Judges 17

Judges 17
by Pastor David Groendyk

Something feels different about the last five chapters of the book of Judges and this story of Micah. We’re not introduced to anymore judges. There are no more hero-deliverers for the people. Chaos ensues. The book of Judges began with a double crisis, and now it ends with a double crisis. Judges 1–2 described a territorial crisis in which Israel did not take full possession of Canaan as well as a covenantal crisis in which Israel rebelled against God. Now, in Judges 17–21, we have another covenantal crisis (Micah, the tribe of Dan, and the false priest) and another territorial crisis (Benjamin at war with Israel and being nearly wiped out). This double ending is meant to put a final nail in the coffin of the downward spiral of sin and immorality that Israel is on.

The ESV Study Bible describes this story simply and succinctly: “These verses depict a thieving son and an unusually forgiving mother who commit apostasy together.” Micah had stolen 1100 pieces of silver from his own mother, and it appears that this is one of those family situations where the child can do no wrong. We probably all know a family like this, right? One where the kids could go on an arson spree and the parents would defend them to the death anyway. Sometimes people are so blind. Then again, ‘spiritual blindness’ is the theme of Judges 17–21. In response to the recovering of the 1100 pieces of silver, mother and son decide to create an entirely new religion. Now, the mother declared that the money was dedicated to Yahweh (v. 3), but instead of giving it to the priests and Levites for the tabernacle, she decides to create their own system of religion right at home. How convenient! They create false gods, a false “shrine” (more literally the Hebrew says, “a house of God”), a false ephod, and they ordain a false priest, then go on to co-opt a rogue priest. All of it is gross apostasy, yet all of it is done in the name of Yahweh.

Two verses stand out in this chapter to explain Micah’s family’s spiritual blindness. The first is verse 6: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This is theme for the whole of the book of Judges. Of course, there was a king; the king was Yahweh, as Gideon proclaimed in Judges 8:23. But the people refused to have Yahweh as king. They did not listen to his Word or his Law, and everyone decided what was right and wrong for themselves. How easy it is for us as Christians to imitate this same way of thinking. If you think about it, this is the exact same sin as Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Even though God had given them a direct command, they did what they thought was right. So goes every other sin that we commit. Micah and his family directly contradicted so much of the Law that God had revealed in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They should have known better, but they were blinded by their sin. It should give every single Christian pause to reflect on whether or not they really are living according to God’s Word or according to their own wisdom that they think is coming from God.

The other important verse is verse 13: “Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as a priest.’” What a crazy thing to say! Look at how sin warps our minds! It would be like a Christian saying, “I don’t need to go to church, because I’ve got a pulpit at home. Surely the Lord will bless me if I never go to church again!” Again, this reveals Micah’s lack of knowledge of the Word of God, and how twisted sin is. How often we think, “Well, if I just do x-y-z, then surely I’ll have the Lord’s blessing,” when in reality we’ve done the exact opposite of what God requires. If there’s a lesson to be learned from Micah specifically, it is this: beware how sin twists your mind and your logic. It will make sinful or un-wise things seem right, and it will make godly and wise things seem overbearing or crazy.

This chapter begins a very chaotic, confusing, and sinful end of the book for Israel. As you read through these last few chapters, pay attention to the repeated phrase, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Let us as a church never fall back on doing what is right in our own eyes, and may we always seek first God’s will in his Word.