Ten Shekels and a Shirt (Part 1)
Today I would like to speak to you from the theme, “Ten Shekels and a Shirt,” as we find it here in Judges chapter 17. I’ll read the chapter, and then I will read a portion also from the 18th or 19th chapter so that the background might be clear in our minds.
“And there was a man of mount Ephraim whose name was Micah.” A little background, if you please. There was a situation where the Amorites refused to allow the people of the tribe of Dan any freedom, access to Jerusalem, and they crowded them up into mount Ephraim. It is a sad thing when the people of God allow the world to crowd them into an awkward position! So they were unable to get to Jerusalem. We find that out of this comes the problems that we are about to see.
“And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 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.’ 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 [This is, incidentally, the images that Rachel brought, you remember. ‘The images’ is literally the word.], and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
And there was a young man out of Beth–lehem–judah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed out of the city from Beth–lehem–judah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.
And Micah said unto him, ‘Whence comest thou?’ And he said unto him, ‘I am a Levite of Beth–lehem–judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place.’ And Micah said unto him, ‘Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals.’
So the Levite went in. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons. And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then said Micah, ‘Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.’”
“In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel. And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, ‘Go, search the land’: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.
When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, ‘Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here?’ And he said unto them, ‘Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.’
And they said unto him, ‘Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.’ And the priest said unto them, ‘Go in peace: before the Lord is your way wherein ye go.’”
And now, if you’ll go over to the latter part of the chapter...verse 14.
“Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, ‘Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.’
And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him. And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image.
Then said the priest unto them, ‘What do ye?’ And they said unto him, ‘Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel?’
And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people. So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.”
(Judges 17:1-13; 18:1-6, 14-21)
Well, there’s the story. This isn’t part of the actual history of the Judges. This is a gathering together of some accounts that enable us to see the social condition in that period, “when every man did as seemed right in his own eyes,” and “there was no king in Israel.”
So we understand that Micah was unable to get to Jerusalem, and perhaps for some kind of devout reason, he decided he would build a replica of the temple on his own property. So he built what he thought would be an appropriate building, and he made the instruments of the tabernacle, for this is part of the furnishings—the ephod included among them. But then he also gathered some of the things from the people around him: the teraphim, the images, which God had forbidden.
But you see nevertheless there was a desire to get along as best he could. So he took a little bit of the world and a little bit of Israel, that which had been revealed by God, and he sort of mixed them up, until he had something that he thought might please the Lord. Then, of course he was delighted beyond words when a wandering young preacher came along from Bethlehem, Judah. He was a Levite, and his mother was of the tribe of Judah. Though he himself was a Levite, God had given permission through Moses that the Levites might marry into other tribes and they might join themselves to other tribes.
So this young man didn’t like the living—and every Levite was provided for. But he had wanderlust and an itching foot, and so he started off to see if he couldn’t do better for himself than was being done. He felt that being a Levite was good, but there should be opportunities associated with it, and so he came to the house of Micah. There he waited, there he was invited in and asked to become the priest. And Micah made a deal with him. He said, “If you’ll be my father and priest, then I’ll give you ten shekels and a shirt.” It says “a suit,” but you understand that the people of the day wore what would be called a gelabia, a long sort of an outsized—well, I was going to say nightgown! I don’t know if that’s exactly what it is, but it’s appropriate at least, something like that. So he gave him a suit of clothes, or a change of apparel, and his food and ten shekels a year. This was a pretty good living for him, so he decided that he would stay there and enter into the mixture of idolatry and so on that was in the house of Micah.
But the people of Dan came along. They were supposed to have driven out the Amorites, but the Amorites were too difficult, so they wanted to find someone that was a little easier to get out, to move. They came, as you read, to Micah’s house, and the Levite told them to go ahead. Then you find that they discovered that there were some people after the manner of Zidonians at Laish. They were peaceful, and no one was there to protect them, and so they figured this would be a very good place to take some land for themselves. When they came with the men that were sent out to conquer this area, they figured that, since they found the land through the young Levite, it would be splendid to have his assistance.
So they went into the house of Micah and took all the things that he had made. And it cost a good bit of money, because at least two hundred shekels had been given for this one piece of furniture. So they just took it all, made it theirs, and took the Levite. Rather hard on Micah, but you’ll notice that the young Levite was able to adjust himself to this. It was amazing how flexible he was and how easily he could accommodate himself to such changes when there was a little rationalization along the way. As soon as he could begin to see that it was far more important to serve a tribe than one man’s family, and he could minister to so many more—why, he could see the wisdom of this, and he could justify it.
So with no real strain of conscience, he could make the adjustment and hold his hand over his mouth while they took the furniture out of the little chapel that Micah had built. But he was a wise man nonetheless. Rather than go along either at the front, which put him in a place of danger, or at the rear, which put him in a place of danger, I’d say he was a wise man: he put himself right in the middle, so that if Micah sent any of his servants to get him, he was safe with soldiers on every side.
What can we call this, and how will it apply to our day’s generation?