|Volume 17 Number 8 August 2015||
Those who ruled Israel during the period between Joshua and Samuel were called “judges” (Acts 13:20). Thus, the name for the book derives from those judges. During this period, the rulers of the people were not merely civil magistrates who administered justice and adjudicated disputes. Primarily, they were deliverers, endued with power from God and were called upon to govern the people in difficult times. The days were difficult because the children of God had foes, not only within the land, but without as well, namely, the Moabites, the Midianites, the Amorites and the Philistines.
During the time between the death of Joshua and the rise of Samuel, the children of Israel were to take possession of the land allotted them by driving out the Canaanites and establishing a nation to be governed by God (Joshua 13:8-22; Numbers 32). However, they grew weary of the task and often adopted friendly terms with their enemies, the Canaanites, and sometimes they adopted their idols. God would, then, punish His people by giving them over to their enemies. When His people repented, the Lord raised up judges who delivered the people from oppression. However, no sooner was a judge dead than the people apostatized again.
During this time Israel had no political capital. Shiloh, which was established as the religious center in the days of Joshua (Joshua 18:1), continued as such into the days of Eli (1 Samuel 1:3). There was no central place where a judge had the “oversight.” Their work most of the time was limited to their local community or tribe.
Exposition of the Context
The background of the text (v. 6) was thievery, disrespect for parental influence and idolatry. The sin in this case as well as the rest of the Book of Judges occurred because every man was a law unto himself. He had no king to punish him for wrong doing. This was the case with Micah and his mother. An exposition of the context reveals the following: In verse two, Micah quarreled with his mother over eleven hundred pieces of silver he had stolen from her for his own private use. He was terrified into confessing his wrong by his mother’s adjuration. Such a solemn oath was commanded in Leviticus 5:1, “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it then he shall bear his iniquity.” After confessing and restoring the stolen silver, his mother blessed him. It is always best not to do evil, but it is next best, when it is done, to undo it again by repentance, confession and restitution.
From verse three we learn that the mother gave back to her son part of the silver (200 shekels) he had stolen from her in the form of “a graven image and a molten image.” Perhaps Micah’s mother was influenced by the Israelites' former time in Egypt and had such images made as were common there, and perhaps she told her son that this way of worshipping God by images was, to her knowledge, the old religion. Regardless of where she had learned it, it was idolatry, and thus, disobedience to God.
In verse four we learn upon receiving the silver, Micah’s mother took a portion of it to the founder (fuser of metals) who, in turn, fashioned for her certain idols. She, then, gave them to her son, and they were placed in Micah’s house.
From verse five, we learn that Micah had a “house of gods,” literally, “a house of God.” It was a domestic chapel, a private religious establishment of his own. While the honor of the one true God was pretended in all of this, God’s law was relinquished for what was right in the eyes of Micah. Note what he did. He made an “ephod,” a gorgeous priestly garment (Exodus 28:4). He made also “teraphim,” Syrian images (Genesis 31:19), the use of which among the Israelites seems to have lasted for a long period until it was put down by King Josiah in his great reformation (2 Kings 23:1-24; Ezekiel 21:26; Hosea 3:4; Zachariah 10:2). “And consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.” The assumption of the priestly office by anyone out of the family of Aaron was a direct violation of divine law. “And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death” (Numbers 3:10). Other passages to consider are Numbers 16:17, Deuteronomy 21:5 and Hebrews 5:4. Micah violated the law of God concerning the priesthood, and he became a worshipper of strange gods.
Three times the same statement appears as found in verse six occurs, “In those days there was no king in Israel” (18:1; 19:1; 21:25). The word “king” (melech) is sometimes taken for a supreme governor, judge, magistrate or ruler of any kind (Genesis 36:31; Deuteronomy 33:5), and should be so understood here as such.
The passage (v. 6) also says, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” He was his own ruler, and what he did he thought was right. By his own strength and cunning, he defended his conduct. When men rule by their own will, any society will soon fall into ruin.
The process is slow, but deterioration is sure. Note carefully the process in the day “when men did that which was right in his own eyes.” 1. They made partial conquest of the land (chapters 1-2). 2. They made leagues with the inhabitants (2:2). 3. Intermarriage with ungodly persons occurred (3:6). 4. Apostasy followed (2:13; 3:6). 5. Next came humiliating oppression (2:14). 6. After a while, repentance followed. 7. God, then, sent deliverance. 8. Eventually, apostasy started all over again (2:16-19).
Application for Today
The lesson to be learned today is the danger of apostasy. There is one thing worse than doing what is “right in your own eyes” when there is no king, and, that is doing what is “right in your own eyes” when there is a king – King Jesus! “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
There was no excuse for Israel’s wickedness even though they had no king. They still had God’s Law as given to Moses at Sinai (Exodus 20:1-23; Deuteronomy 5:1-33). It was to govern their lives. They were without excuse.
So it is with all men today under Christ and the Gospel. Men, no doubt, will continue to “do that which is right in their own eyes,” but there is no excuse for such actions, and they cannot escape the consequences of their deeds (Galatians 6:7-8). They will be judged by the Gospel at the Judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 17:30-31; John 12:48).
Regardless if there is an earthly ruler (judge) or not, all men everywhere must do that which is right in God’s sight. There is a law higher than any legislated and adopted by any form of government, that is, God’s law. “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). May we learn the lesson that Israel failed to learn, and that is, obedience to God’s law. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
May we see the folly of walking by our own sight and in our own way. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).