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Judges 17:1--18:31

Micah Makes His Own Religion

17:1 There was a man named Micah from the Ephraimite hill country. 17:2 He said to his mother, “You know 1  the eleven hundred pieces of silver which were stolen 2  from you, about which I heard you pronounce a curse? Look here, I have the silver. I stole 3  it, but now I am giving it back to you.” 4  His mother said, “May the Lord reward 5  you, my son!” 17:3 When he gave back to his mother the eleven hundred pieces of silver, his mother said, “I solemnly dedicate 6  this silver to the Lord. It will be for my son’s benefit. We will use it to make a carved image and a metal image.” 7  17:4 When he gave the silver back to his mother, she 8  took two hundred pieces of silver 9  to a silversmith, who made them into a carved image and a metal image. She then put them in Micah’s house. 10  17:5 Now this man Micah owned a shrine. 11  He made an ephod 12  and some personal idols and hired one of his sons to serve as a priest. 13  17:6 In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right. 14 

Micah Hires a Professional

17:7 There was a young man from Bethlehem 15  in Judah. He was a Levite who had been temporarily residing among the tribe of Judah. 16  17:8 This man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah to find another place to live. He came to the Ephraimite hill country and made his way to Micah’s house. 17  17:9 Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” He replied, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah. I am looking for a new place to live.” 18  17:10 Micah said to him, “Stay with me. Become my adviser 19  and priest. I will give you ten pieces of silver per year, plus clothes and food.” 20  17:11 So the Levite agreed to stay with the man; the young man was like a son to Micah. 21  17:12 Micah paid 22  the Levite; the young man became his priest and lived in Micah’s house. 17:13 Micah said, “Now I know God will make me rich, 23  because I have this Levite as my priest.”

The Tribe of Dan Finds an Inheritance

18:1 In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the Danite tribe was looking for a place 24  to settle, because at that time they did not yet have a place to call their own among the tribes of Israel. 25  18:2 The Danites sent out from their whole tribe five representatives, 26  capable men 27  from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and explore it. They said to them, “Go, explore the land.” They came to the Ephraimite hill country and spent the night at Micah’s house. 28  18:3 As they approached 29  Micah’s house, they recognized the accent 30  of the young Levite. So they stopped 31  there and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 32  18:4 He told them what Micah had done for him, saying, 33  “He hired me and I became his priest.” 18:5 They said to him, “Seek a divine oracle for us, 34  so we can know if we will be successful on our mission.” 35  18:6 The priest said to them, “Go with confidence. 36  The Lord will be with you on your mission.” 37 

18:7 So the five men journeyed on 38  and arrived in Laish. They noticed that the people there 39  were living securely, like the Sidonians do, 40  undisturbed and unsuspecting. No conqueror was troubling them in any way. 41  They lived far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 42  18:8 When the Danites returned to their tribe 43  in Zorah and Eshtaol, their kinsmen 44  asked them, “How did it go?” 45  18:9 They said, “Come on, let’s attack them, 46  for 47  we saw their land and it is very good. You seem lethargic, 48  but don’t hesitate 49  to invade and conquer 50  the land. 18:10 When you invade, 51  you will encounter 52  unsuspecting people. The land is wide! 53  God is handing it over to you – a place that lacks nothing on earth!” 54 

18:11 So six hundred Danites, fully armed, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 55  18:12 They went up and camped in Kiriath Jearim in Judah. (To this day that place is called Camp of Dan. 56  It is west 57  of Kiriath Jearim.) 18:13 From there they traveled through the Ephraimite hill country and arrived at Micah’s house. 18:14 The five men who had gone to spy out the land of Laish 58  said to their kinsmen, 59  “Do you realize that inside these houses are an ephod, some personal idols, a carved image, and a metal image? Decide now what you want to do.” 18:15 They stopped 60  there, went inside the young Levite’s house (which belonged to Micah), 61  and asked him how he was doing. 62  18:16 Meanwhile the six hundred Danites, fully armed, stood at the entrance to the gate. 63  18:17 The five men who had gone to spy out the land broke in and stole 64  the carved image, the ephod, the personal idols, and the metal image, while the priest was standing at the entrance to the gate with the six hundred fully armed men. 65  18:18 When these men broke into Micah’s house and stole 66  the carved image, the ephod, the personal idols, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 18:19 They said to him, “Shut up! Put your hand over your mouth and come with us! You can be our adviser 67  and priest. Wouldn’t it be better to be a priest for a whole Israelite tribe than for just one man’s family?” 68  18:20 The priest was happy. He took the ephod, the personal idols, and the carved image and joined the group. 69 

18:21 They turned and went on their way, but they walked behind the children, the cattle, and their possessions. 70  18:22 After they had gone a good distance from Micah’s house, Micah’s neighbors 71  gathered together and caught up with the Danites. 18:23 When they called out to the Danites, the Danites 72  turned around and said to Micah, “Why have you gathered together?” 18:24 He said, “You stole my gods that I made, as well as this priest, and then went away. What do I have left? How can you have the audacity to say to me, ‘What do you want?’” 73  18:25 The Danites said to him, “Don’t say another word to us, or some very angry men 74  will attack you, and you and your family will die.” 75  18:26 The Danites went on their way; when Micah realized 76  they were too strong to resist, 77  he turned around and went home.

18:27 Now the Danites 78  took what Micah had made, as well as his priest, and came to Laish, where the people were undisturbed and unsuspecting. They struck them down with the sword and burned the city. 79  18:28 No one came to the rescue because the city 80  was far from Sidon 81  and they had no dealings with anyone. 82  The city 83  was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites 84  rebuilt the city and occupied it. 18:29 They named it Dan after their ancestor, who was one of Israel’s sons. 85  But the city’s name used to be Laish. 18:30 The Danites worshiped 86  the carved image. Jonathan, descendant 87  of Gershom, son of Moses, 88  and his descendants 89  served as priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the exile. 18:31 They worshiped 90  Micah’s carved image 91  the whole time God’s authorized shrine 92  was in Shiloh.

1 tn The words “You know” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

2 tn Heb “taken.”

3 tn Heb “took.”

4 tn In the Hebrew text the statement, “but now I am giving it back to you,” appears at the end of v. 3 and is spoken by the mother. But v. 4 indicates that she did not give the money back to her son. Unless the statement is spoken by the woman to the LORD, it appears to be misplaced and fits much better in v. 2. It may have been accidentally omitted from a manuscript, written in the margin, and then later inserted in the wrong place in another manuscript.

5 tn Traditionally, “bless.”

6 tn Heb “dedicating, I dedicate.” In this case the emphatic infinitive absolute lends a mood of solemnity to the statement.

7 tn Heb “to the LORD from my hand for my son to make a carved image and cast metal image.” She cannot mean that she is now taking the money from her hand and giving it back to her son so he can make an image. Verses 4-6 indicate she took back the money and used a portion of it to hire a silversmith to make an idol for her son to use. The phrase “a carved image and cast metal image” is best taken as referring to two idols (see 18:17-18), even though the verb at the end of v. 4, וַיְהִי (vayÿhi, “and it was [in the house of Micah]”), is singular.

8 tn Heb “his mother.” The pronoun (“she”) has been substituted for the noun (“mother”) in the translation because of English style.

9 tn The Hebrew text has “and gave it.” The referent (the pieces of silver) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

10 tn Heb “and it was in Micah’s house.”

11 tn Heb “house of God.”

12 sn Here an ephod probably refers to a priestly garment (cf. Exod 28:4-6).

13 tn Heb “and he filled the hand of one of his sons and he became his priest.”

14 tn Heb “Each was doing what was right in his [own] eyes.”

15 map For location see Map5 B1; Map7 E2; Map8 E2; Map10 B4.

16 tn Heb “There was a young man from Bethlehem of Judah, from the tribe of Judah, and he was a Levite, and he was temporarily residing there.”

17 tn Heb “He came to the Ephraimite hill country, to Micah’s house, making his way.”

18 tn Heb “And I am going to reside in a place I can find.”

19 tn Heb “father.” “Father” is here a title of honor that suggests the priest will give advice and protect the interests of the family, primarily by divining God’s will in matters, perhaps through the use of the ephod. (See R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 257; also Gen 45:8, where Joseph, who was a diviner and interpreter of dreams, is called Pharaoh’s “father,” and 2 Kgs 6:21; 13:14, where a prophet is referred to as a “father.” Note also 2 Kgs 8:9, where a king identifies himself as a prophet’s “son.” One of a prophet’s main functions was to communicate divine oracles. Cf. 2 Kgs 8:9ff.; 13:14-19).

20 tn The Hebrew text expands with the phrase: “and the Levite went.” This only makes sense if taken with “to live” in the next verse. Apparently “the Levite went” and “the Levite agreed” are alternative readings which have been juxtaposed in the text.

21 tn Heb “the young man became like one of his sons.”

22 tn Heb “filled the hand of.”

23 tn Heb “do good for me.”

24 tn Heb “an inheritance.”

25 tn Heb “because there had not fallen to them by that day in the midst of the tribes of Israel an inheritance.”

26 tn Heb “The Danites sent from their tribe five men, from their borders.”

27 tn Heb “men, sons of strength.”

28 tn Heb “They came to the Ephraimite hill country, to Micah’s house, and spent the night there.”

29 tn Or “When they were near.”

30 tn Heb “voice.” This probably means that “his speech was Judahite [i.e., southern] like their own, not Israelite [i.e., northern]” (R. G. Boling, Judges [AB], 263).

31 tn Heb “turned aside.”

32 tn Heb “What [is there] to you here?”

33 tn Heb “He said to them, ‘Such and such Micah has done for me.’” Though the statement is introduced and presented, at least in part, as a direct quotation (note especially “for me”), the phrase “such and such” appears to be the narrator’s condensed version of what the Levite really said.

34 tn Heb “Ask God.”

35 tn Heb “so we can know if our way on which we are going will be successful.”

36 tn Heb “in peace.”

37 tn Heb “In front of the LORD is your way in which you are going.”

38 tn Or “went.”

39 tn Heb “who were in its midst.”

40 tn Heb “according to the custom of the Sidonians.”

41 tn Heb “and there was no one humiliating anything in the land, one taking possession [by] force.”

42 tc Heb “and a thing there was not to them with men.” Codex Alexandrinus (A) of the LXX and Symmachus read “Syria” here rather than the MT’s “men.” This reading presupposes a Hebrew Vorlage אֲרָם (’aram, “Aram,” i.e., Arameans) rather than the MT reading אָדָם (’adam). This reading is possibly to be preferred over the MT.

43 tn Heb “They came to their brothers.”

44 tn Heb “brothers.”

45 tn Heb “What you?”

46 tn Heb “Arise, and let us go up against them.”

47 tc Codex Alexandrinus (A) of the LXX adds “we entered and walked around in the land as far as Laish and.”

48 tn Heb “But you are inactive.”

49 tn Or “be lazy.”

50 tn Heb “to go”; “to enter”; “to possess.”

51 tn Heb “When you enter.”

52 tn Heb “you will come to.”

53 tn Heb “broad of hands,” an idiom meaning “wide on both sides.”

54 tn Heb “a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”

55 tn Heb “They journeyed from there, from the tribe of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men, equipped with weapons of war.”

56 tn Or “Mahaneh Dan”; the Hebrew term “Mahaneh” means “camp [of].” Many English versions retain the transliterated Hebrew expression, but cf. CEV “Dan’s Camp.”

57 tn Heb “behind.”

58 tc Codex Alexandrinus (A) of the LXX lacks the phrase “of Laish.”

59 tn Heb “brothers.”

60 tn Heb “turned aside.”

61 tn Heb “Micah’s house.”

62 tn Heb “they asked him concerning peace.”

63 tn Heb “And the six hundred men, equipped with the weapons of war…from the sons of Dan.”

64 tn Heb “went up, went in there, took.”

65 tn Heb “six hundred men, equipped with the weapons of war.”

66 tn Heb “These went into Micah’s house and took.”

67 tn See the note on the word “adviser” in 17:10.

68 tn Heb “Is it better for you to be priest for the house of one man or for you to be priest for a tribe, for a clan in Israel?”

69 tn Heb “and went into the midst of the people.”

70 tn Heb “They turned and went and put the children, the cattle, and the possessions in front of them.”

71 tn Heb “the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house.”

72 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Danites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

73 tn Heb “What is this you say to me, ‘What to you?’”

74 tn Heb “bitter in spirit.” This phrase is used in 2 Sam 17:8 of David and his warriors, who are compared to a bear robbed of her cubs.

75 tn Heb “and you will gather up your life and the life of your house.”

76 tn Heb “saw.”

77 tn Heb “they were stronger than he.”

78 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Danites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

79 tn The Hebrew adds “with fire.” This has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons, because it is redundant in English.

80 tn Heb “it.” The Hebrew pronoun is feminine singular here, referring to the “city” (a grammatically feminine singular noun) mentioned in v. 27.

81 map For location see Map1 A1; JP3 F3; JP4 F3.

82 tn Heb “and a thing there was not to them with men.”

83 tn Heb “it.” The Hebrew pronoun is feminine singular here, referring to the “city” (a grammatically feminine singular noun) mentioned in v. 27.

84 tn Heb “They”; the referent (the Danites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

85 tn Heb “They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who had been born to Israel.”

86 tn Heb “erected for themselves.”

87 tn Heb “son.”

88 tc Several ancient textual witnesses, including some LXX mss and the Vulgate, support the reading “Moses” (מֹשֶׁה, mosheh) here. Many Hebrew mss have a nun (נ) suspended above the name between the first two letters (מנשׁה), suggesting the name Manasseh (מְנַשֶּׁה, mÿnasheh). This is probably a scribal attempt to protect Moses’ reputation. For discussion, see G. F. Moore, Judges (ICC), 401-2.

89 tn Heb “sons.”

90 tn Heb “they set up for themselves.”

91 tn Heb “the carved image that Micah had made.”

92 tn Heb “the house of God.”

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