If you know a little of American history, and specifically about the 1800s before the West was settled by those who migrated from the East, you’ll probably be familiar with the phrase “The Wild West”. That moniker was coined because during those days before government was established with the accompanying law and order, everyone pretty much did as they pleased. About the only thing that kept any semblance of order was one man’s fear of what another man might do to him if he crossed some unwritten code of conduct. To put it bluntly, the very basest of human behavior reigned supreme in much of the Wild West.
In Judges 17, we read about what happens when there is no set authority in place. We’ll see what happens when everyone does what he wants.
Keep in mind the first and second commandments as we read. The first is “You shall have no other gods before me” and the second is “You shall not make idols.”
I want to call your attention first to verse 6, which says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.”
The chapter began with a man named Micah returning to his mother 1,100 pieces of silver that he had stolen from her. You say, “Well that’s good.” Well, yes it is, but we have to question his motive. Was it because he realized that stealing was wrong, and he was repentant? Probably not, because in his statement to her he said, “You know that silver that was stolen, and that I heard you utter a curse about?” It looks like he was more afraid of the effects a superstitious curse than in right and wrong.
Understand the context of when and where these two people lived. It’s like the Wild West. There is no government, no one to teach or show the people what the Law of God said. And they lived amongst a foreign civilization that had as their God the false god Baalim, and the worship of ashera poles. Without proper guidance, this false religion crept into the belief system and lives of God’s people.
So we see Micah’s mother saying, when the silver is returned to her, “I am so happy that you have returned my silver that we should create a carved image and overlay it with silver.” Uhh. Excuse me, but what is that called? Oh. That’s right. It’s an idol.
And then Micah had and ephod and other small idols cast from some of the remaining silver, and he set up his own little shrine, or temple, in their home.
Sounds reasonable to someone who doesn’t know God’s Law. God’s people were to bring their sacrifices to the Temple. Not make their own.
According to God’s Law, Micah and his mother’s actions were punishable by death.
And the hiring of the young Levite from Bethlehem was sort of the piece de resistance. Levites were to minister in the temple, and they were to be taken care of through the sacrifices brought there. They were not priests for hire.
It does appear that Micah did not have malice in his heart in all this though, because the chapter ends with him saying, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, because a Levite has become my priest.”
But the fact remains that what was happening was wrong in the sight of God. Stay tuned to see how this plays out.