Micah and the Levite. 1There was a man from the mountain region of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2* He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you pronounced a curse and even said it in my hearing—I have that silver. I took it. So now I will restore it to you.” Then his mother said, “May my son be blessed by the LORD!” 3When he restored the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, she said, “I consecrate the silver to the LORD from my own hand on behalf of my son to make an idol overlaid with silver.”* a 4So when he restored the silver to his mother, she took two hundred pieces and gave them to the silversmith, who made of them an idol overlaid with silver. So it remained in the house of Micah. 5The man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim,* b and installed one of his sons, who became his priest.c 6* In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.d
7There was a young man from Bethlehem of Judah, from the clan of Judah; he was a Levite residing there.e 8The man set out from the city, Bethlehem of Judah, to take up residence wherever he could find a place. On his journey he came into the mountain region of Ephraim as far as the house of Micah. 9“Where do you come from?” Micah asked him. He answered him, “I am a Levite, from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am on my way to take up residence wherever I can find a place.” 10“Stay with me,” Micah said to him. “Be father and priest to me,f and I will give you ten silver pieces a year, a set of garments, and your living.” He pressed the Levite, 11and he agreed to stay with the man. The young man became like one of his own sons. 12* Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest, remaining in the house of Micah. 13Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, since I have the Levite as my priest.”
* [17:2] The narrator picks up the story after a number of events, including a theft and a mother’s curse, have already taken place.
* [17:3] An idol overlaid with silver: two nouns in Hebrew, one indicating a wooden image and the other denoting an image cast from metal. The probable interpretation is that the woman intends for her silver to be recast as a covering for an image of a god, possibly the Lord. This was forbidden in Mosaic law (cf. Ex 20:4 and Dt 5:8).
* [17:5] An ephod and teraphim: cultic paraphernalia. An ephod was a priestly garment, especially that worn by the high priest (cf. Ex 28 and 39), which contained a pocket for objects used for divination. Teraphim were household idols (Gn 31:19, 34–35; 1 Sm 19:13), which may also have had a divinatory function.
* [17:6] This refrain, which will be repeated fully or in part three more times (18:1; 19:1; 21:25), calls attention to the disorder and lawlessness that prevailed before the establishment of kingship in Israel. In this case the problem is cultic impropriety, seen not only in the making of an idol but in the establishment of a local temple, complete with an ephod and teraphim.
* [17:12–13] Previously one of Micah’s sons served as priest (v. 5). But Micah’s family were probably Ephraimites (cf. v. 1) rather than Levites, and the story reflects a sense that only Levites were to be consecrated as priests; cf. Nm 18:7, where descent from Aaron is further specified as a requirement to be a priest. Thus Micah believes it will be to his advantage to retain the itinerant Levite.