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Year 1, Week 28, Day 2

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Judges 18.

Today’s reading continues the narrative of a man named Micah, whom we were introduced to in the previous day’s reading. Today’s reading is a part of the last five chapters of Judges. These chapters provide more detailed examples of Israel’s moral deterioration during the period of the Judges. These chapters illustrate the extent of the moral decay at this moment in Israel’s history. Judges 17 describes the life of a man named Micah, who exemplifies the nature of Israel’s false worship during the period of the Judges. Judges 18 describes the actions of the tribe of Dan, who, among other things, seizes the idol and priest obtained by Micah. 

One of the things that struck me from today’s readings is the emphasis that the LORD places on the need for Israel to have a king: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” (Psalm 72:1-4). A theme that runs through the last four chapters of Judges makes the case for Israel’s need for a king: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6); and “In those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 18:1). The period of the kings has shown that Israel needed a king. Not just any kind of king, but the kind of king that the LORD has specified: “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Israel needed a king who would know, practice, and uphold God’s Word.

The examples provided in the readings from yesterday, today, and tomorrow give specific illustrations of Israel’s unfaithfulness. During the period of the Judges, Israel’s primary problem was not the foreign invaders who oppressed them. The foreign oppressors were a result of Israel’s primary problem: the moral breakdown of their own hearts before the LORD. Judges 17 and 18 display activity that violates most if not all of the Ten Commandments. Micah himself, breaks over half of the Law. The introduction of Micah orients us to his thievery—from his own mother: “And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it” (Judges 17:2). His mother blesses him (what!?), and proceeds to have an idol built: “his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image” (Judges 17:4). Micah sets up the idol in his home and ejects his own shrine: “And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods” (Judges 17:5). Micah, after starting out with ordaining his son, eventually finds a Levite to ordain: “And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah” (Judges 17:12).

Micah’s actions are no small matter: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Deuteronomy 5:7-8). Ironically Micah’s mother blessed her son, but what she did was actually a curse on them: “Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the LORD, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen” (Deuteronomy 27:15). Micah believes he will be blessed: “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest” (Judges 17:13). But Micah’s new religion is rooted in superstition. 

Micah’s new religion is unstable as well. The Danites, who never took full possession of their land (see Joshua 19:40-48), invade Ephraim’s territory and in the process steal Micah’s idol and priest. Notice the silliness of Micah’s confrontation of the Danites: "You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?” (Judges 18:24). There was nothing that Micah could do about the matter: “And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home.” (Judges 18:25-26). Micah’s gods were of no help: “For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe