18 November 2015

Micah the Ephraimite and the Danites

The final five chapters of the Tanakh book of Judges are almost always ignored by Christians and Jews alike because the picture of early Israelite society in Palestine contrasts with popular conception fomented by centuries of propaganda to the contrary, including the innumerable retcons to the material which was the foundation for the current canonical Torah.

The passages here, Judges chapters 17-18, are taken from the World English Bible©, which is in the Public Domain.

This blog entry is the story of Micah the Ephraimite, which strikes down a number of Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian claims in the rest of the heavily retconned Tanakh. 

First is the idea of Israel’s perpetual monotheism having existed since its beginning; the stories clearly show a polytheistic society.  The shrine referred to as a “house of gods” is a clear giveway on that regard.

Second is the idea that Israelites have always been idoloclastic, with both graven and molten images, presumably of Yahweh, playing a prominent role, as well as the “teraphim” cult figurines thought to have been used well into the Hellenistic era.

Third is the idea of a hereditary Aaronic priesthood existing from Israel’s earliest days, given that Micah consecrates first his own son then the itinerate Levite as his own priest.  He even made an ephod for them to use.

Fourth is the idea that Levites came from a separate tribe.  The Levite in the story is specifically identified as being of the tribe of Judah, from Bethlehem, in fact.

Fifth is the ideas of Israelite unity and righteousness, the antagonists of Judges 18 being from the tribes of Dan attacking Micah and robbing him of both his Levite priest and religious artifacts, though they leave him the molten image.  Afterwards, they are portrayed as carrying out a genocide against the humans of Laish, not because of the wickedness of the latter or an order from Yahweh, but merely because they want their land.

17  There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah.  He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me. I took it.”

His mother said, “May Yahweh bless my son!”

He restored the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, then his mother said, “I most certainly dedicate the silver to Yahweh from my hand for my son, to make an engraved image and a molten image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.”

When he restored the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave them to a silversmith, who made an engraved image and a molten image out of it.  It was in the house of Micah.

The man Micah had a house of gods, and he made an ephod, and teraphim,[a]and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priestIn those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. 

There was a young man out of Bethlehem Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he lived there.  The man departed out of the city, out of Bethlehem Judah, to live where he could find a place, and he came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, as he traveled.  Micah said to him, “Where did you come from?”

He said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem Judah, and I am looking for a place to live.”  10 Micah said to him, “Dwell with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver per year, a suit of clothing, and your food.”   So the Levite went in.  11 The Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was to him as one of his sons. 12 Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.  13 Then Micah said, “Now know I that Yahweh will do good to me, since I have a Levite as my priest.”

18  In those days there was no king in Israel.  In those days the tribe of the Danites sought an inheritance to dwell in; for to that day, their inheritance had not fallen to them among the tribes of Israel.  The children of Dan sent five men of their family from their whole number, men of valor, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it.  They said to them, “Go, explore the land!”

They came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.  When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite; so they turned aside there, and said to him, “Who brought you here? What do you do in this place? What do you have here?”

He said to them, “Thus and thus has Micah dealt with me, and he has hired me, and I am become his priest.”

They said to him, “Please ask counsel of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.”

The priest said to them, “Go in peace. Your way in which you go is before Yahweh.”

Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people who were there, how they lived in safety, in the way of the Sidonians, quiet and secure; for there was no one in the land, possessing authority, that might put them to shame in anything, and they were far from the Sidonians, and had no dealings with anyone else.  They came to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol; and their brothers asked them, “What do you say?”

They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good.  Do you stand still?  Don’t be slothful to go and to enter in to possess the land.  10 When you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people, and the land is large; for God has given it into your hand, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”

11 The family of the Danites set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, with six hundred men armed with weapons of war.  12 They went up and encamped in Kiriath Jearim, in Judah.   Therefore they called that place Mahaneh Dan, to this day. Behold, it is behind Kiriath Jearim.  13 They passed from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.

14 Then the five men who went to spy out the country of Laish answered, and said to their brothers, “Do you know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim,[a] and an engraved image, and a molten image?  Now therefore consider what you have to do.”  15 They turned aside there, and came to the house of the young Levite man, even to the house of Micah, and asked him how he was doing.  16 The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the children of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate.  17 The five men who went to spy out the land went up, and came in there, and took the engraved image, the ephod, the teraphim, and the molten image; and the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war.

18 When these went into Micah’s house, and took the engraved image, the ephod, the teraphim, and the molten image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”

19 They said to him, “Hold your peace, put your hand on your mouth, and go 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 a family in Israel?”

20 The priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, the teraphim, and the engraved image, and went with the people.  21 So they turned and departed, and put the little ones, the livestock, and the goods before them.  22 When they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house gathered together and overtook the children of Dan.  23 As they cried to the children of Dan, they turned their faces, and said to Micah, “What ails you, that you come with such a company?”

24 He said, “You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have gone away! What more do I have? How can you ask me, ‘What ails you?’”

25 The children of Dan said to him, “Don’t let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall on you, and you lose your life, with the lives of your household.”

26 The children of Dan went their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.  27 They took that which Micah had made, and the priest whom he had, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword; then they burned the city with fire.  28 There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone else; and it was in the valley that lies by Beth Rehob.  They built the city, and lived in it.  29 They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel; however the name of the city used to be Laish.  30 The children of Dan set up for themselves the engraved image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.  31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s engraved image which he made, and it remained all the time that God’s house was in Shiloh.

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