Judges chapter one begins after the death of Joshua, but immediately "flashes back" to the middle of the conquest. The chapter starts with the Israelites asking the LORD who would be first to go up and fight against the Canaanites and being told that Judah would go. The Simeonites went with them to fight for Judah's territory after being promised that Judah would help them fight for theirs. Judah attacked and "the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands." At Bezek they fought against Adoni-bezek who fled, but they captured him and cut off his thumbs and big toes, which he said he had done to seventy kings, and by which he also said, "God has paid me back for what I did to them." They took Jerusalem and then went to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country. After taking Hebron, Caleb offered his daughter Achsah to "the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher" and Othniel, his younger brother did so. (This story is repeated verbatim from chapter 15 of Joshua.) Judah took the hill country "but they were unable to drive the people from the plains." Likewise, "the Benjamites ... failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem" and "Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements" and all of the other tribes had people that they failed to drive out.
In chapter two, the angel of the LORD came to Bokim and told the Israelites that they had disobeyed the LORD, as they had not driven out all of the people. "Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." The "people wept aloud" and offered sacrifices to the LORD. It then goes on to tell of Joshua's death and burial. "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel." It describes the process which is repeated throughout the book, in which Israel drifts away from the LORD, is punished, cries out for help, the LORD raised up judges, the judges save the people and they follow the LORD until the next generation after the death of the judge, and then the process repeats.
Chapter three starts with a list of some of the nations "the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan," which he did "to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience." The Israelites then "did evil in the eyes of the LORD" and he "sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim." After eight years, Othniel became Israel's judge and went to war and freed them, and there was peace for forty years until Othniel died. Then, again, "the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD," and he "gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel." Again he raised a deliverer, Ehud, who slew Eglon and led Israel in battle against Moab. "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel."
Thoughts, questions, issues
In chapter four, we find out that "after Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD." (This is, of course, the theme of the book.) The LORD put Israel under the reign of Jabin, "a king of Canaan," who oppressed them for twenty years. Deborah, "a prophetess... was leading Israel at that time." She sent for Barak, the son of Abinoam and told him that the LORD commanded him to take 10,000 men "and lead the way to Mount Tabor." He said that he'd go only if she when with him and she agreed, but said that "because of the way you are going about this," the LORD was going to hand Sisera (the command of Jabin's army) "over to a woman." During the battle, "the LORD routed Sisera" and he fled, and stopped at the tent of Jael, wife of Heber (a Kenite). She gave him milk and put a cloth over him, then, while he was sleeping, drove a tent spike through his temples into the ground, killing him. When Barak came looking for him, Jael showed him lying dead on the ground.
Chapter five features the Song of Deborah, a song that Deborah and Barak sang praising the lord, and telling the story of their suffering under Jabin, the battle that they won, and the deeds of Jael. "Then the land had peace forty years."
Chapter six begins with, "again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD." This time the LORD raised up Midian as an oppressor, and "Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help." The LORD sent an angel to Gideon to say that "the LORD is with you, mighty warrior." Gideon was resistant to the call, saying that he was the weakest in his family, and his "clan is the weakest in Manasseh." The LORD told him that he would be with him. Gideon offered a sacrifice, and was afraid when "fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread." The LORD then told him to tear down his father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole, and he did it in the night as he was afraid of the reaction of his family and the men of the town. In the morning, when the others saw what had been done, they asked who did it, and investigation reveals that it was Gideon. When the town's people wanted to kill him, his father Joash defended him, ask "are you going to plead Baal's cause?" So "the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon" and he blew a trumpet, gathering people to join him. He then asked the LORD to give him more signs, first asking that he leave dew on a fleece while the rest of the ground was dry, and then leaving the fleece dry with dew on the rest of the ground, each of which the LORD did.
Thoughts, questions, issues
In chapter seven, Gideon (who is also called Jerub-Baal, because he tore down Baal's altar) was told by the LORD that he had too many men, because if they defeated Midian with that many, Israel might boast of its own strength rather than the LORD. So Gideon told his many that any who were afraid should go home, and twenty-two thousand left, leaving ten thousand. The LORD told Gideon that there were still too many, so they went down to the spring, and separated "those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." Those who got down on their knees were sent home, leaving Gideon with three hundred men. That night, the LORD told Gideon to go down into the valley where the Midianite camp was and "listen to what they are saying." When he did, he heard a man tell another of a dream which they interpreted as meaning that God had given the Midianites and the whole camp into Gidon's hands. He divided his three hundred into three companies, and all took trumpets and empty jars. They approached the Midian camp and blew their trumpets and broke the jars and the Midianites all fled, and the LORD caused the men in the camp to attack each other with swords. The army fled and Gideon sent messengers into the hill country calling the Ephraimites to take the Jordan ahead of them. They did, and captured and killed two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb.
In chapter eight, the Ephraimites are resentful of Gideon not calling them at the beginning, but he praise their grapes and said that God gave Oreb and Zeeb into their hands, and their resentment subsided. As Gideon and his men chased the remains of the Midianites, they were exhausted and asked for bread in Succoth, but the officials refused and Gideon promised to "tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers." In Peniel, the same refusal was made and he swore to tear down their tower. Gideon caught up to the armies of Zebah and Zalmunna (two kings of Midian) and routed their forces. As they returned through Succoth, he punished the men with desert thorns and briers, and he had said he would. "He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town." He told his oldest son Jether to kill the two kings, but he was only a boy and afraid so he did it himself. Then the Israelites wanted to make him a king, but he refused, saying that "the LORD will rule over you." But he asked for one earring from each from their share of the plunder. He made all the gold into an ephod which he plaeced in his town, Ophrah, and "Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family." So during Gideon's lifetime, Israel had forty years of peace. He went home to live and seventy sons by many wives, and a son Abimelech by a concubine in Shechem. But as soon as he died, Israel turned back to Baal, and failed to show kindness to the family of Gideon for all that he had done.
Chapter nine tells of how Abimelech, son of Gideon by a concubine in Schechem, went to his mother's brothers and clan and asked whether they'd rather have seventy of Jerub-Baal's sons rule over them or just him, their own flesh and blood. The Shechemites agreed to follow him and gave him silver, with which he hired "reckless adventurers" and went to Ophrah and killed the seventy sons, other than Jotham, the youngest, who escaped by hiding. Jotham went to the top of Mount Gerizima nd called out to the people of Shechem a story of trees seeking a king, which ended with a warning or prophecy. He told them that if they had "acted honorably and in good faith" when they had made Abimelech king, "may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too!" But if not, "let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you...and let fire come out from you...and consume Abimelech!" And then Jotham fled. Abimelech governed Israel for three years and then "God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem." Gaal moved with his brothers into Schechem and he asked, "who is Abimelech that we should be subject to him?" News of this reached Abimelech who gathered his troops and took up position outside the city in four companies. There was a battle and Gaal and his brothers were driven out of Shechem. The next day, Abimelech took the city, destroyed it and salted it. He burned the tower of Shechem, killing the people who had taken refuge there. Then he moved on to Thebez, and repeated the process. As he tried to set it on fire, however, a woman dropped a millstone on his head and cracked his skull. He told his armor-bearer to kill him, so that it couldn't be said that "a woman killed him." "Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them."
Thoughts, questions, issues
In Judges chapter 13, "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." Toward the end of that time, a childless couple was visited by the angel of the LORD, who told them that they would have a son, and that "no razor may be used on his head" because he was to be a Nazirite. And when he was born, they named him Samson.
In chapter 14, Samson saw a Philistine woman and wanted her for his wife. While he was going down to Timnah to see her, a lion attacked and "the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands." Later, when he went back to marry her, he look at the lion's carcass and saw that bees had nested there, and he scooped out honey and ate it. When he made a wedding feast, he gave a riddle to the 30 companions he had been given, to which the answer was the honey, but no one could solve it. His wife pressed him for the answer, and he finally gave it to her, and she explained it to her people. They then answered it before the deadline, and he had to give suits of clothes to the 30 companions. He struck down thirty in Askelon and gave those clothes to those who had answered the riddle and returned to his father's home. His wife was then given to the friend who had attended him at his wedding.
In chapter 15, Samson went to see his wife and found that she'd been given to his friend. He was mad and got even with the Philistines by catching three hundred foxes, tying their tails together, tying lit torches to each pair of tails and setting them loose in the Philistines' grain. When the Philistines found out who had done it and why, they burned his wife and her father to death. Samson vowed further revenge on the Philistines. Three thousand men from Judah came to him and asked why he was doing what he was doing (because, after all, the Philistines were rulers over Israel.) They told him that they had come to tie him up and take him to the Philistines and he agreed as long as they promised not to kill him themselves. They tied him up, but as they approached Lehi and the Philistines came towards him shouting, "the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands." He grabbed the fresh jawbone of a donkey and struck down a thousand of them. He then prayed and the LORD opened up a well from which he drank, and his strength returned. "Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines."
Thoughts, questions, issues
Judges 16 contains the well-story of Samson and Delilah. Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, and the rulers of the Philistines promised her great wealth if she could find out the secret of Samson's great strength for them. He first told her that if he were tied with seven fresh thongs, then if he were tied with seven new ropes, then if his hair was woven and pinned, but each time, when bound, he snapped the restraints easily. She kept asking, though, and "with such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death, so he told her everything." When he was sleeping, she had his head shaved "and his strength left him." The Philistines took him, gouged his eyes out, and took him to prison. Then they arranged a sacrifice to their god Dagon, and brought Samson in to entertain them. He prayed to the LORD to strengthen him just once more, and he pushed the center pillars apart, bringing the temple down, killing everyone there, as well as himself. "Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived."
Chapter 17 starts with a man named Micah, out of the hill country of Ephraim, who admits to his mother that he took the eleven hundred shekels that she was missing. He returned the silver and she took some to the silversmith and had made an image and an idol, which he put in his house, making a shrine. "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." A Levite from Bethlehem, looking for a place to stay, agreed to stay with Micah and be his priest.
In chapter 18, five Danites, looking for their tribe's inheritance. They stopped at Micah's house and the Levite priest told them that their journey had the LORD's approval. They went into Laish and saw that the land lacked nothing and the people living there did not expect an attack. So six hundred Danites started towards Laish, but stopped in Ephraim, and took Micah's priest, and his idols and household gods. Micah challenged them, but recognized that they were stronger than he, and let them go. They took Laish, and renamed it Dan. "There the Danites set up for themselves the idols... they continued to use the idols Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh."
Thoughts, questions, issues
Judges 19 starts with a Levite taking a concubine from Bethlehem, "but she was unfaithful to him," left and went back to her father's house. After four months, he went to get her, and stayed for a few days at her father's behest. Leaving, and headed towards Jerusalem, he stopped for the night in Gibeah rather than a city of the Jebusites because he said that "we won't go into an alien city, whose people are not Israelites." In Gibeah, an old man welcomed them in to his house, but that night, "some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house" and demanded that the traveler come out so they could "have sex with him." The man sent his concubine out instead "and they raped her and abused her throughout the night" and she was found dead at the door the next morning. He took her body, when he had reached his home, and cut it in to twelve parts "and sent them into all the areas of Israel."
In chapter 20, the Israelites all demanded to know what had happend, and when he told them, "all the people rose as one man," saying that they would "go [against Gibeah] as the lot directs...[to] give them what they deserve for all this vileness done in Israel." The other Israelites sent men amongst the Benjamites demanding that they "surrender those wicked men of Gibeah" but the Benjamites refused. So the Israelites went up to Bethel and asked who should go in first to fight the Benjamites, and God replied "Judah shall go first." When the battle began, the Benjamites killed many Israelites durig two days of battle, so that the Israelites went back to Bethel to ask the LORD whether they should battle them, and the LORD replied that "tomorrow I will give them into your hands." They set up an ambush, and while the Benjamites thought they were winning as before, "the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel." And the Israelites put all of the towns of Benjamin "to the sword...all the towns they came across they set on fire."
In chapter 21, the Israelites wept at Bethel, for "why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?" They had taken an oath not to any of them give their daughters in marriage to a Benjamite, but decided that they wanted to "provide wives for those who are left." When they realized that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp, they sent twelve thousand warriors to kill all of the men and all of the women who were not virgins in Jabesh Gilead. They brought back four hundred young women to Shiloh in Canaan, then sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites. They returned, but there were not enough women for all of them. So they told the Benjamites that they could kidnap girls dancing in the vineyards at the annual festival of the LORD in Shiloh. They did that, then returned to their inheritance and rebuilt their towns. "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit."
Thoughts, questions, issues