no means sure, however, that the ephod spoken of here was like that or like the one worn by the High Priest. It might have been a priestly garment, a linen one very probably, but not as rich as the one with a breastplate on it that the high priest had, which was very costly. Ben Melech takes it to be a linen girdle, like the “curious girdle” of the ephod, which was worn over the long blue robe and which along with the breastplate was worn by Aaron the High priest.
and teraphim (See Article17.2);
Teraphim were a sort of household gods, like the Lares and Penates of the Romans, and by which consultations were made; Micah proposed to have an oracle in his house, whereby he might consult the Lord about future things, and not have to take the trouble of going to the tabernacle, and consulting there with the Urim and Thummim. Yet he could not think that the true God would own them, or give answers by them, and therefore depended upon such demons as the heathen worshipped to inspire them and make them serviceable to him. Thus, while they pretended to honor Jehovah, this Israelite unavoidably lapsed into downright idolatry and demon-worship.
It is not certain what these teraphim were; but, some say they were certain idols, having the likeness of a man, but others understand them to be all manner of things and instruments, and then there is the theory that they were household gods that acted as guardians. Dalglish thought that, “It was a figurine or image of some kind.” In Genesis 31:19, Rachel is said to have stolen the teraphim of her father, and from this, it is supposed that these small idols were associated with the pagan habit of adoring household gods. Significantly, it is Rachel's descendants who in this chapter are involved in such pagan worship.
Article 17.2: Teraphim
TERAPHIM This word occurs only in the plural, and denotes images connected with magical rites. The derivation of the name is obscure. In one case—1 Sam 19:13, 16—a single statue seems to be intended by the plural. The teraphim, translated "images" in the Authorized Version, carried away from Laban by Rachel were regarded by Laban as gods, and it would therefore appear that they were used by those who added corrupt practices to the patriarchal religion. Teraphim again are included among Micah's images. Judg 17:3-5; 18:17, 18, 20 Teraphim were consulted for oracular answers by the Israelites, Zech 10:2 comp. Judg 18:5, 6; 1 Sam 15:22, 23; 19:13, 16, LXX., and 2 Kin 23:24 and by the Babylonians in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. Ezek 21:19-22—Smith's Bible Dictionary
and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest;
Micah appointed one of his sons to be a priest, very probably his eldest son. And this was a direct violation of the divine law (Exodus 28.9; Numbers 3.10).
Perhaps the whole affair, to this point, can be summarized as follows: 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 may not have been the crime of Micah; if we will accept the premise that he only set up in his own house an epitome of the Divine worship as performed at Shiloh. But most notable here is that there is no mention of any altar, sacrifice, or incense, in honor of these silver gods, but, since he has a priest, it is probable he had all these, unless we suppose that, at first, his gods were intended only to be consulted with, not to be worshipped, like Laban's teraphim; but the beginning of idolatry, as with other sins, is like the letting forth of water: break the dam, and you bring a deluge. Here idolatry began, and it spread like a seeping leprosy. Dr. Lightfoot would have us observe that as 1,100 pieces of silver were here devoted to the making of an idol, which ruined religion, especially in the tribe of Dan (as we shall presently discover), which was Samson's tribe, so 1100 pieces of silver were given by each Philistine lord for the ruin of Samson.
MICAH ESTABLISHES AN ELABORATE WORSHIP:
1) Micah first sets up a shrine—sort of a small temple in one room of his house, a place where others would come and worship these idols
(a) Micah imitates the worship at the true Tabernacle of God, by making an ephod—a specific garment worn by a priest
(b) In addition to this first idol, Micah also made household idols - literally, terephim - gods that were worshipped in hopes of gaining prosperity and guidance
(c) Finally, Micah establishes a priesthood among his sons; he has done everything he can to make a rival religion in Israel
2) We notice more than anything that all of this originates with Micah, not with God; this is a completely man-originated and man-centered religion
3) The purpose of the shrine, the beautiful ephod, the attractive idols, and an established priesthood was to serve and please man, not God - as is the case with many religions and churches today
4) The seeming ease with which all this happened shows the low, low spiritual state of Israel during this period
________________verse 5 notes__________________
(Judges 18:15-18; KJV) And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye?
Lares. ( /ˈlɑːriːz/, singular Lar), archaically Lares, were guardian deities in ancient Roman religion. Their origin is uncertain; they may have been guardians of the hearth, fields, boundaries or fruitfulness, hero-ancestors, or an amalgam of these.
Lares were believed to observe, protect and influence all that happened within the boundaries of their location or function. The statues of domestic Lares were placed on the table during family meals; their presence, cult and blessing seem to have been required at all important family events.
Penates. In Roman mythology, the Penates ("the inner ones") are the patron gods of the storeroom. Later they gradually changed into patron gods for the entire household. Their cult is closely related to that of Vesta and the Lares. They were worshipped at the hearth and were given their part of the daily meals.
(Genesis 31:19; KJV) And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's. Rachel had stolen the images—teraphim. What the teraphim were is utterly unknown. In Genesis 31:30 they are termed אלהי elohai, gods; and to some it appears very likely that they were a sort of image devoted to superstitious purposes, not considered as gods, but as representatives of certain Divine attributes, Dr. Shuckford supposes them to be a sort of tiles, on which the names or figures of their ancestors were engraven. Theodoret, in his 89th question, calls them idols; and says that Rachel, who was a type of the true Church, stole them from her father that he might be delivered from idolatry. R. S. Jarchi gives nearly the same reason.—Adam Clarke's Commentary
(Exodus 28.9; GW) and put turbans on them. Tie belts around the waists of Aaron and his sons. THEY ALONE ARE TO BE PRIESTS; THIS IS A PERMANENT LAW. In this way you will ordain Aaron and his sons.
(Numbers 3.9, 10; KJV) And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel. And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest's office…
6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.—Judges 17.6 (KJV)
6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.—Judges 17.6 (NKJV)
In those days there was no king in Israel…
There was no supreme magistrate, judge, or ruler in Israel after the death of Joshua, Caleb and the elders that were contemporary with them. The opinion of a few, that Joshua, a little before his death, cast a lot in the presence of the congregation, to know who should govern after him, and the lot came to one Abel, of the tribe of Judah, is a false assumption. I prefer to stand on scripture and say, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” This announcement is obviously the comment of the author of Judges; and as Campbell said, "He declares in effect that, "A king would have put a stop to that kind of corrupt worship." Yes, that is exactly what is implied in the repeated use of this Judges 17:6, not only here, but several times subsequently, as in Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1, and in Judges 21:25.
No king—there was no judge to govern and control them. The word king is used largely for a supreme magistrate. God raised up judges to rule and deliver the people, when He saw fit; and at other times He punished them for their sins by allowing them to live without a government, and this was one of those times; and therefore they quickly fell into idolatry, which is something the judges usually kept them from doing.
Israel, prior to Othniel, had never had a judge or king; God was their king and when it was necessary He raised up judges to deliver them out of some trouble with their neighbors. However, when God withdrew His protection and providence there was corruption throughout the land. What was the cause of this corruption: There was no king in Israel, no judge or sovereign prince to take notice of the setting up of these images (which, no doubt, the country soon resorted to), and to give orders to destroy them. There was no one around to convince Micah of the error of his ways, and to restrain and punish him. There was no one to stop this disease in time, which might have prevented spreading the infection to other families and tribes.
When they were without a king to keep good order among them, God's house was forsaken, his priests were neglected, and everything fell into ruin. Can you see what a blessing government is, and why it is so important that we pray for those in authority over us; 1 Timothy 2:1,2. Nothing contributes more, under God, to the support of religion in the world—even bad government is better than no government, for where there is no Magistrate fearing God, there can be no true religion or order.
In those days—this phrase is unique to the author of these last five chapters, and it indicates distinctly that the writer lived after the establishment of the kingly government in Israel,
[but] every man did that which was right in his own eyes…
which accounts for the idolatry of Micah, since there is no supreme magistrate to take notice of his sin, and restrain him from it, or punish him for it according to the law of God. He was his own governor, and what he did he said was right; and, by his cunning and strength, he was able to successfully defend his conduct. When a man's own will, passions, and desires, 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, for example, when there was no law in the Western United States; and that was, in general, a time of little religion, and oppression to men.
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes is one of the most important statements in Judges 17. The author of this narrative evidently believed that a king in Israel would have prevented the formation of such an illegal shrine. Hervey thought that this indicates that the author might have lived in the days of Asa or Jehoshaphat. However that cannot be correct. No author who lived after the first few honeymoon years of Saul's reign could have supposed such a thing. The record of Israel's kings from Solomon and afterward was one of shameful compromise with idolatry and the open acceptance of it. This verse practically nails down the time when our author (of Judges) lived as being in those first few years of the reign of Saul. This points to SAMUEL. The truth of the business is that "If Israel had had a king," he would have led the way in idolatry, as proved by the vast majority of them. Only the innocent SAMUEL could have supposed such a thing as that which is implied here. Anyone except him would have implied that, the right kind of a king was needed to prevent every man from doing what was right in his own eyes. The author’s intent here is to explain the moral relativism of the times. Rather than follow the law of God, man had become a law unto himself. In this incident we see people who claim to know the Lord and to be dedicated unto Jehovah lying, stealing, conniving, and justifying their own behavior. Davis (p. 143 ff.) notes three characteristics of spiritual apostasy in this story: religious syncretism (the combination of different forms of belief or practice.),  moral relativism, and extreme materialism. Wood (p. 147 ff.) notes several sins that openly occurred in this account: (1) The failure and apostasy of the Danites; (2) the making of graven images; (3) unauthorized priests serving for hire; (4) establishment of private worship sanctuaries; (5) the movement of the Levites from their assigned cities; and (6) the justification of stealing.
When Micah rejected the Word of God as the standard of regulation for his behavior, he was left to determine what was right or wrong upon the basis of his own evaluations, and it was this departure from objective truth that led to the moral and spiritual degeneration of Israel and the ushering in of the Dark Ages of Israel's period of the Judges. "The lesson here is clear, `If people do what is right in their own eyes, they will end up doing what is wrong in the eyes of God.'"
There is an old saying: “As goes the home, so goes the nation.” If that is true, Israel was in trouble; for everything about this home violated the law of God.
The family was devoted to idolatry. The son had established his own priesthood and was a thief, and the mother was guilty of speaking both curses and blessings (James 3:9–10). She was concerned more about her money than about her son’s character.
What a vivid example of Do-It-Yourself Religion! But is the situation any different today? People still ignore God’s Law (Isaiah 8:20) and do what is right in their own eyes.
______________verse 6 notes___________________
Moral Relativism—Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person's individual choice. We can all decide what is right for ourselves. You decide what's right for you, and I'll decide what's right for me. Moral relativism says, "It's true for me, if I believe it."
(James 3:9–10) Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
(Isaiah 8:20; KJV) To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
There are 5 websites by this author:
http://harmonyofthegospels.yolasite.com (Life of Christ)
http://theepistlesofpaul.yolasite.com (Titus and Jude)