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Showing posts from February, 2014

Ruth 1-4

Lawrence Boadt provides this excellent introduction to the book of Ruth: The Book of Ruth appears in our Bibles right after the Book of Judges because its heroine is an ancestor of King David, whose story is told in the following Books of 1 and 2 Samuel. It tells of an Israelite woman, Naomi, who marries a Moabite man and goes to live in his country. They have two sons who marry local Moabite women. But soon Naomi loses her husband and both sons in death, and she decides to return home to Israel. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, although a Moabitess, decides to follow Naomi and serve her needs, even though she would be far from her own people. In this way Ruth gives a charming example of filial respect and care that eventually leads to her fortunate marriage with Boaz, the leading citizen of Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem. From their marriage will come the house of David. The one thing that is certain about this book is that the story comes from a time long after the

Judges 17-21

As if the rest of the book of Judges was not strange enough, the last five chapters of the book become “curiouser and curiouser,” to quote Lewis Carroll. In chapter 17, we have the story of an Ephraimite named Micah who steals 1100 pieces of silver from his mother, but then his honesty gets the better of him and he tells her what he has done. The mother, in turn, dedicates the silver to the Lord, but amazingly, she does this for the purpose of making an idol of cast metal. Beginning with this idol, Micah forms a shrine and installs one of his sons as priest.  The author/editor of Judges comments on this tale, “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 17:6) Obviously, the author/editor of the book of Judges is writing from the perspective of many years later when there is a king in Israel. He sees the problem with the time of the judges as being that the Israelites did not have a king, they did not ha

Judges 13-16

Once again in Judges 13, the cycle repeats: the Israelites do evil in the sight of the Lord and the Lord gives them into the hand of the Philistines, this time for forty years. However, God in his grace does not leave the Israelites alone forever. He raises up yet another judge to deliver them from the Philistines. This time it is the most well known (to us) judge of all: Samson. With the entrance of Samson on the scene we are led to expect that he will be a holy man, unlike some of those judges who have gone before him. Samson’s conception is apparently miraculous because his mother has been barren up to this time. This follows a theme of miraculous births in the Torah, like that of Isaac. Furthermore, Samson is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to the Lord from birth. According to Numbers 6, the Nazirite was never to touch grapes or anything to do with them, like wine. The Nazirite was never to shave his head. Thirdly, the Nazirite was not to touch a dead body. How

Judges 9-12

The judges over Israel seem to get worse as we go along. Gideon was not half bad, but his son Abimelech, who also rules as a judge after his father, is much worse. Abimelech kills his seventy brothers. Talk about sibling rivalry! Abimelech rules over Israel for three years, but God does not let him get away with evil for very long. In the end, Abimelech dies in battle when a woman drops a millstone from a tower and crushes his skull with it. Still, Abimelech is proud enough that he does not want to die at the hand of a woman so as he is gasping for his last breath he asks his young armor-bearer to run him through with the sword. It is interesting how evil children sometimes come from good parents. Just because a parent is a good person that does not guarantee their children will be good. Everyone must make his or her own choices. In this regard, Abimelech is a preview of what is to come in the time of the kings of Israel. Many of the wicked kings, unfortunately,

Judges 5-8

Lawrence Boadt continues his summary of the book of Judges…. The editors who recorded these traditions saw that the period of the judges represented a spirit of compromise with the pagan culture of the land. It was the greatest sin of the tribes and one which would be repeated again and again in Israel’s later history. For this reason, the editors repeatedly used a pattern to describe the period: the people sin, bring down Yahweh’s wrath upon themselves, later repent, are delivered by a judge sent by God, and finally gain peace while the judge lives.  Naturally the real history of the times was much more complex, with many ups and downs that are not recorded in this book. It seems that most of the stories we do have involved only a few tribes and came from local memories rather than from wars waged by Israel as a whole. These were passed on orally at first among the tribes, and some have developed into full-blown hero legends in which the judge is bigger and more

Judges 1-4

Lawrence Boadt provides this introduction to the book of Judges: The Book of Judges continues the story of Israel’s conquest and gradual occupation of the whole land. It tells the stories and legends of Israel’s time of tribal life in Palestine which lasted about two hundred years, from 1250 down to a little after 1050 B.C. Altogether, the book follows the exploits of twelve judges during this period. Six are hardly more than names attached to a single incident only barely remembered: Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon. As a result these are usually called the “Minor Judges.” The other six are the “Major Judges”: Othniel, Ehud, Barak (with Deborah), Gideon, Jephthah and Samson. They were renowned for their brave exploits in battle and were really not legal judges primarily but warlords. They were leaders who arose in times of great need and led the tribes to victory in one or more battles. Because God had marked them out charismatically, they stayed on

Joshua 21-24

Putting together Joshua 20 and 21, we see that the six cities of refuge were among the forty-eight cities provided for the Levites. The Levites and the Simeonites did not receive their own separate inheritance of land, as did the other ten tribes of Israel. This was due to a curse. They were cursed because they had slaughtered the Shechemites whom we read about back in Genesis 34. However, by God’s grace, the Simeonites were allowed to dwell in a portion of land belonging to Judah. And apparently, because of the Levites faithfulness in carrying out God’s judgment in Exodus 32, God reversed the curse upon them and turned it into a blessing. The Levites were scattered throughout the Promised Land and had no inheritance of their own. However, the Lord used that scattering to make them a blessing to their fellow Israelites. Every city where the Levites lived became a center of worship and propagation of God’s law, the guidelines for living that had been entrusted t

Joshua 17-20

The Israelites failed repeatedly to claim their inheritance. In Joshua 17:12-13 we read, “Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region.” The Israelites failed to fully claim their inheritance, but not because there was any lack of power supplied to them from God. The Lord was absolutely faithful in all his promises to them, as we will read in Joshua 21:43-45. Is this also a picture of us? I wonder: in what ways do we fail to claim the promises of God? The good news is that there is still time to claim God’s promises. We need to stop procrastinating and become faithful finishers. Joshua reproved the Israelites for their procrastination in claiming their inheritance. In Joshua 18:1-3 we read: Then the whole congregation of the Israelites assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them. There remained among the Israelites seven tribes whose inhe

Joshua 13-16

Lawrence Boadt has a good summary of Joshua 13-22…. The stage is now set for his [Joshua's] division of the land among the tribes which follows in chapters 13-22. Many readers regard these chapters as among the most uninteresting sections of the Bible with long lists of town and place names, but they contain invaluable help to the historian and geographer in locating many ancient cities and identifying the boundaries of the tribes who lived in Palestine. However, we must be cautious about the Book of Joshua’s account of Israel’s invasion of the land. For one thing, the land area that Joshua captures is far less than the land he divides among the tribes. No mention is made in chapters 2-12 about taking Shechem or the central hill country, nor of capturing any cities on the coastal plains, nor of taking many major cities in the Jezreel Valley in the north. Despite his victories over the kings of some major strongholds such as Megiddo, Taanach and Gezer, short