The times of the Judges

Not all the Canaanites were driven from the land, and a later generation of Israelites are enticed by them and start turning to their gods. Each time the Israelites distance themselves further from God, He raises a judge to deliver them. The Israelites seem incapable of learning from this, and following each deliverance they just get into deeper trouble, invoking God’s wrath more each time.

For intermarrying with the Canaanites and serving their gods, God allows the Mesopotamians to subdue them for eight years before raising Othniel, a nephew of Caleb, to deliver them. Peace follows for forty years.

The Israelites again lapse into idolatry and are delivered into the hands of the Moabites for eighteen years. Ehud, a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin, delivers them, bringing peace that is to last for eighty years.

Shamgar, son of Anath, is next to rescue Israel, and does so by killing six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad.

After the Israelites had been oppressed for twenty years by Jabin, king of the Canaanites, Deborah and Barak deliver them then sing a victory song. Peace follows for forty years.

Having had their lands invaded each season for six years by Midianites, destroying crops and livestock, Gideon delivers them, but not without much encouragement from God, as he doubted it was God who called him for the task.

Abimelech, the son of Gideon’s concubine in Shechem, persuades the people of Shechem that he should rule over them rather than the other seventy sons of Gideon, as he is also of Shechem. He slays Gideon’s sons at Ophrah, except for the youngest, Jotham, who belittles Shechem’s choice of Abimelech as king and foretells their destruction with a curse. After three years, tensions arise and Abimelech goes into battle against Shechem, killing all in the city. He then attacks the city Thebez, where he is killed by a woman who throws down a piece of a millstone from a tower, striking him on the head.

After Abimelech there follows twenty three years of peace under Tolar, and twenty two years of peace under Jair.

The Israelites again fall into idolatry, so God permits the Philistines and Ammonites to overrun them. After eighteen years, and God initially refusing to help them, they put away their foreign Gods and Jephthah, a bastard of Gilead, is raised to deliver them. Because of a rash vow made to God, Jephthah forfeits his daughter’s life. 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.

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 is born and appointed a Nazarite to begin the work of freeing the Israelites from the Philistines. He harasses the Philistines for twenty years before his wife, Delilah, is persuaded to discover and reveal the secret of his strength; his long hair. His hair is cut while he is sleeping and he is captured and taken prisoner. In prison his hair naturally grows again. During the Philistine's celebration of their god Dafron, Samson is stood between two columns of the building to be mocked. He cries out to God for strength and is able to displace the columns bringing the building down, 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, a man of mount Ephraim, makes some images from his mother’s silver, then later has a young Levite stay as a family priest in exchange for his keep.

When the Danites migrate to Laish, passing Micah’s home on the way, they take Micah’s silver image and the Levite priest to be theirs. The Danites take Laish and rename it Dan. The Levite and his sons after him are priests in Dan until the captivity, using the idols for worship all the time God’s house is in Shiloh.

At a much earlier time, a 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 where he follows to bring her back. Here he is entertained by her father for five days before leaving. On their return they lodge the first night at Gibeah, in the tribe of Benjamin. The men of Gibeah attack the house with the intent to abuse the Levite’s body. To save himself he gives them his concubine, who dies after being abused all night. The Levite divides her dead body into twelve pieces and sends one to each of the twelve tribes. They consequently call a council to discuss the atrocity and call upon the Benjamites to deliver up the murderers. They refuse and battles ensue with the Benjamites with great losses until eventually the city of Gibeah is destroyed, followed by all the Benjamite cities.

The Israelites mourn because of the desolation of Benjamin and consult God. A plan is concocted that will provide 600 virgins for Benjamin, saving the tribe from extinction.

The story of Ruth

Sometime during the period of the Judges, a woman by the name of Naomi is forced to leave Bethlehem because of a famine. She goes to live in Moab with her husband and two sons. Her husband dies before her two sons marry Moabite women, then later, her two sons die. On hearing that the famine is over, Naomi decides to return home. She tells her two daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and find new husbands there, but Ruth insists on returning with her. They arrive in Bethlehem when the barley harvest is about to begin.

Now Naomi and Ruth are destitute, so Ruth is sent to glean in the fields after the reapers. She happens to glean in Boaz’s field and receives favourable treatment from him. Naomi realises Ruth had chanced upon the field of a near kinsman. She instructs her on how to behave until the end of the harvest, and then at winnowing time.

That evening, Ruth follows Naomi's 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. This Naomi recognises as a sign that Boaz intends to fulfil his role as kinsman redeemer, seven being the number of completeness.

When the time is appropriate, Boaz tells the nearer kinsman of the situation. In front of witnesses, he offers him the opportunity to be Ruth’s 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 was to be the father of Jesse, who was to be the father of King David.