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Judges chapter 17

New International Version

1 Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim
2 said to his mother, 'The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse--I have that silver with me; I took it.' Then his mother said, 'The LORD bless you, my son!'
3 When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, 'I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make an image overlaid with silver. I will give it back to you.'
4 So after he returned the silver to his mother, she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who used them to make the idol. And it was put in Micah's house.
5 Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some household gods and installed one of his sons as his priest. 6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
7 A young Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who had been living within the clan of Judah, 8 left that town in search of some other place to stay. On his way he came to Micah's house in the hill country of Ephraim.
9 Micah asked him, 'Where are you from?' 'I'm a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah,' he said, 'and I'm looking for a place to stay.'
10 Then Micah said to him, 'Live with me and be my father and priest, and I'll give you ten shekels of silver a year, your clothes and your food.' 11 So the Levite agreed to live with him, and the young man became like one of his sons to him. 12 Then Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in his house. 13 And Micah said, 'Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.'
English Standard Version

1 There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2 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.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” 3 And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” 4 So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. 5 And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
7 Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8 And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9 And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” 10 And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. 11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12 And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”
King James Version

1 And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son. 3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee. 4 Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah. 5 And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
7 And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8 And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehemjudah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed. 9 And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. 10 And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in. 11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons. 12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
New American Standard Bible

1 Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2 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 hearing, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.' And his mother said, 'Blessed be my son by the LORD.' 3 He then returned the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, 'I wholly consecrate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a carved image and a cast metal image; so now I will return them to you.' 4 So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith, who made them into a carved image and a cast metal image, and they were in the house of Micah. 5 And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols, and consecrated one of his sons, so that he might become his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
7 Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he was staying there. 8 Then the man left the city, Bethlehem in Judah, to stay wherever he would find a place; and as he made his journey, he came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah. 9 Micah said to him, 'Where do you come from?' And he said to him, 'I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find a place.' 10 Micah then said to him, 'Stay with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a supply of clothing, and your sustenance.' So the Levite went in. 11 The Levite agreed to live with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12 So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, 'Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as a priest.'
New Living Translation

1 There was a man named Micah, who lived in the hill country of Ephraim.
2 One day he said to his mother, 'I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.' 'The LORD bless you for admitting it,' his mother replied. 3 He returned the money to her, and she said, 'I now dedicate these silver coins to the LORD. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast.'
4 So when he returned the money to his mother, she took 200 silver coins and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. And these were placed in Micah's house. 5 Micah set up a shrine for the idol, and he made a sacred ephod and some household idols. Then he installed one of his sons as his personal priest.
6 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
7 One day a young Levite, who had been living in Bethlehem in Judah, arrived in that area. 8 He had left Bethlehem in search of another place to live, and as he traveled, he came to the hill country of Ephraim. He happened to stop at Micah's house as he was traveling through.
9 'Where are you from?' Micah asked him. He replied, 'I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am looking for a place to live.'
10 'Stay here with me,' Micah said, 'and you can be a father and priest to me. I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, plus a change of clothes and your food.' 11 The Levite agreed to this, and the young man became like one of Micah's sons.
12 So Micah installed the Levite as his personal priest, and he lived in Micah's house. 13 'I know the LORD will bless me now,' Micah said, 'because I have a Levite serving as my priest.'
Christian Standard Bible

1 There was a man from the hill country of Ephraim named Micah.
2 He said to his mother, "The 1,100 pieces of silver taken from you, and that I heard you place a curse on--here's the silver. I took it."Then his mother said, "My son, may you be blessed by the Lord! "
3 He returned the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, "I personally consecrate the silver to the Lord for my son's benefit to make a carved image and a silver idol. I will give it back to you." 4 So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took five pounds of silver and gave it to a silversmith. He made it into a carved image and a silver idol, and it was in Micah's house.
5 This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household idols, and installed one of his sons to be his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him.
7 There was a young man, a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who was staying within the clan of Judah. 8 The man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah to stay wherever he could find a place. On his way he came to Micah's home in the hill country of Ephraim.
9 "Where do you come from? " Micah asked him.He answered him, "I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I'm going to stay wherever I can find a place."
10 Micah replied, "Stay with me and be my father and priest, and I will give you four ounces of silver a year, along with your clothing and provisions." So the Levite went in 11 and agreed to stay with the man, and the young man became like one of his sons. 12 Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in Micah's house. 13 Then Micah said, "Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, because a Levite has become my priest."

What does Judges chapter 17 mean?

Beginning with this chapter, the book of Judges shifts its focus. Chapters 3 through 16 described how God routinely saved Israel from oppressive enemies through His deliverers: the judges (Judges 2:16–19). The rest of the book discusses the everyday lives of Israelites during this time before Israel had kings. The final chapters of show how far the people of Israel had fallen from faithful service to the Lord.

The first story is about a man named Micah and his family. They live in the hill country of Ephraim. Micah is introduced by his confession to his own mother. He admits that he has stolen a considerable sum of money from her. His motive for confessing is selfish: he overheard her speaking a curse on the thief. He seems to want her to ask for a blessing from the Lord for him instead of harm. She presumes to declare a blessing on her son on behalf of the Lord. She also dedicates part of the stolen silver to creating at least one idol. The purpose of the image is apparently to provide Micah with a protective sacred object of blessing in his house shrine. This home-arranged temple was apparently filled with other religious objects and relics (Judges 17:1–5).

This passage indicates that even if Micah and his mother have some respect for the One True God, Yahweh, they also disobey most of the basic commands given by the Lord. This single incident involved covetousness (Exodus 20:17) leading to dishonor for a parent (Exodus 20:12), theft (Exodus 20:15) and likely lies (Exodus 20:16), followed by the creation of idols (Exodus 20:4–5) and the worship of false gods (Exodus 20:3). More importantly, this is not an isolated incident. In this phase of Israel's history, they were without a monarch or other centralized government. But the people were also in a state of spiritual anarchy: there was no king and everyone simply did as he chose without regard to God's will (Judges 17:6).

One day, a man from the tribe of Levi arrives at Micah's house. The Levites were the priestly tribe of Israel with no territory of their own (Numbers 3:5–10). The law allowed them to live in designated cities throughout Israel (Joshua 21) or, if led by God, to settle elsewhere. The young man has left behind his previous home in Bethlehem of Judah and is traveling around, looking for somewhere new to live (Judges 17:7–8).

When Micah learns the young man is a Levite, he offers him a job. The position is to become Micah's personal family priest. Micah uses the term "father" in the context of a revered spiritual leader (Genesis 45:8). For the price of clothes, room and board, and a salary, the Levite agrees to become the leader of the family's own personal religion. As a member of the tribe of Levi, he should have known better. Whether he does, or does not, he makes no effort to correct this gross violation of God's plan for Israel's faith (Judges 17:9–11).

Micah "ordains" the Levite as his priest. Despite all his violations of God's commands, and his nonsensical approach to faith, Micah is convinced God will give him prosperity, simply because he has a genuine Levite priest (Judges 17:12–13).

As it happens, this Levite will not prove to be a wise investment, nor will his presence bring an overall benefit to Micah or his family (Judges 18:19–20).