Day 94 (April 4): Jepthah’s vow, Ephraim fights with Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon become judges, Samson is born, Samson’s riddle, Samson’s fury at Philistines

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Judges 11:29

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 11:29): I’m trying to figure out where Jephthah came from — the son of Gilead — but now that I’m looking at it I don’t know who Gilead is.  The new characters are coming and going so fast that it’s hard to remember the Gilead from Gideon and Jotham from Jephthah.  I’m just wondering where Gilead came from.  It seems that the lines between the different tribes are not as noteworthy now?

A. Gilead refers to a mountainous region in the east side of the Jordan where the three tribes settled.  It is not entirely clear whose territory it was in, so it was probably near a border area between Gad and Manasseh.  I suppose once the lines have been drawn as it were, then the territorial themselves would matter less.  The narrator is attempting to have his readers understand where this is all taking place.

Q. (Judges 11:30-31, 11:34-35): Times were so different then than now.  I don’t know if anyone would say, “If you give me victory, I will give you whatever — or whomever — comes out of my house first when I come home from a battle.”  We don’t need to do things like this since Jesus was crucified.  But, it’s hard to even read this.  And, the daughter is OK with it.  Was this a little punishment for Jephthah?  Maybe he was egotistical when he assumed he would come home victorious?  The picture I have in my head of this scripture is with Jephthah coming home taking in all the glory for himself and not giving it to God.

A. What I would take away from this story is the idea that God will not be used.  Even if Jephthah was a righteous man in his walk with God, this vow is very rash and costs him dearly.  One thing to note: it appears part of what he was trying to do was establish a name for himself in order to gain wealth and power, but in making this vow, the wealth and power he established died with him — the vow cost him his only heir.  I suspect this is what Jephthah realized that caused him to tear his clothes (11:35) in anguish.

Q. Maybe the previous question was foreshadowing this next passage: family (Israelites) killing one another.  The Israelites used to be united, but now it seems like they are becoming jealous, warring neighbors.

A. The book covers a significant period of time, and I suspect that this is just part of the nature of people: put them in close proximity long enough, and tensions will rise.  Someone will take offense to something foolish, as in this story, and blood will be shed to resolve it.  While they are defined by their relationship with their God, the people are still plainly very human.

Q. (11:7): One more question about Jephthah: He was the son of Gilead and a prostitute.  When Joshua and the Israelites defeated Jericho, with God’s leadership, a prostitute was saved.  Here we are seeing God welcoming those who have made poor choices, showing them there is salvation through Him.  I almost feel like this is a story more for readers now than then, because then, the people probably did not realize God’s grace toward those kind of sinners.  If you have been reading along, you would remember that when the Israelites were camping in the desert/wilderness for 40 years, anyone with an ailment or who had touched someone or something dead, would be deemed ceremonially unclean and most of the time have to live outside the camp until they were healed.  This seemed to me to be harsh treatment, but as Rob said, it was to keep the camp from being riddled with disease.  That made sense.  And now, that we have seen God choose those who would normally not be chosen to do heroic deeds, we see that God cares for all of his people.  I know we will see much more of this the closer we get to the NT and lots of it in the NT.  Right?

A. I think that’s a very keen observation.  Judges is full of all sorts of the “not chosen,” and this trend will continue — through King David, the prophets, and into the NT.

Q. (Judges 12:8-15): Any idea how these judges were chosen?

A. God is choosing them, that’s all we get.

Q. (13:5): These passages are so rich with messages, foreshadowing.  It’s like Christmas in the Bible.  1) Here God is giving someone a sign — long hair — of belonging to God.  2) We talked about Nazirites before.  Read Day 60, the first question.  3) The repetition.  I have always noted the repetition of the same story, like Moses retelling again and again, and then Joshua backing him up, about God’s deliverance of the Israelites.  But, I have not noted the foreshadowing of several stories, which does the same thing as repetition.  It pounds in God’s message to the reader.  Here we see, once again, God giving chosen children to those who have been barren — Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 15), Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25), Jacob’s wife Rachel (Genesis 30), and now Manoah and his wife, and the coming of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1).

A. Not having children was a terrible social stigma in this society, even in NT times, so God delivering these families — the women in particular, who bore the brunt of the shame — is one of His greatest mercies.  We will see more examples of this, including Hannah and her son Samuel, who will lead the nation for many years and crown its first kings (1 Samuel- coming soon!)

Q. (13:11): Notice the angel of the Lord said “I am.”  For me, this is like code.  “I am” means God or Jesus or the Spirit.  Rob, we always talk about the trinity.  Is the angel of the Lord God himself?  Should there be four: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and his angels.

A. No!  While the OT in particular uses names of God to refer to angelic beings, these are messengers who should never be thought of as equal to God.  Remember that in this society and time, a messenger or emissary who came on behalf of a ruler or king was thought of as BEING the king or speaking as though they were king.  This is the image to bear in mind.  Angels are amazing beings — and this passage paints some really cool images — but we are off base at anytime we want to make angels God.  God is God alone, even revealed in His three person — a NT characteristic.

Q. (13:16): I just assumed that Manoah knew whom he was talking to, but it says he doesn’t.  So, are we to read this that Manoah was not a follower of God?

A. Not necessarily.  He may have assumed that this being was actually a human prophet of God, rather than an angelic being.  It is hard to tell exactly who Manoah thought this person was.

Q. (14:1): I just wondered if we have ever noted where the Philistines originated.  Rob, I thought maybe they came from Esau, since you said, way back in Genesis, that his descendants, the Edomites, would become enemies of the Israelites.

A. Nope.  The Edomites are not the Philistines.  The Edomites lived on the southeastern side of Israel (south of the Dead Sea), while the Philistines were probably descended from a seafaring people, and lived southwest of Israel near the Mediterranean.

Q. (14:12-16): Why were riddles so tormenting?  Can you explain it all?  Why would Samson tease them with a riddle?  Then, Samson was mad at his wife for giving up the answer to the young men who were to be Samson’s companions, a gift from his soon-to-be in-laws?  Why would the Spirit of the Lord cause Samson to kill 30 men?  I guess Samson was embarrassed that his wife gave the answer to the riddle away?

A. Samson was surely angry about losing the bet (that line about plowing with his heifer is a classic!), and it appears God used his anger to extract vengeance against the Philistines.  That is the implication of 14:4 — God used this marriage arrangement to confront the Philistines and conquer them.

Q. (15:18): This story confuses me because it seems like God picked a couple who was not necessarily a follower of Him and then gave them a son.  And, until this verse where he cries out for thirst, it doesn’t really say that Samson was doing Godly things.  It says the Spirit would fill him and he would go lashing out.  The puzzle I am putting together in my head is exactly what the angel told Manoah, that Samson would (13:5) “begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”  13:24 does say that God blessed Samson.  The blessings are what?  His strength?  Samson faces so much ridicule — embarrassment, his wife is killed, later he is blinded.

A. Samson’s blessing is surely his strength: They don’t call him the Biblical Hercules for nothing.  But Samson is also quite foolish, and he makes very ungodly decisions, ESPECIALLY as it comes to women.  Ironically, as you mention, his punishment for lusting after foreign women, a sin of the eyes, is being blinded by his enemies.  But even here, God will use Samson’s humiliation to bring victory.

That was a heavy reading today.  Please join us to see what lessons we can learn tomorrow.

Day 93 (April 3): Shechem faces Abimelech, Tola and Jair are judges, Ammonites oppress Israel, Israelites seek exiled Jephthah as new commander

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Judges 9:22-11:28

Questions & Observations

Q. (9:57): So the curse Jotham delivered was from God?  I’m just asking because I don’t think that the Bible states that God was with Jotham.  Also, for our purposes, we don’t know much about Jotham except that he was Gideon’s youngest son and the only one of 70 sons who escaped his half-brother, Abimelech’s, killing spree.  In a Bible study I was in a year ago, we talked about how God has a purpose for everyone.  One mom had a daughter who had a severe issue with her brain.  I think she had a tumor and her life was pretty fragile.  The mom also had a brother with a severe ailment and I believe he died.  She always wondered what her brother’s purpose in life was if he was born with a disease that cut his life on earth so short.  Then, after her daughter was born, she wondered if her brother’s purpose was to prepare her for her own daughter’s medical condition, which of course, seems like a selfish reason for her and a selfless reason for her brother.  Likewise, my oldest sister has Down’s Syndrome.  I have yet to see the purpose God has for her.  She is very loving and always showed a lot of love for everyone growing up.  She would go to church and hug anyone she could.  Anyway, I know it’s not for me to figure out and it’s not important.  I just enjoy seeing God’s work.  Here, it seems that Jotham’s sole purpose, for our purposes, was to complete a scripture, which reminded the people of his curse.  Jotham does acknowledge God in his parable, but he seems to give his loyalty to his father, Gideon, alone.  He says in 9:16: “Have you treated him (Gideon) with the honor he deserves for all he accomplished?  For he fought for you and risked his life when he rescued you from the Midianites.”

A. Regarding the story, it appears that God avenged Himself against Abimelech for his misuse of the things given to him by his father, Gideon.  Gideon was the very fulfillment of what God can do with someone who society, or even the person themselves, thinks is a nobody.  But his son is the exact opposite: he took the things that God had provided his father (note that the story told us that making the ephod that caused this mess was a bad idea) and used them to corruptly rule the nation, and even murder other potential heirs to the “kingdom” Gideon established, even if Gideon explicitly said he didn’t want to be king.  Abimelech sinned greatly against God, and was called to account for it by being killed in battle in a dishonorable way — by a woman, rather than in combat, even if he tried to “fake it” afterwards.

Regarding a person’s purpose in life, you’ve literally opened an entire world of theological questions that simply do not have answers this side of heaven.  I believe that God has some purpose for each and every human life, but these purposes are not always revealed to us, and God is under no obligation to do so (Isaiah 29:16, Romans 9:20).  But since God is good, he often does reveal to us the purpose of life, and sometimes it is only at the end of our lives that we see the purpose and redemption of our lives or the lives of others.  But I suspect that because God is not a human being, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), we may still not be satisfied — or frankly not understand — the purpose of some of the lives around us.  Until Christ returns, we live in a broken and sinful world, but even here, God has the power and desire to bring light even out of the apparent darkness of many human lives.  As with our discussion yesterday, we must ultimately decide whether we can and will trust God in these matters.  The final justice of life lies with Him alone.

Q. (10:4): I don’t think we have mentioned any importance of the number 30?

A. The number 30 is not one that is used frequently, and doesn’t appear to be a “symbolic” number.  The use of the number here is indicative of Jair’s wealth- only a wealthy man could have so much land, heirs, and livestock.

O. (10:6): This is the first time that I remember the Bible saying “again” when talking about the Israelites turning away from God.

O. (11:23-24): I like the way Jephthah turned the charge of the king of Ammon when Jephthah said the Lord gave the Israelites the land, so why should they give it back.  And for the icing on the cake, he said (11:24), “You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the Lord our God gives us.”

Day 91 (April 1): Deborah leads victory, Jael kills Sisera, Song of Deborah, Gideon becomes new judge

Happy belated Easter!!!

Wow!  We are one-fourth the way through the Bible!  Congrats!  It feels great to me.  I don’t know about you, but many clouds of wonder — not doubt — are clearing.  I’m getting a much better understanding of what the Bible is about.  I hope you are too!  If you are new to BibleBum, WELCOME!  Through this blog, we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Enjoy!

Judges 3:31-6:40

Questions & Observations

Q. (Judges 4:4-5): Rob, I am confused.  These stories seem to come as a little of a surprise.  Up to now, they have all been linked — except for Job.  Where did the judges come from?  We have never heard of Deborah.  And, if God handed over the Israelites to King Jabin, why were there judges around who still followed God and judged according to His laws?

A. Your confusion is understandable.  Basically, Judges is the book that covers the time period between Moses/Joshua’s leadership, and Saul/David/Solomon as the first monarchs or Israel.  During this time, there is no one united leader: the Lord calls into service particular individuals, who are otherwise of no importance, to fulfill His desires.  Basically, this story exists in its own timeframe: while the judges are mentioned from time to time, they are basically a more minor part of the history of Israel — they are the transition from a period of one leader, Moses, to another, David.

Don’t worry if you haven’t “met” any of these characters before, the narrative is telling us everything we need to know about them: what tribe they come from.  For His own glory, God is raising up people who have served Him faithfully to either personally carry out His will — as with Ehud killing the king — or by giving someone like Deborah, the only female judge, a prophecy about how Israel can be victorious in battle.  This trend will continue: you won’t have heard of any of these judges before their part in the story. That’s just the way the narrative is set up right now.  It will be this way until Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel (Ruth takes place during this same period).

Keep in mind that when we use the word “judge” in this story, we don’t necessarily envision a person who interprets the law as a judge does today (though in Deborah’s case this is accurate).  We mean a tribal leader or warlord — someone who can bring the tribes together for the purpose of winning in battle.  In Deborah’s story (she’s from the tribe of Issachar according to Jewish tradition, the story didn’t say explicitly), she united the warriors from the clans of Zebulun and Naphtali to gain victory over the evil king, using the warrior Barak as her “general.”  I hope that helps clear up what Judges is about.

Q. (4:14-16): I notice that when the Israelites defeat their challengers, it is by no strength of their own, it is by God’s power that they are victorious.  Believing in someone so much that you know they will fight and win for you is awesome.  But, how about their self-esteem?  It’s kind of like having someone fight your battles for you, you rely on them instead of getting stronger yourself.  Does this sound like something God wants from us?  In verse 23, we see that Israel was on the side of God and get a feeling that God is pleased.

A. Don’t forget, God’s response in each of these situations is a response to the people crying out for deliverance, and God acts.  How He chooses to do so is up to Him.  But, ultimately, that was the deal He set up with the people: if they trusted Him, and did what He ordered, He would make them victorious.  These battles still have to be won by His people, but God is providing assurance that it will be, often by “tilting” the battle in Israel’s favor as He did here (4:15).

Q. (5:7): We haven’t really seen God use a woman as a leader or have a major role — except for the smaller roles of Sarah and Miriam.  Any reason why He chose to now?  Here she is called the “Mother of Israel.”

A. Nothing that I am aware of.  She was the right person at the right time, but only God knows the reason He chose her.  There will not be many strong female leaders in Israel, but Deborah is one of the strongest of ALL Israel’s leaders: even the mighty King David didn’t manage to keep peace in his kingdom for 40 years.

O. (5:11): I feel an underlying calling here from the poor and meek.  It feels almost like God is talking to them and they know more than the well-to-doers.

Q. (5:15-23): Deborah and Barak are coming down on the named tribes, but I only thought they requested certain tribes to come.  Who are the people of Meroz in verse 23?

A. Apparently it was a town somewhere near the battle that refused to participate in the war effort.  We don’t know anything else about it, including which tribal territory it was in.

Q. (5:31): This verse is saying that all of God’s followers should obey Him so much that they will not hesitate to fight for Him.  If so, God will give them all the power in the world?

A. No, I don’t think that’s right.  Deborah is using the imagery of the rising sun to connect with the increasing power of the nation as they ascend through victory.  But there is no reason to assume she means that this power will be infinite.

Q. (6:1-6): I am amazed that the number of times that the Israelites turn away from God and yet they still call out to Him when they are desperate.  And, God delivers them again and again.  Can we apply this to our lives today?

A. I think you just did.

O. Gideon sounds similar to a choice God has made before — Moses.  And, I know there will be more like this.  Although, I am not saying that all of God’s choices are meek.  I am not trying to say that God is predictable.  I’m just saying that he has chosen another person with little self-pride.  On the flipside, He did choose Joseph who was a little egotistical, being the favored son of His father and bragging about his dreams.  Like every human, no two leaders are the same.

Q. (6:36-40): God is putting up with Gideon doubting him.  He caters to his requests.  Gideon has already seen the angel of God consume his offering by fire.  Why does he ask for more proof?  We have seen that even his father worshipped Baal.  So, is it that the Israelites have been devoid of God for so long that the current generation barely knows of His existence, and thus fuels their disbelief?

A. That’s a good question, and a reasonable assumption, but honestly I do not know.  I would say that it is equally likely that Gideon is a man who is haunted by self doubt.  He characterizes himself as the weakest member of the weakest family of the weakest tribe, so I think that at least part of what’s going on here is that Gideon is so fearful that he refuses to follow God’s instructions until he is ABSOLUTELY certain that God is calling him.  Gideon, unlike later judges like Samson, will actually put on display the full ability of God to use literally anyone, even a person who is racked with self-doubt.  For once he clears these hurdles of doubt, we will see Gideon act bravely and faithfully to bring Israel great victory.  Come check it out tomorrow!

Day 88 (March 29): Joshua’s land, cities of refuge, Levites territory

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Joshua 19:49-21:45

1 Chronicles 6:54-81

Questions & Observations

O. (Joshua 19:50): I am just paying attention to notable tidbits about the tribes and who comes from which one.  I did look up which tribe Joshua came from — it had slipped my mind.  It is the tribe of (drumroll, please) Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons.  I just thought that it was predictable, yet interesting and noteworthy, that he chose his own tribe to live among.

Q. (20:1-9): There sure is a significant amount of scripture given to the cities of refuge.  Why were they so important?  It sounds like a simple, logical idea, yet so much text is devoted to their conception.  Are there any particular cities of refuge that we should make note of?

A. According to my notes, the cities were important because they prevented blood feuds between families, which would be the result of potentially endless life for life retribution.  I can’t give you a really good explanation as to why they get so many verses, but it appears that the cities provided an important cog in the Israelite system of justice.

As to the cities themselves, in this area, the city of Kedesh, was not an important place at this point (it was consecrated in this reading), but the other two sites are important to note: the city of Shechem was the site where Israel renewed its covenant with God in Joshua 8.  Joseph’s bones will be buried there in our next reading.  Hebron — in addition to being the land given to Caleb — was among the most important places in all of Canaan, as it was the place where Sarah died way back in Genesis 23, and would subsequently be the resting place of many of the patriarchs and their wives: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah (Genesis 49:29-50:14).

On both sides of the Jordan (remember there are 6 cities total), there is a city in the north, south, and middle of the Israelite territory, in order to ensure that no one has to go too far in order to be protected.

Q. (21:2): There seems to be a lot going on at Shiloh.  Is it the city where the leaders settle?

A. Yes.  As mentioned, the Tabernacle is setup in Shiloh, and it will serve as an unofficial capital until David moves the capital to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel.

Q. (21:6): I don’t ever think we talked about why Manasseh split.  Did they act as one tribe after the split or two?

A. Joseph’s son Manasseh got the single largest share of the Promised Land, and if we consider the Transjordan area as part of their territory as well, then their allotment is truly huge.  Because of the major geographical barrier between East and West (the Jordan river), as far as I can tell, the tribes acted more like two than one.  The Bible does not tell us why the tribe split in half, but it appears that some of the families of Manasseh wanted to stay in the Transjordan area, while others wanted to enter the true Promised Land.

Q. (21:43-45): In today’s society, we have expectations of immediate gratification.  We want something, we charge it and hopefully pay later.  In these times, God makes a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on to Joseph and Moses among all the other faithful Israelites.  However, they did not get to see the Promised Land.  It seems almost unjust that these men of God did not get to enjoy the fruits of their toil.  Were expectations different back then? Something promised to your descendants would mean so much to you that you would go to great lengths to make it happen, and never enjoy it yourself?  Or, does the Bible say anything about they are there enjoying it in spirit?

A. As the story in Genesis told us, the land was not directly promised to Abraham, but rather to Abraham’s descendants, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob.  So, I think that God was perfectly up front with these men about what He was promising.  It did appear to be enough for each of these men that their families — more than 400 years later — would receive the blessing that had been promised to them.

This part of the OT does not talk much about the afterlife — though it never says there isn’t one — but rather a person’s success or failure comes with having descendants who will carry on your heritage, and hopefully succeed more than you did (something we frankly all want for our kids.  We just don’t always define “success” they way they do).  So not only is God promising Abraham and his sons that they will still HAVE descendants in more than 400 years (by no means guaranteed), but that his family will be huge, prosperous, and able to take an entire area of land with God’s help.  That sounds like an amazing promise, and I think it surely would have been enough for them to hear the ways that God would be faithful.