Judges Chapters 11 and 12

As we continue with the book of Judges, it is going to get more and more upsetting and depressing. The stories become more brutal as the book progresses, which just expresses how unrighteous the Israelites were being. Chapters 11 and 12 focus primarily on a man named Jephthah, a Gileadite. We will see how God uses him and brings to life an unexpected hero.

Chapter 10 finished off by explaining how the Israelites were in conflict with the Ammonites and they were staying in Gilead and the people of Gilead knew that whoever saved them from Gilead will lead them. Gilead was the father to Jephthah and Jephthah was a strong warrior but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s son wanted Jephthah gone so that the inheritance would go to his children with her so Jephthah fled to live in the land of Tob where he lived with “worthless fellows” aka criminals (Judges 11:3). Jephthah was running crime out in Tob, he was like a mobster in a way. After a while the people of Gilead were not able to get the Ammonites out so they asked Jephthah to help them – the man they had kicked out previously was asked to be their savior. Jephthah of course agrees to help but on the one condition that he would lead the people of Gilead if he was successful. Jephthah tries to use logic with the king of the Ammonites before having to go into battle. The king would not listen because he was still angered by the fact that the Israelites had taken their old land away. Jephthah tried to explain that the land was given to them from God because the Ammonites had not tried to help them when fleeing Egypt. The Ammonite king did not agree and still wanted battle.

This is when the story turns to the good for the Israelites but terribly for Jephthah. Jephthah promises God that he will do anything to win this battle and promises God that he would sacrifice whoever was the first one to come out of his home after he returned from winning the battle. He assumed of course that it would just be a servant or a pet even…he did not know that it would be who it was. Jephthah was victorious and returned home. Who was the one to come outside the house door first? His beloved, and only daughter that he loved more than anyone in the world! She was so excited to see him be victorious and now he would have to sacrifice her. He tells her that he has to do something he doesn’t want to do and she encourages him to keep his promise to God. Jephthah let his daughter have 2 months of life before he killed her. “And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made,” Judges 11:39. Jephthah had kept to his promise even when it meant killing his most beloved person. It is written that to this day people in Israel still honor Jephthah’s daughter and her lost virginity because it is recognized of his sacrifice.

To end off Jephthah’s role as judge we must examine in chapter 12 his battles with Ephraim. They were upset that they were not chosen to take part in battle against the Ammonites because they saw themselves as the top soldiers. The people of Ephraim had actually helped the Ammonites and as a result Jephthah decides to punish them by having them killed and they went after the Ephraimite fugitives too. Apparently Ephraimites could not pronounce the word “Shibboleth” the same as the Gileadites (they pronounced it as “Sibboleth”), so that is how Jephthah and his soldiers determined who the Ephraimites were. Jephthah judged Israel for 6 years.

3 Judges are mentioned in a tiny paragraph and they were: Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. Ibzan judged for 7 years. Elon judged for 10 years and Abdon judged for 8 years.

The next chapters are on a story that many are probably aware of and heard growing up in Sunday school, if they grew up in the church! I will leave that for the next post.   :)

Judges Chapters 9 and 10

These two chapters are more of Debbie Downer chapters to say the least! But the brutality of this time is important to see for it shows what it is like to have a land of the godless…. think of all the violence we face in the world today and all of those that are faithless or flat out deny God. We as God’s children face such violence and unrest within a Godless society and it is evident while reading the book of Judges that it was happening for the Israelites as well.

So Abimelech was the son of Jerubbaal aka Gideon and he was the son to a concubine as well. He decided that in order to become ruler of the Israelites, really a king because Gideon set up himself to seem like a king, that he must kill all of his brothers. Gideon was a busy man and had 70 sons – it is safe to say Gideon was not faithful in his marriage. The thing is, that Abimelech missed one of his brothers named Jotham when he was murdering everyone (I am sure it was hard to keep up with names and faces with that many brothers). Abimelech crowned himself king believing that there was no one to go against him and his “claim” to the throne (remember this is the book of Judges not the book of Kings, so this “throne” will end soon enough). Jotham speaks to all of the elders and uses this wonderful parable to describe what it is like to Abimelech rule. There was a group of trees that wanted a ruler so it asked for the olive trees to lead, but they did not want to leave their prestigious life. Next they asked the fig tree but it did not want to lead because it had a sweet life. Next they asked the vine to lead them but the vine said it needed to make wine that brought such happiness to people. Finally the trees asked the bramble (a tumbleweed) to lead them and he said only if it is in good faith that they want him will he come otherwise he will rule them to their deaths (Judges 9:7-15). So the tumbleweed is of course Abimelech for he was not chosen to rule in good faith but by force, so he would bring ruin. Abimelech ruled for three years until GOD sent an evil spirit to bring down his relationships with his leaders and bring him down as the unrighteous leader that he was. God sent the evil spirit, which shows once again that God is in control even when it seems like he is not present.

Abimelech had a rather strange and gruesome death. He was trying to burn down an opposing city and had rounded up all of the people (women and children as well) into a tower and was going to cast the whole tower with fire. A woman threw a millstone from the tower onto Abimelech’s head. There are so many strange deaths throughout the book of Judges but they are definitely interesting. Think of Sisera with the tent peg in his head from Jael…it is interesting how household objects for this time were being used to expel evil. God was returning the evil to Abimelech that he had committed.

We fast forward through some judges in chapter 10 but we do know it is back to judges ruling rather than kings. Tola judged Israel for 23 years and he died and then God “arose” (remember God has a cycle and is always raising up a judge) Jair who judged for 22 years. The detail of his thirty sons and thirty cities created by Jair are included. The Israelites of course turned away from God and toward Baals and other false gods and as a result, for 18 years God allowed the Philistines and Ammonites to rule over the Israelites for God was tired of having to constantly save the unrighteous Israelites when they were just using Him to save them rather than worshipping Him. The Israelites at the end of the chapter are in search for someone to save them and God of course was already in the process of raising up a new judge and we will see in the next post who that was!

Judges Chapters 7 and 8

Sorry for not posting as often – with it being my last semester at UNC I have had a ton of work to do including applying to grad school! Oh and last weekend I got engaged! :D You could say that I am beyond excited and I cannot wait for what is to come! I have always felt since I have started dating my fiancé three and a half years ago and even before that when we were good friends year before that, that fate was pulling us together. Now I realize that it is God wanting us to work and help each other in life and I am ecstatic about it!

Chapter 7 has one of the cleverest battles throughout the Bible and it is of Gideon with 300 men taking on a whole Midianites army (thousands and thousands of soldiers). What makes this story interesting is that Gideon had 32,000 soldiers to begin with but God believed that was too many people, so the force dropped down to 10,000 and God still believed that this was too many to take on the Midianites. That is crazy to think that God was looking for only 300 to take on the Midinites, but that is what His ultimate plan was! No one could deny taking part in supporting Gideon and his army. God wanted the army to be as weak as possible while going against the strongest army at the time! There was as many Midianites as “the sand that is on the seashore,” Judges 7:12. God told Gideon to head toward the camp of Midianites and he did so and while he did this he heard a soldier of the Midianites telling of how he had a dream of God handing over the Midinites to Gideon…. this is all Gideon needed to hear to decide that God was truly on his side in this fight. It is hard for me to comprehend this because God had already proven himself (which was not needed) to Gideon but I guess Gideon needed assurance from a stranger? I mean I cannot say that I would not be fearful because I am sure I would be but it is crazy how God knew Gideon would need to hear about that dream. So Gideon returned to camp and grabbed his 300 men while the Midianites were changing their midnight shifts aka soldiers that were on the lookout farther out from camp were coming into camp to sleep and those that had been sleeping were going on watch, so there was a lot of movement going on amongst the Midianite soldiers. All 300 of Gideon’s soldiers were all playing trumpets and drums and lit jars and this actually scared the Midianites because from the distance, in the dark, it appeared that a very large troop was heading their way and the loud drums and jars made it look and sound like it was just the beginning. The Midianites then begin to attack this supposed large force and they were actually killing themselves and attacking one another because of the switching of the night watch that was coming in was thought to be the supposed large force! Clever clever clever! Gideon and only 300 soldiers defeated the Midianites! God gave Gideon all that Gideon needed and it was all because Gideon was able to eventually trust in God.

Chapter 8 is a sad ending in a way because Gideon began to go sour because of course he is of the flesh and a “broken savior” as my pastor says. While leaving the battle where they had defeated the Midianites and was going to now fight 2 more militaries (Zebah’s and Zalmunna’s armies), Gideon’s army was of course exhausted so he asked various territories they went through for food and drink. These territories would not help so after he defeated the two kings, he went back and pillaged the unhelpful villages and killed all that inhabited them. Gideon was then treating himself as a king of Israel versus a Judge and was expecting to have a large palace and concubines. The Israelites did have rest for 40 years and of course after these 40 years, God began to raise up another judge aka savior for the Israelites. At the time of Gideon’s death, he had 70 sons and many wives and concubines and there is mention of one of his sons, Abimelech, whom was the son of a concubine. After Gideon’s death the Israelites turned away from Gideon’s family and they also began to worship Baals again (the endless cycle of the Israelites at this time).

Judges Chapters 4, 5, and 6

I truly find the book of Judges to be one of the most interesting books in the Old Testament, which is most likely because I read through the book through the sermons done at the church I attend while at school. Either way, I feel like I have learned so much about God through the book of Judges and I hope I can portray it in some sense.

Chapter 4 of the book of Judges revolves around 2 women and 2 men that are intriguing to follow. God had Deborah (a prophetess) arise as a judge once His people had once again turned away from Him, and were begging for His forgiveness once again after they had been ruled by another group of people (this time it is the Canaanites and King Jabin). I could go into the role of Deborah as a woman and the role of women in general in how God uses them, but that would need its own post. Deborah was still used as an important figure for God, and she is still clearly labeled as being the wife to Lappidoth, even though he does not play a large role in this chapter at all. Okay, so God has Deborah as the new judge and tells her to have Barak go to battle against Sisera, who was the commander of the Canaanite army at this time. Barak requests Deborah to go with him and she agrees, and says,

’I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are not going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman,’” Judges 4:9.

So naturally we assume that this woman to take care of Sisera must be Deborah because she is going along to this battle as well. But then the story shifts to a whole other woman and her husband. The man’s name is Heber and he, along with his wife Jael were pitching a tent near Mount Tabor, which is where Barak is suppose to go to battle against Sisera. During the battle Sisera fled and ended up at Heber’s tent because there was peace between Heber’s family (a Kenite family) and the king of Hazor (the Canaanite Jabin). Jael did what any woman would do at this time: she showed him great hospitality and then, you know, stabbed and killed him with a tent peg to his temple… Jael then went out to meet Barak who had headed towards the tent looking for Sisera. So Jael was the woman to bring down Sisera, with a tent peg – talk about being resourceful! Deborah’s prophecy had been correct.

God used both men and women to save the Israelites just like He still uses both brothers and sisters of Christ to bring the Gospel to all! Chapter 5 is interesting because it is a song by Deborah and Barak about how God has a plan for them all and there is proof in the fact that Jael and her husband happened to decide to pitch a tent in that exact spot and Sisera thought that they were on the same side…God’s plan is miraculous. Jael was truly an unexpected savior, because she was a woman and all she had going for her was that she was “at the right place at the right time,” which we all know was God’s plan. God will use one’s availability versus their ability because God will provide us with all that we need! I mean, God could have used the warrior Barak that had thousands of men and all of the ability in the world, but instead God used one woman because she had Sisera’s trust and one resource to kill him at the time. God is amazing! Deborah and Barak’s song portrays this and discourages spectators, but that all should be taking part in honoring God (5:23). Israel would be free for 40 years before they faced another cycle of being unrighteous and then being ruled by another group while God raises up a new judge.

The next judge to come to play majorly questions and tests God and shows how God is okay with being tested to an extent because He understands that we are human and incapable of understanding all of His plans completely! Gideon is the new judge and he shows as we will see in chapter 6, 7, and 8 that God creates Gideon’s courage by creating a calling. One would think it would be the opposite (create a calling to get courage) but God wants the trust and love in Him which gives one courage. So the Israelites had been under the Midinites for 7 years when God began to rise of Gideon. So Gideon was truly a coward for when an angel came to him, he was in the process of hiding wheat in the olive press room because the Midinites would constantly take wheat and grain from the Israelites for their troops. The angel scares Gideon (of course – no one is never not scared seeing one throughout the Bible), and tells Gideon that the LORD is with him and Gideon responds pretty much like, “If He is with us then why are we being treated terribly by the Midinites?” The angel I am sure was expecting that answer and answers Gideon by saying how God had saved them from Egypt and has continuously since then! Gideon then has God tell him personally that he will be saving the Israelites and Gideon’s response was: “Why me? I am the weakest in my family and my family is part of the weakest clan.” (I paraphrased again). God tells him, “But I will be with you…” (6:15). God then encourages Gideon to burn the Baal altar in his own home, because revival should be occurring there first before anywhere else! The Midinites began to get closer to the Israelites and Gideon, so God kept trying to make him courageous. Gideon requests 2 more tests (not just one, but two). Gideon has Him do the fleece test. Gideon left fleece out and wanted it not to have dew on it and the grass to still have dew. So God fulfilled the test. Gideon was still scared so asked for the reverse to happen (grass to be dry, and the fleece to be wet). God completed the test once again!

I will continue with Gideon in my next post…I know this was a lot this week but that is what happens when I hear a sermon on a particular passage, because I understand it so much more than I normally would have and I have more information on it as well! So plan on all of my posts on the book of Judges to be longer than normal :)

Judges Chapters 1, 2, and 3

I have been looking forward to blogging about the book of Judges after Pastor JD preached on the book this summer at the church I attend in the Triangle (Summit Church). The series was called “Broken Saviors” and it was a joy to listen to and study. So of course there are some things that I would not have known while reading this book, but luckily I have my notes from the sermons and they provide great insight! I will be using a combination of my sermon notes along with my notes I have taken while reading through the book as I was reading (which is what I normally blog off of).

The book of Judges shows the history of the Israelites following the death of Joshua and the constant ups and downs of the Israelites as they went back in forth on their faith in God and they experienced their greatest times of strength but also their greatest times of weakness. The first chapter tells of God handing the Canaanites into the hands of the Israelites as God had promised. All of the tribes had united to fight the Canaanites and the other various groups of people that were within the Promised Land from God and they were successful. The Israelites however did do something that they were not suppose to do which was allow the Canaanites to still live within the territories because they were being kept as slaves – God had told them specifically to kick them out completely. This is the beginning of the Israelites not following God completely. As a result of their failure to follow God completely, the Canaanites rose up once again against the Israelites. If they had gotten rid of the Canaanites completely, this would not have happened.

God tells the people that as a result of their disobedience: “’I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you,’” Judges 2:3. A thorn in a person’s side means that it would be an annoyance or a pest that will not go away. The thorn might not be hurting or annoying you for a certain period of time but eventually it will start to again. (In the New Testament, Paul tells of a thorn in his side that God wanted him to continuously fight in order to show faith in Him.) So what do the Israelites do? They sacrificed to the LORD in verse 5 and by verse 11 and the death of Joshua happening in between, they were already worshiping Baals. The result of their unfaithfulness to God and their faithfulness to the false gods was of course for the Israelites to be plundered and torn apart by other groups within the Promised Land. While the people were being unfaithful to God, God was always in the process of raising up a savior and these saviors usually had their own brokenness or weakness to themselves (this is why the series at church was labeled “Broken Saviors”). The cycle of what happens throughout the entire book is as follows: “Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them, and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel…” Judges 2:18-20.

God would then bring war to Israel as a test for the people, to see if they would turn to Him or to the false gods. God wanted them to show their faith for Him and this did not necessarily happen. Eventually God allowed the king of Mesopotamia to take over Israel and of course he rose up a savior named Othniel to save them, and as soon as he died they returned to their unrighteous ways. God then of course raised up a new savior and an unexpected, broken savior at that. He brought Ehud up as the judge to save them. Ehud was labeled as the left handed judge which at this time meant that he was disabled in some sense – like he probably couldn’t even use his right arm or hand. At the time Moab was ruling over the Israelites and their king was an extremely fat king named Eglon. Ehud was able to use his wit to kill the king by pretty much making Eglon’s officials believing he was in the bathroom when he really was being stabbed and then killed by Ehud. Eventually the Moabites went against Ehud with 10,000 men and they were all killed and defeated because God was protecting Ehud. Under Ehud, Israel “rested” for 80 years without turning away from God, but as always when Ehud the judge died, the people turned away from God once again. The next judge consisted of one verse and his name was Shamgar and he saved the people from the Philistines after they had turned away from God after Ehud’s death.

What does the judge Ehud show about God? He puts His strength in the weak and those that are willing to rely on their faith to protect them! God protects the weak always and He works through the weak to make them strong!

Ruth Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 (FINALE)

So I will be consolidating all of the book of Ruth into one post because it is only 4 chapters but at the same time it is important to look at the details so this post will be longer than normal! The three main characters to follow are Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz and there is of course others mentioned but to make it less confusing I will just avoid using their names as well!

So Naomi is a woman that was married to a man and had two sons but at the time there was a famine in the land where they lived (they lived in Bethlehem). The family decided to go to Moab in hopes of finding food that they could not get within Judah. The two sons of Naomi married Moabite women. One of these women was named Ruth. Eventually Naomi’s husband and her two sons died, which meant that both Naomi and Ruth were widows. Following the death of her children and husband, Naomi decided that she wanted to return to Bethlehem for there was now food and Judah was home for her. Naomi told Ruth and the other daughter-in-law to stay but Ruth refused to leave Naomi, so Ruth went along with Naomi to Bethlehem. Ruth had the upmost loyalty to Naomi just like she did to God.

An important detail for Naomi is that she changed her name from Naomi (meaning full in Hebrew) to Mara (meaning empty in Hebrew) because she had returned without the family she had left with. I will still refer to her as Naomi, but this just shows how much anguish she was feeling over losing her family. Naomi’s husband had family still in Bethlehem so they were to watch over her and help her, and the kin she wanted to help her was Boaz. Naomi wanted Ruth to meet Boaz (she was evidently playing matchmaker) so she sent Ruth to tend to the family land that Boaz now owned. Naomi wanted Boaz to find favor within Ruth. Since Ruth was a Moabite she was looked down on by the society because she was a foreigner but Boaz did not care and still wanted to help her. Boaz tells her that she can of course work in the fields because it is God’s land after all and that Boaz respected her for leaving her friends and family in Moab in order to stay true to Naomi and as a result she has now taken refuge in Israel under the almighty God!

Naomi tells Ruth, after Ruth shares the great news of Boaz liking her, to go see Boaz and sleep next to him on the threshing floor. Ruth tells Boaz that he is a redeemer to her and he points out to her that there is of course a greater redeemer in God and that he is happy to honor Ruth for she has shown to be righteous. Naomi had also told Ruth to remain patient for Boaz would do what was right in God’s eyes and this was true!

Boaz the next day speaks to the possible redeemer (he would be the one to get Naomi and Ruth’s land along with having to marry Ruth). The redeemer was willing to give everything to Boaz because if he had to be married to a Moabite, which would happen if he redeemed the land, then he would possibly lose his own inheritance (I imagined it said he couldn’t be with a foreign woman). The town then stands witness to Boaz getting the land and Ruth from the redeemer and the whole town hoped that she would be like Rachel or Leah who were great matriarchs and gave birth to such great leaders of the Israelite community. Ruth in return gave birth to Obed, and then Obed had a child name Jess and Jesse was the father to King David! Ruth’s loyalty and honor made it so that she was part of the lineage of Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew 1:5-6 is the portion of the lineage that shows Ruth as being connected to Jesus.

Just based on Ruth being connected to Jesus just shows how she is such an important connection within the Bible and how her loyalty and love for her family and others is something that she be honored and cherished.