Judges and Ruth
Just the gist (for small children and others with tiny attention spans):
The Book of Judges describes a cycle in which Israel found itself:
- The Israelites would forget about God.
- They would sin. A lot.
- They would be oppressed by their enemies.
- They would realize they needed to turn back to God.
- They would ask for His help.
- He would send them a Judge.
- They would be saved from their enemies.
- And then they would forget about God again.
And so, the cycle went round and round with each decline in morality getting worse and worse.
For those that can handle just a bit more:
After the death of Joshua and his generation, “there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10). Which is Bible talk for, the Israelites were not teaching their children the faith. This made them inattentive to God which made them commit offenses against God and his law (the definition of sin). God would then allow their enemies to oppress them which generally woke up Israel to the fact that they needed to turn back to God and they would plead for His help. He would send them a Judge. Not a judge in the sense of a guy that wore powdered wigs, black robes, banged a gavel and ajudicated cases of law while yelling things like, “Don’t piddle on me and tell me it’s raining!” at mouthy defendants. The Judges God sent were temporary, special deliverers (usually military) that would save Israel from her enemies and bring peace for a time. Until the Israelites would forget about God and start the cycle all over again.
The Judges were as follows:
Othniel – beat the Mesopotamians and gave Israel peace for 40 years. (Judges 3:7-11)
Ehud – assassinated the Moabite leader in a non-Christmas talk kind of way. (Actually, it was so gross, I’m not sure if it should be ordinary time talk either.) Ehud led the Israelites to victory over the Moabites after 18 years of oppression. Israel had peace for 80 years. (Judges 3:12-30)
Shamgar – killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad ( an oxgaod looks like a modern-day fire poker on a long wooden stick and was used to… goad oxes). (Judges 2:31)
Deborah – her name means ‘honey bee’. She is both a judge and prophet. With the help of Deborah and a woman named Jael who used a tent peg to assassinate Jabin the King of Hazor, the Israelites overcame the Canaanites and had peace for 40 years. (Judges 4:1-24)
Gideon – called by God while beating out wheat at a wine press. He was hiding from the Midianites. Gideon insisted that he was the least of men, and therefore not good enough to be an instrument of God. Little did he know, one of God’s favorite things to do is to use the weak to bring down the strong. Gideon defeated the Midianites in a spectacular victory. After Gideon came 40 years of peace, kind of. His son, Abimelech, made himself king and went on a bit of a slaughter fest. But aside from that, peace. (Judges 6:11-9:57)
Tola, Jair – between the two of them, they judged Israel for about 45 years. (Judges 10:1-5)
Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon – the Ammonites were oppressing Israel so the spirit of the lord came upon Jephthah. He made the world’s dumbest vow: if the Lord gave him victory, he would sacrifice the first person to come out of his house to greet him. Jephthah was victorious and out came his daughter to congratulate her dad who, sadly, made good on his vow. #sadtruestory
Ibzan, Elon and Abdon – judged Israel, with little excitement, for about 25 years. (Judges 11:1- 12:15)
Samson – now Israel had been suffering at the hands of the Philistines for 40 years so the angel of God appeared to a barren couple (Barren Lady Gets a Baby!) and told them they’d have a baby. He was to be dedicated to God with a Nazirite vow. This was a special vow Israelites took that meant they were specially consecrating themselves to God by:
- not drinking wine
- not touching dead things
- not cutting their hair
Samson was an unusual case in that his vow was decided for him and it was lifelong. Typically, the vow was both temporary and voluntary. (We’ll see another baby dedicated with this vow lifelong on Day 22. He was a little better about keeping it). If Samson kept this vow, he would be blessed with strength.
Samson was not great at denying himself. He found himself in a vineyard (where he should not have been on account of his vow) and was attacked by a lion. He killed the lion with his bare hands and when he swung by the vineyard again on his way back (still shouldn’t have been there) he found a bee hive in the carcass of the slain lion. Once again, violating his vow (no touching dead things!) because he was horrible at denying himself and, apparently, had the world’s strongest stomach, he ate the honey. And he knew he was being naughty because when he gave his parents some of the carcass honey, he made a point of not telling them from where he had gotten it. (Judges 14:5-9).
Samson ended up through a series of events (many not Christmas talk), making the Philistines hate him. For instance, he killed three-thousand of them with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey. (Touched another dead thing). Yet, they could not overcome his strength. However, in addition to his weakness for honey, he also had a weakness for the ladies, so the Philistines paid Delilah to do what she could to find out the secret of his strength. She found out it was his hair and cut it while he slept. He was captured and blinded by the Philistines and forced into hard labor pushing the giant grindy thingy at the prison mill. His enemies did not notice his hair had started to grow back. (Judges 16:4-22)
At a feast for their god Dagon, the Philistines brought Samson out to make fun and torment him and made the fatal mistake of putting him between the two support pillars of the building. Blind and humiliated, Samson asked God for one last bout of strength to avenge himself. “O Lord God, remember me, I beg you, and strengthen me, I beg you, only this once, O God, that I may be avenged upon the Philistines for one of my two eyes.” (Judges 16:28) God must have assented because Samson pushed the two pillars down, killing himself and all the Philistines in the structure with him. He ended up killing more Philistines with his death than he had killed combined during his life. He had judged Israel for twenty years.
The rest of the Book of Judges is not Christmas talk. A lot. Suffice it to say, the cycle of violence escalated to such a degree that the entire tribe of Benjamin was nearly exterminated. (Judges Chapters 19- 20)
The book ends simply: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). Which is Bible talk for “they were in an era of relativism and anarchy instead of living according to the law of God.”
Within the horror show that is Judges, there is a small, lovely little story that takes place in the book of Ruth. There was a famine in Israel so Naomi and her husband moved to Moab. Their sons married Moabite women and then all of the men in the family died leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law widowed. Naomi decided to head back to Israel and one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, refused to leave her, opting instead to adopt the Israeli God and way of life as her own in order to take care of her mother-in-law.
Ruth ended up gleaning in a field owned by Boaz. Gleaning was going onto someone’s property and collecting food left behind by the harvesters. It was a perfectly legit way in Israel for the poor and widows (who were usually poor) to eat. Boaz, from the tribe of Judah, saw Ruth and was quite taken. They ended up married and had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse who had a son name David, our lead man in Day 12.