(Verses 1 through 8) Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him. And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. They found Adoni-bezek in Bezek: they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died. Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.
At the time of Joshua’s death, the inheritances of the various tribes of the children of Israel had been allotted to them, but all the enemies had not been driven out of their lands. So the Israelites enquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first to begin clearing out the enemy?” And the LORD said that Judah should go up first. So the children of Judah made a mutual help pact with the descendants of Simeon. Thus they began the war, and were successful against the Canaanites and Perizzites, killing about ten thousand of them, and capturing Adoni-bezek one of their kings. They cut off his thumbs and both of his big toes. He said that he had given seventy kings this same treatment, and now God had requited him by causing him to receive the same. They then took Jerusalem, killing the inhabitants, and burning the city.
There seems to be some difficulty with the chronology of verses 9 through 15 of this chapter. For they are a repetition of something set forth in Joshua 14:6-15, and Joshua 15:15-19. And there it seems to have taken place during the lifetime of Joshua So, we shall refer the reader to that text to compare with the present verses.
(Verses 16 through 22) And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people. And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah. Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Ashkelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof. And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron. And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak. And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.
At one time during the wilderness journey of the children of Israel, the brother in law of Moses seemed determined to return to his own country, and after that we had no further record of him. Bur apparently he decided to go all the way with the children of Israel, Now his family has been said to have gone with the tribe of Judah. So Judah went with Simeon, (the tribes of Judah and Simeon, for the two sons of Jacob were long ago dead.) to drive out the enemies in their lot. They were successful in overcoming most of their enemies. But they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because of their iron chariots. In verse 20 we find another reference to the exploits of Caleb, which have already been covered in Joshua 15:13-15, and seems to have taken place before the death of Joshua. While in verse 8, we are told, “Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire,” Apparently the Jebusites had moved back into Jerusalem. And the Benjamites could not drive them out, but dwelt among them, even to the time of this writing.
(Verses 22 through 26) And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Beth-el” and the LORD was with them. And the house of Joseph sent to descry Beth-el. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.) And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy. And when he shewed the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and his family. And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.
There is no mention made, in this text, of any whom the tribe of Joseph failed to drive out, or overcome. They did give amnesty to one man and his family for his having shown them the entrance into the city of Beth-el. (Actually, the two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, are the descendants of Joseph, and the tribe of Ephraim is often called the tribe of Joseph.)
In verses 27 through 33, we are told of several groups of the enemies that the children of Israel could not drive out. As we look back, we can see that the LORD had told the children of Israel that if they made any agreements, or treaties with any of the inhabitants of the land, He would cease to drive them out from before them. And they disregarded His commandment on this. So He left some of their enemies in the land to try them. He did cause the children of Israel to have dominion over most of them to the point that the Israelites did place many of them under tribute; but they remained in the land.
(Verses 34 through 36) And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down into the valley: but the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries. And the coasts of the Ammonites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.
In verse 34 is the only instance we find in which the enemies proved so formidable that they actually kept any of the Israelites confined in any place against their will. But they did keep the Danites in the mountain, and would not let them come down into the valley. The same people, the Amorites, were so strong that the children of Joseph could not drive them out of three cities which they occupied, but the children of Joseph were able to place them under tribute. Verse 36 gives the border between the children of Israel and the Ammonites, a people whom the LORD had commanded Israel to not attack, for He would not give them their land.
(Verses 1 through 5) And the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you into the land which I sware unto your fathers; I said, I will never break My covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed My voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.
There seems to be a little confusion concerning the timing of some of the things so far in this book. The first verse of Chapter 1 says, “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass.” And some of what is recorded in that chapter may have taken place after the death of Joshua. But those recorded in verses 9 through 15 very definitely took place before the death of Joshua. Also what is recorded in the first 8 verses of this chapter must have been before his death. In these first five verses we have the record of a visit made by the Angel of the LORD to the congregation of the children of Israel. And it was not a very pleasant visit for them. He reminded them of the covenant He had made with them, and His special commandment to them, that they should make no leagues with any of the inhabitants of the land, but must utterly destroy them, with also all of their idols and altars: and this commandment they had not kept. Therefore He would not any more drive out these people before them, but would leave them to be as thorns in their sides, and the gods of these people would be snares unto the children of Israel. The people joined together in weeping. And then they offered sacrifices unto the LORD. But they did not remove the consequences of their disobedience. This is the lesson we should always remember concerning this. May we always remember what Samuel said to Saul, (I Samuel 15:22-23,) “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
(Verses 6 through 10) And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that He did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel.
These are slightly different words, but the message is the same as in verses 28 through 31 of the last chapter of Joshua. Certainly no explanation is needed of them. It is apparent that until the whole generation of the Israelites who had experienced the great blessings of the LORD had died, the children of Israel served the LORD. But, as we shall soon see, that was about as long as they did serve Him.
(Verses 11 through 13) And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
Immediately after the generation who had seen and known the wonderful works of the LORD had died, the children of Israel turned away from the LORD, and served the gods of the people around them, just as the LORD had warned them that they would. They served Baalim (the idols of Baal) and Ashtaroth. These were the gods of the people around them. The laws of God were very strict against immorality and all other iniquities, while the laws of these other gods, not only were not so strict against such, but even incorporated such in their service to these gods. Not only would these neighbors have ridiculed the children of Israel for abstaining from these evils, but also immorality has always appealed to the sinful nature of humanity, and so their own lusts led them astray.
(Verses 14 and 15) And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
This is certainly exactly what the LORD had warned the children of Israel that He would do when they turned away from Him to serve idols. And His word is just as faithful concerning chastisement as it is concerning blessing. They could blame none but themselves.
(Verses 16 through 19) Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them from out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves down to them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers in following other gods to serve them, and ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.
This is something of a “thumbnail” sketch of the history of Israel, not only through the time of the judges, but even as long as they remained in the land. They were never faithful to the LORD for any long period. As long as they had a judge, or even a king, who was faithful to the LORD, they served the LORD; but when he died, they usually turned away from their Rock. And that caused much chastisement to be sent upon them.
(Verses 20 through 23) And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, Because that this people hath transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto My voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: that through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered He them into the hand of Joshua.
So, because of the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel, the LORD did not drive out all their enemies from the land of Canaan, but left them to be thorns in the side of the people. We should take a very strong lesson from this. For if, because of the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel, He left their enemies there to harass them, surely, He will for the same reason leave before us many trials that would be removed if we serve Him faithfully.
(Verses 1 through 4) Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan: only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as knew nothing thereof; Namely five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon unto the entering in of Hamath. And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
The writer here gives the names of the nations that were left among the children of Israel to vex and try them, that it might be shown whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD as given by the hand of Moses. Of course, the LORD knew they would not obey them. But He left these trials before them that it might be shown that they were spared only by the mercy of God, and not for their righteousness.
(Verses 5 through 7) And the children dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
The children did not disobey just a few of the commandments of the LORD, but ALL of them. First of all, they intermarried with the nations around them; and then they turned completely away from the LORD, and served the multitude of the idols of Baal. (“Baalim” is the plural of Baal, and means “the idols of Baal.”) Just as the Buddhists have many icons representing Buddha in many different positions, and conditions, so it was with the worshippers of Baal. And the Israelites tried to worship all of them, and even the groves that had been planted in his honor.
(Verses 8 through 11) Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years. And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim. And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
This is just one instance of the chastisement God sent upon Israel for their disobedience, and His raising up of a deliverer when they turned, and cried unto Him. Othniel the nephew of Caleb was given of the LORD the task of delivering them, and being their judge for forty years, during which time they dwelt in peace.
(Verses 12 through 18) And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. And He gathered unto him the children of Amon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees. So the children of Israel served the king of Moab eighteen years. But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. And when he had made an end to offer his present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
Notice should be taken of the fact that we are never told how long the children of Israel were permitted to continue in their evils when they departed from the LORD, but are only told of the length of their subjugation to the ones who rose up against them, and how long they were given peace after their deliverer did arise. In this instance they served Moab eighteen years. Then the LORD raised up for them Ehud a lefthanded man of the tribe of Benjamin. Then we are told of the preparations he made for the work he purposed to do.
(Verses 19 through 25) And he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him; and Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: and the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them. When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber. And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead upon the earth.
This is a very detailed description of the assassination of Eglon by Ehud, and of how Ehud escaped. It seems to leave nothing in need of comment.
(Verses 26 through 30) And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath. And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mount of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them. And he said unto them, follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over. And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.
Thus Ehud escaped from the Moabites, and gathered all Israel together to fight Moab. Their first action was to take all the fords of Jordan, and kill every Moabite that tried to cross over at these fords. They succeeded in killing every man who attempted to cross. In all the casualties of the Moabites were about ten thousand men, while no casualty number is given for Israel. They were successful in subduing Moab. And this peace lasted eighty years.
(Verse 31) And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.
No other details are given concerning this deliverance. One would have to admit that this man was indeed a mighty man, since he killed six hundred men with an ox goad.
(Verses 1 through 3) And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
As had been the story all the time, just as soon as the man the LORD had raised up to deliver the children of Israel from their enemies had died, they turned away from the LORD, and followed after evil. At this point the LORD turned them over to Jabin the king of Canaan. Jabin’s “captain of the host,” or as we today would say, “His general,” was a man named Sisera who lived “in Harosheth of the Gentiles.” That is, instead of living among the Israelites as many of the Canaanites did, Sisera lived across the border from them. But he was the commander of the forces of Jabin, and, no doubt, the army was used to control Israel. So Sisera was in charge of this matter; and for twenty years he mightily oppressed Israel.
(Verses 4 through 9) And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee unto the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude, and I will deliver him into thine hand. And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then will I go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
We often think that the world was in ancient times a “man’s world.” And, for the greater part, it was. Yet in this instance we find a woman who was not only a prophetess, but also the judge of the children of Israel. This woman’s name was Deborah; and she dwelt under a palm tree that evidently was named for her, because it was called “the palm tree of Deborah; and it was somewhere between Ramah and Beth-el. No doubt, the LORD commanded her to call a man named Barak of the tribe of Naphtali, and give him a message. So she called him, and when he came to her, she delivered to him the message of the LORD. He was to take ten thousand of his brethren from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, and go to the river Kishon. There the LORD would cause Sisera to come with his chariots and his soldiers. Then the LORD would deliver them into the hand of Barak. He refused to go unless Deborah would go with him. This she agreed to do, but she warned him that the glory of the victory would not be his, “for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” With Deborah accompanying him Barak went to Kedesh.
(Verses 10 through 14) And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him. Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh. And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor. And Sisera gathered all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river Kishon. And Deborah said unto Barak, Up: for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
When Barak arrived at Kedesh, he called together the men of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Then with ten thousand men of these tribes, he and Deborah went up to the place for the battle. Heber the Kenite had left from among his brethren, and had pitched his tent near Kedesh: and when Sisera and his army arrived there, he told Sisera that Barak had gone up to mount Tabor. So Sisera and all his army followed them. When they all arrived at the river Kishon, Deborah told Barak that it was now time to begin the fight, for the LORD would that day deliver Sisera into his hand. And Barak and his army did as she had said.
(Verses 13 through 17) And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword: and there was not a man left. Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
The battle turned into such a defeat for Sisera and his army that he left his chariot, abandoned his army, and ran away on foot. His entire army was wiped out, with not a man left. But he had fled to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite who had told him where to find Barak. There was peace between his king and Heber. So, no doubt, he thought he would be safe in Heber’s household.
(Verses 18 through 22) And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in unto me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her in the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say , No. Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into the tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
Whatever the conditions of peace were between Heber and king Jabin, evidently, Heber’s wife had no sympathy for Sisera, although she pretended to be his friend. She was very kind to him until he went to sleep. Then she took a hammer and a tent nail, and drove the nail through his temples, all the way into the ground, and killed him. Then when Barak arrived, she took him into the tent and showed Sisera to him.
(Verses 23 and 24) So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel. And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
After this victory, the LORD continued to bless the Israelites so that they both subdued and killed Jabin the king of Canaan.
(Verses 1 through 8) Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying, Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I even I will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel. LORD when Thou wentest out of Seir, when Thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the LORD God of Israel. In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I Deborah arose that I arose a mother in Israel. They chose new gods, then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?
After this great victory, Deborah and Barak sang a new song. In verses 2 through 5 they are praising God for avenging Israel of her enemies. In verses 6 through 8, this song gives us a picture of the conditions in Israel before this great battle. There was no one traveling on the highways. All travelers had to slip around, and travel on byways, or hidden trails, for fear of the enemy. Israel had gone away after false gods; “They chose new gods.” And, of course this is the cause of such a lowly estate for them. There were no weapons among them with which to defend themselves, not even “a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel.” Until Deborah arose in Israel, there were no inhabitants in the villages. They had to hide out, instead of living openly in their villages. The times were indeed hard for the children of Israel under the reign of Jabin king of Canaan.
(Verses 9 through 13) My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD. Speak ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way. They that are delivered from the noise of Archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of His villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates. Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam. Then He made him that remaineth have dominion over nobles among the people. The LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.
A little praise is given to the “governors of Israel that offered themselves willingly among the people,” but the LORD Who has done such righteous acts for the inhabitants of His villages is primarily the One Who is to be praised. Since all the acts of the LORD are always righteous, one might wonder why these particular acts should be singled out, and declared righteous, unless it be that this is in reference to the fact that it is righteousness for the LORD to execute vengeance upon those who trouble His children. The call is for Deborah to awake, and sing a song, and for Barak to arise and “lead thy captivity captive.” That is, to take captive those who had held him captive. Then Barak declares that the LORD has “made him that remaineth” (Barak himself) to have dominion over the nobles of the people. “The LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.”
(Verses 14 through 17) Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart. Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleating of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.
In the war there had been participation by Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir, Zebulun, and Issachar. There was some wondering as to why Reuben, Gilead, Dan, and Asher, did not come to help.
(Verses 18 through 22) Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field. The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money. They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength. Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the prancings, the prancings of their mighty ones.
Zebulun and Naphtali are the tribes whom Barak was commanded to call together for the war against the Canaanites. And they are the ones who really went “all out” in the battle. Their “kings,” or leaders fought the kings of Canaan, and “took no gain of money,” or could not be “bought off.” Even the stars from heaven fought in their courses against Sisera. And the river Kishon washed away some of the enemy. By reason of all this, Barak exclaims, “O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.” That is, he recognized that he had overcome enemies who were greater and mightier than he. Therefore it had to be by the help of the LORD. Even the hoofs of the horses of the enemy were broken by the prancing of those horses of the mighty ones. No doubt, the LORD was his help in this war.
(Verses 23 through 27) Curse ye Meroz, said the Angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty. Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
The song continues, telling us that the Angel of the LORD pronounced a bitter curse against the inhabitants of Meroz, because they did not go into the battle and help the LORD. Some will immediately say, “They could not help the LORD, for He needs no help.” While it is true that, in the strict sense, we cannot help Him, and neither does he need any help from us, or from others, when we are fighting against His enemies, we are accounted as “helping Him.” Then the song takes up the praise of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite. It describes how she treated Sisera so kindly that he was completely thrown off guard, and then killed him. Her husband may have been at peace with Jabin the king of Canaan; but she, evidently had no sympathy for him or his general. Her sympathies were with the LORD’S people.
(Verses 28 through 30) The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots? Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, Have they not sped? Have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours , a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
This is what the song says is taking place at the home of Sisera. His mother is wondering what is taking up so much time. She, evidently thought the battle would take very little time, because Sisera had so many chariots and the Israelites had practically no weapons at all. Surely He would quickly subdue the rebels. Then she comforted herself with the thought that Sisera’s army had taken so much prey that it would take quite a while to divide it all among the soldiers. She had not even entertained the thought that Sisera might be defeated, and certainly not that he might be dead.
(Verse 31) So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD, but let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.
Thus the song is completed with the prayer that all the enemies of the LORD perish, but those who love Him be made to shine forth as the sun in its strength. After this, the land was in peace forty years.
(Verses 1 through 6) And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strongholds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; and they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number; and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
Just as in all the times before, when the LORD wrought this great deliverance for Israel, they soon forgot Him, and turned away from Him to serve other gods. As a result thereof, the LORD permitted the Midianites to come against them, and overcome them. After suffering oppression at the hands of the Midianites for seven years, they cried unto the LORD. During their time of suffering, it seemed that the Midianites were attempting to execute genocide against them. Moses’ wife was a Midianite. But apparently the friendliness that had once been between the two peoples had long ago faded away. Now they were bitter enemies.
(Verses 7 through 10) And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites, that the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land; and I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed My voice.
Instead of sending a deliverer to Israel at once, the LORD sent His Angel to them to remind them of His many blessings to them, and the fact that they had not obeyed His commandments.
(Verses 11 through 13) And there came an Angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Ebiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto Him, Oh, my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all His miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
How like us was Gideon! We may have heard of the wondrous works of the LORD, and we may even have experienced some of them; but we forget, and began to slack up on our service to Him, and keep getting farther astray, until He sends upon us chastisement. Then we want someone to tell us why has this come upon us. In this case, the prophet of the LORD had already come and told the people that they had failed to obey the LORD. Yet Gideon, upon having been told, by the Angel of the LORD, that the LORD was with him, wanted to know how this could be, since all these bad things were come upon them. When such thoughts come up in our minds, we should remember that if He were not with us, things would be much worse than what they are.
(Verses 14 through 18) And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto Him, Oh, my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto Him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that Thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto Thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before Thee. And He said, I will tarry until thou come again.
“The Angel of the LORD,” as mentioned in previous verses, is here proven to be the LORD Himself, as the writer here changes his manner of speaking, and, instead of saying, “the Angel of the LORD,” says “The LORD looked upon him, and said,_____.” The commandment the LORD gave him was, “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” Gideon realized that this would be an enormous task, and one far above his ability. So he asked the LORD how he could possibly do such a great thing as this, since not only was his family poor, but also he was the least one of his father’s house. This might not mean that he was smallest in stature, but simply that he was one least likely to be able to do such a great thing. But, as it was with Moses when the LORD called him to go to Egypt, and deliver the children of Israel from bondage, his excuse was of no avail. The LORD said, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.” At this answer, Gideon asked the LORD for a sign that He had talked with him, and asked Him to remain with him until he could bring a present to Him. To this the LORD agreed.
(Verses 19 through 23) And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it unto Him under the oak, and presented it. And the Angel of God said unto him, take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the Angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the Angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that He was an Angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O LORD God! for because I have seen an Angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.
Gideon went and prepared the present he wanted to present, and the Angel of the LORD waited for him to bring it forth. When He brought it, the Angel told him just exactly how to present it. Then He reached forth with His staff, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; whereupon fire came forth from the rock, and consumed the offering. At this point the Angel disappeared. And Gideon was very fearful, for he knew that the LORD had long ago told Moses that no man could look upon His face and live. And He was sure that this Angel he had seen was the LORD. But the LORD comforted him, and promised that he would not die because of this encounter.
(Verses 24 through 27) Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: and build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.
Immediately after the LORD gave him this commandment, Gideon built an altar unto the LORD, and called it “Jehovah-shalom,” which means, “the LORD is peace,” or “the peace of the LORD.” Then that night the LORD charged him to take his father’s second bullock, tear down his father’s altar to Baal, cut down the grove that was by the altar, build an altar unto the LORD upon a rock the LORD appointed and make a burnt sacrifice to the LORD of his father’s bullock, burning it with the wood of the grave he cut down. Since he feared those of his father’s household and the men of the city, he could not do this during the day; so he did it at night.
(Verses 28 through 32) And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? Will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself because one hath cast down his altar. Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
As soon as the men of the city discovered that the altar and the grove of Baal were destroyed, they were very furious, and when they found that Gideon had done this work, they wanted to put him to death. But Gideon’s father made a declaration that we should always remember. That is, that if Baal is a god, he can plead for himself, and does not need someone to plead for him. We might even add that neither does the LORD need any to plead for Him: He is well able to plead for Himself. Certainly, this does not mean that we should not honor the LORD. But we should, at the same time realize that we do not have the right nor the authority to kill someone who has offered an insult to Him. We should remember what our Lord Jesus said to James and John, (Luke 9: 55-56) “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And He is well able to “plead for Himself.” So, let Baal have the same privilege; and if he is not able to do so, he is not a god.
(Verses 33 through 35) Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites, and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. And he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.
At this time all the Midianites, Amalekites, and the children of the east gathered themselves together, and encamped in the valley of Jezreel. Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he summoned together all the people of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, that they might go to war against the host in the valley of Jezreel.
(Verses 36 through 40) And Gideon said unto God, If Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as Thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not Thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray Thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
Even after having seen the miracle of the LORD’S consumption of the sacrifice he had offered, and having been delivered from death after tearing down the altar, and cutting down the grove of Baal, Gideon still seemed to have lacked somewhat, so far as his faith was concerned, in the promise of the LORD to be with him in going against the enemies in the battle, as it seemed to be shaping up. Just as he wanted more assurance, so also often are we. He asked of the LORD a sign: and when the LORD gave him the sign he had asked, he still was not satisfied. So he asked for the same sign again, but that it be exactly reversed from the first. And the LORD, in His mercy, fulfilled that also.
(Verses 1 through 3) Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the hosts of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill Moreh, in the valley. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
When both armies were gathered, and were about to began hostilities, The LORD made a strange declaration to Gideon, “You have too many men.” Under any other circumstances, no doubt, Gideon would have questioned such a statement. But the LORD explained to him that it was He, instead of the army that would overcome the enemy. If He permitted Gideon to go into battle with such a large force, his army might think that they had won the victory. It was His purpose to show the Israelites that He was their Protector, and not they themselves. So He had Gideon make a proclamation that anyone who was afraid, should immediately leave, and return home. As the result of this proclamation, his army of thirty-two thousand suddenly became only ten thousand.
(Verses 4 through 8) And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down to the water, And I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. And the LORD said unto Gideon, By these three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place. So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
After Gideon had at the command of the LORD dismissed about two thirds of his army, the LORD told him he still had too many men. So the LORD told Gideon how to reduce the number by a somewhat novel test. By this test he reduced the number of men from ten thousand to three hundred. From the viewpoint of man, this would seem far too few to even start out with. And that is exactly the point the LORD was making. There would be absolutely no way for the people to claim that their prowess in war had anything to do with obtaining the victory. At this point the army took food and their trumpets, seemingly very poor preparations for battle. They may have had swords, but nothing is said about such.
(Verses 9 through 14) And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. And the Midianites and all the children of the east lay along the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude. And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
The LORD spoke to Gideon that night, and commanded him to arise and get started on the war against the Midianites. He told Gideon that if he had any fear about the matter, to take his servant Phurah, and go down to the camp of the Midianites, so that he could hear what the Midianites were saying. Accordingly Gideon and Phurah went down under cover of the darkness to the outer edge of the camp of the Midianites, and listened to the conversation of two of the men. One of them had had a dream, which he told to the other. When he had finished telling the dream his companion said, “This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.” So, evidently, the LORD had revealed to this man what He was about to do.
(Verses 15 through 18) And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise, for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with the trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
These are strange orders for a unit that is going into battle; but, no doubt, this is a commandment the LORD had given Gideon. And he passed it on to his army. Certainly, it needs no explanation. But it clearly shows that the LORD, and not Gideon’s army, would bring about the victory.
(Verses 19 through 23) So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; (about 10:00 PM) and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Beth-shittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abel-meholah, unto Tabbath. And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.
Surely none but the LORD God could be considered as having any glory from this battle. So far as we can see in this account, not even one of the Israelites even drew a sword. But the LORD turned the sword of every man of the enemy against his fellow soldier, and those who could run, ran away from the battle. That is also exactly what the LORD declared that He will bring about when all the nations shall be gathered against Israel in the last days, (Ezekiel 38:21) “’And I will call for a sword against him throughout all My mountains,’ saith the LORD God: ‘every man’s sword shall be against his brother.’” Yet, some of our brethren tell us that what is set forth in the prophecy of Ezekiel cannot be taken literally, because it just cannot happen that way; so we must interpret it to mean something else. The same God Who turned the swords of the enemy against themselves for Gideon, will still have the same power in the last war of Israel. So, why can it not be as He has declared that it will? After all the enemy fled from the battle, the Israelites gathered themselves together from the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh, and pursued after them.
(Verses 24 and 25) And Gideon sent messengers throughout mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan. And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.
After the battle Gideon called the tribe of Ephraim, and told them to go down, and take the crossing places of the river Jordan, to hold them against the crossing of the Midianites. This they did, and in so doing, they captured two of the princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb. These they executed, and brought their heads to Gideon.
(Verses 1 through 3) And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest out to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply. And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when He said that.
The people of Ephraim were somewhat angry against Gideon, because he did not call them to join in the battle at the beginning thereof. So they spoke very sharply to him about this. But he calmed their anger by pointing out that they did more than he had done, in that they had taken both Oreb and Zeeb, the princes of the Midianites.
(Verses 4 through 9) And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them. And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray thee, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army? And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then will I tear your flesh with thorns of the wilderness and with briers. And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered him. And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
As Gideon and his army pursued the Midianite kings Zebah and Zalmunna, they came to Succoth, a city of Gad. And when Gideon asked the men of that city to give his army food, because they were hungry, and were pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, they refused, apparently from fear of Zebah and Zalmunna. Upon their refusal, he told them that when he returned after apprehending these princes, he would whip these men with thorns and briers, thus tearing their flesh. Then he went to another city of Israel, Penuel. And he made the same request of them, receiving the same answer as from the men of Succoth. So he told them that when he returned in peace, he would tear down their tower.
(Verses 10 through 12) Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their hosts were with them, about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew the sword. And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure. And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited the host.
Gideon and his army caught up with the two Midianite kings and their army at a place called Karkor: and there they overcame their host, and captured both of these kings, Zebah and Zalmunna.
(Verses 13 through 17) And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up, and caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, even threescore and seventeen men. And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men that are weary? And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
Apparently it did not take Gideon long to defeat the Midianite host, and capture their kings; for he returned from battle before the sun was up. When he returned to Succoth, he captured one of their young men who described to him all the seventy-seven princes and elders of the city. Then he took these men, reminded them of what they had done when he and his weary army had come to their city on their pursuit of the Midianites, and fulfilled his promise to them. He also tore down the tower of Penuel. Evidently the men of Penuel tried to put up some kind of a fight, so he killed them.
(Verses 18 through 21) Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king. And he said, They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you. And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But he drew not his sword: for he feared, because he was yet a youth. Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camel’s necks.
Having fulfilled his threat upon Succoth and Penuel, Gideon took time to question Zebah and Zalmunna concerning the men they had killed at Tabor, and finding that the ones killed were his brothers, he ordered his son, Jether, to execute the two kings. Because of his youth Jether would not draw his sword on the two. So Gideon himself killed them. It may be that Gideon’s reason for commanding his son to kill the two princes was really to dishonor them, in that they were killed by a boy, and not by a man. Their answer to Gideon seems to indicate this: for they said, “Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man is, so is his strength.”
(Verses 22 and 23) Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
The men of Israel wanted to set up a kingdom with the family of Gideon as the first dynasty thereof, because they credited him with having delivered them from the Midianites. But he, knowing that all the glory of his victory belonged only to the LORD, refused to rule over them, or even permit his descendants to do so, but declared that the LORD should rule over them.
(Verses 24 through 27) And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a-whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
We are not told what was Gideon’s purpose in collecting all this gold and making an ephod of it. Perhaps, it may have been only as a memorial of the wonderful deliverance the LORD had wrought for them against the Midianites. Nevertheless when he set it up, all the Israelites began to worship it as a god, so that it became a snare to Gideon, and his house, and, indeed, to all Israel; for it became their idol.
(Verses 28 through 31) Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon. And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives. And his concubine that was at Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
The principal point of value in this text is that it introduces Abimelech the son of Gideon. We shall learn more about him in the next chapter.
(Verses 32 through 35) And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and went a-whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, Who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel.
Just as soon as Gideon died the people en masse turned away from the LORD, and served the idols of Baal, making one of them, Baal-berith, officially their god. And they did not even remember Gideon with any kindness for all that he had done for them.
(Verses 1 through 6) And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother’s brethren, and communed with all the house of his mother’s father, saying, Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem, whether it be better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you? remember also that I am your bone and your flesh. And his mother’s brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother. And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him. And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.
Although Gideon had said that neither he nor his descendants would rule over Israel, as soon as he had died, his son Abimelech began making preparations to become king of Israel. He made a conspiracy with the men of his hometown, Shechem. Then he attempted to kill all the other sons of Gideon, but Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon hid himself and escaped. But all the men of Shechem, and all the house of Millo gathered together at Shechem and made him king.
(Verses 7 through 15) And when they told it to Jotham, he went, and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.
After the murder of his brothers, and the anointing of Abimelech king, had been reported to him, Jotham went up and stood on the top of mount Gerizim. Then he called in a very loud voice for all the men of Shechem to give attention to what he was about to say. Having gained their attention, he spoke a parable to them. Notice carefully this parable, for it contains a great deal of truth. This parable, like most parables is a fictitious story that exemplifies a true situation. For that reason we are to remember that the trees and vines in this parable represent men. First, these trees (men) went to the olive tree (a very worthwhile tree in that area of the world, because it bears fruit from which comes both food, and oil that is in great demand) and asked it to be their king. It refused, because if it became king over the trees, the duties of being king would interfere with the good it was doing for man. Then these trees went to the fig tree with the request that it reign over them. But it refused because that would interfere with its providing for man the fruit he so much liked. Then these trees came to the vine, (the grape vine,) which produced both food and drink for man, and even drink to be offered as a drink offering to God. And it refused to be king, because that would hinder its production of that that was pleasing to both God and man. As can readily be seen, these were all representative of men who were making a very valuable contribution as they were. And they all refused to leave their work, to be the king. Finally these trees come to the bramble, a vine covered with thorns, and providing nothing beneficial to man. When they asked it to be their king, it immediately accepted. It told them if they wanted it to be their king, they should gather themselves in its shade, which is usually so sparse that it is worthless; and if they did not want it to be their king, then fire should come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon, the tallest trees of the area. No doubt, the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine, represent the worthwhile men of Israel, including the massacred sons of Gideon, while the bramble represents Abimelech. The declaration, “and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon,” surely means that Abimelech is threatening to destroy all who do not want him to be their king.
(Verses 16 through 21) Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands; (for my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian: and ye are risen up against my father’s house, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother,) if ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech. And Jotham ran away, and fled, and went to Beer, and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.
According to the commandment of the LORD, Moses had told the children of Israel that when they came into the land of Canaan, they were to establish on the top of mount Gerizim the blessing of the LORD upon them if they obediently followed the law of the LORD, and upon mount Ebal the curse of the LORD upon them if they were disobedient to His commandments. Here Jotham went up on the mountain of blessing, to pronounce a curse upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem. This curse seems clear enough as it is written. So we shall make no further comments upon it.
(Verses 22 through 29) When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel, then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: that the cruelty done to the threescore and ten sons of Jerubbaal might come upon Abimelech their brother, which slew them, and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in the killing of his brethren. And the men of Shechem set liers in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech. And Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him. And they went out into the fields, and gathered their vineyards, and trode the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and cursed Abimelech. And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is not he the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him? And would to God this people were under my command! Then would I remove Abimelech. And then he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.
This seems to be the beginning of the curse Jotham had pronounced upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Three years after they had made Abimelech king, the men of Shechem and Abimelech began to have serious disagreements, and it seems that anarchy was about to set in, in earnest. The men of Shechem even set men in ambush along the tops of the mountains to rob the people who passed that way. Then one of them, Gaal the son of Ebed gathered together some of his brethren and went to Shechem; and the men of Shechem accepted him as their leader. So they gathered their grapes, made their wine, and had a very festival time in the house of their god. (Apparently, they had all turned completely away from the LORD, and were serving idols altogether.} As often takes place in such celebrations, they began to feel that they had no reason to fear anyone, even king Abimelech. Gaal the son of Ebed was, no doubt, a little over filled with wine, and began to try to foment rebellion against Abimelech. He even spoke a challenge against Abimelech. He may not have intended to go quite so far, but often men when drinking too much tend to let their tongues loose to say things that will get them in trouble.
(Verses 30 through 33) And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem: and they fortify the city against thee. Now come up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field: and it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion.
As is usual when one is making such great boasts as did Gaal in the big party he and his followers were having, there was someone who did not like what was being said. That was Zebul the ruler of the city. (Apparently, they had abandoned the old manner of patriarchal rule of the city, and had a city ruler appointed by the king.) So he sent word to Abimelech that the city was about to revolt against him, and asked him to come by night, and set up an ambush against the city that he might subdue the revolt.
(Verses 34 through 41) And Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid wait against Shechem in four companies. And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said unto him, Thou seest the shadow of the mountains as if they were men. And Gaal spake again and said, See there come people down by the middle of the land, and another company come along by the plain of Meoneim. Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou sadist, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that thou hast despised? go out, I pray now, and fight with them. And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech. And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate. And Abimelech dwelt at Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, that they should not dwell in Shechem.
Thus all of Gaal’s big talk came to nothing, and Abimelech continued for a little longer as king. But that would not last.
(Verses 42 through 45) And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech. And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and laid wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them. And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and the two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and slew them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.
Thus on the next day Abimelech and his army completely destroyed the city of Shechem, and its inhabitants. And he sowed the city with salt as a sign that it was never to be rebuilt. This was a fairly common manner of treating a city of an alien tribe against which the conqueror was especially incensed. But Shechem was a city of Israel, and Abimelech was a king of Israel. So this type of treatment seems somewhat out of place in this case.
(Verses 46 through 49) And when all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into an hold of the house of the god Berith. And it was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. And Abimelech gat him up to mount Zalmon, he, and all the people that were with him; and Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and said unto the people that were with him, What ye have seen me do, make haste, and do as I have done. And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and set the hold on fire upon them; so that all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women.
After Abimelech had overcome the city and sown it with salt, the men of the city that were left, all gathered together in a hold that they thought would be secure against him; but someone told him where they were. Whereupon he led his army up to mount Zalmon, cut down a bough from a tree, and commanded those with him to do likewise. Then they carried all these boughs down to the place where the men of Shechem were hidden, piled them up around it, and set fire to them. Thus he killed them all with the fire. Those who perished in the fire numbered about one thousand. This included also women and children.
(Verses 50 through 55) Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower. And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire. And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to break his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armour-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men may not say of me, A woman slew him. And the young man thrust him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.
After subduing these rebels, Abimelech went and laid siege to another city, Thebez, and took it. But in Thebes there was a strong tower, into which the people fled, and shut it up. When he attacked the tower, in the fight he went up very close to the door of the tower. At this point “a certain woman” (This simply means “an unidentified woman.”) threw down a piece of a millstone, which struck him on the head, and although he was not killed instantly, his wound was fatal; so he commanded his armor-bearer to kill him so that people could not say that a woman killed him. When the news of his death spread through his army, all his soldiers deserted, and went home.
(Verses 56 and 57) Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren: and all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.
Without further comment, this seems to completely sum up the story of Abimelech, the first king of Israel.
(Verses 1 through 5) And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tolah the son of Puah the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and he judged Israel twenty and two years. And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havoth-jair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.
Thus after the death of Abimelech, through the lifetimes of Tolah, and Jair, two judges that served in sequence, Israel enjoyed forty five years of comparative peace. This does not mean, however that they had learned to obey the LORD. For, as we shall see, they soon turned away from Him.
(Verses 6 through 9) And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not Him. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon. And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were on the other side Jordan, in the land of the Ammonites, which is Gilead. Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so Israel was sore distressed.
Just as always, when things were going well with Israel, they turned away from God, and served idols. They not only served the idols of Baal, but they even followed after all the other idols also that were around them. It seems that they could not be satisfied with the number of their idols. So the LORD turned them over to the Philistines and the children of Ammon, who vexed and oppressed them for eighteen years. Not only were the Israelites on the east side of Jordan kept in bondage, but the Philistines and Ammonites crossed over Jordan, and fought against those on the wast side thereof. So, in all this time the children of Israel were sorely distressed.
(Verses 10 through 14) And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim. And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you: and ye cried to Me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken Me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.
Isn’t it amazing that, not only the Israelites, but we also, seem to want to do anything but serve the LORD when things are going well with us: but when trouble comes upon us for our transgressions, we want Him to help us out of the consequences of our evil deeds, although He has repeatedly warned us that there are always consequences to follow every deed. This time the LORD’S answer was not what they wanted to hear. We often forget that He always answers our prayers; but the answer is not always what we want. This time the LORD refused to help them. He told them to ask for help from the idols whom they had been following and serving. It seems that they had tried to come to Him, while still holding to these strange gods whom they had been serving. They confessed that they had sinned in turning away from the LORD and in serving other gods; but not a word has so far been said about their forsaking these idols. Indeed, the inference is that they had not.
(Verses 15 through 18) And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do Thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto Thee; deliver us only, we pray Thee, this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel. Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh. And the people and the princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
Finally the children of Israel, not only confessed their sins, but also put away all these idols they had been worshipping, and served the LORD. How long this continued, we are not told. But the LORD had compassion upon them because of their misery. So, in preparation for the battle, the Ammonites gathered, and encamped in Gilead, and the Israelites gathered in Mizpeh. Then the Israelites began to search for a man who would command them in the battle. They promised that whoever would take that position would be the ruler of all the inhabitants of Gilead.
(Verses 1 through 3) Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there he gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.
This gives us the background of Jephthah, the man who will be called by Israel to be their leader in the upcoming battle. As can be seen, he was, because of the background of his birth, looked down upon by his brethren, and possibly by most of the Israelites. However, when they were in serious straits they found him very desirable.
(Verses 4 through 11) And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: and they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did ye not expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now that ye are in distress? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words. Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh.
So, when the going became rough for the Gileadites, they went to Jephthah, the man they had despised, and driven out of their land, to bring him back to help them fight against the Ammonites. He was shrewd enough to make them promise to permanently make him their head, or ruler, if the LORD blessed him to be successful in the war. Then he went with them, and they made him their head and captain. So, now they were ready to begin the war.
(Verses 12 through 17) And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou hast come against me to fight in my land? And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably. And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: and said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon: but when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh; then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the children of Ammon to find out why he wanted to start a war with Gilead. And the king of the Ammonites replied that the cause was that Israel had taken some of his land. But Jephthah replied that Israel had never taken any of his land. Then he began to give the king of the Ammonites a lesson in the history of Israel.
(Verses 18 through 24) Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab. And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place. But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel; And the LORD God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan. So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it? Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out before us, them will we possess.
Jephthah continued his history lesson to the king of the Ammonites: and what he told him here is set forth in more detail in the book of Deuteronomy. Then, in verse 24, he clinches his argument thus: “Wilt not, thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.” It appears that Jephthah is saying, “You would do the same thing we have done; and we are going to continue to follow that method of operation.”
(Verses 25 through 28)And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them, while Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time? Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
Jephthah told the king of the Ammonites that, as we today would say, the statute of limitations had run out concerning his recovering the lands he claimed had been taken away from him, and that he was committing a wrong in demanding them. He further told him that the LORD, Who is indeed the great Judge, would judge the cause between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon, and that He would judge the matter that day. But nothing would pacify the king of the Ammonites.
(Verses 29 through 31) Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If Thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
Although verse 29 says, “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah,” that seems to cover only those things that are mentioned in the remainder of that verse. For it seems that verses 30 and 31 present him as making a very rash vow unto the LORD. And it seems hardly likely that the Spirit of the LORD led him to make it. However, according to the law of God, if a vow is made unto the LORD, that vow must be kept, with no change concerning it.
(Verses 32 and 33) So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
Thus did the LORD give Jephthah the victory over the Ammonites. And this is wonderful for the Israelites. In spite of the threat of war they have again been given peace from the LORD.
(Verses 34 through 36) And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even the children of Ammon.
Here we see that Jephthah had spoken very unwisely when he made that vow unto the LORD. He had not known what would be the first thing to greet him on his return home, but he had vowed that whatever it might be, he would offer it on the altar as a burnt offering to the LORD. As it turned out, it was his daughter, his only child. What an awful depth of despair that must have put him in! Yet there was no turning back; the vow must be fulfilled. She came out with celebration to meet him. And how sad she must have been when she heard what his vow entailed! Nevertheless she willingly submitted to it, since the LORD had taken vengeance for her father on his enemies. No doubt, some will try to use this incident in some manner as a type of the submission of the Christ to the will of the Father in the crucifixion. But to me, there are too many differences between the incidents, to so consider it.
(Verses 37 through 40) And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
This was a very sad thing to come to pass after the great victory the LORD had given Jephthah and his army. This is one of the most outstanding incidents in scripture for showing that we should never make a rash vow before God; but we should always know what we are including in that vow. For no vow unto the LORD is ever to be broken or changed.
(Verses 1 through 7) And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire. And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands. And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me? Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites. And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over, that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said: Nay; then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.
It seems that the children of Ephraim were extremely jealous of any glory that might be obtained through victory in battle. We notice that when, in Chapter 8, Gideon had won the victory over the Midianites, the Ephraimites wanted to start a fight with him for not calling them to help him in that battle. Here we find that they actually do start a war with Jephthah and his army because Jephthah did not call them to help him. However Jephthah’s army was victorious in this battle also. So, having put the Ephraimites to flight, the Gileadites captured all the places where they could cross Jordan, and held those against those who were fleeing from the battle. When they caught one trying to cross the river, they questioned whether he was an Ephraimite, or not. If he said he was not, they had him try to repeat the password, “Shibboleth,.” which, according to some means, “a flood.” But for some reason he could not pronounce it correctly, but said “Sibboleth,” for which we have found no definition. In fact, it may not be a recognized word at all, but only a mispronunciation of “Shibboleth.” Then they would execute him as an enemy. During this battle forty two thousand Ephraimites were slain. Jephthah only lived after this time about six years, and was judge of Israel during that time. It is interesting to note that, although it is the common practice to give the place of burial for a leader of Israel, we are told only, that he “was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.”
(Verses 8 through 10) And after him Ibzan of Beth-lehem judged Israel. And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Beth-lehem.
This judge, Ibzan, apparently had very little to do in his role as judge of Israel, but he very greatly violated one of the LORD’S commandments to Israel. The LORD had commanded the children of Israel that they were not to give their daughters to any of the people around them as wives, and neither were they to take the daughters of these people for wives to their sons. Ibzan broke both of these commandments. He broke each thirty times. And he only judged Israel for seven years. Then he died, and was buried at Beth-lehem.
(Verses 11 and 12) And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years. And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the hill country of Zebulun.
This was another judge who, apparently, did nothing of any great importance. And nothing is said about anything the children of Israel did during his term of office.
(Verses 13 through 15) And after him Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel. And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years. And Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died, and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites.
This is another judge, whose only claim to fame is the size of his family. None of his acts of judgment are recorded. But he judged Israel for eight years. Then he died and was buried in Pirathon of the Ephraimites, which is in the mount of the Amalekites.
(Verses 1 through 5) And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat no unclean thing: for, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from his mother’s womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
Thus begins the story of Samson. He is another of the “miracle babies” recorded in the holy scriptures. To this point in the records, there were at least four before Samson. Isaac, Esau, Jacob, and Joseph were miracle babies because their mothers were barren, and yet the LORD caused them to bear these boys. Moses was a miracle baby, not because of any great miracle of his birth, but because of his deliverance from death in the Nile. Now we have another miracle in the birth of Samson, in that his mother also was barren, but the LORD has declared that she shall have this son. Because of the LORD’S purpose for this son, He instructs his mother that she is to drink neither wine nor strong drink, and neither is she to eat anything that is ceremonially unclean. This child will be a Nazarite from his mother’s womb, so they shall not cut his hair. And he will begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.
(Verses 6 and 7) Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name: but he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
After her conversation with the angel, the woman came to her husband, and told him all that the angel had said unto her, including both his instructions as to what she must not eat or drink, and the fact that the child would be a Nazarite unto God from his birth unto his death. A Nazarite is one who is under a special vow unto the LORD. Usually this vow is voluntary on the part of the one under this vow. But in this case there is nothing voluntary about it. God has spoken; and so shall it be.
(Verses 8 through 14) Then Manoah entreated the LORD, and said, O my LORD, let the man of God which Thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her. And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and she said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day. And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am. And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him? And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her be ware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink any wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I have commanded her let her observe.
The news of the son that would be born unto them was very pleasing to both Manoah and his wife. So Manoah prayed the LORD to send again the man to them to teach them what they should do for this child. The fact that the LORD had sent this message unto them, no doubt, caused them to be fully aware that this was to be a special child, and they wanted to know if there were special things they must do in taking care of him. According to Manoah’s prayer, the LORD did send the man again. When the woman saw him she went and called her husband Manoah, who also talked with the man. The angel repeated to them both, the instructions he had formerly given to Manoah’s wife. We customarily use the expression, “beware,” to mean, “be afraid of,” but when the angel says, “Of all that I said unto the woman let her be ware,” his meaning is that she is to always be aware of these instructions, and follow them explicitly.
(Verses 15 through 20) And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD. And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honor? And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is a secret? So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wonderously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.
Manoah, being a very hospitable man, and not recognizing that the man with whom he had been talking was an angel of the LORD, invited him to stay long enough with them that he might prepare food for him. He did agree to remain for a while, but declared that he would not eat of any food he might prepare for him. Instead he instructed Manoah to make a burnt offering unto the LORD. This Manoah did: and while the offering was being consumed upon the altar, the angel ascended in the flame thereof. At this point both Manoah and his wife fell prostrate upon the ground. One point we should notice concerning the conversation between Manoah and the angel, is that when Manoah asked the angel’s name that he might later give him honor for bringing this message to him, the angel rebuked him for even asking. Apparently one reason why his name was withheld is that the angels know that they are only “ministering spirits,” and therefore no honor is to be given to them. It is all to be rendered unto the LORD, Whose servants they are.
(Verses 21 through 25) But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt offering at our hands, neither would He have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time told us such things as these. And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Manoah saw the angel no more, but his promise came to pass, just as prophesied. This son was born, and his mother called him Samson. As he grew up, the LORD blessed him, and at times the Spirit of the LORD began to move him in noticeable ways in the camp of the Danites.
(Verses 1 through 4) And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that He sought an occasion against the Philistines: for the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
This seems clearly enough written that there should be no difficulty in understanding it. One might be as were the father and mother of Samson, somewhat confused and disturbed that he would pass by all the women of the Israelites, and select one of the Philistines as the one he wanted to marry. However that too is explained in the text. This was of the LORD that He might through Samson work some of His wondrous works against the Philistines. I suppose our modern day interpreters of the scriptures would tell us that there is something wrong with the translation of this, because, according to them, the LORD is the same gentle, loving, and merciful God toward all men, and He would never choose one over another. However here we are told that “He sought an occasion against the Philistines.” This seems to be as strong a declaration of God’s sovereign election as one would ever find.
(Verses 5 through 9) Then Samson went down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and his mother, and gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.
The custom in Samson’s day concerning a man and a woman getting engaged, or married, was somewhat different from what we have been accustomed to in this country. At that time, a man did not just keep company with a woman for a while, and ask her to marry him. Instead, if he saw one that he thought he would be interested in, he asked his father and mother to make the arrangements for him. It was on the journey down to Timnath for the purpose of their making these arrangements that Samson had the encounter with the lion, and on the journey down to Timnath to take her as his bride, that he found the honey in the carcase of the lion. Everything in this account seems clear enough that there should be no misunderstanding thereof.
(Verses 10 and 11) So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.
These companions were men of the city where the woman lived whom Samson was to marry. They were all to be his companions throughout the feast.
(Verses 12 through 18) And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if you can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: but if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it. And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father or my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.
As Samson talked with his companions, he set before them a riddle that, if they if they could find out the answer to it, and declare it to him during the seven days of the feast, he would give to them thirty sheets and thirty changes of garments. And if they failed, they were to make this same gift to him. That riddle was, “Out of the eater came forth meat, (food) and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” There seems to be a slight discrepancy between the account given of the event in verses 15 and 16, and that given in verses 17 and 18. In the former, it seems that these companions did not approach Samson’s wife concerning the matter until the seventh day. But verses 17 and 18 seem to indicate that for the whole seven days his wife was crying, and trying to get him to tell her the answer to this riddle. Whichever way the event took place, on the seventh day Samson explained the riddle to her, and before the sun went down she gave the answer to Samson’s companions, and they declared the answer to him, whereupon he said, “If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out the riddle,” meaning, “If you had left my wife out of the matter, you would not have found out the answer.”
(Verses 19 and 20) And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which had expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house. But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.
Here is another of Samson’s exploits by reason of the Spirit of the LORD. To pay the wager he had made with his companions, he went to Ashkelon, another city of the Philistines, slew thirty men, and took their spoil to pay the debt. Then he, being very angry, went up to his father’s house. But his wife was given to one of the companions who had been given him at Timnath, Likely the one who, according to our modern manner of speaking, would be called “his best man.”
(Verses 1 through 5) But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of the wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her. And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.
Apparently Samson was so angry against his wife that he waited for a while before contacting her again. But in the time of the wheat harvest, he went down to Timnath again, carrying a kid to his wife. When he went to the home of his wife’s father, he was told that his wife had already been given to one of those who had been his companions. Her father offered him her sister in her place, which we today would think a very strange manner of doing; but in that time and place it may not have been so uncommon; for women were considered more as property than as we now consider them. This, of course angered Samson, so he decided to get even with them for what he considered as an insult to him. He caught three hundred foxes, tied together the tails of the foxes, two by two, with a lighted firebrand tied to the tails of the two foxes, and set them loose in the standing corn (actually wheat) of the Philistines. This caused a great conflagration, burning up both the wheat that was still standing and that which had already been cit and stacked. Of course the fire did not stop at the edge of the wheat fields, but also burned the oliveyards and the vineyards.
(Verses 6 through 8) Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease. And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.
When the Philistines saw this great destruction, they made inquiry and found out that Samson had done it because his father in law had taken his wife, and given her to another. It seems that they thought they were giving Samson justice when they went and burned both his father in law and his wife. But Samson did not feel that he had been properly avenged. So, he went to battle against them, and killed many of them. Then he went down to the rock Etam, and dwelt there.
(Verses 9 through 13) Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us. Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson. Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them. And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves. And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.
After the fire episode, an army of the Philistines went up into Judah, and encamped there. When the men of Judah inquired as to why they were there, they said they had come to take Samson. So three thousand men of Judah went down to the rock where Samson was living. They told him that since the Philistines were rulers over them, they had come to bind him, and take him back to the Philistines. After making them promise that they would not themselves harm him, he let them bind him, and take him back.
(Verses 14 through 17) And when he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt in the fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of an ass have I slain a thousand men. And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramath-lehi.
One thing is to be kept in mind as we study the life and works of Samson. This is, that the LORD has brought about all these incidents that by them He may vex the Philistines. We should not fail to notice that when Samson is about to do some great feat, the Spirit of the LORD comes upon him to enable him to accomplish what he is about to do. This is no exception. When he and the men of Judah who were with him came to Lehi, the place where the Philistines were encamped, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily.” By that movement of the Spirit he was freed from his bonds, and before him was a weapon with which to accomplish his work. The insignificance of the weapon is sufficient to prove that the power of this great event was of the LORD, and not of the man. With the jawbone of an ass he killed a thousand men. And, apparently the remainder ran away. And Samson named the place, Ramath-lehi, “the hill of the jawbone.”
(Verses 18 through 20) And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of Thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised? But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day. And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
After this fight Samson was very thirsty: and he prayed to the LORD, and asked Him if, after giving him this great victory He was going to let him die of thirst and fall into the hands of the Philistines. But God was gracious to him, and miraculously provided him water from the weapon he had used to destroy the Philistines. Although the LORD did not, at this time deliver the Israelites from the rule of the Philistines, Samson judged Israel twenty years.
(Verses 1 through 3) Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her. And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.
Apparently, the Philistines were somewhat afraid to face Samson, and arrest him openly. But when they saw him go into the house of a harlot in Gaza, they got up courage enough to surround the house, and lay in ambush for him. They thought he would spend the night there. But he got up at midnight, and left. No doubt the gates were locked before the time that he decided to leave; and instead of calling the gatekeeper of the city for him to let him out, he simply took up the gates, and the posts thereof, and carried them on his shoulders up to the top of the hill that is before Hebron.
Verses 4 through 20 tell the story of Samson’s betrayal by a woman named Delilah, a story that is probably more familiar to the general public than any other Bible story. Evidently verse 4 gives the key to the whole story. “And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman of the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.” Notice that nothing is said about this woman’s loving Samson. And as the story unfolds, it is abundantly evident that she did not. However he must have been completely blinded by love of her. Otherwise, surely, he would have realized that she was only trying to find a way to destroy him. The people of her town promised her great reward if she would find out his secret, and betray him to them. And this is what she was attempting to do from the beginning. Certainly, we cannot overlook the fact that all of this was brought about according to the purpose of the LORD. So, where does that leave those who say that the LORD would never put upon anyone such suffering as this episode finally brings upon Samson, the very man the LORD is using to bring down the Philistines? The account of this matter is clearly enough written that none should have any difficulty in understanding it. So we shall not quote the whole matter. But Delilah made three unsuccessful attempts to betray him, and finally wore him down so that he told her the secret of his strength. And she immediately betrayed him so that his enemies could take him and abuse him.
(Verses 21 through 24) But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven. And the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.
After Delilah had done her dirty work, the Philistines took Samson, carried him to Gaza, and imprisoned him. There he had to work, “he did grind in the prison house.” Apparently the Philistines paid no attention to the fact that while he was in prison his hair began to grow out again. Then one day the lords of the Philistines gathered for a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. And they rejoiced greatly, and praised their gods for delivering Samson into their hands.
(Verses 25 through 28) And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. And Samson said unto the lad that held his hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray Thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
It seems strange that the Philistines would entrust an enemy so great as Samson to the care of a lad, but such seems to be the case. So after Samson had entertained the lords of the Philistines for a while, he was permitted to rest for a little between the pillars that supported the building. These pillars were, likely about the center of the building, and very close together. Samson asked the lad who was keeping him to let him feel the pillars, and lean on them a little. Then Samson prayed unto the LORD that He would be with him one more time, that he might avenge himself on the Philistines for the loss of his eyes.
(Verses 29 through 31) And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.
There seems to be little need of commentary on this. It was the last act of Samson, the man to whom God gave the greatest strength of any man. Samson did not always do what we might think he should have done. But we must remember that the LORD never deserted him.
(Verses 1 through 6) And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold the silver is with me: I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son. And when he restored the eleven hundred shekels to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee. Yet he restored the money unto his mother: and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
This seems to be a somewhat strange situation. First we are told of a man who stole from his mother, and when he told her that he had done so, she blessed him, and gave the money he had stolen to him, saying that she had intended to have a molten and graven image made of it unto the LORD for her son. Apparently the children of Israel had so far departed from the LORD that they even thought it all right to make molten and graven images unto the LORD, which is a flagrant violation of His first commandment in the Decalogue. Also this woman was not offended that her son would steal---- a violation of another of the LORD’S commandments, “Thou shalt not steal.” Then she said that she had wholly dedicated this money “unto the LORD from the hand of my son, to make a graven image and a molten image.” She gave the money unto her son, who immediately returned it to her. Then she took only two hundred shekels from the eleven hundred she had said that she had “wholly dedicated unto the LORD,” And from, that had an image made. Although the purpose of her dedicating this “unto the LORD” was to make something which He had forbidden, she was still violating another of His commandments. For He had told the Israelites that any thing dedicated unto Him could not be changed, unless the one who dedicated it. added one fifth of its value, and gave both it and the additional fifth unto Him. So every move that was made went deeper into violation of the commandments of the LORD. However she had the image made, and she gave it to her son Micah, who placed it in his “house of gods.” He, Micah, took one of his sons, and dressed him up as a priest in the house of his gods. No one ruled in Israel as king in that day; but every man did as he pleased.
(Verses 7 through 13) And there was a young man of Beth-lehem-judah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed out of the city of Beth-lehem-judah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed. And Micah said unto him, Whence cometh thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Beth-lehem-judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons. And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.
There is nothing in this that should need any explanation. However, it does strongly reflect the conditions of the day in Israel. Not only was there no king in Israel, but also, the worship of the LORD had declined to the point that, apparently, none was ever concerned with the LORD’S service, for nothing is even mentioned about His tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, or any other of those things which He had ordained by the hand of Moses. It does appear that the Levites still had no possession of any lands, but were scattered among the other tribes of Israel, as had been appointed. Remember that certain cities and their suburbs had been appointed to them. But these cities were scattered among the other tribes of Israel. So a young man of the Levites who dwelt in Beth-lehem-Judah, decided to go on a journey to see if he could find a place to dwell that suited him better than where he lived. In his journey he came to the house of Micah, who hired him to stay with him, and be his priest. Then Micah, although having his “house of gods,” felt that surely the LORD would bless him now because he had a Levite as his priest. This seems to be very much in keeping with the belief of many today. They think that no matter how much they violate God’s commandments, and follow after the things of this world, if they will only “keep on the good side of their priest or pastor, God will have to bless them. They forget that He is never under any obligation to them for anything. If they ever knew it they have forgotten what Samuel said to Saul. (I Samuel 15:22) “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifices, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Having this young Levite for his priest did nothing for Micah in the sight of God.
(Verses 1 through 6) In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel. And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there. When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here? And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest. And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.
Again we are told that there was no king in Israel, so, evidently, there was no rule of law there, and everyone did very much as he pleased. Somehow the Danites had not yet been able to take full possession of their inheritance as had been allotted to them. So they were looking for more territory that would be a little easier to subdue. Therefore they sent out five of their men to do a little spying of the available land. As they passed through mount Ephraim, these five came to the house of Micah, and recognizing the voice of the young Levite, they went in, and talked with him. In answer to their questions, he told them about his arrangements with Micah, and that he was Micah’s priest. So the men asked him to inquire of the LORD as to whether or not their journey would be prosperous. His answer was favorable to them.
(Verses 7 through 10) Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame for any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man. And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye? And they said, Arise that we may go against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.
When these five spies came to Laish, they found exactly what they wanted, a place where the inhabitants were not very well disciplined, and were not keeping any watch for enemies. So they went back to their homes, and reported the situation as they had found it. The inhabitants of this place seem to have been Zidonians; but they were too far from Zidon to expect any help from the Zidonians.
(Verses 11 through 13) And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war. And they went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjath-jearim. And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.
So from Zorah and Eshtaol went six hundred men to attack Laish. They passed through Judah, where they camped in a place behind Kirjath-jearim, which has since that time been called Mahaneh-dan, or “camp of Dan.” Then they went up into mount Ephraim. There they came to the house of Micah.
(Verses 14 through 21) Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? Now therefore consider what ye have to do. And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him. And the six hundred men appointed with weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. And these went in into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye? And they said unto him, hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people. So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.
On their way to the conquest of Laish the Danites went by the place where Micah lived. And the men who had been sent out as spies told their brethren about the presence of the young Levite and the idols in Micah’s house. So they went in to see this young Levite, and persuaded him to take the idols and the items used in the worship of them, and go with them. Then they continued on their way to Laish.
(Verses 22 through 26) And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan. And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company? And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee? And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household. So the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.
When Micah and his household discovered that the Danites had taken away his priest and his idols, he went after them. but when he caught up to them he discovered that they were too strong for him. Then he and his people went back home, and the Danites continued on their way.
(Verses 27 through 29) And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Beth-rehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.
So the Danites took the priest and the things they had taken from the house of Micah, and went on their way. The taking of the city of Laish was without any untoward events, and they killed the inhabitants, and burned the city. Then they re-built the city, and changed its name from Laish to Dan.
(Verses 30 and 31) And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
Thus the tribe of Dan turned to idols instead of serving the LORD. and this continued until the day of the captivity of the land.
(Verses 1 through 4) And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah. And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Beth-lehem-judah, and was there four whole months. And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. And his father in law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.
This is the beginning of a fairly long story. There was a difference between a wife and a concubine, in that the concubine’s position was regarded as a little inferior to that of a wife. Yet she was required to be faithful to her husband in all things, just as was the wife. But this woman was not faithful to her husband. And she ran away from him, and went home to her father. Somehow her husband still loved her enough that he made the long trip back to her father’s house to bring her back to himself. The woman’s father was glad to see him, and insisted that he remain with him a few days, which he did.
(Verses 5 through 10) And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel’s father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go on your way. And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel’s father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry. And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again. And he rose up early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel’s father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and did eat both of them. And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel’s father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and tomorrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home. But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him.
Every morning, when the Levite was about to depart, his father in law would insist that he stay a while longer. Finally in the afternoon of the fifth day, he did depart, taking with him his concubine and his servant. The first place they approached where they might have spent the night was Jebus, or, as it is now called, Jerusalem. Since it was afternoon when they left Beth-lehem-judah, it must have been getting toward the close of the day when they arrived at Jerusalem.
(Verses 11 through 15) And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it. And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass on over to Gibeah. And he said to his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah. And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin. And they turned aside thither, to go in and lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.
Since the Jebusites were enemies of Israel, one can hardly blame this Levite for wanting to pass by their town, and go to one belonging to his brethren the Israelites. So, although the day was drawing to a close, he, and his party went on, and came to Gibeah, a city of Benjamin. And the sun went down about the time they reached that city. So they went into the city, and finding none to invite them into his home, the Levite sat down in one of the streets. One should remember that one of the LORD’S commandments that is often repeated demands that everyone is always to be careful to entertain strangers. But, sadly, then as now, that commandment is often ignored.
(Verses 16 through 21) And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of that place were Benjamites. And when he lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the streets of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? And he said unto him, We are passing from Beth-lehem-judah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Beth-lehem-judah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me into his house. Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing. And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street. So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.
After passing by Jebus because it was a city belonging to the enemies of Israel, and going on to a city of the Benjamites, this Levite found only one man willing to give his party lodging for the night. And that man was not a Benjamite, but an Ephraimite who was sojourning in Jebus. This is indeed a poor recommendation for the Benjamites of that city. But there is even worse to come.
(Verses 22 through 28) Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man , saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them will I bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good to you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.
This is such a clear description of this terrible event, that none should misunderstand it, without further comment. It shows to what a depth of depravity the men of Gibeah had fallen. This also reinforces a statement that we have often made. That is, that in that day, and in that area of the world, to some extent even today, women were, and are regarded more as property than as we in western civilizations regard them today. After that terrible night, the Levite took his concubine’s body home with him.
(Verses 29 and 30) And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold upon his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
This was indeed a terrible act. And if such a thing should be done today, the first thing that the people would want to do would be to kill the man who cut up this body, and sent it all over the country. Then they would, probably, want to take up a great collection to pay for fancy defense lawyers to defend “those poor fellows” who had abused the woman to death. But as terrible as was the deed of cutting up a dead body, and sending the parts all over the country, it, no doubt, took that to wake up the tribes of Israel to the awful condition into which they had fallen. It was a “wake-up call” that worked. Everyone who saw this was ready to come together and consider what could be done about the matter. That is, apparently everyone except the tribe of Benjamin, as we shall shortly see.
(Verses 1 through 7) Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. And the chief of all the people, even all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, how was this wickedness? And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me that night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.
In verse 1 we are told, “Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man.” Yet, in verse 3 we are told, “Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh,” which seemingly indicates that although they heard of the coming together of the congregation, they did not attend. When the congregation met, they began to inquire as to the details of this great evil that had been done. So the Levite reported the whole matter to them., and called upon them to give their advice and counsel concerning the case.
(Verses 8 through 11) And the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us turn to his tent, neither will we any of us turn unto his house. But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it. And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred out of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victuals for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.
After they learned all the details of the incident at Gibeah, all the men of Israel that were gathered together completely agreed what must be done. They would send ten men out of a hundred, a hundred out of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand to gather victuals for those who would go up against Gibeah. And they would go up by lot against the city to destroy it. They were all in total agreement concerning the matter.
And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this day done among you? Now therefore deliver us up the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: but the children if Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the tribes to Gibeah, to go to battle against the children of Israel. And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the men of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war.
The men of the tribes of Israel sent messengers to the tribe of Benjamin, demanding that the men of Gibeah who had committed this great evil be turned over to them for punishment; but the children of Benjamin refused. So both sides prepared to fight. So far as numbers are concerned, the tribes of Israel were a much superior force. But still both sides prepared for battle.
(Verses 18 through 25) And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first. And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah. And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men. And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.) And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.
After their defeat on the first day of battle, the children of Israel were in great dismay. So they went up to the house of God, and sought counsel of Him as to whether or not they should go again to battle against Benjamin. They thought that they were doing as He would have them; but they did not realize that sometimes, even while we are trying to do His will, we need chastisement. The answer of the LORD was that they should again attack Benjamin. Accordingly they set the battle in array the next day, just as they had at the first: and the children of Benjamin again overcame them, and killed about eighteen thousand of them.
(Verses 26 through 32) Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. And the children of Israel inquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of the God was there in those days, and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hand. And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah. And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways.
People may often wonder why, the LORD told the Israelites to go up against Benjamin twice, and still did not give them the victory. And it certainly is not our function to assign reasons why He has done anything, when He has not told us His reason. Nevertheless, there is one outstanding difference between their manner of going to Him for an answer in this last time, and in the two former times. In the first time, we are told, that they did go up to the house of God, and ask counsel of God, concerning who should go up first. And the answer of the LORD was that Judah should go first. Then, at the second time, they asked of the LORD whether or not they should go to battle again against their brother Benjamin; and His answer was , “Go up against him.” But in neither instance is there any record that they made any offering of any sort unto Him. And neither is there any promise of success in the battle. The third time they went before the LORD with the matter, they not only asked counsel of Him concerning whether they should go against Benjamin, or not: but they also offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. Then He not only told them to go against Benjamin again, but also promised them victory. In Exodus 23:15, Exodus 34: 20, and Deuteronomy 16:16, the LORD had told them that none should ever appear before Him empty. That is, without an offering. At this time, the LORD said, “Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hands.” And, although it is not mentioned, He is, no doubt, the One Who instructed them in how to set up the army for the attack upon the city. They did not have all their men of war go up together for a frontal attack, but divided the men so that some could make the frontal attack while others lay in ambush to go into the city and take it after the fighting men of the city were drawn away from it.
(Verses 33 through 41) And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baal-ramar: and the liers in wait came out of their places, even the meadows of Gibeah. And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them. And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah. And the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword. Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city. And when the Men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle. But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven. And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them.
Apparently the men of Israel had their army divided into three parts, one to make the frontal attack, another to rise up and join them at a certain place after the people of the city had been drawn away from the city, and the third to lie in wait beside the city until the men of war had been drawn away from the city, and this last detachment would then go into the city, kill all the inhabitants, and burn the city. All went according to plan, and the people of Benjamin did not know until too late that they were in real danger. But when they became aware of what had been done, they were completely confused.
(Verses 42 through 46) Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them that came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them. Thus they enclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising. And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men, all these men of valour. And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them. So all that fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valour.
Although it is not explicitly mentioned, it appears that in their fight against the tribe of Benjamin, the children of Israel followed the same practice that they had against foreign enemies. The killed not only the fighting men, but women and children also. The numbers of the slain include only the men. Since at the beginning of this war, there were only twenty six thousand men numbered, twenty five thousand have been killed, there must be only about one thousand left. So the tribe of Benjamin had been almost wiped out. And all that were left were these men, with no women and no children.
(Verses 47 and 48) But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock four months. And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the sword, as well the men of every city as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
This seems clearly conclusive that the men of Israel did indeed practice genocide in this event. So, apparently there were only six hundred Benjamites left, and they were all men. Neither women nor children were spared.
(Verses 1 through 7) Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife. And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; and said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel? And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death. And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?
In the excitement of the fighting Israel had forgotten to save wives from the tribe of Benjamin for wives to the men that were left. Now as they mourned the loss of one complete tribe from Israel, they considered the plight of the men who were left alive, since in their anger against the Benjamites they had sworn that they would not give them wives of their daughters. But still they did not want a complete wipe out of a whole tribe. So their question was, “What can we do about this predicament.”
(Verses 8 through 15) And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly. For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead there. And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children. And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man. And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan. And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them. And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not. And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
This certainly seems to us a strange manner of action. But we have to consider that their perspective of marriage was somewhat different from ours. And this was what they considered the best manner of taking care of a very bad situation. Since the people of Jabesh-gilead, had not helped in the fight against the Benjamites who had committed such a terrible sin, they had already decreed that they be put to death. But in order to help take care of the present problem, they let all these virgins live, that they might be wives for the Benjamites who were left after the war. Still they were about two hundred women short for this project. So something else must be done.
(Verses 16 through 22) Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin. Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come to us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.
Some might wonder whether or not this is actually a legitimate way to get around an oath unto the LORD. But, apparently, in this case, the LORD permitted it to be done. And He is the Judge of the matter. It was a plan worked out by the elders of Israel, and it is clearly enough set forth that none should misunderstand it. It is to be remembered that they still needed about two hundred to be wives of the remnant of the Benjamites.
(Verses 23 through 25) And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance. In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
So this matter was thus concluded, if not to the satisfaction of all, at least to the point that everyone was willing to tolerate the outcome. And all returned to his inheritance, and the situation seemed to be settled down. However there was still no king in Israel, so there was no control, of civil authority, over anyone. Each followed his own conscience.