Micah was a wicked Judge who served over the Israelites prior to the establishment of a king. Micah’s name means “Who is like Yahweh?” This seems ironic given his evil behaviors, his idolatry, and the characteristics that are revealed about him in Judges chapters seventeen and eighteen. When one examines the biblical text linked with his actions, it becomes clear that he engages in indulgences that further alienate him from God and encourages widespread idolatry.
There are several areas where Micah fell short in serving God. He is immediately revealed as being a thief in Judges 17:1-2. He was impenitent about his wicked actions before God. He was guilty of establishing his own shrine as a place of worship (v. 5). Micah appointed his own son as priest when God made it clear that only a Levite who was a descendant of Aaron could serve in this capacity (v. 5). Finally, he was guilty of hiring a Levite to officiate in his own homemade temple (vs. 11-12).
In the very beginning of the Bible’s description of Micah, he steals a large amount of money from his mother, and she places a curse upon it. Judges 17:2 says, “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.’” While robbery of any kind from any person is bad, he steals from his own mother, and she ultimately seems to be okay with his thievery. Initially, she places a curse upon the money and the threat of a curse makes him come clean about his theft. It is not the commandment against stealing (Exodus 20:15), but the threat of a pagan curse that causes him to change course.
Micah’s mother revealed her original intent and modified her plans for the money after its return. Judges 17:3-5 says, “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. 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. 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.” An interesting question emerges from this text, “Why did she only give two hundred shekels of silver to the silversmith and not the full amount?”
This is a strange connection between Yahweh and idolatry, but it exemplifies how some people view their Christianity and life in this present world. That is, people want to live on both sides of the spectrum. They want to give the Lord a portion but leave enough to placate the idols of this world. In her own mind, Micah’s mother might have thought she was honoring God, but not according to His word. God demands all and He will not be supplanted by any idol.
Micah’s decision to worship in his own temple was a violation of God’s law. Deuteronomy 12:5-6 says, “But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks.” Micah’s actions were a complete departure from what the Law of Moses taught. Judges 17:5 says, “And the man Micah had a house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.”
The place of worship and manner of obeisance would remain controversial until the time of Christ and beyond the establishment of the church. John 4:20-22 says, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” Even in our age, much controversy surrounds the time, place, and acts of worship. The only remedy is obedience to God’s word.
Micah also sinned by making “an ephod, and teraphim, and [consecrating–JT] one of his sons, who became his priest” (Judg. 17:5). This was a challenge to the priests authorized by God. Only the Urim and Thummim were authorized by God for “oracular purposes” (Ex. 28). It is as if he wanted to have a method of soothsaying in his own home. He removed God from the only authorized process of inquiry.
The very fact that Micah chose his son to be his priest was problematic. Judges 17:1 teaches that Micah was from Ephraim, whereas the Law of Moses commanded that one had to be from the tribe of Levi and a descendant of Aaron to serve as a priest (cf. Heb. 7:11). This might have been convenient for him, but it was not according to God’s law regarding the lineage of those serving in this capacity. When one makes religion convenient by circumventing the truth, he makes religious expression a mockery of God’s will regarding worship.
These violations of God’s law meant very little to Micah or his contemporaries. In other words, he did what HE thought was right! Judges 17:6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (cf. Deut. 12:8).
Just because someone does something in the name of God does not mean that He authorizes it. In Judges 17:3b, we read the words of Micah’s mother when she says, “I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the Lord for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image; now therefore, I will return it to you.” While dedicating silver to the Lord was acceptable, it was never appropriate for one to make a carved and molded image and proclaim it to be Jehovah. Perhaps through ignorance or a desire to make her actions satisfactory in the eyes of God, she attaches the consecration of the silver to the Lord with the creation of an idol. She missed the meaning of several parts of the decalogue (cf. Ex. 20:3-5)!
Micah is an example of ungodliness. Old Testament characters are excellent sources of study. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” The good and bad examples are valuable to one who wants to live in a Christian manner.