Day 5

The Times of the Judges - cont.

Jephthah

[Jdg 10:6-12:7] Yet again the children of Israel fall into idolatry, serving the gods of a number of the nations around them. Consequently, God permits the Philistines and Ammonites to overrun them, and after eighteen years they cry out to God for help. God reminds them of all He has done for them in the past and how He has come to their help in more recent decades. This time He refuses to help and tells them to go to the gods they’ve been worshipping to solicit their help. But the Israelites put away their foreign gods and serve the Lord only, and He grieves for them. The Ammonites gather in Gilead for battle, but the Israelites are gathered in Mizpeh, so the Gileads are now wondering who will fight for them. Of Gilead’s sons, Jephthah was born of a harlot and was disowned by his brethren, not wanting him to share in their inheritance. But Jephthah became a mighty man of valour and the Elders of Gilead now seek his help, offering to make him head over them, to which he agrees. Because he is now head of Gilead, Jephthah sends messengers to the Ammonites questioning what argument they have against him that causes them to fight in his land. Their reply is that they are reclaiming the land the Israelites took from them when they came from Egypt. Jephthah’s response is that it was God who gave the Israelites the land, and therefore their argument is not with him, but they take no notice. Jephthah made a vow to the Lord that ‘whatsoever’ came to meet him from his home when he returned in peace would be offered to Him as a burnt offering. He defeats the Ammonites, but when he returns to his home it is his only child, his daughter, who is first to greet him. His daughter accepts her fate because it was a vow to the Lord, but requests a period of two months’ grace before the vow is honoured, which is agreed. The Ephraimites now claim that Jephthah did not include them in the defeat of the Ammonites and a dispute arises between the Gileadites and Ephraimites, resulting in the death of some forty-two thousand Ephraimites. Jephthah leads Israel in peace for another six years.

Ibzan, Elon and Abdon

[Jdg 12:8-15] After Jephthah, Ibzan leads Israel for seven years before his death and is buried in Bethlehem. After him, Elon leads Israel for ten years, then Abdon for a further eight years.

Samson

[Jdg 13-16] Israel again falls into idolatry and is oppressed by the Philistines for forty years. Manoah, a Danite, has a wife, whose name we are not given, who is barren. An angel of the Lord appears to her, and later to her and her husband together, announcing she is to give birth to a son who will be a Nazarite to God and begin the work of freeing the Israelites from the Philistines. She names her son Samson. When Samson grows to a young man, God’s Spirit leads him to take a Philistine wife to open an opportunity to take vengeance on the Philistines (the Philistines have control in Israel at this time). When Samson goes with his parents to Timnath to meet with his future wife, he is attacked by a young lion and kills it with his bare hands, but he tells no one of the incident. Sometime later, Samson again goes to Timnath to complete his marriage and goes out of his way to find the lion he had previously slain. He finds there is a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass and feeds on the honey, then takes some to his parents, but does not tell them where the honey came from. At his wedding feast, Samson poses a riddle to thirty of the guests, based on the episodes with the lion. If they solve the riddle in seven days, when the celebrations finish, then he will give them thirty sheets and thirty changes of garment. If they do not, then they are to give him the same. Being unable to solve the riddle, they persuade Samson’s wife to extract the answer from him, which she succeeds in doing after some effort, and they win the wager. Because they had cheated, Samson, driven by the Spirit, slays thirty men at Ashkelon, and from the spoil pays those who solved the riddle. He then returns to his father’s house. Because Samson is away at his father’s house for some time, his father-in-law assumes he has left his daughter and she is given to another. Samson’s reaction to this is to send foxes with firebrands tied to their tails through the Philistines’ cornfields and vineyards to set fire to them. The Philistines take revenge by burning his wife and father-in law. Samson then retaliates and smites many of them before going to dwell at Etam in Judah. An army of Philistines goes to Judah to capture Samson, helped by three thousand men of Judah. Samson willingly submits and goes with them bound with cords. When he is delivered to the Philistines, he has the Spirit of God in him and kills a thousand of them using a fresh jawbone from an ass. After this he is thirsty. He calls out to God and is provided with water found in the hollow part of the jawbone. Samson then judges over Israel for twenty years, although the Philistines still occupy Israel territory. At some time, Samson goes to Gaza and stays for the night with a harlot. The men of Gaza surround the place overnight, intending to kill Samson, but he escapes at midnight. In time, Samson meets and falls in love with Delilah. With the prospect of a great financial reward, she is persuaded by the Philistines to discover the secret of Samson’s strength so they can defeat him. Three times she is told different things by Samson that are untrue, but on the fourth occasion he tells her that if his head is shaven, then his strength will be lost. While he sleeps, she has his head shaven and the Philistines are then able to capture him. They take out his eyes and throw him in a prison in Gaza, but while in prison his hair begins to grow again. The Philistines now have a celebration, giving credit to their god Dagon for Samson’s deliverance. Samson is brought to where they are celebrating and is put between two pillars so they can make sport of him. Samson cries out to God for strength and he is able to displace the pillars, bringing the building down, and killing all those in the building and on the roof. It is said that the number he slew at his death was more than he slew in his life.

Micah and the Danite migration

[Jdg 17-18] The last five chapters of Judges form an epilogue that tells of the rise of idolatry in Israel before God begins to deal with His people. Micah, a man of Mount Ephraim, had taken some silver from his mother. When he confesses, she is thankful and gives a portion for the manufacture of images through which they will worship God (presumably because they are some distance from Shiloh) and which are then kept in Micah’s possession. Micah then consecrates one of his sons to become his priest. A young Levite is travelling through the country to find a place to settle and comes across Micah’s house. When Micah realises he is a Levite, he invites him to stay to be his priest for payment and his keep. Micah feels that this would put him in good stead with God, having a Levite as his priest. Later, the Danites send some men to spy out the land to complete their  inheritance. They come across Micah’s home, and the Levite living there, and enquire of his circumstances before seeking divine guidance concerning the direction in which they should travel. Moving on, they come across Laish, which is a plentiful land where the inhabitants are relaxed about their security. This is reported back to their people and six hundred men are dispatched to take the land. On the way they call at Micah’s house, take the images and persuade the Levite that it would be better for him to be a priest to many rather than one man. When Micah discovers this he pursues the Danites, but withdraws when it is clear the group is too strong for him. Laish is taken and the people settle there and rename it Dan. The Levite and his sons after him are priests in Dan until the captivity, and the idols are used for worship all the time God’s house is in Shiloh.

The Levite’s concubine

[Jdg 19-21] A certain Levite is passing through Ephraim when he takes a concubine who is later unfaithful to him. She leaves him and goes to her father’s house to which he follows her. Her father plays host to him for a few days before he leaves to return home with his concubine. On the way they arrive at Gibeah where they need to stop for the night. They are unable to find a place to stay until an old man, an Ephraimite, offers them lodging. Some wicked men of Gibeah surround the house with the same intent as those at Sodom who surrounded Lot’s house. The Levite’s concubine is given to them instead and they abuse her all night to the extent that she dies from the abuse. The Levite takes her body home, then cuts it into twelve pieces and sends them to all Israel. An assembly of the children of Israel is gathered at Mizpah to hear from the Levite the whole story of what had happened to his concubine. They unanimously agree that the people of Gibeah should be punished for what they had done, and ask the tribe of Benjamin to deliver the men of Gibeah to them. But, instead, the Benjamites prepare for battle to defend Gibeah. With God’s approval, the Israelites go into battle against the Benjamites, but are twice defeated. Being encouraged by God, they go into battle a third time and this time the Benjamites are thoroughly defeated, all of them being killed except for six hundred men. The children of Israel had sworn an oath at Mizpeth that none of them should provide wives for the Benjamites, but they now repent of this and grieve that a tribe of Israel should be effectively wiped out. Now Jabeshgilead had not supported Israel in dealing with Benjamin, and the decision is made to destroy these people except for the virgins, who would be given to the Benjamites. But this was insufficient, providing only four hundred virgins. However, there is an annual feast of the Lord held in Shiloh, so they take advantage of this and connive to obtain another two hundred virgins. The Benjamites are to lie in wait for the virgins to come out to the vineyards to dance, then take them for their wives. When their fathers come to complain, they will be told of the Benjamites’ plight. This is how the tribe of Benjamin is to be saved from extinction. In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Ruth

Naomi and Ruth

[Ruth 1] Naomi, together with her husband and two sons, leaves Bethlehem because of a famine in the land and goes to live in Moab. Her husband dies before her two sons marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Her sons then die leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law alone. Naomi hears that the famine is over in Canaan and decides to return to her home. On the way she tells her two daughters-in-law that they should return to their own people and find new husbands there. They initially refuse, but Orpah agrees and returns home. Ruth, however, insists on staying with her mother-in-law, giving her a wonderful declaration of love. They arrive in Bethlehem when the barley harvest is about to begin.

Ruth meets Boaz

[Ruth 2] Now Naomi and Ruth are destitute, so Ruth is sent to glean in the fields after the reapers. She is gleaning in Boaz’s field when he notices her and enquires after her. Boaz, hearing of her story, speaks to Ruth and tells her to glean only in his field and to take refreshments with his servants. He then tells his servants not to hinder her gleaning and to even let a little extra fall for her to collect. She collects so much that she has to beat it before returning to Naomi in the evening. When Naomi is told all that had happened, she realises Ruth had chanced upon the field of a near kinsman, Boaz. Ruth is told to continue gleaning in Boaz’s field and not to go to any other. This she does until the end of the harvest.

Ruth and Boaz at the threshing floor

[Ruth 3] At winnowing time, Naomi gives Ruth instructions on how to get Boaz as her husband (by means of the custom of Levirite marriage, as he is a near kinsman). That evening, Naomi follows her instructions and Boaz responds favourably, but has to tell her there is a nearer kinsman than he. The night’s events are kept secret and Ruth is sent home to Naomi with six measures of barley, which Naomi recognises as a sign that Boaz intends to fulfil his role as kinsman redeemer, seven being the number of completeness.

Boaz marries Ruth

[Ruth 4] The next morning, Boaz tells the nearer kinsman of the situation and, in front of witnesses, offers him the opportunity to be her kinsman redeemer. The offer is declined and Boaz is free to marry Ruth. They have a son who is named Obed by Naomi’s neighbours. Obed is to be the father of Jesse, who is to be the father of King David.

The Monarchy

[1Sam 1 - 1Kings11]

Samuel

[1Sam 1-7]

Samuel’s birth, dedication and calling

[1Sam 1-3] Hannah, one of Elkanah’s two wives, is loved by Elkanah but is barren. Because of this, she is jibed by Elkanah’s other wife. During their annual visit to worship and sacrifice at Shiloh, Hannah prays to God in her distress, and vows that if she has a son, he will be given to the Lord for service all the days of his life. Eli, the priest, sees her praying with her lips moving, but no sound coming from them, and assumes she has been drinking. When Hannah tells him that she is praying because of her considerable grief, Eli says to her, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou has asked of him. She no longer feels sad, and soon after returning home conceives and has a son she names Samuel. After he is weaned, she takes him to Shiloh and presents him to Eli for service to God. Each year, when they go to Shiloh to offer their sacrifice, Hannah takes a new coat she has made for the growing lad. Eli blesses Elkanah and Hannah and intercedes for them, asking that they should have more children. Hannah conceives and has three more sons and two daughters. During this time Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, abuse their position when taking the priests’ share of offerings. Despite serving at the temple, they do not know the Lord as Eli does and their actions cause men to resent making their offerings. They also have sex with women who come to the tabernacle. In his later years, Eli rebukes his sons for their behaviour, but they take no notice of him, nor does Eli take any action against them. Consequently, he is confronted by a man of God who gives him a message from God, telling him that his family’s duty as priests will come to an end, no offspring will survive beyond the age at which they might become a priest, and that He would raise a faithful priest. A sign of this coming about will be the death of his two sons in the same day. Eli is now old and his sight failing. One evening, when Samuel has finished his duties and has laid down to sleep, God calls him. Thinking it was Eli calling, Samuel goes to him, only for Eli to deny having called and to be sent back to bed. This happens three times before Eli realises God is calling Samuel, and now instructs him on how to respond if he is called again. God does call Samuel again and tells him that Eli’s house will be judged. Next morning, Samuel does not want to tell Eli the message given by God, but does so when pressed. From this time on, God is with Samuel, and as Samuel grows, all Israel comes to know he is established as a prophet to the Lord.

The Philistines capture the ark

[1Sam 4] The Israelites go to battle against the Philistines but are defeated with the loss of about four thousand men. In an effort to gain God’s support, they ask that the ark be brought from Shiloh. The request is granted and the ark arrives at camp with Hophni and Phinehas. This strikes great fear into the Philistines, but they encourage one another and go to battle. Victory is again theirs, but with the loss of thirty thousand Israelites. The ark is captured by the Philistines and Hophni and Phinehas are killed in the process. When Eli hears of the death of his sons and that the ark is captured, he remembers the angel’s message and falls from his seat breaking his neck, for he is now ninety-eight years old and a heavy man. When the news reaches his daughter-in-law she goes into labour, but dies giving birth.

The ark is returned to Israel

[1Sam 5-6] The Philistines take the ark to Ashdod and place it beside their idol Dagon. Two mornings in succession Dagon is found fallen on his face before the ark. Consequently, the priests and people will no longer enter the place. The people of Ashdod are then smitten with haemorrhoids and they decide to move the ark to Gath, but the same happens at Gath and at other places the ark is taken. The ark has now been with the Philistines seven months and the priests are summoned for advice. The decision is made to return the ark with a trespass offering of five golden mice and five golden haemorrhoids, one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Askelon, Gath and Ekron. All are to be placed on a new cart pulled by two heifers that had not previously been yoked, and delivered to the borders of Bethshemesh. At Bethshemesh, the Israelites celebrate the return of the ark and make offerings and sacrifices to God. However, during the celebrations some of them look into the ark, which is forbidden, and many are smitten by God because of it. The ark is then taken by men from Kirjathjearim to Abinidab’s house where his son Eleazor is sanctified to look after it. The ark remains there for twenty years.

Samuel subdues the Philistines at Mizpah

[1Sam 7] Samuel now exhorts the people of Israel to reform from idolatry, which they agree to do. He gathers them at Mizpah, prays for them and makes offerings on their behalf. Meanwhile, the Philistines, having heard the Israelites are at Mizpah, set out to do battle with them, but God hampers them with a great storm and the Israelites are able to defeat them. Now subdued, the Philistines do not move against Israel during the rest of Samuel’s life, and the cities taken by the Philistines are restored to them. There is now also peace between Israel and the Amorites, the Amorites having seen the more powerful Philistines have been dealt with. Each year, Samuel judges Israel whilst doing a circuit of Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeth, returning to his home at Ramah.
30-Day Reading Plan This is a 30-day reading plan based on an average of 15 minutes per session - a total read time of 7½ hours. The actual read times vary from 12 to 20 minutes to accommodate for practical read session end points. If the reading times don’t suit you, then simply go at your own pace and note where you finished. Please select your reading day below
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