Bible Commentary for Joshua 23 – Judges 16
Joshua Chapter 23
Joshua is now well advanced in age and before he dies, he has the leaders of the nation of Israel assemble before him to give his farewell speech. He gives strong encouragement to them to continue serving Jehovah as they are now doing. He reminds them that they have seen how Jehovah has so far done what he has promised in removing the pagan nations from the land in order that they may inherit the land. But there are still some inhabitants remaining in the land and these Jehovah will also drive out but they must be careful to obey all of the Law of Moses neither turning to the right or to the left. They must not invoke the names of the gods of the land, nor swear by them. They must hold fast to Jehovah. According to The NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, page 324, “the word translated ‘hold fast’ is used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the intimate and binding relationship between husband and wife. Here it is used to describe a close relationship between Israel and God (cf. Dt 4:4, 10:20, 11:22, 13:4).” Because Jehovah was fighting for them, they have succeeded in driving out a more powerful people than they are.
A well-needed warning is then given to Israel. If they ally themselves with the people who are still in the land by intermarrying with them and associating with them, then God will not drive them out of the land but will leave them so that their gods would become snares and traps for them. They will become whips on their backs and thorns in their eyes until Jehovah drives them (Israel) out of the land. (Psalms 106:35-39) Just as God has fulfilled all the good things that he promised, he will also fulfill all of the evil things that he has threatened if they violate the covenant that Jehovah has concluded with them by bowing down to other gods.
Joshua Chapter 24
Joshua continues to encourage the people to faithfulness. At a later time, he assembled all Israel to Shechem to renew the covenant. Shechem, located in the hill country of Ephraim, is a few miles northwest of Shiloh where the Tabernacle had been set up. Shechem has an interesting history. It is where Abraham first received the promise that God would give the land of Canaan to his descendants. (Genesis 12:6, 7) When Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, he had his household rid themselves of their foreign gods and he buried them under an oak tree in Shechem. (Genesis 35:4) It was also at Shechem that Joshua led the people in a covenant renewal on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. (Joshua 8:30-34) So Shechem seems a fitting place for Joshua to assemble the people to review their history and to renew the covenant.
Joshua begins his brief recital of their history with Jehovah taking Abraham from his home beyond the Euphrates where other gods were worshipped and bringing him to the land of Canaan where he gave him descendants. Isaac was born to him and later Isaac became father to Esau and Jacob. Jehovah gave Esau the hill country of Seir and he sent Jacob into Egypt. He then sent Moses and Aaron into Egypt to afflict the Egyptians so that they would release Jacob’s descendants. The Egyptians pursued them to the Red Sea where Jehovah performed a miracle in which he destroyed their army in the sea. Israel then lived in the desert for a long time. Afterwards, Jehovah brought them to the territory of the Amorites who lived on the east side of the Jordan. He gave those two kings into Israel’s hand and they occupied their territory. The King of Moab then attempted to have Israel cursed by using Balaam but Jehovah turned his curses into blessings. They then crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho a fortified city that Jehovah gave into their hands. They are reminded that they did not destroy these people on their own, it was Jehovah who fought their battles. They have been given a land in which they would enjoy the benefits of someone else’s labors.
Based on the above facts Joshua reasons that they should fear Jehovah and should serve him with faithfulness. They should not be divided as to whom they should worship. They need to make a choice between Jehovah and any other god. Joshua states that he and his family have already made their choice, they will serve Jehovah. The people then acknowledged that it would be foolish of them not to worship Jehovah when they consider what he has done for them. Therefore they too will serve Jehovah.
Then Joshua challenges them by saying that they are not able to serve Jehovah, as He is a holy God, a jealous God who will not forgive their rebellion and their sin. If they forsake Him, He will bring disaster upon them in spite of all the good that He had done for them. But they insist that they know what it means to serve Jehovah and they will do it. Joshua tells them that they have made their decision and they must live with it. They are witnesses against themselves in making this affirmation. He now tells them that they must remove all foreign gods from their midst and be wholehearted in their devotion to Jehovah. They agree to do this.
The covenant now has been reaffirmed and Joshua records their affirmation of the covenant in the Book of the Law of God. He set up a large stone that he said would serve as a witness against Israel if they were unfaithful to their oaths because all of the words of Jehovah had been said in front of it. (Habakkuk 2:11) Israel remained faithful to Jehovah throughout Joshua’s lifetime and the lifetime of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything that Jehovah had done.
The book of Joshua ends with the death and burial of Joshua at the age of one hundred and ten years, the burial of Joseph’s bones and the death and burial of High Priest Eleazar, who had served during the period that Joshua was leader of Israel.
THE BOOK OF JUDGES
Judges Chapter 1
After the death of Joshua, the individual tribes began the task of removing the remaining people from their territory. They consulted Jehovah, probably through the high priest, on how it should be done and He told them that Judah would be the first to fight against the Canaanites. Judah asked the Simeonites to help him and he in turn would help Simeon fight them in their territory. They fought successful against Bezek and took its king hostage and cut off his big toes and his thumbs. This was usually done to incapacitate a military leader. He was taken to Jerusalem, the Jebusite city, where he died. Although the account records an attack on the city of Jerusalem, the city continued to be occupied by the Jebusites who were still living there during David’s reign. Judah continued their conquest in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. The account of the capture of Hebron and Debir by Caleb and Othniel is restated here, as these cities were a part of the territory of Judah. The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law are mentioned here as they settled in the territory of Judah in the Negev or desert.
The men of Judah then went with Simeon to dislodge the Canaanites from their cities. They defeated the Canaanites living in Zephath and destroyed their city. They then took the Philistine cities of Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron, although Simeon is not said to have occupied these cities. Judah was unsuccessful in removing the Canaanites from the plains, as they were afraid of them because they had iron chariots. Nothing is said about their asking Jehovah for His help in defeating these Canaanites.
Manasseh begins to clear his territory of pagans. They sent men to spy out Bethel. They saw a man coming out of the city and enlisted his help to show them how they might get into the city by promising him they would not kill him. He showed them how to do this and they killed everyone in the city but spared the man and his whole family. He then went to the land of the Hittites, that is, Syria, and built a city that he called Luz in honor of his former city. But Manasseh did not follow through and hence left many of their cities still in the control of the original inhabitants. When they became stronger, they pressed these people into forced labor but they never drove them out completely as Jehovah had commanded. Other tribes who disobeyed Jehovah’s command were Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali and Dan. Instead when they became strong they took advantage of these people and made them work cheaply. Jehovah’s firm instruction was that these people were to be completely destroyed.
Judges Chapter 2
Jehovah sent his angel to tell Israel that since they had not obeyed him He would not drive the remainder of the people from the land, but they would be allowed to remain among them and would be thorns in their sides and their gods would be snares to them. He would use these nations to test Israel to see if they would obey him. This is why he did not allow Joshua to drive them out at one time. The people wept at this pronouncement and they then offered sacrifices to Jehovah though probably not in true repentance. The place came to known as Bokim, which means weepers.
Verses 10 – 19 gives a synopsis of the course that Israel took after the death of Joshua and the elders who served with him. Israel forgot Jehovah and began to do evil in His eyes. They worshipped the gods of the people around them. Jehovah then allowed these same people to overrun them and they were defeated whenever they went out to fight. (Deuteronomy 28:25) Then Jehovah would raise up judges for them who would deliver them out of the hands of their oppressor. But when the judge died, they would quickly forget what Jehovah had done and would return to prostituting themselves with other gods. This became a cycle with them because they refuse to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Judges Chapter 3
Jehovah names specific nations that he left to test Israel and to teach them warfare. They were the five Philistine rulers, the people living in the Lebanese Mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. Israel lived among these people and they intermarried with them and served their gods. They did evil in Jehovah’s eyes and he gave them over to the people of the land. He gave them over to Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Aram and they were subject to him for eight years. Israel cried out to Jehovah and he sent Othniel, the son of Kenaz of the tribe of Judah, to deliver them. He fought successfully against this king and defeated him with the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit. Israel was obedient as long as Othniel lived, some forty years.
Israel again rebelled against Jehovah and he allowed Eglon King of Moab to overpower them. He ruled over them for eighteen years. This time he raised up Ehud, a Benjamite, to save them when they cried out to Him. Israel had to pay tribute to Eglon and it probably consisted of agricultural products, so many men would be needed to take it to him at his summer palace in the City of Palms, a city that he had seized from Israel. Ehud was in charge of this tribute. Ehud had made a double-edged sword and strapped it to his thigh under his clothing. When they had delivered the tribute to Eglon Ehud sent the men who had carried the tribute on and he returned to say that he had a secret message for the king. The king dismissed his attendants and Ehud told him that he had a message from God. Eglon stood up and Ehud pulled his sword out and plunged it into the king’s belly. Ehud then left and locked the door to the king’s room. The king’s attendants came back and found the door locked. They waited to unlock the door because they thought he may have been relieving himself and this allowed time for Ehud to escape. When Ehud came to the hill country of Ephraim he summoned the Ephramites by blowing a trumpet. He told them that Jehovah had given the Moabites into their hands. First they took possession of the Jordan River to keep the Moabites from crossing it in retreat. Then they struck down ten thousand Moabite soldiers and Moab became subject to Israel. Israel enjoyed peace for eighty years.
The next judge of Israel is Shamgar who fought and killed six hundred Philistines using an oxgoad. He is believed to have been a contemporary of Ehud. Nothing is said regarding his tribal ancestry.
Judges Chapter 4
After Ehud’s death, Israel sunk into idolatry again. Jehovah allowed the Canaanites who lived in Hazor to overrun them. This king cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Hazor is discussed in Joshua 11:1 as the royal city in the northern part of Canaan who organized all the northern cities to unite to defeat Israel. Joshua did defeat these kings but Naphtali did not dispossess all of these Canaanites so they continued to live in the area. Jabin was probably a dynastic name just as Pharaoh and Abimelech were. This king and his army general, Sisera, had nine hundred iron chariots that they used to terrorize Israel.
Deborah, a prophetess, was judging Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah in the hill country of Ephraim between Ramah and Bethel. All Israel came here to have their cases decided. She sent for Barak who lived in Kedesh in Naphtali and told him that Jehovah had commanded him to take ten thousand men from Naphtali and Zebulun and go to Mount Tabor and Jehovah would lure Sisera to the Kishon River and give him into Barak’s hand. Barak would accept the assignment only if Deborah will go with him. She agrees to do so but tells him that because of his lack of faith, the honor of capturing Sisera will go to a woman. Barak recruits ten thousand men to fight with him.
Sisera learns that Barak has taken a large army and has gone to Mount Tabor. He gathers his army and his chariots and went to the Kishon River. Deborah told Barak to go and meet Sisera as Jehovah had gone ahead of him. Barak and his men left Mount Tabor and as they advanced upon Sisera Jehovah routed his army. Barak chased after the army and killed them all. Sisera however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.
This family of Kenites had left the Negev of Judah and settled in Kedesh in Ephraim. Since the Kenites and these Canaanites were on friendly terms, Sisera did not give it a second thought when Jael invited him to come into her tent. He lay down and she covered him. When he asked for water, she instead gave him some curdled milk. He told Jael to watch at the entrance to the tent and if anyone asks if there is anyone in the tent she is to say no. When Sisera fell asleep because of exhaustion, Jael took a tent peg and a hammer and drove the tent peg into his temple and he died. When Barak came by her tent in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and told him that she could show him the man he was looking for. She took him inside her tent and there lay Sisera dead with a tent peg in his temple. That day Jehovah subdued these Canaanites and as Israel grew stronger, they destroyed all these Canaanites as Jehovah had commanded them to do.
Judges Chapter 5
Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to Jehovah for the victory over Jabin, king of the Canaanites. Deborah may have written this song though that fact is not stated in this chapter. Praise is to be given to Jehovah when his people respond readily. His servants will sing His praises in the hearing of all kings and rulers, the God who causes mountains to quake and the clouds to pour down rain.
Life in Israel had about come to a halt, roads were too dangerous to travel because of the marauding bands of the enemy and people fled from villages into the walled cities until Deborah arose as a mother in Israel to inspire Israel to take action. Israel had deserted Jehovah in favor of new gods and so was experiencing war even at the city gates and this without any weapons with which to defend itself. Still Israel’s princes were willing volunteers to fight on her behalf.
Those who are travelers on Israel’s roads should listen to the voices of those who are recounting the righteous acts of Jehovah and his warriors in Israel. The people can now congregate at the city gates since war has ceased. Praise Jehovah! The tribes of Israel sent their mighty men to Deborah. Some came from Ephraim, from Benjamin, from Manasseh, from Zebulun and from Issachar. Reuben gave thought to sending men but decided to remain with their flocks. Gilead remained on the other side of the Jordan. Dan and Asher both remained aloof to the fighting.
The armies fought at Taanach near Megiddo but the Canaanites did not carry off plunder as they had previously done. Jehovah intervened and used the natural elements to fight against them. The river Kishon overflowed its banks, which would hamper the use chariots. The people of Meroz refused to help and were cursed by Jehovah’s angel.
But Jael, the Kenite, is to be most blessed of women. Sisera asked for water and she gave him curdled milk, then she killed him with a tent peg. His mother would no doubt be waiting for his return and her ladies in waiting would try to soothe her by saying that he was busy gathering the spoils of war. So should this be the fate of all Jehovah’s enemies but those who love Jehovah should continually gather strength, as does the sun when it rises. Israel enjoyed peace for forty years under Deborah.
Judges Chapter 6
Israel again turned to the worship of other gods and Jehovah allowed the Midianites to oppress them for seven years. Whenever Israel planted crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people would camp on the land and ruin the crops all the way to Gaza. They would even kill all of the livestock of the Israelites. There were so many of them that their tents looked like swarms of locusts. Israel was so devastated by them that they cried out to Jehovah for help. Jehovah sent a prophet to them who berated them for their disobedience to Jehovah.
Jehovah now sent His angel to assign a leader for Israel. The angel sat under an oak tree that belonged to Joash and where his son, Gideon, was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. The angel said to Gideon that Jehovah was with him. But Gideon replied that if that were true why were they being oppressed by Midian. The angel then commanded Gideon to go and save Israel out of the hand of Midian. Gideon was skeptical and replied that his family was as nothing in the families of Manasseh. The angel replied that Jehovah would be with him to aid him to be successful. Gideon now wants to see a sign that the angel had been sent by Jehovah.
Gideon told the angel that he wanted to make an offering to Jehovah and when he returned with it, the angel told him to put it on a rock. The angel then touched the offering with his staff and fire consumed the meat and the bread and he disappeared. Gideon then realized that he had truly spoken to the angel of Jehovah and was fearful that he would die. He was assured that he would not die and he then built an altar to Jehovah and called it Jehovah is peace.
Gideon is now instructed to tear down his father’s altar to Baal and the accompanying Asherah pole. He is to build an altar for Jehovah in its place and offer a seven-year old bull on it using the wood from the Asherah pole. Gideon obeys but does so at night because he is too afraid to do it in the daytime. When the men of the town awoke to find their altar to Baal demolished, they wanted to know who had done this. They learned that it was Gideon and they wanted to put him to death. This attitude was certainly not the one encouraged by Moses. These people were now true worshipper of Baal. But his father came to his rescue and told the men that if Baal were really a god that he could defend himself. Gideon was now given the name Jerub-Baal meaning ‘Let Baal contend with him.’ They expected that Gideon would have judgement brought upon him by Baal himself. Of course, nothing happened to Gideon.
Now the Midianites began camping in the Valley of Jezreel as before and Jehovah’s spirit come upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet to summon the men to join forces with him against Midian. The people from his town were the first to join him probably because they had lost faith in Baal because he had failed to bring judgement against Gideon. He sent messengers to Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to come and fight the Midianites. He once again asked for a sign from Jehovah to assure him that he would be successful to which Jehovah responded.
Judges Chapter 7
Gideon and his men have camped south of the Midianite’s encampment. Jehovah tells Gideon that he has too many men with him. They would most likely claim the victory because of their sheer numbers. He tells Gideon how to cull the number of men. He is to announce that anyone who is fearful should return to their homes. Twenty-two thousand men left leaving ten thousand. Jehovah tells Gideon that he still has too many men. He is to take the men to a body of water and have them drink from the water. Anyone who gets down on his knees and laps up the water with his tongue is to be separated from those who use their hands to bring the water to their mouths. All but three hundred men got down on their knees and lapped the water with their tongue. Gideon was to send the men who lapped the water with their tongues back to their homes and to keep those who drank the water using their hands. Jehovah would save Israel using these three hundred men.
Gideon is now commanded by Jehovah to go up against Midian and they will be given into his hands. If he is still afraid, he is to take his servant and go down to the camp and listen to what is being said by the Midianites. Gideon does so and he hears a man telling his dream to another man who interprets the dream as meaning that God has given the entire camp of Midian into the hand of Gideon. This of course encourages Gideon and he praises Jehovah. He hurries back to his men and urges them to get up because Jehovah had given Midian into their hands.
He divides his men into three groups and gives them trumpets and empty clay jars with torches inside of them. He tells his men to keep their eyes on him and imitate what he does. When he and the men with him blow their trumpets then all the men will do the same and shout “for the LORD [Jehovah] and for Gideon.” When Gideon and his men reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., they blew their trumpets and broke the jars in their hands grasping the torches that were inside the jars. When they shouted, panic ensued in Midian’s camp. Jehovah caused the men in the camp to turn on each other with their swords. When they realized what they were doing, they fled toward the Jordan in hope of escaping into the desert. Men were called from Ephraim to guard the Jordan to keep them from escaping that way. Also men from Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh were called to help in pursuing the fleeing Midianites. Two of the Midianites leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, were captured and killed by the Ephraimites.
Judges Chapter 8
The Ephraimites were resentful because they said that they had not been asked originally to come with Gideon to fight against Midair. Gideon explained that in capturing the two Midianite leaders, they had already done more than he had done by comparison. They were satisfied with this answer and Gideon and his three hundred men continue their pursuit of the Midianites. They crossed the Jordan and asked for provision from the people of Succoth, which is in the territory of Gad, who refused to given them anything. They would help only if Gideon had the two kings in his custody. Gideon then promised them that he would later return and thrash them with thorns and briers because of refusing to help him. He asked the same thing of the next city he came to, Peniel, and they also refused help. He promised to tear down their tower when he returned victorious.
The NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, page 344, gives this as the reason these two cities refused to help Gideon. It reads: “The men of Succoth reasoned that the fleeing Midianites would soon regroup and easily defeat the makeshift army thrown together by Gideon. Any assistance given to Gideon would implicate Succoth and bring certain retaliation from the feared nomads.”
The Midianites, with only fifteen thousand men left, had fled to Karkor, which is east of the Dead Sea and they thought that they were safely away from Gideon and his men. But Gideon, following a nomadic route came upon them unexpectedly and routed the Midianite army capturing the two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna.
Gideon then returned to Succoth, and after learning the names of the town elders, presented the two kings to the town elders. He then chided them for their reluctance to help in the crises and he soundly whipped them with thorns and briers. He then went to Peniel and pulled down its tower and killed the men of that city. He learned that Zebah and Zalmunna had killed his brothers at Tabor and he then put these two kings to death.
The Israelites then asked Gideon to rule over them because he saved them from Midian. Gideon refused because he told them that Jehovah was their king. He then requested a gold earring from each of the men in which he fashioned into an ephod and placed in his hometown, Ophrah. It later became a snare to Gideon as well as Israel who began to worship the ephod.
The Bible Commentary of the Old Testament, p. 396, says of this ephod: "The nature of this ephod is not clear. It may have been patterned after the short outer garment worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:6-30; 39:1-21; Lev.8:7, 8). But rather than being worn as a garment, Gideon's golden ephod was apparently erected and became an idol. In some sense, he may have usurped the function of the priest and/or established a rival worship center to the tabernacle. In the end Gideon seems to have returned to the syncretistic society out of which God had called him to deliver Israel."
Under Gideon, Israel enjoyed peace for forty years. Gideon had seventy sons by his many wives. He also had a son, Abimelech, by a concubine who lived in Shechem. There would be enmity between the two families after the death of Gideon, as we will learn in chapter 9. No sooner had Gideon died than Israel prostituted themselves again to other gods. This time they set up Baal-Berith, whose name means Baal of the covenant, as their god and they forgot all about Jehovah and what he did for them.
Judges Chapter 9
Gideon had a son named Abimelech, the offspring of his concubine who lived in Shechem, who desired to be king of Israel. So he went to mother’s brothers and asked them if it were more desirable to have seventy sons of Gideon rule over them or just one man, as if all of Gideon’s sons were interested at the same time in ruling over Israel. The brothers sided with Abimelech and encouraged the citizens of Shechem to back him also. They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of their god and he hired worthless men to follow him. He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and murdered his seventy brothers. One of the brothers, Jotham, escaped by hiding. Afterward, the people of Shechem and Millo made Abimelech king over them.
When Jotham heard about this, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and related a fable to the people of Shechem and as well as a curse. The allegory likened Abimelech to a thornbush that wanted to rule over all of the trees even the olive tree, the fig tree and the grapevine, plants that are a lot more valuable than the thornbush. Thornbushes have no value at all. They certainly don’t afford any shade for anything and are a menace to agriculture because they catch fire so easily. The thornbush even issued an ultimatum that if the trees did not want it to rule over them, then fire would come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon. Jotham explained that if they believe that they have acted fairly towards his father, who saved them from Midian, in making Abimelech, the son of a slave girl, king over them then might there be good relations between the citizens of Shechem and Abimelech. If however they have not acted fairly towards his father then let fire come out from Abimelech and consume Shechem and Millo and let fire come from Shechem and Millo and consume Abimelech. Jotham then fled to Beer because he was afraid of Abimelech.
Abimelech ruled for three years before God acted to bring vengeance on the people of Shechem and on Abimelech for the murder of Gideon’s seventy sons. He caused an evil spirit to develop between Abimelech and Shechem. An important trade route passed through Shechem and Abimelech could extract tribute and tolls from those traveling this route. The citizens of Shechem began to rob caravans and travelers to cause them to take another route thus causing a loss of revenue to Abimelech.
About that time Gaal and his brothers moved into Shechem and began to undermine the authority of Abimelech. He even went so far as to say that if the people of Shechem would allow him to take command, he would get rid of Abimelech and his army. Gaal was able to speak openly against Abimelech to the people because Abimelech did not live in the Shechem. Zebul, who had been appointed governor of the city by Abimelech, became angry over these words of Gaal and he sent messengers to Abimelech telling him that Gaal was stirring the city up against him. He advised him to travel to Shechem by night and hide in the fields and advance against the city by sunrise the next day.
Abimelech and his troops traveled to Shechem and concealed themselves that night. Early the next morning, Gaal was standing at the entrance of the city gate as Abimelech and his men came out of their hiding places. He saw them but did not know who they were. Then Zebul told him who the men were and that he should go out and fight them as he had bragged that he would do. Gaal led his men out to fight Abimelech and they suffered defeat. Gaal and his men then retreated to the city but Zebul forced them to leave. The next day Abimelech began attacking the people who went out to the fields to work. He continued his attack against Shechem until he captured it and killed all of the people. He then destroyed the city and spread salt on it to make it infertile. The city was not rebuilt until the reign of Jeroboam II nearly two hundred years later. (1 Kings 12:25)
He then attacked the tower of Shechem (possibly Beth Millo) where about a thousand people had assembled. He cut down trees and set fire to the tower killing all of these people. He next went to Thebez, fought against it and captured it. There was a strong tower in this city also to which the people fled, locking themselves inside of it and climbing to its roof. Abimelech intended to burn it down as he had previously done in Shechem, but before he could set it on fire a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. He had his armor bearer to run him through with his sword so that it would not be said that a woman had killed him. After his death the Israelites dispersed to their homes. Jehovah had repaid Abimelech’s wickedness to his father in murdering his seventy sons and He had also made the people of Shechem pay for their part in these murders. The curse that Jotham pronounced against Abimelech and the people of Shechem had succeeded with the help of Jehovah although nothing had been written that Jotham had been instructed by Him to utter this curse.
Judges Chapter 10
Tola, a man from Issachar, was used by Jehovah to save Israel. He led Israel for twenty- three years. Tola is said to have saved Israel but nothing is said about the nation or people that were oppressing them.
Jair followed Tola as judge of Israel. He lived in Gilead and he judged Israel for twenty-two years. He was named for Jair, a great, great grandson of Manasseh, who in Moses’ time, captured settlements in the land east of the Jordan and called them Havvoth Jair or settlements of Jair. (Numbers 32:41) Here we learn that Havvoth Jair consisted of thirty towns in Gilead and Jair’s thirty sons controlled these towns. Again, nothing is said about Jair saving Israel from oppression by a particular nation.
Israel, again, is said to have done evil in Jehovah’s eyes. This time a multiplicity of gods is mentioned such as the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. Jehovah allowed the Philistines and the Ammonites to oppress them. The Ammonites oppressed the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh for eighteen years. They even crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim. The nation was in great distress and they cried out to Jehovah to save them. But Jehovah reminded them that he had already saved them from many nations yet they continued to forsake Him and worship other gods. They should call on these gods to help them. Israel then became contrite and got rid of these foreign gods and began to serve Jehovah. Jehovah relented and decided to help them.
When the Ammonites came into Gilead to fight Israel, the leaders of the people of Gilead met at Mizpah and decided that the person who would lead the fight against Ammon would become their leader.
Judges Chapter 11
We are now introduced to Jephthah who was a great warrior. His father was Gilead, a descendant of a grandson of Manasseh by the same name, and his mother was a prostitute. The sons of Gilead by his wife drove Jephthah away from them because they did not want him to inherit any of their family property as he was to them an illegitimate son. Jephthah fled to Tob, a town about fifteen miles east of Ramoth Gilead, where he became the leader to a group of adventurers.
Jephthah had obviously gained a reputation as a fighter during the time he spent in Tob because the leaders of Gilead sought him out and asked him to lead them in the fight against Ammon. Jephthah is suspicious of them because he reminds them of the hatred that they had for him when they drove him away from his father’s house. Why should he help them now? But they replied that they needed him to fight the Ammonites and that they would make him leader of all of Gilead. They were now willing to forget their past ostracism of him in exchange for his help as a warrior. They even swore by Jehovah that they would keep their word to make him their leader. Jephthah agreed and he returned to Gilead where they did make him their leader. Jephthah then took all that they said to him to Jehovah for his approval.
Jephthah’s first act as leader of Gilead is to inquire of the king of Ammon the reason why they are fighting against Israel. The king answered back that Israel had taken away his land when they came out of Egypt. If Israel willingly gives it back there will be no war. Jephthah’s response included a short history of how Israel obtained this land. He told him how Israel, when they had arrived at Kadesh had sent messengers to the king of Edom asking for permission to pass through their country but he refused. They also asked the same of the king of Moab and he also refused. So Israel skirted these nations by traveling around them on the eastern side and camped on the Arnon, which is the border of Moab. When they came to the territory of Sihon the Amorite, they asked permission to cross through his territory in order to get to the Jordan River so that they could cross it into their own land. But he refused and mustered his army to fight against them. But Jehovah gave him into Israel’s hand and they took over his land that extended from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan. Israel had not encroached on any land that belonged to the Ammonites. (See Deuteronomy 2:37)
Jephthah emphasized to this king that if the land really belonged to him then he has had three hundred years to retake this territory as this is how long Israel has occupied it, but he failed to do so until now. Obviously his god, Chemosh, did not desire them to have it. He would let Jehovah decide the matter once and for all. The king of Ammon paid no attention to what Jephthah had said to him.
Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon Jephthah and he advanced against the Ammonites. Before he engaged them in fighting he made a vow to Jehovah that if He gave him the victory he would devote to Jehovah the first one who came out of his house to welcome him home from his victory. Jehovah gave him the victory and he subdued the Ammonites. When he returned to his house in Mizpah, his only child, a daughter, was the first to greet him. Jephthah now despairs because he realizes that the vow he made to Jehovah would mean that he would have no one to inherit his property or give him grandchildren. Many scholars believe that he was literally going to offer his daughter as a sacrifice on the altar of burnt offering. We know that only the pagans would do such a detestable thing. This was not a requirement of Jehovah. (See Genesis 22:12; Jeremiah 32:35)
Jephthah’s daughter urged him to keep his vow to Jehovah but she requested that she be given two months to roam the hills and weep with her friends because she would never marry. She was not weeping because she was about to die as these scholars believe, but that she would never have the honor of marrying and bringing forth offspring which was extremely important to women of this time. She was now dedicated to Jehovah and would serve along with other woman at the entrance of the Tabernacle. (See Judges 21:21-23; 1 Samuel 2:23) It became a custom in Israel that each year the young women would go out for four days to remember Jephthah’s daughter.
Judges Chapter 12
Member of the tribe of Ephraim claimed to have something against Jephthah. So they crossed the Jordan and came to Zaphon to threaten him because he did not include them in his army when he fought against the Ammonites. Ammon had conducted raids against Ephraim and they had been powerless to do anything about it. (10:9) Ephraim has now become jealous because of Jephthah’s success against Ammon and so sought to pick a fight with him. Jephthah reminds them that he had asked for their help but they had not responded. This tribe had done a similar thing to Gideon but he was able to soothe their anger. (8:1, 2)
Jephthah gathered the Gileadites together and fought against Ephraim. They were most angry against Ephraim because they insulted them by saying: “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.” There was obviously some enmity developing between the tribes east of the Jordan and those west of the Jordan, something that had been feared would happen by the soldiers when they were returning to their territory after helping Israel conquer the land west of the Jordan. (Joshua 22:26-28)
The Gileadites were able to defeat the Ephramites and they captured the fords of the Jordan so that anyone from Ephraim that had escaped the army and attempted to return to Ephraim by crossing the Jordan would be stopped. The Gileadites would ask the man if he was an Ephraimite and if he answered that he was not, they would ask him to pronounce the word “Shibboleth,” which means ‘an ear of grain’ or ‘a flowing stream.’ For some reason the Ephraimites had a problem pronouncing the beginning sound of this word and when they would say it, it would sound like “Sibboleth.” And of course, he would be killed by the Gileadites. Forty two thousand Ephraimites were killed at this time. Jephthah led Israel for six years and he died and was buried in Gilead.
To learn what meaning this "Shibboleth" test has for us today, please consider the article entitled The "Shibboleth" Test at this site:
Three judges followed him but not much is said about their exploits. Ibzan was from Bethlehem, though it is not stated whether this city was located in Zebulun or Judah, and he led Israel for seven years. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters for whom he contracted marriage alliances with those outside of his clan.
After Ibzan there was Elon from Zebulun who led Israel for ten years. Nothing more is said of him.
Next came Abdon from Pirathon in Ephraim who led Israel for eight years. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons all of who rode on donkeys, which was a symbol of Abdon’s wealth. He was buried in his hometown of Pirathon located in Ephraim.
Judges Chapter 13
Israel again abandons their worship of Jehovah to follow other gods and He allowed the Philistines to overrun them for forty years. Jehovah again raises up a judge to deliver Israel. Jehovah sent his angel to the tribe of Dan to the house of a man named Manoah who had a wife who was barren. The angel told Manoah’s wife that she was going to give birth to a son and that she was not to drink any wine or fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. When her son was born no razor was to be used on his head because he would be a Nazirite, someone who would be set apart to God and he would deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.
This is the first recorded instance of a person being called to be a Nazirite even before his birth. This person would then be a Nazirite for his lifetime; it would be a special appointment from God. It was not the same as a person making a vow to Jehovah for a specified period of time.
When she went and told her husband everything that the angel had said to her, he, Manoah, prayed to Jehovah that he would send the man of God back to tell them how to bring up their son. The angel then returned and Manoah wanted to know what was to be the rule of the boy’s life and work. The angel simply repeated the instructions that he had originally given his wife. He wanted the angel to stay for a meal with them but the he refused. He told Manoah that if he wanted to offer a sacrifice to Jehovah he could. Manoah was not aware that he was speaking to the angel of Jehovah. Manoah then asked the angel what his name was but all he said was that it was "too wonderful."
The NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, p.354, has this to say about Manoah's request: "That the angel did not directly answer Manoah's question may imply that his request for a confirming visit showed lack of faith. He was not easily convinced by the word of God (cf.6:36-40).
Manoah then brought a goat with its grain offering and sacrificed it on a rock. As the flame blazed up from the altar the angel of Jehovah ascended in the flame. When they saw this they became afraid that they were going to die because they recognized that this man was Jehovah’s angel. But his wife reasoned that if Jehovah meant to kill them then he would not have accepted their offering. Manoah’s wife gave birth to a boy and they named him Samson, which means ‘sun’ or ‘brightness.’ As he grew up Jehovah blessed him.
Judges Chapter 14
Samson went to Timnah and saw a young Philistine woman and then requested that his parents get her as a wife for him. They were logically upset because they did not understand why he would choose a Philistine over an Israelite woman. They did not know that this was from Jehovah who wanted to force a confrontation with the Philistines. But Samson was adamant and they complied with his wishes. As they traveled to Timnah, he left his parents for some reason and encounters a lion. Jehovah’s spirit becomes operative upon him and he tears the lion apart as he would a young goat. This act was the first display of his great strength. He told no one about this incident, as his parents did not witness it. He continued to Timnah to talk to the young woman and found her to be agreeable to him.
When he returned to Timnah to prepare to marry her he stopped to look at the carcass of the lion that he had killed. A swarm of bees had made a hive inside it and Samson took some of the honey to eat and gave some to his parents. He did not tell them where it had come from. When he arrived in Timnah, he gave a feast as was customary for bridegrooms to do. He was given thirty companions and he decided to propound a riddle to them, as was also a popular custom. He told them that if they could tell him the answer to the riddle within the seven days of the feast he would give each of them a linen garment and set of clothes. If they failed to learn the answer to the riddle they would in turn give him the same amount of garments.
The NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, page 356, says this: “Though the riddle was designed as a form of entertainment, it may have been related to the lack of proper wedding attire also (cf. Mt 22:11-12). Samson’s offer was an attractive one, since clothes were highly regarded in the Near East. Possibly also the Philistines wanted to prove that they were smarter than the Israelites.”
After three day, they were unable to come up with the answer, so they prevailed upon Samson’s wife to find out the answer for them or they would burn her father’s house down. She continued to pressure him throughout the festival until he told her the answer to the riddle to which she promptly told the thirty companions. At the end of the festival, they came to him with the answer. He knew instantly that his wife had told them the answer. He said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.” (Verse 18)
Samson then went to Ashkelon, a Philistine city about twenty miles from Timnah, and killed thirty well dressed men who he stripped of their garments and gave these to the thirty men. It is believed that he went to this city so that this deed would not be associated with him. Because of his great angry he returned home with his parents apparently before consummating his marriage. The woman’s father, rather than have his daughter humiliated, gave her in marriage to the man who had attended Samson at his wedding.
Judges Chapter 15
Samson later returned to Timnah to see his wife but her father prevented him from doing so. He told him that he thought that Samson hated her because of what she had done so he had given her to another man. Samson was truly angry then and vowed to get revenge on the Philistines. He caught and tied three hundred foxes together tail to tail in pairs and fastened a torch to each pair and let them loose in a grain field where the harvesting had already begun. Everything was burned up including a vineyard and some olive groves. When the Philistines asked who had done this they were told it was Samson. They said that Samson was angry because his wife had been given to another man. The Philistines retaliated by setting fire to the house of Samson’s wife burning the entire household to death. Samson then viciously attacked these Philistines who had killed his wife putting many of them to death. He then went to a cave in Etam, located in Judah’s territory, where he stayed.
The Philistines went up to Judah to fight with them. When the men of Judah asked why they wanted to fight them, they told them that they wanted Samson as a prisoner. The men of Judah went down to the cave where Samson was and told him that they wanted to turn him over to the Philistines. He asked them to swear that they would not kill him themselves which they did. They bound him with two new ropes of flax and led him to the Philistines.
When he reached them they began to shout and Jehovah’s spirit came upon him and the ropes fell away from him. With the jawbone of an ass he struck down about a thousand men. Afterwards he was tired and very thirsty and he cried out to Jehovah. Jehovah then caused water to come out of a hollow place and Samson drank and began to revive.
Judges Chapter 16
Samson again wemt into Philistine territory, this time to Gaza where he visited a prostitute. Of course it was reported that he was there but the Philistines wanted to wait until the morning before they would capture him. Samson stayed only until the middle of the night and as he left he tore the city gates apart and took them with him to the top of a hill that faced Hebron.
Later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The record does not state whether she was a Philistine or not but she lived in the same area, the Valley of Sorek, as did Samson and she had a Semitic name. When the Philistine rulers learned about Samson’s interest in her, they went to her to ask her to help them learn what the source of his strength was. If she succeeded she would receive eleven hundred pieces of silver from each of the five Philistine rulers, a princely sum indeed.
The first time she asks Samson to tell he what the secret of his strength was, he told her that if he were tied with seven fresh wet thongs, he would be like any ordinary man. She immediately reported this to the Philistine rulers and they supplied her with the rope and waited in her home until she had tied him with the thongs. Then she said to Samson that the Philistines were about to capture him and he broke the thongs as though they were string. She accused him of making a fool of her and asked several more times for the secret to his strength. To her several queries he told her that if he were tied with new rope, or if the seven braids of his hair were woven into the fabric of a loom and the pin tightened, he would be as an ordinary man; all of which she tried unsuccessfully. She then became urgent in her quest for the correct answer. She accused him of not really loving her as he refused to confide in her.
The NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, p. 358, says this of Delilah: "Delilah's objective must have been obvious to Samson. He knew how well his Philistine wife had kept a secret (14:17) of far less importance than this one. Confident that he would never tell her the truth, he toyed with her for his own amusement."
She nagged him day after day until he became weary of it. Because of her persistence, he finally told her that because he was a Nazirite, his hair had never been cut. If his hair were to be cut, he would loose his strength. She sensed that he was now telling the truth so she sent word to the Philistine rulers that she had gotten the secret from him.
The Philistines returned with the silver money. She put Samson to sleep and had a man come in and shave off his hair. Then she told him that the Philistines had come to take him captive and of course he would get rid of them as before though not realizing that this time Jehovah had left him. The Philistines blinded him and took him to Gaza where in prison he was made to grind the grain.
The NIV Bible Commentary,Volume I, p. 359, has this to say: "Grinding at the mill was a woman's job (9:53), which added to Samson's humiliation. It is unclear whether he used a small handmill or was forced to turn a large circular stone, a job normally given to donkeys (the latter task would avenge Samson's earlier treatment of the Philistines; cf. 15:16) While in prison, Samson's hair began to grow again."
The rulers of the Philistines decided to celebrate the capture of Samson by assembling to sacrifice to their god, Dagon, who had delivered Samson into their hands. The temple was full of people including the five Philistine rulers while another three thousand were watching the celebration from the roof of the temple. During the celebration, they asked that Samson be bought out to entertain them. They stood him among the pillars and he asked the young man who led him by the hand to place him near the pillars that supported the temple so that he could lean against them to rest. He then prayed to Jehovah to give him strength enough to get revenge on the Philistine for blinding him. He then with both his hands on the support pillars pushed with all his might and the temple came crashing down. He killed more Philistines at this time than he had in his lifetime. His father’s family came to get him and they buried him in Manoah’s tomb. He has led Israel for twenty years.
NOTE:All cited verses are taken from the New International Study Bible unless otherwise stated.
***©2005 by YORWW Congregation
A chapter-by-chapter Bible Commentary offered each week by the YORWW Congregation to ardent students of Holy Scripture. This innovative new feature of Bible Study on LWF will offer insightful, indepth, and deeply probing analysis of God's Holy Word, with special emphasis upon modern day prophecy fulfillment. This is a MUST feature for all ardent students of God's Word who wish to accurately learn the bible from cover-to-cover! (Only LWF Administration post here.)
Moderator: LWF Administration
1 post • Page 1 of 1