Readings for this week
Monday: Judges 4
Tuesday: Judges 5
Wednesday: Judges 6
Thursday: Judges 7
Friday: Judges 8
Saturday: Judges 9
Sunday: Judges 10
Introduction to Judges 4-10
King Jabin of Hazor and General Sisera oppress Israel because the Israelites have once again done evil. Yet, it should be notes that Joshua had supposedly already defeated a “King Jabin” at this point.
Now, Deborah was a prophetess and the “wife of Lappidoth,” meaning “woman of fire.” There is hesitation on the part of Barak to go into battle, so Deborah tells him the victory will be given to “a woman.” Ironically, both of the women in the story, Deborah and Jael, show more courage than the leading man.
Deborah’s name means “honeybee.” Barak’s name means “lightning.” Yet in the story… “honeybee” is brave and “lightning” is chicken.
God throws Sisera’s army into a panic near the Kishon River and Sisera flees the battle. Sisera seeks refuge in the tent of Jael. Now Jael’s husband is a Kenite… a people known for their violence. However, Jael’s name is Hebrew and means “Yahweh is God.” “Sisera” means “snake.” So Jael gives Sisera milk to drink and he falls asleep. While he is sleeping, Jael drives a tent peg through Sisera’s head, or “temple.” Now The word used here as “temple” is in Hebrew “berragato,” which is related to “baraq.” When Jael crushes Sisera’s “temple,” she also crushes Barak with embarrassment, because a woman had to do what he had failed to do.
The song of Deborah is thought to be the oldest section of the book of Judges. In this song, Deborah praises God for giving them victory in battle. She also praises Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for her violence against Sisera. The song also records some interesting details of the battle, such as that God had sent giant hailstones upon the armies of King Jabin and General Sisera. The song also provides us with a look at what Sisera’s own mother might have thought about his violent death. The text also says that there are forty years of peace after this successful battle.
Deborah was successful, but the cycle of disobedience starts again, and Israel is impoverished by Midianite oppression. But God sends a leader to them in a man named Gideon.
Gideon was from the weakest clan in Manasseh, and he was the lowest-ranked person in his family. Gideon is hiding in a winepress, threshing wheat, when an angel appears to him. The angel says, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” He tells Gideon to go save Israel from the Midianites.
However, Gideon is very unsure of everything. Gideon responds to God’s messenger with: defiant questions, pointing out the insignificance of his own roots, repeatedly requesting signs, such as the fleece incidents.
Gideon’s name comes from “gada,” which means “cut down.” And Gideon’s name fits him because he cuts down the idols of his father Joash. The name of Joash is, ironically, a Yahwistic name, even though Joash is an idolater. His father renames him “Jerub-Baal,” meaning “one who contends with Baal,” still refusing to acknowledge Gideon as Yahweh's servant, but only as Baal's enemy.
And God tests Gideon by reducing the size of his army. The people who are afraid are told to go home. The People who get down on their knees to drink water instead of lapping it with their tongues are told to go home. Until finally, Gideon's army is reduced from 32,000 to just 300 men. And Gideon is only reassured of victory after listening to a Midianite conversation instead of listening to God.
The army uses trumpets and water pitchers to create noise confusion at night surrounding the Midianite camp, and the Midianites panic and slaughter themselves. And so Gideon is victorious in battle! And The people cry out “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!” But Gideon gets trigger-happy and wipes out several other groups of people along with the Midianite army.
The people try to make Gideon king, but he refuses, insisting that God is Israel’s king. And e rules as judge for forty years.
Overtime, the quality of Gideon’s leadership becomes less and less. There is still idolatry in the land. And Gideon even makes a golden ephod that the people worship, hearkening back to Aaron and the golden calf. And so Gideon begins by cutting down idols, and ends by setting them up. Previously, Gideon refused to be made king over Israel; now, he is living like a luxurious king. Gideon also has a son named Abimelech. “Abimelech” means “father is king.”
Now, Abimelech was the son of Gideon and his concubine, and Abimelech had seventy half-brothers who e talked into supporting his kingship cause. And He used the money they gave him to hire a bunch of thugs. And Abimelech killed all but one of his half-brothers by crushing their heads against a large stone. Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, escaped by hiding.
And Abimelech proclaimed himself king of Israel. But Jotham decided to resist his half-brother. He climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted a parable to the people of Shechem.
The Parable of the trees:
Olive Tree rejected kingship
Fig Tree rejected kingship
Vine rejected kingship
So the people made the Thorn Bush king
The Shechemites got the message and rebelled by robbing Abimelech’s allies.
Later, some guy named Gaal moves to Shechem and tries to get the people to follow him. But Abimelech finds out and slaughters the rebels. And the next day, Abimelech slaughters the farmers in their fields. He then enters the city to kill everyone else. Now the people were hiding in a temple-tower, and as Abimelech is preparing to burn the tower, a woman from above drops a large millstone on his head. As he is dying, he tells his men to quickly stab him so that he won’t be remembered as the one who was killed by a woman... even though that's what we remember him for today...so that plan worked out great.
Next, we have…
Tola, who was from the tribe of Issachar. He lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. And His father was Puah and his grandfather was Dodo. “He rose to save Israel.” And He led them for 23 years
Jair, who was from Kamon in the region of Gilead. He had thirty sons who rode thirty donkeys and who controlled thirty towns in Gilead. He led Israel 22 years.
Again, Israel was evil in the LORD’s sight and began to be oppressed. However, they began to cry out and confess to Him and they “put away their gods.” The text says that Yahweh’s response is “impatient” for he could bear their misery no longer.