The Wayward Levite

In our class this morning we covered Judges 17 and 18.

In the ESV chapter 17 of Judges is titled Micah and the Levite. The chapter takes place in the hill country of Ephraim.

Hill Country of Ephraim - Micah and the Levite - Judges - Israel - Palestine - Ephod - Idol

At the beginning of the chapter is an account of a man named Micah who had taken 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother. She had uttered a curse, which we don’t have the details of, that prompted him to return the silver. She dedicated the silver to the Lord, which was a good thing, but then turned right around and had part of the money used to create a carved and metal image. This image was placed in the house of Micah where he had built a shrine. He also made an ephod and household gods and ordained one of his sons to be his priest. How soon the people of Israel forgot the teachings of Joshua.

We are next introduced to the wayward Levite. He had been living in Bethlehem of Judea, which was a long way from where his group of Levites had been given cities. We don’t know exactly why he was out among the people looking for a living, but it was definitely not the plan that the Lord had given for the support of the Levites. The Levite stops by the house of Micah and he is hired to become be his priest for room and board, clothing and ten pieces of silver a year. Micah ordains him as a priest and he becomes a member of the household. Here again we have an interesting situation as the Levite is not of the sons of Aaron and not qualified to be a priest. Nor does Micah have the authority to make him a priest.

In chapter 18 the Levite again plays a pivotal role. The men of the tribe of Dan were unable to secure their inheritance outside of the hill country around Zorah and Eshtaol, so were looking for territory elsewhere.

Zorah - Territory of Dan - Dan and the Levite - Sorek Valley

In this picture we see the location of Zorah in the hill country of Dan which is west of Jerusalem. The picture was taken from Beth-shemesh looking out across the valley. We will look at this area again when we talk about Samson. You can see more pictures from this area in my post on the Shephelah.

The men of Dan select five men for a scouting party to find a new place for them to settle. While they are exploring they come to the house of Micah and inquire of the Levite as to whether they will succeed in their quest. They are given a positive answer and they proceed on to Laish which is in the far north of the land that had been given to the Israelites. They bring back a positive report and gather together a raiding party.

On the way to conquer Laish they travel by the house of Micah again. He must have been on one of the main routes of travel.

And they passed on from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.

Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.” And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and asked him about his welfare. Now the 600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. And the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war. And when these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people. (Judges 18:13-20, ESV)

With the Levite in tow they head off on their journey again. Micah chases after them protesting, but they dismiss him with threats and Micah seeing their strength turns back home.

They proceeded on to Laish which is in a beautiful valley at the base of Mt. Hermon.

Dan Stream - Laish - Tel Dan - Source of Jordan River

There is a spring at Dan that is the source of the Dan stream which is the most significant source of the Jordan River.

Tel Dan Nature Preserve - Laish - Dan Stream -  Beautiful Flower

Today the Tel of Dan is surrounded by a nature preserve and we had a very beautiful walk through the forested areas.

You can read more about my travels in this area in my post North of Galilee.

When they came to Laish they struck the people who were totally unprepared for them. They burned the city to the ground and rebuilt it as the city of Dan.

Tel Dan - Laish - Judges 18

And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first. And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh. (Judges 18:29-31, ESV)

Later we find that Dan is again a place of worship as it is where Jeroboam sets up one of the Golden Calves.

Worship Site at Tel Dan - Golden Calf - Jeroboam - Altar

This is the location of the altar for the worship of the Golden Calf. The image itself would have been up on the platform behind the altar.

In the closing verses we find that the name of the Levite was Jonathan and that he was a Gershonite. Dan was near Kedesh which was one of the cities of refuge given to the Gershonite clans. The wandering Levite has come back close to the area where he was supposed to be.

These chapters are another example of improper worship practices by the Israelites during the time of the Judges. We need to make sure that we take a good look at how we worship God and make sure that we do not follow the examples of the Israelites throughout their history.


If you would like to catch up with the class, here are the previous posts:

Walls of Jericho

Hills of Jericho

Crossing Jordan

Achor and Ai

The Gibeonite Deception

Conquest and Division

Joshua’s Farewell

Judges 3 Judges

To view links to the entire class series click on Walls of Jericho.

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4 Responses to The Wayward Levite

  1. Pingback: A Different Perspective | Exploring Bible Lands

  2. Glenda McDougal says:

    Thanks, Steven, I have followed all your Judges posts and your commentary along with the great pictures. Appreciate the time and trouble you’ve taken.

  3. Pingback: Kinsman Redeemer | Braman's Wanderings

  4. Pingback: Jeroboam’s Golden Calves | Braman's Wanderings

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