Judges 17



1 And there was a man of Mount Ephraim, and his name was Micah.

2 And he said to his mother, The thousand and the hundred of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou didst make·​·an·​·oath, and also spoke in my ears, behold the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of Jehovah, my son.

3 And he returned the thousand and the hundred of silver to his mother, and his mother said, Sanctifying, I had sanctified the silver unto Jehovah from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a molten image; and now I will return it to thee.

4 But he returned the silver unto his mother; and his mother took two·​·hundred of silver, and gave them to the refiner, and he made thereof a carved image and a molten image; and they were in the house of Micah.

5 And the man Micah had a house of God, and made an ephod and teraphim, and filled the hand* of one of his sons, and he was to him for a priest.

6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was upright in his own eyes.

7 And there was a lad from Bethlehem of Judah, of the family of Judah, and he was a Levite, and he sojourned there.

8 And the man went from the city, from Bethlehem of Judah, to sojourn where he could find; and he came to Mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, in making his way.

9 And Micah said to him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite from Bethlehem of Judah, and I go to sojourn where I find a place.

10 And Micah said to him, Dwell with·​·me, and be for me for a father and for a priest, and I will give thee ten pieces of silver for the days, and a value of garments and thy living. And the Levite went in.

11 And the Levite was·​·content to dwell with the man; and the lad was to him as one of his sons.

12 And Micah filled the hand of the Levite; and the lad became his priest and was in the house of Micah.

13 And Micah said, Now I know that Jehovah will do·​·good for me, for the Levite is a priest to me.

Exploring the Meaning of Judges 17      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

The Story of Micah’s Idols

In this chapter, the story moves from the various judges of Israel to an anecdote that illustrates the overall worsening spiritual situation in the land. The people turn from the Lord and do more and more wrong among themselves. The last verse of the book of Judges is very telling, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The same words come in the present chapter, in Judges 17:6.

In this story, a man named Micah (not to be confused with the prophet Micah) took a lot of silver money from his mother. He confesses that he did this, and returns the money to her. She says, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my son!” She finds a silversmith to melt down the silver money to make an idol which gets set up in their house. One of Micah’s sons is then appointed as the priest to serve this idol.

The spiritual meaning of this is that an idol of any kind is a falsifying of our own worship and sense of the Lord. An idol is a ‘thing’ in a ‘place’, vested with power, whereas our worship and sense of the Lord is that he is fully everywhere and in everything. (Arcana Caelestia 3479, 3732) The essence of idolatry is that it emphasises external forms with no attention to the place and purpose of internal forms and realities. Our ‘idols’ can be whatever we love or desire or feel is important to us, over and above the Lord.

The story then shifts to a wandering Levite, a priest of Israel, who came from Bethlehem in Judah, and is looking for any place to stay. Israel had appointed six cities for Levites to live in, but this Levite is a wanderer. He eventually meets Micah, who takes him into his house and makes him a paid priest. Micah feels important because of this development.

This part of the story depicts the decline of Israel from its worship of the Lord to a state of allowing anything to be done if it seems right in someone’s eyes. The Levite is a trained priest, trained in the law of Moses, someone who should know the commandments of the Lord and also their prohibitions. This Levite is ‘looking for a place to go to’ which describes his apparent falling away from true priesthood. (See the description in Apocalypse Explained 444, about the Levites, and in Doctrine of Life 39 about priests.)

As well as indicating the extent of the spiritual fall of Israel into idolatry and wrong practices, this chapter representatively describes our own scope for moving away from a genuine worship of the Lord into a worship of ourselves and of the world, and the change that comes within us in doing this. It often changes very gradually and inexorably so that it is imperceptible even to ourselves. This is a danger, and the reason for our self-examination and vigilant care.

The name Micah means, “Who is like Jehovah God?” which is an ironical name for someone who turns away from God to substitute an idol made from silver money, in a completely false worship. In genuine repentance, we may ask, “Who is like Jehovah God?” implying that no one is like God, including ourselves, because we are all involved in wrong feelings, thinking and actions, and we know our need of and dependence on the Lord. (Apocalypse Revealed 531)

It is important to note the mother’s first words, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my son!” saying this for his confession and return of the money. She begins her part in the story with the truest of statements, i.e. that the Lord wants to bless us, even while she may just be glad to have all her money back.

“Silver” in the Word can mean truths, truths of faith and truth of good, but in an opposite sense, when used dishonestly, it means falsities. (Arcana Caelestia 1551)

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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.