325.) Judges 21

July 30, 2010

No wonder this groom is smiling!  Chinese brides are currently in short supply, thanks to the government’s “one child” policy which has led to widespread aborting and abandoning of baby girls in a nation where sons are preferred.   The Benjamites, too, have difficulty in securing their brides!

Judges 21 (New International Version)

Wives for the Benjamites

1 The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”

2 The people went to Bethel,  where they sat before God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly. 3 “O LORD, the God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?”

(“Yes, let’s think about that.  Could it have been our own sins and departure from God’s ways, our excessive vengeance against our own people, our failure to teach our children to know the Lord?”)

4 Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.

5 Then the Israelites asked, “Who from all the tribes of Israel has failed to assemble before the LORD ?” For they had taken a solemn oath that anyone who failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah should certainly be put to death.

6 Now the Israelites grieved for their brothers, the Benjamites. “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel,” they said.

(We remember from the previous chapter that the Israelites, in their reckless zeal, had killed all the women and children of Benjamin, and only 600 men had escaped the massacre.  To have such a gap in the roster of the twelve tribes of Israel was too dreadful to contemplate.)

7 “How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?” 8 Then they asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah?” They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly. 9 For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.

(This clan will pay dearly for not having participated in the warfare against the tribe of Benjamin.)

10 So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. 11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.” 12 They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

(So to rectify matters after one act of violence, they carry out another act of violence.)

13 Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon. 14 So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.

15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because the LORD had made a gap in the tribes of Israel. 16 And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left? 17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. 18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ 19 But look, there is the annual festival of the LORD in Shiloh, to the north of Bethel, and east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and to the south of Lebonah.”

20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the girls of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, then rush from the vineyards and each of you seize a wife from the girls of Shiloh and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us a kindness by helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war, and you are innocent, since you did not give your daughters to them.’ ”

(Since the previous results were insufficient, they propose yet another act of violence.  And with what hypocrisy — to stage a festival to the Lord and then instruct the Benjamites to steal innocent young women from their families!  Do all these wrongs make a right?)

23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the girls were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.

24 At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.

25 In those days Israel had no king;

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Psalm 149:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!

_________________________

everyone did as he saw fit.

(Yes, that has been clearly shown.)

_________________________

THE END OF THE BOOK OF JUDGES

(I confess I read that with a certain amount of relief.)

_________________________

Music:

In the English Standard Version, the final verse says — “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Casting Crowns and “If We’ve Ever Needed You.”

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Chinese bride and groom.    http://beifan.com/016wed/456-272-16tthothu-open.jpg
God is King.    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_gtkp0VDDznI/R7HE0JJKgdI/AAAAAAAAACE/tA7WXnbXz80/s320/gdking2.gif

 

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324.) Judges 20

July 29, 2010

The American Civil War (1861-1865) was and still is America’s deadliest war, with over 620,000 soldiers killed.  (That is about the population of Milwaukee.)  The moral degradation in Israel was so intense that the resulting civil war nearly wiped out one of the twelve tribes.

Judges 20 (New International Version)

Israelites Fight the Benjamites

1 Then all the Israelites from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead

from Dan to Beersheba . . .

. . . meant from the farthest north to the farthest south in the country.  Together like this, they refer to the entire nation.  Gilead was the land on the east of the Jordan River, where the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were.

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came out as one man and assembled before the LORD in Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people of the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand soldiers armed with swords. 3 (The Benjamites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said, “Tell us how this awful thing happened.”

4 So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, said, “I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5 During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died. 6 I took my concubine, cut her into pieces and sent one piece to each region of Israel’s inheritance, because they committed this lewd and disgraceful act in Israel. 7 Now, all you Israelites, speak up and give your verdict.”

Funny how he neglects to mention that HE shoved her out the door to the men.

8 All the people rose as one man, saying, “None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house. 9 But now this is what we’ll do to Gibeah: We’ll go up against it as the lot directs. 10 We’ll take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred from a thousand, and a thousand from ten thousand, to get provisions for the army. Then, when the army arrives at Gibeah in Benjamin, it can give them what they deserve for all this vileness done in Israel.”

from John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes:

In Israel — This is added as an aggravation, that they should do that in Israel, or among God’s peculiar people, which was esteemed abominable even among the Heathen.

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11 So all the men of Israel got together and united as one man against the city.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What about this awful crime that was committed among you? 13 Now surrender those wicked men of Gibeah so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.”

But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites. 14 From their towns they came together at Gibeah to fight against the Israelites. 15 At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred chosen men from those living in Gibeah. 16 Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

(And all the women were strong, and all their children were above average!)

home-made sling for a stone

17 Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen, all of them fighting men.

18 The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, “Who of us shall go first to fight against the Benjamites?”

The LORD replied, “Judah shall go first.”

_________________________

Music:

A poignant Civil War song:  “Just Before the Battle, Mother”  written by George F. Root.

Just before the battle, mother,
I am thinking most of you,
While upon the field we’re watching
With the enemy in view.
Comrades brave are ’round me lying,
Filled with thoughts of home and God
For well they know that on the morrow,
Some will sleep beneath the sod.

CHORUS:
Farewell, mother, you may never
Press me to your heart again,
But, oh, you’ll not forget me, mother,
If I’m numbered with the slain.

Hark! I hear the bugles sounding,
‘Tis the signal for the fight,
Now, may God protect us, mother,
As He ever does the right.
Hear the “Battle-Cry of Freedom,”
How it swells upon the air,
Oh, yes, we’ll rally ’round the standard,
Or we’ll perish nobly there.

CHORUS:
Farewell, mother, you may never
Press me to your heart again,
But, oh, you’ll not forget me, mother,
If I’m numbered with the slain.

_________________________

19 The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. 21 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22 But the men of Israel encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day.

(The cost of war: 22,000 Israelite dead.  So far.)

23 The Israelites went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and they inquired of the LORD. They said, “Shall we go up again to battle against the Benjamites, our brothers?”

The LORD answered, “Go up against them.”

24 Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day. 25 This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.

(Now, add another 18,00 = 40,000 Israelites dead so far.)

26 Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD. 27 And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, 28 with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to battle with Benjamin our brother, or not?”

The LORD responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

29 Then Israel set an ambush around Gibeah. 30 They went up against the Benjamites on the third day and took up positions against Gibeah as they had done before. 31 The Benjamites came out to meet them and were drawn away from the city. They began to inflict casualties on the Israelites as before, so that about thirty men fell in the open field and on the roads—the one leading to Bethel and the other to Gibeah.

32 While the Benjamites were saying, “We are defeating them as before,” the Israelites were saying, “Let’s retreat and draw them away from the city to the roads.”

33 All the men of Israel moved from their places and took up positions at Baal Tamar, and the Israelite ambush charged out of its place on the west of Gibeah.  34 Then ten thousand of Israel’s finest men made a frontal attack on Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that the Benjamites did not realize how near disaster was. 35 The LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel, and on that day the Israelites struck down 25,100 Benjamites, all armed with swords. 36 Then the Benjamites saw that they were beaten.

(It is costing everyone.  Now 25,100 Benjamites dead.)

Death upon death . . .

Now the men of Israel had given way before Benjamin, because they relied on the ambush they had set near Gibeah. 37 The men who had been in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, spread out and put the whole city to the sword. 38 The men of Israel had arranged with the ambush that they should send up a great cloud of smoke from the city, 39 and then the men of Israel would turn in the battle.

The Benjamites had begun to inflict casualties on the men of Israel (about thirty), and they said, “We are defeating them as in the first battle.” 40 But when the column of smoke began to rise from the city, the Benjamites turned and saw the smoke of the whole city going up into the sky. 41 Then the men of Israel turned on them, and the men of Benjamin were terrified, because they realized that disaster had come upon them. 42 So they fled before the Israelites in the direction of the desert, but they could not escape the battle. And the men of Israel who came out of the towns cut them down there. 43 They surrounded the Benjamites, chased them and easily overran them in the vicinity of Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand Benjamites fell, all of them valiant fighters. 45 As they turned and fled toward the desert to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites cut down five thousand men along the roads. They kept pressing after the Benjamites as far as Gidom and struck down two thousand more.

46 On that day twenty-five thousand Benjamite swordsmen fell, all of them valiant fighters.

Psalm 68:27 (New International Version)

There is the little tribe of Benjamin. . .

All these thousands and thousands of men dead — a terrible blow to the tribe of Benjamin.  Yet it survived!  Saul, the first king of Israel, was from this tribe (1 Samuel 9:21).  So were Queen Esther (Esther 2:5-7) and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1).

_________________________

47 But six hundred men turned and fled into the desert to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed four months. 48 The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire.

What a dreadful scene — brother against brother in relentless battle, exterminating thousands of soldiers plus many more women and children.  There is no justice here, but cruelty and brutality.  It is indeed a picture of what happens when there is no effective civil government to curb the mob mentality as “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
American Civil War artifacts.    http://www.oswego.edu/~hazard/hazardwebquest/images/civil%20war%20uniforms.jpg
map:  Dan to Beersheba.    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5hoaIECRtUY/R1mkkAGCBII/AAAAAAAABxM/Rb7S7Q-l_yE/s320/dan+beersheba.gif
old manuscripts illustrations.   http://whynateleft.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/the-tale-of-the-benjamites-part-1/
Star of David.    http://www.tasis.ch/uploaded/Headmaster_blog/Star_of_David.jpg
sling.    http://slinging.org/forum/yabbfiles/Attachments/SANY0120.jpg
tribe of Benjamin.    http://wpcontent.answers.com/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Benjamin2.JPG
cemetery.    http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/22/be/56/american-soldiers-graveyard.jpg

323.) Judges 19

July 28, 2010

“The Levite of Ephraim and His Dead Wife” by Jean-Jacques Henner, 1898 (Henner National Museum, Paris)

Judges 19 (New International Version)

A Levite and His Concubine

1 In those days Israel had no king.

Psalm 84:3 (English Standard Version)

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.

_________________________

“Israel had no king.”  Not God, not anyone.  So take a deep breath.  This is a hard story to read.

_________________________

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.  2 But she was unfaithful to him.  She left him and went back to her father’s house in Bethlehem, Judah.

“Unfaithful, or angry?”  OR  “Who is to blame?”

The word translated in the NIV as “unfaithful” in Hebrew is zanah.  The word has a primary meaning of committing fornication, being a harlot.  However, according to Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1958), 261, the word also can mean “to be angry, hateful” or to “feel repugnant against.”

Thus, taking the above meaning of the word, the translation of the NRSV makes better sense: But his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah.  This is the view also adopted by some ancient translations such as the Septuagint, the Targum, and the Vulgate.  Neither of these ancient translations nor Josephus accused the woman of conjugal infidelity.

 

The NIV’s translation places the blame for the problem on the woman: she was the one who committed adultery and left.  The NRSV’s translation places the blame on the husband: he did something so outrageous that in anger she left the security of her home to find security in the house of her father.

-Dr. Claude Mariottini,
Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary

http://doctor.claudemariottini.com/2006/01/rereading-judges-192.html

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After she had been there four months, 3 her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her father’s house, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the girl’s father, prevailed upon him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

5 On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” 6 So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the girl’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” 7 And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8 On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the girl’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

9 Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”

12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into an alien city, whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them into his home for the night.

16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the men of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me into his house. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, your maidservant, and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”

20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.”

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!”

_________________________

Biblical scholar Phyllis Trible calls this a “text of terror.”

Yes, this story shows the brutality of the times.  And because of this horrible event, thousands of Israelites will die in the next chapter.  But this is what we are capable of when we leave God out of our lives.

_________________________

Music:

“People Need the Lord.”  Sung by Steve Green.

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Henner.    http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/image/joconde/0419/m503904_jjhp-339_p.jpg
barn swallow nest.    http://dsf.chesco.org/ccparks/lib/ccparks/creaturefeature/5_swallows.jpg
question mark.     http://www.gerryriskin.com/Question%20Mark.jpg

322.) Judges 18

July 27, 2010

Ancient wall at Tel Dan.  The name “Dan” became associated with a specific city, rather than a region, because the tribe of Dan was unable to subdue the territory, and settled for a city.

Judges 18 (New International Version)

Danites Settle in Laish

1 In those days Israel had no king.

Psalm 44:4-5 (English Standard Version)

You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Jacob!
Through you we push down our foes;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.

_________________________

And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.

They have no one to blame but themselves!

See the map?  They were allotted land for their tribe, north of Judah, enough for all their needs  (Joshua 19:40-48).  But, as it said earlier in Judges 1:34 — “The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain.” Evidently fighting for their own territory was too difficult, so they decided to look somewhere else where land could be gotten with less effort.  Since going south would lead them right into the wilderness, they headed north.

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2 So the Danites sent five warriors from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all their clans. They told them, “Go, explore the land.”

The men entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night. 3 When they were near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?”

4 He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, “He has hired me and I am his priest.”

5 Then they said to him, “Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful.”

6 The priest answered them, “Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD’s approval.”

(False prophets tickle the ears of their followers, telling them what they want to hear.  How could this journey to grab someone else’s land have the Lord’s approval when the Lord had already assigned them their own land?)

7 So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous.  Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.

8 When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers asked them, “How did you find things?”

9 They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen that the land is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over. 10 When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.”

Proverbs 3:29 (English Standard Version)

Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you.

_________________________

11 Then six hundred men from the clan of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day. 13 From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah’s house.

14 Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, other household gods, a carved image and a cast idol? Now you know what to do.” 15 So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. 16 The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance to the gate. 17 The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance to the gate.

18 When these men went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”

19 They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” 20 Then the priest was glad. He took the ephod, the other household gods and the carved image and went along with the people. 21 Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left.

(So this rascally priest sells himself to the highest bidder.)

22 When they had gone some distance from Micah’s house, the men who lived near Micah were called together and overtook the Danites. 23 As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, “What’s the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?”

24 He replied, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ”

from John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

verse 24:  What have I — “I value nothing I have in comparison of what you have taken away.”  Which zeal for idolatrous trash may shame multitudes that call themselves Christians, and yet value their worldly conveniences more than all the concerns of their own salvation.  Is Micah thus fond of his false gods?  And how ought we to be affected toward the true God?  Let us reckon our communion with God our greatest gain; and the loss of God the sorest loss.  Woe unto us, if He depart!  For what have we more.

Philippians 3:7-9 (English Standard Version)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.

_________________________

25 The Danites answered, “Don’t argue with us, or some hot-tempered men will attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.” 26 So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned around and went back home.

27 Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. 28 There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.

This ancient mudbrick gate from Tel Dan shows the defensive walls of the times.

The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. 29 They named it Dan after their forefather Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish.

Dan’s new-found territory is quite far north.

30 There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses,  and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. 31 They continued to use the idols Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.

(So the tribe of Dan officially falls away from the true faith in the God of their fathers, who with a mighty arm had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land.  The disobedience comes at a great price.  In 1 Chronicles there is a listing of the tribes of Israel, and Dan is missing.  And in Revelation 7 none of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists comes from the tribe of Dan.

Luke 18:8 asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”)

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Music:

Oh, may all who come behind us “Find Us Faithful.”  Sung by Steve Green.

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
wall at Tel Dan.    http://www.bibleistrue.com/qna/teldan6.jpg
crown.    http://www.wsiuntangledweb.com/images/crown.gif
map of Dan’s first assignment.    http://www.jesuswalk.com/gideon/images/12tribes_map250x389.gif
good neighbors.    http://www.nngov.com/city-manager/images/neighbors_meeting
overflowing rubbish bins.    http://www.thelondondailynews.com/images/rubbish_bins.gif
mudbrick wall and gate.    http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Dan_Middle_Bronze_mudbrick_gate2_tb_n011500_wr.jpg
map of Dan’s new territory.    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/images/maps/tribemap.gif

321.) Judges 17

July 26, 2010

“The Golden Calf,” fabric art by Lee Porter, 1999.  Here we go again.

Judges 17 (New International Version)

Micah’s Idols

1 Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim 2 said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels (that is, about 28 pounds) of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.”

(A thieving son!  A cursing mother!  Did he return the money only to escape her curses?)

Then his mother said, “The LORD bless you, my son!”

(When we consider that an annual wage was 10 shekels — see below — this amount is a fortune!  No wonder she was glad to get it back!)

3 When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, “I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make a carved image and a cast idol. I will give it back to you.”

(Her money was her god before she had it made into an idol.)

4 So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took two hundred shekels (that is, about 5 pounds) of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into the image and the idol. And they were put in Micah’s house.

5 Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some idols and installed one of his sons as his priest.

(The Israelites were to worship at the Tabernacle, which was at Shiloh, also in the hills of Ephraim where Micah lived  — they were never instructed to build private shrines.  And the priests were to be from the tribe of Levi.  Micah and his mom are doing as they “saw fit,” without regard to the Lord’s commands.)

6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

Psalm 47:6-7 (English Standard Version)

Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!

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7 A young Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who had been living within the clan of Judah, 8 left that town in search of some other place to stay. On his way he came to Micah’s house in the hill country of Ephraim.

9 Micah asked him, “Where are you from?”

“I’m a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah,” he said, “and I’m looking for a place to stay.”

10 Then Micah said to him, “Live with me and be my father and priest, and I’ll give you ten shekels (that is, about 4 ounces) of silver a year, your clothes and your food.” 11 So the Levite agreed to live with him, and the young man was to him like one of his sons.

(For nothing more than some food and clothes and a salary, the Levite discarded his high calling as a priest of the Creator of heaven and earth, to become a keeper of an man-made idol.  And in the next chapter we will see again how lightly he holds his loyalty.)

12 Then Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in his house. 13 And Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.”

(Micah believed God was pleased, even when what he did was in direct disobedience to everything God has said!  How powerful our self-delusions can be —  for Micah and for his priest and for us!)

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Psalm 11:3 (New American Standard Bible)

“If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”

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Going down . . .

Beginning with this chapter, we enter the final section of the book of Judges, and more and more clearly we are shown the worsening situation of the nation of Israel.  It is a picture of anarchy and confusion, of idolatry and lawlessness, the results of a godless liberty.  Because of their unfaithfulness to God by worshiping idols and their disobedience to God by not completing the conquest of the land, the people will find themselves living in moral chaos.  The writer sums it up several times in these chapters by saying, “Everyone did as he saw fit” — a classic statement of making self the final authority.

Oh, Lord God, help me today to love You with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, with all my strength.

_________________________

Music:

Lincoln Brewster and “Love the Lord Your God.”

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Porter.    http://www.leeporterart.com/Exodus-GoldenCalf_lg.jpg
For God is king.     http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_MZhs-sfC_nE/SLhd3jpTLsI/AAAAAAAAAv0/V6YOtdMOhKU/s400/Psalms+47+7.JPG
going down.    http://www.blogcdn.com/www.switched.com/media/2009/03/1131300_58005006.resized.jpg

320.) Judges 16

July 23, 2010

“A thrilling tale of lust, betrayal, heartbreak, and revenge!!”  Artwork by Jason Chalker.

Judges 16 (New International Version)

Samson and Delilah

1 One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. 2 The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”

3 But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

4 Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.

_________________________

How Samson Bore Away the Gates of Gaza

a poem by Vachel Lindsay

(A Negro Sermon.)

Once, in a night as black as ink,
She drove him out when he would not drink.
Round the house there were men in wait
Asleep in rows by the Gaza gate.
But the Holy Spirit was in this man.
Like a gentle wind he crept and ran.
(“It is midnight,” said the big town clock.)

He lifted the gates up, post and lock.
The hole in the wall was high and wide
When he bore away old Gaza’s pride
Into the deep of the night: —
The bold Jack Johnson Israelite, —
Samson —
The Judge,
The Nazarite.

The air was black, like the smoke of a dragon.
Samson’s heart was as big as a wagon.
He sang like a shining golden fountain.
He sweated up to the top of the mountain.
He threw down the gates with a noise like judgment.
And the quails all ran with the big arousement.

But he wept — “I must not love tough queens,
And spend on them my hard earned means.
I told that girl I would drink no more.
Therefore she drove me from her door.
Oh sorrow!
Sorrow!
I cannot hide.
Oh Lord look down from your chariot side.
You made me Judge, and I am not wise.
I am weak as a sheep for all my size.”

Let Samson
Be coming
Into your mind.

The moon shone out, the stars were gay.
He saw the foxes run and play.
He rent his garments, he rolled around
In deep repentance on the ground.

Then he felt a honey in his soul.
Grace abounding made him whole.
Then he saw the Lord in a chariot blue.
The gorgeous stallions whinnied and flew.
The iron wheels hummed an old hymn-tune
And crunched in thunder over the moon.
And Samson shouted to the sky:
“My Lord, my Lord is riding high.”

Like a steed, he pawed the gates with his hoof.
He rattled the gates like rocks on the roof,
And danced in the night
On the mountain-top,
Danced in the deep of the night:
The Judge, the holy Nazarite,
Whom ropes and chains could never bind.

Let Samson
Be coming
Into your mind.

Whirling his arms, like a top he sped.
His long black hair flew round his head
Like an outstretched net of silky cord,
Like a wheel of the chariot of the Lord.

Let Samson
Be coming
Into your mind.

Samson saw the sun anew.
He left the gates in the grass and dew.
He went to a county-seat a-nigh.
Found a harlot proud and high:
Philistine that no man could tame —
Delilah was her lady-name.

Oh sorrow,
Sorrow,
She was too wise.
She cut off his hair,
She put out his eyes.

Let Samson
Be coming
Into your mind.

_________________________

Music:

The name “Delilah” has come to mean a treacherous and cunning femme fatale.  As in the famous Tom Jones song of the same name.

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5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels (that is, about 28 pounds) of silver.”

_________________________

5 x 28 = 140 pounds of silver

The Philistines were ruled by five rulers, not just one.  Each ruler ruled from a different city—Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, or Gaza.  Each of these cities was an important city for trade and commerce.  Given Delilah’s character, it is little wonder that she betrayed Samson when these rich and powerful men paid her a personal visit.
Life Application Bible notes

_________________________

6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”

7 Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”

8 Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh thongs that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. 9 With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”

11 He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”

12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.

13 Delilah then said to Samson, “Until now, you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”

He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and tightened it with the pin.

Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.

15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.

17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.  And his strength left him.

_________________________

Proverbs 7:21-27 (New Living Translation)

So she seduced him with her pretty speech
and enticed him with her flattery.
He followed her at once,
like an ox going to the slaughter.
He was like a stag caught in a trap,
awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart.
He was like a bird flying into a snare,
little knowing it would cost him his life.

So listen to me, my sons,
and pay attention to my words.
Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her.
Don’t wander down her wayward path.
For she has been the ruin of many;
many men have been her victims.
Her house is the road to the grave.
Her bedroom is the den of death.

_________________________

20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”

He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza.

“The Blinded Samson” by Lovis Corinth, 1912 (Staatliche Museen, Berlin).

Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison. 22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

_________________________

Divine Epigrams: Samson to his Delilah

by Richard Crashaw  (English poet 1613-1649)

Could not once blinding me, cruel, suffice?

When first I look’d on thee, I lost mine eyes.

_________________________

The Death of Samson

23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”

24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying,
“Our god has delivered our enemy
into our hands,
the one who laid waste our land
and multiplied our slain.”

25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.

_________________________

Music:

Peter, Paul, and Mary in a story song about Samson, “If I Had My Way.”  These three really knew how to make music!

_________________________

When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

31 Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led  Israel twenty years.

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Hebrews 11:32-33 (New Living Translation)

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them.

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Chalker.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3300/3416773990_da97eb2d85.jpg
Samson carries away the gates of Gaza.    http://www.lib-art.com/imgpainting/2/8/16182-samson-with-the-city-gates-of-gaza-german-romanesque-glass-painter.jpg
deer in a pig trap in Texas.  Photo by Benjamin Pfeiffer.    http://www.1adventure.com/archives/images/deer-in-pig-trap-lowres.jpg
Corinth.    http://www.artchive.com/artchive/c/corinth/samson_blinded.jpg
Samson brings down the house.  http://www.wcg.org/images/b3/b3%20%284%29.jpg
walk by faith.     http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2332/2330771133_84e0a2570e.jpg

 


319.) Judges 15

July 22, 2010

 A pack of foxes is called a “skulk.”  A fox’s bushy tail is called a “brush.”  Male foxes are known as “reynards,” and females as “vixen.”

THE QUICK BROWN FOX

by Terry Weide

The quick brown fox

Jumps over the lazy dogs.

He leads them through a

Valley of silver pines

That shiver in the wind.

He skips across fields of

Green wheat and creeks of ice.

The barks from the pack fade.

Slowing, he lets the dogs

Close,

Then grins back–

Sticking his tongue out.

Circling them through

Brown grass and stick tights,

He comes from behind and

Does it again.

The quick brown fox

Jumps over the lazy dogs.

____________________

(Do you remember the first and last sentence from typing class?  — every letter of the alphabet!)

____________________

Judges 15 (New International Version)

Samson’s Vengeance on the Philistines

1 Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in.

2 “I was so sure you thoroughly hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your friend. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.”

3 Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” 4 So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, 5 lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.

woodcut by Johann Christoph Weigel, 1695

6 When the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” they were told, “Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because his wife was given to his friend.”

So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. 7 Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” 8 He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.

9 The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. 10 The men of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight us?”

“We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered, “to do to him as he did to us.”

11 Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”

He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.”

_________________________

I bet his mother taught him the Golden Rule, too!  (Remember what I said earlier about Samson being weak-brained?)

_________________________

12 They said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”

Samson said, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves.”

13 “Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. 14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power.

The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

woodcut by Johann Christoph Weigel, 1695

16 Then Samson said,
“With a donkey’s jawbone
I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone
I have killed a thousand men.”

17 When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi (that is, Jawbone Hill).

18 Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”

Isaiah 41:17   (NRSV)

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

Revelation 21:6   (NRSV)

“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

_________________________

19 Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore (that is, Caller’s Spring), and it is still there in Lehi.

_________________________

Music:

One cannot escape the many similarities in the stories of Samson and Jesus.  Both had their births foretold by angels.  Both did mighty things.  Both were betrayed — for money — by someone they loved.  Both were mocked and beaten, and finally died in an act to save their people.  Of course, the differences also loom large — mainly that Jesus is perfect and Samson was not!  But let us “look with good intentions” on Samson and see Jesus in his story.  This song makes a connection so nicely:  Samson calls out for water, and Jesus offers himself as Living Water.

“All Who Are Thirsty”  by Kutless.

__________________________

20 Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

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My dear friend Sue expands on the idea of finding “wells of replenishment for everyday weariness” in this entry of her blog, May First Everlasting.  Enjoy!

http://mayfirsteverlasting.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/a-spring-in-lehi/

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New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
fox.   http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/fox/pictures/fox-picture.jpg
Weigel.  foxes.    http://www.pitts.emory.edu/woodcuts/1695Bibl/00005966.jpg
Golden Rule.    http://www.essex1.com/people/paul/golden-do-unto.gif
Holy Spirit of the Lord.    http://img119.imageshack.us/img119/1856/holyspiritii5.jpg
Weigel.  jawbone.    http://www.pitts.emory.edu/woodcuts/1695Bibl/00005967.jpg
spring water.    http://www.stormhoek.com/archives/Spring%20water%2004%2006%20002.jpg