Saturday, August 24, 2013

Judges 6 - 10

Battle of Gideon against the Midianites- Nicolas Poussin 1626

We now move on to our next Judge - Gideon. Today we will cover the following Judges - Gideon, Abimeleh, Tola and Jair.

The Book of Judges
1. Incomplete Conquest and Apostasy
2. Oppression and Deliverance
3. Religious and Moral Disorder

The Weekly Outlook - Aug 18, 2013
Monday, Aug 19 - Joshua 1 - 6
Tuesday, Aug 20 - Joshua 7 - 12
Wednesday, Aug 21 - Joshua 13 - 18 (Revised 13 - 19)
Thursday, Aug 22 - Joshua 19 - 24 (Revised 20 - 24)
Friday, Aug 23 - Judges 1 - 5
Saturday, Aug 24 - Judges 6 - 12 (Revised 6 - 10)

The saga with Israelites continued - they did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and this time He handed them over to the Midianites. The Midianites were defeated by Moses earlier. The Midianites oppressed the Israelites to the extend the Israelites wanted to get away from them and were hiding in caves. Whenever the Israelites planted new crops, the Midianites swarmed over the country like locusts and destroyed them. Now the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help, and He sent them a prophet.

LORD spoke to them through the prophet:
Judges 6: 7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian,
8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD  the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land.
10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
Notice that two Amorite kings were defeated by Israelites under the leadership of Moses, and five by Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:4 and Joshua 10:10).

Worshiping those gods of Amorites also means following their temple rituals and even erecting idols at homes - similar to how we preserve portraits of Jesus in our homes.

Gideon and the Angel

Gideon, a humble and timid man, was threshing wheat in a wine-press to stay away from the Midianites. LORD sent an Angel to Gideon, and told him that the LORD was with him. Gideon, however, found it hard to believe that God was with the Israelites. The following conversation took place:

Angel: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

Gideon: “Pardon me, my LORD, but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Angel: "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Gideon: “Pardon me, my LORD, but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Angel: “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Gideon: “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

Angel: “I will wait until you return.”

Gideon gets his first sign

Gideon was not convinced at all; he was not sure this was even the LORD speaking. Hence he asked for a sign to prove it was LORD. Gideon went out and prepared a goat and make some bread without yeast. He brought them back to the waiting Angel. The Angel asked him to set it up on a rock. He then touched it with his staff. Tadaa - a fire blazed up from the rock and consumed the meat and the bread. Poof! The Angel of the LORD disappeared!

He built an altar for the LORD. But that night, LORD spoke to him:
Judges 6: 25 That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.
26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”
Gideon was scared to do so; but did it the night, using ten servants so that nobody would witness it. In the morning people saw their Baal altar destroyed and stormed towards Gideon's house to kill him. His father responded that Baal can defend himself whenever someone broke his altar.

People were furious and resorted to 'name calling' and gave Gideon a new name 'Jerub-Baal' meaning, “Let Baal contend with him.” They did not stop there. The Midianites gathered Amalekites and other eastern people, crossed river Jordan and came to fight against Gideon and his men. They are about one hundred twenty thousand (120,000) strong.

The Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Israelites to follow him. Gideon is still not convinced that he is the chosen one. He devised a test to confirm that.
Judges 6: 36 Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised -
37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”
38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew - a bowlful of water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.”
40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Gideon soaking his woolen fleece in water

Gideon checking his woolen fleece

Gideon gathered about thirty thousand (30,000) men and went to battle the enemy. LORD felt that he should not let the Israelites should feel they won the war on their own. Hence LORD does some layoffs.

Gideon asked whoever "trembled with fear" could go home. Twenty thousand men left; leaving only ten thousand (10,000) men.

This is not enough for the LORD; He wants to do further layoffs. LORD and sent them to a river to drink water. Gideon then sorted out people based on how they drank the water from the river. Many drank the water by bringing their face to the water and drinking like how dogs drink water; others cupped their hands, took water and brought it to their mouth. Whoever drank water like dogs were laid off.

 Second round of layoff - Gideon's Army while at the river

Out of the 10,000 now there were only 300 left to face those 120,000 Midianites. LORD assured Gideon that with this three hundred strong army, he will deliver the Midianite army into his hands. Gideon is petrified to the extend he is almost frozen with fear. Logically thinking, the ratio is 1:400 that is, every Gideon's soldier will have to beat 400 enemy soldiers to gain victory. This is where faith comes into play!

LORD told Gideon to take his servant Purah, and sneak down to the Midianite camp. They do so during early morning.
Judges 7:13 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
Gideon is all pumped up with confidence - he thanked LORD and divided his three hundred men into three groups, gave all his men trumpets, empty jars, and torches. They lit their torches, and put them inside the jars. When they arrived near the Midianite camp, all of them blew their trumpets, broke their jars, exposing the torches, and cried out “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

Gideon's 300 men marching towards an army of 120,000 Midianites

The Midianite army is thrown into a tizzy! Apart from running and crying around, in confusion they started slaying each other with their swords, and finally fled. Gideon called out his 'laid off army' and together they chased the Midianites, and killed two of their leaders - Oreb and Zeeb.

Zebah and Zalmunna
After their victory, the criticism started. Ephramites asked Gideon, "Why didn't you call us when you went to fight Midian?"

Gideon answered in a humble manner, "It was with your help that Oreb and Zeeb were killed. What was I able to do compared to you?"

Hearing this answer, the Ephramites placated and their resentment against him subsided.

Gideon and his three hundred men continued their pursuit. They were now going after two Midianite kings Zebah and Zalmunna. He crossed river Jordan and his troops were exhausted while at a place called Succoth (a pagan community). He asked for some food for his men. The locals did not have faith in Gideon's team. Moreover, they were afraid of the Midianite army and feared their reprisal. He moved on to another place called Peniel (another pagan community) and they too refused to help on similar grounds. By the way, Peniel was the place where Jacob wrestled with an Angel. Disappointed, Gideon told them that he'll tear down their tower when he returned triumphantly.

Both Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with an army of about fifteen thousand men. Gideon in a clever manner, unleashed a surprise attack and captured both Zebah and Zalmunna. He then decided to return to his home via Peniel and Succoth.

He then caught hold of a local Succoth man and obtained the names of their elders and leaders. He whipped those elders and leaders using a whip made out of thorny plants. The tower of Peniel was torn down and their leaders were killed as well.

Gideon then interrogated his captives - Zebah and Zalmunna. He asked them about the kind of men they killed at Tabor. He was referring to those Israelites who were murdered while they hid in caves, fearing those Midianites (Judges 6:2). They answered that the men they killed were like Gideon. In fact, the ones they killed were Gideon's own brothers.
Judges 8:19 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the Lord lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.”
In those days, it was necessary to distinguish between full brothers and half brothers as men often had several wives.

He then asked his eldest son, Jether, to kill those two kings - Zebah and Zalmunna, because dying at the hands of a boy or a woman was considered a disgrace. Jether was only a boy and was afraid to draw his sword. The kings challenged him to be a 'real man' and do it himself; so Gideon stepped forward and killed both of them.

Gideon's Ephod
The story of Gideon is taking a bizarre turn. The Israelites show their gratitude by asking Gideon to be their ruler as he has saved them from the Midianites. Gideon politely turned down the offer.
Judges 8:23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.” 
Refusing the crown was a wonderful thought. He had served them in the capacity of a Judge, but the idea of being anointed as a king had to come from the LORD; not from the people. Another way of looking at this verse is in a prophetical manner. Soon we will see that after Gideon's death, Jether, his son will not rule over Israel as well.

Gideon had now become a valiant warrior and valiant warriors were compensated royally. He had now fallen prey to the snares of temptation. With a glimmer in his eye for finer things in life, Gideon asked them for the earrings of those slain Ishmaelites. It was an Ishmaelite custom to wear one gold earring, and they willfully and cheerfully obliged. He collected over 40 pounds of gold in a purple robe - the color of royal garments. On top of it, was gold worn by the camels.
Judges 8:27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.
Ephod was a sacred garment worn by the high priest, indicating he was going to provide spiritual leadership for Israelites. Ophrah, Gideon's hometown, was not supposed to be the spiritual powerhouse. Whatever his motive was, the LORD had not asked him to do so. Too bad that this action of Gideon led entire Israelites to prostitution by worshiping it and this became a snare to Gideon and his family.

Gideon's Death
Israel had peace for forty years. He took several wives in marriage and took at least one concubine who lived in Shechem. He had seventy (70) sons of his own, and the concubine bore him a son named Abimelech - who will be in the limelight soon. Gideon died at a "good age."
Judges 8:33 No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god
34 and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.
35 They also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) in spite of all the good things he had done for them.
Gideon's final years remind me those of king Solomon, whom we'll meet soon.

Israelites have already slipped into idol worship. Baal-Berith was set up just twelve miles south of Shiloh, where the LORD's Tabernacle was situated. See more on Baal-Berith in additional Info, below.

We have now entered an action packed section; don't go away yet for your popcorn refills. This section serves valuable lessons for those who are power hungry and aspire becoming future leaders. They should watch the end as well.

The son of Gideon's concubine at Shechem, heard about the crown being offered to his father and had been waiting for an opportunity to grab it for himself. After Gideon's death, he approached those same men and persuaded them to let him lead them. He bribed them some money taken out of the temple of Baal-Berith, as ancient temples served as depositories of personal and civic funds (instead of banks). He also moved around with a bunch of ruthless mercenaries, spreading the message, 'might is right.'

In order to claim the crown, and to nullify any opposition or oppression, he murdered those legitimate sons of Gideon - all seventy of them, in a ritualistic manner on a stone of sacrifice. It is said that this was done in broad daylight in the plain sight of everyone - to inflict terror. The youngest son, Jotham, escaped the execution as he hid himself. Now, the leaders at Schechm gathered together and crowned Abimelech the king. Technically, he was the first king of Israel, but not the entire land; he just controlled those western parts - Shechem, Beth-Millo, Arumah, and Thebez.

The people of Shechem gathered under the great oak tree at Shechem to crown Abimelech. By the way, this place should be familiar to all of us on this 'guided tour.' This was the same place where Jacob hid the idols in Genesis 35 (link provided to refresh your memory). This was the very spot where Joshua renewed the covenant at Shechem and proclaimed, "But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" (link provided). Finally, this is where the Israelites buried Joseph after carrying his casket around for forty years.

Young Jotham, battling adversity went the extra mile, to prove that 'blood is thicker than water.' I am going to quote everything he said, while he rebuked those Shechemites:
Judges 9:7 When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.
8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’
9 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’
10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’
11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’
12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’
13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’
14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’
15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’
16 “Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimeleh king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? 17 Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. 18 But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made Abimelek, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. 19 So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimeleh be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20 But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimeleh and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimeleh!”
Jotham predicted that there will be rift between Abimeleh and the people of Shechem will rue the day they decided to join forces. He then ran away to safety, as he was afraid of Abimeleh.

In just three years of Abimeleh's reign, the words of Jotham found it's mark. By now, the Shechemites were plotting schemes to get rid of him. While things were getting heated up, Zebul, the governor of Shechem, secretly sided with Abimelech. Using spy-work, he learned about a conspiracy and advised Abimelech to march against Shechem with his army. As per Zebul's cunning scheme, Gaal, the leader of the rebels, marched his followers against Abimelech. Rebels were completely crushed in the ensuing battle. Abimelech unleashed his anger upon the city, putting everyone to the sword. The Tower of Shechem, which sheltered 1,000 people, was flamed. The next agenda on Abimelech's mind was to besiege the city of Thebez. People locked themselves inside a strong tower. While he was storming it, and setting it ablaze, a woman dropped a millstone on his skull and crushed it.

Death of Abimelech

Abimelech, while bleeding heavily, ordered his armor-bearer to draw his sword and kill him - to save him from the insult of saying, "he died by the hand of a woman."

Abimelech requests to be killed by his Armor-bearer

So much is recorded about Abimelech in the Bible as a Judge, who went down like a lead balloon. It is interesting to note that the deeds of our next two judges are hardly mentioned in the bible, and am combining them.

Tola and Jair
After the death of Abimelech, there lived the judges Tola, of the tribe of Issachar, who ruled for twenty-three years, and Jair, the Gileadite, who served as a judge for twenty-two years. Apparently, Jair is remembered for having thirty (30) sons, controlled thirty (30) towns and rode thirty (30) donkeys.

The story of Jephthah is posted in a different posting titled, Judges 11 - 12. Click here to reach there.

-----------------------BIBLE READING------------------
WARNING: Some of the actions performed in this book are dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals familiar with the action in question.



-------------------------------------Bible Study
How Not to Study the Bible

Once upon a time, there was an old lady who had a strange way of studying the Bible, which she abandoned later. Early in the morning, she flipped through the pages of the Holy Bible with her eyes closed, until her finger stopped on a particular verse. That very verse served as an inspiration to her the entire day. One morning, her finger stopped at Matthew 27:5, which she read, "Then he went away and hanged himself." This was not acceptable, hence she tried again. This time, her finger hit the verse on Luke 10:37, which read, “Go and do likewise.” Perplexed, she gave one final try with all her concentration and this time she read John 13:27, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

This story may sound hilarious, but I admit that I myself used to read the Bible likewise, once upon a time, with no guidance.
Bible Study is profitable.
Not just that we should know, 
But that we might grow!

So True! Let me share with you - I've started seeing numerous positive changes taking effect within myself, ever since I took up this 'guided tour assignment.'  Thank You, God.

-------------------------------------Additional Info 1
Baal-Berith means "lord of a covenant" or the "god who enters into a covenant with his worshipers. In ancient times, an alliance between two tribes would frequently be cemented by a common worship ceremony. The continued practice of this worship ceremony kept the agreement intact. Israel entered into a number of these political-religious alliances and it led them into idolatry.

Either the Shechemites or the Israelites built a temple for him at Shechem (Judges 9:46). Bible scholars believe that the Jews imitated their religious rituals of LORD with this new god in his temple.

 Remains of Baal-Berith temple

Remains of Baal-Berith temple

-----------------------------------------Additional Info 2
Gideon's Faith
The victory of Gideon over Midianites serves as a testimony for people like you and I, who are too timid or scared to do something for the LORD.
Moral of Gideon's story: If we have faith in the LORD that LORD can help us, if we ask LORD for help, LORD will be right there with us.
-----------------------------------------Additional Info 3
Self Reminder on Gideon's Ephod
I spent quite some time figuring out what happened to Gideon during those final years of his life. Am sure many, those who journeyed through the scripture, had the exact same question. Gideon may have made the Ephod with all good intentions, but without consulting with the LORD. One explanation which I came across was by John Hunter, which I am jotting down for my own sake:

"In some ways we can be like this. Great men and women can be used of the Lord. They can then start organizations, societies, or denominations, to commemorate and extend the glory of God in their work. These can function wonderfully as planned - to begin with. But then as the vision goes, so does the response of those who follow those leaders (Proverbs 29:18). This can deteriorate until the purpose of the organization, society, or denomination becomes simply to maintain its own entity. So we find people dedicated to keep a certain movement in existence, regardless of whether the Lord is purposing to use it or not. Their "ephod" takes their allegiance and true effort away from the living Lord to a dead society." ~ John Hunter
Note to myself: We should not allow anything to take our eyes off our loving and holy LORD, else it will lead all of us astray.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Judges 1- 5

 Prophetess and Judge Deborah

Joshua is dead and the tribes were allocated their inheritance. Israel is without a clear leader.They are tired of continuous warfare. The first generation did their best to stay loyal to the LORD. The next generation started mixing with local Canaanites and were getting under the pagan influence. The author of Judges tell us that Israel’s behavior follows a consistent pattern: the people of Israel fall into evil, God sends a leader to save them, and, once the judge dies, the people commit even greater evil, spiraling downwards.

The Book of Judges
1. Incomplete Conquest and Apostasy
2. Oppression and Deliverance
3. Religious and Moral Disorder

The Weekly Outlook - Aug 18, 2013
Monday, Aug 19 - Joshua 1 - 6
Tuesday, Aug 20 - Joshua 7 - 12
Wednesday, Aug 21 - Joshua 13 - 18
Thursday, Aug 22 - Joshua 19 - 24 ( Revised 20 - 24)
Friday, Aug 23 - Judges 1 - 5
Saturday, Aug 24 - Judges 6 - 12

Introduction to Judges
Biblical Judges were not exactly those public officials who decided cases in the court of law unlike those individuals who appear on television wearing black robes and deciding cases; such as 'Judge Judy', or 'Judge Joe Brown.'

During times of great peril and distress, men and women of valor and intelligence arose to lead the Israelite soldiers to battle and victory; these men and women were the "Judges." They were not appointed in succession; they emerged in periods of exceptional difficulty; and once the danger had been overcome with their help, they naturally commanded the respect of the people, and were thus able to exercise jurisdiction. The influence of these Judges were strong enough to keep the Jews on the right path of the law of Moses.

In the absence of an official king in Israel, these Judges were 'almost' filling the shoes of a king handing judicial and military affairs. More than anything, the prime role of these biblical Judges was to bring the Israelites in line with the law of Moses.

This book covers almost 300 years, and prepares the arrival of Ruth. The age in which the Judges arrive, is somewhat similar to the age in which we live in. War is almost non-existent; everyone is doing whatever is right in their own eyes; sex and violence of those days is slightly different, both in kind and intensity from our times.

The share of sex and violence prevalent in the society and the ones recorded in this book is slightly high. Then again, the kind available available to us via TV and movies is designed to stimulate our lust and to drive us into immoral ways. Sex and violence in the Bible, is not meant to drive the reader towards a 'centerfold'; rather it should serve as an instruction and a lesson for us and our future generations.

Most of us, we tend to think we know majority (if not all) of those Biblical stories from our Sunday school days. It is one of the biggest mistake made by many Christians. While at Sunday school, kids are taught the 'watered-down' versions, or 'diluted dosage' of these stories. The themes within those stories are geared towards early development of moral values for youngsters. As they grow up, they are expected to examine what is actually written in the scripture - to acquire age-appropriate wisdom. As far as I know, I am getting a different perspective on all those stories now (which I thought I knew).

In the book of Judges, there is a particular pattern which is being followed - see figure below. This cycle repeats for almost 300 years and numerous Judges were appointed at the required time and place. The role of one judge was not identical to the next one. Those reading the Bible will come across narratives such as, "did evil in the eyes of the LORD," "handed over to," and "sold them."

Figure: Cycle of events in the book of Judges

The beauty of this book lies again in the absolute faithfulness of our LORD. He has amazing patience which is demonstrated time and time again during the period of these Judges.

Moral of this book is something we all know: If you hang around with bad people, you will pick up their bad habits.

There are few minor Judges and five major Judges, whom we'll meet soon. The interesting aspect is that some of them are not even Israelites.

Many believe the author of this book is prophet Samuel.

Israel Fights the Remaining Canaanites
The Israelites are ready to fight the remaining people living in the land, and they asked LORD who should go first, and sends the tribe of Judah to fight the Canaanites. The tribe of Simeon help them with a promise of a return favor.

Judah is almost completely successful in their efforts. They conquered their entire territory, including the city of Jerusalem, which they put to the sword and set on fire (sort of) and drive out or destroy the people there.

The fairy tale of Caleb's daughter, Acsah, is mentioned in this book again - just like how it was in the previous book of Joshua. Othniel is the hero who married Acsah.

The descendants of Moses' in-laws are mentioned here, who settled along with Judah.

Pay attention here. This is an example of a human error in the Bible. Chapters and verses were added to the Biblical text by people to make it readable. Let's look at verses 17 thru 19.
17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.
19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. 
A normal person reading verse 19 may wonder what's the deal with these iron chariots, which even LORD cannot defeat. It implies that the men of Judah were unable to drive those people away, even with LORD on their side. Joshua 17:18 implied it otherwise.


I am going to re-arrange verses 18 and 19 a bit; am annexing the sentence, 'The LORD was with the men of Judah' to the latter part of verse 18. There is no hard & fast rule, that one verse should have only one sentence.

Here is how it appears then:
18 Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron - each city with its territory. The LORD was with the men of Judah. 
19 They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.  
To me, I think it makes perfect sense now! These conquests do not appear in the same day, hence I am convinced that LORD was with them when they won and later He was not with them. This is exactly how I am going to read and interpret.

Few red flags recorded in chapter 1:
21 The Benjamites however failed to dislodge the Jesubites who were living in Jerusalem.
27 Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements,
29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them.
30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them
31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob.
32 The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out.
33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; 
The LORD has been warning the Israelites all along not to mix with these people, because they’ll be ensnared by their foreign gods. Israelites are supposed to be destroying them; instead they forge relationships with them and live among them.

The Angel of the LORD at Bokim
An Angel of the LORD appeared and rebuked the people, as they disobeyed. The LORD has decided that He is no longer going to drive the Canaanites out of the land. They will be thorns in Israel’s side, and their gods will ensnare the Israelites - tough luck!

The Israelites are heartbroken and start weeping.

Disobedience and Defeat
This section contains a recap of events that took place during the time of Joshua. Let me quote those verses from chapter 2, so that you get a clear picture:
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.
11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.
12 They forsook the LORD  the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger
13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
14 In his anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.
15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.
17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands.
18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.
19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
So far, I've been using the term 'Canaanites' as a generic term for anyone and everyone who lived on the western side of river Jordan. Now, we are going to start calling them by their original names. Get used to these names, as we are going to meet them.
Judges 3: 5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
Also, get acquainted with their gods - Baal, Baals, Ashtoreth, Asherah, as we will be hearing these names quite frequently.

Othniel - The First Judge
The first story is a sweet and short one - which has all those steps outlined.
The new generation Israelites worshiped Baals and Asherah's and took part in their rituals. This is “evil in the eyes of the LORD.” Therefore, the anger of the LORD burns, and He lets a foreign king subjugate them. The LORD “sold them" into the hands of their king, Cushan-Rishathaim (means 'doubly wicked Cushan'), whose kingdom is called Aram Naharaim (meaning Aram of two rivers - Euphrates and Tigris). This subjugation lasts for a period of eight years, during which the Israelites cried out to the LORD.


After eight years, the LORD sent Holy Spirit upon Othniel, our old hero, to lead the Israelites in a battle against Cushan-Rishathaim. Othaniel freed the Israelites from this king. Israel enjoyed peace for forty years, until the death of Othaniel.

Ehud - The Second Judge
Once again, the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, therefore He handed them over to Eglon, king of Moab. Eglon, along with the Ammonites and Amalekites attacked Israel, and captured the “City of Palms” (Jericho) and subjugated the people of Israel for eighteen years.

The pattern is once again followed - the Israelites cry out to the LORD, and He sends Ehud, as their judge. Ehud, a member of the Benjamite is mentioned as being a left-handed man. This is ironic because Benjamin means, 'son of my right hand.' Here's how Ehud used his own wit in delivering the Israelites.

Ehud, with his tribute, went to meet Eglon, the king. Before he went, he made a double-edge sword, about a foot and a half long, and strapped it to his right thigh, under his clothes. Being left handed gave Ehud an advantage in concealing his weapon, as all the soldiers keept their sword on the left side.

When he presented his tribute, he actually took it to King Eglon himself, who is quite a bulky, fat man. Ehud told the king that he had a secret message, and turned away his men as well as the king's men, so that the two could be in private.
20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat,
21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.
22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.
23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.”
25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.
Image: Ehud kills Eglon

Ehud wasted no time and sneaked out to his fellow Israelites. He then blew a trumpet, and summoned them to battled. He told the Israelite army that LORD had delivered Moab into their hands. The Israelites struck down about ten thousand Moabites, and during the course of the battle, tables changes; Moabites were now slaves to Israelites and they had peace for another eighty years.

The bravery of Ehud is compared to that of Samson's which we will see soon.

Shamgar - The First Minor Judge
This is the shortest story - just one bible verse:
31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.
The name implies he was a foreigner, and not an Israelite. Son of Anath means their family worshiped Anath, Baal's sister, who was a goddess of war. An oxgoad was a sharp instrument similar to a spear.

 Image: Shamgar used an oxgoad to kill 600 Philistines

After the death of Ehud, Israel again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. This time, the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, the king of Canaan. His general was Sisera, a cruel and mighty warrior who had iron chariots and cavalry, who gave the Jews a hard time for twenty years. Pay attention to Sisera as his name will come up in this section.

The pattern repeated and they cried out to LORD.

Prophetess and Judge Deborah

At that time a wise and God fearing woman named Deborah. She lived true to the word of LORD, while others indulged in idolatry and sin. She was recognized as a Judge all over Israel, who used to settle disputes among Israelites, sitting under a palm tree.

Image: Deborah summons Barak to go for war

Seeing the misery faced by Israelites, she summoned Barak (which means thunderbolt), who is recognized in the 'Hall of Faith' in Hebrews 11:32. Deborah asked Barak to gather an army and go fight Sisera. Barak said he will do so, if Deborah accompanied her.

Deborah agreed to accompany Barak, but she said LORD will deliver Sisera to the hands of a woman. Sisera heard about Barak's advancement and prepared his army for battle.  Sisera was leading the fight, and they had advantage in the beginning. Later LORD caused a confusion within Sisera's army, and his men started fleeing in various directions. Sisera had no other option other than to get on foot to run and hide inside a non-Israelite tent.

Heber the Kenite, was a decendent of Hobab, the brother in-law of Moses. Heber was friendly with Jabin, the king of Hazor, and Sisera felt safe in Heber's tent. Jael (means mountain goat), Heber's wife, offered to conceal him until the Israelite army had disappeared. Exhausted from battle, Sisera soon fell into a heavy slumber after drinking some goat milk.

Jael decided to put an end to his cruel deeds by driving a long long nail through his temple. Barak arrived at Heber's tent searching for Sisera. He met Jael, who triumphantly said, "Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking." She led Barak into the tent, where lay the dead general.

Jabin was captured the same day as well. The Israelites grew stronger after that day.

The song of Deborah
As part of the celebration, Deborah and Barak sang a song titled, 'The song of Deborah' which is given in chapter 5.

I am not going to elucidate the prose for this song. Let the poetry stay that way. In short, Deborah praised the men who had consecrated themselves by taking up the vow of Nazarites. Then she gave glory to the LORD for defending them. She rebuked the other tribes who were late in joining them. She next praised Jael for her courage and accomplishment.

The Israelites had peace for forty years. Numerous people have captured the courage of Jael on canvas. Scroll down to see some.

LORD'S faithfulness and love towards His people has to be noted with reverence. Whenever the Israelites reached out in despair, despite committing grave sins, He was always there to bail them out; just how a dearest friend would do - with a plan in mind.

Whenever we have complex issues at work, we perform an activity called 'Root Cause Analysis.' If we were to perform a RCA on this book, a single verse sums up all of it - Judges 2:10. The Israelites did not teach their children everything about the LORD, when they arrived at the new land; The Promised Land - A land flowing with milk and honey; this single ignorance on the part of the parents led to the downfall of their next generation.

-----BIBLE READING-------------------BIBLE READING--------------BIBLE READING----

WARNING: Some of the actions performed in this book are dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals familiar with the action in question.


-------------------------------------My Question
Moses and Midian
Since the topic of Moses' in-laws poped up here, let me share one of my thoughts with you:

Moses had run away from Egypt to Midian, stayed there 40 years and married a Midianite. During the time of next generation, per prophet Balaam's advice, Israelites were seduced by Midianite women. When Israel captured Midian, Moses asked them to kill every man, and every woman who had known a man. It was a huge massacre.

I was wondering, what went wrong in Midian, so terribly that within the time-span of one generation, they were entirely wiped out.

If anyone has any thoughts, kindly share.

-----------------------------------Pictures of Judges
Pictures on Flickr
I came across a site which has many pictures related to Judges, being developed as part of a project. Click here to land there.

Few paintings of Jael and Sisera: Click on them for optimal viewing. 

Judge Deborah on the Day of Deliverance

Enjoy your weekend!

Credits:, Robert L. Deffinbaugh

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Few modifications on our blog

Dear Readers,

To further improve your reading experience, while on the 'Guided Tour of the Holy Bible,' we now have added couple of gadgets on our site.

One is to look up a word or passage in the Bible, without having to leave this page.

The second is the actual scripture itself, and I will program it everyday so that it points to (and begins at) the exact chapter and verse pertaining to that day - hence all you have to do is read and scroll. I have set NIV as the default version, which I follow. You are free to navigate to other versions of your taste and convenience. Font size can be changed as well. I was told it remembers where you left off after your last read - have not tired it out yet.

Finally, we also made provision to quote bible in our text without having to leave the passage. It's using a tool called RefTagger, which allows us to instantly view a Bible passage by hovering our mouse over a Bible reference. Even here, I have set it up for the NIV.

Example: Genesis 2:18, Joshua 24:24, John 4:6.

------------------------------------------------BIBLE READING--------------------------------------------

WARNING: Some of the actions performed in this book are dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals familiar with the action in question.

Lookup a word or passage in the Bible
Include this form on your page

Credits:, and

Joshua 20 - 24

Today let's look at the remaining chapters of Joshua.

The Book of Joshua
1. Entrance into Promised Land
2. Conquest of Promised Land
3. Distribution of Promised Land
4. Tribal Unity and Loyalty to LORD

The Weekly Outlook - Aug 18, 2013
Monday, Aug 19 - Joshua 1 - 6
Tuesday, Aug 20 - Joshua 7 - 12
Wednesday, Aug 21 - Joshua 13 - 18
Thursday, Aug 22 - Joshua 19 - 24 ( Revised 20 - 24)
Friday, Aug 23 - Judges 1 - 5
Saturday, Aug 24 - Judges 6 - 12

Cities of Refuge
Anyone killing another person accidentally could flee to a city of refuge. They have to stand at the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city. The elders will then admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them, without handing him over to the avenger of blood. 

The one who came in has to 
- stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly and 
- until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. 

Six cities were set aside by Joshua as 'Cities of Refuge.' 

Towns for the Levites
This chapter mentions the towns set aside for Levites by each tribe. Let's just look at the summary as I am pretty sure none of my readers really care which tribe set aside which town. Anyone interested can skim the chapter. The summary of this chapter is given in the following verse: 
41 The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all, together with their pasture-lands. 42 Each of these towns had pasture-lands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.
In the end, there is a small paragraph about the LORD. Let's not skip that. It speaks a lot about His righteousness.
43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the LORD'S good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
If we had to say all of this in one sentence, it would be: 

Eastern Tribes Return Home
Shiloh had become the new spiritual center, as the the Tabernacle had been moved to Shiloh.

There was not going to be any more fighting. So, Joshua called the tribal leaders of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh. During the conquest of Promised Land, they fought shoulder to shoulder with the rest and kept their promise. Joshua thanked them for their efforts, and let them off the hook - they were now free to go join their families in the transjordan region, east of river Jordan. He reminded them to study and meditate the LORD'S commandments. Joshua blessed them:
22: 8 “Return to your homes with your great wealth - with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing - and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.”
The story gets interesting now. As soon as they cross the river and arrive on the eastern side, they build a huge altar, which is visible from a great distance. When the Israelites on the Canaan side heard this, they become very furious and jumped into unnecessary conclusions. They were still in the fighting mode, and gathered troops to go fight their brethren. They then showed bit restraint and send a delegation to inquire the matter - Phinehas, along with some tribal chiefs and priests.

As soon as they arrive at the site of the altar, they blast those who built it:
16 “The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now?
17 Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord!
18 And are you now turning away from the Lord?
Then they give bit of an advice to their brothers:
“‘If you rebel against the LORD today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel.
19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the LORD'S land, where the LORD'S tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the LORD or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the LORD our God.
20 When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’” 
Apparently, they had not built an altar for any other gods; but for LORD Himself. They were worried about river Jordan being an obstacle between Israel on the west and themselves. They were worried about their decedents treating this physical boundary an obstacle to reach LORD, and may not fear Him anymore. This new altar would serve as a replica or monument of the existing Tabernacle at Shiloh. They concluded:
29 “Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.” 
In plain words, no sacrifices would be offered upon this new altar.

Phinehas, along with the tribal chiefs and priests, were pleased to hear that the fear of LORD was still with them. They returned to their land and dropped the idea of war.

The new altar was given a name, "A Witness Between Us - that the LORD is God."

Joshua’s Farewell to the Leaders
About two years prior to his death, Joshua addressed the elders and leaders. He had become quite old and weak. Unlike Moses, Joshua does not take up a whole lot of 'real estate' documenting his farewell speech - he just consumed less than two chapters.

Summary of Joshua's farewell speech:
- He reminded everyone that it was only with LORD'S help they were able to conquer everything,
- Obey all those laws of Moses, 'without turning left of to the right,'
- Do not assimilate with the Canaanites and acquire their perverted practices,
- With LORD'S power, they've been able to defeat everyone; hence they should love the LORD,
- Do not intermarry with the Canaanites, LORD will no longer drive them out on Israel's behalf; instead, they will become snares and traps for the Israelites, whips on their backs and thorns in their eyes, until they perished in the Promised Land,
- LORD has fulfilled every promise He has given. Not a single one has failed,
- LORD will bring all those evil things He has threatened if the Israelites go and serve other gods,
- That would be the end of their lives in the Promised Land.

The Covenant Renewed at Shechem
Joshua assembled the Tribal Leaders and addressed the entire nation. In this speech, he reminded the entire history of Israel from it's birth till date.

While concluding his speech, he said,
24: 14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
This is a popular verse visible in many christian homes, globally. 


The people responded, "We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.”
24: 19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD  He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”
22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”
24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”
He then took a stone and set is as a witness against them at Shechem.

Buried in the Promised Land
Joshua died at the age of one hundred and ten in (1390 BC) and was buried at his own property. During his leadership and throughout his lifetime, the Israelites followed the LORD. He echoed the words of Moses and practiced the laws. Joshua preferred to be called 'Servant of the LORD' rather than the leader of Israelites.

The Israelites buried Joseph’s bones at Shechem, in the tract of land that Jacob owned. They had been carrying his bones every since they left Egypt.

Eleazar was buried at Gibeah, in the property of Phinehas.

May the souls of Joshua, the 'Servant of the LORD' and Eleazar, the High Priest, rest in peace!

In earlier chapters we saw that LORD communicated directly with Moses. However, during the time of Joshua, LORD exists in the Ark of the Covenant and did not take any physical form. Joshua seems to be a small character only in comparison with his predecessor, Moses. When we look at him all by himself, he was a great person. In Bible, we see larger personalities dwarfing their immediate followers due to their magnanimity.

In his farewell speech, Joshua told the Israelites, “You are not able to serve the LORD  He is a holy God; He is a jealous God.  The obedience of Israelites in light of Joshua's knowledge and comments suggests that Israel's future is questionable.

This concludes the book of Joshua. So far, we've completed six books from the Bible. Here is where we are, along with a brief statistics:

% Completion, OT Chapters = 22.71%
% Completion, OT Verses = 28.12%
Chapters completed = 211
Verses completed = 6,510
Days of tour = 37 days
Our speed (chapters) = 5.7 chapters/day
Our speed (verses) = ~176 verses/day

--------------------------------Bible Reading------------------------------------------

WARNING: Some of the actions performed in this book are dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals familiar with the action in question.

Joshua 24


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Joshua 13 - 19

Dividing the Land of Canaan

The book of Joshua has 24 chapters and we are just half way through. However, there is not much action left. The conquest happened over a period of seven years and Joshua is tired, and in his 90's. There is still some more land to be conquered, but not anymore during Joshua's leadership.  Moses had asked Joshua to distribute the land to the twelve tribes. Next, we are going to see the Promised Land being distributed. Here's where we are:

The Book of Joshua
1. Entrance into Promised Land
2. Conquest of Promised Land
3. Distribution of Promised Land
4. Tribal Unity and Loyalty to LORD

The Weekly Outlook - Aug 18, 2013
Monday, Aug 19 - Joshua 1 - 6
Tuesday, Aug 20 - Joshua 7 - 12
Wednesday, Aug 21 - Joshua 13 - 18
Thursday, Aug 22 - Joshua 19 - 24
Friday, Aug 23 - Judges 1 - 5
Saturday, Aug 24 - Judges 6 - 12

For the most part, the Israeli men are listening to the LORD'S commands and following His lead in conquering the territory. I said 'most part' for a reason - they were bit lenient in destroying some of them, which will soon turn to be their own killer. Since this part deals with property and distribution, I am going to share this on a map. For those who want to investigate more, make a trip to - the places are listed for this section.

Land Still to Be Taken
The LORD said to Joshua, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over." and then He explains those lands, which is shown in the map below, listed as regions of the Philistines - this is the first region.

Just ignore those arrows for now

The second area to be captured and conquered is the mountain regions (stretching from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim), which the LORD will deliver himself by driving their inhabitants. For now, the Israelites have to just take care of land allocation.

Maps for the Guided Tour
Before we proceed further, I strongly urge you grab hold of a map to follow any of what's going on in the next few chapters. If you have your Bible handy with you, turn to those last pages and in there should be a map titled 'Land of the Twelve Tribes' or something on those lines. If you do not have the Bible near you, here is a two sided map. On one side is a plain old map for most of the guys on the tour (in blue) - they just need to get a general idea of the land and in their minds would say, "whatever!" The other side has a colorful map, which is for those feminine readers - who would want to see those precise locations, check neighboring tribes, and finally to compare the size of land allotted for each tribe.

One side of the handout map - high level

Other side of the handout map - detailed & colorful

Now that everyone has a map, and had a quick glance, let's move on.

Division of the Land East of the Jordan
This section discussed portion of land that was already allocated by Moses, located on the east of the Jordan River, to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half of the tribe of Mannasseh. Verses 13: 8 - 33.

Division of the Land West of the Jordan
This section talks about the new distribution that's being performed by Joshua. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks and herds.

Allotment for Caleb
Caleb, the fellow spy of Joshua from the 'Class of 12' approached Joshua while at Gilal and asked his share. Make note that at the time Caleb approaches Joshua, the land which Caleb wanted (Hebron) was not yet conquered by Israelites. Apparently, LORD had promised him the 'land he walked' for his conviction and trust in the LORD. Caleb belonged to the tribe of Judah, and Hebron was given to Caleb as an inheritance. On the map, Hebron is situated west of Salt Sea & south of Jerusalem/Bethlehem.

Allotment for Judah
There is a small fairy tale that takes place in this chapter. Caleb has a daughter called Aksah. Finding a suitable husband for the daughter is any father's concern. Caleb being the best warrior second to Joshua, wanted to offer his daughter to the bravest person available. He therefore devised a test. Kiriath Sepher was a fortified city. Whoever broke into and conquered this city would be capable of protecting his most precious child.
15: 16 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.”   
Cousin Othniel took up the challenge and won Aksah's hand. The author of this book did not document any romance surrounding them or any of those common mushy stuff. However, something related to property caught the author's attention.
15:18 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[b] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”
19 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
On careful examination, it's evident there seems to be a disconnect. Something does not add up here. I'll try to fill in the missing pieces. Caleb gave a desert land to Othniel when he gave the hands of Aksah. Knowing the value of land in the Promised Land, Aksah prompted Othniel to ask her father for springs near the desert. Seems like Othniel is a man of battle and less of words. Hence, Aksah takes up the job of asking two springs from Caleb. That's why & that's what she asked Caleb when she got off her donkey.

Verses 15:20 - 62 indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Judea.

The tribe of Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; It is a bad omen for the men of Judah.

Allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh
Chapters 16 and 17 talk about the land allotted to the tribe of Ephraim and Manasseh.

The tribal leaders of Ephraim and Manasseh approach Joshua as they are not satisfied with their allotment - they want more land. Joshua asks them to clear off the forest and take possession of it as well. About those Canaanites living in those areas, Joshua assures them they could drive them off even if they have chariots fitted with iron.

Couple of red flags appear in these chapters, wherein they did not drive out the Canaanites completely.
16:10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer;
17: 12 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region.
13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.
Remember those five daughters of Zelophehad from Numbers 21? They got their inheritance too. Well, their names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah.

Division of the Rest of the Land
The Israelites are camped at Shiloh, and the country is under their control, however distribution of land is not complete yet. Joshua gets impatient and formulates a strategy.
18: 3 “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you? 4 Appoint three men from each tribe.
These men surveyed the land, wrote those descriptions on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua. He then cast lots for them in the presence of the LORD, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions. The section below describes who got what.

Allotment of Land for the Tribe of:
  • Benjamin (Verses 18:11–28): These lines indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Benjamin.
  • Simeon (Verses 19:1–9): These lines indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Simeon. Judah had more than what they needed; hence some of their land was taken towards the share of Simeon (that explains why Simeon's property looks like an island within Judah). 
  • Zebulun (Verses 19:10–16): These lines indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Zebulun.
  • Issachar (Verses 19:17–23): These lines indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Issachar.
  • Asher (Verses 19:24–31): These lines indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Asher.
  • Naphtali (Verses 19:32–39): These lines indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Naphtali.
  • Dan (Verses 19:40–48): These lines indicate the land allotted to the tribe of Dan. Dan's tribe wasn't able to take possession of some of the land they were are supposed to have, therefore they take over another piece of land. 
Allotment for Joshua 
(Verses 19:49–51): Certain land was exclusively allocated to Joshua, just like how Caleb was eligible. Joshua was the last to get any inheritance. If you are paying attention, the first distribution was for Caleb, then the tribes, followed by Joshua. He first made sure everyone else was provided for. Next, he did not ask for the most fertile land, high octane real estate property nor a beach house retreat. He picked an obscure spot on the highland hills to spend the rest of his life (in peace). 

------------------------------Bible Reading ------------------------------

WARNING: Some of the actions performed in this book are dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals familiar with the action in question.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Joshua 7 - 12

Yesterday we saw the fall of Jericho, and Joshua's men burning and destroying the entire city except for Rahab's family. If you recall, There was one important message that was convened - not to keep any of the loot from the city for themselves. One man did not give heed to these words. His name was Achan, who belonged to the tribe of Judea. Hence, LORD was not happy with Achan's act which we will see today. Also, there is a homework assignment that I am posting today.

The Weekly Outlook - Aug 18, 2013
Monday, Aug 19 - Joshua 1 - 6
Tuesday, Aug 20 - Joshua 7 - 12
Wednesday, Aug 21 - Joshua 13 - 18
Thursday, Aug 22 - Joshua 19 - 24
Friday, Aug 23 - Judges 1 - 5
Saturday, Aug 24 - Judges 6 - 12

Achan's Sin
The next city on Joshua's radar was Ai, situated east of Bethel, just two miles from Jericho. He sent spies to 'gauge' the situation. The men came back with a very confident and positive report. For those readers who are paying laser sharp attention, Ai is the same place where Abraham built an altar for LORD in Genesis 12:18.

According to their intelligence report, Joshua was recommended to sent just two or three thousand men as there were only few in the city of Ai. This confidence must have come upon them after the conquer of Jericho. Accordingly, Joshua sent three thousand men to take over Ai.

To their bewilderment, they were defeated, thirty-six men were killed and all were chased out. The news disheartened the Israeli force and people alike. Joshua along with the elders, torn apart in grief, tore their clothes, sprinkled dust on their heads as an outward sign of grief and fell face-down before the Ark and remained there until evening.  LORD answered Joshua's prayers:
7: 10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?
11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.
12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
Further, Joshua was asked to examine each and everyone in his camp to recover the booty. Joshua set up a methodical cross-examination procedure for every tribe. While 'meeting' with the tribe of Judea, he interrogated Achan in a sweet, arm-twisting language:
“My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done:
21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” 

Joshua's messengers arrived at Achan's tent and the plunder was there. The Israelites were furious with Joshua along with the leaders took Achan, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. There they were stoned to death and heaped up a large pile of rocks.

Ai Destroyed
Having settled those internal affairs, Joshua now devised a stratagem. To the west side of the city, Joshua placed an army in ambush. Another battalion attacked from the eastern side. Ai's army emerged from the city to meet the attack. The Israeli army pretended to be fleeing like last time. Joshua thus drew Ai's army further away from the city. At an appointed time, after receiving a signal, the army which lay in ambush entered the city, destroyed it and set it on fire. The enemy found themselves sandwiched from both sides and was completely obliterated.

Twelve thousand men and women fell that day - all the people of Ai. Joshua burned down Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins. He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. Details of this encounter are given in chapter 8.

The above image depicting the defeat of Ai is from Middle Byzantine era, A.D. 843–1261, located in New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

One interesting account here - LORD approved the Israelites to carry off the plunder and livestock for themselves, after defeating Ai (see verse 2):
8: 2 "You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”
They did not kill the livestock and happily followed LORD'S instructions in looting and keeping the plunder for themselves (see verse 27):
27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua.
If only Achan had waited couple more days, victory over Ai would have been his heyday. But can you imagine why LORD objected taking anything from Jericho, but allowed the same from Ai? I spent quite sometime pondering about this, while trying to 'read' LORD'S mind, and I 'think' I have arrived at a conclusion. Let's have it as a 'homework assignment.' I will post my response next Monday. Homework assignment is posted below :-)

The Covenant Renewed at Mount Ebal
Israel has now Jericho and Ai under their control, and are taking a short break. Based on Moses' advice, they were supposed to pronounce blessings and curses. Joshua now placed twelve tribes into two groups - one to stand over Mount Gerizim to bless the people; the other group to stand on top of Mount Ebal and pronounce curses.

The curses are all structured like this, "Cursed is the man who does so and so and so.”

After which all the people said, "Amen."

Joshua built an altar of uncut stones on Mount Ebal and offered burnt offerings. The details of the covenant were described in Deuteronomy 26 - 30 (Click on the link if you need to revisit).

The Gibeonite Deception
The title sounds like a perfect candidate for a fictional novel or even a movie. The rulers of Canaan were paying close attention to Joshua's movements, for they knew they were "in the line of fire." Right after the conquest of Ai, Joshua received a delegation of peace-makers. Their clothes were worn, food was dry and moldy, wineskins old and worn out - indicating a very long journey. They professed to have come from a long distance with the sole purpose to declare a peace-treaty with Israel. As a proof of a long journey, they said,
12 This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is.
13 And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”

The Israelites agreed for a treaty, guaranteed their lives and established it with a 'Gentleman's handshake' (see below). They also took and oath to stand by it. However, they had made a mistake, which is given in verse 14:
14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.  
They might, and should have checked with the LORD - by desiring the high priest to inquire of the LORD by means of Urim and Thummim, but overlooked it. Turns out that after three days of their departure, Joshua's military intelligence produced a report that those peace-seekers were from Gibeon - the neighboring place. Gibeon was a territory which comprised of four cities. They did not have a king, but were ruled by elders, and all their men were mighty warriors. The terror of Israelites were so great that Gibeonites approached Joshua and deceived them.

Notice how close Gibeon is situated, to Ai and Jericho

Upon hearing this news, Joshua's army marched towards them, but did not attack them due to the oath they took. Instead, Joshua summoned their leaders and asked, 
22 “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us?
They give a sheepish, yet genuine answer, "We were afraid of our lives."

Israelite leaders are fuming because their hands are tied due to the the oath and cannot do anything. The shame of being deceived added 'insult to injury.' Finally, they honor their word and make Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the rest of their lives. Talk about a 'Gentleman's word.'

The Sun Stands Still
Gibeonites are now 'untouchable' by the Israelites. However the surrounding and neighborhood kings rally against them for entering into a treaty with Israelites.

The surrounding Kings did welcome the idea of Gibeonites holding a treaty with Israelites. The King of Jerusalem and other 10 kings from the surrounding area mount up an attack on the Gibeonites - sort of preemptive strike. The Gibeonites reach out to Israel for help. Joshua and his team are the ones who keep their word and travel in the night and surprise everyone by arriving in the morning.

LORD is with Joshua and strengthens him. Israelites have an upper hand and some of the armies attempt to flee. LORD rains hail upon them and many are killed. It was a Friday and Joshua hoped the battle won't stretch into Sabbath. He therefore prayed to LORD that the sun won't set until the battle is finished. Miraculously, the sun stood there for another twenty-four hours, until the Israelites won those battles.
14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
An important message convened in this book is that it is the LORD who is fighting those battles on behalf of Israel. Whenever they listen to Him, they win those battles; on occasions they don't, the results are disappointing. Numerous miraculous events like this are evident for the reader to witness this fact.

Five Amorite Kings Killed
We are in chapter 10 and here is an alert for those reading the Bible. If you are a visual person (one who visualizes events happening right in front of your eyes while reading) and/or experience dizziness at the sight of blood, skim through this chapter - this section of the chapter gives a tight closeup of death. Even though most of Joshua is about killing and conquering, it has been providing high level statistics, however this section gets bit closer. I will stay bit farther at that juncture.

Five kings had run away into a cave. Joshua ordered his men to roll rocks in front of the caves and humiliate them. The kings were later brought out and executed. Their bodies were exposed on poles until evening, and later thrown into the cave.

The way I read this section is that LORD is destroying those people as a punishment.

Let's move on!

Southern Cities Conquered
Joshua's army is triumphantly taking over the Promised Land. Now they have annexed the following cities to their map.
- Libnah
- Lachish (Horam king of Gezer came to give a helping hand to the people of Lachish, but the Israelites defeat him as well).
- Eglon (in one day)
- Hebron
- Debir

The meat of the passage is that the LORD is with the Israelites and He is the one fighting these battles on their behalf.
42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.
Sounds like the Israelites got their act together. They now know how to be good boys in the eyes of the LORD.

Northern Kings Defeated
So far. we've been talking only about the southern cities. The Northern cities caught wind about Joshua's activities in the south and his unparalleled success. They became restless and endured sleepless nights. Jabin, king of Hazor, decided not to keep quiet. He instead took a decisive action against the Israelites and summoned all those kings in the Northern area. This army was defiant in strength and confident in victory.
4 They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots - a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 
Joshua has not faced such a large army, and reached out to LORD.
6 The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”
The LORD asked Joshua to 'hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.' Therefore, Joshua's men cut their nerves under their hams, or hamstring them, so that they might be rendered useless thereafter. LORD did not want the kings of Israel to multiply horses. Their chariots were to be burned so that the Israelites would not use them afterwards, who might be tempted to put their trust and confidence in them in the event of a war, rather than the LORD.

Joshua, depending upon Divine Help, led the Israelite warriors before the gigantic army of northern cities and conquered every city. He later hamstrung the horses and burnt the chariots. They burned the city of Hazor to the ground, but did not set ablaze the other cities and destroyed all of the people.

Towards the end of this chapter we read,
23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.
Now the men could go back to their families and do other interesting things; they were excited.

List of Defeated Kings
This is the tally of those kings which were defeated by Israelites - the children of LORD.

Drum rolls please..

The kings defeated under the command of our Prophet and leader, who ignited the conquest of a series or victories on this land - by the one and only Moses:

  • king of the Amorites, Sihon
  • king of Bashan, Og

Next, for the loooong list of kings defeated by the courageous leader, who meditated the laws of our LORD day and night, practiced them and put his entire faith in the LORD to accomplish this task - our hero Joshua: 

  • the king of Jericho
  • the king of Ai (near Bethel)
  • the king of Jerusalem
  • the king of Hebron
  • the king of Jarmuth
  • the king of Lachish
  • the king of Eglon
  • the king of Gezer
  • the king of Debir
  • the king of Geder
  • the king of Hormah
  • the king of Arad
  • the king of Libnah
  • the king of Adullam
  • the king of Makkedah
  • the king of Bethel
  • the king of Tappuah
  • the king of Hepher
  • the king of Aphek
  • the king of Lasharon
  • the king of Madon
  • the king of Hazor
  • the king of Shimron Meron
  • the king of Akshaph
  • the king of Taanach
  • the king of Megiddo
  • the king of Kedesh
  • the king of Jokneam in Carmel
  • the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor)
  • the king of Goyim in Gilgal
  • the king of Tirzah
Well, all can relax a bit for now. 

Good day today. 

------------------------------Bible Reading ------------------------------

WARNING: Some of the actions performed in this book are dangerous and should only be attempted by professionals familiar with the action in question.

-----------------------------------Homework Assignment: 

Point to Ponder
Explain briefly why LORD did not allow Israelites to take any plunder from Jericho as explained in Joshua 6: 18, but were allowed to do so during their next invasion in Joshua 8: 2.  

Joshua 6: 18 "But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them."
Joshua 8: 2 "You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”

I know many of my readers are astonishingly brilliant and can expect fabulous and fantastic thought provoking answers. I will post my response next Monday. 

-----------------------------------Additional Info 1
The Achan Syndrome
Achan, when interrogated by Joshua said, "I saw, I coveted, I took." He became excited at the sight of the that costly robe of Shinar, even thought it brought him face to face with death. Once he committed the first sin, moving on to the next one was easy - he robbed the gold and silver devoted to the treasury of the LORD. The gold and silver is estimated to be of $80,000 present value. 

Talking about the first sin, there is a pattern in what happened at the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:6: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it

One man Achan's sin affected the entire Israel nation. Same moral from Eden as well - everyone was affected by the act of Adam and Eve. 

In our case, certain goods become lustful for our eyes; the lust grows and leads us towards an eagerness to possess it. We fall prey for it and take it - which results in sin. Sin affects everyone and is contagious, affecting all of us. 

The evil of sin exists not only in our external world, but also within our churches. There are so many Achans within our church communities. Numerous robberies take place from the treasury of the LORD, yielding hidden unlawful gains. Few individuals may benefit momentarily, but looking at the example of Achan, blessings upon the entire community may be withheld. 

To get rid of Achan Syndrome, one needs to seek God’s face for guidance and help, as Joshua did. He is the only one who can and will give us the antidote, when asked. 

---------------------------------Additional Info 2
Tearing Clothes and sprinkling dust/ash
The defeat at Ai was an unexpected obstacle Joshua encountered in his next step towards possessing the land. It was quite common in ancient times, on hearing bad news, to express the grief of trouble. 

If someone was in sorrow, penitence, or grief, they would cover themselves with ashes or roll about in them as their outward expression. Tearing the clothes, beating the breast, tearing the hair, putting dust upon the head, and falling down prostrate, were the usual marks of deep affliction and distress. Many individuals throughout Old Testament have expressed their sorrow in a similar fashion. 

Catholics still practice it to announce their grief just before the Lenten season begins - on Ash Wednesday. The Eastern Orthodox Church does not observe Ash Wednesday; instead, Orthodox Great Lent begins on 'Clean Monday.'

Ash Wednesday was established as the first day of Lent by pope Gregory I (590-604 AD). According to the Catholic Church custom, those who had committed grievous sins were to present themselves to the bishop on Ash Wednesday. On that day the bishop would sprinkle ash onto their hair and shirts and, then each penitent would be turned out of the Church for the season of Lent. After 40 days of wearing the ashy hair-shirt, a public act of humiliation, and after a very uncomfortable plight, these penitents would be restored to the Church on Maundy Thursday. This custom was later modified. Today the palm branches blessed on Palm Sunday, are burned, blessed and stored to be used as ashes signed on the foreheads of the parishioners on the following Ash Wednesday.
Carnival, which comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning "farewell to the flesh" is celebrated the day prior to Ash Wednesday, popularly known as Mardi Gras; which ends abruptly Tuesday midnight.

-----------------------------------------Additional Info 3
Strategy, Stratagem and Tactic
Strategy is often discussed when an attack, battle, competition, or war is being planned. It is a careful plan or method for achieving a goal. Strategy is also the art of devising or employing stratagems. A stratagem is a trick or artifice used to gain advantage over an enemy or opponent. The term tactics in the military sense is concerned with the details of the deployment and movement of combat troops. Tactics in the more general sense are the device or devices for accomplishing an end.

Strategy defines HOW we are going to accomplish a goal.

A stratagem is a trick played to attain a goal or to gain an advantage over a competitor.

Tactics are those specific activities used to accomplish a strategy.

---------------------------------------------Additional Info 4
Gentleman's Handshake
The custom of shaking hands began in the days of chivalry, when it was a way of showing that one had no weapons when meeting another person. This also gave rise to tipping one's hat - or in the old days, removing one's metal helmet that was part of a suit of armor - thus indicating trust that the person being met wouldn't chop off your head.

Shaking hands, and gentlemen's agreement was a way of sealing a deal without cumbersome paperwork and the expense of having a lawyer draw up a formal contract. In those tender days of yore, a man's (person's) word was sacred, and could be relied on.

Thus comes the expression "let's shake on it" to indicate commitment and agreement. Too bad it doesn't work well these days! According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, the expression, "An Englishman's word is his bond" dates back to AD 1500.

-----------------------------------------Other Paintings
Joshua commanding the sun to stand still - Joseph Marievien Museefabre Montpellier

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still Upon Gibeon - John Martin - 1816

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still Upon Gibeon - John Martin - 1816 (zoomed in)

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still Upon Gibeon - John Martin - 1816 (Further zoomed in)

Sun Standing Still