Bible Reference: Judges 17: 1-6
Heart of the Story: During the era of the Judges, the Israelite’s priority was settling into the Promised Land. Women were leaders as Israel claimed and fought to keep the land they settled. At the same time that the Israelites were fighting foreign enemies, a battle for the mind and heart of the Israelites raged. Living among people who worshiped foreign gods and idols could and would the Israelites remain loyal to Yahwah, a spiritual God that could not be reduced to an image or idol? Judges chapters 17 depicted how one Ephraimmite family moved from worship of the true God of Israel to worship of man made idols. A woman took the lead to introduce idolatry into the family.
Story Line: In this story, the woman is not named; she is called Micah’s mother. The family was well-to-do and likely encompassed several houses; some houses were for extended family members and some for travelers (Judges 18:2). Because Micah’s father is not mentioned, he was probably deceased. Micah’s mother could have lived in her own home or with Micah. She had some personal wealth; nevertheless, she was distressed when eleven hundred shekels of silver were stolen from her.
In response to the theft, Micah’s mother uttered a public curse against the thief. The specifics of the curse were not preserved; however, when a curse was spoken audibly, it allowed the guilty party to come forth and make restitution. The mother’s curse caused Micah to admit that he stole his mother’s eleven hundred pieces of silver. In response Micah’s mother said, “Blessed by my son by the Lord” (Judges 17:2, NIV). Her words demonstrated that she remembered Mosaic Law: “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible” (Leviticus 5:1, NIV). Hearing the curse, Micah admitted he was the thief. His mother’s response was to bless her son. Micah’s mother was not blessing Micah because he stole the money—clearly a crime—but for following Mosaic Law and testifying about his sin.
Pondering Relationships: If the story of this Israelite woman stopped there, we would conclude that she was a God-fearing, and knew and practiced the laws of God. What occurred next showed she combined knowledge and practice of God-worship with rituals of idolatry observed by the Canaanites. She consecrated the silver to god (or God) for Micah to have a carved image and idol made. Two hundred shekels of the silver was given to a silversmith who make the silver into an image and idol that were placed in Micah’s house. Two hundred shekels of silver was not a great amount of silver when heated and made liquid. Probably, the silversmith made the image from wood and covered it with the two hundred shekels of silver.
The Bible does not identify what the image represented. There are two possibilities. First, the image was of God; but, in the second of the Ten Commandments, God directed the Israelites to make no image of him (Exodus 20:1–17). If Micah’s mother knew an obscure Israelite property law, likely she knew the great law that the Israelites not confine God to an image. The second and more likely possibility is that the image represented one of the many Canaanite gods. The people of Canaan were polytheistic. They had named gods for many aspects of life, i.e., for fertility, weather, orchards, and fruit, and each god had at least one acceptable image.
When the silversmith completed the image from the two hundred shekels, it was placed along with several others on a shrine in Micah’s house. Micah made a vestment (ephod) similar to what the Israelite high priests. He consecrated one of his sons as a priest in Micah’s house. These events occurred in Ephraim where Shiloh was the center for worship of God and likely no more than 10 miles from Micah’s home. Many Bible scholars believe that the story of Micah’s mother represented Israelite life in the Promised Land within three generations of the Israelites entering the land.
Reflection: The episode in Judges’ chapter 17 showed that Micah’s mother did not altogether abandon the worship of God but she did integrate worship of Jehovah with worship of various Canaanite deities. How do her actions agree or disagree the part of the 10 Commandments which direct that we should serve only God?
The story of Micah’s mother is only the beginning of the entire story of Micah’s live in the highlands of Ephriam. To read more go to Lesser Known Bible Characters (http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/)
Copyright: May 5, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth.