It all started with sin and a curse: a lot of money had been stolen, and the owner cursed the thief. The thief was her own son, Micah. We don’t know what the curse was, but the incident set up an sad chapter in Israel’s history.
The money’s return led directly to idolatry, first in Micah’s household:
Judges 17:4-5 So when he returned the money to his mother, she took 200 silver coins and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. And these were placed in Micah’s house. Micah set up a shrine for the idol, and he made a sacred ephod and some household idols. Then he installed one of his sons as his personal priest.
Then a young Levite, who should have known better, joined in, becoming Micah’s family priest (for the idols) under some misguided belief that God would bless this endeavour:
Judges 17:12-13So Micah installed the Levite as his personal priest, and he lived in Micah’s house. ‘I know the Lord will bless me now … because I have a Levite serving as my priest.’
The sin spread from the household to the entire tribe of Dan as the idols and its priest were taken and set up in the newly invaded town of Laish (renamed Dan), where it stayed until the exile:
Judges 18:30-31 Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.
From there, things went from bad to worse.