Matthew Poole's Commentary
And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.Micah stealeth money of his mother; then confesseth and restoreth it. She dedicates it to the Lord; maketh images: he sets them up in the house of his gods; and consecrates one of his sons for his priest; there being then no magistrates in Israel, Judges 17:1-6. A Levite travelling that way, he hireth and consecrateth him to be his priest, Judges 17:7-12; is confident that God would therefore favour and bless him, Judges 17:13.
The things mentioned here, and in the following chapters, did not happen in the order in which they are put; but much sooner, even presently after the death of the elders that overlived Joshua, Judges 2:7, as appears by divers passages; as first, Because the place called Mahaneh-dan, or the camp of Dan, Judges 13:25, was so called from that which was done, Judges 18:12. Secondly, Because the Danites had not yet got all their inheritance, Judges 18:1, which is not credible of them above three hundred years after Joshua’s death. Thirdly, Because Phinehas the son of Eleazar was priest at this time, Judges 20:28, who must have been about three hundred and fifty years old, if this had been done after Samson’s death, which is more than improbable.
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.About which thou cursedst, i.e. didst curse the person who had taken them away, and that in my hearing, as it follows. I took it; the fear of thy curse makes me acknowledge mine offence, and beg thy pardon.
Blessed be thou of the Lord; I willingly consent to and beg from God the removal of the curse, and a blessing instead of it. Be thou free from my curse, because thou hast so honestly restored it.
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.The Lord; in the Hebrew it is Jehovah, the incommunicable name of God; whereby it is apparent that neither she nor her son intended to forsake the true God or his worship; as appears from his rejoicing when he had got a priest of the Lord’s appointment, of the tribe of Levi, Judges 17:13; but only to worship God by an image; which also it is apparent that both the Israelites, Exodus 32:1, &c., and Jeroboam afterwards, designed to do.
For my son; either, first, For the honour and benefit of thyself and family; that you need not be continually going to Shiloh to worship, but may do it as well at home by these images. Or, secondly, That thou mayst cause these things to be made; to which end she restored all the money to him, as it here follows.
A graven image and a molten image; many think this was but one image, partly graven, and partly molten. But it seems more probable that they were two distinct images, because they are so plainly distinguished, Judges 18:17,18, where also some other words come between them. It is true, the graven image alone is mentioned, Judges 18:20,30,31, not exclusively to the other, as appears from what is said just before; but by a common synecdoche, whereby one is put for all, especially where that one is esteemed the chief.
I will restore it unto thee to dispose of, as I say.
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.Yet he restored the money unto his mother; though his mother allowed him to keep it, yet he persisted in his resolution to restore it, that she might dispose of it as she pleased; and did actually restore it, as was said before; and now confirms the former restitution, and therefore is twice said to restore it.
His mother took two hundred shekels of silver; reserving nine hundred shekels, either for the ephod and teraphim, or for other things relating to this worship, or for her own private use; being, it seems, cooled in her first zeal, and willing to have as cheap a religion as she could, as also her son Micah was, Judges 17:10.
Who made thereof; made them, either first, of that matter; or secondly, for that money.
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.An house of gods, i.e. an house or place consecrated for the service of God in this manner.
An ephod; an eminent part of the priestly garments, Exodus 28:4, which, some think, is here put for all of them.
Teraphim; some sort of images so called, of which see Genesis 31:19 Hosea 3:4.
Who became his priest; because the Levites in that corrupt estate of the church neglected the exercise of their office, and therefore were neglected by the people, and others put into their employment. But this kind of priesthood was condemned, Numbers 16:40 18:2,7.
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.No king, i.e. no judge to govern and control them. The word king being here used largely for a supreme magistrate; as Genesis 36:31 Deu 33:5. God raised up judges to rule and deliver the people when he saw fit; and at other times for their sins he suffered them to be without them, and such a time this was; and therefore they ran into that idolatry from which the judges usually kept them, as appears by that solemn and oft-repeated passage in this book, that after the death of such or such a judge the people forsook the Lord, and turned to idols.
That which was right in his own eyes, i.e. not what pleased God, but what best suited his own fancy or lusts.
And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.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 the man departed out of the city from Bethlehemjudah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.Where he could find a place, for employment and a livelihood; for the tithes and offerings, which were their maintenance, not being brought in to the house of God, the Levites and priests must needs be reduced to great straits.
And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.A father and a priest; for, a father; that is, a priest; a spiritual father, a teacher or instructor, for such are called fathers: see 2 Kings 6:21 8:9 13:14 Isaiah 22:21. He pretends reverence and submission to him; and what is wanting in his wages he pays him in empty titles.
And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.The Levite was content; being constrained by necessity, and infected with the common contagion of the superstition and idolatry of the times.
Was unto him as one of his sons, i.e. treated with the same degree of kindness and affection.
And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.Consecrated the Levite, to be a priest, for which he thought a consecration necessary, as knowing that the Levites were no less excluded from the priest’s office than the people.
Became his priest, instead of his son, whom he had consecrated for want of a fitter, Judges 17:5; but now seems to restrain him from the exercise of that office, and to devolve it wholly upon the Levite, who was nearer akin to it.
Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.I am assured God will bless me. So blind and grossly partial he was in his judgment, to think that one right circumstance would answer for all his substantial errors, in making and worshipping images against God’s express command, in worshipping God in a forbidden place, and in that he, being an Ephraimite, presumed to make a priest, &c.