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A Country Priest: Micah’s Idolatry

Nearly one million Rwandans were killed between April and July of 1994. Hutu turned against Tutsi, exploiting their majority presence in the small East African country. This beautiful country, known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, ran with blood as Rwandan brother turned against brother.

Genocide is sadly not a modern development. In today’s reading we’re introduced to Micah, the man from Ephraim. The last time his tribe was mentioned, 42,000 were dead at the fords of the Jordan, killed at the hands of their Israelite brothers (12:6). Ephraim has not played an admirable role in the book of Judges, and their perpetual complaints about being excluded from military honors were finally answered by the sword. Worse, today’s reading does not redeem their reputation but seems to confirm Ephraim’s particular willful rebellion. Ignoring the commands that God gave to Israel to worship Him in the tabernacle, the Ephraimite man, Micah, sets up his own private shrine in the hill country (v. 5).

The tribe of Ephraim might have been the national black sheep, but this doesn’t acquit the rest of Israel. Micah’s sin of religious syncretism isn’t the only occurrence in Judges. Furthermore, we might also ask if neglect from the town of Bethlehem led to the Levite leaving his hometown and looking for another place to live (vv. 7–8). According to Mosaic Law, Levites were supposed to be financially sustained by the sacrifices and offerings of the people of Israel (see Leviticus 25). They were not allotted a land inheritance but rather had to be supported by their countrymen according to their priestly work. Had Judah failed in their responsibilities? Had the nation ceased bringing the grain and animal sacrifices meant for celebrating Yahweh—and also for feeding Levites?

Apply the Word

Micah seemed to think that he could manipulate God into blessing him (v. 13). He had a priest, he had a place of worship—surely good things would follow! We are often tempted to think that God will give us good things as long as we’re good people and do a few religious activities. But that’s not how our relationship with God works. He desires our hearts.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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