Who REALLY Represents God?
A remarkable debate by the authors fo the Book of Judges (Jan 98)
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25)
1. As with the Book of Joshua, the Book of Judges is a compilation of the works of several authors. It is essentially a brief history of the major events and leaders who became noteworthy during the 300 or so years between the death of Joshua and ministries of Eli and Samuel. The works compiled into the Book of Judges were probably written over a period of time ranging from the reign of David through the Israelite exile in Babylon. For centuries, Bible scholars have been debating the actual chronology of the events described in Judges, but I'll simply use a chronology that makes sense when viewed in terms of the growth of the Israelites' "tree of knowledge of good and evil."
2. Like November's commentary on Joshua, this article will primarily examine this book from the "second heaven" point of view (i.e. literally, from the point of view of God's two most fundamental commandments as summarized by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40). It won't take you long to see how greatly this "second heaven" point of views differs from the far more commonly used "first heaven" point of view which attempts to make the concept of national sovereignty appear to be more "holy" than God Himself. In a few places, I will also address the "third heaven" parables (i.e. allegorical interpretations based on God's two most fundamental commandments) that were carefully crafted into some of these stories. I'll address the rest of the third-heaven parables from the books of Numbers, Joshua, and Judges when we examine the writings of the great prophets of Israel, because they are very much related to each other.
THE LEVITE INTRODUCTION
3. The authors of the first two chapters were probably Levite priests. They metaphorically refer to the tribes of Judah and Simeon as if they were individuals, even when quoting God. The tribes of Judah and Simeon fought together to utterly destroy the remaining towns of people who had the misfortune of residing in the portions of the "Promised Land" that had been allotted to the tribes Judah and Simeon. They even destroyed Jerusalem in verse 1:8, but apparently its residents (the Jebusites) reoccupied it later on and coexisted there with the descendants of Benjamin. Then, after utterly destroying some more towns, the children of Israel apparently decided that they had done enough killing for a while.
3a. It's interesting to note that Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; for the Canaanites "were determined to dwell in that land". Eventually, when Israel grew stronger, they subjugated the Canaanites to a tribute arrangement rather than driving them out. Later on, we'll see that the Israelites (or at least the Levites) considered such arrangements to be "oppression" when THEY were the ones who were being subjugated.
3b. The Amorites were determined to dwell in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim; but when the strength of the house of Joseph became greater, they were also put under tribute. Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: "I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.'" ... So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel.
3c. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work that He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals, and the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so.
3d. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings or from their stubborn way. Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not." Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.
3e. So in general, the Levites' explanation for why the fortunes of the Israelites went up and down during those 300 years was that the good times resulted when they obeyed the Levite-serving "Laws of Moses" and the bad times resulted when they did not. But the REST OF THE AUTHORS of the Book of Judges offer a different explanation. Among other things, they provide answers to two very important (but seldom asked) questions: 1) Why didn't the Levite descendants of Aaron continue to fulfill the "Judges" role during those 300 years? 2) And what was the REAL reason that the next generation of Israelites "turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked?" (Judges 2:17)
4. To answer these two questions, we need to go directly to the last three chapters of the Book of Judges which describe a story that chronologically belongs near the beginning of that 300-year period (during the reign of Aaron's grandson, Phinehas, who served as the High Priest and caretaker of the Ark of the Covenant after Joshua and Aaron's son Eleazar had died).
THE STORY OF THE LEVITE AND HIS CONCUBINE (Chapters 19, 20, and 21)
4a. A certain (not specifically named) Levite who lived in the mountains of Ephraim took a concubine (sort of secondary or lesser wife) for himself from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. But apparently, she got fed up with him and returned to live with her father in Bethlehem. Four months later, the Levite decided to go to Bethlehem and try to sweet talk her into coming back with him. When he arrived, the woman and her father were glad to see him. The father entertained him with food and wine for three days and then urged him to stay a fourth day. After some feasting on the fifth day, the Levite decided it was definitely time to go, so he and his concubine and servant departed on their donkeys (they got a late start). As evening approached, they passed near Jerusalem. The servant suggested that they lodge there, but the Levite said, "We will not turn aside here into a city of foreigners, who are not of the children of Israel; we will go on to Gibeah." [Abraham's occasionally xenophobic attitude towards foreigners lived on in his descendants!]
4b. When they arrived in the Benjamite town of Gilbeah, no one offered to host them, so they sat down in the town square. Eventually, an Ephraimite came by and invited them to stay with him. Suddenly, after dinner, some evil men surrounded the house and beat on the door, saying "Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!" But the master of the house went out to them and said, "No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man's concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!" [Sounds a lot like the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, right?] The men would not go away, so the Levite pushed his concubine out the door, and the men abused her all night. In the early morning they finally let her go, and she collapsed by the doorstep.
4c. When the Levite arose that morning to leave, he saw her there and said, "Get up and let us be going", but there was no answer. So he draped her body on one of the donkeys and took her back to his home. There he cut her body into twelve pieces and sent a piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. All who saw it said, "No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!"
4d. Soon the people of Israel were "up in arms" over this, and when the Levite told them what had happened, they demanded that the tribe of Benjamin hand over those evil men in Gilbeah, so that they could be executed. But the Benjamites refused, so the rest of the tribes began assembling to take them by force. The Benjamites responded by assembling their own forces (33,000 men) to defend the town of Gilbeah.
4e. After assembling about 400,000 men, the children of Israel went up to the house of God to inquire of God. They said, "Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?" The LORD said, "Judah first!" [Did the LORD really say that, or was it the High Priest Phinehas who actually said that?]
4f. One the first day of battle, the Benjamites proved to be far more formidable than expected; they killed about 22,000 of the attackers. Then the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, "Shall I again draw near for battle against the children of my brother Benjamin?" And the LORD [?] said, "Go up against him." So on the second day, the attackers lost another 18,000 men.
4g. Then all the children of Israel went up and came to the house of God and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. So the children of Israel inquired of the LORD (the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, "Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?" And the LORD [?] said, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand."
4h. This time, the Israelites set up an ambush. They attacked and then faked a retreat thereby drawing the Benjamites away from the town. Then other Israelites attacked and utterly destroyed the town of Gilbeah (and everyone in it). When the Benjamites looked back and saw their town in flames, they panicked and scattered. The Israelites chased them down and killed nearly all of them, utterly destroying the rest of the towns of Benjamin (and their inhabitants) in the process. Only six hundred Benjamite men survived, because they found a place to hide in the rocky cliffs of Rimmon.
4i. Then the people came to the house of God, and remained there before God till evening. They lifted up their voices and wept bitterly, and said, "O LORD God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel, that today there should be one tribe missing in Israel?" [It came to pass, because you believed Phinehas' claims about representing God when in fact he was speaking with the voice of Satan, you dummies!]
4j. The Israelites had sworn an oath to God that none of them would allow their daughters to marry a Benjamite. So the children of Israel said, "Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up with the assembly to the LORD?" For they had made a great oath concerning anyone who had not come up to the LORD at Mizpah, saying, "He shall surely be put to death." [Remember what Jesus taught about making oaths in Matthew 5:34-37?]
4k. When the people were counted, indeed, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead was there. So the congregation sent out there twelve thousand of their most valiant men, and commanded them, saying, "Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead with the edge of the sword, including the women and children. And this is the thing that you shall do: You shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has known a man intimately." [Their hearts and minds will filled with the teachings of Satan.] So they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young virgins who had not known a man intimately and offered them to the six hundred remaining Benjamites. Then they advised the remaining Benjamite men to "Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. Eventually, the Benjamites found all the women they needed and rebuilt their towns.
5. Wow! Before we proceed with the rest of the stories in this book, lets examine more thoroughly WHY the authors of the Book of Judges included the rhetorical question, "O LORD God of Israel, why has this come to pass in Israel, that today there should be one tribe missing in Israel?" Obviously, they wanted their readers to ask and answer that question for themselves (i.e. use their own minds), rather than blindly accepting whatever words came out of the mouth of the Chief Priest. This is one of the major LESSONS that the authors of the first seven books of the Bible were attempting to convey (in a sneaky manner in order to get past the censorship practices of their contemporary scribes who were inclined to serve only the interests of their "current establishment").
5a. Although Satan is rarely mentioned by name in these early books of the Old testament, the authors devoted a considerable amount of text to show how Satan was in fact a key player in the development of early Hebrew history, and Jesus recognized this. It's significant to note that one of the names used for God in many portions of these early books is "Elohim" which in Hebrew is PLURAL . It was originally intended to represent mankind's early perception of God as a TEAM of Jahweh and Satan (before Satan got thrown out of heaven), but evidently subsequent scribes who didn't understand that distinction began using Elohim and Jahweh interchangeably, thereby making that distinction less apparent.
6. Let's review Satan's handiwork in terms of the "logical branches" in the Israelites' "tree of knowledge of good and evil" that led to the Benjamite massacre described above. This will help you to better understand the significance of the rest of those stories in the Book of Judges. In my article "How Jesus Christ viewed Moses and the Levites, Part II", I describe in greater detail the evolution of the restrictions which the Israelites placed on their definition of "neighbor". In this article, I'll briefly summarize them.
6a. The problem began in Genesis 24 when the occasionally xenophobic Abraham decided that his son Isaac must "marry within the family" (thereby restricting the scope of the inheritance promised by God). As shown in my earlier articles, that attitude led to the slaughter of the men of Shechem and eventually to the enslavement of the "children of Israel" in Egypt.
6b. After the Exodus, rather than attempting to negotiate a peaceful agreement with his cousins as Abraham had done with Lot in Genesis 13:8-9, Moses decided instead to raise a militia and send it out under the command of Joshua to militarily attack the Amalekites (descendants of Isaac's son Esau). So eventually that seemingly "innocent" attitude (which evolved into prohibitions against "intermarriage") led to the slaughter of some of the descendants of Isaac by other descendants of Isaac. [When examined from the point of view of God's two most fundamental commandments (Matthew 22:37-40), there's no need to wait for such bloodshed to occur in order to recognize that prohibitions against "intermarriage" are inspired by Satan rather than God, because they place a restriction on one's definition of neighbor.]
6c. Then, after God used a thundering voice from within a "thick darkness" in Exodus 20 to introduce the Ten Commandments DIRECTLY to the children of Israel, according to the text, the children of Israel themselves decided that they were too afraid of God to regard Him as a neighbor, so they asked Moses to act as an intermediary between themselves and God. They were no longer interested in following God's guidance directly. Instead, they looked to Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's descendants to interpret God's guidance in a way that would be more in line with their contemporary beliefs and preferences. [This decision clearly violated of the FIRST of God's two most fundamental commandments as well.]
6d. When Moses returned from Mount Sinai with the first set of tablets bearing the Ten Commandments and found that his own brother Aaron had crafted a golden calf for the people to worship, he smashed the tablets (broke the law) and ordered his Levite bretheren to slaughter over three thousand fellow Israelites. Thus Moses made it clear that from then on his definition of "neighbor" would include only those Israelites who agreed with him and his own interpretations of God's will. So now we had descendants of Jacob killing other descendants of Jacob as a result of the increasing number of (Satanically inspired) restrictions which they were placing on their definition of neighbor.
6e. During their years in the wilderness, the Levites developed numerous rules regarding what is "clean" vs. what is "unclean". Those Israelites who became regarded as "unclean" (even if through no fault of their own) where no longer regarded as neighbors. Others who were found to have broken the "Laws of Moses" were no longer considered to be neighbors either (most were killed).
6f. When the Israelites decided to take the "Promised Land" by force, most of them demonstrated that they hardly considered non-Israelites to be even human, much less their neighbors.
6g. Finally, when an Israelite named Zelophehad died leaving only daughters (no son), Moses claimed that it was the Lord's will (Satan's will?) that Zelophehad's inheritance should pass to his daughters, but that his daughters would only be permitted to marry within their own tribe. Thus, Moses sanctioned a TRIBAL restriction on the Israelites' definition of neighbor (in order to maintain inheritances within each tribe). So, on top of everything else, it was this tribal restriction on their definition of neighbor (along with the Israelites' religiously inspired brutality toward those whom they did not consider to be their neighbors) that eventually led (under the guidance of their Chief Priest Phinehas) to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Israelite men, women, and children, and to the near extinction of the Tribe of Benjamin.
HOW THIS RELATES TO OUR PRESENT WORLD SITUATION
7. Chief Priest Phinehas certainly wasn't the only religious leader in Judeo-Christian history to act like a servant of Satan while claiming to represent God.
7a. In 1208 AD, a Roman Catholic Pope inappropriately named "Innocent III" initiated a military campaign to slaughter a significant portion of the population of southern France in order to eliminate religious competition from a peaceful Christian denomination known as the Cathars. He and his immediate successors then went on to create the infamous "Inquisition" which lasted 400 years and, according to some accounts, was responsible for killing millions of alleged "witches" and "heretics."
7b. In the 1990s, America's so-called "Christian right" religious leaders have been promoting international lawlessness (by preaching fear and hatred of the United Nations, thereby financially crippling its peacekeeping abilities). Their Satanically inspired teachings contributed significantly to the creation of anarchies in Bosnia, Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire and elsewhere resulting in the slaughter or starving to death of TENS OF MILLIONS of men, women, and children (and it's STILL happening)!
7c. So, whereas the Satanically inspired teachings and actions of Phinehas led to the killing of hundreds of thousands Israelite men, women, and children in Isreal, and the Satanically inspired teachings and actions of Pope Innocent III led to the killing millions of men, women, and children throughout Europe, the Satanically inspired teachings and actions of America's "Christian right" religious leaders have led to the killing of TENS OF MILLIONS of people throughout the world in this decade alone! Keep this in mind, the next time you see some of America's most popular TV "evangelists" committing the sin of using God's name in VAIN by claiming to represent God while
1) Promoting international lawlessness,
2) Teaching their listeners to place restrictions on their definitions of neighbor (based on nationality, sexual orientation, or whatever)
3) Promoting the worship of flags (idols used to divert people's loyalties AWAY from following God's two most fundamental commandments), and
4) Promising their listeners a supernatural escape (a.k.a. "the Rapture") from the bloody consequences of the international anarchy that they themselves have been striving to create!
7d. Such teachings really ARE Satanic! They flagrantly violate God's two most fundamental commandments! Jesus had this to say about such people and their teachings:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:15-23)
7e. This is how God views their teachings and actions now. Eventually, all future generations of mankind will view their teachings this way as well, because they will base their views on God's two most fundamental commandments.
7f. It's also important to keep in mind that most of that bloodshed in the 1990s would never have happened if the rest of the denominations of the Christian Church had been preaching the Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus Christ. Such teachings (as described in my article "What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?") would have destroyed the credibility of those who teach Satanically inspired doctrines while falsely claiming to represent God--thereby forcing them to either change their teachings accordingly or find another job.
OK, now that we have the necessary conceptual framework for examining the remaining stories in the Book of Judges, we'll continue with
8. Evidently, the Chief Priest Phinehas had lost so much credibility in the eyes of the Israelites following the Benjamite massacre that he and his descendants were no longer even mentioned throughout the rest of the Book of Judges (which covers a 300 year period of Hebrew history). In their place, local heroes arose from other tribes at times to help rescue portions of Israel from oppression by neighboring kingdoms. These heroes became known as "Judges", because they weren't priests, and they weren't really kings either (they didn't maintain rule over a standing army, police force, etc.). Each time the Israelites lost of battle or became subjugated to a neighboring kingdom, the Levite authors of Judges claimed that it was because they were worshipping foreign gods rather than the Lord or had in some other way "done evil in the sight of the Lord". And each time one of these "judges" triumphed, the Levite authors attributed such victories to the will of God, although it was often not clear how God had anything to do with it.
THE STORY OF OTHNEIL (Chapter 3)
9. The first of these "judges" was Othneil, the son of Caleb's younger brother. The Israelites had somehow become subjugated to the Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia for a period of about eight years. Othneil led a successful revolt to free them again, and the "land had rest" for forty years.
THE STORY OF EHUD (Chapter 3)
10. Then some of the Israelites became subjugated by neighboring Moabites and Amalekites for about eighteen years. The Moabites and Amalekites didn't "utterly destroy" these Israelites as the children of Israel had done to many Moabites and Amalekites before them, but they did demand tribute from the Israelites. One day, a left-handed Benjamite named Ehud visited Eglon, the king of Moab, to render a tribute payment. He asked to see King Eglon alone in his tent, whereupon he used his left had to drive a two-edged dagger into Eglon's fat belly. Then Ehud left quietly and was long gone before the King's servants discovered what he had done. When the Moabites attempted to retaliate with a force of about ten thousand men, Ehud led an Israelite ambush as they were attempting to cross the Jordan River. All of the Moabite soldiers ("all stout men of valor") were killed; not one was allowed to escape or live. "And the land had rest for eighty years". [Notice the significant difference between the attitude of the Moabites and the attitude of Israelites regarding the practice of killing of those who are captured. The non-Levite authors of the Book of Judges point this out quite deliberately.]
THE STORY OF DEBORAH (Chapters 4 and 5)
11. After the death of Ehud, the children of Israel "did evil" again, so they became subjugated to a Canaanite king name Jabin whose capital was in Hazor, and whose military commander was named Sisera. A prophetess named Deborah assumed the role of "judge" during this time, which is VERY interesting, because under the leadership of the Levites, the role of Israelite women had been pretty much limited to maintaining households and bearing children. The children of Israel felt that they were being harshly oppressed by Jabin and his forces, so Deborah sent word to an Israelite Prince named Barak to recruit ten thousand soldiers from the tribes of Nephtali and Zebulum and to attach Sisera and his forces at the River Kishon near Mt Tabor. Barak agreed to the plan, provided that Deborah went with him, so she said, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman."
11a. When Sisera learned that Barak had amassed armed forces on Mt Tabor, he gathered his troops and launched a chariot attack up the mountain. But Barak's forces prevailed, and they pursued and killed the fleeing soldiers of Sisera's army until there were none left. Sisera himself managed to escape on foot and attempted to hide in the tent of Jael, whose husband had been on friendly terms with King Jabin. Jael agreed to hide and feed him, but when he fell asleep, she drove a tent peg through his temple.
11b. This was the beginning of the end of the reign of King Jabin. To celebrate this occasion, Chapter 5 contains what is known as "the Song of Deborah and Barak", in which they gloat over their victory (especially over the way Sisera was killed) and scold the other tribes of Israel who did not take part in the battle. They also give credit to God (?) for this victory, but the authors never really explain how God had anything to do with it. Anyhow, after the Israelites grew strong enough to depose King Jabin, the "land had rest" again for about 40 years.
11c. [This was the third place where the third- heaven authors of Judges specifically used the term "land" in an allegorical sense, rather than a physical sense. Keep in mind that in the third-heaven allegorical scheme, the terms "land" and "earth" represented mankind's perceptions of popular truths or what might be called the "common sense" of a people in a given place and time. Such "common sense" was often NOT based on viewing things from the point of view of God's two most fundamental commandments and would therefore often lead to turmoils in human relations.]
THE STORY OF GIDEON (Chapters 6-8)
12. Then the children of Israel "did evil" again, became subjugated by the Midianites. "Whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD."
12a. In light of the previously recorded genocidal manner in which the Israelites had dealt with the Midianites and Amalekites, it should come as no surprise that later on the descendants of those brutal Israelites would find themselves being treated this way by their neighbors.
12b. Nevertheless, the Lord inspired a prophet (a.k.a. Angel) who approached an Abiezrite named Gideon, saying "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!" Gideon said to Him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." When told that the Lord directed him to save Israel from the Midianites, Gideon said, "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." And the LORD said (through the prophet), "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man." Then Gideon said, "If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me." So Gideon prepared a young goat, some unleavened bread, an ephah of flour, and some broth on a flat rock for a burnt offering. When the prophet touched the offering with his rod, a fire rose out of the rock and consumed the offering. This convinced Gideon that he had received the "sign" he was looking for, so he built an alter there and called it "The-Lord-is-Peace", which seems rather strange considering what came next.
12c. That night Gideon received instructions from the Lord to tear down his father's alter to Baal and the wooden image beside it and to use that wood to offer a couple of his father's bulls as burnt offerings to God. When the town's people discovered what Gideon had done, they approached his father, Joash, and demanded that Gideon be put to death for this crime. But Joash said to all who stood against him, "Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!" Thereafter, Gideon was known by the nickname "Jerubaal" (literally "let Baal plead").
12d. Then the Midianites and Amalekites began to gather their forces, and Gideon blew a trumpet to start gathering soldiers from his own tribe and the neighboring tribes of Israel. Still lacking somewhat in confidence, Gideon asked God to show some more "signs" of his presence. He took a handful of fleece, placed it on the dry ground, and challenged God to put dew into the fleece only and not on the ground around it. The next morning, the fleece yielded a bowl full of water even though the ground around it was dry. Then Gideon asked God to let dew fall all around the fleece without dampening the fleece, and God did so that night.
12e. [Hint, hint--there's a third-heaven message behind this story. The "fleece" in this case represents to Book of Judges itself. When you "wring it out" by examining it from the point of view of God's two most fundamental commandments, it releases "living waters" or lessons from God. But if you just let it lie on the ground (i.e. only interpret it "literally" or in a way that makes national sovereignty appear to be "holy"), then you won't learn much from it and you won't even notice that God's lessons of "living water" are being revealed all around you every day like dew falling to the ground!]
12f. And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me'." So all the soldiers who were fearful or afraid where asked to leave. About 20,000 left, but 10,000 remained which were still too many for what the Lord had planned. So Gideon led them all to a river. Those who got down on their hands and knees to drink (thereby making themselves vulnerable to a surprise attack) were rejected. About 300 used their hands to bring the water to their mouths. These were selected for the task at hand.
12g. That night, Gideon and his servant sneaked into the Midianite camp and overheard a man telling a dream to his companion, "To my surprise, a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian; it came to a tent and struck it so that it fell and overturned, and the tent collapsed." Then his companion said, "This is nothing else but the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel! Into his hand God has delivered Midian and the whole camp." So Gideon returned to his own camp convinced that the Midianites were ready to be taken.
12h. So he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers. And he said to them, "Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, 'The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!'"
12i. When the three hundred men suddenly started blowing their trumpets, the sleeping Midianites were so startled and confused that "the LORD set every man's sword against his companion throughout the whole camp"; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath. And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites. Then Gideon sent messengers throughout all the mountains of Ephraim, saying, "Come down against the Midianites, and seize from them the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan." Then all the men of Ephraim gathered together and seized the watering places as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan.
12j. While pursuing about 15,000 Midianites into Jordan, Gideon asked the men of Succoth to provide some food for his troops, but they refused saying, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?" So Gideon said, "For this cause, when the LORD has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers!" Then he went up from there to Penuel and spoke to them in the same way. And the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. So he also spoke to the men of Penuel, saying, "When I come back in peace, I will tear down this tower!" After capturing Zebah and Zalmunna in a surprise attack, Gideon returned to Succoth and Penuel and did as he had promised, killing all of the men on Penuel. By the time it was over, the Midianites had lost well over 120,000 men.
12k. Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you." Then Gideon asked the Israelite soldiers to turn over the gold earrings they had plundered from the Midianites. From that gold he made an ephod (a golden vest or breastplate) and set it up in his city, Ophrah. "And all of Israel played the harlot with it there it became a snare to Gideon and his house".
12l. And the "country was quiet" for forty years. Gideon died at a good old age and left 71 sons, for he had many wives.
THE STORY OF ABIMELECH (Chapter 9)
13. One of Gideon's sons was named Abimelech, the son of a concubine of Gideon who lived in Shechem. One day he decided to seize power by conspiring with other men on Shechem, hiring some mercenaries, and going to Gideon's house in Ophrah to kill all of his half-brothers there. [Shechem's revenge on the children of Israel, 500 years later!] Gideon's youngest son, Jonathan, managed to escape by hiding. Later, Jonathan climbed Mt Gerizim and rendered the first Old Testament allegorical [third-heaven] prophecy since the days of Moses and the Pharaoh.
13a. "Listen to me, you men of Shechem, that God may listen to you! The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them. And they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us!' But the olive tree said to them, 'Should I cease giving my oil, with which they honor God and men, and go to sway over trees?' Then the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come and reign over us!' But the fig tree said to them, 'Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to sway over trees?' "Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come and reign over us!' But the vine said to them, 'Should I cease my new wine, which cheers both God and men, and go to sway over trees?' Then all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come and reign over us!' And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in truth you anoint me as king over you, then come and take shelter in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon!' Now therefore, if you have acted in truth and sincerity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as he deserves--for my father fought for you, risked his life, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian; but you have risen up against my father's house this day, and killed his seventy sons on one stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother--if then you have acted in truth and sincerity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. But if not, let fire come from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and Beth Millo; and let fire come from the men of Shechem and from Beth Millo and devour Abimelech!"
13b. Indeed, Jonathan's prophecy came true. The seeds of treachery sown by Abimelech in hearts of the men of Shechem began to turn against him. A Shechemite named Gaal began to argue that he a greater right to rule Shechem than a son of Gideon. Abimelech's appointed mayor of Shechem heard about this and sent word to Abimelech, advising him to hide his men in the fields and ambush the men of Shechem when they came out. After the ambush, Abimelech's men utterly destroyed the town of Shechem and its fortress (and all that were in it). Then Abimelech and his men attempted to do the same to the nearby town of Thebez, but a woman on one of its towers dropped a millstone on his head, crushing his skull. Abimelech instructed a fellow soldier to finish him off, because he didn't want it to be said that a woman had killed him. So in the end, Abimelech and the people of Shechem got "done in" by the anarchy that they themselves created, just as Jonathan had predicted.
THE STORY OF JEPHTHAH AND HIS DAUGHTER (Chapters 10-12)
14. After Abimelech, a man named Tola from the tribe of Issachar served as a judge for twenty-three years, and then a man named Jair, a Gileadite, served as judge for twenty-two years. Then the children of Israel began "doing evil" again, and became subjected to the Philistines and the people of Ammon. When they complained about their repression, God told them, "You have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress." And the children of Israel said to the LORD, "We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray." So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.
14a. Apparently, the main reason the children of Israel suddenly "got religion" was because the Ammonites were about to launch an attack across the Jordan river. The Israelites had assembled a few thousand soldiers, but they had no one to lead them in battle. So the elders of the town of Gilead decided to recruit Jephthah, a son of Gilead who had become the leader of a successful band of outlaws.
14b. Jephthah was the son a harlot, so when his half-brothers grew up, they threw him out in order to deny him his inheritance. So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?" And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, "That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead." So Jephthah accepted their offer.
14c. Once he took control, he sent a message to the king of the Ammonites, asking him "What do you have against me, that you have come to fight against me in my land?" And the king of the people of Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, "Because Israel took away my land when they came up out of Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and to the Jordan. Now therefore, restore those lands peaceably." Jephthah responded with another message saying that God had "given" his forefathers that land and that they had accepted those new borders for nearly 300 years, so why were they attacking now? When it became clear that the Ammonites were about to attack anyway, Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, "If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering." He then engaged the Ammonites in battle, killing large numbers of them in twenty of their cities.
14d. When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot go back on it." So she said to him, "My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon." Then she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I." And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man. And it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.
14e. Do you remember what Jesus taught about making oaths in Matthew 5:33-37? "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one [Satan]." The non-Levite authors of Judges chose to teach this lesson by example.
14f. When the men of the Israelite tribe of Ephraim heard about Jephthah's victory, they approached in anger because Jephthah had engaged in that glorious battle without them. So a war broke out between the men of Gilead and the Ephrmaimites. The Ephraimites were routed, and when they attempted to cross the Jordan River, the Gileadites would ask them to say, "Shibboleth". If they said "Sibboleth" (because the Ephraimites couldn't pronounce it right), they were slain on the spot. The Ephraimites ended up losing over 42,000 men, because they hadn't learned the lessons describe earlier in this article regarding the Benjamite massacre. Again, the authors of the Book of Judges were teaching by example.
14g. Jephthah served as a judge for six years. After that, Ibzan of Bethlehem (of the tribe of Judah) served for seven years. It's interesting to note that he brought in "thirty daughters from elsewhere" to marry his thirty sons. After him, Elon the Zebulunite served as a judge for ten years. He was succeeded by Abdon who served as judge for eight years.
THE STORY OF SAMSON (Chapters 13 - 16)
15. The Story of Samson is so well written (as so carefully crafted to support a third-heaven interpretation), that I've chosen to use major portions of its New King James version translation almost verbatim in this rendering of the story.
15a. Then the children of Israel "did evil" again and became subjugated to the Philistines. A man named Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, had a wife who was barren. One day an Angel of the LORD told Manoah's wife "Now please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." [Even in those days, the authors of the Book of Judges recognized that pregnant women should not drink alcohol--they learned by observing the results!] Manoah offered some food to the Angel, but the Angel suggested he make a burnt offering to the Lord instead. [You should worship God, not his messengers!] Then the Angel ascended in the flames of the burnt offering. When their son was born, they called him "Samson" ("little sun").
15b. The 6th Chapter of the Book of Numbers describes the duties, responsibilities, and prohibitions which Hebrew monks called "Nazirites" were expected to observe. This included a prohibition against cutting one's hair until "the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD."
15c. When Samson had grown to become a strong young man, a Philistine woman caught his fancy, so he asked his father to arrange for her to marry him. His parents wondered why he didn't pick an Israelite woman to be his wife, but [according to the Levite authors] "his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD--that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel."
15e. One day Samson encountered a roaring young lion which he tore apart with his bare hands. When he came by later, he noticed a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion. He took some of the honey and offered it to his parents. When the time came for the wedding feast, Samson posed a riddle to thirty of his Philistine guests, "Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet." He offered thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing if they could figure it out within 7 days. Otherwise, they you have to pay him that amount. After three days, the Philistine men grew desperate, so they persuaded Samson's new wife to entice the answer from him. She persistently pleaded and wept, begging for the answer, so on the seventh day Samson gave in and told her. Not long thereafter, the Philistine men arrived and said, "What is sweeter than honey. And what is stronger than a lion?" To which Samson replied, "If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle." [The fact that Samson spoke allegorically is a clear hint that this story was intended to have an allegorical as well as literal interpretation. I'll explain it later.]
15f. Then the Spirit of the LORD [?] came upon him mightily, and Samson went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men, took their apparel, and gave the changes of clothing to those who had explained the riddle. After that, Samson's wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man. [One might say that Samson had a BRUTAL sense of humor!]
15g. After a while, Samson visited his wife with a young goat. And he said, "Let me go in to my wife, into her room." But her father would not permit him to go in, saying "I really thought that you thoroughly hated her; therefore I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister better than she is? Please, take her instead." And Samson said to them, "This time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!" [This was a typical example of the Levite mentality, "I will kill them ALL and be blameless of killing them, because they are ALL bad!"] Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set the torches on fire, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves. [Not a very neighborly thing to do.]
15h. Then the Philistines said, "Who has done this?" And they answered, "Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion." So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. [Eeegads!] Samson said to them, "Since you would do a thing like this, I will surely take revenge on you, and after that I will cease." So he attacked them hip and thigh with a great slaughter; then he went down and dwelt in the cleft of the rock of Etam. [This is a classic example of the kind of things that happen when you have an anarchy! As the authors concluded at the end of the Book of Judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."]
15i. In an attempt to maintain some semblance of peace with the Philistines, three thousand Israelite men went to talk to Samson in the cleft of the rock of Etam. After convincing Samson to turn himself in, they bound him with ropes. But, when he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the LORD [?] came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it. [Samson had a VERY bad temper!]
15j. Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the LORD and said, "You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?" So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived [and calmed down]. Therefore he called its name En Hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. And he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.
The rest of the Story of Samson was probably added during the Babylonian exile.
15k. One day, Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. [He violated his Nazirite oaths.] When the Gazites were told, "Samson has come here!" they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying, "In the morning, when it is daylight, we will kill him." Samson lay low till midnight; then he arose, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. [This was to show how physically strong Samson was. Apparently, he did it to intimidate his enemies.]
15l. Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, "Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver." So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you." And Samson said to her, "If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man." So the lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, and she bound him with them. Now men were lying in wait, staying with her in the room. And she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he broke the bowstrings as a strand of yarn breaks when it touches fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.
15m. Then Delilah said to Samson, "Look, you have mocked me and told me lies. [She's right. Samson lied to her]. Now, please tell me what you may be bound with." So he said to her, "If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man." Therefore Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And men were lying in wait, staying in the room. But he broke them off his arms like a thread.
15n. Delilah said to Samson, "Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me what you may be bound with." And he said to her, "If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom"--So she wove it tightly with the batten of the loom, and said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled out the batten and the web from the loom. Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies."
[This "Samson" appears to have had "very little between the ears!"]
15o. And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, that he told her all his heart, and said to her, "No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man." When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, "Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart." So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand. Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" So he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!" But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
15p. Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven. Now the lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice. And they said: "Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy!" When the people saw him, they praised their god; for they said: "Our god has delivered into our hands our enemy, the destroyer of our land, and the one who multiplied our dead." So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, "Call for Samson, that he may perform for us." So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them. And they stationed him between the pillars. Then Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, "Let me feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I can lean on them. Now the temple was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there--about three thousand men and women on the roof watching while Samson performed. Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, "O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!" And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.
15q. So there we have it. Can you recognize the "third heaven" interpretation of this story? The "roaring lion" which Samson killed represents the various Canaanite tribes, the original possessors of the "Promised Land". Samson represents the children of Israel under the leadership of the Levites. Delilah represents his non-Hebrew neighbors. The "seven locks [of hair] on his head" represent the "Laws of Moses." Out of the carcasses of the Canaanites grew a "Land of Milk and Honey", as promised by God, and the children of Israel ate of it. But problems arose when he began having sexual relations with non-Hebrew women. The Levite-minded Samson became distracted and began looking for (or creating) excuses to justify killing his neighbors again; and he was good at it. For obvious reasons, his non-Hebrew neighbors responded by trying to kill him as well. Some of the Israelites tried to re-establish a peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, but the Levite-minded Samson preferred to kill them instead.
15r. The story of Samson and Delilah shows that Samson was conceptually blind, even when he had his long hair. Some people might view this story as a "love is blind" scenario. But it's real intent was to demonstrate that the Levite-minded Samson was unable to recognize or appreciate the consequences (or "fruits") of his own actions. As a result, he ends up killing himself (the nation of Israel) as well as his non-Hebrew neighbors. So even though the Story of Samson appears on the surface to be a story about a great and powerful Hebrew hero, it was actually designed to serve as a parable showing (from the point of view of the non-Levite authors of Judges) WHY the nation of Israel ended up being destroyed by the Babylonian Empire. Jesus may have had this parable in mind when he said in Matthew 26:53, "for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." It's important to note that the nation of Israel enjoyed its most prosperous and peaceful years under the leadership of their Hittite-Hebrew-Moabite King Solomon (a fruit of "intermarriage") who IGNORED the Levite prohibitions against making covenants with neighboring nations!
THE STORY OF MICAH AND THE DANITES (Chapter 18)
16. This story appears to have taken place after the Benjamite massacre but early in the 300-year period covered by the Book of Judges. In those days there was no king in Israel, and the tribe of the Dan was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in; for their allotted portion of the "Promised Land" had not yet "fallen" to them. So the children of Dan sent five to spy out the land. Along the way, they passed through the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.
16a. While they were at the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. They turned aside and said to him, "Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What do you have here?" He said to them, "Thus and so Micah did for me. He has hired me, and I have become his priest." So they said to him, "Please inquire of God, that we may know whether the journey on which we go will be prosperous." And the priest said to them, "Go in peace. The presence of the LORD be with you on your way." So the five men departed and went to Laish. They saw the people who were there, how they dwelt safely, in the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure. There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame for anything. They were far from the Sidonians, and they had no ties with anyone. Then the spies came back to their brethren and said, "Arise, let us go up against them. For we have seen the land, and indeed it is very good. Would you do nothing? Do not hesitate to go, and enter to possess the land. When you go, you will come to a secure people and a large land. For God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth."
16b. So six hundred men of the family of the Danites headed towards there armed with weapons of war, and came to the house of Micah. Then the five men who had gone to spy out the country of Laish said to their brethren, "Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod, household idols, a carved image, and a molded image? Now therefore, consider what you should do." So they turned aside there, and came to the house of the young Levite man--to the house of Micah--and greeted him. The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war stood by the entrance of the gate. Then the five men who had gone to spy out the land went up. Entering there, they took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image. The priest stood at the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men who were armed with weapons of war and said to them, "What are you doing?" And they said, "Be quiet, put your hand over your mouth, and come with us; be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?" So the priest's heart was glad; and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and took his place among the people. Then they turned and departed, and put the little ones, the livestock, and the goods in front of them.
16c. When they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah's house gathered together and overtook the children of Dan. And they called out to the children of Dan. So they turned around and said to Micah, "What ails you, that you have gathered such a company?" So he said, "You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you have gone away. Now what more do I have? How can you say to me, 'What ails you?'" And the children of Dan said to him, "Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry men fall upon you, and you lose your life, with the lives of your household!" Then the children of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.
16d. So they took the things Micah had made and the priest who had belonged to him, and went to Laish, to a people quiet and secure; and they struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire.
There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no ties with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth Rehob. So they rebuilt the city and dwelt there. And they called the name of the city Dan. Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah's carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
16e. The willingness of this Levite to live with idols shows that he had become disillusioned with the teachings of his fellow Levites. Apparently, the purpose of this story was to illustrate how ideologically weak the Levites had become after the events leading up to the Benjamite massacre destroyed their credibility.
THE STORY OF RUTH (Ruth, Chapters 1-4)
17. Some translations of the Old Testament include the Story of Ruth in the Book of Judges, because it occurred during that 300-year period. But since Ruth was not one of the judges of Israel, her story is usually rendered separately. I'm including it here, so that we can end this article with something more upbeat and inspiring (the stories in the Book of Judges are informative, but GRIM). Again, because it is so exquisitely written, I'm quoting directly from the New King James Version for most of this rendering.
17a. During a time of famine, a man named Elimelech of Bethlehem (tribe of Judah) took his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahion and Chilion to live in the land of the Moabites. When Elimelech died, his two sons married Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. But then the two sons died as well, so Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, for she had heard that the famine there was over. She said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law." But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me." [One of the most superb expressions of devotion in the Bible coming from the mouth of a Moabite!]
17b. When to two of them came to Bethlehem, the entire city was excited because of them; and the women said, "Is this Naomi?" But she said to them, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?"
17c. There was a relative of Naomi's husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech; whose name was Boaz. Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter." Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz. He said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?" So the servant answered, "It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. And she said, 'Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house." Then Boaz said to Ruth, "You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn."
17d. Ruth then fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" And Boaz said to her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge."
17e. At mealtime, Boaz said to her, "Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her." So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.
17f. Then Naomi said to her, "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do."
17g. So she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her. And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at his feet. And he said, "Who are you?" So she answered, "I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative." Then he said, "Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I. Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you-- good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning."
17h. So she lay at his feet until morning, and she arose before one could recognize another. Then he said, "Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor. Also he said, "Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it." And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her. Then she went into the city. So when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, "Is that you, my daughter?" Then she told her all that the man had done for her. And she said, "These six ephahs of barley he gave me; for he said to me, 'Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.'"
17i. Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, "Come aside, friend, sit down here." So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sit down here." So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, "Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, 'Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.'" And he said, "I will redeem it."
17j. Then Boaz said, "On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance." And the close relative said, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it." Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, "Buy it for yourself." So he took off his sandal. And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day."
17k. And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, "We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman."
17i. So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him." Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, "There is a son born to Naomi." And they called his name Obed. Obed became the father of Jesse who became the father of David who became the father of Solomon. Thus Ruth, like Tamar (Genesis 38), became a non-Hebrew part of the lineage of the greatest kings of Israel and of Jesus Christ. [So much for the Levite prohibition against "intermarriage" and the rest of their restrictions on their definition of neighbor!]
18. So who REALLY represents God? According to most of the authors of the Old and New Testaments, it is anyone who seeks the TRUTH relative to the commandment to LOVE your neighbor as yourself (without placing any restrictions whatsoever on the applicability of the TRUTH or on one's definition of neighbor). This was the foundation of Jesus Christ's entire ministry on earth. Jesus clearly sided with the non-Levite authors of the Book of Judges in this great debate regarding who REALLY represents God.
(one grain of salt)
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