Summary: “We have met the enemy, and he is us” - Pogo
“In those days Israel had no king; every one did as he saw fit.” (Judges 17:6)
“We have met the enemy, and he is us” - Pogo
We’re going to hang with the Judges for one more week. From last week’s letter you could tell that things were beginning to go astray in Samson’s time, but after he died life in Israel really started going south.
After Samson’s story there are five chapters left in Judges. Taken as a whole the last five chapters are an unholy, depressing, disturbing mishmash. Kind of like HBO.
The theme for the whole section is, “In those days Israel had no king; every one did as he saw fit.” Whoever wrote the book just keeps repeating, “In those days Israel had no king.” It was like everybody did their own thing, no matter how screwed up, and everybody else just stood by scratching their heads wondering what was going on. Kind of like the current presidential campaign.
Let me share a little so you know I’m not kidding. Chapter 17 starts out with a guy who steals a pile of money from his mother. She throws a curse on whoever stole the money. So he gets nervous about the curse and says to mom, “Hey mom, it was just me who took your money, but here it back again. No hard feelings, right?”
Well, mom’s tickled about getting the money back. She pronounces an anti-curse and dedicates the money to God by having a silversmith mold some of the stash into idols for her son. I’m sure God appreciated that little gesture.
Son steals from mom. Mom curses son. Son returns money. Mom blesses son and makes idols with the money. Sure, I know that kind of stuff happens all the time nowadays, but back them that kind of behavior was pretty screwed up.
It just gets better from here.
Now that Micah (the son) has the idols he needs a priest. He installs one of his sons as priest … might as well keep it in the family. Between the idols and the priest Micah figures he’s got God in his corner. I can’t figure out how Micah could have mistaken a homemade priest and idols made of silver for the presence and approval of God. Boy, people sure were ignorant back then.
Then Micah cuts a better deal. A genuine bona-fide priest, a Levite, comes strolling into town. Seems he didn’t like where he came from and was looking for a better deal himself. Micah makes the deal, upgrades to a genuine bona-fide priest and sonny boy returns to civilian life. That’s much better.
“In those days Israel had no king; every one did as he saw fit.”
Enter the guys from Dan. Remember back to the children of Israel entering the Promised Land? Each tribe was given it own land by God. Everything was mapped out in advance; they just had to go claim it. Well, the tribe of Dan was having a bit of trouble convincing the current residents to vacate so they could move in. They were wandering around homeless, looking for place where the indigenous residents weren’t quite so belligerent about leaving their homes.
Way up north there was a peaceful happy little place called Laish. The Bible describes the place and its residents. “… [T]he people were living in safety … unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.” (Judges 18:7) It was a lot like Vermont.
The guys from Dan, figuring Laish was much easier pickins than the land they were supposed to occupy go up to evict the peaceniks occupying the place. On the way they stop by Micah’s house to ‘liberate’ his idols and make the priest an even better deal. “Instead of being God’s stand-in for just one family, why not be one for a whole tribe?” The priest, always looking for a better deal, took them up on it. Micah, figuring losing his idols and his priest was better than losing his head, had no choice but to let them go.
The brave Danites (guys from Dan) marched on. “They took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else.” (Judges 18:27-28) Such a proud day for Israel.
We’re not done yet. Next story.
A Levite (the guys who were supposed to be God’s representatives) acquires a concubine. That’s a girl who provides all the privileges of a wife without the hassle of a legal commitment. The concubine is unfaithful (gee, funny that?) and goes home to daddy. Levite guy chases after her, spends some time with dad, and begins his journey home, concubine in tow.