It is universally agreed upon that the events in Judges 17-21 happened before Judges 1-16. This is an "appendix" to the time of the Judges. This is indicated in that Micah's priest, Jonathan, was a grandson of Moses (18:30). There is also a grandson of Aaron in the narrative (20:28). In addition, the ark is at Bethel (20:27-28). Some commentators believe that these events took place during the time of the first judge, Othniel.
This section consists of two stories:
1) Micah's Idolatry and the hiring of Moses' grandson as his priest and the tribal idolatry of the Danites (Judges 17-18)
2) The tragedy of the Levite's concubine and the subsequent civil war against Benjamin (Judges 19-21).Both stories illustrate the total moral failure of Israel! Not a pretty picture, and I dread writing these two posts. I cannot wait to get to the happy story of Ruth!
Micah's Idolatry - Judges 17
Micah stole 1,100 shekels of silver from his mother. She offered a curse to the unknown thief, but she blessed when she found out it was her son. In this chapter alone, Micah broke the first, second, third, fifth, eighth, ninth, and tenth commandments! A private shrine was not permitted in Israel according to Deuteronomy 12:1-14. There was only one place of worship in Israel and that was at the tabernacle!
I would say that Micah's family was quite dysfunctional. Why wouldn't there be consequences for a child who stole from and lied to his own mother?
The young Levite, Jonathan (18:30) was not qualified to be a priest for Micah (Numbers 3:10). Levites were to assist the priests in the tabernacle of God (Numbers 3:6-13; 8:17-18), teach the Law to the people (Nehemiah 8:7-9; 2 Chronicles 17:7-9; 35:3), and be involved in the music and praise of Israel (1 Chronicles 23:28-32; Ezra 3:10). It is believed he was not in one of the cities assigned to the priests and Levites because people were not supporting the tabernacle with tithes and offerings as commanded by God (Number 18:21-32; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12-15). Instead of obeying God, he became a priest for hire and led in the worship of idols. Micah had the true God thrown in among all the other false gods. How this must have grieved God!
Migration of the Danites - Judges 18
The Amorites and Philistines were pushing the Danites out of their inherited land (1:34-35; Joshua 19:40-48; Judges 13:1; 14:4; 15:11). Instead of trusting God for this land, the Danites traveled north looking for more territory and stumbled upon Micah's priest in the hill country of Ephraim. When the "priest" gave them the LORD's approval for passage northward (Who was Jonathan listening to??), they persuaded him to come along with all Micah's household gods. Micah lost all his gods and priest in the end.
It was not the Lord's will for the Danites to conquer land out of their allotted territory, and the result was that the conquered town of Laish, became "Idolatry Central" until their captivity (18:30-31; 1 Kings 12:28-30).
This moral failure of Israel reminds me to pray for the moral failure of my country! If you are reading according to the Bible Book Club schedule, this reading and the next are couched around a day off to celebrate the 4th of July. What a perfect day to pray for your country even if you do not live in the United States.
The Sunday before the 4th of July marked the annual "Call 2 Fall" on our knees in prayer for the USA. Here is the reasoning behind it:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The first requirement on the path to renewal is to "humble ourselves," to fall on our knees and faces before the Lord in repentant prayer. Over and over the Scriptures teach this. Click here for examples.
Second, our history records it. Our founding fathers sensed the need for a "Call 2 Fall" in view of the monumental struggle we were engaged in with Britain. The First Continental Congress called for a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer throughout the Colonies on July 20th, 1775 just after war broke out. James Warren wrote Samuel Adams:
In addition, colonial America and the early years of our republic experienced what observers have called Great Awakenings, which began with God's people humbling themselves in repentant prayer and led to others becoming followers of Christ. Click here for more examples from our Founders.Third, our nation needs it. Ponder the past decade. From 9/11 to war to natural disasters to financial and moral collapse, we are witnessing what happens when a nation turns away from God. In view of the monumental challenges of our times, do we not find ourselves in a similar situation as that of ancient Israel and early America? Consequently, we are sensing the need to return to simple but powerful truths like:
- God is sovereign. He is holy and He is love.
- We are sinners. We are saved from His severity of His wrath toward sin only by the fierceness of His love in Christ.
- When we drift away in disobedience, we experience His discipline. His judgments are just.
- The pathway back must begin with:
- A humility and brokenness before the Lord.
- A desperation to find the face of God.
- A heart cry for the mercy of God.
- A desire to turn from our sinful ways.
- A resolve to return to the ways of God.
This is what the ancient words of Scripture are calling us to do when we speak of a "Call 2 Fall." Click here for testimony from people who sense this great need.
Three millions of people on their knees at once, supplicating the aid of Heaven, is a striking circumstance, and a very singular one in America . May the blessings of Heaven follow in answer to our prayers...
Join the Call 2 Fall for future events!
God, heal our land from the moral depravity and idolatry we see all around us. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.