Judges Chapters 16, 17, and 18

I hope everyone had a merry CHRISTmas and a happy New Year! If you have resolutions, I hope you keep them! Resolutions just are not my things and as an active gym-goer year round it is pretty frustrating when the gym is packed in the morning and you don’t have access to the equipment you normally use but its okay! Resolutions are great and it is awesome for people to put in the effort…even if the amount of people die out by the end of the month. Either way, whether you purposefully make resolutions or subconsciously make an effort – good luck! Just remember one of the best resolutions out there is to actively pursue growing in your relationship with God!

Unfortunately, the book of Judges will be getting more and more gruesome until the end at this point. There is a reason that many kids stop learning about the book of Judges with Samson in Sunday school and it will be evident throughout my posts! Samson had already been fooled by his wife and he will be fooled once again by a new woman named Delilah. As I wrote in my previous post, Samson was impulsive and we see how much more impulsive he remains until his death. The Philistines went to Samson’s new love Delilah and asked her to find out to take down Samson and in return she would get money. Delilah asks Samson multiple times where his strength lies and multiple times Samson lies to her about what is the best way to take away his strength. Each time the Philistines would come and attempt to capture Samson in the way that he told Delilah would make him weak, and it failed every time. Delilah then said that she was hurt that Samson had lied to her and mocked her for he supposedly loved her. She is using seduction and pulling Samson’s heartstrings for sure. Samson then shares the way to bring him down – which is to break his Nazirite vow. He must have his hair cut. Remember this is the only part of the Nazirite vow he had kept up to at this point – he had eaten unclean food. Delilah shared the news with the Philistines and then cut his hair while he was sleeping. On top of losing his hair, he also lost his eyes (YUCK). The LORD had left him and could not give him the Spirit to attack and defend himself. There is an important verse at the end of this portion of this chapter and it said, ”But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved,” Judges 16:22. God was still preparing to use Samson for another plan! The Philistines were rejoiced to have Samson imprisoned and decided they wanted to use him as an entertainer – or like a joker. Samson asked the guards of him to allow him to stand and touch the pillars that held up the building he was in with the Philistines. All of the lords of the Philistines were there so it would be like having all of the senators, governors, representatives, Cabinet, president and such under one building – which we wont ever do in the USA. Samson began to speak to God begging for His help to take down the pillars and kill the 3,000 men and women in this building. Samson was able to pull the pillars down and kill all in the building, including himself. He had killed more Philistines at this one point than he had in the rest of his life. Samson had ruled Israel for 20 years and brought down the Philistines even if it did not happen until his last day on Earth.

Here is where we begin to get more and more gruesome. So in chapter 17 we flash to a boy named Micah that had stolen money from his mother and she then cursed whoever took her money and it made Micah nervous so he confessed that he was the thief. She then took the money her son had returned and made it into an idol – a statue. Micah then made a shrine and ordained one of his sons to be the priest. He was creating his own god and lifestyle really. If we even talk about making one’s own life their own god, this is a literal example. Then there is another man that is a Levite that is leaving Bethlehem and looking for somewhere to sojourn. Micah finds this Levite and tells him to be a priest for him and he will provide him with silver and ornate clothing. Levites were chosen to be the priests for the Israelites from the times of Moses, so Micah felt that his god and religion was now official since he had a Levite as a priest! It is really screwed up to say the least. Micah created a religion and a Levite that was a man of Judah went along with it…this just shows you the disarray of the Israelites at this time.

Chapter 18 we now flip to the tribe of Dan that was wanting to gain more territory and expand their inheritance and while pursuing this territory they come across Micah and the Levite priest in the country of Ephraim which is north of Dan and Benjamin. The Levite tells the men of Dan that God is watching over them throughout their journey to gain more land. The Danites continue on their journey and find a rather peaceful group of people known as the people of Laish for they were not expecting of anyone coming after their territory. 600 men of Dan decide to pursue this territory and they stop by Micah’s house once again and they stole all of the silver and treasures that Micah had made within his home and within his “religion.” The Levite was actually asked to join them for they wanted a priest – now this is the second twisted instance of people using this Levite to make it “okay” with God for he is allowed to be a priest. Micah was angry but was also a coward and did not want to obviously confront the 600 men to return his treasures and priest for that matter. The people of Dan capture the land and then put up the idols that had belonged to Micah! It was a circle of ungodly behavior and creation of a false god in order to pursue what they ultimately wanted…

The last chapters will be in my next post and it is going to be a violent one.

Judges Chapters 13, 14, and 15

Samson is one of the most well known people in the book of Judges! He is renowned for his long locks and his relationship with Delilah but I am hoping to delve in deeper than what is the basic story that all have come to know about him and the importance of his role for the Israelites and more importantly his role as a judge and how he is just one of the many things that God gave to His people at this time to save and protect them from the evil doers at the time which were the Philistines.

At the beginning of chapter 13 the Israelites were being ruled by the Philistines for 40 years. There was a Danite, from Zorah [] named Manoah who was married to a baren woman whose name we do not know. Manoah was told by an angel that his wife would have a child, more specifically a son. However, there were instructions given to Manoah that most be followed by his wife and the son that was to be born. He was to be a, “Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death,” Judges 13:7. This means that the son would not be able to cut his hair, drink alcohol, and eat unclean food. There is a key message from the angel that must be emphasized. The angel said, “he [the son] shall BEGIN to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines,” Judges 13:5. This son would not complete the saving, for as we all know, Jesus will fulfill the saving of God’s people! Begin is obviously the key term in the message. Manoah and his wife were scared of this angel that came to them for angels are scary things, as one sees throughout the Bible. No one looks lovingly toward an angel when they appear – they scare the recipients of the messages. They contain such glory that one cannot face, just as one cannot face God for all of his glory [think of Moses having to cover his face on the Mount]. The man and wife have questions for the angel of what is to come of their son and the angel only continues to emphasize the concepts of being a Nazirite, which we will see in a few chapters as to why it is so important. At the end of chapter 13 we learn something important about Samson, other than him being a Nazirite after his birth, and that is, “And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD BEGAN to stir him in Mahaneh-Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol,” Judges 13:24-25. Once again it is only the beginning but Samson is continuously protected by God and blessed throughout his life.

As Samson ages he continues to live as a Nazirite. We will quickly learn another trait of Samson – he is impulsive. Samson falls in love with a girl that he had just met and she was a Philistine. He tells his parents to get the girl for him even though his parents believe he should stay within the tribe (Danites). The girl was actually from the LORD as a way for Samson to get an opportunity to defeat the Philistines. Next is the famous story of Samson tearing apart the lion with his bare hands, for “the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him,” Judges 14:6. After doing that he casually continued on to meeting the girl he wanted to marry. When Samson returned to claim her (as they called it at the time) he saw the carcass of the lion that he had killed and there was honey within the carcass. He decided to eat the honey and give the honey to his parents as well. FYI this is definitely not considered eating clean…he broke one of the rules that God had given him and his parents. Another trait of Samson was that he was cocky and thrived on his knowledge of being blessed. He tantalized 30 Philistine men into trying to figure out a riddle. If they figured out the riddle in a week then he would give them 30 linen garments and 30 changes of clothes – which was expensive and a lot. His riddle was, “’Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet,’” Judges 14:14. After three days they did not know the riddle so they got Samson’s Philistine wife to trick Samson into telling her the secret, or else they would burn down her father’s home. Samson knew as soon as they gave the answer to the riddle, “’What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion,’” Judges 14:18, that his wife had told them the answer. Samson gave the Philistines the promised wager by having the Spirit of God once again rushing upon him! He went to a town and struck down 30 men and took their spoil and garments to those that figured out the riddle. Samson then got rid of his wife. Impulsive is the key term.

Samson had been so angry at his wife that he left her with her father and his friend but he eventually cooled down and went to…lay with her. Once he arrived, her father said that he believed that Samson had hated her so he gave her away to Samson’s friend and he tried to give Samson his other daughter instead. Samson being impulsive, decides to take down the Philistines in the most peculiar but awesome way! He grabbed 300 foxes (how he found 300, I don’t know) and tied their tails together and put torches between the tails and set them free so that the foxes would run in with the torches into the buildings and burn down all of their grain. The Philistines learned it was Samson that did this and they killed Samson’s wife, which had been given away as well as her father. He then struck them and then hid in a cleft of the rock of Etam. The Philistines could not find him so they decided to get revenge by attacking the people of Judah who did not understand why they were being attacked until the Philistines told them it was because of Samson. The men of Judah were fearful and decided to go and find Samson to prevent the Philistines from harming them. Samson agrees to go with them if they promised to not attack him. Samson was also cunning. When the men of Judah took him to the Philistines the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him once again! Samson was able to defeat them with the jawbone of a donkey! That is just so crazy: first the lion, then the foxes, and now the donkey jawbone! God was able to provide water for him and bring him back to full strength falling the killing of a thousand men with the donkey jawbone. Samson then judged Israel for 20 years!

The next post will focus on his relationship with Delilah and Samson’s eventual downfall!

PS. Sorry for not having posted in a while…I was busy finishing up my undergraduate degree, which I have finally completed!

 

 

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).