The Last Days Calendar – Bible Prophecy & The Rapture

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The Last Days Calendar truly interprets end time Bible prophecy concerning the last days within the context of Jewish culture and the Hebrew calendar.

Studying Scripture in light of the historical setting and culture in which it was first proclaimed reveals fresh insight into events of the last days, the Book of Revelation, the timing of the Rapture, the identity of the Two Witnesses and the nature of the Millennium. Our web site provides detailed teachings concerning these topics.

Bible prophecies that concern the events of the last days, including the rapture, are foreshadowed in the Festivals of the LORD. The Festivals of the LORD are the ordained “Appointed Times” of God’s ceremonial calendar for Israel. These seasonal feasts are prophetic pictures of the Messiah.

The four spring Festivals of the LORD: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and The Feast of Weeks all take place within the first three months of the Hebrew calendar. The spring cycle of biblical festivals was literally fulfilled by the First Advent: Redemption (the Passover), Sanctification (The Feast of Unleavened Bread), Resurrection (Firstfruits) and the birth of the Church (Pentecost).

The first of the fall cycle of the Festivals of the LORD is the Feast of Trumpets. Yom Teruah (the day of shofar blasts) foreshadows the Rapture when God’s elect will be translated in the blinking of an eye and gathered into His presence to be forever with the Lord. The most solemn and holy day for the Jewish people is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), which is the day on the Hebrew calendar when Yeshua (Jesus) will return and rescue God’s chosen people. The final festival of the fall cycle of biblical festival and the final of the seven annual feasts is Sukkoth – The Feast of Tabernacles. This feast foreshadows the wedding supper of the Lamb and the Millennial reign of Christ.

To learn more about The Festivals of Yahweh (the LORD) check out the blogs in our “Feasts & Festivals” category.

A cult is a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader. Our “Cults and Religions” category (at the top of the page) includes:

  •        Christianity versus Cults and Counterfeits – Defining Cults   
  •        Church of the Latter-Day Saints, Joseph Smith & the Mormons  
  •        Is Catholicism True Orthodox Christianity or a Christian Cult?  
  •         Is this the Dawn of a New Age or just Old Fashioned Paganism?  
  •        Is Seventh-Day Adventism Christianity or is SDA Cultism?    
  •        ISLAM:  The Religion of “Peace” Bent on Conquest  
  •        The Claims of Freemasons vs. the Hidden Truth of Freemasonry  
  •        The Jehovah’s Witnesses: True Christianity or Christian Cult?  
  •        The True History and Practices of the Church of Scientology!  

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Isaiah 46:9-10

Only the one true God and Creator is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning. Our expository teachings from the book of Genesis are not only historical accounts, but are often prophetic pictures of future events. Each month a new chapter from the book of Genesis will be posted until a verse-by-verse commentary on entire book of Genesis is completed.

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Judges Chapter 18 – In Those Days the Danites Had No King

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In those days the Danites were seeking a place of their own where they might settle. They had not yet come into an inheritance amid the tribes of Israel

In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Judges 18:1

The assigned inheritance for the tribe of Dan is described in Joshua 19:40-46. Although their territory had been assigned to them, they had not been able to conquer it completely because of the fierce opposition of the Philistines and the Amorites. The Danites did not acquire the full possession of their allotment, since a considerable portion was wrested out of their hands by the encroachments of their powerful neighbors. As a result of the need for more territory, a number of Danites sought a new and additional settlement in a remote part of the land.

As we shall see, without a king to serve as supreme magistrate, and before the time of the judges, there was no deterrent or accountability for the evil actions of the Danites.

So the Danites sent five of their leading men from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all the Danites. They told them, “Go, explore the land.” So they entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night. Judges 18:2

Zorah and Eshtaol were the first cities that were assigned to the Danites when the territory of their inheritance was determined by lot. These cities were located on Dan’s border adjacent to the territory of the Philistines. The frequent raids by the Philistines provoked the Danites of Zorah and Eshtaol to seek territory in the north of Canaan. Five of the leading men of these cities were sent to spy out the land. When they entered into the hill country of Ephraim, they bedded down for the night in the vicinity of Micah’s house.

When they were near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?”

He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, “He has hired me and I am his priest.” Judges 18:3-4

It is obvious that the Danite men were personally familiar with this Levite since they recognized his voice. The young Levite told the five men that Micah paid him ten shekels of silver a year and provided him with clothes and food in return for his serving as Micah’s priest.

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

The priest answered them, “Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD’s approval.” Judges 18:5-6

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

Since the priest was serving in a household where there were teraphim (household gods) and a

silver covered idol, it is quite doubtful that Yehovah actually responded to his inquiry. The LORD had already determined the Danite’s territory by lots. It is improbable that He would approve a different location for their habitation.

So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, at peace and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else. Judges 18:7

Laish was situated at the furthest northern border of the land of Canaan. Unlike the ten spies who returned from searching out the Promised Land and spread a bad report because they were in fear of the great size of the people there, these five men were encouraged that the people of Laish were peaceful, prosperous and located far from any potential allies.

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

They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over. When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever.” Judges 18:8-10

Hearing their report, their fellow Danites concluded from both the Levite’s claim of God’s approval, and from the peaceful state of an unsuspecting population that God made the people of Laish easy prey for the Danites.

Then six hundred men of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day. From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah’s house. Judges 18:11-13

The six hundred armed warriors set up their camp near Kiriath Jearim which means the “city of woods.” After their encampment the place west of Kiriath Jearim was named Mahaneh Dan which means “the camp of Dan.” From that location in Judah, they travelled to the hill country of Ephraim and arrived at Micah’s house.

Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their fellow Danites, “Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, some household gods and an image overlaid with silver? Now you know what to do.” Judges 18:14

These lawless adventurers were covetous idolaters.

So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance of the gate. The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods  while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate. Judges 18:15-17

These Danites who cowered in fear of the Philistines and sought to live as far away from them as possible, are emboldened by their overwhelming numbers and brazenly steal Micah’s possessions.

When the five men went into Micah’s house and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”

They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” The priest was very pleased. He took the ephod, the household gods and the idol and went along with the people. Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left. Judges 18:18-21

The Danites were so assured of their ability to defeat the unsuspecting people of Laish and take their land and goods by force that they brought their families, livestock and possession with them confident that they would not return to Zorah and Eshtaol. The priest was very pleased with their offer and went along with them.

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

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

The Danites answered, “Don’t argue with us, or some of the men may get angry and attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.” So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned around and went back home. Judges 18:22-26

Like most bullies, these Danites were cowards. They fled from their fight with their Philistine neighbors but were bold and brash when the odds were overwhelmingly in their favor.

Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. Judges 18:27-28a

Not only did these Danites steal from a fellow Israelite but they had no compunction slaughtering a peaceful people and burning down their city.

The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish. There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh. Judges 18:28b-31

Beth Rehob means the “house of spaciousness.” This city was located in a valley within the territory of the tribe of Asher, in the extreme north of the Holy Land. Moses’ grandchildren were priests for the tribe of Dan who continued in idolatry until the defeat and dispersion of the northern ten tribes by the Assyrians.

Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,  from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
Revelation 7:4-8

These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. Revelation 14:4-5

The tribe of Dan is not listed among the 144,000 – the firstfruits of Israel. The Danites were disobedient to the LORD’s command to possess their allotted portion of the Promised Land (Jdg 18:27-31), and they continued in idolatry until the time of the Assyrian captivity.

Jacob’s blessing over his children includes a prophetic description of Dan as a serpent and a viper that bites the horse’s heels causing the rider to tumble backwards (Gen 49:16-17).

Deuteronomy 33:22 contains the account of Moses’ prophetic blessing of Dan which describes Dan as a lion’s cub springing out of Bashan. Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm which describes the future crucifixion. Verses 12-13 is a symbolic picture of the enemies of Christ:… strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing at their prey…. Dan is described as a serpent and a roaring lion seeking to devour.

Antiochus Epiphanes, a type of Antichrist, was a Selucid King (Greek ruler of Syria). The city of Dan is the northernmost city in Israel, just below the Syrian border. Idolatry marks the worship of the beast and the Danites were idol worshippers. Based on these facts concerning the tribe of Dan, It is speculated that the Antichrist may be a Danite. In any case, the tribe of Dan is excluded from the listing of those who were sealed from all the tribes of Israel.

Judges Chapter 17 – Micah from the Hill Country of Ephraim

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Micah from the hill country of Ephraim returned eleven hundred shekels of silver he took from his mother. She used some of the silver to make an idol.

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

Then his mother said, “The LORD bless you, my son!” Judges 17:1-2

The events of chapter 17 and the next four chapters of the Book of Judges did not occur after the death of Samson, but much earlier, after the death of Joshua. This and the other narratives that follow form a miscellaneous collection, or appendix to the Book of Judges. It belongs to a period when the Hebrew nation was in a greatly disordered and corrupt state before the time of the judges.

The name “Micah” is a shortened form of the name “Micaiah.” Micaiah means, “Who is like Yehovah?” The account of this man from the northern territory of Ephraim was recorded to illustrate the lawlessness of the times in which he lived. The love of money made Micah so disrespectful to his mother as to rob her, and made her so unkind to her son, as to curse him.

When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, “I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make an image overlaid with silver. I will give it back to you.” Judges 17:3

Micah’s mother falsely believed that she could both consecrate her silver to Yehovah and then use some of it to as a covering for an idol and it would be pleasing to the God of Israel.

What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? 2 Corinthians 6:15-16a

Using a graven image in the worship of Yehovah breaks both the 1st Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” as well as the 3rd Commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”

Aaron used a “golden calf” to hold a festival to Yehovah.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Exodus 32:1-6

Was the God of Israel who brought the nation out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, pleased with this festival held in His name? No! His anger burned against them and except for Moses’ intercession, He would have destroyed them as a nation.

So after he returned the silver to his mother, she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who used them to make the idol. And it was put in Micah’s house. Judges 17:4

This woman’s silver was her god, before it was made into a graven or a molten image.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

It is incongruous that the mother whose son was named, “Who is like Yehovah?” pays to make an idol and then puts this idol into her son’s house.

Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some household gods and installed one of his sons as his priest. In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 17:5-6

Micah was an Ephraimite.

Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. You are to bring the Levites before the LORD, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. Aaron is to present the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the LORD. Numbers 8:9-11

According to the LORD’s command, both the priesthood and temple workers in Israel were supposed to come from the tribe of Levi. Micah not only disregarded this ordinance, he made an ephod; a priestly garment and established idol worship in his family. His actions exemplify the moral corruption of the times when everyone did as they saw fit. Then they soon did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.

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

Micah asked him, “Where are you from?”

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

Then Micah said to him, “Live with me and be my father and priest, and I’ll give you ten shekels of silver a year, your clothes and your food.” Judges 17:7-10

When Micah discovered that the young man was a Levite, he thought that his house of worship would be more credible by having a Levite serve as his priest as well as his spiritual father.

So the Levite agreed to live with him, and the young man became like one of his sons to him. Then Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in his house. And Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.” Judges 17:11-13

One of the important regulations that a Levitical Priest is to observe is found in Ezekiel chapter 44:

They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. Ezekiel 44:23

Ironically, this young Levite who was commanded by Yehovah to teach the difference between the ceremonially clean and unclean was willing to utilize his holy office in the service of an idolater.

Judges Chapter 16 – The Secret of Samson’s Strength Revealed

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One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. Judges 16:1

Samson had “seen” a woman in Timnah, and although he was an Israelite and she was a Philistine, he told his parents to obtain this woman as his bride. Samson’s disregard of the LORD’s prohibition against intermarriage with the inhabitants of Canaan ended in disaster. His wife and her family were burned to death.

Sometime later, Samson is travelling in Philistine territory where he “saw” a prostitute and spent the night with her.

For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16

In both instances, Samson first lusted with his eyes before he committed these sinful acts of intermarriage and fornication.

He, who could strangle a lion and kill a thousand men single-handedly, could not conquer his own passion and lust. The man whom God had blessed with supernatural strength again showed himself to be morally and spiritually weak.

Samson who also defiled himself by reaching into the carcass of a dead lion to scoop out honey and defiled himself by using a “fresh jawbone” of a donkey as a weapon, seems to have little or no regard to his calling as a Nazarite.

The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.” Judges 16:2

The men of Gaza heard that Samson was in their city. They may not have known exactly where he was staying, so they set an ambush for him in the city gates. Many men probably hid in the guard-room by the side of the gate. Their intention was to launch a surprise attack against Samson at the time in the morning when the gates were to be opened and kill him.

But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. Judges 16:3

Samson arose at midnight. Possibly the woman had learned of the plot, and gave Samson warning, after the manner of Rahab; or she may have been his betrayer, and planned on keeping him bedded until morning. In any case, Samson arose in the middle of the night. The watchmen were not expecting him until morning. They most probably went into the upper part of the gate-house to rest up in preparation for their morning attack.

Samson took hold of the doors of the gate. The city’s gate was in two sections. It rotated upon pins in sockets, and was secured by a bar which slid into the posts on either side. Instead of forcing the doors open, he tore the posts up with the barred doors attached to them. Samson pulled up the whole framework of the gate, doors, posts and bar, and carried it off in one piece. He carried it to the top of a high hill not far from Gaza, which looked towards Hebron. Although Hebron was several miles from Gaza, Hebron stood upon a mountain and could be seen from the hill facing it.

Samson’s act of supernatural strength sent a message to the men of Gaza. He did it with contempt for their attempt to confine him with gates and bars, and in order to show himself more formidable to the Philistines and more acceptable to his own people.

Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.” Judges 16:4-5

Sorek was not in the Philistine district, but was near Samson’s native town of Zorah. This valley’s name means, “Choice Vine.” Sorek was noted for its fine wine.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

 “‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.

 “‘Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Numbers 6:1-6

Samson had already disrespected his Nazarite vow not to go near a dead body by thrusting his bare hands into a lion’s carcass and wielding a fresh jawbone of a donkey as a weapon. Now Samson, dedicated to God with a lifelong vow that he would have nothing to do with grape products or fermented drinks, goes into a valley known for its choice vines and fine wine. There he fell in love with a woman named Delilah.

The only stipulation of Samson’s Nazarite vow that he had not yet broken was that a razor was never used on his head.

The Philistines occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. Their rulers each promised Delilah eleven hundred shekels of silver if she could discover the secret of Samson’s strength.

The meaning of Delilah’s name is, “seductive” (tempting and attractive; enticing) or “languishing” (growing weak or feeble). The attractive Delilah was promised fifty five hundred shekels of silver if she could seduce Samson into revealing his secret so that he would grow week and feeble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” Judges 16:6-15

Delilah claimed that Samson repeatedly made a fool of her by being dishonest and lying about the secret of his great strength. But in reality, Samson was a fool to believe that Delilah loved him. Delilah not only approached Samson and asked him directly for the source of his great strength, but also stated that the purpose of knowing his secret was to bind him up to capture him.

With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.

So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” Judges 16:16-17

“Chinese water torture” is also known as “Spanish water torture” in Europe, because this term often refers to a type of torture used during the Spanish Inquisition. Victims would be strapped down so that they could not move, and cold or warm water would then be dripped slowly onto a small area of their body—usually the forehead. The forehead was found to be the most suitable point for this form of torture because of its sensitivity, and because of its ominous proximity to the brain and facial features.

The victims could see each drop coming and, after a long duration of time, were gradually driven frantic to the point of insanity.

Although Samson was physically strong, he was so tormented by Delilah’s incessant nagging that he finally broke down mentally and emotionally and yielded to her request.

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

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

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

Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. Judges 16:18-21

Samson, who had lusted with his eyes before he committed sinful acts of intermarriage and fornication, now had his eyes gouged out.

Samson’s life is a portrait of unfaithful Israel during the times of the Judges. Like him, the nation was strong so long as its people kept the covenant of their God. Like him, Israel was prone to follow after strange loves. Its Delilahs were the gods of the heathen, in whose laps it laid its anointed head, and at whose hands it suffered the loss of its God-given strength. Like him, the nation was blinded, bound, and reduced to slavery until the people cried out and another judge arose to deliver them.

But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. Judges 16:22

Samson’s afflictions were the means of bringing him to deep repentance. By the loss of his natural sight, the eyes of his understanding were opened. Being convicted of his sin, and repenting of it, letting his hair grow was a sign that he renewed his Nazarite vow.

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

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

While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. Judges 16:23-25a

When the Philistines rulers were high on wine, they sought to ridicule Samson by having him perform for them. Little did they realize that his act would literally bring the house down.

When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Judges 16:25b-28

Samson’s successful and desired human vengeance required divine authorization or permission. One of the major aspects of vengeance is “the rendering of a just punishment upon a wrongdoer or the recompense given to the victim of the wrongdoing.” In Samson’s case, the gouging out of his eyes would be the wrongful act which would deserve recompense. This is not to be seen as malicious or vindictive retaliation by the wronged person, but rather as a just recompense for a crime. Divine vengeance is often invoked upon “external enemies” who oppress Israel and should be understood as an appeal for justice.

Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,  Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years. Judges 16:29-31

Despite all of Samson’s moral weaknesses and his disregard for the restrictions of a Nazarite, Samson turned back to God before he died. God in His sovereignty used Samson to fulfill His purpose. Samson’s death did much to impede the oppressive actions of the Philistines against the Israelites by killing all five Philistine rulers in his final act of supernatural strength.

Judges Chapter 15 – Samson Takes Vengeance on the Philistines

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 Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in. Judges 15:1

Samson’s anger had been kindled against his wife for her treachery and unfaithfulness to him by revealing the answer to his riddle, and against his companions for their deceit. Therefore Samson had left his wife and returned to his father’s house. After some time, Samson’s anger subsided and went to visit his wife. He took a young goat with him, which would have been considered a delicacy, to share a meal with his wife as a sign that he wanted to reconcile with her.

Her father would not allow Samson to enter her room. Samson could have easily overpowered his father-in-law, but showed him respect and did not force the issue.

“I was so sure you hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.” Judges 15:2

It was the father’s decision to betroth his daughter to another man and collect a second dowry. She had not yet married Samson’s companion, otherwise she would not still been living in her father’s house. If his wife’s father was honest, he should have restored the dowry which Manoah had given for her.

The father offered his younger daughter to Samson in an effort to appease him and justify the wrong he committed.

Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves. Judges 15:3-5

It was springtime and the wheat crop was beginning to be harvested. Samson’s actions resulted in the destruction of the Philistines’ wheat fields, olive groves, and vineyards. To burn these items, all of which were staples in the Ancient Near East, would mean an economic disaster for the Philistine people. Also, the Philistines were trying to regain economic and military power after a devastating war with Egypt. The burning of these crops would have dealt a major blow to their overseas trade agreements.

When the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” they were told, “Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because his wife was given to his companion.” So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. Judges 15:6

The Philistines threatened Samson’s wife that they would burn her and her father’s house. She, to save herself and oblige her countrymen, betrayed her husband; and the very thing that she feared, and by sin sought to avoid, came upon her. Ironically, she, and her father’s house were burnt with fire by her countrymen, whom she thought to oblige by the wrong she did to her husband.

Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam. Judges 15:7-8

Samson having slain many of the Philistines, went and dwelt in a cave of the rock of Etam which was located in the tribal territory of Judah.

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

“We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered, “to do to him as he did to us.” Judges 15:9-10

The Philistines were determined to take Samson captive. They were willing to declare war on Judah if Judah insisted on protecting Samson.

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

He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.” Judges 15:11

Obviously the power and exploits of Samson were so well known that it took three thousand men from Judah to muster up the courage to confront Samson. They presented their grievances to Samson in an attempt to convince him that it was unwise to provoke the Philistines. Didn’t Samson realize that their rulers had the power to oppress them even further, to increase their tribute, and even to put them to death?

Why had he rebelled against their masters? His reply was simple. He had only done to them what they had done to him. They had burnt his wife and her father to death, and in return he had slain many of them.

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

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

“Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. Judges 15:12-13

Samson could have resisted, but instead he submitted himself to his fellow Israelites. He understood that they did not have hostile intentions towards him, but were compelled to do what the Philistines demanded of them.

Though they were 3000 of them, Samson did not fear them. If they attempted to take away his life, he could have defended himself. But he chose not to shed the blood of any of his own countrymen. Instead, he consented to be bound by them so that he would be delivered into the hands of their enemies. In this instance, Samson was a type of Christ. Jesus was betrayed by his people the Jews, and delivered by them into the hands of the Romans. Although Samson could have delivered himself by his great strength, he did not. He allowed himself to be taken and bound and given into the hands of his enemies, that his own people might go free.

As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Judges 15:14

The Philistines ran out to meet Samson. They were shouting with joy when they saw him bound, believing that he was subdued and powerless against them. The Spirit of the LORD came so powerfully upon Samson that his bindings melted away.

Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

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

When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. Judges 15:15-17

The donkey’s jawbone was not dry and brittle but probably had some flesh and blood still on it. Samson disregarded the rule of ceremonial cleanness, which as a Nazarite, forbid him to touch a carcass of an unclean animal.

Samson took the jawbone of a donkey as a weapon and attained a mighty victory. But this miraculous feat was of God, and not of man. This victory was not attained by the weapon, or by the arm of flesh, but it was accomplished by the Spirit of God which guided the weapon and empowered the arm.

After Samson’s great victory, the place of the battle was called, “Ramath Lehi” which means the “Elevation of Lehi,” or the “The High Place of the Jawbone”.

Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Judges 15:18-19

Samson’s carnal character is once again evidenced by the way he addressed the LORD. Samson had demanded that his parents get him a Philistine wife, he killed thirty Philistine men because he was cheated and lost a bet, he disregarded his Nazarite vows, and now he sarcastically cries out to God, “Must I die of thirst…?”

God in His mercy and to fulfill His plan to use Samson to deliver His people from the Philistines, does not upbraid Samson but immediately responds to his request by opening up a spring of water. The place was then called, “En Hakkore” which means, “The fountain of him that cried for thirst” or can be understood as, “The fountain or well which was given in answer to my prayer.”

Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines. Judges 15:20

Twenty years he judged Israel, during which the Philistines, though not utterly subdued, seem not to have oppressed the Israelites as before so that they had respite from their oppression, if not perfect freedom.

Judges Chapter 14 – Samson Wants a Philistine Woman as a Wife

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Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” Judges 14:1-2

Timnah was originally allotted to the tribe of Dan in the days of Joshua but was taken over and became a Philistine city. Samson went down to Timnah which was located in the Valley of Sorek. Timnah was a little town about four miles from where Samson was living at Zorah.

Samson had seen a woman in Timnah and asked his parents to obtain this Philistine woman as his bride. In the ancient world marriage was arranged by the parents. Samson’s parents would need to negotiate the dowry which was a gift of money or valuables given by the bride’s family to the groom and the newly formed household at the time of their marriage.

His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”  Judges 14:3a

Samson’s parents were told by angel of the LORD that their son was destined to be a life-long Nazarite. They believed the heavenly messenger and earnestly prayed for divine guidance in raising their son. They, who were faithful to obey all that were told to do, are appalled that their grown son would disobey the commandment for the Israelites not to intermarry with the people living in the Promised Land.

and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. Deuteronomy 7:2-4

Samson’s father and mother understood that they were in covenant with the LORD. They were puzzled and disturbed as to why their son would seek a wife among the uncircumcised Philistines.

But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”(His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.) Judges 3b-4

Samson wanted to marry this pagan woman because he was physically attracted to her. His motive was neither pure nor spiritual. The text says that this was from the LORD. God never condones sin and disobedience. But Samson’s actions would accomplish God’s purposes. God chose Samson as a Nazirite and deliverer, but Samson didn’t merit such honor and privilege. In spite of his many sins God would use him to deliver his people from the Philistines.

Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done. Judges 14:5-6

While Samson was alone and separated from his parents as they approached the vineyards of Timnah, he was attacked by a young lion. The wild mountain passes of Judah were the lairs of savage beasts; and most or all the ‘lions” of Scripture appear in that wild country. Samson was able to perform the supernatural act of tearing apart this powerful beast with his bare hands because he had been empowered by the Holy Spirit who came upon him.

The Spirit “coming upon” an individual in the Old Testament doesn’t always indicate the person’s spiritual condition – that they were righteous and obedient. So, while in the New Testament the Spirit only indwells believers, and that indwelling is permanent, the Spirit came upon certain Old Testament individuals for a specific task, irrespective of their spiritual condition. Once the task was completed, the Spirit presumably departed from that person.

Samson’s parents were unaware of what he had done to the lion.

Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. Judges 14:7

Samson had seen this Philistine woman and had found her attractive. Having spent some time talking with her, he also liked her personality.

Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass. Judges 14:8-9

Samson was chosen by Yehovah to be a life-long Nazarite. Although Samson was set apart for God’s purposes, he made no effort to keep himself from being defiled.

You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a divided hoof you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the hyrax. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a divided hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. Deuteronomy 14:6-8

A lion has neither a divided hoof nor chews the cud. A lion is not only ceremonially unclean to eat but it is forbidden to touch its carcass. Samson, who was on his way to make arrangements to marry a Philistine woman, scooped out honey from a carcass of an unclean animal, ate some of it, and then shared the rest with his parents.

Now his father went down to see the woman. And there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men. When the people saw him, they chose thirty men to be his companions. Judges 14:10-11

The wedding festivity would last a week. The men and women were probably entertained in separate homes. The bride, her female relatives, and companions celebrated at her parents’ house. Since Samson was not a Philistine and did not live in Timnah, he, and the “friends of the bridegroom,” were selected by the bride’s family and attended his party in some local place obtained for the occasion.

“Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.” Judges 14:12-13a

Riddles formed one of the amusements of these Middle Eastern protracted feasts.

“Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let’s hear it.”

He replied,

“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”

For three days they could not give the answer. Judges 14:13b-14

Samson’s encounter with the honey-filled carcass of the lion he had torn apart formed the basis for his wedding feast riddle.

On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?” Judges 14:15

The festive week was more than halfway over when the thirty men chosen to be the bridegroom’s companions demanded that Samson’s newly married wife learn the answer to the riddle. They were enraged because if they failed to obtain the answer to the riddle, they would be stripped of their clothes and left practically naked.

If Samson’s wife failed to get the explanation to the riddle from her husband and was unable to secretly tell them the answer, she and her father’s household would be burned to death.

Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”

“I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people. Judges 14:16-17

Samson’s wife in fear of being burned alive, sobbed, wailed, and pleaded for the remainder of the seven days until Samson was worn down.  Emotionally and mentally exhausted, Samson told his wife the meaning of the riddle on the last day of the feast.

Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”

Samson said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.” Judges 14:18

Samson instantly perceived his wife’s treachery, and showed that he did so by quoting the proverb of plowing with another man’s heifer. The men who had attended the wedding feast had not used their own wit to solve the riddle, but had learned the secret through his wife. Samson insinuates that had they acted fairly he would have won the wager.

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. Judges 14:19

Samson’s anger was kindled against his wife, for her treachery and unfaithfulness to him, and against his companions for their deceit, and against the citizens of the town, who perhaps laughed at him for being tricked and deceived.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit with supernatural strength and led by the Spirit, Samson went to the city of Ashkelon. Ashkelon was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines which was located about twenty-four miles away. There he slew thirty of their men who he stripped of their clothes.

After forty years of oppression by the Philistines, Samson was destined to be the warrior-judge who would deliver Israel from her enemies. His slaughter of thirty Philistine men marked the first round in the battle to liberate the Israelites from her oppressors.

And Samson’s wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast. Judges 14:20

Samson’s return to his father’s house was construed as a rejection of his wife, and so she was given in marriage to Philistine man. This action would result in Samson taking revenge on the Philistines and another step in the fulfillment of God’s plan to free His Chosen People.

Judges Chapter 13 – The Birth of Samson Who was a Nazarite

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Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. Judges 13:1

The Israelites’ great tribulations at the time of the Judges were the result of both their failure heed God’s command to rid the land of the Canaanites and their backsliding into apostasy by disobeying the Torah. Their acts of rebellion resulted in their subjugation to the Canaanites and the neighboring peoples.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LordOver and over again during the time of the Judges, the Israelites turned from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who had delivered them out of the bondage of Egypt, and committed spiritual adultery by worshipping pagan gods and engaged in immoral acts and child sacrifice. This time their punishment was fierce oppression from the Philistines for forty years.

A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Judges 13:2-3

A Christophany is an appearance of the incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. A Christophany is thus a special case of a theophany. The word, “Theophany” is derived from the Ancient Greek, meaning “appearance of God.” Whenever someone received a visit from “the angel of the LORD,” this was in fact the pre-incarnate Christ. The visible appearances of God in human or angelic form in the Old Testament, is actually the Son of God manifesting Himself prior to His incarnation.

There are several instances in the Scriptures where a barren and childless woman miraculously was able to give birth:

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” Genesis 17:15-17

“Sarai” means “my princess”, but “Sarah” means simply “Princess”, indicating that she will be exalted, not only by her husband but by all nations. Yes, Sarah would miraculously bear a child at the age of ninety.

and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Genesis 25:20

After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. Genesis 25:26

Rebekah was barren and childless for twenty years until she gave birth to Esau and Jacob.

When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Genesis 30:1

Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.” Genesis 30:22-24

Rachel’s sister Leah had given birth to six sons. Rachel’s servant Bilhah bore Jacob two sons and Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob two sons before God enabled Rachel to conceive and give birth to her first son Joseph.

Although Manoah’s wife was barren and childless she was told by the angel of the LORD that she would become pregnant and give birth to a son.

Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Judges 13:4-5

Manoah’s son was to be a Nazarite and dedicated to God from the womb.

Nazarite means one who is separated. A Nazarite is    a person of either sex who was bound by a vow of a peculiar kind to be set apart from others for the service of God. During the term of a Nazarite’s consecration, the person was bound to abstain from wine grapes, with every production of the vine and from every kind of intoxicating drink. He was forbidden to cut the hair of his head, or to approach any dead body, even that of his nearest relation.

Manoah’s son was destined to be a life-long Nazarite. He would serve as a warrior-judge who would lead Israel in victory over the Philistines.

Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.’” Judges 13:6-7

Manoah’s wife would have to refrain from wine, fermented drinks and unclean foods during her pregnancy. While her baby would be in her womb, he would receive his food and nutrients from his mother through her placenta and his umbilical cord. As she ate, the food would pass through her digestive system where her body would break it down into small particles the body can absorb. The nutrients travel through the mother’s bloodstream and exchange to the bloodstream of the developing baby through the placenta. In order for her son to be a Nazarite from the womb, she needed to refrain from the food and drinks that were forbidden to be consumed by Nazarites.

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” Judges 13:8

Without hesitation or doubt, although his wife had been barren and childless, Manoah believed the heavenly messenger and earnestly prayed for divine guidance in raising his son. Manoah understood that his son was selected by God to lead Israel and deliver his people from the Philistines.

God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!” Judges 13:9-10

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16b

Manoah prayed earnestly in faith and soon received the answer to his prayer.

Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my wife?”

“I am,” he said.

So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?” Judges 13:11-12

Manoah did not doubt and ask if the words of the angel of the LORD would be fulfilled, but confidently said to the man, “When your words are fulfilled.”  Manoah understood his and his wife’s privilege and responsibility in raising Israel’s next ruler and wanted clear instructions on how to best accomplish their task.

The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.” Judges 13:13-14

Since Manoah was not present at the first appearance of the angel of the LORD, it was important to him that he received the instructions on raising his son directly so that there would be no miscommunication as there was in the Garden of Eden.

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17

The LORD God gave this command to Adam before Eve was formed from his rib. God did not say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden.” In fact, God had given Adam access to a variety of eye pleasing trees that were good for food. God had only forbidden Adam from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Genesis 3:2-3

Eve’s response was not accurate. Actually, there were two trees that were in the middle of the garden – the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The LORD did say that man must not eat from the tree of the knowledge, but He did not say that if you touch it you will die. When Eve touched the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and did not die, she then proceeded to eat it.

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”

The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.) Judges 13:15-16

Manoah did not realize that he was speaking to the angel of the LORD. Manoah assumed him to be a man, a prophet sent from God. Therefore, Manoah offered him a meal as was the custom of Middle Eastern hospitality.

Then angel of the LORD refused to eat, but told Manoah to prepare a burnt offering for Yehovah.

A “burnt offering” is an offering which was wholly consumed by fire on the altar. The burnt offering, except for the ashes, would ascend in the smoke to God. The meaning of the whole burnt offering was that the person offering the sacrifice was submitting himself, soul and body, to God and the submission of his will to the will of the LORD.

Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”

 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” Judges 13:17-18

Manoah’s request to learn the name of the angel of the LORD elicited unequivocal proof of the divinity of his supernatural visitor. The NIV translates the reply as “It is beyond understanding.” Other translations includes, “It is wonderful,” “It is hidden,” “It is secret,” and “You can’t comprehend it.”

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” Genesis 32:24-26

Wrestling is one of the most physically demanding activities that there is. Wrestling is personal, physically exhausting, and emotionally taxing. Although Jacob was 97 years old, he wrestled through the night. Even when he suffered excruciating pain from having his hip dislocated, he refused to let go of his opponent. With the coming of daylight, Jacob and this mysterious man might be seen by others. Since this significant encounter was to be highly personal, the man said that it was time for Jacob to let go.

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:27

Jacob understood that the man he wrestled with was no ordinary man. The hip is the body’s largest ball-and-socket joint. Surrounding the hip joint are many tough ligaments that prevent the dislocation of the joint. The strong muscles of the hip region also help to hold the hip joint together and prevent dislocation. This man just touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it was wrenched out of place. This man was not only supernaturally powerful but Jacob understood that the man also had the spiritual authority to bless him.

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Genesis 32:27-28

Names of people in the Bible have great importance. A person’s name may reflect their character or have prophetic significance, while others reflect their faith and gratitude to God.

Jacob whose name means, “heel-grabber” or “usurper” had deceived his father and stolen his brother’s blessing. In spite of being deceived and cheated by Laban for twenty years, Jacob remained faithful to fulfill his end of their work agreement. Jacob’s struggles served to refine his character. His name change reflected his new nature. Israel means “prince of God” or “he who struggles with God.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. Genesis 32:29

Many years later, Manoah the father of Samson asked the same question.

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?” But the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” Judges 13:17-18

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” Genesis 32:30

Both Jacob and Samson’s parents had an encounter with the “Angel of the LORD.” Though Jacob wrestled with a figure that looked like a man, Jacob declared that he saw God face-to-face. Jacob saw the second person of the Godhead – the pre-incarnate Jesus.

Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. Judges 13:19-20

The rock served as an altar. As the fire consumed the sacrificial offering, and the flames and the smoke ascended upwards, the angel of the LORD also ascended upwards towards heaven.

Manoah and his wife in astonishment and awe fell on their faces to the ground in fear and reverence in their realization that they were in the presence of a divine being.

 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.

“We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”Judges 13:21-22

Although the parents of Samson had spoken to the angel of the LORD, Manoah knew that they had seen God.

But his wife answered, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.” Judges 13:23

Manoah’s wife reasoned correctly and helped to quell her husband’s fear. Their sacrifice was acceptable to the LORD and the purpose of the divine visitation was to prepare them to parent Israel’s next judge and deliverer.

 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. Judges 13:24-25

The English name, “Samson” is derived from the Hebrew name Shimshon which means of the “sun”.

While Samson grew to adulthood the Spirit of the LORD began to strengthen him, encourage him, and prepare him for his destiny. This happened while he lived in the territory of Dan which was located near the Philistines. Samson would be a witness to the ravages and oppression by Israel’s enemy and was being groomed to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.

Judges Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 – Tola, Jair and Jephthah

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After the time of Abimelech, a man of Issachar named Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. He led Israel twenty-three years; then he died, and was buried in Shamir.

He was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. They controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which to this day are called Havvoth Jair. When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon. Judges 10:1-5

Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, escaped Abimelech’s massacre of his brothers. Jotham’s curse was fulfilled upon Abimelech and upon the Shechemites, who had made him king. After the death of evil Abimelech, God raised up Tola and Jair to serve as judges and the Israelites enjoyed fifty-five years of peace in the land.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. Judges 10:6a

Baal was the chief god of the Canaanites. Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, or “lords.” Baal won his dominance by defeating the other deities, including the god of the sea, the god of storms (also of rain, thunder, and lightning), and the god of death. Baal’s victory over death was thought to be repeated each year when he returned from the land of death (underworld), bringing rain to renew the earth’s fertility. Hebrew culture viewed the sea as evil and destructive, so Baal’s promise to prevent storms and control the sea, as well as his ability to produce abundant harvests, made him attractive to the Israelites.

Asherah was known as the goddess of motherhood and fertility. Asherah or Ashtoreth was their supreme female divinity and Baal’s consort or wife. Believing the sexual union of Baal and Asherah produced fertility, their worshipers engaged in immoral sex to cause the gods to join together, ensuring good harvests. This practice became the basis for religious prostitution. The priest or a male member of the community represented Baal. The priestess or female members of the community represented Asherah. In this way, God’s incredible gift of sexuality was perverted to the most obscene public prostitution. No wonder God’s anger burned against his people and their leaders.

In addition to the Baals and Ashtoreths, the Israelites also served the gods of:  Aram (Hadad), of Sidon (Astarte), of the Moabites (Chemosh), the Ammonites (Molech), and the god of the Philistines (Dagon).

The worship of Chemosh, the national deity of the Moabites, whose name most likely meant “destroyer” or “subduer” included human sacrifice.

In addition to sexual rituals, Molech worship included child sacrifice, or “passing children through the fire.” It is believed that idols of Molech were giant metal statues of a man with a bull’s head. Each image had a hole in the abdomen and possibly outstretched forearms that made a kind of ramp to the hole. A fire was lit in or around the statue. Babies were placed in the statue’s arms or in the hole. When a couple sacrificed their firstborn, they believed that Molech would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children.

Dagon was the principal deity of the Philistines, whose ancestors migrated to the shores of Canaan from Crete. According to ancient mythology, Dagon was the father of Baal. He was the fish god (dag in Hebrew means “fish”), and he was represented as a half-man, half-fish creature. The Philistines depended on Dagon for success in war and they offered various sacrifices for his favor.

And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. Judges 10:6b-8

After wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the people of Israel conquered territory on the eastern side of the Jordan in the areas that belonged to the Amorites and the people of Bashan. The tribes of Reuben and Gad were attracted to this territory because it was well-suited for the raising of livestock and they had much livestock. Along with Reuben and Gad, half of the tribe of Manasseh also took a portion of the land east of the Jordan. The people of Reuben, Gad and the southern portion of Manasseh who had occupied Gilead were severely oppressed by the Ammonites for eighteen years.

 The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.” Judges 10:9-10

Coming from the east, the Ammonites attacked the central and southern tribes of Israel on the west side of the Jordan; while the Philistines came from the coastlands located to the west.

The Lord replied, “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!” Judges 10:11-14

Yehovah reprimands the Israelites for their great ingratitude and reminds them of the great things He had done for them. He delivered them from the bondage of Egypt and from the Amorites whom they conquered and into whose land they settled. He rescued them when the Ammonites had joined with the Moabites to oppress them, from the Philistines in the days of Shamgar, and from other enemies as well. Yet, they still turned to other gods. Yehovah challenges the unfaithful Israelites to have the gods they served now save them.

But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer. Judges 10:15-16

The Israelites had committed two great offences. First they had forsaken their God, the fountain of living water, and then they had hewn themselves idols, broken cisterns which could hold no water. Their sufferings were just. Finally they humbled themselves, submitted to God, sincerely repented and got rid their worthless idols.

When the Ammonites were called to arms and camped in Gilead, the Israelites assembled and camped at Mizpah. The leaders of the people of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever will take the lead in attacking the Ammonites will be head over all who live in Gilead.” Judges 10:17-18

The Israelites needed a capable commander to lead them in the impending war with the Ammonites. As an inducement, they promised that whoever consented to embrace this daunting task would be recognized as their ruler.

Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him. Judges 11:1-3

After the death of Jephthah’s father, his half brothers drove him away not wanting to share their inheritance with the son of a harlot. This mighty warrior settled in Tob which was a district on the east of Jordan. It was on the northern boundary of Perea, an area located opposite Judea and Samaria, between Syria and the land of Ammon.

Although the NIV describes his followers as a gang of scoundrels other translations speak of them as vain men—idle, daring, or desperate.  They sustained themselves by frequent raids on the Ammonites and other neighboring people

Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.”

Jephthah said to them, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?”

The elders of Gilead said to him, “Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be head over all of us who live in Gilead.” Judges 11:4-8

After eighteen years, the Israelites were so severely oppressed by the Ammonites and Philistines that they cried out to the LORD in desperation to deliver them. The LORD initially rebuked them and mocked them by saying that they should cry out to the idols they served to deliver them. But eventually the LORD relented and was willing to rescue them when the Israelites were willing to serve Him only.

Now in desperation, the elders of Gilead seek to enlist Jephthah to command their troops. Jephthah initially confronts them for their hatred towards him and questions why he should come to their aid.

The elders respond that they would submit to his rulership.

Jephthah answered, “Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives them to me—will I really be your head?”

 The elders of Gilead replied, “The LORD is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.” So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the LORD in Mizpah. Judges 11:9-11

The Israelites had repented of their idolatries and vowed to serve the LORD only, and therefore the LORD forgave them. Now that the elders of Gilead (Jephthah’s half brothers) had turned to him and vowed to make him their ruler, Jephthah agreed to lead them in battle against the Ammonites.

Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: “What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?”

The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah’s messengers, “When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably.” Judges 11:12-13

The king of the Ammonites claimed that the Israelites had taken his land but this statement was not in accordance with facts. It was quite true that a large district in this territory had originally belonged to Moab and Ammon, but had been seized from them by Sihon and Og, the kings of the Ammorites.

 Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king, saying:

“This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and on to Kadesh. Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Give us permission to go through your country,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.

 “Next they traveled through the wilderness, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.

“Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, ‘Let us pass through your country to our own place.’ Sihon, however, did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his troops and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.

 “Then the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan. Judges 11:14-22

The LORD had distinctly forbidden the Israelites to war against the Moabites and Ammonites. But when Sihon the king of the Amorites had refused the Israelites permission to pass peaceably through his land and then went out into battle against them, they had defeated him and seized his territory.

 “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. Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor,king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them? For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn’t you retake them during that time? I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.” Judges 11:23-27

Jephthah maintains the right of Israel to the land of Gilead on three grounds:

(1) The right of direct conquest, not from Ammon but from the Amorites.

(2) The decision of the LORD God to give them the land.

(3) Three hundred years of undisputed possession

The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him. Judges 11:28

The king of Ammon didn’t care about the truth; that based on several grounds Israel had a right to the land. This attitude still prevails today among almost all the nations of the world concerning modern Israel’s right to the land.

Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,  whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon. Judges 11:29-33

The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah endowing him with an extraordinary measure of courage and wisdom, and all other qualities necessary to render him fit to be a ruler of his people. The people had chosen him for their leader and now God publicly declares his approval of their choice and anoints him as their judge.

As in the former conflicts with the Moabites, Canaanites, and Midianites the battle against Ammon was on Israelite territory, in self-defense, not in aggressive warfare, and God gave them the victory. The same has held true in modern times since Israel’s “War of Independence” in 1948 – the wars Israel fought were on Israeli territory, in self-defense, not in aggressive warfare, and God gave them the victories.

When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.” Judges 11:34-35

Jephthah made a vow to the LORD in fear of being defeated by the Ammonites and in an attempt to purchase God’s favor. Instead, sacrifices and offerings should be made in response of our love and reverence for God.

“My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

“You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.

From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite. Judges 11:36-40

The Bible clearly states that God considers human sacrifice to be an abomination.

You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they [the pagan nations around Israel] have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Deuteronomy 12:31

Since God is so clearly opposed to human sacrifice, which is murder (Exodus 20:13), how could He seemingly endorse it in the case of Jephthah, which is recorded in Judges 11?

The Israelite society allowed for a man to dedicate his daughter to remain a lifelong virgin in the LORD’s service. Leviticus 27:2 seems to indicate that such vows could be made: “When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD.” Apparently, a man could devote his daughter to the Lord’s service in such a way. There are examples similar to this in Scripture. In fulfillment of her own vow, Hannah dedicated Samuel to the LORD’s service (1 Samuel 1:11, 24–28).

Many people believe Jephthah did not actually sacrifice his daughter as a burnt offering. Instead, they believe that Jephthah gave his daughter to be a lifelong virgin who would serve at Israel’s main sanctuary. The text stresses that she was a virgin, so this may be a possibility.

But there is a great problem for the dedication view. Jephthah’s daughter would not have been allowed to serve at the tabernacle. Deuteronomy 23:2 states, “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD.” Since Jephthah was the son of a harlot, he could not enter the assembly of the LORD, nor could his daughter, or any other descendant to the tenth generation.

In either case, since Jephthah’s daughter was an only child, whether she served as a lifelong virgin or she was sacrificed, Jephthah was devastated in part because his line would end do to his foolish vow.

Judges Chapter 9 – Abimelech Murdered His Seventy Brothers!

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Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.” Judges 9:1-2

Because Gideon had broken down his father’s altar to Baal, the townspeople of Ophrah gave him the name Jerub-Baal saying, “Let Baal contend with him” (Judges 6:32).

Gideon had many wives who had born him seventy sons and a concubine who gave birth to his son named Abimelech. Abimelech means “my father is king.” He was the first Israelite to bear that name. There are three Philistine rulers mentioned in the Bible bearing the title of Abimelech in much the same way that the rulers of Egypt were called Pharaoh. The seventy sons of Gideon were Abimelech’s half-brothers who lived in Ophrah.

Abimelech’s question, “Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?” was a false insinuation. Gideon had rejected, with abhorrence, the proposal to make himself or any of his family king. Abimelech’s purpose was to stir up jealousy and alarm amongst the citizens of Shechem.

When the brothers repeated all this to the citizens of Shechem, they were inclined to follow, for they said, “He is related to us.” Judges 9:3

Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh, while Abimelch’s mother and the citizens of Shechem were from Ephraim. Although Gideon was chosen by God to serve as a warrior judge of Israel and free the Israelites from the oppressive rule of the Midianites, Abimelech’s uncles convinced the citizens of Shechem to rebel against the sons of Gideon and make Abimelech their king.

They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and used it to hire reckless scoundrels, who became his followers. Judges 9:4

No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves by worshipping idols. They rejected Yehovah who had brought them out of the bondage of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The Shechemites had erected a temple to Baal-Berith. They took seventy shekels of silver from the temple offerings and used it to hire unscrupulous mercenaries to be Abimelech’s enforcers.

He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. Judges 9:5

Abimelech probably seized the opportunity of some local or family feast at which all his brothers would be gathered. He wanted to kill his half-brothers so that no descendant of Gideon would be left alive to challenge his tyranny, and in revenge for the demolition of Baal’s altar by their father. Abimelech used the stone as a block, on which the victims were executed one after another.

No doubt Abimelech and his mercenaries began by laying hold of the eldest sons, and sacrificed them first, since they were the greatest threat. This alerted Jotham the youngest not only to their plan, but gave him an opportunity to escape to a place where he was safe and avoid his own execution. Jotham’s name means, “Yehovah is perfect.”

Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king. Judges 9:6

The citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo did not gather to prosecute and punish Abimelech for his barbarous acts of murder, but to make him a king. They gathered under the great tree where the altar to Baal had been erected.

Am I suggesting, then, that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be participants with demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; John10:10a

The Ephraimites rejected Yehovah as God. Instead, they embraced lewd Baal worship and offered up sacrifices to him. They became so demonized that they became like their father Satan, and sanctioned cold-blooded murder.

When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’

 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

“The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’ Judges 9:7-15

Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son who escaped Abimelech’s massacre of his sixty nine brothers, later returned to the top of Mount Gerizim to tell his prophetic parable under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Mount Gerizim rises as a steep wall of rock to the height of about 800 feet above the valley of Shechem on the south side of the city. From this lofty height, Jotham cried out with a loud voice. While his parable foretold the apostasy of the nation of Israel, Jotham himself represented a faithful remnant.

The olive tree, fig tree, and grape vine chose rather to serve than to rule. The basic lesson of the parable is simple. The trees pictured Gideon and other worthy men of noble stature who felt that their calling was to serve in various capacities and not to assert rulership over their fellow Israelites. Only the lowly thornbush; an unworthy, prickly nuisance of a shrub representing Abimelech, would be so presumptuous as to assume such a lofty office, and so callous as to take it by shedding innocent blood.

 “Have you acted honorably and in good faith by making him king? Have you been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family? Have you treated him as he deserves? Remember that my father fought for you and risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian. But today you have revolted against my father’s family. You have murdered his seventy sons on a single stone and have made, the son of his female slave, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is related to you. Judges 9:16-18

Jotham posed a rhetorical question. Of course the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo did not act honorably or in good faith by making Abimelech king. They disregarded the debt they owed to Gideon who had delivered them after seven years of harsh oppression by the Midianites and they slaughtered his sons.

So have you acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today? If you have, may he be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech 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 Abimelech!” Judges 9:19-20

Jotham’s parable is a prophetic declaration and curse against the citizens of Shechem and those of Beth Milo. These two groups who had conspired together and acted ruthlessly against the family of Gideon would one day be at each other’s throats and reap what they have sown.

Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother. Judges 9:21

Being close to the top of Gerizim, Jotham had the open country before him. It would take the men of Shechem at least twenty minutes to ascend the mount, by which time Jotham would be out of sight, and two or three miles on his way to Beer. This town noted for its well (beer means “well”), was most probably located outside of Ephraimite territory.

After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God stirred up animosity between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem so that they acted treacherously against Abimelech. God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal’s seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers. Judges 9:22-24

Everything seemed fine between the men of Shechem and Abimelech for three years. Then, in judgment, God removed the peace that was between them and provoked them to hatred towards one another.

In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelech. Judges 9:24

The men of Shechem set ambushes on the mountain roads, hoping to disrupt the trade routes that profited Abimelech.

Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his clan into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him. After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelech.  Judges 9:26-27

Gaal was the son of Ebed, whose name means “servant” or “slave.” This “son of a slave” was a Canaanite. He was a descendant of Hamor who was the prince of Shechem during the time of Jacob. Since the expulsion of the Canaanites by the Israelites, his family had settled outside of Israelite territory. When Gaal learned of the animosity between Abimelech and the Shechemites, Gaal and his clan moved back to Shechem.

Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and why should we Shechemites be subject to him? Isn’t he Jerub-Baal’s son, and isn’t Zebul his deputy? Serve the family of Hamor,  Shechem’s father! Why should we serve Abimelech? If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to, ‘Call out your whole army!’” Judges 9:28-29

Abimelech, the son of a concubine, had convinced the citizen’s of Shechem to rebel against Gideon’s sons and put them to death because Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh, while Abimelch’s mother and the citizens of Shechem were from Ephraim.

Now, the tables are turned. Gaal, the son of a slave and a Canaanite, appeals to the citizens of Shechem to rebel against Abimelech whose father was Gideon, an Israelite. Gaal refers to Abimelech’s father as Jerub-Baal, the one who tore down Baal’s altar, to provoke the apostate Ephraimites to overthrow Abimelech. Gaal also appealed to his own Canaanite clan make him their leader because Gaal descended from Hamor who had founded the city of Shechem.

Ironically, Abimelech who rose to power in Shechem because of his mother was now in jeopardy of being overthrown because of his father.

When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelech, saying, “Gaal son of Ebed and his clan have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields. In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, seize the opportunity to attack them.” Judges 9:30-33

Zebul secretly informed Abimelech that Gaal was inciting the citizens of Shechem to rebel against their king. He advised Abimelech to launch a surprise attack against the city at sunrise when the inhabitants would be awakening from their sleep and disoriented.

 So Abimelech and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies. Judges 9:34

Abimelech’s four companies had hidden themselves and had taken positions so that they would completely surround the city.

Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance of the city gate just as Abimelech and his troops came out from their hiding place.

When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

Zebul replied, “You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men.” Judges 9:35-36

The governor lied to Gaal in order to delay Gaal for as long as possible from calling the men of Shechem to take up arms and defend their city.

 But Gaal spoke up again: “Look, people are coming down from the central hill, and a company is coming from the direction of the diviners’ tree.”

 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your big talk now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech that we should be subject to him?’ Aren’t these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!” Judges 9:37-38

Zebul challenges the braggart Gaal to put his money where his mouth is!

So Gaal led out the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelech. Abimelech chased him all the way to the entrance of the gate, and many were killed as they fled. Then Abimelech stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his clan out of Shechem. Judges 9:39-41

Abimelech’s troops were victorious; but Gaal and his remaining forces were able to secure themselves in Shechem. They succeeded in closing the gates against their pursuers, but only at the cost of many lives.

The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech. So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them. Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance of the city gate. Then two companies attacked those in the fields and struck them down. All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it. Judges 9:42-45

When all the Shechemites in the field were either killed or scared off, Abimelech stormed the city, weakened as it was by the previous loss of so many of its defenders. The residents of the city held off the attackers as long as they could, but the city was taken before night fall. All the inhabitants were put to the sword. The walls were then razed to the ground, and the site was sown with salt.  The sowing of salt upon a place was a symbolical custom at that time, to express great hatred and anger against the people who had resided there, and that the city should remain barren and desolate.

On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith. When Abimelech heard that they had assembled there, he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, “Quick! Do what you have seen me do!” So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire with the people still inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died. Judges 9:46-49

The tower of Shechem was a lookout tower located in an unwalled village outside of the city. Some of those people who were working in the fields and escaped from Abimelech’s attack, warned the Shechemites to find a more fortified location.

Zalmon was a lofty and thickly-wooded hill near Shechem. The name Zalmon is taken from the Hebrew root word, “tselem” which means “shady.” It was there that Abimelech had his men cut wood to set the temple of Baal stronghold on fire and burned a thousand men and women to death.

Next Abimelech went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—had fled. They had locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. Abimelech went to the tower and attacked it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Judges 9:50-53

Thebez was a city about thirteen miles from Shechem and within its territory. Canaanite forts were generally secure mountain safe havens and often had a strong tower which served as a last refuge. Millstones come in pairs. The base or bedstone is stationary. Above the bedstone is a smaller turning runner stone which actually does the grinding. When Abimelech approached the fortified tower to set it on fire, a woman took an upper millstone and dropped it upon Abimelech’s head cracking his skull.

So as Jael, a woman and tentmaker, used her mallet and a tent peg to crack the skull of Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army; so did a woman and miller use a tool of her trade, an upper millstone, to crack the skull of Abimelech, the commander of his band of ruthless mercenaries.

Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him.’” So his servant ran him through, and he died. When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home. Judges 9:54-55

Abimelech wasn’t concerned that he would be remembered for butchering the sons of Gideon, or for burning men and women alive. He was concerned that he would be remembered for being slain by a woman.

Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the people of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them. Judges 9:56-57

The account of cruel Abimelech and the slaughter of his seventy brothers is a prophetic picture. Genesis chapter 10 lists a total of seventy original founders of the nations of the world or racial groups. Numbers 29:12-34 details the offerings for the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. Thirteen bulls are offered the first day, twelve on the second, eleven on the third, etc. 13+12+11+10+9+8+7=70. According to Isaiah 56:7, the temple in Jerusalem was to be a house of prayer for all nations. The sacrifice of 70 bulls was offered as an atonement of the seventy nations.

Abimelech, who embraced idolatry and was a murderer, is a type of the Antichrist. The 70 sons of Gideon, who were worshippers of Yehovah, are a type of the followers of Yeshua (Jesus) from every nation who will be martyred during the Great Tribulation.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. Revelation 7:9

Then one of the elders addressed me: “These in white robes, he asked, “who are they, and where have they come from?” Sir,” I answered, “you know.” So he replied, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:13-14

Just as idol worshipping Abimelech had the seventy sons of godly Gideon put to the sword by his reckless scoundrels, so will a multitude from every nation die a martyr’s death by the army of the Antichrist because they will refuse to worship his image.

The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”Revelation 17:16-18

The above passage of Scripture is a description of the future punishment of the city Babylon which is the seat of power of the one-world false religion. The beast is the Antichrist and the ten horns represent the ten nation confederacy that supports him with their armies and resources. Just as God will put it into their hearts to burn this city because the idolatrous “Whore of Babylon” had spilled the blood of multitudes of God’s people, in a similar manner God stirred up animosity between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem who spilled the blood of Jerub-Baal’s sons. Abimelech destroyed the city and burned to death a thousand of her citizens.

Both Abimelech and the Antichrist will endure an eternity of punishment for their heinous acts against the worshippers of Yehovah, while the followers of the Almighty will experience an eternal state of bliss.

 

Judges Chapter 8 – Gideon Captures the Two Kings of Midian

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Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” And they challenged him vigorously. Judges 8:1

Gideon had mustered his troops from his own clan and tribe of Manasseh. He also called for fighting men from the tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali which were located directly north of his tribe. The Ephraimites, who dwelled to the south of the tribe of Manasseh, were infuriated that Gideon did not include them in the battle against the Midianites.

The haughtiness of the Ephraimites may have been derived partly from their strength, and partly from the transfer of the birthright from Manasseh to Ephraim.

Joseph was the long awaited son of Rachel, the wife that Jacob loved. Joseph was the son born to Jacob in his old age. Israel loved Jacob more than any of his other sons. For this reason, Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim as his own and Jacob gave Joseph the double blessing as if he was the firstborn son.

When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” Genesis 48:17-19

Israel crossed his arms so that Ephraim would receive the right hand of blessing as if he were the firstborn son of Joseph.

Ephraim had been exalted over his brother Manasseh. In addition, the great military leader and successor to Moses, Joshua the son of Nun was from the tribe of Ephraim. These factors may have contributed to the pride and arrogance of the Ephraimites who were slighted by not being included in Gideon’s call to arms.

But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?” At this, their resentment against him subsided. Judges 8:2-3

Gideon demonstrates his humble and unassuming character by giving the Ephraimites full credit for their share in the great victory over the Midianites.

Gideon states that his accomplishment of striking down common soldiers is not to be compared to Ephraim’s capture of the leaders of the Midianite army, Oreb and Zeeb. He began the war, but the Ephraimites have finished it. Ephraim indeed arrived late upon the scene, but they had the glory of capturing the chiefs.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Gideon is not provoked by Ephraim’s taunts. Instead, in response to his gentle and prudent answer, the Ephraimites’ resentment subsided.

Gideon and his three hundred men, exhausted yet keeping up the pursuit, came to the Jordan and crossed it. He said to the men of Sukkoth, “Give my troops some bread; they are worn out, and I am still pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” Judges 8:4-5

Gideon’s men were faint, yet pursuing; fatigued with what they had done, yet eager to do more against their enemies.

 But the officials of Sukkoth said, “Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your troops?” Judges 8:6

The name Sukkoth means “booths.” This location was named “Sukkoth” because of the “booths” which had been erected there by Jacob on his return from Laban’s home in Padan Aram. Sukkoth was east of the Jordan, in the territory of Gad near Peniel.

The reply from the officials of Sukkoth was both insolent and self-serving:“Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession?” Since we do not see these two kings of Midian with their hands bound behind their backs in defeat, why should we risk angering them by providing you and your men with food?  They ridiculed Gideon because they did not believe that he and the small number of his weary troops would be capable of defeating the remaining Midianite warriors.

Then Gideon replied, “Just for that, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers.” Judges 8:7

The officials of Sukkoth thought it would be impossible for Gideon and his tired men to defeat such a much larger force.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Gideon did not reply to them, “If the LORD gives Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand…” He retorted, “…when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand.”  Gideon believed that God would fulfill His promise and knew that the victory would be total and complete.

From there he went up to Peniel and made the same request of them, but they answered as the men of Sukkoth had. So he said to the men of Peniel, “When I return in triumph, I will tear down this tower.” Judges 8:8-9

Intent on the pursuit, and afraid of losing time, Gideon postponed his vengeance upon the men of Peniel until his return. His confident anticipation of a triumphant return evidenced the strength of his faith.

Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a force of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of the armies of the eastern peoples; a hundred and twenty thousand swordsmen had fallen.  Judges 8:10

Originally 32,000 men of Israel came to Gideon to fight against the eastern armies. The LORD did not want the Israelites to think that it was their strength or numbers that would secure the victory. Therefore, only 300 men were chosen for the task so Yehovah alone would receive the glory. The only plausible explanation for Gideon’s meager band of men triumphing over an army of 135,000 swordsmen is supernatural intervention.

Although outnumbered 50 to 1, Gideon and his 300 men were zealous to complete the task and capture the kings of Midian.

Gideon went up by the route of the nomads east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the unsuspecting army. Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them, routing their entire army. Judges 8:11-12

In the initial battle, the men of the eastern armies had been surprised and confused and turned their swords upon one another. In this final battle, the enemy was again caught unaware, but this time they were slaughtered in a direct attack by Gideon and his men.

In addition to Samson, the Bible records several accounts of miraculous victories by mighty men of God who were vastly out-numbered. The following account is found in 2 Samuel 23:8-12:

These are the names of David’s mighty warriors:

Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the Israelites retreated, but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory.

In all these cases, it was Yehovah who brought about the great victories through obedient men He anointed for the task.

Gideon son of Joash then returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres. He caught a young man of Sukkoth and questioned him, and the young man wrote down for him the names of the seventy-seven officials of Sukkoth, the elders of the town. Judges 8:13-14

Gideon wanted to know the names of the elders of Sukkoth who dared to mock a warrior judge of Israel and deny food to the men chosen by Yehovah to free Israel from her enemies.

Then Gideon came and said to the men of Sukkoth, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna in your possession? Why should we give bread to your exhausted men?’”  He took the elders of the town and taught the men of Sukkoth a lesson by punishing them with desert thorns and briers. Judges 8:15-16

Gideon was not only a righteous man of faith and a noble warrior, but he was also a man of his word. The officials of Sukkoth learned a lesson that would not soon forget.

He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town. Judges 8:17

It is likely that when Gideon’s warriors went to pull down the tower of Peniel, the men of the town offered an armed resistance and were subsequently killed in the battle.

Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men did you kill at Tabor?”

“Men like you,” they answered, “each one with the bearing of a prince.” Judges 8:18

Zebah and Zalmunna had been kept alive in order to answer the cowardly taunt of the elders of Sukkoth. Gideon probably asked them to describe the men that they killed to confirm his suspicions.

 Gideon replied, “Those were my brothers, the sons of my own mother. As surely as the Lord lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.”  Judges 8:19

Had the kings of Midian shown mercy towards his family, so would Gideon now be merciful to Zebah and Zalmunna. Instead, by their actions and their own words they condemned themselves.

Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, because he was only a boy and was afraid.

 Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, do it yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’” So Gideon stepped forward and killed them, and took the ornaments off their camels’ necks. Judges 8:20-21

Since the kings of Midian were not Canaanites, Gideon was not obliged by the law of God to put them to death. According to the law of nations, they had surrendered themselves and were made prisoners of war. Ordinarily, their lives should have been spared and they would be enslaved or imprisoned. But by their own admission, they killed the Israelites at Tabor in cold blood and deserved to die.

Gideon, as the last survivor of all his kingly brothers, would hold himself justified in putting his captives to death. The next of kin to a person or persons who have been slain acts as a “goel.” A goel is the avenger of blood according to the Torah.

Since Gideon’s son Jether would inherit the duties of goel and Gideon desired both to train the boy to be fearless against the enemies of Israel and to give him prestige, he asked his oldest son to kill the Midianite kings. Being killed by a boy would also add to the disgrace of the Midianite kings.

But since his son was afraid to kill the kings and did not draw his sword, as next of kin Gideon fulfilled his duty as the avenger of blood and put them to death.

Gideon took the ornaments [crescents] that were on their camels’ necks. The camel’s ornaments of that day were the same as used by the Arabs of today.

Ishmael was the son of Abraham and Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid and the Ishmaelites were his descendants.

Midian was the fourth of the six sons of Abraham and his wife, Keturah and the Midianites descended from him.

Ishmael was not the father of the Midianite nation, but the Ishmaelites and Midianites are so closely associated that it is hard to distinguish between them. When Joseph was sold by his brothers to the traders heading for Egypt, the traders are referred to as Ishmaelites and Midianites, interchangeably.

The Ishmaelites and the Midianites of old, as well as the Arabs today, adorn their camels with crescent shaped ornaments which represent their moon god.

The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23

Gideon understood that it was Yehovah who had won the great victory and delivered Israel from the hands of the Midianites. He also understood that he had been called by God to be a judge over his people and not a king. The LORD God was, is, and will always be the king over Israel.

And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. Judges 8:24-26

Seventeen thousand shekels of gold weighs about 800 ounces or 50 pounds. In today’s market, gold is $1320.00 per ounce. Seventeen thousand shekels or 50 pounds of gold would be worth over one million dollars by today’s standards.

In addition to the gold earrings or nose-rings, the plunder included garments that were dyed purple (a very expensive dye obtained from a species of sea snail), jewelry, and the gold chains that held the crescents around the necks of the Midianites’ camels.

 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. Judges 8:27

The High Priest’s ephod is described in Exodus 28:6-14. It was a sleeveless coat of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, with a brooch of onyx on each of the shoulders, bound by a rich girdle. In a modified form the “linen ephod” was worn by all priests. Over the ephod that was worn by the High Priest was fastened the jeweled pouch or breastplate containing the Urim and Thummim. On occasion, the High Priest used the Urim and Thummim to discern the LORD’s will.

The gold collected by Gideon was used to fashion the breastplate, for the gold threads used in the ephod and to pay for the precious stones set in gold braid upon the shoulder-pieces of the ephod.

The terms “Urim” and “Thummim” have traditionally been understood as “light(s)” and “perfection(s)” or as “perfect light.” The Urim and Thummim were a means of revelation entrusted to the High Priest. No description of them is given. This oracular means apparently consisted of a material object or objects since it was physically stored in the breastplate of the High Priest. Most scholars today believe that the Urim and Thummim were a “lot oracle” meaning by casting lots they could determine the will of God.

Gideon placed the ephod he made in his hometown where he had been called to lead Israel in battle against the Midianites. Ophrah is where Gideon had erected an altar to Yehovah after the angel of the LORD performed a miraculous sign causing fire from a rock to consume Gideon’s offering.

Gideon may have had good intentions in setting up a religious center in his own town where he could inquire the LORD’s will through the use of the Urim and Thummim. But the LORD had commanded that only the High Priest was to wear the breastplate and Israel’s corporate sacrifice and offerings were to take place where the God of Israel designated.

Then it shall come about that the place in which the LORD your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the LORD. “And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.

“Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see, but in the place which the LORD chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. Deuteronomy 12:1-14

The Tabernacle of the Testimony containing the Ark of the Covenant was located in Shiloh where the Levites ministered and the High Priest performed his sacred duties. Gideon’s actions caused Israel to fall into the sin of idolatry by their worship of the ephod Gideon made out of the Midianites gold earrings and nose-rings.

Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years. Judges 8:28

The Israelites’ apostasy of turning from Yehovah and worshipping the Baals resulted in punishment by Midian which led to their repentance and deliverance through Gideon and the land had peace for forty years.

Jerub-Baal son of Joash went back home to live. He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. Gideon son of Joash died at a good old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Judges 8:29-32

Gideon had been obedient to Yehovah by destroying his father’s altar to Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole beside it. The townspeople were so furious at what Gideon had done that they wanted to kill him. Joash, his father, defended his son actions and proclaimed, “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar” (Judges 6:31b). Therefore the townspeople gave Gideon the name, Jerub-Baal which means, “Let Baal contend with him.”

Gideon had many wives who bore him seventy sons and a concubine who gave birth to his son named Abimelech. Abimelech means “my father is king.”  It is certainly curious why Gideon who refused to become Israel’s king would give the son begotten through his concubine the name, “my father is king.”

In the next chapter of Judges we will see why his name is significant and why Abimelech is the only son whose name is recorded in the text.

No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. They also failed to show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) in spite of all the good things he had done for them. Judges 8:33-35

Yehovah who had delivered the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, who entered into covenant relationship with His Chosen People, who gave them the Torah, and brought them into the Promised Land was abandoned for lifeless idols. The Israelites not only forgot their God but were disloyal to the family of Gideon after he died.