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Breezin’ Through the Bible, #8 The Judges

November 12, 2013

In 1375 B.C. Joshua died at age 110, and in that year judges began to rule the Israelites for 200 years. Judges were warrior rulers, heroes in battle. Deborah, a woman, ruled from 1162 B.C. to 1169, Gideon, ruled from 1169 to 1122 B.C., and Samson from 1975 to 1055 B.C. Between the judges, “the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” and worshiped false gods, Baal and Astartes. The people sinned, were put into servitude as a result of their behavior,begged forgiveness, and received salvation from their Lord. The people failed to teach the next generation the ways of their God, but he always forgave them.

Deborah, then leading Israel, led Barak with 10,000 men to defeat the Canaanites. Under Sisera, with his 900 chariots fitted with iron, the Canaanites were defeated, but Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Jael, who greeted him, gave him water, and covered him with a blanket. When he fell asleep, she hammered a tent peg through his head. Following other battles, the Israelites had 40 years of peace.

Again, “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord” and were oppressed by the Midianites. The Midianites camped on their lands, stole their crops, and killed their animals. The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, the least in a powerless family, summoning him to defeat the Midianites. Gideon required proof that God would be with him. With fire, the angel of the Lord consumed meat and broth Gideon put on a rock. That night Gideon put a fleece on the ground, and the ground was dry, but the fleece was wet with dew. The next night the ground was wet and the fleece was dry. Then Gideon knew God was with him.

Gideon collected 30,000 men to fight, but God insisted it was too many. Gideon dismissed all who were afraid. Then Gideon sent home those men who knelt in the water to drink, keeping only 300 men who lapped water from their hands. Gideon’s 300 men circled the camp where all the Midianites, along with their camels, were sleeping. They broke jars, blew trumpets, and waved torches, shouting, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon.” In their disarray, the Midianites were defeated and the land was at peace 40 years.

Once again the Israelites forgot their faithful, holy God, and once again God delivered them to their enemies, the Philistines. Again they begged for deliverance. God gave a childless woman a son, Samson, who was never to drink wine or have his hair cut. He would deliver Israel from the Philistines. Samson married a Philistine woman, and gave her people a riddle which they could not solve, for how could they know he had killed a lion and later taken honey from its carcass. The Philistines asked his wife to discover the solution to the riddle. To obtain her peace, Samson finally told her, and she told the answer to her people. In anger, Samson killed thirty of her people and returned to his father’s house. Meanwhile his wife’s father gave her to a companion. When Samson discovered the treachery, he tied torches to the tails of pairs of foxes and set them free to burn the fields of the Philistines. Then he attacked and killed many of them. The Philistines caught him and tied him with ropes, but the Lord increased his strength. He broke free, grabbed the jawbone of a donkey and struck down a thousand men.

Then he fell in love with Delilah, who, after many attempts, discovered the secret of his strength lay in his uncut hair. The Philistines used this knowledge, seized him, shaved his head, and gouged out his eyes. Later in a feast to their gods and not realizing his hair had grown out, they called upon Samson to entertain them. With a prayer to God and a mighty effort, Samson pushed against the pillars of the temple. The temple fell, killing him, the rulers, and all the people within. 

Samson had protected Israel for 20 years. His brothers returned his body to the tomb of his father, while the Israelites continued the cycle of disobeying God, being punished and being forgiven.

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