Judges 17:7
And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) A young man.—Later on in the story we, as it were incidentally, make the astonishing discovery that this young man was no other than a grandson of Moses.

Out of Beth-lehem-judah.—So called to distinguish it from the Bethlehem in Zebulon (Joshua 19:15). (See Note on Judges 12:8.) In later times, when Bethlehem was famous as David’s birthplace, and the other Bethlehem had sunk into insignificance, the descriptive addition is often dropped.

Of the family of Judah.—It may be doubted whether this refers to the “young man” or to Bethlehem, or whether it ought not, as in some MSS. and versions (LXX., Cod. B, and Syriac), to be omitted. If it applies to the young Levite, it must mean that he did not live in one of the Levitic cities, which belonged to his own family (the family of Gershom), which were in the northern and eastern tribes (Joshua 21:6), but in Judah, and therefore was ranked in civil matters as belonging to that tribe. Homes in the tribe of Judah were assigned to the priests alone (Joshua 21:9-42).

He sojourned there.—Comp. Judges 19:1. The curse had been pronounced on the tribe of Levi: “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

Jdg 17:7. Beth-lehem-judah — So called here, as Matthew 2:1; Matthew 2:5, to distinguish it from Bethlehem in Zebulun. There he was born and bred. Of Judah — That is, of or belonging to the tribe of Judah; not by birth, for he was a Levite; but by his habitation and ministration. For the Levites were dispersed among all the tribes: and this man’s lot fell into the tribe of Judah. Sojourned — So he expresseth it, because this was not the proper place of his abode, this being no Levitical city.

17:7-13 Micah thought it was a sign of God's favour to him and his images, that a Levite should come to his door. Thus those who please themselves with their own delusions, if Providence unexpectedly bring any thing to their hands that further them in their evil way, are apt from thence to think that God is pleased with them.The Hebrew words for "he sojourned there" are, שׁם גר gêr shām, which words are used Judges 18:30 in the genealogy of this young Levite, whose name was "Jonathan, the son of Gershom" (גרשׁם gêreshôm). Hence, some read here, "the son of Gershom." 7. Beth-lehem-judah—so called in contradistinction to a town of the same name in Zebulun (Jos 19:15).

of the family—that is, tribe.

of Judah—Men of the tribe of Levi might connect themselves, as Aaron did (Ex 6:23), by marriage with another tribe; and this young Levite belonged to the tribe of Judah, by his mother's side, which accounts for his being in Beth-lehem, not one of the Levitical cities.

Out of Beth-lehem-judah, or, of Beth-lehem-judah; so called here, as Matthew 2:1,5, to difference it from Bethlehem in Zebulun, Joshua 19:15. There he was born and bred. Of the family of Judah, i.e. of or belonging to the tribe of Judah; not by birth, for he was a Levite; nor by his mother, for though that might be true, the mother’s side is not regarded in genealogies; but by his habitation and ministration. For the Levites, especially in times of confusion and irreligion, were dispersed among all the tribes; and this man’s lot fell into the tribe of Judah; which seems to be here noted by way of reflection upon that tribe, and as an evidence of the general defection, that a Levite could not find entertainment in that great and famous tribe, which God had put so much honour upon, Genesis 49:8-11, and therefore was forced to wander and seek for subsistence elsewhere.

He sojourned there; so he expresseth it, because this was not the proper nor usual place of his abode, this being no Levitical city.

And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah,.... As there were two Bethlehems, one in the tribe of Zebulun, Joshua 19:15 and another in the tribe of Judah, the place here designed, Judah is added to it, to distinguish it from the other:

of the family of Judah: which refers either to the young man, who was by his father's side a Levite, and by his mother's side, as Jarchi thinks, of the tribe of Judah, which seems very probable, though the genealogies of families were not reckoned from the mother; wherefore he might be so called because he had lived chiefly in the tribe of Judah, and particularly at Bethlehem; but Kimchi, and several other Jewish commentators, refer this to the city of Bethlehem, that was of the tribe of Judah, family being put for the tribe; or belonged to the children of Judah; though one would think there was no need to have added this, since it was fully expressed before by calling it Bethlehemjudah; the former sense therefore seems best:

who was a Levite; his father being, as before observed, of that tribe, though his mother might be of the tribe of Judah: and he sojourned there; that is, at Bethlehem; he was not a native, nor an inhabitant there, but a sojourner, it not being a Levitical city.

And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah {f} of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.

(f) Which Bethlehem was in the tribe of Judah.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. a young man … sojourned there] i.e. in the neighbourhood of Micah’s house. Technically the word sojourner (Hebr. gçr) means one who lives under the protection of a tribe to which he does not belong by birth. This young man, a Levite of Judah, was settled in the place where Micah lived, became intimate with him (Jdg 17:11 b), and was installed as his domestic priest (Jdg 17:12 a); we hear of the young man again in Jdg 18:3; Jdg 18:15. He cannot be the same person as the wandering Levite, also of Judah, called the man in Jdg 17:8, who, in the course of his journey in search of employment, happened to arrive at Micah’s house, and for a fixed stipend agreed to take up his abode there (Jdg 17:8-11 a, 12b–13); his subsequent history is given in Jdg 18:4-6; Jdg 18:18-30. It is evident that two parallel narratives are interwoven here without altogether losing their distinctive features.

of Beth-lehem-judah, of the family of Judah … a Levite] Beth-lehem was a centre for Levites at this time, cf. Jdg 17:8, Jdg 19:1; Jdg 19:18. The memory of a connexion between certain Levitical families and the southern clans has been preserved by the genealogies: thus among the Levitical families mentioned in Numbers 26:58, the Libnites, Hebronites, Korahites are named after places in the territory of Judah (Joshua 15:42; Joshua 21:13; 1 Chronicles 2:43).

How could the young man have belonged to the family of Judah and at the same time have been a Levite? (a) Wellhausen and Moore think that at this period Levite was the designation not of a tribe, but of a priestly caste open to any one1[61]

[61] So Driver, Exodus, p. 29, in agreement with McNeile, Exodus, p. lxvi. f.

. The young man is described as a Judaean by birth and a Levite by profession; for ‘in early times it was not the pedigree, but the art, that was the essential thing’ (Moore). The old tribe of Levi had been broken up (see Genesis 34; Genesis 49:5-7); the scattered members of it followed the priestly calling; out of this nucleus a priestly ‘tribe’ of Levi was created by a genealogical fiction. (b) There may be some error in the text. The LXX. cod. B omits the first Judah; the Peshitto omits of the family of Judah, merely, no doubt, because the description seemed unintelligible Budde, however, suggests that the text has deliberately been altered: originally it ran of the family of Moses, and this was afterwards modified out of respect for the traditional founder of the priesthood. A certain amount of support for such an alteration is given by Jdg 18:30; but Judah is hardly the name which would obviously occur as a substitute for Moses. It seems best after all to take the text as it stands, and to suppose that there was a time when ‘Levite’ was the official title of one who had received the training of a priest, regardless of the tribe to which he belonged by birth (McNeile). The evidence suggests that the scattered members of the tribe of Levi, like those of Simeon, had attached themselves to the Judaean settlements. The break up of these two tribes is accounted for in Genesis 34; Genesis 49:5-7, which refer to an episode apparently in the early days of the occupation of Canaan, and therefore not far removed in date from the present narrative. How the Levi of this ugly story came to be the priestly tribe is one of the obscure problems of Hebrew history; see HDB. s.v. Levi. Judah is here a family, the term applied to the small clan of the Danites (Jdg 13:2 n.). It was not till later, probably not before the time of David, that the family of Judah grew into the tribe; Beth-lehem and the neighbourhood was most likely its ancient seat.

Verse 7. - Of the family of Judah. These words are difficult to explain. If the man was a Levite he could not be of the family or tribe of Judah. Some explain the words to be merely a more accurate definition of Bethlehem-judah, as if he would say, I mean Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah. Others explain them to mean that he was one of a family of Levites who had settled in Bethlehem, and so came to be reckoned in civil matters as belonging to Judah. Others, that he was of the family of Judah on his mother s side, which might be the cause of his settling at Bethlehem. But many commentators think them spurious, as they are not found in the Septuagint (Cod. Vat.), nor in the Peschito, nor in No. 440 of De Rossi's MSS. The Septuagint has Bethlehem of the family of Judah. Judges 17:7Appointment of a Levite as Priest. - Judges 17:7. In the absence of a Levitical priest, Micah had first of all appointed one of his sons as priest at his sanctuary. He afterwards found a Levite for this service. A young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who, being a Levite, stayed (גּר) there (in Bethlehem) as a stranger, left this town to sojourn "at the place which he should find," sc., as a place that would afford him shelter and support, and came up to the mountains of Ephraim to Micah's house, "making his journey," i.e., upon his journey. (On the use of the inf. constr. with ל in the sense of the Latin gerund in do, see Ewald, 280, d.) Bethlehem was not a Levitical town. The young Levite from Bethlehem was neither born there nor made a citizen of the place, but simply "sojourned there," i.e., dwelt there temporarily as a stranger. The further statement as to his descent (mishpachath Judah) is not to be understood as signifying that he was a descendant of some family in the tribe of Judah, but simply that he belonged to the Levites who dwelt in the tribe of Judah, and were reckoned in all civil matters as belonging to that tribe. On the division of the land, it is true that it was only to the priests that dwelling-places were allotted in the inheritance of this tribe (Joshua 21:9-19), whilst the rest of the Levites, even the non-priestly members of the family of Kohath, received their dwelling-places among the other tribes (Joshua 21:20.). At the same time, as many of the towns which were allotted to the different tribes remained for a long time in the possession of the Canaanites, and the Israelites did not enter at once into the full and undisputed possession of their inheritance, it might easily so happen that different towns which were allotted to the Levites remained in possession of the Canaanites, and consequently that the Levites were compelled to seek a settlement in other places. It might also happen that individuals among the Levites themselves, who were disinclined to perform the service assigned them by the law, would remove from the Levitical towns and seek some other occupation elsewhere (see also at Judges 18:30).

(Note: There is no reason, therefore, for pronouncing the words יהוּדה ממּשׁפּחת (of the family of Judah) a gloss, and erasing them from the text, as Houbigant proposes. The omission of them from the Cod. Vat. of the lxx, and from the Syriac, is not enough to warrant this, as they occur in the Cod. Al. of the lxx, and their absence from the authorities mentioned may easily be accounted for from the difficulty which was felt in explaining their meaning. On the other hand, it is impossible to imagine any reason for the interpolation of such a gloss into the text.)

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