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 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.

 

Judges 7 – The LORD said to Gideon, “You Have too Many Men.”

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The Lord told Gideon that he had too many men. He could not deliver Midian into their hands, or they would boast that their own strength had saved them.

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. Judges 7:1

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 and his troops from his own clan and tribe of Manasseh as well as from the northern tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali camped south of the Midianites by a spring.

 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. Judges 7:2-3

Although 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.

In Deuteronomy 20, Yehovah first encourages the fighting men and then gives commands to the Israelites concerning how they are to engage in battle.

Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” Deuteronomy 20:8

After Gideon makes his announcement to his army, twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. Judges 7:4-6

The vast majority of Gideon’s men immediately got down on their knees to drink because their main concern was their thirst. But three hundred of the men took the water out of the stream in the hollow of their hands and then lapped it while standing upright. Their main concern was to keep a watchful eye out for the enemy as they drank.

The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Now the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley. Judges 7:7-8

Yehovah promised Gideon that with only 300 men who had been chosen, Gideon would be victorious over the Midianites and would not suffer any harm in the battle. These men took the provisions and the trumpets of those who left. The word translated from Hebrew into English as trumpet is actually “shofar” which means “ram’s horn”.

During that night the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. Judges 7:9-12

Gideon had asked for a sign to confirm that it was Yehovah speaking to him when Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress. When a fire flared out from a rock and consumed Gideon’s offering, Gideon was convinced that it was Yehovah who had been speaking to him.

Gideon then asked Yehovah for two more signs using a fleece both times before Gideon would agree to lead the Israelites in battle against the Midianites and the other eastern peoples.

Facing the prospect of engaging in combat with only 300 men against an innumerable enemy, Gideon was understandably hesitant to attack. Therefore, God again was gracious to encourage Gideon by directing him to go down into the enemy camp with his servant.

Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” Judges 7:13-14

The dream was a prophetic picture that confirmed that indeed Gideon would be victorious over the Midianites. But what does a loaf of barley bread symbolize?

Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. John 6:47-48

Jesus our Messiah is the bread of life. We know that He was crucified on Passover.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. Leviticus 23:9-11

The seventh day of the week is the regular weekly Sabbath. Passover is observed at twilight on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar which is the second Sabbath of the month.

The next day is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and is an additional or High Sabbath. Crucified on the weekly Sabbath, Jesus was raised from the dead on the day after this special second Sabbath. The women went to tomb on the day after the High Sabbath which was first day of the week. Jesus arose on the Festival of Firstfruits. He is the “Firstfruits” of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The first grain that is harvested in the spring in Israel is barley. Jesus the bread of life arose on the day that the firstfruits of the barley harvest were offered. The round loaf of barley bread that overturned and collapsed the Midianite tent and who would give the enemy into the hands of Israel symbolized Messiah Jesus – the angel of Yehovah!

 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. Judges 7:15-16

Each man who comprised the three companies of one hundred men held a shofar in one hand and a lit torch covered by an empty jar in their other hand.

“Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” Judges 7:17-18

Gideon’s orders to have his troops blow shofars and shout before the battle, is strikingly similar to the command that Joshua issued before the attack on the fortified city of Jericho.

After wandering in the Sinai desert for 40 years, the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. Before making the crossing, however, Joshua, the Israelite commander, dispatched two spies to reconnoiter the city of Jericho. Narrowly escaping capture, the spies brought back valuable intelligence collected from Rahab, a harlot who lived within the city wall. Although the Jordan was in flood at the time the Israelites crossed, the waters were miraculously stopped and the Israelites were able to cross “on dry ground.” They then marched around the heavily fortified city daily for seven days.

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city. Joshua 6:16

Just as the commander Joshua informed his men that Yehovah had given the Israelites the city of Jericho, and at the sounding of the shofar blast they were to shout; so did Gideon tell his men that Yehovah had given the Midianite camp into their hands, they were to blow their shofars and then shout.

Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. Judges 7:19-21

The pagans divided the duties of their watchmen into three watches of four hours each. The first watch was from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Most of the men would have gotten to bed early in order to rest up for the battle they expected to engage in on the following day. By 10:00 at night, they were sleeping soundly.

As one set of guards were leaving their posts and a new set of guards were taking their positions, the enemy soldiers were suddenly aroused out of their slumber. They were dazed and confused by the sudden blast of the shofars and the wild shout of a war-cry yelled from every side. They stumbled out of their tents, without leaders and without knowledge of the numbers of their foe. All around they saw the flaring torches and heard the trumpet-blasts which seemed to indicate an immense attacking force, so they fled crying out in panic and in the midst of chaos.

When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. Judges 7:22a

When will there be a great shout, the blowing of trumpets (shofars) and these jars of clay (our bodies) opened up to reveal the light inside (treasure in jars of clay)?

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1Thessalonians 4:16

The supernatural defeat of the Midianites is a prophetic picture of the Rapture!

Where did the battle take place in which God defeated the Midianites? The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh (meaning teacher or teaching – where the ungodly are taught it is not by might or power that victory takes place).

The valley near the hill of Moreh is the valley of Jezreel which lies in the view of Megiddo which is the location of the final battle of Armageddon!

The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.”  So all the men of Ephraim were called out and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah.  Judges 7:22b-24

The Midianites initially fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah, (Shittah is the same acacia wood of which the ark was made).  So it could be translated: “the house of [acacia] wood of the tying/binding.” Or put another way, “the tying/binding of the house of the [acacia] wood.”

The army of the Midianites fled as far as Abel Meholah near Tabbath, but in Hebrew it is: “Avel-Mecholah of Tavat” This can be translated: Avel = mourning, Mechola = affliction; and Tavat = slaying.  This can be put together as “the mourning of the afflicted one [on account of] the slaying.”

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

Sukkoth means booths or tabernacles.

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

Penuel means “the face of God.”

They also captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb ,and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan. Judges 7:27

Gideon pursued the leaders of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, just past Sukkoth toward the tower (migdal) Penuel.  So he was chasing these two kings from the place of the “booths/tabernacles” to the “watchtower [of the] face of God.”

The chronology of the flight of the Midianites:

1) The Midianites first fled to Beth Shittah (a picture of the First Advent).

Beth Shittah means, “The house of wood of the tying/binding.”  It is a picture of the crucifixion of the Messiah (See – Genesis 22, known as the “Binding of Isaac”).

2) Then as far as Abel Meholah near Tabath which is symbolic of the “Second Coming.”

“The mourning of the afflicted one [on account of] the slaying”

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.  Zechariah 12:10-11

3) Then Gideon pursued the leaders of the Midianites, Zebah and Zalmunna past Sukkoth (booths or tabernacles). The feast of tabernacles is a picture of the millennial reign of the Messiah.

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16

4) Finally the enemies of God’s people were pursued to the watchtower of Penuel which means “the face of God.” This is a picture of the White Throne Judgment of the unrighteous after the Millennium.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence (the face of God), and there was no place for them. Revelation 20:11

 

The Israelites were given into the Hands of the Midianites!

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The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Judges 6:1-2

After the death of Deborah and Barak, during whose lifetime the Israelites kept to the pure worship of God, Israel’s sin was renewed and Israel’s troubles were repeated.

The Midianites were an Arabian people who descended from Midian; one of the sons of Abraham and his wife Keturah. They principally inhabited the desert north of the peninsula of Arabia. The peninsula of Sinai was the pasture-ground for their flocks. They were virtually the rulers of Arabia, being the dominant tribe. Like all Arabians, they were a nomadic people.

After the Exodus, the Midianites were friendly to the Israelites, so long as they traversed only their outlying pasture-ground on the west of the Arabah. But when the Israelites passed the southern end of Edom and entered into the land of Midian, the Midianites joined with Balak, the king of Moab, in a conspiracy against them (Numbers 22:4-7).

Balak, the king of Moab, employed Balaam, a diviner from Mesopotamia, to try to manipulate the God of Israel so that He will curse the Israelites, rather than bless them. His hope was to weaken the nation Israel militarily, so that the Moabites and Midianites might defeat them in battle and drive them out of the land. Balaam, who had been sent for to curse Israel, could only bless them in accordance to Yehovah’s will.

But Balaam devised a devious plan. He would cause the Israelite soldiers to disobey their God and place themselves under a curse by seducing them with the Moabite women. This plan was to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them. Numbers 25:1-3

During the time of Moses, the Israelite army was unable to be defeated by the military strength of Moab and Midian nor was Balaam able to place a curse on them. But the men of Israel were seduced by Moabite and Midianite women and Yehovah burned with anger and sent a plague through the camp.

Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000. Numbers 25:6-9

The Midianites so fiercely oppressed the Israelites that they hid in mountain clefts, and caves and sought refuge in strongholds.

Ironically, the Midianites who had seduced the Israelites during the time of Moses and caused them to sin are now being used to chastise the Israelites during the time of Gideon for their sinful idolatrous practices.

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

The Israelites failed to learn from their own history that Yehovah will not tolerate spiritual adultery.

Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. Judges 6:3-6

The invasions of these Arab tribes were overwhelming and totally devastating. They preferred looting and pillaging to sowing and reaping. They let the Israelites do the work of plowing the fields, sowing their crops, and tending to their animals. When the harvest was ripe, hoards of marauders came to reap and carry away their produce and livestock.

When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.” Judges 6:7-10

After seven years of cruel oppression by the Midianites, the desperate Israelites cried out to Yehovah who answered them by sending them a prophet. The prophet delivered a message from the God of Israel and reminded them that it was Yehovah who delivered them from the bondage they suffered in Egypt and gave them the land of the Canaanites. Yet, the Israelites persisted in disobeying their God and worshipping the gods of the Amorites.

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:11-12

A threshing sledge was usually made of logs and had sharp flints embedded in the under surface. First, cut stalks of grain were spread on the threshing floor and a threshing sledge was pulled over the stalks by oxen. When the oxen dragged the sledge over the stalks of wheat on the threshing floor, the stones ripped the husk away from the grain. Threshing the wheat could also be accomplished by having the oxen walk over the stalks or by beating the stalks of wheat with heavy sticks.

Wheat is usually threshed on a hill top or mountain because of breeze. The grain is heaped and then winnowed. The winnowing fork is a several-pronged pitchfork and is used to toss wheat against the breeze to free it from chaff and crushed straw. Since the grain is heaviest it falls straight to the ground. The straw is blown a short distance and collects in another heap, while the chaff is completely scattered by the wind.

Gideon was threshing the wheat in a wine press where ordinarily the grapes would be trodden. It was a tank or trough excavated in the rock, and connected by a drain with the wine vat into which the juice ran. The threshing-floor was situated in an exposed place and Gideon would have been seen from a distance. Instead he threshed the wheat by hand in a winepress under a tree.

The pre-incarnate Messiah appeared to Gideon. He called Gideon a mighty warrior and told him that Yehovah was with him.

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:13

Gideon had not forgotten the mighty works that Yehovah had performed when He delivered His people from their bondage in Egypt. But Gideon wondered why would the miracle working God of Israel allow His people to be severely oppressed by the Midianites?

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:14

Note that Yehovah did not answer Gideon’s question but ordered Gideon to lead the Israelites in battle against their enemy.

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” Judges 6:15-16

Although the angel of Yehovah called Gideon a mighty warrior, Gideon confessed of the weakness of his clan and the lowliness of his position in his family. Gideon understood that in his own strength he could not accomplish such a great feat.

Gideon was not the only prominent figure in the Bible that spoke to God about his inability to perform the task God had chosen him for; nor was God taken by surprise of the shortcomings of the person whom He had selected to perform the task.

Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Exodus 4:10

“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” Jeremiah 1:6

The protestations of Gideon, Moses and Jeremiah evidenced their humility.

Therefore he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble. James 4:6b

Their natural inabilities would be a testimony to the power and presence of God in their lives.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27

God is not selecting us for our natural ability when He puts a call on our life. He is not seeking our ability but our availability. If we are obedient to the call, He will provide the strength, wisdom and resources for us to fulfill His call.

 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.” Judges 6:17-18

Gideon asked for a sign to prove that he was actually speaking with Yehovah.

 Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.

The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. Judges 6:19-21

The wondrous sign that proved that the person speaking with Gideon was no ordinary man or ordinary angel was fire that flared out from a rock and consumed the offering.

For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29

 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” Judges 6:22-23

The only person in Israel who could come before God’s presence in the Most Holy Place was the High Priest. He only went behind the veil once a year at Yom Kippur after He took the lit altar of incense from the Holy Place and placed it behind the curtain into the Holy of Holies. The High Priest also needed to offer acceptable blood sacrifices or he would die. Gideon understood that when he saw the angel of Yehovah face to face, he saw the face of God and could die.

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9

The angel of Yehovah, who is also referred to as the angel of God, is the pre-incarnate Messiah. Although Gideon said that he saw the face of the angel of Yehovah, it was Yehovah that said, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. Judges 6:24

Yehovah Shalom is the Prince of Peace.

That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.” Judges 6:25-26

Gideon, who had refrained from threshing his wheat on a high hill for fear of the Midianites, was commanded to tear down his father’s altar to Baal, cut down his Asherah pole and then build an altar and sacrifice to Yehovah on the same high place.

So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime. Judges 6:27

Gideon was obedient to God’s command but he used discretion and was able to complete the task unhindered by waiting until nighttime.

In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

They asked each other, “Who did this?”

When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.” Judges 6:28-30

The townspeople were so furious at Gideon for destroying Baal’s altar and cutting down the Asherah pole beside it that they wanted to kill him. Gideon’s name is from the Hebrew root word, “gada” which means to hew or cut down. Gideon who became a warrior judge of Israel fulfilled his prophetic name and cut down his father’s Asherah pole.

But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.” Judges 6:31-32

Joash, who had succumbed to idolatrous practices, was not angry with Gideon but staunchly defended his son actions. He proclaimed, “If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.”Joash also fulfilled his prophetic Hebrew name, “Yoash” which means “Yah is strong.”  Joash understood that only Yehovah is really God who needs no one to defend Him.

Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them. Judges 6:33-35

After the enemies of Israel crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel, Gideon was empowered by the anointing of the Spirit to muster troops from his own clan, his tribe of Manasseh, which occupied territory on both sides of the Jordan, as well as from the northern tribes of Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali.

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. Judges 6:36-38

Gideon was bold and asked God for reassurance by showing him a sign before going into battle. God was gracious and did what Gideon had asked. But a wool fleece absorbing water around it is not an unusual phenomenon.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.”  That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. Judges 6:39-40

The second test was no doubt miraculous with the ground covered with dew but the fleece remaining dry.

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Matthew 15:24

Origen was an early Christian theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. Origen’s main lifework was on the text of the Greek Old Testament and on the exposition of the whole Bible. In his eighth homily on the book of Judges Origen writes of the symbolic significance of the tests of the two fleeces:

The fleece is the Jewish nation. The fleece covered with dew, while all around is dry, the Jewish nation favored with the law and the prophets. The fleece dry, the Jewish nation cast off for rejecting the Gospel. All around watered, the Gospel preached to the Gentiles and they converted to God.

For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? Romans 11:15

Because of the rejection of the gospel by the Jews, salvation was preached to the Gentiles. But there is a day coming when their acceptance will be life from the dead.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.” Romans 11:25-26

When the full number of Gentiles has accepted Yeshua as Messiah, the dead will rise to meet the Lord in the air. Then all those from the nation of Israel who have survived the Great Tribulation shall be saved when Yeshua returns to Zion.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Judges Chapter 4 – Deborah led Israel now that Ehud was Dead

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Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Judges 4:1-2a

Ehud had delivered Israel from Eglon king of Moab and the Israelites lived in peace for eighty years. The Israelites, who should have been thankful to the LORD for their safety and the abundance of the Promised Land, instead returned to their wicked ways and idolatries after the death of Ehud.

In an act of divine discipline, the LORD allowed the Canaanites to subjugate the Israelites. Jabin king of Canaan ruled in Hazor which was a stronghold in the mountains of northern Canaan. “Jabin” was a royal title like “Pharaoh” the ruler of the Egyptians or “Abimelech” the ruler of the Philistines.

Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help. Judges 4:2b-3

Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. Haggoyim means the nations other than Israel. Harosheth means clay or potsherds. “Clay nations” is a metaphor for nations with no solid spiritual foundation. Clay is like adobe and adobe houses over time erode and eventually wash away. Potsherds are fragments of pots. Pots of clay can become broken over time and can eventually erode back into the earth from where they came.

On the other hand, Israel is the only historical group of people which has endured through thousands of years of captivity and persecution, not as nations of clay, but as the Chosen Ones who are to occupy the Promised Land.

The nine hundred chariots of the Canaanites were covered with iron and  armed with iron scythes or had iron scythes projecting from the axle on each side, by which opposing infantry might be easily cut down or thrown into confusion. The army of Sisera had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. In desperation, the rebellious Israelites finally cried out to the LORD for help.

Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. Judges 4:4-5

Deborah was a prophetess and the fourth judge of Israel. דבור (Devorah) means “bee” in Hebrew and comes from the root רבד (Davar), meaning to speak or pronounce. Davar means more than just to speak or say, it means the vocal conveyance of a whole message. Deborah is a fitting name for a prophetess whose words could sting like a bee in order to bring a message of rebuke to the tribes of Israel who had returned to their apostasy and were being cruelly oppressed by the Canaanites.

Deborah held court between Bethel to the north and Ramah to the south under the Palm of Deborah in the hill country of the tribe of Ephraim. As a prophetess, she was inspired by the Holy Spirit with wisdom and understanding to settle disputes and decide on legal matters.

She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Judges 4:6-7

As an oracle of the LORD, Deborah spoke with divine authority when she summoned Barak.

Barak means “lightning.” He was the son of Abinoam. The name Abinoam consists of two elements. The first element is the word אב (ab), meaning father. The second part of the name Abinoam comes from the root-verb נעם (naem), meaning to be pleasant or beautiful. Barak was from a city in Naphtali called Kedesh which is a name associated with Kadesh. The name Kadesh comes from the verb קדש (qadash) to be consecrated, hallowed or sanctified.

Naphtali and Zebulun were two tribes located in north central Israel. Barak was to lead 10,000 men from these tribes up to Mount Tabor. The broad flat top of this strong, beautiful, and easily fortified mountain (which is nearly a mile in circumference) would serve the double purpose of a watch-post and a stronghold. It was in the district of Issachar, about six miles from Nazareth. Mount. Tabor sits at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley.

Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” Judges 4:8

Although Yehovah Elohim (the LORD God) had commanded Barak to lead the fighting men from Naphtali and Zebulun into battle against Sisera and the Canaanite army, Barak refused to go unless Deborah went with him. It may have been wise of Barak to ask Deborah to come with him. Yet, the fact that he demanded it showed that he trusted more in Deborah’s relationship with God than with his own relationship with God.

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him. Judges 4:9-10

Deborah agreed to accompany Barak, but because of Barak’s lack of faith in God, she told him credit for the victory would not go to him, but to a woman.

Barak summoned the men of Zebulun and Naphtali, either by the sound of a trumpet, as Ehud did, or by sending messengers to them. Barak then led ten thousand men up to Mt. Tabor and Deborah accompanied them.

Now Heber the Kenite had left the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law, and pitched his tent by the great tree in Zaanannim near Kedesh.

When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron. Judges 4:11-13

Heber the Kenite was a descendant of Reuel the Midianite, the father-in-law of Moses. He had separated himself and his wife Jael from the other Kenites and pitched their tent in the plain of Zaanaim, which is near Kedesh in the tribal territory of Naphtali.

The migration of Heber the Kenite, with a portion of his tribe, from the south of Judah to the north of Naphtali had clearly taken place recently. It may have been caused by Philistine oppression. The news of the great muster of the Israelites at Kedesh had been carried to Sisera by some members of this tribe.

The army composed of men from the Israelite tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun had gathered on Mount Tabor. The Canaanites were assembled at Harosheth Haggoyim (likely on the opposite side of the Jezreel Valley).

Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot. Judges 4:14-15

Barak led the Israelite charge of 10,000 men against Sisera’s army. It seems that the LORD’s intervention on behalf of the Israelites was in the form of a rainstorm causing the Kishon River to flood which made chariot travel for the Canaanites extremely difficult.

 Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. Judges 4:16

As the chariots became bogged down in the mud they would overturn and the charioteers would be easy prey for the Israelite foot soldiers.

Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. Judges 4:17

With his troops slain by the sword, Sisera needed refuge and a hiding place. He fled to the tent of Heber’s wife Jael because Sisera’s king had made an alliance with the family of Heber. The environment of the desert and arid land in most of the Middle East is harsh. For a traveler, access to water and food was a matter of life and death. Most settlements were built near available water or wells. Yet, it was also important for the settled community to have protection. As a result, strict codes of conduct developed to govern such encounters. These conventions of hospitality also applied equally to the nomads who lived in tents as they followed the grazing herds. They were obligated to provide for travelers that stopped at their tents, and under these customs could expect some protection from hostile actions from the “stranger.” The host was obliged to provide the traveler with food, water, and shelter. Especially because of the peace agreement between the Canaanites and Heber, Sisera was able to appeal to the wife of Heber to take him in.

Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket.

 “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. Judges 4:18-19

Sisera was physically and emotionally exhausted and thirsty. Although he had asked for water, before covering Sisera with a blanket, Jael had given Sisera some warm milk to ensure that he would sleep well.

 “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’” Judges 4:20

Sisera wanted to ensure his safety in case some Israelites came looking for him amongst the tents of Heber’s family. Believing that he would not be discovered, Sisera could let his guard down and fall asleep.

 But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Judges 4:21

Although the conventions of hospitality and the alliance between Jabin king of Canaan and Heber the Kenite militated against an act of hostility to a guest, Sisera was an enemy of Israel and the Heber was a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law.

Nomadic tents were larger than most modern tents, having two separate sections, front and back. The front section was used for work. It was the public area of the tent, open to visitors. The men of the family lived here, gathered here with family members or friends, and conducted business if necessary. The men ate their meals in this area. The front part of the tent would be left open in warm weather. The second or rear part of the tent was private. A dividing curtain separated it from the front area. It was here that the women, children and babies lived and slept. Tents were made from goats’ hair or dark sheep’s wool, woven in rectangular strips on large looms. Women wove the fabric for the tents, stitched them together, and kept them in good repair. In effect, they were the craftspeople who produced the housing.

They also set up the tents each time the clan/tribe moved to a new site.  They selected a suitable site, then using wooden mallets and tent pegs they hoisted up and secured the unwieldy tents. When it was time to move on, they took down the tents, folded them and stowed to for the journey.

Jael used the privacy of her tent and her skills setting up tents to hammer a tent peg through the skull of her sleeping enemy.

Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead. Judges 4:22

The glory of having slain the general of the enemy passed to a woman. Barak did not achieve this honor because he was not willing to go into battle without Deborah at his side.

We will see that the wooden stake piercing through the head of the enemy of God’s Chosen People due to a woman is a prophetic picture according to the following scriptures:

So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust

all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

The serpent had deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. A woman’s sex cell is an egg or ovum. It is the male sex cell which is usually referred to as the seed. The seed of the woman is a prophecy of the virgin birth of Messiah. His heal will be struck at the crucifixion when his feet will be pierced through by a spike.

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Matthew 27:33

The place of the skull is where the execution stake was hammered into the ground. Jesus was attached by nails. He was laid on the ground, with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms were held out and nailed to the two ends of the crossbeam, which was then raised and fixed on top of the vertical beam. His feet were then nailed down against this vertical stake.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:51-54

Golgotha resembled a skull. The most common symbolic use of the skull is as a representation of death and mortality. When Adam and Eve sinned it brought sin and death into the world. When Jesus had finished His work of redemption and had paid our sin debt in full, He died. The vertical beam of Jesus’ cross was a wooden stake hammered into the ground. The earthquake split the place of the skull, the symbol of death. This scene is a symbolic picture of the fulfillment of the prophecy that the seed of the serpent would bruise the Messiah’s heel but the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent.

On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. Judges 4:23-24

On that day God orchestrated that Jabin king of Canaan would be killed by the Israelites. Israel was finally free after 20 year of being subjected to his cruelty.

According to Josephus, “Barak also fought with Jabin at Hazor; and when he met with him, he slew him: and when the general was fallen, Barak overthrew the city to the foundation, and was the commander of the Israelites for forty years.”

Israel was finally free after 20 year of being subjected to his cruelty.