Book of Judges – The Ultimate “Vicious Cycle”

English: Historiated initial from the Stavelot...

English: Historiated initial from the Stavelot Bible, Book of Judges, depicting Yael killing Sisera. Folio 84. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we add up the times listed in the Book of Judges for the periods of oppression and the periods of rest, we come up with about 410 years. But many of the events of the book overlap in time, occurring in different locations. The Exodus is most reliably believed to have occurred around 1450, followed by 40 years of wandering. We also know that King Saul’s reign began about 1050 BC. So, a period of 300 -350 years is probably more accurate for events of this book.

Any time there is a serious discussion of the Book of Judges, the term “Cycle of the Judges” comes up. This refers to the pattern that is repeated over and over throughout the book. That pattern is as follows: (1) the people do what is evil in the sight of God, (2) God allows them to be oppressed, (3) they cry out to God, (4) God sends a judge to deliver them, (5) there is a period of rest, before the apostasy begins the cycle again.

English: Delilah betraying Samson, and turns h...

English: Delilah betraying Samson, and turns him over to the Philistines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judges 1:27-36 tells the story of failure after failure of various tribes to obey the Lord’s command to drive out all of the Canaanites that still dwelled in their allotted lands. Then in Judges 2:1-4, God’s tells them of the consequences for their disobedience “So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” It was a defining fact of the history of the Israelites. The cycle began with a generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (chapter 2:10). Abandoning the Lord, they sank into idolatry and other great evils.

The judges that God “raised up” to deliver the people during these cycles were not perfect servants of God. Indeed, in many cases, some could behave in very ungodly manners, and the Scripture shows them “warts and all.” But the Lord guided them for His purposes with the Holy Spirit, and they accomplished what He needed them to get done. Below are the names of the judges and their places of appearance in the book. The story of Samson is the longest, the most famous, and the most understood. Many people actually believe that Samson’s strength came from his hair, and that he lost that strength due to it being cut. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding fuels the view of his story as some sort of fable. For perhaps some better insight, see this previous post.

Othniel (Judges 3: 7-11)
Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)
Shamgar (Judges 3:31)
Deborah (Judges 4-5)
Gideon (Judges 6-8)
Tola (Judges 10:1-2)
Jair (Judges 10:3-5)
Jephthah (Judges 10:6-12:7)
Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10)
Elon (Judges 12:11-12)
Abdon (Judges 12:13-15)
Samson (Judges 13-16)

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Judges 15 – Samson Defeats the Philistines

Samson and the Foxes, miniature (Judges 15:1-8...

Samson and the Foxes, miniature (Judges 15:1-8: “Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail, and put one torch in the middle between two tails. When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines.”), Oktateuch, Vatopedi monastery, 602, fol. 440r, detail References: Weitzmann: Aus den Bibliotheken des Athos, No. 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In verse 4, the Hebrew could denote foxes or jackals.  Either way, sending them into the Philistine’s standing and stacked grain with torches tied to their tails was to get double revenge (verses 1-3).  When the Philistines came after the “son-in-law of the Timnite,” he allowed himself to be bound to be given over to the Philistines (verses 9-13) knowing he could get free.  Not only are the people not ready to battle the Philistines for their freedom, but they are happy to give Samson to their foes in order to appease them.

Samson once again has the spirit of the Lord rush over him, and gets free to reduce the number of Philistines by 1,000, using the jawbone of a donkey (verses 14-15).  Correctly giving God the credit for victory (verse 18), Samson then is disrespectful in nearly the same breath.  But God grants him his water.  He judges Israel during the Philistine rule for 20 years (verse 20).

(Side note: an excellent article on this chapter is at Ferrell’s Travel Blog.)

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 14 – Samson’s Marriage

Samson kills a lion with his bare hands

In verses 1-3, Samson decides he must have a Philistine woman he saw for his wife.  This was expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy 7:1-3.  In verses 8-9. he violates his Nazirite vow (Numbers 26) by touching the lion’s carcass.  As for his wedding feast, the Hebrew word in verse 10 is “mishteh” which denotes a feast with much drinking.  If Samson participated, such would be another violation of his vow.

Samson right away begins to show disregard not just for his Nazirite vow, but for the will of God in general. Unfortunately, it will not get any better, as we will see in the next two chapters.  So why was he chosen even before birth in chapter 13?  Why was the spirit of the Lord with him so much of the time, such as when he tore the lion to pieces with his strength (verses 5-6)?  Verse 14 gives us the answer – God was going to use him against the Philistines in his own way. This time, the people were not crying out at their plight – at  least not yet.  They needed someone to stir things up – and to wake them up!

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 13 – The Birth of Samson

The wife of Manoah (woman in a veil and wimple)

The wife of Manoah (woman in a veil and wimple) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 13 brings us to the most famous of the judges, Samson.  Unfortunately, his story is one of the most misunderstood by most people.  His power came from God, and it left him because of his lack of self-control and unfaithfulness to the Lord, as we will see in the next three chapters.  The angel of the Lord appeared first to Samson’s childless mother, and told her that she would have a son. and would be a Nazirite.  Her husband Manoah showed his faithfulness first when instead of questioning what she said, prayed to God, wanting to have the opportunity to be instructed how to raise the child.  When asked his name, the angel of the Lord replied that it was too wonderful for man to comprehend (verse 18).

Any man or woman could take a vow to become a Nazirite as told in Numbers 6.  It was a vow to set ones self apart for God, and it came with certain restrictions, including no razor to the hair, no fruit from a vine, and no contact with the dead (corpses).  After Samson was born, verses 24-25 relate that as the young man grew, the spirit of the Lord began to “stir him.”  The Philistines were in control of the Israelites, and God would use Samson to stir the people as well.  Clearly, they needed it.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 7 – Gideon’s Three Hundred Men

Spring of Harod, where Gideon’s men drank

As Gideon prepares for his first battle, he has 32,000 camped at the spring of Harod, while the Midianites are north by the hill of Moreh in the valley.  But God decides there are too many of them.  He wants the number reduced, so that the people know without a doubt that the victory does not come from their own might, but from the one true God. 22,000 leave at first in verse 3, but God has them “tested” by the manner that they drink from the spring to further reduce the force to 300 (verses 4-6).

To again boost the confidence of the timid warrior, God sends him to the outskirts of their camp to overhear one of the foes relating his dream to a comrade, which foretells the victory (verses 13-14).  Though their number is “as the sand that is on the seashore,” Gideon is convinced; and separates the 300 into three groups on each side.  They charge armed with 300 trumpets and glass jars with torches inside.  The sound of the breaking glass, trumpets, and shouting  (verse 19-20) had the desired effect in verse 21, and the victory was complete in verses 24-25.

(Side note: An brief article on this chapter with great modern photographs of the landmarks of this scene can be found at the following link to Ferrell’s Travel Blog)

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 6 – Midian Oppresses Israel

Chapter 6 is the story of Gideon, the reluctant and rather timid judge.  This time, the Israelites are overpowered by the Midianites.  Verses 3-4 tell us that whenever they planted crops, the Midianites and Amalekites would come and “devour” the land, leaving no sustenance – not even livestock.  They hid in caves and were terrified.  But this time when they cried out to the Lord, He sent a prophet to rebuke them for their apostasy (verses 7-10).  And we soon learn the depths that their apostasy and idol worship have reached are great.  It is no wonder the anger of God is burning against them!

Gideon tears down the Baal altars and the
wooden Asherah idols (Judges 6:25-27)

The angel of the Lord then appears to Gideon, the son of Joash the Abiezrite.  Abiezer was part of the tribe of Manasseh that settled west of the Jordan River (Joshua 17:1-2).  Gideon shows a low opinion of himself in verse 15, but asks for “a sign that it is you who speak with me.”  The angel of the Lord gives him one in verse 21, and vanishes.  Afterward, the Lord commands him to take his father’s bulls and pull down the altar of Baal that his father has, and the Asherah beside it.   The Asherah probably refers to sacred wooden poles erected to worship the goddess Asherah.  He was too afraid of his family and the others to do in the daytime, so he took 10 servants and destroyed it by night.

When the men of the town found what he had done the next day, they wanted to kill him.  This is a chilling illustration of how low they have gone.  But Joash intervenes in verse 31 and tells them that they should let the “powerful ” Baal contend for himself.  Gideon, clothed with the spirit of the Lord (verse 34) called out the Abiezrites, sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.  But he asks for another sign – the sign of the fleece in verses 36-40 – not once, but twice, clearly knowing he was wrong in testing the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:16).  But God lets him have it anyway, maybe from knowing the boy was weak and needed confidence to perform such a great task.  The task was for God to save Israel by his hand.

Is he ready now?

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 4 – Deborah and Barak

Mount Tabor

Judges 4 is a riveting story of the wisdom and courage of two women who served God.  When the people next “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” they came under the oppression of Jabin, the king of Hazor, whose army was commanded by Sisera.  Deborah was the next judge, and she gave Barak the command to gather 10,000 men from Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor.  Barak’s response seems a bit less than heroic in verse 8, so she goes with him.  But she lets him know that he will not get glory for the victory, but that the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.

They routed Sisera and his 900 iron chariots, but Sisera fled to the house of Heber the Kenite, who was at peace with Hazor.  Heber was a descendant of the father-in-law of Moses, and his wife was Jael.  After Sisera was asleep, Jael drove a tent peg through Sisera’s temple into the ground.  Verses 23-24 tell how God made their victory over Jabin utterly complete.

Jael Smote Sisera, and Slew Him, circa 1896-19...

Jael Smote Sisera, and Slew Him, circa 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) or follower, gouache on board, 5 7/16 x 7 3/8 in. (13.9 x 18.8 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 3 – The Lord Raises Up Judges

The cycle that is repeated throughout the book of Judges is in full swing.  The cycle is:

(1) The people do what is evil in the sight of God (verses 7, 12)

(2) God allows them to be oppressed (verses 8, 12-14)

(3) they cry out to God (verses 9, 15)

(4) God sends a judge to deliver them (verses 9, 15)

(5) There is a period of rest, before the apostasy begins the cycle again.

Illustration to The Holy Bile, Judges, chapter...

Illustration to The Holy Bile, Judges, chapter 3. Eglon assassinated by Ehud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Baal worship referred to in the scripture included a system of sacred prostitutes – “priestesses” of Baal.  In this chapter, the first judge was Othniel, who delivered Israel from Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia.  The second was Ehud, a left-handed man, who hid his sword bound to his right thigh under his clothes (verse 16).  He tricked Eglon, the king of Moab into being alone with him and killed him (verses 20-23).  Then he led the people to defeat the Moabites.  This time, the period of rest lasts 80 years.  The third judge is Shamgar, mentioned briefly in verse 31.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Who Were the Judges? \ April Week 1 Summary Posted

Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. From Givat ...

Mosaic of the 12 Tribes of Israel. From Givat Mordechai synagogue wall in Jerusalem. Top row, right to left: Reuben, Judah, Dan, Asher Middle: Simeon, Issachar, Naphtali, Joseph Bottom: Levi, Zebulun, Gad, Benjamin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow, we will learn that Caleb’s younger brother Othniel, mentioned in Judges 1:13, will become one of the judges. But for now, the people have no leader.  But what was a judge?  generally, these were people called by the Lord to administer justice, and to drive out the adversaries of the people – often given miraculous power for doing so.  Many of them served purposes almost entirely military in nature.  In order of appearance in the book, the oppressors of the people at various times are Mesopotamians, Moabites, Philistines, Canaanites Midianites, Ammonites, and then the Philistines.  The book tells us that the judges came from at least 8 of the twelve tribes of Israel (Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Gilead-Manasseh, Zebulun, Dan).

Here are the judges in order of the scripture:

Othniel (ch 3:7–11)           – written time for oppression and period of rest was 48 years (Judges 3:8,11)
Ehud (ch 3:12–30)            – written time for oppression and period of rest was 98 years (Judges 3:14, 30)
Shamgar (ch 3:31)             – written time for oppression and period of rest is unknown.
Deborah (chs. 4–5)           – written time for oppression and period of rest was 60 years (Judges 4:3,5:31)
Gideon (chs. 6–8)             – written time for oppression and period of rest was 47 years (Judges 6:1, 8:28)
Tola (ch 10:1–2)                – written time for oppression and period of rest was 23 years (Judges 10:2)
Jair (ch 10:3–5)                 – written time for oppression and period of rest was 22 years (Judges 10:3)
Jephthah (ch 10:6–12:7)  – written time for oppression and period of rest was  24 years (Judges 10:8, 12:7)
Ibzan (ch 12:8–10)            – written time for oppression and period of rest was 7 years (Judges 12:9)
Elon (ch 12:11–12)             – written time for oppression and period of rest was 10 years (Judges 12:11)
Abdon (ch 12:13–15)         – written time for oppression and period of rest was 8 years (Judges 12:14)
Samson (chs. 13–16)         – written time for oppression and period of rest was 60 years (Judges 13:1, 15:20, 16:31)

The pattern of the book of Judges is:

(1) The people do what is evil in the sight of God
(2) God allows them to be oppressed
(3) They cry out to God
(4) God sends a judge to deliver them
(5) There is a period of rest, before the apostasy begins the cycle again.

Summing Up

Each weekend, I am now posting a small PDF of one week of chapter summaries (on the website’s “Summaries” page), current to the beginning of the previous week.  I have posted the summary for Week 14 (April Week 1) of the schedule I am following.  This short PDF document contains condensed comments about Joshua chapters 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, with hyperlinks to the ESV version of each chapter for listening or reading, and joins the summaries for other weeks already posted there.

/Robert
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Judges 2 – Israel’s Disobedience

In chapter 2, the apostasy of the people is made explicit, and the angel of the Lord’s words to them brings fear, tears, and sacrificing.  But unfortunately, not true repentance, as they return to their idol worship of Baal and Ashtaroth (verses 11-13).   The repetition  of the death of Joshua serves to explain the behavior That prevented them from completing the task of driving out the Canaanites.  The problem was not just a lack of faith, but a lust for the wickedness and the immoral and often perverse behavior that accompanied idolatry.

Verses 11-23 present a summary of the book of Judges, and verse 11 sums it up very well – “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”   God would no longer drive the Canaanites out for them, but leave them as a snare and a test for them.  Indeed, verse 15 says that “Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them.”

Their condition was miserable.  How could a nation that had been honored to have the visible presence of the one true God among them, and witness His power with their own eyes turn to bow down to statues and carved images?  Judges is the illustration of our own ability to turn away from God and worship immorality when His presence is made perfectly clear in everything we see (Romans 1:18-21).

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.