Wednesday, October 31, 2012

LXXXI - Judges 17 - 21 - Micah, the Levite Priest, and the Benjamites

 Judges 17 - 21

You need to take a few moments and read these chapters in a single sitting.  It is one continuous story, beginning with Micah and growing to a war within the nation Israel, almost resulting in genocide of one of the twelve tribes.  I will paraphrase an overview of these chapters and then expound on a number of passages.

Note that several times in these five chapters will be the phrase, "There was no king in Israel at this time, and people did as they saw fit".

   i.  Micah, an Ephraimite takes his mother's silver
  ii.  Micah and his mother has a silversmith melt down the silver and make idols
 iii.  A young Levite leaves home in Bethleham Judah
 iv.  Micah hires Levite to be his own personal priest
  v.  The tribe of Dan searched for land they could settle in because they lost theirs
  vi.  Band of Danites came upon Micah's house, plundered it, and hired away the Levite priest
 vii.  The Danites liked the city of Laish and conquered it for their own, burning it to the ground
viii.  Danites rebuilt the city and called it Dan and settled there, making many idols to worship
 ix.  The Levite from Bethleham Judah takes a concubine
  x.  Benjamin has turned into Sodom
 xi.  Benjamite men want to rape the Levite, but rapes the concubine instead and kills her
xii.  The Levite cuts up her body and sends the pieces to each of the twelve tribes of Israel
xiii.  All of Israel is enraged and wages war against the Benjamites
xiv.  Israel destroys the entire tribe of Benjamin except a small remnance
 xv.  Israel repents wiping out an entire tribe
xvi.  Israel provides wives for the remaining Benjamites to replenish the twelfth tribe

That sure is a lot happening.  But there is more than meets the eye in this overview.  The story in these five chapters is full of clues as to just how far from Godliness Israel had come, without a leader or a judge to lead them and show them the way.

Starting in the seventeenth chapter, Micah steals from his mother.  {That doesn't say much for his character, but I think the whole nation has abandoned its righteousness.}  He returned the silver and his mother gave silver to a silversmith and had him make an idol from it.  So in the first five verses we already have theft, dishonoring parents (stole from his own mother), making an idol, (remember the golden calf at the bottom of Mt. Sinai), and of course the worshipping of that idol, making a special place for it in Micah's house, and making one of his sons a priest, disrespecting the instructions God sent down concerning the priesthood (Micah and his family were Ephraimites, not Levites).  {Just in those first five verses we see this great nation of Israel going the way of the pagens.  God's heart must be broken.  These are His chosen people.}   Next, in verse 7, we see how a Levite decides to run away from his family in their designated city, and actually SELLS his priestly services to Micah and becomes Micah's personal priest.  {How easy is it for a society to go astray!}  Micah (vs 13) feels pretty good about himself now that he has a Levite as his own personal priest.  He is sure God is going to shower him with blessings.

Chapter 18 - This is rather sad about the Danites having no homeland any more, but they must have squandered it and allowed the Canaanites to take it from them.  {Remember, God told all of the tribes through both Moses and Joshua that they must rid their land of the Canaanites if they were to enjoy the fruits of the land in peace for all generations to come.}  They sent out quite a large band of men to search for a place for their entire tribe to claim as their own and settle in.  {One problem I see here is that there was no organizatin in Israel.  If there was, the Danites could have met with all the tribes and something could have been worked out, but instead they planned to find a piece of territory and take it by force.  But that begs the question of why didn't they take back their own land by force instead of warring with their cousins.  When ungodliness sets in, everything goes haywird.}  The Danites dealt harshly with Micah (he probably deserved it) and they were harsh with the citizens of Laish, as they killed everybody and burned down the city.   They stole everything Micah had, including his priest.
Chapter 19  -  {Note the first verse.  All of us need organization and leadership.}  This chapter deal with a different Levite than the one in the previous two chapters.  This Levite traveled with a concubine (mistress).  He goes to the city of Gibeah in Benjamin and when he was spending the night with a kind man of the city, the men of that city behaved exactly like the men of Sodom in Abraham's day.  As you read this chapter you will see that the evil men of the city were satisfied only after they were given the concubine, raped her repeatedly and left her dying on the doorstep of the Levite's host.  The Levite sees that she is dead, so he cut her up into twelve pieces and sent a pieces to every tribe in Israel, to show Israel what the Benjamites did.

Chapter 20 - All of Israel was outraged of what the Benjamites did to that woman.  So angry with Benjamin were they, that they gathered together a tremendous army (400,000 soldiers).  Although these Israelite cousins were timid about attacking Benjamin, they did so anyway.  It took three separate battles, but Israel's united army finally defeated the Benjamites, killing all but six hundred men.  {I would think it would be a sad thing for God to see Israel warring against itself.  He wanted them to war against the Canaanites and purge the Promised Land.  This has still yet to happen.}
In the final chapter of Judges we see that the nation Israel is very repentant that they have all but wiped out the entire tribe of Benjamin.  They realized they must somehow make it so that the Benjamites could rebuild their tribe, which would of course require many wives for those remaining six hundred men.  You need to read this chapter to see just how they were able to provide wives for the Benjamites, without breaking any laws or previous commitments.  The fact that they were burdened in their hearts to accomplish this was one of the few bright moments in this section of Judges.

To me, Judges has been a good book to read and study closely.  So much in this one single book.

Next post - The Book of Ruth.  You will find Ruth very refreshing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

LXXX - Chapter 15 - Delilah Lives Down to Her Reputation

In our last post we saw that Samson made a foolish bet with some Philistine men that they could not solve his riddle, but Samson lost the bet because he was betrayed by his Philistine wife (his wife was NOT Delilah).  He was embarassed and angry to the point that he just left his wife and returned to his parents.  One might think Samson learned his lesson about controlling himself around women, obstaining from wine, and controlling his temper.  Let's see how he does.

Chapter 15  -  As this chapter begins, it does not tell exactly how much time has elapsed since Samson left his wife and returned to his parents' home.  But in verse 2 it says "later on", he went to visit his wife with a gift of a young goat.  But her father would not allow Samson in to see her and explained that he had given her to one of Samson's Philistine friends.  He offered Samson her younger sister, but Samson burned with anger, having been dealt with so deceptively.  In vss 3-5, it tells how Samson catches three hundred foxes, tied them together in pairs, set their tails on fire, and sent the foxes through the vineyards and olive groves, burning them all up.  Out of revenge, the Philistines killed and burned his wife and her family.  This, in turn, angered Samson to exact even more revenge.  This act almost started a war between Judah and the Philistines.  {A judge is supposed to bring peace to Israel, not war.}  Vs 8 - Samson hid in a cave in Judah after he slaughtered many more Philistines.  The Philistines, in return, gathered a small army and went to find him.  The people of Judah approached the Philistines and wanted to know why they were putting on such a show of aggression, but the Philistines said they wanted only Samson, and advised the Judeans to give him up to them.

Vss 11-20  -  Judah took three thousand men and found Samson with the intentions of giving him over to the Philistines.  Samson talked the Judeans out of killing him, but rather to bind him and hand him over to his enemies.  The Judeans agreed and bound him securely with two new ropes, strong enough to hold a horse.  So as the Philistines approached Samson to take him into captivity, he broke the ropes as though they were made of straw.  He then found a carcass of a donkey (there he goes again touching a dead carcass, which Nazarites are forbidden to do).  He grabbed the jaw bone and killed a thousand Philistines with it.  He named that place Ramath Lehi, which means "jawbone hill".

Chapter 16 - Notice in the last verse of chapter 15 that it says Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.  But this does not mark the end of Samson's reign.  It seems chapter 16 picks up at a time during these twenty years.  The first verse references a time sometime after the events ending chapter 15.  Samson ventures into Gaza (south of Dan, into Judah) and hires a prostitute.  The Philistines hears about him being in the area so they surround the city and wait for him at the gate, in hopes to capture and kill him.  But Samson got up in the middle of the night, tore the doors and posts from the gate, and carried them off.  His strength seemed to grow with each passing test.  His strength had become famous and something to be feared by the Philistines.
Verse 4  -  This verse says that "some time later", Samson fell in love with the notorious Delilah.  Having become desparate to kill Samson, the Philistine rulers went to Delilah and offered her about 28 pounds of silver each if she would lure from Samson the secret of his tremendous strength.  So, beginning in verse 6 Delilah begins trying to get Samson to tell her the secret to his strength.  In verse 7, Samson begins to toy with her by giving her false infomation.  It's almost silly, but he tells her that if someone would tie him with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then he would not have the strength to break them, rendering him as weak as any other man.  This continues through verse 16:  1) Delilah would plead with him.  2) He would tell her something false.  3) She would do as he said.  4) Then the Philistines would attack him.  5) He would defeat them because his strength would still be with him.  Check out vss 13 and 14.  This would go on and on as Delilah would wear him down with her persistance.  {The thing that puzzles me is that Samson is so foolish to remain with Delilah, knowing that every time he tells her how to remove his strength, she does it and betrays him to the Philistines.  As I've mentioned before, Samson has no self control, and it has caused him grief all his life.}

Finaly, look at verse 16.  She finaly wore him out with her persistance and he told her everything.  Verse 17 - "No razor has ever been used on my head because I have been a Nazarite dedicated to God from my mother's womb."  Then Delilah, being Delilah, had his hair cut off while he was sleeping on her lap.  She then called for the Philistines, who came and took him (he had no more strength), gouged out his eyes, and took him to Gaza, bound with bronze shackles.  How sad it is to picture this in one's mind.  {Samson did not get what he deserved, but he got what he asked for.  There is often a difference.}

Vss 23-->  Capturing Samson called for a celebration.  The Philistines decided to combine a worship service to their god Dagon with being entertained by Samson being helpless, so they brought out Samson and stood him between two pillars in their arena of assembly.  It says in vs 25 that he performed for them.  I'm not exactly sure what he did that would be called performing.  Perhaps his helplessness was amusing enough for them or maybe they had him do stunts, but either way they were clearly entertained.  But the Philistines, in their drunken stupor, disregarded the obvious:  Samson's hair had been growing back the whole time he had been imprisoned.  In verse 26, Samson, under the guise of needing rest, asked the servant to lean him against two pillars so he could rest, which the servant agreed to do.  Look at verse 30:  One of the few times in Samson's recorded life that he prayed.  He asked God to give him his strength back one more time.  Poor Samson.  He was still operating on the motive of personal revenge.  He prayed to die with the Philistines.  I can't help but feel sorry for Samson.  This suicide wish grew out of the frighful mess he had made of his life.  He was blind and broken and alone and humiliated in front of his hated enemies.  He wanted to die.  But God heard his prayers.  With a mighty push Samson brought down the entire temple, killing himself and all the Philistine rulers with him.  He actually killed more Philistines in his death than he did in his life.  The last verse of this chapter tells of Samson's family coming to Gaza to recover his body to give him a proper burial.
{In conclusion to this study of Samson:  Although the angel of the Lord announces (therefore appoints) Samson to be a Nazarite, and gives the specific purpose, Samson never fully realized his noble mission.  This is sad, given the gifts that God gave to Samson.  He never became a national or even a regional leader.  His exploits against the Philistines were mostly out of personal revenge, rather than for the purpose of freeing Israel.  His entire work, except for his trip to Gaza, was confined to an area near his home not more that seven miles long and three miles wide.  Samson had it all.  Everything with which to become one of, if not, THE greatest judge in Israel's History.  Everything except one:  Self Control.  The abandonment of self control almost always leads to regret.}

Next post - Micah, the Levite, and the Benjamites

Saturday, October 27, 2012

LXXIX - Judges chapters 13-14 - Samson

LXXIX  -  Judges chapters 13-14  -  Samson

After the death of Abdon, God delivered Israel into the hands of the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years.  That span of time would effect up to three generations, the youngest of which would know no other kind of life.  During this long and painful oppression, the angel of the Lord appeared to a Danite family, Manoah and his wife (the Scripture does not tell her name).  These would become the parents of Samson.

I've always considered Samson one of the more entertaining characters of the Bible.  Samson is the epitome of human weakness when it comes to the temptation of the flesh, which is exactly the reason for spending some time on studying his life.  Samson was a Danite, the son of Manoah.  However, it was not Manoah to whom God spoke, but rather his wife, Samson's mother.

Note in vs 2 that they lived in Zorah, only fifteen miles from the Philistine stronghold of Ekron.  Dan, if you look at the map, was a divided tribe.  Right before the death of Joshua, the Danites conquered a small section in the northeast side of the Jordan.  Although there were still many Danites in this area, it had come under control of the Canaanites, especially the Philistines.  Still in verse 2,  Manoah's wife, like many of the important women in the Old Testimant, was barren and was unable, up to this point, to have children.  As we have seen with Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah, this was a grievous problem for a Hebrew family.  There would be no hier to carry on the family's name and bloodline.  Further, they believed that barrenness was a judgement from God.  (Gen 29-30) The Lord opened the womb, and the Lord closed it up.

Verse 3 - An angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah's wife and announced to her that she would have a son.  Several times thus far in our study, and several times yet to come we see that God sends a human looking angel to speak for Him.  This title of "Angel of the Lord" appears over a hundred times in the Bible.  (and how many of those times was the angel speaking to a woman?  interesting, huh?)  Verse 4 - The angel instructed her on how she was to care for herself during pregnance.  She was to keep two of the prohibitions of the Nazarite vow:  1) Drink no wine or strong drink; 2) Eat no unclean food.  In essance, she was to treat the inside of her body as though she were a Nazarite since she was carrying a baby who was to become a Nazarite.  Verse 5 - The angel told her that the promised child would be a Nazarite, which would explain to her the reason for the previous instructions to her.  A Nazarite is a person who, from birth, is dedicated to God for a special purpose.  {The full Nazarite vow is written in Numbers 6:1-21.  It includes four things:  1) A Nazarite would drink no wine or strong drink, which included anything fermented, 2) The hair of a Nazarite is never to be cut, 3) No unclean food is to be eaten, and 4) he is to avoid contact with any dead body, human or animal.}  Verse 5 also reveals the purpose of the Nazarine dedication of Samson, which would be to diliver Israel from the oppression of the Philistines.  The remaining verses of this chapter 13 tells of Manoah and his wife's dealing with the angel of the Lord, which you might find interesting.  The very last verse covers an impressive span of time.  It tells of Samson's birth and then how the Spirit of the Lord begins to stir within Samson when (I think) he was an adolescent.

Chapter 14 - The first verse shows us what we're dealing with in Samson the Nazarite.  It says he was in Timnah.  {What was he doing in Timnah?  Timnah was vineyard country.  As a Nazarite, he was not supposed to drink wine or eat any fermented food (such as raisins).  Then (same verse) he tells his father Manoah that he saw a Philistine woman he wants and demands that his father get her for him.  {Sounds very disrespectful and assuming.  Had Samson been told of his mission in life?  and perhaps thought he was beyond reproach?  or worse yet, beyond correction?  think on that.}  In verse 2 both of his parents appealed to him to find a Hebrew girl, either a Danite or a girl from another tribe of Israel.  But Samson would not listen.  He wanted that Philistine girl, and repeated his demand.  However in verse 4 the Scripture tells us that this was in God's plan, in order to give Samson inroads to the Philistines, who actually ruled Israel at this time.  Vss 5-6 tell of Samson being threatened by a lion.  {This is the first indication of Samson's tremendous strength.}  He tore the lion apart with his bare hands.
Verse 8  -  It says that "some time later", Samson went back with the intentions of marrying the Philistine woman.  {Note: this was NOT Delilah.  She came on the scene later.}  On his way he noticed the carcass of the lion he killed and that it had bees around it that had made some honey in the carcass.  So Samson scooped some honey from it.  {Now remember, a Nazarite is not allowed to touch anything dead.}  This might be overlooked, but we see in verse 9 that he shared the honey with his parents, but did not tell them that he got it from a carcass.  He knew this was forbidden and did not want his parent to know.

Vss 10  -  Samson (against his parents' wishes) went ahead and married the Philistine woman.  He held a feast to celebrate, and during this feast he made a challenge to the Philistines with him to solve a riddle (vs 14) "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet."  Samson placed a wager on this riddle, knowing it would be too difficult for these men to figure out.  So in verse 15, the Philistine men approached Samson's wife and told her to get the answer to the riddle from Samson or they would kill her father's family.  She immediately wept to Samson to give her the answer to the riddle, but Samson remained strong at first.  {she pulled the old "if you really love me, you'll tell me".}  But she pressed him for seven days until she wore him down and he told her, at which time she reported it to the Philistines.  They immediatly approached Samson with the answer.  In verse 18 we see that Samson knew they tricked him, as he responded "If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle".  In vss 19-20 Samson goes to Ashkelon and sleighed thirty men to get their garments to pay his bet to the Philistines.  He burned with anger at the whole situation (he probably felt like a fool) and left his wife and went home to his parents'.  One would think he has learned a valuable lesson from this, but Samson is still Samson.

Next post  -  Delilah Comes on the Scene

Thursday, October 25, 2012

LXXVIII - Judges 10-12 - Territorial Rule

The tyranny of Abilmelek has come to and end, but only after so much destruction was done, mostly in the territories of Manasseh and Ephraim.
Chapter 10  -  After Abimelek's reign, God rose up a judge named Tola.  Tola was of the Issachar tribe, but lived in the hill country of Ephraim.  {The allotment of the land to the twelve tribes happened generations ago.  Many men married women of different tribes, which meant relocation in many instances.  This would have resulted in the tribes getting mixed in with others, which was fine, but they were commissioned to remain in Israel proper.}  Tola lead Israel twenty three years.  It doesn't say much about Tola, but he was surely refreshing after Abilelek.

In verse 3 it says Tola was followed by Jair for twenty two years.  I cannot find yet what tribe Jair was from, but there was a Gilead in Jair's ancestry and he was of the tribe of Manasseh.  The Scripture mentions that Jair had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys and controlled thirty towns in Gilead.  Tola and Jair judged for a combined forty five years.  There was peace during these years, but no significant occurances took place.  But that is not to suggest these were not good judges, because it was not until the end of their reigns that Israel returned to its idolatrous ways (10:6).
In vss 6-->  It says that for eilghteen years the Ammonites, Moabites, and the Philistines "shattered and crushed" the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan, terrorizing Reuben, Gad, and the eastern half of Manasseh.  The Ammonites then crossed the Jordan to attack Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim.  Israel again came under great distress and cried to God for deliverence.  God gives His response in verses 11-14.  But Israel is still God's chosen people and God still loves Israel.

Moving on to chapter 11  -  Japhthah the Giliadite is introduced as a mighty warrior.  Japhthah was Gilead's son, but not by Gilead's wife, but rather by a prostitute.  This placed Japhthah in a "second-class-citizen" status with the rest of Gilead's family, who had run him out of the territory.  Jephthah ended up being a leader of a band of marauders, causing a lot of trouble, but building a reputation of a mighty man of war.  In the meantime, Gilead came under attack from the Ammonites and, being desparate for help, pleaded with Japhthah to come back to Gilead and get rid of the Ammonites.  Now I find the way Jephthah handled the Ammonites was very wise.  Beginning in verse 12, he reasoned with the king of Ammon.  He simply asked the king why he was attacking Israel.  "What have you got against us?"  The Ammonite king told him that it was because Israel had taken their land from them.  Japhthah (14-->) gives the king a History lesson, reminding him of how the Edomites and the Moabites not would allow the Israelites to pass peacefully through their land.  {Japhthah being so well versed in History after so many generations is impressive.}  In fact, the Moabites ended up attacking Israel and Israel had to defeat them militarily.  But as wise a Japhthah was, he made a mistake in striking a deal with God.  Japhthah told God that if He would give him victory that Japhthah would sacrifice as a burnt offering the first thing that came out of his tent when he returned from battle (vs 31).  {I just don't think this was necessary, as I think God would have given Japhthah victory anyway.}  Low and behold, Jephthah was indeed victorious, and when he returned home and saw his tent, his daughter came out to greet him.  Noteworthy is the fact that not only was this his only daughter, she was his only child.  Nonetheless, in the remaining verses of this chapter we see that Japhthah honored his commitment to God.

Chapter 12  -  Remember how the Ephraimites talked to Gideon after Gideon's defeat of the Midianites?  They pull the same thing on Jephthah.  Except now they threaten to burn down Jephthah's house with him in it.  (Why do we never read about Ephraim leading into battle against the Canaanites?  Ephraim always just complains about not being included after the fact.}  This time the Ephraimites have gone too far and started a war with Japhthah and the Giliadites.  In verse 2, Japhthah said that he called on them and they wouldn't help him, so he went ahead without them.  So the Ephraimites went to war with the Gileadites and lost on the Jordan River.  As stated in vss 4-6, Jephthah captured the place at the Jordan where everyone crossed.  At that place he killed all Ephraimites and allowed all others to cross the river.  The way he distinguished between the Ephraimites and all others was that the Ephraimites could not properly pronounce the word "Shibboleth".  If a person could not pronounce that word, he was not allowed to cross the river and was killed.  {This is the only place I've seen where a large group of people were unable to correctly pronounce a particular word.  It is believable though because there are large groups of people who could never speak Spanish properly because they cannot roll 'r's.  I certainy cannot.}  It says in verse 6 that forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed in their war with Japhthah and the Gileodites.
Jephthah led Israel for six years, although not with peace in the land.  In the remaining verses of chapter 12, it tells that Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon were all judges after Jephthah.  These three judges lead Israel for a combined total of twenty-five years.

Next post - Samson

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

LXXVII - Judges 8-9 - Gideon and Abimelek

LXXVII  -  Judges 8-9  -  Gideon and Abimelek

In the last post we saw the faithful Gideon being called by God to deliver Israel from the cruel oppression of the Midianites and the Amalikites.  We saw Gideon lay out the fleece, then obediently put God's military plan in action to defeat the Midianites.

Chapter 8 - This chapter begins with the Ephraimites complaning to Gideon that they were not called out to go to war against the Midianites.  Gideon, being a wise leader, answered them with flattery in verse 3, which immediately calmed the situation.   Gideon and his army of three hundred men continue to chase Zebah and Zalmunna, Midianite kings, but they cannot get any help or cooperation from the territories they passed through, namely Succoth and Peniel. He wanted food for his 300 weary soldiers, but Succoth and Peniel refused to give them any.   Gideon told them that he would punish them for their refusal to help him at a later time.  Vss 10-12 tell of him catching up with the two kings and their remaining army of 15,000 soldiers.  The Scripture in vs 10 suggest "all that were left" of the Midianite army was 15,000.  The Scripture makes it sound as though the mighty army has been dwindled down to practically nothing, but 15,000 is still huge compared to Gideon's 300.  But Gideon goes on to defeat the remainder of the enemy and captures the two kings.  Then (vss 13-17) Gideon returns to the two cities that refused to help him.  He put Succoth under a land curse and killed all the men in Peniel.  {Peniel was east of the Jordan, home of pagan Moabites or Amorites.  Succoth was in Ephraim, mostly Israelites, which is why Gideon did not put them to death also.}  In vss 18-21, Gideon gives his oldest son Jether the opportunity to kill the two Midianite kings, but Jether, being so young, did not want to kill them, so Gideon did it himself.

Vss 22-->  The people then wanted to make Gideon their king.  Gideon did the right thing by refusing and saying that God is their King.  However, in vs 24 Gideon does make a request that they give him a gold ring from their collection of spoils, which the Scripture tells us is the custom of the day.  So they went on and collected gold rings, so many that it totaled 43 pounds of pure gold.  Look at verse 27.  {This seems out of character for Gideon to me.}  Gideon fashioned from the gold an ephod, and placed it in his home town.  Then Israel (being Israel) prostituted itself and worshipped the ephod. 
Vss 28-35  -  After Gideon's defeat of the Midianites, Israel had peace for forty years.  It says that Gideon had many wives that bore him seventy sons.  He also had a son by a mistress.  That son's name was Abimelek.  The last two verses of chapter 8 tells of Israel's return to its idolatrous ways.

Chapter 9 tells of Gideon's illegitimate son Abimelek.  Now Abimelek was a very ambitious man.  He decided to try to take advantage of his father's notoriety and establish himself as a leader among the Manasseh tribe and perhaps beyond.  But all of the seventy legitimate sons of Gideon, of course, were individually more qualified.  The reading of the first four verses in chapter 9 puzzles me somewhat, but I'll try to make some sense of it.  Abilelek approaches all the seventy sons of Gideon and volunteers his services as leader of Manasseh.  His rational was that one leader is better than seventy one leaders and since his illegitamacy somewhat set him apart, he was the obvious choice.  I perceive that the seventy sons thought this was all very silly, but they knew this half brother was going to be a problem, so they decided to "pay him off" so he would go away.  But Abimelek used the money to hire some "thugs" to help him go back and kill all the seventy sons of Gideon.  Only Jotham, Gideon's youngest son, escaped from death.  {There is something interesting about verses 7-15.  Read these verses and you will see the first parable in the Bible.  Jesus taught many truths by using parables.  Jotham used this parable to warn Israel.  Many of the prophets will do the same.}  The Scripture goes on to say that Abimelek (through fear) was made leader of this middle section of Israel and served three years.  Abimelek's reign was so terrible that there were many attempts to unseat him from his position of authority.  The most notable is the attempt of Gaal when he tried to lead the city of Shechem againts Abimelek, but it failed.  Abimelek always answered any actions against him with more and increased violence.  He even burned the Shechem citizens alive.  Finally, in vss 50-57, he was killed when a woman dropped a top millstone on his head.  This did not quite kill him and he asked his armor-bearer to kill him so it would not be said that he was killed by a woman.  This was a "good riddance" to an evil leader.  Abimelek was a self-appointed leader.  Noone can be referred to as a "judge" unless they were appointed by God.

In the next post we will look at Judges chapters 10-13 and study those between Gideon and Samson.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

LXXVI - Judges 6-8 - Gideon and the Midianites

Judges 6 - 8   -   Gideon and the Midianites

Deborah was a strong leader in Israel.  She was very influencial beyond just her territory of Ephraim.  One reason for this was that she initiated the war against the Moabites who were oppressing mainly Naphtali and Zebulun, both considerably north of where Deborah served as judge.  But following Deborah's rule, Israel returned again to its idolatrous ways, and God allowed the Mideonites to raise up to power and oppress Israel.  The Mideonites were joined by the Amalekites and other tribes, all of whom were from the east side of the Jordan.  So God raise up Gideon to lead Israel.

I always liked the story of Gideon.  Gideon was from the tribe of Manasseh, a descendant of Joseph.  It will take more than one post to cover Gideon.  The Scripture goes into particular detail about Gideon's personality.  I think he was somewhat Moses-like.  See what you think.

Chapter 6  -  As you read the first six verse of this chapter you will get a flavor of the level of cruelty the Mideonites and the Amalekites place on Israel.  God reminds Israel in vs 10 that He warned them about worshipping other gods, but they did not listen.  In vss 11-->  the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon as he threshed wheat in a winepress to hide it from the ravaging Midianites.  He announced to Gideon that God would deliver Israel through Gideon.  {This must have been a shock to this young man who was working hard to hide what he was doing out of fear for the Mideonites.}  Like Moses, Gideon tries to talk his way out of being God's vessel for Israel's deliverance.  He said that his clan was the weakest in Manasseh and he was the weakest (youngest) in the whole clan.  {This is just the kind of person God likes to use.}  Gideon asked this man (what he would consider a guest for the time being) to wait while Gideon went to prepare a meal fit for serving such an honorable guest.  The angel caused the meal to be consumed miraculously, convincing Gideon that he was indeed dealing with the Lord, or at the very least, His messenger.  Note in vs 24 that Gideon built an altar to honor this occasion.  This was an act of worship which we have seen often already in our study.  In the verse following it tells us that God instructs Gideon to do something that will take courage:  He must tear down the altar to Baal and cut down the pole of Ashteroth.  Notice Gideon recruited some help to do this but made certain it was done in secret due to what he knew the towns people would think of such a gutsy act of civil disobedience.  In vss 28-->  the people reacted just as Gideon predicted:  They wanted to kill Gideon to please their Mideonite oppressors for bringing the anger of Baal on the territory.  But look who comes to Gideon's defence.  His father Joash.  He handled the crowd excellently.  To paraphrase, Joash told them "if Baal is so powerful, let him defend his own honor". 
Now that Gideon had shown his faith in God by his obedience, it was time to get to work in carrying out God's main purpose for calling Gideon.  God had Gideon blow the trumpet to gather all the Abiezrites (Abiezer was among the principle families in the tribe of Manasseh).  Gideon sent messengers throughout Manasseh calling them to arms.  He also recruited from Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali.

6: 36-40  -  Gideon Lays Out The Fleece

Gideon had successfully gathered a formidable army and is as ready as he can be, but just like us, he needs yet another confirmation that this is what God wants him to do.  God understands just how human Gideon and we are.  Gideon lays a piece of lamb's fleece outside overnight and asked that if God really wants him to attack the Mideonites to make the fleece wet with dew, but let the ground around it remain dry, which is exactly what God did.  Then, Gideon (somewhat apologetically) asked God to do it the other way around the next night, which God did also.  {Be careful about laying out a fleece when trying to make a difficult decision.  There is nothing wrong with seeking God's will, but Jesus was careful to caution against "tempting the Lord your God".  We'll discuss this further in due time.}

Chapter 7  -  Gideon's army was thirty thousand men, which is a large army, but small compared to the army of the enemy.  It is important at this time to note that the Mideonites, together with the Amalekites and the other soldiers from the east side of Jordan were so numerous that they were "thick as locusts" (7:12), even their camels were as the sand on the sea shore.   But God told Gideon he had too many men to fight the Mideonites.  So Gideon was to tell all the men who were frightened of battle to step forward and they could go home.  Twenty thousand of them went home, leaving only ten thousand to fight this tremendously large army.  But God told Gideon that he still had too many.  God told him to take them down to the river to drink.  There would be two types of men who drank from the river:  1) those who knelt down on their knees and drank directly from the river, and 2) those who cupped their hands and brought the water from the river up to their mouths (always vigilantly watching).  Only three hundred out of the ten thousand cupped their hands and brought the water to their mouths.  These were the three hundred men that God wanted to use.  Gideon sent the other 9700 men home.

Vss 17-25  -  God gave Gideon an ingenious plan to defeat the Midianites.  Remember there were Gideon's 300 men against more than 130,000 enemy soldiers.  Gideon had each of his men to get a trumpet, a torch, and a clay pot (to hide the torch in).  Gideon and the 300 men surrounded the Midianite camp.  At Gideon's signal, all the 300 would sound their trumpets, break the clay pots (noisy), and hold up the torches.  So surprised were the Mideonites, they turned on each other, killing each other in a fit of frenzy.  {How else could 300 men defeat 130,000?  The only way was to get them to kill each other.  All the Israelites had to do was watch.  Also, an army that large, coming from different nations, wouldn't know who was who anyway.}  Gideon, having dispatched his entire army around the enemy's camp, called on the other soldiers of the Manasseh, Naphtali, and Asher tribes to cut off the escape of the fleeing enemy soldiers.  Neat story, huh?  Be sure to read all of this Scripture, as I have expounded on only selected passages.

In the next post we'll pick back up on Gideon and how he handles the childish Ephraimites' complaints. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

LXXV - Judges 3-5 - The Cycle Continues

LXXV  -  Judges 3 - 5  -  The Cycle Continues;  Israel's First Judge:  Othniel

At the end of chapter 2, we see that God says He will no longer drive the nations out of Canaan for Israel, but rather will use those nations to test Israel.  This is a significant passage to what we will be studying for quite a while.

In the first 6 verses of chapter 3 are listed the nations left in the Promised Land that Israel would have to contend with, mostly descendants of Ham.  Remember Esau's descendants are mainly in the territory southeast of Canaan.  {I think it was not in God's plan for Israel to have to war with Esau in order to possess the land that God had promised to them.  Remember, God's memory is absolutely perfect.}  Most significant in this first passage is verse 6.  "Israel took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods."  The words of Moses and Joshua were emphatic about this.  Although these great patriarchs had been dead for quite a while, all of Israel was commissioned to be careful to pass the law onto their offspring throughout future generations.  There was a critical failure there.

Verse 7 tells of Israel's biggest sin:  They served Baal and Ashteroth.  As mentioned in LXXXIII, Baal and Ashteroth were the pagen god and goddess of fertility, and serving them involved acts that God detested.  God was so angry about this as vs 8 says "the anger of the Lord burned against Israel"  and He gave them over to the king of Mesopotamia, who made the Israelites slaves for eight years.  Then God raised up Othniel to lead Israel.  Othniel was Caleb's son, which gave him instant credibility, as Caleb was one of the finest men to have crossed the Jordan with Joshua.  The Lord blessed Othniel with military victories over the Mesopotamians and Israel had rest for forty years until Othniel died (vs 11).

Vss 12-->  After the death of Othniel, the Israelites returned to their evil ways and further assimilated themselves to the pagan Canaanites.  God then delivered them into the hands of Eglon the king of the Moabites.  The Moabites were mainly southeast of the Dead Sea, just south of the Reubenites who were east of the Jordan.  Before King Eglon attacked and subdued Israel, he recruited the Ammonites and the Amalekites to join him.  All of them together had to cross the Jordan to attack and capture Jericho (City of Palms).  This would have engulfed Benjamin and Ephraim into slavery plus probably most of Gad , Manasseh, and Reuben.  Taking Jericho was no small matter.  As mentioned previously, Jericho protected the pass that led to the innermost parts of Canaan, making it especially significant, militarily.  For eighteen years Israel served king Eglon as his slaves.  But they finaly cried out to God with sincerity and God raised up a deliverer:  Ehud, a left-handed man, a Benjamite (vs 15).  God chose a courageous and clever man to lead Israel.  You need to read vss 15-30 with interest.  This is a good story about how Ehud got the big fat king alone, and sunk his double-edged sword (including the handle) into the king.  Ehud was a strong military type of leader that freed Israel from the Moabites and actually made the Moabites subject to Israel, which then gave Israel rest and peace for eight years.

Only one verse is dedicated to the Judge Shamgar.  I'm not yet certain, but I think Shamgar was a Danite.  He slaughtered six hundred Philistines with an ox goad, a long pole with a sharp spike on one end and a blade on the other end used for cleaning the plow.

Chapter 4  -  After Shamgar, Israel again departed from God and drifted back into Canaanite paganism, which would result in one of Israel's longest and most painful oppressions.  Jabin was king of Hazor, but must have commanded a strong Canaanited confederation in the north.  Jabin's military commander, Sisera lived in Harosheth.  These locations lead me to believe that the entire north part of Canaan was united against Israel and would have taken control of Naphtali, Issachar, Asher, and Zebulun.  (see map in LXXXI)  In verse 3 we see that Sisera commanded nine hundred chariots and sorely oppressed Israel for twenty years.  {I've mentioned in recent posts that Israel was originally commissioned to rid Canaan entirely of the other nations.  This commission from God was not honored.  If Naphtali and the other tribes would have taken this commission seriously, how could Jabin and Sisera have possibly built such a military, so superior to anything Israel had seen since the Egyptians?}  Deborah in 5:6-11 described the results of this oppression.  Fear gripped Israel.  Farming ceased.  The people fled from their villages to the fortified cities for protection.  Commerce was at a standstill.  Israel's weapons were confiscated.  Travel was too dangerous to even think about.  Finally, in desperation, Israel cried out to God.

Vs 4 - God responded to Israel's cries for help by raising up Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth and a prophetess (a woman of great spiritual insight and discernment for the Lord's will, and one who spoke as God's messenger).    Vs 5 - Deborah's tribe is unknown, but her headquarters is between Ramah and Bethel, which tells me she is of the tribe of either Manasseh or Ephraim.  Deborah seemed to be more of an administration-type leader than a military-type.  Verse 6 - Deborah felt the deep shame and humiliation of Israel.  And, God made known to her that it was time to strike Israel's oppressors.  She sent word that she wanted Barak to come meet with her (she must have commanded respect to exercise such authority).  Barak was from Kedesh which would have made him from the tribe of Naphtali, a northern tribe which was in the middle of the worst of the oppression.  She instructs Barak to gather ten thousand men from Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mr. Tabor.  Vs 7 - Barak was to launch his attack against the forces of Sisera along the Kishon River in the north.  {These were mostly level valleys, hardly an obvious choice for foot soldiers to engage chariots.  Agree?}  Vs 8 - Barak agreed to this undertaking only if Deborah went with him.  Deborah agreed to go but emphasized that the glory would be to God.  (Deborah was a fine leader.)  Barak gathered the army of ten thousand as directed.  They proceeded to attack Sisera's forces and defeated them.  The Scripture goes on to tell of Israel defeating Sisera's mighty army of chariots and even tells of Sisera's fate.  Sisera got off his chariot and ran.  He came upon the tent of Heber the Kenite (descedants of Hobab, brother-in-law of Moses.  Heber's wife Jael lured Sisera into her tent, pretending to give him a place to hide.  She then created an opportunity to kill him by driving a tent stake through his temple.

After their vicoty against Jabin and Sisera, Deborah and Barak celebrated which included writing and singing a song, giving God the glory for their victory.  As we've seen often thus far and will more so later, the Isralites wrote many songs describing events.  The most prolific song writer was King David.  Take a moment and read this song recorded in chapter 5.

Next post  -  Gideon and the Midianites

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

LXXIV - The Book of Judges

Human Author: Unknown (possibly Samual)
Plance:   Canaan
Date Written: 1086 bc - 1004 bc

I think Judges is an interesting book.  I've learned a lot in studying Judges.  I hope you do too.

After the death of Joshua and his generation, a new generation arose who did not know the Lord, and paid little or no attention to God's commandments and covenants.  This lead Israel into Canaanite idolatry, the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth.  In God's eyes, this is the worst thing that could happen.  God warned and warned against this through both Moses and Joshua.  We are to assume that the Levite priests kept the annual schedules in the tabernacle as instructed, but those rituals and the reading of the Law must have gone stale.  Rituals can do that, especially when the true purpose of a ritual is forgotten.

Throughout this Book of Judges, there is a cycle:

Israel abandons God and worships idols
Canaanites oppress Israel
Israel repents and cries out to God for help
God raises up a Judge
Israel delivered
Judge dies
Israel abandons God and worships idols
Canaanites oppress Israel
and on
and on
and on.........

Simply, the cycle is:  Idolatry, Disaster, Repentance, Deliverance.

In the first chapter you will notice some repeats of the Book of Joshua, especially the story of Caleb offering his daughter Aksah in marriage as a reward (Joshua 15:16).  But in verse 17--> it tells that God selected Judah to begin their campaign against the Canaanite inhabitants.  {Remember, God's original instructions were that the entire Promised Land was to be cleansed of ALL Canaanites in order to preserve purity in the nation Israel.}  Vs. 19 - Judah and Simeon were successful in their campaigns in the mountains and in the south.  They conquered many cities, including part of Jerusalem.  They also conquered the Philistines in Gaza, but did not drive them completely out, because the Philistines would later regain their strength and would become Israel's harshest oppressor during the days of Samson.  Also, Judah and Simeon did not do well militarily against the chariot-armed Canaanites in the valleys.

Vs 27 - Manasseh also failed to defeat the Canaanite cities as listed in their territory.  However, Manasseh grew stonger and eventually conquered these Canaanites and put them under tribute.  {This sounds good for Manasseh, but that is not what God had instructed them to do.  The remainder of chapter one tells of the accomplishments and failures of the other tribes.

Chapter 2  begins with Joshua and his generation passing on, which will prove disastrous for Israel.  Read vss 10-15.  It tells a sad story.  A whole generation of Israel had forsaken God and all Moses and Joshua had taught them.  They actually served and worshipped Baal and Ashtoroth.  These were the male and female pagan gods of fertility and our Lord detests them.  Baal and Ashtoroth were worshipped and sacrificed to in order to make the crops, livestock and actually human families to prosper.  The Canaanites thought that if Baal was displeased, the crops would fail and the women and even the female livestock would be barren.  Worshipping Baal included sexual acts with their temple prostitutes.  If the people still felt that Baal was displeased, children were actually sacrificed at their temples.  So much did God detest these gods that He gave Israel into the hands of their Canaanite enemies.  Remember the first of the Ten Commandments.  "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

Then, in vs 16 God raised up judges after Israel would repent.  Vs 18 - When Israel had suffered enough at the hands of their Canaanite enemies, they would repent and pray for help from God.  God heard their prayers and exercised mercy in the form of raising up a judge to lead them to victory.  As we get into the study of these judges, you will notice that these judges by and large were not national leaders, but rather were more tribal or territorial leaders, whose chief objective was to defeat the oppressors in battle.  The Levites were still at this time commissioned to lead the people in their service to God.  The Scripture is not addressing this issue at this time.  Vs 19 tells of the cycle mentioned above.

Next post:  The Cycle Continues;  Israel's First Judge:  Othniel, son of Caleb

Monday, October 15, 2012

LXXIII - Joshua 23=24 - Joshua's Farewell

Thanks for posting that map (LXXXI).  It makes it so much easier to have a visual.

This will be a short post.  I did not want to attach it onto the last post because of its important content, and the next post will begin our study of the Book of Judges.

Chapter 23  -  It has been many years now that Israel has possessed their land and has lived in peace.  Joshua's life was about to come to and end.  He had been a faithful servant and a mighty warrior, and God had blessed him with a long life, the latter years of which being peaceful.  Joshua summoned the leaders and all of Israel.  The purpose of this was for Joshua to remind Israel, as he knew Israel was inclined to have a short memory.  He reminded them of all God had done for them.  He reminded them of the promises God had made them.  He also reminds them that God's promises were covenants and Israel must do its part in order to enjoy the blessings God has in store for them.  In verse six he tells them to "be strong".  This exhortation is given then, as it is now, when it is understood that difficulties and obsticles will be encountered.  You don't exhort someone to be strong if the going is to be easy.  Again in this chapter Joshua gives stern warnings against worshipping other gods.  Also mentioned is the dangers of marrying outside Israel.  Joshua knows these are snares that lie before an often weak people.  He briefly mentions the blessings versus the curses God promises Israel concerning the obedience versus the disobedience to His commandments.

Chapter 24  -  In the first verse of this chapter, Joshua gathers all of the tribes of Israel to Shechem.  {This must have been quite a crowd and must have taken quite a while to arrange and execute.}  Shechem was an appropriate place to hold this meeting.  Shechem had a long and respectful History.  It was there between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim that Israel held its first great convocation on the entering of the Promised Land.  It was there that Jacob bought a piece of land and erected the altar, "El-Elohe-Israel" (Gen. 33:18-20).  It was at Shechem that Abraham recieved the first revelation that Canaan would be God's Promised Land to Israel.  The first verse also says "they presented themselves before God".  I'm sure Eleazar the High Priest was present to receive the people and offer an invocation-type of opening.  Whenever Eleazar was present, the people were worshipful and attentive.  Joshua's presence made it even more so.  This was to be a religeous gathering.  One to remember.  Joshua wanted his farewell to Israel to be Godly and memorable.

Verses 2-13 are a review of Israel's History and the great acts of God on Israel's behalf.  Joshua somewhat sketched out Israel's History, beginning with Abraham's father Terah.  He even mentioned that their ancestors prior to Abraham worshipped other gods.  {Terah is not considered the "Father of Israel".  His son Abraham is.}  In vss 3 and 4 he mentions Isaac, Esau, and Jacob.  In vss 5-7 he mentions Egypt and the great exodus, including the parting of the Red Sea.  Then in verse 8 he gets more recent and mentions their conquests.  Although this is relatively recent, these people Joshua is talking to did not experience most of this, but were knowledgable.  {Handing down information of events was very important to the Israelites and they were good at it.  Other civilizations (even the Egyptians) did not have records nearly as detailed as those that were kept by Israel.}

Verse 15  -  (KJV - Partial)  One of my favorites.  One of the most quoted and written Old Testiment verses:  "Choose you this day whom ye will serve;  as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  What a powerful admonishment.  To Joshua, getting these people to commit themselves to God could not happen too often.  It was important that this commitment was repeated time and time again.  The word "choose" is important because to worship other gods would require a "choice".  {Our choices define us.  Our choices expose and influence our character.  You and your children will make choices every day throughout your lives.  And some of those choices will be life-changing, either positive or negative.  There are some choices that can and should be made now.  There will come a day when you might want your child to make a choice.  Example:  Choose you this day how you will speak.  Will you speak in truth and honesty?  Or will you speak in deciept and dishonesty?  Those types of decisions can be made at certain ages forward.  Choose you this day how you will deal with the temptation of drug abuse.  How will you deal with it?  Decide now.  I as your parent can advise you.  This type of invoking decisions on young children and teenagers is not out of line for a conciencious parent.  Preparing your child how to respond when these situations arise will improve the odds for the right choice to be made.}  Joshua combines the admonishment with his personal testimony.  Always an effective method.

Vss 19-->  Joshua again reminds them against worshipping other gods.  {One must conclude that there was disobedience with this going on at this very time because in verse 23 he tells them to "throw away the foreign gods".  Also in this passage, he has them to say audibly that they will serve God.

Verses 29-33 - After Joshua had delivered this last sermon, he died at the age of a hundred and ten.  This final passage of the Book of Joshua mentions that they honored Joseph's request and buried his bones at Shechem in the land that Jacob purchased.  And also it says that Eleazar (Aaron's son) died and was buried at Gibeah in Ephraim.

Next post:  The Book of Judges

Saturday, October 13, 2012

LXXII - Division of the Promised Land to the Israelites

As dad has said in his past posts, there are many maps out there showing the Promised Land and the allotment of land.  This is just one.  I wanted to post this so everyone could see the allotment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

LXXI - Joshua 18-22 - Division to the Other Tribes

Prior to entering the Promised Land by crossing the Jordan River, Moses had given Rueben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan.  Then, in the last post we saw that Judah, Ephraim, and the other half tribe of Manasseh had received their inheritance in the main part of Canaan, which was where the original "Promised Land" was located.  At Shiloh, Joshua divided the rest of the land in Canaan among the seven remaining tribes.

Chapter 18:1-10  -  Joshua selected three men from each tribe and sent them to survey the remaining part of the land.  {I'm not certain why Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh were given their land prior to the survey.  I would guess that honoring Caleb had something to do with it, but that only explains Judah.  Also note the size difference.}  In this passage Joshua instructs the twenty one men to survey the land, document it onto a scroll, return to Joshua, and lots will be cast to distribute the land.  {Casting lots was explained in post LXXIX.  Very interesting.}

Please refer to your map of the tribal divisions while reading 18:11 - 21:42.  The land divisions by tribes were as follows:

Benjamin - (18:11-28)  The first lot fell to Benjamin which was one of the four smallest parcels of land.  This land bordered Judah on the north and Ephraim on the south, which seemed to squeeze them in, but also gave them protection.  On the east, Benjamin bordered the Jordan River and touched on the Dead Sea, which gave Benjamin fertile river-fed land plus a port for trade.  Size still seems like it would have an impact, but remember, Joshua sent a delegation to survey and divide the land.

Simeon - (19:1-9)  Simeon was the second lot cast.  Simeon was given a portion of Judah's land to the south because Judah had more land than it could occupy and control.  Simeon came out pretty good because although bordered the Mediteranean Sea, it was well south of the main Philistine stronghold.

Zebulun - (19:10-16)  The third lot fell to Zebulun, which was one of the four small parcels surrounded by Asher, Naphtali, Issachar, and both half tribes of Manasseh.  I can't see where Zebulun has any water access, or much other redeeming asset except protection.

Issachar - (19:17-23)  Issachar got the fourth parcel according to the lots cast.  This parcel is another of the very small pieces of land but at least it bordered the Jordan River.  Water access is always a strong asset.

Asher - (19:24-31)  The fifth parcel went to the tribe of Asher.  This is a somewhat narrow strip running north to south, almost all of which borders the Mediteranean Sea.  One would hope that Asher would become proficient in the shipping and seafood business.

Naphtali - (19:32-39)  The sixth went to Naphtali.  Naphtali shared the entire border of the Sea of Galilee with Manasseh across the Jordan.  Naphtali, due to the Jordan, should enjoy bumper crops.

Dan - (19:40-48)  The seventh and last lot fell to Dan.  Dan was given the last of the very small parcels.  It, like Benjamin, was sandwiched between Judah and Joseph, but at least Dan bordered the Mediteranean Sea.  Also, as stated in vs 47, the Danites conquered a tiny section of land in Leshem on the extreme north end of the east side of the Jordan and they called that land part of the Danites' inheritance.

Then in verse 49 it says they gave to Joshua a portion of land in the hill country of Ephraim.  This was probably very close to where he had headquartered during his conquests.

Chapter 20   -   This short chapter names the six cities to be used as the "Cites of Refuge", which was part of the original plan for the entire nation Israel.

Chapter 21   -   This chapter names all the towns to be given to the Levites to occupy, along with pasture land in the surrounding areas of each.  There totaled forty eight Levite towns spread throughout Israel.  Read the last two verses of chapter 21.  They started settling in their new homeland, and God gave the land rest.

Chapter 22   -   Remember when Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh asked for the land on the east side of Jordan?  Moses granted it to them conditionally, which was that they would help their cousins conquer the land west of the Jordan.  This chapter tells of their release of their obligation and their return home to settle in their land with their families they left behind.  Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh kept their end of the bargain.

Next post  -  Joshua's Farewell

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

LXX - Joshua 13-17 - Land Allotments Begin

{When studying this post, as many others, it would be helpful to have that map.  I makes it so much easier to get a full understanding of the allotments.}

In the last post we saw Joshua and the Israeli army conquer much of Canaan.  Now, as stated in 13:1 Joshua was getting old and there was much more land to be conquered.  But it was time for Joshua to begin alloting out the land among the nine and a half tribes.  The unconquered land in Canaan stretched from south to north, including much of the Mediteranean Sea's coastal areas, mainly occupied by the Philistines.  And these Philistines would be a stubborn people to uproot.  In addition to the Philistines were Geshurites and the Avites.

Moses had already given land to Reubin, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh on the east side of the Jordan River.  The boundries of the western allotments are given in 13:8-31. The last two verses of chapter 13 restates that the Levites would not receive an inheritance of land, as they were to be full-time servants of God and overseers of His tabernacle and the rites related to it.  {Here is probably also a good place to remind you that Jacob had 12 sons, including Levi and Joseph. Back in Egypt, as told in Genesis, Jacob adopted Josephs two sons, Epraim and Manasseh.  This totaled 14 sons.  However, Ephraim and Manasseh would represent only a half tribe each since they were not Jacob's direct offspring.  So that takes it down to 13 total tribes.  With Levi not receiving any allotment of land, that takes it down to the original number of 12 tribes making up the twelve territories in The Promised Land, composing the nation Israel.  Clear as mud?}

Chapter 14  -  Joshua, Eleazar the Priest (Aaron's son), and the elders of the tribes would act as the allotment council for the land in Canaan west of the Jordan.  In verse 2, the division of the territory was by casting lots.  {We don't know for certain how the lot worked exactly.  But it was an ancient and honored way of making impartial decisions.  The Jews strongly beleived that God guided the casting of lots.  The word "lot" itself means "pebble".  Some think pebbles bearing each tribe's symbol were put into an urn or container of some type.  When the urn was shaken, a pebble was randomly picked out or came out of the opening which was large enough for only one pebble to pass through.  The pebble was then matched with the numbered territory, which would correspond with the tribe assigned that number.}  Verse 4 mentions about Levi again.  If you want to revisit the explanation about the Levites, see Numbers 18:20-21 and Joshua 13:14,33.  Altough the Levites received no land, they were given forty eight cities plus surrounding pasture land.

I have many favorites among the characters in the Bible, among whom is Caleb.  In verse 6 the tribe of Judah approached Joshua and the council concerning the allotment of land.  Caleb, a membr of the tribe of Judah requested his inheritance.  He based his claim on the promise God had made through Moses concerning him and Joshua at Kedish-barnea.  That was years ago.  Caleb has certainly earned that promise a hundred fold.  He recalled the words of Moses to Joshua in verse 9.  Vs 12 -  Caleb was now 85 years old, but still a strong warrior.  He said to Joshua "give me this mountain".  Caleb reminded Joshua that the hill country he was talking about was still occupied by the Anakites, who were giants and mighty warriors.  Caleb told Joshua that he would drive out the Anakites himself, without the help of the other 11 tribes.  So Joshua gave to Caleb the city of Hebron and the surrounding territory.  {Giving him Hebron would provide him with a base from which to conquer the remainder of Judah's land.  Hebron was an important city, rivaling Jerusalem and Shechem.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all had lived there at one point in their lives.  Later, King David made Hebron his headquarters until he moved his government to Jerusalem.}

Chapter 15  -  Joshua and the council assigned Judah's land, which of course included Hebron, which the family of Caleb was to inhabit.  If you look at the map, Judah is the second southern-most territories (Simeon is most southerly), and Judah is one of the larger portions.  In fact, Judah, Manasseh, and Ephraim end up with the largest allotments of land.  There might be an explanation for that in chapter 18.  We'll visit that later.  Nonetheless,  Judah's territory will prove to be very significant in the future of the nation Israel.  {I think Caleb had much to do with Judah's significant role because of who and what he was.  Remember, Reuben is the eldest of the twelve sons of Jacob.
Futher to Caleb:  15:13-19 tells a bit more about Caleb.  Caleb was the only "person"  who was given a specific piece of land by Joshua.  How the different clans and families of the other tribes divided up the land was to be settled among themselves without Joshua's influence or interference.  In verse 14 Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak the giant.  This was significant because it showed all the Anakites that they could be defeated by the Israelites.  From there, in keeping with his promise to Joshua, Caleb marched southwest to Debir.  In verse 16 Caleb offered his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever captured Debir.  Vs 17 - Othniel, Caleb's nephew captured Debir and won Aksah's hand in marriage.  Vs 18 is a little confusing.  It suggests in both NIV and KJV that Aksah urged Othniel to ask Caleb for a special piece of land, but it is Aksah that actually approaches Caleb with the request.  Not that it makes any difference, but one is inclined to notice little things like that when studying the Scriptures with the quest of understanding.  I submit that it was Othniel who urged Aksah to approach Caleb, which she did and Caleb honored her request.  The remainder of chapter 15 describes the boundries and the cities assigned to the tribe of Judah.  Before we move out of this chapter, it is noteworthy to mention the last verse.  It says that Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites who lived there.  This will become significant shortly.

Chapter 16:1 - 17:17  -  The next tribes to receive their allotment were the two sons of Joseph:  Ephraim, and the remaining half of Manasseh.  (Other half of Manasseh received land on east side of the Jordan River.)  Chapter 16 describes the boundries for Ephraim, but also says in verse 10 that they did not dislodge the Canaanites, but made them slaves of the Ephraimites.  Chapter 17 describes the allotment to the remaninder of the tribe of Manasseh.  But there were several towns that they could not occupy because of the power of the Canaanites in that area.  However, they were able to overpower the Canaanites enough to make them slaves (this was not part of God's original plan).  Then in vs 14--> Ephraim and Manasseh complained to Joshua.  Joshua's response in verse 15 was correct.  "If you are so numerous that you need additonal land, go to the hill country and clear additional land and you can have all you can occupy."  But he warned them that the Canaanites in that area are well armed, even with chariots.

Judah, Ephrain, and Manasseh have been given their land.  We will pick up on the distribution of land to the remaining tribes in our next post.  Notice on your map how Dan and Benjamin are squeezed right between Judah and Joseph.  Interesting.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

LXIX - Joshua Chapters 9-12 - The Conquest of Canaan

Chapter 9  -  The Gibeonite Deception

Chapter 9, like many of the passages in this Book of Joshua, is interesting reading.  Israel's military victories at Jericho and Ai sent shock waves through all of Canaan.  News like that spreads fast.  The tribes of the land began to prepare for war (9:1-2).  However, the Gibeonites decided that making peace with Joshua would be a better solution than going to war against someone who had God on their side.  But they were not confident that Joshua would be so willing to make a peace treaty with them because by this time it was "common knowledge" that Israel was going to claim the entire land of Canaan as its sovereign land.  And that means to conquer all settled nations within Canaan's boundries, which included Gibeon.  So the Gibeonites (vss 3-->) devised a deception.  They sent a delegation to Joshua, claiming that they were from a far-away land (beyond Canaan's boundries).  They put on old worn out clothes and sandals, put old wine in cracked wineskins, and carried with them moldy bread, all of which they showed to Joshua to prove they had been traveling for months.  Joshua did not seek God's guidance in this matter, and Joshua bought their story and made a peace treaty with these Gibeonites.  Three days later (vs 16) it was learned that Gibeon was almost next-door-neighbors to Israel's camp.  In vs 18 it says all of Israel was upset with their leaders for making such a foolish deal, but Joshua intends to keep his promises.  (Ever make a foolish deal?  Makes you feel like a real idiot for a long time, but Joshua did the right thing by keeping his end of the deal.)  So, as told in vss 22-27, although Joshua could not kill them, he made them servants to Israel the entire lives of the Gibeonites and all of their future generations.  As vss 24 and 25 indicate, this was just fine with the Gibeonites, as anything was better than total annihilation.

Chapter 10  -  The Gibeonite treaty with Israel triggered an attack by Adonizedek, King of Jerusalem.  He appealed to the surrounding kings and was successful in persuading them to join him in attacking Gibeon.  There were five kings and their territories all together.  In verse 6 the Gibeonites put Joshua in another jam.  They told him that since they belonged to Israel now, Israel was obligated to protect them against their attackers.  {Noteworthy is the fact that it would have made Joshua's objective easier to accomplish if any Canaanite-against-Canaanite battle would take place in order to help thin down the opposition.  A foolish decision seems to never stop punishing.}  Vss 9-15 describe how God helped Joshua defeat all of those Amorite tribes.  God even made the day longer so Israel could finish the job before darkness gave the Amorites an escape.  Somehow the five kings escaped and hid in a cave at Makkedah (vss 16-27).  Joshua found them and had them executed, hanging their bodies, which was a custom of war in that very brutal period of the world's History.
The remainder of chapter 10, it tells of Joshua's successful Southern Campaign.  After he had defeated the five kings at Makkedah, he went on to conquer Makkedah and all its population.  From there he moved southwest and took Libnah, from which he moved directly south to Lachish.  From Lacish he moved a considerable distance north to Dezer, from which he went back southwest to Eglon, and from there went on to defeat Hebron and Debir.  These verses also note territory boundries that they also defeated.  Israel was obedient and totaly destroyed these cities and all of their inhabitants.  Then Joshua returned to their camp at Gilgal, on the eastern edge of the Promised Land.

Chapter 11  -  The Northern Campaign

The two northern-most settlements in Canaan were Kedesh and Hazor.  As stated earlier, news travels fast.  All the northern kings were painfully aware of Joshua's conquests in the South and they had sense enough to know that they were next.  Jabin, king of Hazor thought, of course, there would be safety in numbers.  So he proceeded to gather the kings of the North to make their armies one huge army, too mighty for Joshua to defeat.  (They didn't understand just how powerful God is.)  The first 5 verses of chapter 11 described just how large that combined army was.  It was large in numbers, well equipped, and well-organized.  But in verse 6 God tells Joshua that he will be victorious.  Joshua and the Israeli army marched north quickly and attacked at Merom.  Joshua fought and chased them until there were no survivors.  Then in obedience, Joshua went into all the cities from which these kings came and destroyed the cities and their inhabitants.  Joshua continued to purge the Promised Land.  In verse 18 it says he made war against these kings for a long time.  Those wars were long and bitter.  I looked up the length of time and found (someone else's calculations) by calculating Caleb's age given in Joshua 14:7,10 and Moses's statemenmt in Deut. 2:14, these wars lasted seven years.  Seven years of aggressive war is a loooooong time.

An interesting note:  In reviewing Joshua 10 and 11, we can see that with the exception of Jericho and Ai, Israel attacked only after being attacked.  A bit of a stretch, knowing that Israel would have had to attack them sometime anyway, but its interesting that they were actually provoked, making it mostly a defensive campaign.  Chapter 12 goes on to list by name the kings (31 in all) that were defeated by Joshua and the nation Israel.

Next post:  Land allotments begin

Friday, October 5, 2012

LXVIII - The Battle of Jericho - Joshua 5:13 - 8:35

Actually we're going to look at three battles in this post.  With God's help the Israelites miraculously crossed the swollen Jordan River, and were camped at Gilgal, about two miles east of Jericho.  (that map I mentioned is a good reference at this time.)  Jericho was just five miles west of the Jordan and actually guarded the pass that lead to the central highlands, through which Israel must travel to conquer the land.  Therefore, Jericho must be their first conquest.  {Remember, to be in keeping with the instructions of Moses, they must reach the two mountains of Ebal and Garizim.}  Israel could not have afforded a defeat at Jericho, as a defeat would have disheartened them to the point of turning back.  God knew this, thus He had to take matters into His own hands.

Joshua 5:13-->  Joshua looked toward Jericho and saw one of God's warrior angels, sword drawn.  After he realized whom he was talking to he fell facedown in an act of reverence.  In chapter 6 we see what the angel's instructions would be.  Note that God tells Joshua that He has delivered Jericho into the hand of Israel.    But Joshua must follow God's instructions in order to secure this important military victory.  The instructions were that for six days, the Ark of the Covenant was to be carried around the city of Jericho, with a forward and a rear guard, followed by all of Israel.  Trumpets would be sounding, but all the people would be silent (vs 10).  On the seventh day, they were to circle Jericho seven times in the same manner.  After the seventh time on the seventh day, all the trumpets would sound and the people would shout as loud as they could, at which time God would cause all the walls of Jericho to collapse.  This would allow all the Israelite soldiers to enter the city all at once rather than trickle through a gate.  So shocked would the Jericho soldiers be, they would be too devestated to put up much of a fight.  Imagine just the noise of the walls collapsing plus the shout of the entire nation Israel after six days of total (and eerie) silence.   These soldiers of Jericho were, at best, preparing to defend the opening at the main gate.

The entirety of chapter 6 tells of this great victory, but we must look at a couple of interjections in the chapter, starting in verse 17.  Joshua remembers Rahab the Canaanite prostitute and is determined to honor the pledge given her by the two Israeli spies she helped (2:12-14).  Another part of God's instructions was given in verses 17-19.  Everything in the city except silver, gold, and articles made from bronze and iron was to be captured and given to the tabernacle treasury.  Everything else was to be destroyed.  If anything was taken and kept, all of Israel would be punished.  {This is not normal in warfare of this time period.  When I've read this passage in the past, I've brought this into question.  Usually, the spoils of war were taken by the victors, but God instructs them to destroy EVERTHING, except those items mentioned.  "Everything" included men, women, children, slaves, livestock, food, clothing, buildings, utensils, etc.  Normally in warfare, the men would be killed and the women and children would be taken as slaves.  Also, all possessions would be taken and would become the possessions of the victors.  But in this situation, God wants it all destroyed.  I submit for consideration that since this is the first battle in the Promised Land that perhaps God would consider this His tithe, or first fruits.}

Chapter 7 is interesting reading (as most Scripture is).  Joshua gave specific instructions about taking no spoils from Jericho, but (vs 1) Achan took some anyway.  Then in verse 2 we see that the smaller, less fortified city of Ai must be conquered also to clear the way for Israel to penitrate the land.  Two spies were sent and reported back that only two or three thousand men were needed to take Ai.  So three thousand Israeli soldiers were sent to Ai.  They were defeated by the soldiers of Ai, handing Israel a devestating blow.  Joshua went to God in prayer, but Joshua doesn't appear in character.  Joshua's ancestrial tendancies came through and he made statements that sounded like the first generation coming out of Egypt.  But God likes Joshua and often encourages him.  In vs 10 God tells Joshua to stand up.  Israel's defeat is Israel's own fault.  God told him that someone disobeyed and has defiled the whole nation.  God instructs Joshua how to find the guilty person:  Joshua marched out all the tribes and God pointed out Judah as the guilty tribe.  Then Joshua marched out clans of Judah and God pointed out the Zerahites as the guilty clan.  Joshua marched out the families of the Zerahite clan and God pointed out Zimri's family.  All the family members were marched out and God pointed out Achan as the guilty person.  {Interesting, don't you think?}  Joshua compelled Achan to confess and he did.  But look at verse 21.  Remember what I said about the Tenth Commandment?  Achan admitted that first he coveted.  Please beware my dear children.  At the risk of being redundant and preachy, I must repeat my warning that most acts of sin are committed after the initial sinful thought of covetousness.  It goes on to tell how the whole nation participated in the execution of Achan and his family.  {A similar situation can be found in Acts 5:1-11 with Ananias and Sapphia in the early days of the Christian church.  But we'll get into that when the time comes.}

Chapter 8 tells of God giving Joshua instructions on how to conquer Ai.  This time Joshua did it God's way.  The first verse you'll see that God encourages Joshua.  He promises victory, then gives Joshua instructions on how to fight the battle.  But notice in verse 2 that the spoils were to dealt with a bit differently.  The Israeli soldiers were allowed to take the livestock and any other possessions for themselves as "spoils of war".  (Except any item which could be considered an idol used for worship.  God does not want these items to be in their possession, as the Israelites will be tempted to give the idols some level of importance.)  This time they were to take the entire Israeli army, instead of just a handful like the first time.  God delivered Ai, mostly due to using two ambushes.  Interesting reading.

With the defeat of Jericho and Ai, Israel had a clear path the whole Promised Land.  But the time had come for the nation to pause, give thanks, and recommit themselves to the Law and the Mosaic covenant.  Israel marched northward to the valley between Mt Ebal and Mt Gerizim.  There Joshua did as Moses instructed him (Deut. 27:2-26).  He built an altar, sacrificed and worshipped, and read the Law from the scrolls that had been placed in the Ark of the Covenant.

But their rest would not last long.

Next post:  Southern and Northern Campaigns

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

LXVII - Israel Enters the Promised Land - Joshua 3:1 - 5:13

Remember the last post when the spies were protected by Rahab the prostitute in chapter 2.  They made it back to camp and gave the report that all of Canaan is frightened by the Israelites.  So all of Israel is emboldened by this and can't wait to cross the Jordan River and possess the land God has given them.  {Owning land is special to most people all around the world even today.  Perhaps we take it too much for granted here in this country.  There are countries that do not allow individual possession of land.  Owning land would normally be little more than a pipe dream for such as these direct descendents of slaves.  I remember when I became a property owner as a young man.  There was something special about it.}

Chapter 3 would read as ceremonious.  But let's not forget God is delivering on His promise at this very moment.  Therefore He wants it to be memorable.  Now keep in mind that the Jordan was crested to flood stage at this time, which means the water was at its highest level.  The Levites who were assigned to carry the Ark of the Covenant were instructed to take the Ark and put their feet into the Jordan River.  When they did this God stopped the flow of water, rendering the river bottom dry.  When the ground was dry the Levites were to take the Ark of the Covenant to the middle of the river and stand there while all of Israel crossed the river on the dry ground God had made for them.
Chapter 4  -  All of the nation Israel along with their possessions have crossed into the Promised Land with the exception of the women, children, and livestock of  Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh.  The 40,000 men of war from those tribes had crossed with the rest of Israel.  Joshua called everyone together on the west side to take care of one more necessary order of business.  He selected one man from each of the twelve tribes.  These men were to go out where the Levites were holding the Ark and get a stone from that spot and carry it back to the west bank.  When this was done, Joshua piled the stones as a memorial to what God had done to the River Jordan, allowing Israel to cross on dry land.  Joshua also told Israel that these stones were to serve as a teaching tool to carry on the story to their descendants (vss 4-7).  Look at verse 14:  This would be the turning point for Joshua as a proven leader to take the place of the great Moses.  Joshua then instructed the Levites to bring the Ark of the Covenant the rest of the way across the Jordan.  When the Levites stepped out of the river bed and onto the bank, the water resumed flowing.

Chapter 5  -  All the Amorites and the Canaanites heard about all that has happened concerning the Israelites and "their hearts melted in fear".   This entire land was ripe for the picking for Joshua and this third generation of slave laborers.  But there was yet another order of business that must be done.  In verse 2 it tells what must be done, and then in the following verses it tells why.  Joshua must perform the ceremony of circumsision on all males eight days and older.  All of the men whom Moses had circumsized were dead, and circumcision was not done in the wilderness.  {Prior to this section of the Scripture, one would have assumed this rite was continued no matter what.}  So all of the males were circumcised and Joshua had them all rest until they were healed from it.  Verse 10 tells us that this date of the year was the time for them to observe Passover, which they did.  The day after that they ate of the fruit of the land.  How magnificent that must have been.  The manna stopped that day.  From that day forward they could eat from the land they could call their own.  This must have been a jubilant time for these travel weary people.  They must have wanted to just stay and enjoy the feeling for just a while, which was provided for them while the men and boys healed from the circumcision.
Next post:  Joshua fought the battle of Jericho  (do you remember that song?) And the walls came tumbling down.

Monday, October 1, 2012

LXVI - Think on these things

A Quick Review - Think on These Things

As I mentioned before, on the first of each month I will send a list of things for you to think on as a review of what we've covered thus far.  If you are unable to bring to mind significant thoughts concerning each of these, you might want to scan the pertinent blog posting.  This list will get lengthy as we proceed through our study. 

The Creation
Adam and Eve
The Fall
Cain Kills Abel
Noah and the Ark
Noah's Son:  Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Tower of Babel
Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac Born
Hagar and Ishmael
Abraham Tested
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Esau
Stolen Birthright
Laban, Rachel, Leah
Jacob's Ladder
The twelve sons of Jacob = Israel
Joseph the Dreamer
Joseph and Potifer's Wife  =  Prison
Cupbearer and Baker
Joseph and Pharaoh
Jacob's Son's Reunite
Israel Goes to Egypt
400 Years of Slavery in Egypt
Moses is Born
Moses Kills Egyptian - Becomes Fugitive
God Commissions Moses
Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Exodus
Israel Through the Wilderness
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle
The Golden Calf
Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by Night
Levitican Law
Forty Years in the Wilderness
Twelve Spies sent to Canaan
Moses Gives Final Sermons
Joshua Replaces Moses as Leader of Israel
Rahab the Canaanite Prostitute