Showing posts with label Judges. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judges. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summary of Judges



Dear Readers,

As of yesterday, we wrapped up the Book of Judges.

It is recorded as one of the darkest ages in the history of Israel consisting of dismal days of failure and rebellion. In the book of Judges, we saw the cycle of events unfold and finally LORD coming to the rescue of Israel.

Some Judges got lot of 'real estate' in the book, while others got just their names recorded in the Scripture. LORD chose people from various backgrounds despite their sinful life to serve His purpose.

Of these, Deborah is not portrayed as associated with any sort of sin or so. Rest of them had some sort of eventful death. Gideon turned into idol worship. Jepthah's human sacrifice of his daughter disturbs many, and Samson had his own weakness. By the way, Abimelech is not explicitly described as a judge.

Two things I noticed common to all these Judges were that
(a) they had absolute faith in the LORD
(b) they were able to lead Israel in the area of military and judiciary system in amazing capacity "when the Spirit of the LORD came over them." 
Though sinful and utterly hopeless, if we dedicate and submit ourselves to the LORD, chances are He may use us for His purpose.

The last two sections of the book are extremely tragic. Both these events take place right after the settlement of the Israelites in the Promised Land.
(1) Israel's religious corruption by getting into Idol worship and the fact that the grandson of Moses was helping the Danites lead it, is very disturbing. By the way, the Danites won many battles and they thought it was due to their idol worship. In later part of history, they got heavily involved in idoltary. 
(2) The story of 'Levite and his concubine' remains as one of the terrible and tragic stories in the bible. Immoral corruption at par with Sodom, led to another large massacre. 
Today we will tour the book of Ruth. Kindly check back in couple of hours.

Thank you, and have a blessed day!


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Judges 19 - 21

The Old man offering hospitality to the Levite and his Concubine - Jan-van-noordt

Introduction
We are about to read one of the grossest stories in biblical history. The wickedness at that time was rampant and portrays the extend of humiliation and suffering women had to undergo, just because the men were wicked. Similar to the earlier story, this story of moral corruption took place during the next generation of Israelites, who settled in the Promised Land.

Narrating or reading this story is a sad episode, let alone guiding you on the tour by blogging it - will do my best.

(Judges Chapter 19)
A Levite and His Concubine
Once again, this story starts with the verse,
Judges 19:1 In those days Israel had no king.
A Levite living in the remote hill country of Ephraim had a concubine from Bethlehem. She was unfaithful to him and after a quarrel, she left him and went to her father's house in Bethlehem. After four months, the Levite went to her house to persuade her to return. With him, he had his servants and two donkeys. Since this was related to family disgrace, his father-in-law was glad for the prospect of the two to be reunited. The Levite stayed there for three days, eating, drinking and sleeping. Then he wanted to leave.

The father-in-law convinced the Levite to stay for food, first. Then, once they are done eating, convinced him to stay another night. On the fifth day, the Levite prepared to leave; but again the father-in-law convinced him to have some more food. The incident repeated once again and he was able to convince the Levite to stay another night. He almost persuaded the Levite to stay one more night, but man finally made up his mind to leave, along with his servant and concubine.

Certain father-in-laws can be so dearly, lovely and sweet - especially if you have married his favorite daughter. In such cases, they will go to any extreme to make the son-in-law happy. This is the case with certain guests who come over to our house as well - if we love them immensely, and if our chemistry match, we seldom want them to leave. As the dawn cracks, the fear of them leaving creeps in and we don't want them to leave. We beg them over and over to stay. This is exactly what happened with the father-in-law - he carried on his feasting and hospitality day after day.

Back to the story, the man was heading towards Jerusalem, with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine. They passed the city of Jebus, inhabited by Jesubites and therefore did not stop for the night. Instead, they decided to stop at Gibeah, an Israelite city, to spend the night. As the sun was going down the horizon, they arrived at the city square of Gibeah. It was common during those days, for the travelers to go to the city square, and someone would take that person in for the night as a sign of hospitality. We saw this sort of hospitality in the story of Lot in Sodom.

The Levite sat with his donkeys and concubine at the city square for few hours while darkness was falling all over. It was quite uncommon for the Levite and group to stay in the square for so long, as nobody offered them hospitality. Later in the evening, an old man returned from the fields and saw them in the square. He asks them their whereabouts. The Levite told the old man that he just wanted a place to stay for the night. He even indicated that he didn't need food or straw for his donkeys as he already had them all.
Judges 19:20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 
As a mark of hospitality, the old man took them to his house and washed the Levite's feet. Those days the travellers wore sandals and due to their travel, it would get dusty as they walked. He even offered them some food.
Judges 19:22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”
Wicked in Hebrew refers to those morally deprived men. The same expression is associated with idolatry and drunkenness. Here, it refers to homosexual acts. This town had no law and order and they have sunk to such a level of debauchery that when a man comes into town, the men want to gang rape him, because he is 'fresh meat.'

What follows next is even nefarious:
Judges 19:23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”
This reminds me of the story of Lot, when those three angels arrived his home, back in Sodom. It was the last inhuman activity recorded before LORD destroyed that city. The old man was responsible for the safety of his guests. He was willing to safeguard his guests at the price of his own virgin daughter, who was most likely very young, to be brutally raped by these wicked scoundrels for their debauched pleasure. Imagine the tension of those within the house. The two women, who are offered up so recklessly, apparently have no voice or say in what happens to them the next moment. The mob wants the man!

I am not going to type up the next part, as it despicable to anyone who can visualize such events; hence am quoting it verbatim.
Judges 19:25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”
In the last part, the people who are talking are those tribal leaders, to other tribal leaders. They are considering what to do next. The story does not mention about the father-in-law. But I am wondering - he probably got a heart attack upon hearing this news. How hospitable he was while waving goodbye to the traveling pair. Let's move on!

(Judges Chapter 20)
Israelites Fight the Benjamites
Everyone, but the Benjamites gathered before the LORD at Mizpah, to find out from this Levite what had happened. Four hundred thousand (400,000) men armed with swords showed up at Mizpah. The absence of the Benjamite tribe was noticeable and they are aware that the rest of eleven tribes were gathered there - for they knew, trouble was brewing.

For the sake of this post, whenever I refer to Israelites here, they are the eleven tribes minus Benjamites - again, only for this post.

The Israelites arrived near the Levite and asked all about his brutal situation, and he in turn, asked them a question:
Judges 20:4 So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, said, “I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5 During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died. 6 I took my concubine, cut her into pieces and sent one piece to each region of Israel’s inheritance, because they committed this lewd and outrageous act in Israel. 7 Now, all you Israelites, speak up and tell me what you have decided to do.”
After seeing the sorry state of the Levite, and upon hearing the story from the horse' mouth, the Israelites did so:
Judges 20:8 All the men rose up together as one, saying, “None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house. 9 But now this is what we’ll do to Gibeah: We’ll go up against it in the order decided by casting lots. 10 We’ll take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred from a thousand, and a thousand from ten thousand, to get provisions for the army. Then, when the army arrives at Gibeah in Benjamin, it can give them what they deserve for this outrageous act done in Israel.” 11 So all the Israelites got together and united as one against the city.
Blood boiled and the men united as one. At least there are some in in the crowd who think righteously. Diplomatic talks started between the Israelites and the Benjamites. Sadly, the Benjamites stuck to their guns, and ignored the rest of the Israelites.

This meant civil war. The Benjamites assembled their own warriors - Twenty six thousand (26,000) swordsmen plus seven hundred (700) young men. Among these were highly trained elite soldiers numbering seven hundred (700) who were left-handed and skilled at the warfare of sling stones, "who could sling a stone at a hair, and not miss it;" such sharp shooters!

On the other hand, Israel gathered four hundred thousand (400,000) swordsmen. They went to the LORD and inquired which tribe should go in first. The answer was, "Judah."

The civil war stared and on the first day, twenty two thousand (22,000) Israeli swordsmen fell at the hands of Benjamites. In an unbelievable account, the Israelites went to the LORD and wept in front of the LORD till evening. They inquired whether they should go in battle against their own Israelites - Benjamites.

LORD's answer was, "Go up against them."

On the second day of the civil war, another eighteen thousand (18,000) Israelite swordsmen fell down. Fasting and weeping, they prayed in front of the LORD.

Remember Phinehas - son of Eleazar, and grandson of Aaron? Phinehas was the High Priest at that time guarding the Ark of the Covenant. The Israelites offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.

Once again, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?”

The LORD responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

To make a long story short, this time around they use a similar 'stratagem' used by Joshua when they were defeated at Ai, when Achan stole the plunder. I am thinking that Phinehas must have suggested this idea to the Israelites, as he was with Joshua during those days. On the third day, using the old stratagem, Israelites lost thirty (30) men while they decimated twenty five thousand one hundred (25,100) Benjamites. The remaining six hundred (600) Benjamites realized that disaster had come upon them and fled into wilderness, where they stayed for four months. The Israelites chopped down everyone in the city including their cattle and set the city on fire.

The story did not end there. There were repercussions which loomed all over.

(Judges Chapter 21)
Wives for the Benjamites 
At Mizpah, the Israelites vowed that they will refuse to give their daughters to the Benjamites in marriage. There are only six hundred Benjamite men left, and they have no hope of continuing their tribe.

Once the war finished and their heads cooled down, the Israelites gathered at Bethel, and sat before LORD weeping and raising their voice to Him. They were mourning because one entire tribe of the original twelve Israelites was about to be wiped out from the face of earth. They offered burnt and fellowship offerings to the LORD. The Israelites were considerate towards their brothers.

Another matter of despair was that when they gathered at Mizpah, according to the law of Moses, every tribe was supposed to get together - whoever did not show up was supposed to be put to death. Their analysis revealed that folks from Jabesh Gilead were not present at Mizpah. They wondered if this would help them solve their puzzle.

Here was their plan: put the people of Jabesh Gilead to death, because of their oath; spare those virgin women and then give those women to the remaining six hundred men from the tribe of Benjamin, as wives.

They proceed accordingly - they killed everyone in Jabesh Gilead, except for the virgin women. However a new problem emerged - there were only four hundred virgin women whom they could procure from Jabesh Gilead. They offered these women to the remaining men from the tribe of Benjamin as a peace offering. There was a deficit of two hundred women, and the two hundred men were with no wives (note that 'wives' is singular here - meaning one man was getting only one wife). Therefore, the Israelites mourned some more, as there would be no heirs for two nundred surviving Benjamites.  They could not marry any other Israelite woman due to their oath at Mizpah.

Some smart cookie came up with an ingenious idea to crack the code: There was this annual festival that took place at Shiloh - the Feast of the Tabernacle. Girls usually go around dancing during this festival. The remaining Benjamites could grab these girls while the girls were out, and they could bring them home as their wives. If the fathers of those girls objected, the Israelites would subdue them saying, "Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them."

I bet whoever this smart cookie was, he would have had an amazing career in the field of law, as he very well knew how to find a loophole within the law, rather 'how to bend the law' without breaking it.
Judges 21:23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.
Having resolved the situation, the Israelites including the Benjamites went back home.
Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

Conclusion
 We just completed the book of Judges - A sad end to a sad story in a sad book.

-----------------------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.
:-)

:-)

:-)

-------Related Paintings (click here)
SPOILER ALERT: May contain graphic images that may upset some viewers.
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Judges 17 - 18

The spies meet Jonathan while carrying idols

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

The Weekly Outlook - Aug 25, 2013
Monday, Aug 26: Judges 13 - Judges 16
Tuesday, Aug 27: Judges 17 - Judges 21
Wednesday, Aug 28: Ruth 1 - Ruth 4
Thursday, Aug 29: 1 Samuel 1 - 1 Samuel 7
Friday, Aug 30: 1 Samuel 8 - 1 Samuel 13
Saturday, Aug 31: Labor Day Weekend; Holiday

Introduction
This is our last posting on the book of Judges. As we get towards the end of this book, there are couple of vignettes describing those shocking religious and moral accounts portraying the extend of muddle those Israelites are in. This book is not organized chronologically and the events do not take place one after the other. There are no more Judges - Samson was the last. Essentially, these are two different stories. As mentioned earlier, both these stories take place right after the death of Joshua at a period of national decay.

A theme you'll repeatedly hear is, "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." Sounds like those "wild wild west narratives," during an era of general lawlessness.

Chapters 17 and 18 talk about religious corruption while chapters 19 thru 21 expound those on moral grounds. If you pick up the Bible and read it, you'll certainly wish that that such things should never have happened, nor should they take place today or in the future. Even if you sob, and shed few tears, I will dub them as 'tears of the righteous.'

Let's get to those stories as you are waiting to wrap up this book.

(Judges Chapter 17)
Micah's Idols
This story starts off in a strange way, when compared to those earlier chapters. It takes us right to the house of a man named Micah, living on the hill country of Ephraim. Micah is confessing to his mother that he was the one who stole those eleven thousand shekels of silver. His mother blessed him to counteract the curse.

Next we know is that his mother took this silver to a silversmith to cast it into an idol. Apparently, Micah is perfectly fine with this idea because he has a fully functional idol shrine with ephod, few idols, and one of his son is already performing the priestly duties. Wonder why? Because,
Judges 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
After sometime, Jonathan, a young Levite arrived at Micah's place from Bethelehem in search of better pastures. Make note of two things - (a) note this person Jonathan as he'll turn out to be an interesting character, (b) Bethlehem was not one among those 48 designated Levite cities.

Let's put some timeline to this story to make it interesting - tentatively, I would say, it took place right after Joshua's generation when the Israelites settled in the Promised Land.

Micah had a chat with this young Levite and offered him a job - to be his home priest, serving those silver idols. Jonathan, the Levite accepted the offer and lived in Micah's house while being paid ten shekels of silver a year plus boarding and food. That's all the action in chapter 17.

(Judges Chapter 18)
Danites Settle in Laish
This chapter beings with the verse,
Judges 18:1 In those days Israel had no king.
The tribe of Dan were still looking for a spot to settle down, as their share of inheritance was not yet ready - their share was still under the Phillistine territory. They wanted to "check out" what's happening where, and who's who at various places of the Promised land, already occupied by Israelites. Therefore, the leaders of the tribe sent out five warrior spies to "survey" the land. The spies arrived at Micah's house and spent the night there. (Pay attention to this, and think like a spy for a moment) 
3 When they were near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?”
4 He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, “He has hired me and I am his priest.”
5 Then they said to him, “Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful.”
6 The priest answered them, “Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD’s approval.”
The spies left Micah's house and traveled about hundred (100) miles north to check out another city, Laish - which was Israelites' northernmost settlement. Finding it isolated and prosperous, they returned to the tribal leaders and the leaders were curious to hear their 'survey report.'
Judges 18:9 They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over. 10 When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.”
Six hundred Danites, armed for battle, march their way to Laish to take over the land. Micah's house is en-route, and when the army reaches near his house, those former five spies see a twinkle in each other's eyes. They call out to their tribal leaders and said,
“Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, some household gods and an image overlaid with silver? Now you know what to do.” 
Of course, their brothers do! All six hundred armed men waited outside at the gate of Micah's house, while those five spies go inside and were greeted by the Levite. The spies came out carrying all those idols, ephod, other household gods, as if it was their mama's house!

Astonished at this sight, and the simplicity with which these spies were taking his gods, from right under his nose, in broad daylight, the Levite priest asked, "What are you doing?"
19 They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn't it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” 20 The priest was very pleased. He took the ephod, the household gods and the idol and went along with the people. 21 Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left.
I am assuming the priest would have given a helping hand carrying all those items. There is always a reason for people like these for putting their little children, livestock etc., in front of them - it is to serve as a safety net. In the event of an attack, the opponent seeing women and children would shy a bit, and the real culprits are thus always 'protected.'

After a while the neighbors shared the news with Micah, who was probably outside. They all gathered together and followed the Danites, and soon overtook them. Micah and his men were making noise as they reached closer.
23 As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, “What’s the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?”
24 He replied, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter with you?’”
25 The Danites answered, “Don’t argue with us, or some of the men may get angry and attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.” 
Micah noticed that the Danites were too strong to lock horns with. He would stay physically fit only if he turned around and went home - and that's exactly what he did.

The Danites marched northward and arrived at the city of Laish. They fought with those living there - they attacked with their sword and burned down the city. Since the people of Laish lived in an isolated area, nobody could go there for their rescue. The Danites rebuld the city according to their taste and called it the 'city of Dan' - after their ancestor Dan.

They also set up those idols which they 'picked up' on their way. Jonathan, the Levite - grandson of the greatest prophet in the history of Israel, one and only Moses, who talked to LORD as a friend, continued serving (Micah's) idols for the Danites; so did his children, all the while when the Tabernacle of LORD was at Shiloh!

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.


-----------------------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.
:-)

:-)

:-)








Monday, August 26, 2013

Judges 13 - 16


Samson by Valentin de Boulogne 1630

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

The Weekly Outlook - Aug 25, 2013
Monday, Aug 26: Judges 13 - Judges 16
Tuesday, Aug 27: Judges 17 - Judges 21
Wednesday, Aug 28: Ruth 1 - Ruth 4
Thursday, Aug 29: 1 Samuel 1 - 1 Samuel 7
Friday, Aug 30: 1 Samuel 8 - 1 Samuel 13
Saturday, Aug 31: Labor Day Weekend; Holiday

Introduction
Israelites became estranged from the law of Moses. Remember those twelve spies Moses sent out to gather military intelligence, of which ten out of those twelve were scared of giants? Well, we now meet them as Philistines. Philistines staying on the western side of the country encroached into fertile Israelite territory.

The Philistines were renowned for their production and consumption of alcoholic beverages. They managed a large spirits industry consisting of vineyards, breweries and retails outlets which advertised beer, wine, and strong drink. For consumption, they possessed those large drinking bowls such as beer mugs and wine craters.

Classified as the descendants of those giants - rude, bellicose and hostile, the Philistines turned out to be Israel's most dangerous enemy.  Apart from Baal, and Astharate, Dagon, the half fish god, was crucial to the cosmology of the Philistines and served as a vital force. Worship of Dagon among the Philistines was conducted with a highly developed and technical ritual. Human sacrifices were offered. Canaanite rituals and gods made inroads into the Israelite culture and they were disunited and subdued into idolatry.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

This is where the much awaited story of Samson and Delilah takes shape. I encourage you to read the story in the Bible, which is narrated quite well in just 4 chapters.

(Judges Chapter 13)
The Birth of Samson 
An angel of LORD appeared to a childless Israelite couple, and promised them a son who will become Israel’s next deliverer.

The angel of the LORD met with Manoah's wife:
Judges 13:3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
The woman, whose name is not mentioned, went and shared this good news with Manoah. He prayed to the LORD to show him the angel. Later, when his wife is alone in the fields, the Angel appeared to her once again. This time, she hurried and went told Manoah. He returned with her to meet up with the Angel. He then asked the angel about those rules which governed the boy's life and work. The Angel basically replied to Monoah, "It's already communicated to your wife."
Judges 13:13 The angel of the LORD answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”
Manoah out of excitement and hospitality offered a special delicacy to this 'man,' as he did not know it was an Angel of LORD. So he started asking this man's name and whereabouts. The Angel refused to give further details, but thought it was wonderful. When Manoah took a young goat and sacrificed it upon a rock, the LORD did an amazing thing:
Judges 13:20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD.
Later, the woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson - meaning sun or brightness. The LORD blessed him with the Holy Spirit, and he is off to a great start. The couple raised Samson, as a Nazirite.

(Judges Chapter 14)
Samson’s Marriage
Samson met a Philistine woman in Timnah, and the following conversation took place between him and his parents:

Samson: “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”

Samson's Parents: “Isn't there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”

Samson: “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”

The following verse tells us that it is LORD's plan and teaches us that He uses sinful human weaknesses to accomplish His purposes and bring praise to His name.
Judges 14:4 (His parents did not know that this was from the LORD  who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)
Samson and his parents went down to this girl's place in Timnah. While he was alone near the vineyard, a young lion came roaring to him. For any Nazirite, the presence of a vineyard can be a powerful source of temptation. The Holy Spirit came strongly upon him and he tore the lion with his bare hands. He then went and met the girl, but did not share the 'lion story' with his parents.

Samson waited few days for the girl to become Jewish, so that he could marry her. Jewish weddings used to last for seven days. While on his trip to get married, Samson stopped by to check on the lion's carcass. He saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He had some honey and shared with his parents as well.

On the first day of the wedding festival, he was given thirty companions (from his wife's side) and a special feast was offered. Being a Nazirite, Samson stayed sober while others got drunk. It was customary to use riddles at feasts and special occasion to keep keep the guests entertained. Therefore, to keep the conversation going,
Judges 14:12 “Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. 13 If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.”
Those linen garments were of great value at that time. 

The riddle that Samson asked was,  
“Out of the eater, something to eat;
 out of the strong, something sweet.”

Unable to solve the riddle, the men approach Samson's wife and threaten her to death if she cannot extract the answer out of Samson (for them). Samson's wife played the age old tactic used by women to manipulate men:
Judges 14:16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You've given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” 
She continues to cry those entire seven days and finally Samson gave her the answer. Those days, the custom was to answer a riddle with another riddle. Hence, they get the answer from his wife and coin another riddle as response:
“What is sweeter than honey?
 What is stronger than a lion?”

The answer to their riddle exposes Samson's weakness - which is love or sexual passion, the very thing Samson was drawn like a magnet.

Samson said to them,
“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
 you would not have solved my riddle.”

He knew they did not solve his riddle in all fairness. Hence he went out to Philistine, killed thirty Philistine men, stripped them of their clothes and returned to those who explained his riddle. This incident ruined Samson's wedding - his wife was given in marriage to one of those thirty companions who attended the feast.

(Judges Chapter 15)
Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines
During the time of wheat harvest season, he went back to his wife's house to claim her. Her father, since he had received the bride price from Samson, made a counter offer - to take her younger sister instead. Samson felt insulted and wanted to get even.
Judges 15:4 So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, 5 lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.
Philistines heard this and went and burned Samson't wife and her father. Love for his wife was still burning in his heart and therefore he went and took revenge by slaying numerous Philistines. Afterwards, he went and hid in a cave.

As a means to apply pressure upon Samson, the Philistines went to attack the tribe of Judah, asking for Samson. One thousand Judah men went to meet Samson to help them from the attack of Philistines. Samson agreed to be tied up, and delivered as a prisoner at the Philistine camp. Shouts of joy erupted from the Philistine camp. Then the spirit of the LORD came upon Samson, those cords which bound his arms became as flax burnt with fire, and the bands fell loose. Using the jaw-bone of an ass which he found nearby, he slew a thousand Philistine men with it.

After killing a thousand Philistines, Samson became very thirsty, and he cried out to the LORD, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”

LORD provided water for Samson, as He provided for the Israelites while in the desert. Drinking it, he gained strength and became revived

After this incident, Samson became the Judge of the Israelites and led them for twenty years.

(Judges Chapter 16)
Samson and Delilah
We are now at one of the most popular biblical stories - Samson and Delilah. Their story is one of seduction, greed, lust, deception and destruction. The story opens up with Samson visiting a prostitute at a seaport.
Judges Chapter 16:1 One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. 2 The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”
I think the above incident is mentioned here to educate the reader that though Samson possessed supernatural strength, he lacked moral strength.

Samson fell in love with a Philistine woman, named Delilah. The Philistines decided to take advantage of this situation, and they asked Delilah to “lure” him into showing her the secret to his strength. They agreed to pay her about thirty (30) pounds of silver as her reward.

Delilah agreed to play the double agent

So she asked Samson the secret to his strength. He told her that if anyone tied him with seven fresh bowstrings, ones which haven’t been dried, then he would become as weak as anyone else. Hearing this, the Philistines supplied Delilah with such bowstrings. Delilah then tied Samson with them, when he came to spend the night with her. She then called out to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Samson snapped the thongs "as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame.” Most logically, he would have overpowered those Philistines who came to take him.

Interestingly, now the blame is upon Samson:
Judges 16:10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”
Delilah used those same tactics - those of emotional manipulation, earlier used by Samson's wife.

Samson gives another 'version' of the same story as earlier regarding the secret of his strength- seven new ropes. Delilah took seven new ropes and bound him. With men hidden in the room, she called out  “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.

Samson may not have been akin to a modern day bodybuilder like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He may have possessed the supernatural strength as a special gift from the Holy Spirit. Delilah continued her emotional manipulation and she sure would have played those girly tricks along with it.
Judges 16:13 Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”
In his mind, Samson would have been saying, "I am already tied with love to this Philistine woman called Delilah. Samson would have suspected the intentions of Delilah, especially after those two incidents. However, he came up with a third version of the story, just like having fun with her, and said, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”

Delilah tried it out while Samson was asleep and called out, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Samson, who is blindly in love with her, woke up from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.
Judges 16: 15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 
Unfortunately, Delilah's heart was not with Samson. She was unable to visualize his continued commitment in her. She kept on nagging him day after day, until he was almost sick to death. When Samson could not handle it anymore, he finally betrayed the source of his own strength.
17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
Delilah then shared this valuable piece of information with the Philistines and asked them to return at a specific time. She then put Samson to sleep in her lap, and arranged someone to shave off his hair. This time when she called out, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you,” he could not shake himself free - the strength of the Holy Spirit had left him. They gouged his eyes, bound him and took him to prison, where his hair began to grow.

The Death of Samson
Dagon was a popular god of Philistines and thousands of Philistines gathered to celebrate a great sacrifice and revelry. They credited dagon for delivering Samson into their hands. Samson was brought from the prison to entertain them. In his blindness, they wanted to make cruel sport so that everyone could enjoy the sight.

The inner part of dagon's temple was filled with people as well as the roof. In a gesture to mock him, a young boy was leading Samson by a chain and Sasson became a trophy for those men and women worshiping false gods.

Samson made a request, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”

About three thousand men and women were on the roof of the temple, watching Samson being humiliated and tortured.
28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
The family of Samson went and obtained his body and buried him.

That was the end of supernatural Judge Samson, who led Israel for twenty years. Samson is inducted into the 'Hall of Faith' among those who conquered kingdoms through faith, administered justice, and gained what was promised, whose weakness was turned to strength. This tells us that LORD can use people of faith, no matter how imperfectly they live their lives.


-----------------------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.
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--------------------------------------Additional Info 1
History of Phoenicia
Those interested in learning more about the Near Eastern Civilization, click here to read History of Phoenicia

-------------------------------------Additional Info 2
Emotional Manipulation
Samson's wife was using emotional manipulation when she said, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You've given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”

Emotional manipulation is any time someone uses your emotions as a weapon against you. If you finish a conversation feeling like an emotional wreck, or feel emotionally drained after reading an email, chances are you've been emotionally manipulated.  If you start to dread time alone with someone for fear of where conversations might go and what might be said, you’re probably dealing with an emotional manipulator.

Almost everyone experiences some level of manipulation from someone at some point in their lives.
Many of us don’t recognize manipulation when it occurs, mainly because it violates our basic assumptions about how people should behave. We simply don’t expect it. Learn how to recognize it readily. You cannot be manipulated if you are aware that it is happening – at the moment it happens.

1) Manipulators try to  gain power over us in ways that are not obvious. Our gut (basic emotions) may tell us that they're fighting for something, struggling to overcome us, but because we can't point to clear, objective evidence they're aggressive against us and we cant validate our feelings.

2) Manipulators often know us better than we know ourselves. They know what buttons to push, when and how hard. Our lack of self-knowledge sets us up to be exploited. The manipulators are well aware of your insecurities, weakness and excitements. They know exactly how to provoke these issues to get their work done. They know what to say that triggers your excitements and worries and  they have their work done while  you are thinking about these issues. So be on guard that you’re not being naive, overconscientious, or over-intellectual about issues because manipulators can and will use that against you.

3) They come across as caring, hurting, defending, vulnerable – almost anything but fighting – and these tactics obscure their real motives.

4) Your attention will be on the responsibility you feel, to take care of them, but you don’t recognize that they are trying to take advantage of you.

5) Some people are vulnerable and always tries to please people so that they can be accepted. Manipulators know well that these people needs acceptance and attention and they take advantage of this trait.

Click here to read more.

-------------------------------------Related Paintings
There are numerous paintings related to Samson and Delilah. Sharing some of them below. Click on the image below to take you to flickr. You now have the option of viewing it in full screen or so.
SPOILER ALERT: Don't try opening these if you are at work.

www.flickr.com
This is a Flickr badge showing items in a set called Judges 13 - 16 (Samson and Delilah). Make your own badge here.

Judges 11 - 12

Jephthah meets his Daughter

This was part of Saturday's posting. Please check back for today's posting after 8:00 AM.

Jephthah
Soon after the death of Judge Jair, the Israelites fell back into idolatry. The degree of idol worship had now reached new heights. They had a long list of gods apart from Baal and Ashtoreths - Mot, Anath, Rimmon, Chemosh, Molech, Dagon and Baal-Zebub. Bible says that at this point the Israelites no longer worshiped the LORD. This new list of gods meant new worship rituals as well. Among these gods. Molech was popular for child sacrifices. People would offer their firstborn child to molech. Do you recall LORD rebuking the Israelites for "eating the burnt offerings offered to their gods?" During molech worship, firstborn children were offered into a burning furnace as sacrifice and they ate that sacrifice as part of the ritual (see More on idol worship).

Once again the Israelites were delivered into the hands of their enemies. This time, they were "sold into the hands" of Philistines, followed by Ammonites. They imposed heavy burdens upon Israelites and kept them oppressed for eighteen years. The Ammonites then crossed the Jordan and attacked those powerful tribes of Judah, Ephraim, and Benjamin.

They reached out to the LORD. Be careful - the LORD is angry.

11 The LORD replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines,
12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands?
13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.
14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

Notice how LORD answered! Sometimes don't you and I, we, answer exactly like this to our beloved loved ones, out of frustration, distress and sadness? Not because we want to see them suffer, but out of our own sorrow, agony and anguish. Notice how Genesis 1:27 takes shape - in His image!

The Israelites do not give up. After getting rid of their idols, they reached out to the LORD again. This time the loving LORD could no longer bear their misery.

The Ammonites were assembled in the land of Gilead, prepared for warfare.

Jephthah, was the son of Gilead, born to a prostitute. Gilead had other sons born to his wife. Having been born illegitimately, Jephthah was driven out of his father's house by his half-brothers to avoid sharing the family inheritance with him. So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him. Jephthah turned out to be a mighty warrior.

When Ammonites were in the land of Gilead, the elders requested Jephthah to lead the war as there was none among the Israelites to take up this task. They offered him to make him a permanent chieftain, if he defeated the Ammonites. For now, he was made their chief so that he could lead the war.

In a diplomatic manner, Jephthah started a series of negotiations with the Ammonite king. Their discussion topics centered around those transjordanian boundary, which belonged to Israelites. Negotiations broke down and war was imminent.

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He led his army to fight those Ammonites. Before the battle, he made a strange vow:
Judges 11:30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,
31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD'S, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
Leviticus 27 speaks about making vows to the LORD.

With LORD'S help, Jephthah was able to pull off a victory over the Ammonites. When Jephthah returned home victoriously, his one and only child - his daughter, came out of the front door dancing to the sound of timbrels to meet him.

Devastated, Jephthah said that he could not break the vow made to LORD.

36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD  Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

He let his daughter go out. She and her friends went to the mountians and roamed around as she would never marry and remain as a virgin. She came back after two months and Jephthah did as he vowed. In commemoration of this, the Israelite women go out to the mountains to bewail her fate for four days a year.

Jephthah and Ephraim
Do you recall the Ephraimites complaining to Gideon for not including them in the battle, under section, Zebah and Zalmunna in Judges 8? A similar conversation takes place here. Earlier, Gideon gave them a humble answer which placated them. However, now the war of words take place and it eventually leads into a war.

The Ephraimites asked Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.”

He told them that he had reached out to them, but they failed to show up. He then asked them, "Now why have you come up today to fight me?”

Jephthah was provoked when the Ephraimites re approached them in an insulting language, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.”

Their conversation did not end up peacefully, and finally due to pride they locked horns, which led to a war between Jephthah and Ephraimites. This, I believe is the first war among the children of Jacob (Israelites). Eventually Jephthah captured the bridge of Jordan. Whoever tried to cross the bridge was asked, “Are you an Ephraimite?”  If anyone replied, “No,” they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’ If anyone said, “Sibboleth,” because they could not pronounce the word correctly, they were put to death. Forty-two thousand (42,000) Ephraimites were killed at that time.

Shibboleth in Hebrew meant flood and those living on the east of river Jordan pronounced it's initial letter with a strong 'sh,' while those on the west with a soft 's.' See more in additional info, below.

Jephthah led Israel as a judge for a period of six years.


Ibzan, Elon and Abdon
The three Judges who ruled Israel after Jephthah were Ibzan, Elon and Abdon. Bible gives minimal account about these three Judges.  

Ibzan is also know as Boaz in the book of Ruth. Ibzan had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. Ibzan was buried in Bethlehem.

After Ibzan, Elon led Israel ten years. Elon died and was buried in Aijalon.

Abdon led Israel for eight years after Elon. Abdon had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys.

-----------------------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.


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--------------------------------------Additional Info 1
Shibboleth
The word made into English language and means a peculiarity of pronunciation. Shibboleth is a word, sound, or custom that a person unfamiliar with its significance may not pronounce or perform correctly relative to those who are familiar with it. It is used to identify foreigners or those who do not belong to a particular class or group of people. It also refers to features of language, and particularly to a word or phrase whose pronunciation identifies a speaker as belonging to a particular group.

Hilo, Hawai'i: The city is often pronounced as 'high-low' when locals pronounce it 'hee-low'. Many native Hawaiian names abound on the Big Island of Hawai'i, and are cause of many shibboleths. The town of Hawi, Hawai'i is often pronounced as 'hah-wee' by outsiders, when locals will pronounce it 'huh-vee'. Similarly, the state name of Hawai'i is often pronounced as 'huh-why-ee' by outsiders, when locals tend to pronounce it 'huh-vye-ee' (with or without the glottal break in the coda).

Marietta, Georgia: This town was once called "May-retta" or "Mar-retta" by its residents and "Mary-etta" by those that are not from there. Since the rapid influx of newer residents starting in the 1980s, this is no longer true, especially in Eastern Marietta, where "Mary-etta" is now a more favored pronunciation.

In the world of computers, the general concept of shibboleth is to test something. The most commonly usage is while logging on to a computer with a password. If the correct password is entered, the user is logged on; if an incorrect password is entered, the user can go no further - means it has been 'shibbolized'.

Credits: Wikipedia

--------------------------------------Related Paintings
Numerous artists have captured the story of Jephthah on canvas. Some of them were non-biblical artists, and still the story of Jephthah captured their interest.

Jephthah Greeted by his Daughter at Mizpath - Quellinus, Erasmus

Jephthah- Hogers Jacob

Jephthah Greeted by his Daughter - Erasmus Quellinus

Jephthah - John Everett Millais - 1867

 Jephthah's Daughter 

Jephthah’s Daughter - Thomas Buchanan 

The daughter of Jephthah - Édouard Debat-Ponsan

Jephthah's daughter sent away for two months - Freebibleillustrations

Lament of Jephthah's Daughter - Narcisse Diaz de la Pena 1846

The Sacrifice of Jephthah's Daughter - Giovanni Battista Pittoni

The Sacrifice of Jephthah's Daughter - Charles Le Burn

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)

Gideon
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.

Abimelech
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.

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

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


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-------------------------------------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
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.
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