Judges Chapter 12 – Jephthah defeats the Ephraimites


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Judges Chapter 12

Jephthah defeats the Ephraimites and judged Israel for six years. Ibzan, Elon and Abdon judged next.

The Ephraimite forces were called out, and they crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.”

Jephthah answered, “I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands. When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?” Judges 12:1-3

With the same prideful arrogance that the Ephraimites had confronted Gideon who was from the tribe of Manasseh after his defeat of the Midianites, the Ephraimites now confront Jephthah who was from Gilead located within the half tribe of Manasseh which resided on this eastside of the Jordan.

Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are fugitives in Ephraim, living in the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh.” Judges 12:4

The Ephraimites disparaged the Gileadites, who resided in the eastern half of the tribe of Manasseh, as a mere race of runaway slaves, who belonged to neither to Ephraim nor to Manasseh.

The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he replied, “No,” they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. Judges 12:5-6

Only through these fords could the Ephraimites escape back to their own tribe on the western side of the Jordan. In was ironic that the Ephraimites had taunted the Eastern Manassites with being fugitives of Ephraim, and in the next verse they themselves appear to be in another, but fatal sense, “fugitives of Ephraim.”

The word Shibboleth means “ford” which is a shallow place in a river or stream allowing one to walk across.

John Milton, the English epic poet wrote. “And he said Sibboleth”:

“And how ingrateful Ephraim had dealt with Jephthah–who by argument not worse than by his shield and spear defended Israel from the Ammonite.

Had not his prowess quelled their pride in that sore battle where so many died, without reprieve, adjudged to death for want of well pronouncing Shibboleth.

 Jephthah led Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in a town in Gilead. Judges 12:7

After Jephthah died the LORD raised up three more judges and Israel was living in peace during that time.

After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem. Judges 12:8-10

There were two Bethlehems, one in the tribe of Zebulun, (Joshua 9:15) and another in the tribe of Judah.  It is most probable that the northern Bethlehem is meant because it is in the territory of Zebulun and the next judge was a Zebulunite.

Ibzan gave his daughters in marriage to men not of another nation, nor of another tribe, but of another family (clan) of his tribe, and they went to live with their husbands. He took in daughters of families in the same tribe to be wives to his sons and who they dwelt together. It was the custom in those days for sons and their wives to abide with their father.

After him, Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. Then Elon died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. Judges 12:11-12

Elon led Israel for ten years. In peacetime, a judge would administer justice to the people.

After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years. Then Abdon son of Hillel died and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites. Judges 12:13-15

During the administration of Jephthah, six years – Ibzan, seven years – Elon, ten years – and Abdon, eight years, (a total of thirty-one years), the Israelites had peace in all their borders. We will discover in the next chapter of Judges that in this time of rest they corrupted themselves once again, and then were delivered into the power 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.

Judges Chapter 3 – The Israelites Lived Among the Canaanites


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The Israelites lived among the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites to test whether or not they would obey the LORD’s commands.

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses. Judges 3:1-4

The descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, settled in the area that God later promised to give to the descendants of Shem. The Canaanites were Hamitic in origin, but they adopted a Semitic language and culture, as we know from both the Bible and archaeology.

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness. Genesis 9:20-23

Nakedness in the Old Testament was from the beginning a thing of shame for fallen man. As a result of the Fall, the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, and knowing they were naked, they covered themselves. To them as sinners the state of nakedness was undignified, shameful and vulnerable. The covering of nakedness was a sound instinct for it provided a boundary for fallen human relations. Nakedness thereafter represented the loss of human and social dignity. To be exposed meant to be unprotected; this can be seen by the fact that the horrors of the Judah’s exile to Babylon are couched in the image of shameful nakedness.

Nakedness is also a punishment to be meted out to the enemies of God:

You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. Habakkuk 3:13

Rejoice and be glad, O Daughter of Edom, you who live in the land of Uz. But to you also the cup will be passed; you will be drunk and stripped naked. Lamentations 4:21

To see someone uncovered was to bring dishonor and to gain advantage for potential exploitation.

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” Genesis 9:24-25

The curse of slavery was upon Canaan and his descendants. The curse would rest upon the Canaanites who dwelled in ancient Palestine, Phoenicia, and Carthage. The Canaanites detestable practices included idolatry, fornication with temple prostitutes, divination and child sacrifice. The prophecy was fulfilled when the Canaanites were enslaved because of their wickedness by the ancient Israelites – first by Joshua (Joshua 9:23) and later by Solomon (1 Kings 9:20-21).

But why was Noah’s grandson Canaan cursed because of the sin of his father Ham? I think that there are at least two reasons that the curse fell on Canaan. First of all, God foreknew Canaan’s wickedness and how Ham’s disrespectful and dishonoring attitude would wax even worse in Canaan. Secondly, children are to be a blessing and are to honor their parents. Just as Noah’s son Ham did not bring Noah honor but shame, so would Canaan bring dishonor to Ham and not blessing.

The Canaanites and the other nations were left in the Promised Land for a dual purpose. The first was to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience. The second purpose was to test the moral and spiritual discipline of the Israelites to see if they would observe God’s commandments.

The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. Judges 3:5-6

The LORD God had forbidden the Israelites from intermarrying with the peoples of the surrounding nations. He told them of the consequences they would suffer if they disobeyed His command.

When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—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: 1-4

The Israelites failed to heed the LORD’s warning concerning intermarriage, and just as He had predicted, their children turned away from the LORD their God.

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. Judges 3:7-8

Baal, or “lord,” was the chief object of worship of the Canaanites. Asherah was known as the goddess of motherhood and fertility. She was called “Lady Asherah of the Sea.” Asherah or Ashtoreth was their supreme female divinity and Baal’s consort or wife. Some suppose Baal to correspond to the sun and Asherah to the moon; others that Baal was Jupiter and Ashtoreth Venus.

Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, or “lords.” The Canaanites believed that Baal was in absolute control over nature and over people. They believed that Baal was in charge of the rain and the weather, and man’s survival was dependent upon his provision.

Worship of Baal involved imitative magic, the performance of rituals, including sacred prostitution. Sexual acts by both male and female temple prostitutes were understood to arouse Baal who then brought rain to make Mother Earth fertile.

After the Israelites intermarried with the heathen people from the surrounding nations, they followed their pagan gods and committed natural and spiritual adultery. They were unfaithful to their own spouses as well as unfaithful to the LORD their God.

The name Cushan-Rishathaim is interpreted, as “man from Cush, he of the twofold crime.” Cush was the eldest son of Ham, and the father of Nimrod. The land of Cush probably derives its name from this son of Ham. The Cushites appear to have spread along extensive tracts, stretching from the Upper Nile to the Euphrates and Tigris.

Cushan-Rishathaim was a king of Mesopotamia who was chosen by God as his tool to chastise the Israelites for their idolatry.

But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. Judges 3:9-11

Aram means high, or highlands. Aram is the name of an ancient country noted by its elevated region extending from the northeast of Israel to the Euphrates. It corresponded generally with Syria and Mesopotamia of the Greeks and Romans.

The Israelites were punished for turning from the LORD and worshipping the Baals and Asherahs by being subjugated by the king of Aram for eight years. When they finally cried out to the LORD in desperation, in His mercy, the LORD raised up and anointed Caleb’s younger brother as Israel’s first judge.

The Judges were both prophets and warriors who sought to bring God’s people to repentance and deliver them from the hands of their enemies. Their role was to turn the people back from idolatry to the worship of the LORD and the observance of the Torah. The judges were leaders or rulers who took charge of the affairs of several tribes in times of war and who also assumed leadership of their respective tribes in the subsequent times of peace.

Othniel in his role of warrior led Israel in battle and defeated the king of Aram and his army. He then served in his peacetime role of judge for the next forty years.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. Judges 3:12-14

The Moabites lived just east of the Dead Sea. The Ammonites occupied the countryside north of Moab were both tribes related by blood to Abraham. They were descendants of his nephew Lot. The name Moab, the son of Lot from his older daughter, means “from the father.” The name Ben-ammi, his son by his younger daughter, means “son of my people.” These sons conceived through incest gave rise to the Moabites and the Ammonites.

Given the incestuous origins of Moab and Ammon, we are not surprised that contact with these peoples often brought much trouble for Abraham’s children as these peoples sinned like their parents. Moab led Israel into Baal worship on its way into Canaan (Numbers 25:1-3). Both the Ammonites and the Moabites hired Balaam to curse Israel as it journeyed toward the Promised Land and were thus forbidden to enter the Lord’s assembly for ten generations (Deuteronomy 23:3-4).

The Amalekites were descendants of Amalek, the son of Eliphaz and the grandson of Esau who had despised his birthright. They were related the Edomites. The Amalekites waylaid the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They waited in ambush and attacked all who were lagging behind mostly women, children, the aged and the infirm.

The armies from these three nations attacked Israel and took possession of the City of Palms (Jericho). The LORD chastened the Israelites for their disobedience by handing them over to Eglon king of the Moabites who subjugated them for eighteen years.

Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Judges 3:15

The Hebrew Bible mentions left-handed people on three occasions: the story of Ehud’s assassination of the Moabite king (Judges 3:12–30), the 700 Benjamites who could use the sling with deadly accuracy (Judges 20:16) and the two-dozen ambidextrous warriors who came to support David in Hebron (1 Chronicles 12:2). All of these accounts of left-handed people in the Bible appear in military contexts and all involve members of the tribe of Benjamin.

Benjamites may have been genetically disposed to left-handedness at birth, but the trait may also have been encouraged in soldiers to give them a strategic advantage in combat. Ironically, the name Benjamin means “son of (my) right hand.”

Ehud was selected by the LORD as the next judge or minister of Divine justice of Israel. He was chosen to deliver the Israelites from Eglon the king of the Moabites.

Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it. Judges 3:16-18

Since the Israelites had been submissively paying large sums to Eglon for eighteen years, the king would not have been suspicious of meeting with Ehud who was bringing him tribute. Then, to avoid endangering his comrades, Ehud sent away his men who had carried the tribute to the king.

But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.”

The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left. Judges 3:19

Ehud left Moab and traveled as far as Gilgal before returning alone to Eglon’s palace. The stone images may have been idols that the Moabites carved out of the 12 stones that were erected as a memorial when Joshua and the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River.

This allotted for enough time for the soldiers who guarded the king during the presentation of the tribute to leave. The king was intrigued by Ehud’s secret message and sent away his attendants.

Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. Judges 3:20-23

After dismissing his servants, the king left the public hall on the main floor and went to the upper room of his palace. The king was sitting in his cool roof-chamber when Ehud approached him and said, “I have a message from God for you.” The king rose from his seat and no suspicions were raised concerning Ehud, who was left-handed, as he drew his sword. Ehud then plunged the sword into the king’s belly and did not pull the sword out. He locked the doors of the upper room behind him and made his escape out the porch.

After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.” They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead. Judges 3:24-25

Finding the doors locked, the servants thought that the king was relieving himself. The irony of the situation is that – when Eglon had been killed the thrust of Ehud’s sword, the king’s bowels had discharged. When the servants finally unlocked the door, they discovered the dead body of their lord.

 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them. Judges 3:26-27

While the servants waited for the king to emerge from the upper room of his palace, Ehud had enough time to travel passed Gilgal. He escaped to Seirath which was “the forest” or “rough” which bordered on the cultivated plain near Gilgal, and extended into “the hill country of Ephraim.” He blew a trumpet which was a signal to gather the fighting men.

“Follow me,” he ordered, “for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years. Judges 3:28-30

Ehud went down from the mountain of Ephraim into the Jordan valley beneath it, straight to the Jordan fords. These were the places where the water was shallow enough to be crossed by wading. The purpose of possessing the fords of the Jordan was to keep the Moabites on the west side of the Jordan from joining their countrymen on the east side of the Jordan. Having struck down about ten thousand Moabites, Moab was made subject to Israel and the land had peace for eighty years.

After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel. Judges 3:31

The south-west area of the Promised Land was inhabited by the Philistines. The Philistines were a sea people that most probably came from the Aegean Sea. God raised up Shamgar to deliver Israel from these enemies. Since he had neither sword nor spear, he used an oxgoad as his weapon. An oxgoad is an instrument of wood about eight feet long, armed with an iron spike or point at one end, with which to spur the ox to plow. It also has an iron scraper at the other end with which to scrape off the earth from the plowshare when it became too clogged to make furrows. Shamgar used his oxgoad and struck down six hundred Philistines. This supernatural act was probably empowered by the Spirit of the LORD coming upon him.

From this verse and Judges 5:6 we may gather that Shamgar was contemporary with Jael, and that he only procured a temporary and partial deliverance for Israel by his

Judges 2 – The Israelites Disobeyed the Angel of the LORD!


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The angel of the Lord brought the Israelites up out of Egypt but the Israelites disobeyed him. They stopped serving the LORD after the death of Joshua.

The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Judges 2:1-2

It was “Malak Yehovah,” the “Angel of the Lord” who had appeared to Joshua in Gilgal at the beginning of the campaign to occupy the land of Canaan and issued His orders as the “Captain of the LORD’s host.”

Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”Genesis 17:8

God promised Abraham that his descendents would be delivered out of the land of bondage and take possession of the land of Canaan. God not only confirmed his promise to Isaac and Jacob, but stated He would give their offspring the Promised Land as an everlasting possession.

Now the great Angel of the covenant, the Word, the Son of God, reappears and speaks with Divine authority and calls the Israelites to account for their disobedience.

“‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.” Numbers 33:55

Before they entered into Canaan, the LORD had warned the Israelites several times about the importance of clearing out the Promised Land of the idolatrous Canaanite peoples but they failed to obey him.

And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord. Judges 2:3-5

Bokim is the Hebrew word for weepers. The people wept there, crying out against their own foolishness of disobedience and ingratitude to the LORD who had delivered them out of the bondage of Egypt. They sacrificed there to the LORD to atone for the sins they had committed. This was an indication that they were near Shiloh, where the tabernacle was located.

After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. Judges 2:6-7

The author of the book of Judges is recounting a history of the tribes of Israel, from the division of the land by Joshua to the time in which the angel of the LORD speaks. Joshua divided the land among them by casting lots in order to determine God’s will for the territory allotted to each tribe. Joshua urged the people to be obedient to the LORD and the Israelites solemnly promised to obey God’s commands. They continued to be faithful during Joshua’s lifetime and during the lives of his contemporaries who had survived him.

When all that generation who had seen the wondrous works of God in their behalf had died, the succeeding generation worshipped the Baals and Ashtaroth, the gods of the Canaanites. They provoked the LORD to anger and they were therefore delivered into the hands of their enemies.

Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. Judges 2:8-9

Joshua was called the servant of the LORD as was his mentor Moses.

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. Deuteronomy 34:5

Only two other outstanding men were known as servants of Yehovah in the Bible.

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:

I love you, Lord, my strength. Psalm 18:1

Moses the deliverer, Joshua who led Israel into the Promised Land and David, Israel’s greatest king, were servants of the LORD and types of the Messiah.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Isaiah 52:13

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. Judges 2:10-11

Ba’al was a title and honorific meaning “lord” or “master.” Baal, the sun-god, was the name of the supreme god worshiped in ancient Canaan and Phoenicia. Baal religion revolved around the cycles of nature necessary for survival and prosperity in the ancient world, primarily growing crops or raising livestock, as well as the growth of human populations.

Baal was also a fertility god who was believed to enable the earth to produce crops and people to produce children. Different regions worshiped Baal in different ways, and Baal proved to be a highly adaptable god. Various locales emphasized one or another of his attributes and developed special “denominations” of Baalism. The Israelites did evil by serving the Baals.

In the Baal religion, base sex worship was prevalent, and religious prostitution even commanded; human sacrifice was common; and it was a frequent practice–in an effort to placate their gods–to kill young children and bury them in the foundations of a house or public building at the time of construction.

The first Holy Roman Emperor Constantine rejected the seventh day Sabbath for the venerable day of the sun. The Roman calendar which names its days and many of its months after pagan gods is a solar calendar.

Mithra, the Light of the World, is an ancient sun god identified with Sol Invictus, who was born on December 25th. Mithraism was popular in the Roman Empire with many Emperors following, not just the populace. It had seven sacraments, the same as the Catholic Church, baptism, and communion with bread and water. The Eucharist hosts were signed with a cross, an ancient phallic symbol which originated in Egypt, and the Egyptian cross (the ankh which represents Tammuz), still shows the original form which included the female symbol. The Roman Catholic Church incorporated pagan traditions into their rituals in order to attract the masses and codify their power, wealth and influence as a Holy Roman Empire.

The Monstrance is used to display a round wafer of bread, called the host, which is used in what is called the Mass, Lord’s Supper, Communion or Eucharistic meal. The Catholic believes this wafer of bread turns into the actual body of Christ when consecrated during the Mass. During the baroque period, the Monstrance took on a rayed form of a sun-monstrance with a circular window surrounded by a silver or gold frame with rays. The priest sometimes holds up the sunburst monstrance with the host encased for the congregation to adore and venerate. Virtually any time the monstrance, a pagan sun symbol, is viewed by the congregation, they kneel in submission. The Catholic Church describes itself in its documents as engaged in the act of worshipping the Eucharist, which is also called adoration or veneration.

“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.” Revelation 17:9

The woman on the beast of Revelation chapter 17 is known as “Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots.” The topography or terrain that marks the geographical location of the center of the false religion is noted for its seven hills. The Whore of Babylon is a religious system that is characterized as prostituting itself. Spiritual fornication is idol worship. The Empire of the Caesars had its capital in Rome which was built on seven hills and was well-known for its many statues of its Roman gods and goddesses including the Caesars. Julius Caesar as Rome’s Pontifex Maximus held supreme religious authority in Rome. He was not only the ruler of the state but the high priest of the pagan Roman religion.

The term “Pontifex Maximus” is applied to the high priest of the Roman Catholic Church today. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition: ‘For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise.” Not only does the Pope continue under the titles of the Caesars of Rome but claims to be the Vicar of Christ on earth. The Pope claims to be authorized to act as the substitute or agent of Christ on earth. Jesus himself promised us that He would send the Holy Spirit to act on his behalf and not a fallible man. As Christ Jesus had been the Master, Counselor and Guide to believers, He promised to send the Holy Spirit as His substitute so that He might abide with them forever (John 14:16).

The Roman Catholic Church noted for its widespread display and veneration of the statues of saints is in direct opposition to the commandments of God stated in Exodus 20: 4-5a: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:

Although Romanists claim that they are not worshipping the statues of saints or Mary, the very fact that they bow down to them violates God’s commandment. The location and practices of the Roman Catholic Church seem to make it the ideal candidate as the Whore of Babylon.

They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. Judges 2:12-13

Asherah, or Ashtoreth, was the name of the chief female deity worshiped in ancient Syria, Phoenicia, and Canaan. She is presented as a consort of Baal, the sun-god and the two were worshiped with lewd rites.

So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:8-9

In their own strength and foolish stubbornness of heart, Nimrod’s followers were defying the LORD God by building a high waterproof tower. Instead of learning a lesson from the Flood by fearing the LORD and turning from evil, they trusted in the arm of flesh. The purpose of the tower was the worship of the heavenly hosts which is known as “The Babylonian Mystery Religion.”

When Nimrod died, the Babylonian mystery religion in which he figured prominently continued on. His wife Queen Semiramis saw to that. Once he was dead, she deified him as the Sun-god. Later, when this adulterous and idolatrous woman gave birth to an illegitimate son, she claimed that this son was Nimrod reborn. Semiramis named her son Damu (from the Sumerian “dam,” or blood), which in the later Babylonian language became Dammuzi and in Hebrew Tammuz.

As men were scattered over the face of the earth speaking different languages, they continued in their worship of the sun, moon and other heavenly bodies. Therefore, the same mythical gods and goddesses they worshipped were called by different names based upon the language that was spoken. In various cultures Nimrod later became known as Baal, the Great Life Giver, the god of fire, Bel, Molech, etc. Baal (sun worship) was the chief male deity of the Canaanites, Zeus the chief deity of the Greeks and Jupiter the chief deity of the Romans.

Semiramis became known as the “Queen of Heaven,” and was the prototype from which all other pagan goddesses came. Semiramis is the name of the moon goddess for the Assyrians. Ashtorah is a moon goddess for the Canaanites. Isis is the Egyptian name. Ishtar is the Babylonian name. Artemis was worshipped by the Greeks and known as Diana by the Romans.

Asherah was represented by a limbless tree trunk planted in the ground which was also known as an Ashera pole. The trunk was usually carved into a symbolic representation of the goddess. Because of the association with carved trees, the places of Asherah worship were commonly called “groves,” and the Hebrew word “asherah” (plural, “asherim”) could refer either to the goddess or to a grove of trees.

Asherah was also worshiped as the goddess of love and war and was sometimes linked with Anath, another Canaanite goddess. Worship of Asherah was noted for its sensuality and involved ritual prostitution. The priests and priestesses of Asherah also practiced divination and fortune-telling.

Mecca at the time Muhammed was born was inhabited by the tribe of Quraysh (Koreish) to which Muhammed’s clan of Hasim belonged. The city was a mercantile center with shrines to many gods, chief of whom was llah. The Ka’bah sanctuary in the city square supposedly guaranteed the safety of those who came to trade. The pre-Islamic deities of Arabia which were most venerated were astral deities, especially the triad of the moon god, the sun goddess, and the god associated with the planet Venus. The moon god was the chief and was protector of the cities. These deities were given various names however the moon god was evidently originally the Babylonian moon god Sin. To end division among his people in Mecca, Muhammad elevated the moon god A llah to the chief and only god.

In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. Judges 2:14-15

The Israelites were not only engaged in physical prostitution with shrine priests and priestesses; they were also committing spiritual adultery be worshipping other gods. Israel was in covenant relationship with Yehovah who had delivered out of the bondage of Egypt. Therefore, He chastised the Israelites by allowing raiders to plunder them, their enemies to defeat them and the neighboring nations to rule over them.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Revelation 3:19

 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted The Angel of the LORD themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s command. Judges 2:16-17

Following the conquest of Canaan by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel and Judah, the Israelite tribes formed a loose confederation. No central government existed in this confederation; in times of crisis, the people were led by ad hoc chieftains, known as judges.

Shoftim is the Hebrew word that is translated as judges. Many times the judges served in the role as an official with the authority to administer justice but not always. Most shoftim acted primarily as military leaders in times of war. The leaders were thought of as being sent by God to deliver the people from a threat. After the threat had passed, shoftim were generally expected to give up their position as military leaders. They were most likely tribal or local leaders, but their authority was recognized by local groups or tribes beyond their own. In accordance with the needs of the time, their functions were primarily military and judicial but they did not act like or have the authority of a king.

Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Judges 2:18-19

As a person or nation continues in cycles of sin, the individual or nation will develop a callused heart and a seared conscience.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 1Timothy 4:1-2

We can draw parallels between the ever increasing corruption and evil practices of the tribes of Israel during the time of the Israel’s judges and our own nation. The lies and deception propagated by those who promote political correctness have been affirmed by godless judges on the Supreme Court so that immorality and pagan practices have become the law of the land.

Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua. Judges 2:20-23

Ultimately, since the people violated their Covenant with God, He did not drive out the remnant of the peoples who were left in Canaan at the time of Joshua’s death. God left them there as a test to winnow out those who were really committed to following Him

Is it possible that the LORD is also very angry with the United States of America for turning away from our Creator? Are we out of favor with God because of the continuing effort by those in power to ban the 10 Commandments, Christian prayer and the Bible from our public institutions, by engaging in gross sexual immorality, the destruction of millions of babies in the womb, for loving money and materialism, and waning in our support of Israel?

After Joshua Died, Israelites Fight the Remaining Canaanites


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After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”

The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.” Judges 1:1-2

Reuben had forfeited the birthright as Jacob’s firstborn son due to gross sin. While Jacob was in mourning for his wife Rachel, who had died in childbirth, Reuben slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah who had been Rachel’s handmaiden.

Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi who were the second and third born sons of Jacob were indignant and very angry because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. Because Shechem desperately wanted to marry Dinah, Simeon and Levi used the situation to deceive Shechem and the men of the city to enter into an agreement with them.

Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.” Genesis 34:13-17

Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. Genesis 34:25-26

The consequence of their act of violence was twofold. First Simeon and Levi, who were next in line after Reuben, both forfeited the birthright. In addition their offspring, who would eventually enter into the Promised Land, would be dispersed in Israel. During the days of Joshua, the Levites did not receive an allotted territory but were scattered throughout Israel is designated cities. The Simeonites, on the other hand, received their inheritance within the territory of Judah.

Although Judah was the fourth born son of Jacob, because his three older brothers forfeited their rights, he took a prominent position in Israel. The tribe of Judah was the first tribe selected by the LORD to fight and defeat the Canaanites in order to acquire their allotted land.

King David, who descended from the tribe of Judah, would defeat and subjugate all the enemies of Israel. Messiah Jesus, the Son of David, would be born King of the Jews.

The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them. Judges 1:3

Since Simeon’s allotment of land was within the territory of Judah, the Simeonites agreed that they would join with the Judeans to first fight the Canaanites to conquer the outer territory. Then the Judeans would join the Simeonites to fight against the Canaanites who resided within the territory of Judah.

When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there. Judges 1:4-7

Bezek (lightning) was a Canaanite city which was taken captive by Judah. Adoni-Bezek means the Lord of Bezek. When they cut off the king’s thumbs and great toes, he confessed that this was righteous judgment upon him because he had done the same to seventy kings whom he made crawl under his table and eat scraps like dogs.

The cutting off of the thumbs makes waging war with the hands impossible. The cutting off of the big toes makes walking difficult and running away hopeless. This act was to totally humiliate one’s enemies and assure that they would be unable to retaliate or escape.

 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. Judges 1:8-10

Joshua from the Tribe of Ephraim and Caleb from the Tribe of Judah were amongst the twelve spies sent to spy out the Land of Canaan after the Exodus. When the spies returned, the other ten spies spread a bad report among the Israelites.

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. Numbers 13:27-28

That night the Israelites, gripped with fear, grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They accused the LORD of bringing them to the land only for them to die by the sword of the Canaanites.

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they. Numbers 14:5-12

Moses interceded on behalf of the rebellious Israelites and the LORD forgave them, but none of that generation with the exception of Joshua and Caleb would live to enter into the Promised Land.

…not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Numbers 14:23-24

After Canaan had been conquered and Joshua was dividing the land west of the Jordan River, Caleb said the following:

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. Joshua 14:7-13

Talmai, Ahiman and Sheshai were Nephilim, three giant sons of Anak whom Caleb and the spies saw in Mount Hebron when they went in to explore the land. They were driven out and slain by Caleb.

From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).

And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage. Judges 1:11-13

Debir means “the oracle.” Afterwards it became a town assigned to the Levites. Forty-two cities scattered throughout the portions of the other tribes were set aside as cities of Levites. In these cities, the Levites served as spiritual teachers to the people of Israel. In a sense the Levites were oracles who were the spokespersons of God.

Caleb’s younger brother Othniel was given his niece to be his wife for his victory in capturing Debir.

One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. Judges 1:14-15

Behind every great man is a great woman. Aksah, Caleb’s daughter and Othniel’s wife, urged her husband to ask Caleb for a field. Caleb gave them a field in the northern Negev. Then she asked her father for the upper and lower springs which fed into the fertile land which lay at the foot of the mountain slope.

The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad. Judges 1:16

The Kenites were a nomadic clan. One of the most recognized Kenites is Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, a priest in the land of Midian.

Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. Judges 1:17

Hormah is a noun meaning, “a place devoted by ban.” The verb form literally means “executed the ban upon it” or utterly destroyed it.

Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory. Judges 1:18

These three cities were in the country of the Philistines, upon the sea-coast. Because the Israelites were content with taking these cities and making the people pay tribute instead of destroying them, the Israelites did not hold the cities long before the Philistines recovered them again.

The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. Judges 1:19-20

You will note that verses 19-20 of the first chapter of Judges are a summary statement concerning Caleb and the men of Judah. It is also important to note that the Judeans were unable to drive out the people from the plains.

The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites. Judges 1:21

The land of Canaan was conquered around 1400 B.C. The Jebusites were not driven out until the time of King David around 1050 B.C. three hundred fifty years later!

Now the tribes of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the Lord was with them. When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, “Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.” So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day. Judges 1:22-26

Ephraim and Manasseh comprised the tribes of Joseph. Joseph’s father Jacob had been tricked into marrying Leah. Although Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, he was the firstborn son by Rachel. Both of Joseph’s sons were granted territory in the Promised Land. Therefore, Joseph received a double portion as if he was Jacob’s firstborn. Half of the tribe of Manasseh occupied territory on the east side of the Jordan River and the other half of the tribe occupied territory on the west side of the Jordan.

But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.

Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Judges 1:27-29

The Hebrews who themselves had been enslaved and pressed into force labor in Egypt did not drive out the Canaanites but pressed them into forced labor.

Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the tribes of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond. Judges 1:30-36

Not one tribe of Israel succeeded in driving out the idolatrous Canaanites but they were content to live among them as slave masters.

Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 20:17-18

The failure of the tribes to obey God’s command to destroy the Canaanites would ultimately result in cycles of apostasy and divine discipline. After years of enemy oppression, the people cry out to God and pray for forgiveness and God sends a judge to lead them to freedom. There is a time of peace and obedience during the judge’s lifetime and then the people fall into sin again.