There was a man called Micah from the hilly country where Ephraim’s tribe lived

Chapter 17

v1 There was a man called Micah from the hilly country where Ephraim’s tribe lived. v2 He said to his mother, ‘Someone stole the 1100 pieces of silver from you. I heard that you declared a *curse on the thief. I have the money. I took it.’ His mother said, ‘I hope that the *Lord will bless you, my son.’

v3 He returned the 1100 pieces of silver to her. She said, ‘I give my silver to the *Lord for my son. It is to make something from wood. That thing will look like a person that lives. It is also to make something from metal. That will be a thing to praise instead of God. I will give it back to you.’ v4 So he returned the silver to his mother. She took 200 pieces of silver. She gave them to a man that worked with metal. He made them into something. It looked like a person that lives. He also made an object to praise instead of God. He put these in Micah’s house. v5 Now this Micah had a place to praise God. He made an ephod (a coat that priests wore). He also made some objects to praise instead of God. Micah had some sons. He chose a man that was his own son as a priest. v6 At that time *Israel’s people had no king. Everyone did what seemed right to him.

Before this section, the writer described the time when the Judges ruled. This story probably happened near the beginning of that time. It shows the bad state of *religion at that time. The name Micah means ‘There is no one like the *Lord’. But Micah had taken money from his own mother. She declared a *curse on the thief. People believed that *curses had bad results. So Micah quickly returned the money! His mother then said a *blessing. This meant that the *curse would have no power. She said that she had given the money to God. This was so that someone could make an image. (The image was something that people made from wood or stone. It looked like a person that lived.) Someone would also make an *idol (false god). But Micah’s mother only used 200 pieces of silver for this purpose. There were 1100 pieces in total. Perhaps she gave the rest back to Micah. This may be what the last sentence in verse 3 means. The writer does not say clearly whether there was one image or two images. Perhaps there was another image and perhaps it was like a male cow. (Some people believed that God, whom people could not see, rode on the cow.) Earlier, God had given 10 *commandments to Moses. In the 2nd *commandment, he forbade the people to make an image. So when these people made an image, they were not obeying that *commandment. Micah made a place where he could praise God at his house. There he put this image, an ephod and also some gods that belonged to the family. (An ephod was a special coat that priests wore.) People believed that they could discover from that place what would happen in their lives. The family’s gods may have been heads that people kept in special oil and cloth. Or they may have been models that people had made from clay. (Clay is a special kind of mud.) The models looked like *ancestors of the family. In the *Old Testament, God said that all these things were wrong. Micah had sons and he had chosen one as a priest. Perhaps he did this because there was nobody from Levi’s *tribe. The rule was that all priests must come from Levi’s *tribe. Perhaps he did not give attention to this. All these things happened because there was no king. Everybody did what seemed right to them.

v7 There was a young man from Levi’s *tribe. He was from Bethlehem town. This was in the area where Judah’s *tribe lived. The young man had been living among Judah’s *tribe. v8 He left that town. He left because he wanted to find somewhere else to live. On the way, he came to Micah’s house. This was in the hilly country where Ephraim’s *tribe lived. v9 Micah asked him, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I am from Levi’s *tribe and I am from Bethlehem town. That is in the area where Judah’s *tribe lives’, he said. ‘I am looking for somewhere to stay.’ v10 Then Micah said to him, ‘Live with me and be my father and priest. I will give you 10 pieces of silver each year. And I will give you your clothes and your food.’ v11 So the man from Levi’s *tribe agreed to live with him. Micah took care of the young man like a son.v12 Then Micah chose the man from Levi’s *tribe as his priest. And he lived in Micah’s house. v13 Micah said this. ‘Now I know that the *Lord will do good things to me. This is because this man from Levi’s *tribe has become my priest.’

A man from Levi’s *tribe then came along. The people from this *tribe had no land that was their own. They each lived in an area that belonged to another *tribe. So people often considered that these people belonged to that other *tribe. The area where this man from Levi’s *tribe lived belonged to Judah’s *tribe.

In verse 7, the *Hebrew text has the phrase ‘who had been living there’. This contains the same letters as the name ‘Gershom’. Gershom was a son of Moses. A better translation may be ‘He was Jonathan the son (or *descendant) of Gershom’. (Look at Judges 18:30.) We do not know why he had left Bethlehem. He may not have had enough food or money there. Micah gave a job to the man from Levi’s *tribe. It was a job as his ‘father’ and priest. He also gave him food, somewhere to live and some money. He let him live like a son. Micah was certain that God would bless him (Micah). He had a priest who had qualified for the job. That is why Micah thought that God would bless him.