Judges 18 Commentary
The chapter begins with what seems like a disclaimer. The human author seems to reflect on the sad events of these last pages of Judges with an explanation: in those days Israel had no king. The prophetic understanding would be that Israel had no King of kings.
We have a priest; we have an ephod and men enquiring of the LORD. But don’t be mistaken again. Right behind this priest is Micah’s idol with a host of other gods. Do we know the gods behind today’s so common religious lingo? Do we know who people are consulting when they claim to ‘go to the house God’? You shall know them by their fruit. Right here, the treachery of this money-happy priest and the conduct of the Danite army tell their own story.
“Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, some household gods, and an image overlaid with silver? Now you know what to do.” When wickedness dethrones and evicts God from your life, then you have no King, (read king); then you become envious of anything looking like a god. You can now see what this priest was presiding over: image, household gods, and an illegal ephod.
The fact that the priest delivers what appears like the message from the LORD doesn’t at all mean he is living right, or indeed he is speaking on behalf of the LORD. The success of the mission as a result of the priest’s blessing isn’t at all reason good enough to conclude all is well. Today many priests are saying a lot of good things wrapped in religious lingo but they are not speaking for the LORD. Behind them are images, household gods, and an illegal ephod. Examine their fruit and you will tell them apart.
Look at Micah again. The God who can be stolen from you; the God who you need to fight for; the God whose favor only appears with some priest; the God that the Danites threaten to kill Micah for; that God isn’t the Creator, the Almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The chapter closes with a reference to another parallel worship structure that the Danites installed. Instead of having one place of worship at Shiloh, with the Ten Commandments housed in the Ark as the most important worship system, the Danites install the stolen idol with its own system of worship and an illegally instituted priesthood serving before the idol.
The Bible mentions the ‘captivity of the land’. This captivity here may be different from the two famous conquests: the conquest of the North Kingdom of Israel by Assyria, and later the conquest of the Southern Kingdom of Judah by Babylon. Dan’s idolatry made it disappear in captivity earlier than others. The possibility is that the same could have happened to the Trans-Jordan tribes as we don’t hear much from them as united Israelite communities.
So many things are happening in this book and it appears the LORD is silent. But somewhere within these Israelite communities is Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. They are residents of Bethlehem. This should ring a bell. The LORD is at work. The seed of a king is being nurtured. So the Book of Ruth is appropriately placed just after this book. Again it is during these times that the LORD would raise Hanna to carry within her womb a prophet in Samuel. He would institute reforms and install the much-needed kingship. The Book of Samuel comes after the Book of Ruth.
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