Category Archives: Judges

May 12, 2015 Judges 17-20 (18)

Today, we finished Judges, a weird book and one that we will always wonder what the purpose was of including it. Maybe to account for a period of time and to prepare for the coming of the age of kings for Israel. It lasted about 100 years and was marked by periods of seeming lawlessness and disregard for the God of Israel.

May 5, 2015 Judges 16

Today we discuss chapter 16, the story of Samson ad Delilah. Earlier, there was mention that God was somehow using Samson’s affair with Philistine women for some good purpose, other than u.timately killing many of them when he pulled down the building in which they were ridiculing Samson and his God,I can think of no good reason to do this.  Didn’t Samson understand how bad Delilah was For him?  I guess he was blinded by her charms long before they pulled his eyeballs out. I guess the moral of 5his story is to not become infatuated with someone from the emeny, which enemy you are trying to defeat. For all the power God gave Samson, it seems to be one of many failed judgeships. It can be characterized as many things in Judges are, “and every man did as he chose.”


April 28, 2015 Judges 13-15

this is the story of Samson. Of major interest here are the differences between Japhthath’s birth. Japhthath was a son of a harlot and had to fight for respectibility. Samson was born in an Agawam and Sarah typy of circumstance where an angel of the Lord came to her and told her how she should comport herself. She was told, just like the young women of today, that that should not drink wine or eat any unclean food to preserve the child. Samson would not cut his hair and would be like a Nazerite to the Lord. There were some interesting back and forth about the wife Samsung wanted to take because she was a Philistine. But the Lord told his parents he was leading him by using the Philistine woman. Then there were some strange happenings where the father of the girl gave his daughter to Samaon’s companion and wanted to give Samson his younger daughter Ala Jacob and Laban. There are just lots of parallels here to make Samson to be a real patriarch of the people In the fashion of Abraham or Jacob. Of  rse we can’t forget Samson killing a thousand Philistine withthejawboneof an ass, and then getting a sweet drink from thejawbone. Also we must remember hi killing the lion and the bees and honey appearing in it.these were astrangesetofcircumstancesal,planned to show him to be a strong leader. 

April 21, 2015 Judges 10-12 (17)

Mark asked professors at Wartburg Seminary how to sum up Judges. They said look at the last verse. In the last verse, it says in those days there was no king and everyone did what they felt was right. AL brought up the Luke passage that mentioned broiled fish and thought that sounded terrible. This was a description of the battles of Jephthah who was a sort of hired gun. Jephthah vowed to God if he would give him the victory he would kill the first being that came out to meet him. Jephthah’s daughter was the first to meet him. She asked for a 2 month reprieve to mourn her virginity with her girl friends. It then became a tradition for  girls have a 4 day commemoration of Jephthah each year. Human sacrifice was not part of the Israelite tradition and some commentaries say Jephthah kept his daughter in isolation, maybe she was the first nun. Despite it being against God’s will to do human sacrifice, God appeared to agree with the promise and gave Jephthah the victory. Afterwards, the people of Ephraim said Jephthah should have included them, but Jephthah said he tried and there was no response, so he ended up killing 42,000 soldiers from Ephraim when they came to get him. It is interesting that Jephthah had just one daughter, but the judges who came after him had 20-60 sons and daughters and they all rode donkeys. It must have been a status symbol of some kind.

Is there a meaning to the numbers used in this text. Mark suggested that there is a martyrdom of the Christians in the near east and east. Possibility it is a martyrdom of the western world.

Communication is much better today and it makes it easier to broadcast minority opinions and terrorist attacks and others join in the fight because of insults and affront from others. Do we want vengeance today just like the terrorists do.

April 14, 2015, Judges 9 (20)

Chuck is going home from the hospital this week. Gideon had died and immediately the people turned to Baal. ( Ch. 8) what a graphic story!! Gideon had 70 children because he had many wives. Jerubbaal (who was Gideon) had expected that his sons who numbered 70 would rule after him, However, Abimelech went to the people of Shechem and said, “Would you rather be ruled by the 70 sons of Gideon or by me since Gideon was my father as well Abimelech was a servant’s son and seems to be a strange choice to succeed Gideon. The USA has not had a tradition of beheading like France and England and the middle east. Milling grain was woman’s work and thus a woman could handle a millstone. Even though Abimelech had his aide kill him it is still the case 3200 years later we still read he was killed by a woman. But at the end it is credited to God to rout the evil. The whole parable of the trees may illustrate the Peter principle and the leader becomes unproductive. We had a discussion about church mergers and the differences in culture between them. Here is the way that Abimelech consolidated power. Frank talked about a program on Iowa culture on Iowa public radio. In this chapter a man seized power, tried to exercise power, failed and god requited the people as evil. Why did the author attribute the saving of the people to God? Mark said when he has made mistakes and hurt people,  he throws himself on grace rather than on the sword. It allows us to live with ourselves and our mistakes. The struggle is with how much of our history of the church is really part of our history. We continue to struggle with the relevance of stories like these as being part of our heritage in some way.

April 7, 2015 Judges 7-8 (17)

The life and battles of Gideon. What about the dream that foretold Gideon’s victory. It is always interesting how dreams get interpreted. Why fight with 300 against the masses  of the Midianites. It seems quit improbable but the story is intended to show the might of God. Your disobedience doesn’t make God unfaithful. There is a lot of friendly fire among the Midianites  and the camels stampede to defeat them. Camels tend to be nasty beasts anyway, and don’t make good pets. I can see them rebelling against their bosses. The Midianites were a roaming people who were marauders and roamed in the area, so Gideon was protecting the ag interests in the area. Even the people who drink like dogs were those selected to defeat the Midionites. Or maybe the people who lapped like doges were keeping an eye out for the enemy while they were drinking. Thus they were more vigilant and thus were the better soldiers. The tribal system served to separate the people and they tended to not communicate with each other. Tom told about people in NE Russia who counted their wealth in reindeer but couldn’t eat them or use them as well. In chapter 8 Gideon tries to get help from other Jewish tribes people and were refused so Gideon promised retribution. He then killed the people of Penuel and slew the men of the city. Chuck is doing better.

March 31, 2015 Judges 6 (Fleece Prayer) (19)

Fleece prayer was where Gideon put god to the test. Asher (or Asherof) pole is indicator of where altar of Baal was located. Henny Youngman said “Jewish holidays are all alike they try to kill us they failed so let’s eat.” It was 7 years after Deborah to Gideon. The people were seduced into the religion of the Mideonites which was a sex religion. Baal was a fertility cult with religious prostitutes. This interaction is there are consequences for your deeds. God could have shown them how to leave peacefully with their neighbors like the pilgrims. Why didn’t He?
Why fleece prayer special? Some people have made it into a sign that if an unusual thing happened then something else happens that is a sign from God. How will our society of of sex get changed? Maybe we will be given over to ISIS. We persist in turning a blind eye to the prevalence of sex in our society. We got into a conversation about Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders as a symbol of sex in our society. What happens in our communities as a result of these shows. Why does the society in Amsterdam not lead to a society of objectivication of women? Jesus was a victim of the system. And so he prayed that he might not have to be crucified, but left that up to God the Father to decide.
Here are a couple of references to fleece prayer:  Flipping coins to determine God’s will as a fleece:

March 24, 2015, Judges 4-5 (22)

Rabbi Jeff Portman visited us today. We always enjoy having Rabbi Portman with us to give us the Jewish perspective on what is being described in the Old Testament.

Judges were active around 1200 to 1000, although some say they were around for 400 years rather than just the 200 years indicated bove. Judges is part of the writings describing what was happening with the prophets somewhat less important than the Torah but more than the songs and poetry of Psalms, Song of Solomon, etc.

Deborah must have been a very strong charismatic woman to be a leader at the time. Chapters 4 and 5 really show women having prominent roles in the life of the Israelites at that time.

How did God speak to the people at the time differently then than now. We don’t really know because so many of the good and powerful things that happened then are attributed to God, but we really don’t know if it really happened in that way.  There are different theologies represented in different books which means there is a different interpretations. In some we see the idea that God rewards you for doing good and punishes you for evil, but in others, good people have bad things happen to them, while evil people prosper. Did John Smith have fresh wisdom from God when he wrote the Book of Mormon that indicates God was speaking to John. Jeff says right behavior is more important than right belief. Rabbi Portman says he welcomes the struggle with scripture. It enhances his understanding and faith.

John read from a source that suggests that the writers of Judges may have embellished a squabble between two tribes in a small area into a major war. Deborah calling upon 10,000 men to go to battle sounds like a major war but may be exaggerated and obviously the number may be an “in the ballpark” estimate . We get different stories from different people who supposedly saw the same thing.

The Jewish exegesis of the scriptures is to take the scriptures and see how things today are fulfilling the words of a prophet or to shed some light on what our behavior today should be. Someone else would write a different account of our discussion this morning than I have. Jews recognize the Masoretic text as the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism, but they certainly have other versions as well.

Different aspects of the battle between chapter 4 and 5 are described. There is an incredible richness of the description and comparison between the prose and poetic version of the times. The role of women as leaders is certainly important here. Rabbi Portman says he doesn’t say too much about God, but rather it is up to us how we lead our lives and we use the scriptures as well as the role of God there to help shape our behavior.

March 17, 2015 Judges 2-3 (15)

Most people think judges was written in the 5th century BC. The events described happened somewhere in between the twelveth and tenth century BC. The commentaries note that when the people go away from God, they are called Israelites, while when they are with God they are children of Israel. We discussed hero’s as leaders but noted that many heros have worts. The word judges were some tribes people who became leaders. When you mingle the value systems there can be problems. The Israelites face the problems like all people and they needed people to sort out their disputes and some of these became very important leaders as well. Bill brought up the notion of priests from Samuel. Where were they during judges. What happens when the culture requires us to sacrifice our children? This was happening in the religion of Baal and Ashertof. We got into the promiscuity of today. What does it mean about our society? Is it wrong that we value some teachings of scripture more than others. For example, our lives today pretty much deny that adultery is a sin. Does convenience and our happiness trump our fidelilty?  We got into the promiscuity of today. What about the Bachelor? Curt says divorce and marriage happens long before the actual legal proceedings happen.

There was an interesting opinion piece in the NYT about the US being a Christian nation. The link to it is

March 10, 2015 Judges 1 (19)

Joshua and Jesus spelled the same in Greek. Judges starts with a couple of prologues and 2 epilogs. Mark talked about Huntington as the first president of the continental congress. In Judgs, they cut off big toes and thumbs to prevent the captured kings from wielding weapons or running. The scripture writers wrote history after the fact to give God the credit. The Israelites were  ruled by the patriarchs but they now no longer were there and so they turned to judges to rule Israel. Note that old gezers come from v 19. They didn’t kill off everyone but made some slaves. The Israelites tried to assimilate people in some cases rather than kill them. This, however, sometimes led to serious problems. It may have been somewhat like the immigrant problem today.

How did it feel to be enslaved in Egypt and then be freed and how would they react to being in charge. Human genetics found rare diseases because of inter marriage in these tribes of the Negeb. Why are we surprised at the violence of ISIS but that is the way it  has been for a long time. The judges took over to accomplish a limited task of moving into an area. Joshua took over the promised land but this Era happened after that and there is a lack of leadership. They wrote this in 1000 BC and attributed much of what happened was due to God and his promises. These judges had the job of settling disputes among the people. Why did the people attribute activity to god. The constitution encapsulates our belief system and the supreme court interprets it for us. The judges back then had more leadership roles. God did good things through judges like Ehud, Gideon, Deborah, Samson, as well as some other individuals. Judges chronicles the moral decay that afflicted Israel and led to its oppression, at time recording shocking events. We can use these events as a warning against spriitual indifference and the moral decay that stalks our lives today. The providential decided. Next week Judges 2 and 3. The invention of lying is a movie.