As usual, the aim isn’t to cover/summarise the whole text, but simply to pick out particular and sometimes overlooked points of interest.
Chs. 17-18 are some of the bleakest in Scripture.
Chs. 17-18 have clear literary links to what precedes them (e.g., the mention of 1,100 shekels, the ref. to ‘Zorah and Eshtaol’, etc.).
As such, chs. 17-21 function as a retrospective--a discussion of where things went so wrong and why--,
As we read through the book of Judges, we are astounded (in all the wrong ways) by the misdeeds of Israel’s leaders:
And, in chs. 17-21, we find every one of these misdeeds present in seed form
As such, the chronology of chs. 17-21 is significant. The events of chs. 17-21 are intended to reveal how Israel’s problems began to take root.
Given what we have seen so far in Judges (3.7, 4.1, 6.1, 10.1, etc.), we might expect ch. 17 to begin with a description of what ‘the sons of Israel’ as a whole are up to, or with the rise of a notable leader,
As we will see, Israel’s corruption does not spread from the top down, or from the outside in, but from the ground up.
The mother thinks she can reverse her curse,
though she never actually gives the money to her son (afawk); she instead hands 200 of the 1,100 shekels to a silversmith.
Idolatry rapidly blossoms in our narrative,
...a shrine (where Micah’s molten image is placed), an ephod, some teraphim, & a non-Levitical priest.
And, by the time we reach 18.17, we find arrayed in Micah’s shrine ‘a graven image, ephod, teraphim, *and* a molten image’.
Then, at the climax of our narrative, the fruits of Micah’s stolen silver (as set out above) are themselves stolen by a group of violent and opportunistic Danites,
which allows idolatry to take root in Israel’s very heartland (cp. 18.30, and note Jeroboam’s establishment of Bethel as a centre of idolatry in later years).
In Kings, *the kings themselves* are said to do what is evil in the eyes of YHWH--e.g., Solomon (11.6), Nadab (15.26), Omri (16.25), etc.--and are held responsible for the sins of the people.
In other words, people do not need a judge to lead them into sin; they are perfectly able to do that themselves.
Note: The use of the article in the statement ‘every man did what was right (הישר) in his own eyes’ resonates w/ the statement ‘King X did evil (הרע) in the eyes of YHWH’.
...as also are more dictatorial forms of government, since, while good kings can be of great benefit to people,
As such, the primary purpose of the book of Judges is not to argue for a particular form of government, but for man’s need of conversion and salvation.
That fact is important in and of itself, but is also important for a different reason.
With the outset of ch. 17, references to YHWH suddenly become very hard to find.
In fact, in chs. 17-18, our *narrator* does not make a single reference to YHWH.
The disappearance of YHWH is also hinted at in our text’s personal names.
But, thereafter, it always occurs in its abbreviated form (מיכה x 19), and hence avoids any clear reference to YHWH--which seems instructive.
The name ‘Micah’ is a question, viz., ‘Who is like YHWH?’, to which the implied/expected answer is ‘No-one’, yet the answer implied by our text is ‘All sorts of gods!’.
A numerological aside: In our discussion of ch. 9, we observed an absence of references to YHWH similar to that noted above.
But, as we noted, YHWH’s authorship of history is reflected in more subtle ways in ch. 9:
Here in chs. 17-18, a similar pattern may be present.
Micah’s ‘house of gods’ (בֵּית אֱלֹהִים) is described in such a way as to portray it as a counterfeit of the true ‘house of God’ (בֵּית אֱלֹהִים).
(Angelic hosts are also brought to mind by a ref. to צֹרֵף = ‘silversmith’ nearby to תְּרָפִים, since it is evocative of שְׂרָפִים = seraphim.)
Like Israel, the Danites lack an inheritance, select men from their families, send them out as spies, and then decide what to do on the basis of their report.
Hence, when the Levite is asked if the Danites’ way will prosper,
And, when the Danites are asked what they plan to do with Micah’s idols, they *should* reply ‘Burn them!’, but instead decide to take them for themselves.
And the biggest shock of all is left until last.
As we read through chs. 17-18,...
And in the penultimate verse of ch. 18 we find out.
The priest’s name is in fact Jonathan (יהונתן), which, given the context, should probably be rendered as ‘YHWH has given (them) over’.
The fickleness of the human heart is a mystery.
Just as Micah wants to start up a shrine, who should come his way but a Levite?
It seems too good to be true. And it is.
The path of least resistance is not always the right one.