Judges 17.1-13 gives us another picture of what happens when Israel does not follow the Torah and the first rise of idolatry after Joshua. There was a man from Ephraim (“fruitful”) whose name was Micah (“who is like Yehovah”). He tells his mother, who is a picture of Israel as a whole, that he had stolen 1100 pieces of silver from her. This was the same price given for the destruction of Samson the Danite, and it is the same amount for the destruction of his tribe later on. His mother had uttered a curse in her son’s hearing, but when she heard that her son had taken it, she blessed him. She curses the sin in others, but tolerated sin in her family.
He gave the silver back and his mother dedicated it all to the Lord for her son to make a graven image and a molten image. So, Micah had a shrine in his house for the consecrated idols and he made an ephod and had one of his sons serve as a priest. All of this was forbidden but everyone did what was right in his own eyes and there was no king in Israel.
There was a young man in Bethlehem (“house of bread”) who was from the family of Judah, who was a Levite, was staying there. He left Bethlehem to sojourn where he could, possibly because he was not receiving support from the people through the tithes, etc. He came to Ephraim and to Micah’s house and told him he was a Levite. Micah asks him to stay and teach him, and be a “priest” to him. He would pay him ten shekels a years, and provide clothing. This Levite is a type of the hireling religious “cleric” looking for a congregation who would support him.
So, the Levite agreed and was consecrated as a priest and lived in the house of Micah, a house of idols (not allowed by the Torah). Micah thinks that Yehovah will now prosper him because he has a Levite as a priest. This shows the influence of ignorance and superstition.
Judges 18.1-30 we have the Danites wanting more land due to overcrowding, so they send out scouts to search out the land for more space. They failed to take possession of their own inheritance, or they were too lazy and could not defend it (Josh 19.40-45; Judges 1.34-35, 5.17). There were five scouts (five is the number of responsibility), one from each family, and came to Ephraim and the house of Micah. When they came near to the house they recognized the voice of the LLevite. They asked “Who brought you here?”. They knew he was from Bethlehem. The Torah states he was to be at the Mishkan, not in his own “house of idols.” If we go to a congregation God has not ordained we are wrong no matter what is going on there. What you like there, or participate in, or what ministry they have given you has nothing to do with it.
So the scouts ask him to inquire of the Lord about their business and if it would be prosperous. The Levite tells them what they want to hear, and that they would be successful in their undertaking. So, the five men depart and come to Laish (“well-knit”) and saw how they were living. They lived like Sidonians (“fishery/hunting”) and were by themselves. They had no treaty with others for help if they were attacked. They came back to Zorah (“she was smitten with leprosy”) and Eshtaol (“I will be entreated”) and told the others what they saw.
As a result of their report, they went to capture with 600 men (the number of man) and came to Micah’s house with the household idols, and took them. The Levite just stood by and let them do it because he had no loyalty to Micah because he was a typical hireling. They asked him to come with them and be a priest to many. In other words, bigger is better to an apostate who is blind to the spiritual state of those he is going to serve. This all started because one man did not keep his place, and the evil spreads, and he was happy to hear this. He only cared about himself and his “career” rather than observe sound doctrine as found in the Torah. But Micah didn’t like what happened and assembled others to go after his idols. The Danites ask him, “What is the matter with you” and he tells them he doesn’t like the fact that they took his priest and his gods. This illustrates the contention between apostates in Rabbinic Judaism and Replacement Theology Christianity. These idols speak about the fact that the smith “labors” to make these idols in the same way apostates “labor” in producing false worship and false works.
The Danites told Micah to be quiet or he would die, along with his household. So, Micah went home because they were too strong for him. Replacement Theology Christianity has been too strong for the Rabbis in Judaism throughout history. Both groups are desolate without Messiah, too. They took what Micah and the priest had made and came to Laish and struck them and burned the city with fire because there was no one to deliver them (no allies). It was in the valley which is near Beth-rehob (“house of a street”) and they rebuilt the city and named it Dan. They then set up for themselves the graven image of Micah, and Jonathan (“Yehovah has given”), the son of Gershom (“stranger there”), the son of Manasseh (“to forget”), he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land by the Assyrians. This Jonathan seems to be the Levite Micah took into his house. The tribe of Dan has now openly adopted the image of Micah and idolatry is now established in the north. There was individual idolatry before this, but now it is official in a tribe. So, this whole thing started with a son who stole 1100 pieces of silver and it ends with an entire tribe given over to idolatry.
One of the lessons that we can glean from this whole story is that Micah probably had no idea how his individual idolatry would spread to an entire tribe. This idolatry would be in competition with the true worship of God in the Mishkan, located at Shiloh. We should learn that what we do, even though isolated at the time, can spread to others very, very quickly. Participating in Replacement Theology will spread to others, and who knows where that could lead. I’m sure Micah did not realize that his household idols would lead to the destruction of the ten tribes eventually.
Let’s go back to the phrase “the son of Manasseh” in Judges 18.30. In Hebrew it is “Ben Moshe” or “son of Moses.” It has a suspended Hebrew letter “nun” over the word “Moshe” as if it was “inserted” into the original name, making it Manasseh. Some scholars think it was done to spare Moses shame in that one of his descendants lead this idolatry. Others believe another Manasseh was intended, but that doesn’t explain the suspended letter “nun.” We know that Aaron’s grandson Pinchas was still alive so it is possible this Jonathan could have been the grandson of Moses (Judges 20.28) and that may be why the name “Moshe” was changed to “Manasseh” in this passage.
In Part 16 we will pick up in Judges 19.1-30.