At first, reading through the story of Micah and Levite left me, yet again, bewildered as to the point. Directed by a commentary, however, to focus on one verse, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” pretty much cleared it up.
Think about it. We’ve got three things.
1. Micah confesses to stealing from his mother and seems to sincerely repent, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing. So he makes it up. He crafts his own idol. He ordains his own son. He kind of sets his own rules. But as soon as Levite comes along, he jumps on the chance to have a proper teacher, a proper priest. It isn’t his fault the guy isn’t much better at this than he is. He doing what is right in his own eyes, but at least he seems to be trying.
2. The Levite really isn’t much better at serving God than Micah is, and in some ways he is much much worse. To begin with, he accepts the position and sets up worship right there rather than directing Micah toward the Tabernacle. So Micah is not getting his money’s worth. He isn’t being taught the proper way to serve God at all. Worse, and here’s the much much worse part, this Levite is supposed to be like family to Micah, but he doesn’t really hesitate all that much to abandon him for a position with a bit more prestige. He isn’t just doing what is right in his own eyes; he’s doing what is right for him.
3. Dan gave up on claiming their rightful inheritance. The only reason they would be unable to claim it would be if God declined to go with them, and while there are a ton of reasons why that might happen, it all boils down to ‘they failed to keep their end of the covenant.’ So, ‘without’ an inheritance, rather than go ask anyone how to claim what should be theirs, they decide to just go claim whatever they want. They want something easy much more than they want what is right. They did what was right in their own eyes, what they wanted to be right.
It’s a pretty good encapsulation of all the different ways that one line could be understood, and they’re all sad. It’s chaotic anarchy. God was supposed to be the king, but they declined to serve him as such. God set up a pretty clear system, and they declined to follow it. It’s a very effective story, even if it does feel a little random on a first or shallow read through.