Judges 14 – Reading Note – Samson’s Marriage

The Israelites have sinned against God again so he let the Philistines oppress them. Eventually, God decides to rescue them. He goes “OK, those Philistines are going down!” Then he whispers into Samson’s ear “Pssst, Samson. See that Philistine girl? You like her. Tell your parents you want to marry her”. So Samson demands that his parents get the Philistine girl for him in marriage. Unable to dissuade him, his parents proceed to do as he asked. Over the course of the following weeks, Samson kills lion and finds bees making honey in the carcass.

That gives Samson a wonderful idea. At his 7-day long wedding party he gives the philistines a riddle:

“Out of the eater, something to eat

Out of the strong, something sweet”

If they can solve it, he tells them, he would give them thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. Otherwise, they would give him the same. After trying unsuccessfully for three days, the men approach Samson’s wife and threaten to burn her and her father’s house if she did not get the answer from Samson. By crying everyday and accusing Samson of hating her, the bride successfully gets the answer and gives it to the Philistines.

Samson was no idiot. He knew what had happened and was naturally angry. So (get this) he killed 30 other philistines and gave their clothes to the ones who had solved the riddle. Then he went home angry. His wife’s father then gave her in marriage to some other guy because he thought Samson no longer wanted her.

1. God prodded Samson into seeking the Philistine woman, because he knew that would give him an opportunity to confront the philistines.

2. God gave Samson the strength he needed to kill those thirty men. 14:30 says: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he returned to his father’s home.”

It is not wrong for God to kill, but it was definitely wrong for Samson to kill innocent people in his anger. God did not make Samson kill the men (that was Samson’s choice) but he did enable Samson to. So, Samson would still bear guilt for his actions, but God bears none.

3. There seems to be a notion of family in the story. When Samson’s wife accuses him of hatred for not giving her the answer to the riddle, he replies: “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,  so why should I explain it to you?” The implication being that his parents should mean more to him than her.

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Judges 12 & 13 – Reading Note

  • The Ephraimites took issue with the fact that Jephthah had fought the Ammonites without them. They threatened to burn down his house, so he called an army together against them. Civil war ensued and the Gileadites won. Jephthah later died.
  • The story of Samson gives the name of Samson’s father, Manoah but never gives the name of his mother even though the angel appeared to her alone twice.
  • Because she was to give birth to a Nazirite, Samason’s mother was not to drink any wine or eat any unclean thing. The ceremonial laws of the old Testament are still pretty unclear to me.
  • The angel in this story is the mysterious Yahweh Malakh (the angel of the Lord). When asked his name, he replies that it is too mysterious for them.
  • When Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he was scared and thought they were going to die because “We have seen God!” But his wife was sensible and told him that if God wanted to kill them, he would not have given them all those instructions and accepted a burnt offering from them.

Judges 11 – Reading Note

True to God’s pattern of choosing unlikely people, the Judge Jephthah was not highly regarded in his community. His mother was a prostitute, so his father’s sons sent him away from their home. He eventually got a ‘gang of scoundrels’ to follow him. Evidently, he had some skill because in their fight against the ammonites (Judges 10), the Gileadites asked for his help.

He accepted their offer of rulership of Gilead and began correspondence with the King of Ammon. The King of Ammon claimed that the Israelites had taken his land. Jephthah countered that they had take no land from Moab or Ammon, but that the land they had near him was taking from the Amorites. He also said that God had given them the land, saying “Now since the Lord, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess.”

It was good war practice – seek to make peace with your attacker. If they refuse, fight back. The King of the Ammonites did not listen, so Jephthah attacked him. He made a vow to God that if he won the war, he would sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever first came out of his house when he returned home. He won the war and the unfortunate human being was his only child and daughter. (What was he expecting to come out of the house, anyway? An animal?”)

Jephthah was sad, but he did what he had sworn to do, as the passage says.

Judges 10 – Reading Note

10: 6 – 18 reads like a love story. The Israelites forsake God and worship other gods, the gods of the people around them. Then, when they were being oppressed, they cried out to God, that they were sorry for their sins, begging him to save them.

God told them to go to the gods they prostituted with for help, saying ““When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands?But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

But, they were truly contrite (or truly desperate) because they put away all their false gods and kept crying to him for help. They said, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” until, the passage says, God “could bear Israel’s misery no longer”.

While, crying to God, the people were not lazy. The leaders promised that anyone who lead the attack against the Ammonites (their oppressors) would be king of Gilead. So, they were doing their best. I suppose, they simply realized that they were helpless if God did not help them.

Judges 9 – Reading Note

  • Abimelech, the son of Gideon (Jerub-Baal) was ruthless. He convinced his clan to let him be their King, then he murdered 69 of his brothers.
  • In the tradition of all the previous books, Judges is written in a strange manner. The text says that Abimelech killed all 70 of his brothers, then the very next sentence says that one of them (Jotham) escaped. Do JDEP advocates take that as evidence that Judges was compiled from separate contradictory accounts, I wonder?
  • Jotham crashed the crowning party of Abimelech and cursed the people, citing that they had been unjust to his father by letting Abimelech kill his sons. His words were: “So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may Abimelek be your joy, and may you be his, too!But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelek and consume you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelek!” (9: 19, 20)
  • After 3 years, God stirred animosity between the inhabitants of Shechem and Abimelek, so that they revolted against him. He did this to avenge Gideon.
  • Abimelek fought and won his first battle against the uprising. During the ensuing war, a lot of the Shecheites were killed and Abimelek was also killed. So, God fought for Gideon, his servant.

Judges 8 – Reading Note

  • Gideon might not have been a very brave man, but he was no pushover either (to put it mildly). Some towns were mean to him, refusing to feed his hungry men and he told them that when he was on his way back after his victory, he would tear their skin with thorns. And he carried it out.
  • The people wanted Gideon to be their King, but he refused and told them that God would be their King. Still he made an ephod out of Gold for them and the people worshiped it. What was wrong with them, you ask? I have no idea.
  • Still God gave them peace until Gideon died.
  • After Gideon died, the Israelites went back to worshiping the Baals and did not treat Gideon’s descendants nicely.

Judges 7 – Reading Note

  • In the battle against Midian, God did not want the people to suffer the illusion that they won the battle by their own power. Not only would that be unjust – taking the praise that rightfully belongs to God – it would also hinder them from learning to fully appreciate God. So, God made Gideon reduce the size of his army to a paltry 300 men.
  • God didn’t reprimand Gideon for being afraid. He simply helped him regain his courage.