Shall we turn in our Bibles to the book of Judges, chapter eight?
The Ephraimites were troublemakers. And in chapter eight we find them giving Gideon a bad time. But we see with what splendid diplomacy Gideon deals with these Ephraimites. They came to Gideon and they began to chide him sharply because he had not called them to go with him against the Midianites. Now it is interesting to note that they came to him after Gideon had the victory and it was assured that Gideon had the enemy on the run. Then they came to him and said, “Why didn’t you call us to come out and help you against these Midianites?” And they really began to give him a bad time, “chided him sharply.” But Gideon said, “Well, what have I done compared with what you have? Actually you captured the two kings. And really, what have I done in comparison?”
Well, Gideon only wiped out a hundred and twenty thousand of them. And so, as yet, very diplomatically he handles the situation very well. These guys are hot-tempered. They come and they start making this ridiculous kind of an accusation. And Gideon, I feel, handles this situation very, very well. Perhaps a little bit too well as far as the Ephraimites themselves are concerned, because later on they tried the same trick with another fella Jephthah and he didn’t handle it so well. But Gideon was very gracious in his dealing with them.
He said, What have I done in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? (8:2)
In other words, you guys came in and the gleanings that you got, the leftovers, are really better than the vintage that we took.
And have, God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: what was I able to do in comparison to you? Then their anger was abated towards him, when he said that (8:3).
So, it was just a very gracious thing on the part of Gideon. I look at Gideon and I must admire the man. There is, I feel, a true humility in this man, admirable quality. When the Lord actually called him to lead the Israelites against Midian you remember, he said, “Lord, I can’t do that. My father’s house you know is really nothing and I am the least of my father’s house. Who am I to do this?” And yet, he was the kind of fellow, when convinced of the call of God, went at it in a very sincere way. Now he could really be glorying in the victory of the Midianites, take this as an opportunity to really, you know, pride himself. It wasn’t so.
Now, perhaps he learned and learned well, the fact that God wanted the glory in the battle. You remember that’s why God narrowed his army down. That’s why God cut them down from twenty-two thousand to three hundred, in order that God would get the victory for whatever was accomplished.
So Gideon came to Jordan, he passed over, with three hundred men that were with him, who were faint, still they were pursing the enemy (8:4).
For there was still some fifteen thousand of the enemy still alive. They’ve wiped out a hundred and twenty thousand, fifteen thousand were still alive and so he’s pursuing. That’s pretty brave thing, with three hundred guys you’re chasing fifteen thousand, you know. That’s all right as long as they’re running but what if they turn around? And it’s really a very commendable thing that he is still doing but his men are tired at this point.
Now an interesting thing to me is that there are still three hundred. Up to this point he hasn’t lost a single man in this battle. God has done a pretty thorough job in wiping out the enemy, and no wonder Gideon was not about to take the credit and is willing to let other men glory but he wouldn’t glory himself.
And so they came to the city of Succoth and they said to the men of Saccoth, “Hey, give some bread to my men because they are faint and all.” And they said, “Look fella, is the enemy in your hand? No way, just fifteen thousand of them go by, there’s only three hundred of you guys and we don’t want to be guilty of helping you because if we help you, then if you be defeated by them, they’ll come back and get us. And so they refused to feed Gideon’s men.
And Gideon said, “When I return with their heads, I’m going to drag you guys through the cactus.” And so he went on to the next city of Penuel, and he asked the men of Penuel, he said, “Give my men some food, they’re fainting and we’ve still got the enemy to wipe out.” And they said, “The enemy isn’t yet delivered in your hand. We’re not going to help you.”
Gideon says when I come back from the victory I’m going to tear down your tower. And he with his three hundred men pursued them, the remainder of the Midianites, about fifteen thousand of them, and they wiped them out.
Verse ten, there is already fallen about a hundred and twenty thousand that drew their sword. There were about fifteen thousand that were now in Karkor where their leaders Zebah and Zalmunna.
So Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in the tents on the east of Nobah, and he smote the host: for the host was secure. And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host. And Gideon the son Joash returned from battle before the sun was up, And they caught a young man from the city of Succoth, and he said: Describe to me the leaders of your city, [the mayor and the city council] (8:11-14).
And so the young man described for them the elders, the leaders of the city and so he went into Succoth and he took these guys and drug them through the cactus, through the thorns and the briars to teach them a lesson for their failure to help them when they were in need. Then they came to Penuel, and they broke down the tower of the city and smote the men of Penuel for their failure also to help them in their time of need.
Then he said to these two Midianite kings, “Describe for me the men that you killed over near Mount Tabor.”
And they said, “Well actually, they look sort of like you, good-looking, they sort of look like sons of God.”
Gideon said, “They were my brothers. If you would have spared their lives I would now spare yours but you killed my brothers.” And so he said to one of his young boys, he said, “Rise up and kill these fellows.” Well, his boy was quite young, probably a teenager and he was, well you know here are kings and for me to just kill them and so his boy hesitated.
And so the two kings said, “Fall on us, you know. Go ahead” And yet he hesitated to do it. And so Gideon himself killed the two kings of the Midianites that he had taken captive.
So then the men of Israel [verse twenty-two] came to Gideon, and they said to Gideon, Rule over us, you, and your sons, and your son’s sons (8:22):
In other words, they wanted to set up now a dynasty and a monarchy. They wanted now the family of Gideon to become the king over Israel and his sons and his grandsons. But Gideon shows remarkable character. Here he is, you know, the popular movement. “Gideon, draft Gideon for the king.”
And Gideon answered them, I will not rule over you, and neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you (8:23).
So I see very much in the character of Gideon as a very commendable thing. He did absolutely the right thing. “The Lord rule over you. I’m not going to nor my son.” And so Gideon then asked the men for his share of the victory in the loot. He said, “I’d just like the golden earrings.”
Now these Midianites were Ishmealites and they all of them had gold earrings, pierced ears with a gold ring in their ears. And so they dumped them all on Gideon. And man at the price of gold today he would have been a wealthy man because it was seventeen hundred shekels of gold that these earrings weighed when they tossed them all in. A hundred and twenty thousand earrings that would be a pretty good hit really on the gold market today.
So Gideon them made an ephod out of these (8:27),
It’s sort of a gold kind of a robe out of them. But this gold robe that he made became a snare. It became a tourist attraction. People used to travel down to Gideon’s house to see this golden ephod that he had made out of the earrings of the Midianites. And the people began to worship it. They made it sort of an object of worship; thus, it became a snare unto Israel. Now I don’t think that Gideon had that in mind at all, that the people would make sort of an idol out of this golden ephod that he made from these earrings but nonetheless the people did. Now at that point, I think, was where Gideon did make a mistake. When he saw how the people were, you know, sort of revering this gold ephod he should have just tossed the thing in the fire, melted it down and made a gold brick or something. And so if he was guilty of any mistakes it was this: his allowing the ephod to remain after the people had made an idolatrous kind of a symbol of this ephod.
And thus the children of Midian were subdued, and they did not lift their heads up against the Israelite. And there was quiet in the land for forty years during all of the days of Gideon. And Jerubbaal [who is Gideon and he received that name when he knocked down the altar of Baal that belonged to his dad] the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house (8:28-29).
Now he was a pretty prolific guy, he had seventy sons begotten for he had many wives.
And his concubine that was in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name was called Abimelech. And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah which is of the Abiezrites. So it came to pass, that soon after Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and went whoring after Baalim, made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all of their enemies on every side: And neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, or Gideon [in namely in this], that according to all the goodness which he had showed in Israel (8:31-35).
Now here’s what happened. After the death of Gideon, this Abimelech who was the son of his concubine in Shechem. Now you know, they used to say of the sailors “a girl in every port.” Well, Gideon had probably a concubine in every city and so in Shechem this concubine who had born this fellow Abimelech.
Abimelech came to the men of Shechem and he said, “Look, is it better that one man rule over you or seventy that rule over you? One man who is your brother who comes right of Shechem, who understands your needs and all or all of the sons of Jerubbaal? What’s best?”
And so he convinced the men of Shechem that they should come against the sons of Gideon and wipe them all out. And so Abimelech led a group of vain fellows and they came to the houses of Gideon’s sons and they wiped them all out with the exception of just one of his sons, Jotham. But all of the other sons of Gideon were killed. A very reprehensible action on the part of Jerubbaal, unconscionable.
But Jotham hid himself. And all of the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and they went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem. Now when Jotham heard that they had made Abimelech king, he went to the top of mount Gerizim (9:5-7),
Which is above the city of Shechem and it is sort of a natural amphitheater. From the top of Gerizim you can call down in the valley and they can hear you quite plainly, sort of a natural amphitheater. It’s an interesting thing to me how far sound travels over there in that land. You think of Jesus speaking to a crowd of ten thousand people and they’re all able to hear Him and that’s without amplifying systems. And it sounds sort of farfetched or preposterous but there are many places in the land where the acoustics are just natural; acoustics are really fantastic.
If you’re standing up on the Herodium there could be children playing two miles away and you can hear their conversations to each other. That’s not an exaggeration. You that go with me this year, I’ll prove it to you, but the acoustics are tremendous. The sound travels. They don’t have their sound pollution like we have here. Here sound decibels are rising year by year and all of the sounds that we’re subjected to the sound pollution. Over there you can hear children miles away, dogs barking and so forth. As the children are playing you hear them laughing, screaming and all a couple miles away. And its sound just really carries over there. And I don’t know what phenomena it is that creates it but sound would have to carry for Jesus to be able to address such large multitudes of people.
Even down by the beach there is Caesarea right near the Mediterranean in an amphitheater that is there that was built by the Romans. I can stand on the stage and drop a pin and you can hear it sitting up there in the amphitheater with several hundred people. The sound just carries very well. The acoustics are quite interesting in many areas of the land. And the Sea of Galilee, same thing, the sound really carries. Of course, that’s where Jesus was addressing so many people, and also they’re at the Temple Mount where Jesus addressed so many people.
So this Jotham, son of Gideon, the one that Abimelech didn’t kill, went up to the top of Mount Gerizim, and here is Shechem down below. Now Mount Gerizim is a pretty good, you know, climb to get up to the top of the mountain and he knew that he had a good running distance on the guy. So he stands up there and really tells them off and rebukes them for what they have done.
Actually, he preaches sort of a parabolic type of a message. He gives a parable how that the trees of the forest came to the olive tree and they said, “Rule over us.”
And the olive tree said, “Should I leave my fatness and so forth and rule over you? No way.”
So they came to the fig trees and said, “Rule over us.” And the fig tree said unto them, “Should I forsake my sweetness, my good fruit? No way.”
And so they came to the vine and said, “Rule over us.”
“Should I forsake the wine and so forth that cheers God and man to rule you? No way.”
And so they came to the bramble and said, “Come rule over us.” Now of course, he’s calling, in an essence this Abimelech a bramble and you guys have, you know, you’re settling for a bramble to rule over you.
And having finished his rebuke and his speech, rebuking them for the evil that they have recompensed to Gideon. Here Gideon had become your deliverer and he freed you from the hand of the Midianites and now this is the way you treat, you know, Gideon and his offspring. And he gave him a real rebuke and then he took off running as fast as he could go. And as I say, from the top of Gerizim you’ve got a good lead on anybody that might want to chase you. So, Jotham got away from them. Now he said, You have done a good thing, great,
rejoice in Abimelech: But if not, then let fire come forth from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and the fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech (9:19-20).
In other words, let there come strife between the men of Shechem and Abimelech.
And Jotham ran away, and he fled, to Beer, and dwelt there, for the fear of Abimelech his brother. Now Abimelech reigned for three years. And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: In order that the cruelty that was done by Abimelech might be avenged (9:21-24),
And so the men of Shechem began to set an ambush for him and the top of the mountains, or for the people, and they robbed all of those that were going along that way and it was told to Abimelech.
And then this guy Gaal, sort of a big mouth kind of a guy, said to the men, he came with his brothers and he went over to Shechem. And he said to the men of Shechem,
[Now look fellas] who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve them? is he not the son of Jerrubbaal? and Zebul his officer? serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him? (9:28)
In other words, he’s an outsider. We ought to be serving Hamor and his family, let them be the kings. And he said to God the people were under my rule, because I can really do a good job here, you know. Who’s Abimelech? And so he said if you would just commit yourself to me I would remove Abimelech.
And so he called to Abimelech and said, Increase your army. And so when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privately, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brothers are come to Shechem; and they are fortifying the city against you. Now therefore come by night, and the people that are with you, and lie in wait in the field: And it shall be, in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, you shall rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then may you do to them as you find occasion. So Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid wait at Shechem and four companies. And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people who were with him, and lying there in wait. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there come people down from the top of the mountains, And Zebul said, No that’s just an illusion, [that’s just the sun rising and the sun coming down, it looks like people,] just an illusion that you see. So Gaal spake again and said, Look there are people coming down by the middle of the land, another company is coming along the plain of Meonenim. And then said Zebul unto him, Okay where’s your mouth now, and you said, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that you have despised? go out, now, and fight with them (9:29-38).
And so in one of those instances where positions, “Okay, now where’s your mouth man? You’ve been saying who’s Abimelech? There he is. Go out and take him on. You said, you know, if he were just here I’d handle him.”
So Abimelech chased him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even to the entering of the gate. And Abimelech dwelt in Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal with his brothers, that they should not dwell in Shechem. And it came to pass on the next day, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech. And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and he laid in wait in the field, and he looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; he rose up against them, and smote them. And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, and stood at the entering of the gate of the city: and two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and they killed them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and killed the people that were therein, and he beat down the city, and sowed it with salt. And when all of the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they had entered into the fortress of the house that god Berith. It was told Abimelech, that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. Abimelech got up to mount Zalmon, with his people; and he began to with his axe to cut down the boughs from the trees, he laid them on his shoulder, and said to the people, Follow my example. So they all cut down the boughs, and he came to the tower and he laid these boughs around, and set fire to them (9:40-49);
And actually cremated the people who had sought refuge there in the tower.
about a thousand men and women (9:49).
So it was a pretty good-sized tower, actually.
And so then he went to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez. And in Thebez there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women, fled to the tower there in Thebez. And so Abimelech came to the tower, he fought against it, he was up against the door trying to burn it with fire. And a certain woman took a piece of a millstone (9:50-53)
Now millstones are sort of lava kinds of rock and there are millstones—I’ve seen them four feet high. And they have tracks in which the millstone rolls. It is chiseled out to where it’s round, has a hole in the middle of it and then the stick or the post would go through the center of the millstone and it would roll. And they would often hook an oxen to it and they had this stone groove that went around in a circle. And the oxen, as he would go around, would pull the stick and it would cause this millstone to go around the groove. And the ladies would come and just pour their wheat in the little groove and as the millstone would go by and it’d grind the wheat into flour. And so they’d have their stone ground wheat by these millstones. But these millstones, probably, many of them weigh, that I have seen, weigh as much as four, five hundred pounds.
Interesting that Jesus said concerning teachers that would destroy the faith in the heart of a child, it would be better for them if a millstone were hung around their neck and they were tossed in the Sea of Galilee that they to offend one of these little children. “Now gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon this little child.” Hey, no he wasn’t so meek and mild. He was pretty tough on these false teachers and those that would destroy faith in the heart of a child. He said, “Man, you know, put them in concrete and dump them in the ocean you know.” He would’ve been a good Mafia exterminator. Really he said, “Put a millstone on her neck, throw him in the sea.” You’d never come up for sure.
Well now there was this woman in the tower and she had a piece of a millstone. Here’s old Abimelech down there, you know, trying to set the door on fire and she “knock” drops the millstone and cracks his skull. And so he’s lying there and he says to his armourbearer, “Quick, thrust me through. I don’t want them, I don’t want them to say a woman killed me.” Pride, look what it would do, even when you’re dying, you know. What difference does it make? And so the guy thrust him through anyhow and so they didn’t say a woman killed him. So Abimelech was wiped out. And the evil that he did against Gideon’s sons was sort of recompensed.
Now in chapter ten we go through a series of judges quite rapidly.
After Abimelech there rose to defend Israel Tola, a man of Issachar; [from the tribe of Issachar] he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. He judged Israel for twenty-three years, he was buried in Shamir. And after him there arose Jair, a Gileadite, and he judged Israel for twenty-two years. Now he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died, and was buried in Camon. And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and they served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Zidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the children of Ammon, the gods of the Philistines, and they forsook the LORD, and did not serve him (10:1-6).
So, here we go again. Another apostasy where the children of Israel turn against God and they begin to worship every god that is around.
Now, here was the hardest thing to comprehend. God, at the time of Jeremiah when the people again were in an apostasy, God said to Jeremiah, “Has it ever been in any nation, in any land, where people have forsaken their god? And yet Israel has forsaken me, the true and the living God and they worshiped these other gods. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water and have hewn out for themselves cisterns, cisterns that can hold no water.” God was appalled by the thing, “Hey this doesn’t happen. People don’t forsake their gods even that are not gods.” And yet the children of Israel, it seems, were perennially forsaking God and turning to idolatry. Unthinkable and yet they did. So this is just another one of the apostasies. Actually, it is the sixth time that it has been recorded that they forsook God and began to worship and serve these other gods.
And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, he sold them this time into the hands of the Philistines, and the hands of the children of Ammon. And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: for eighteen years, and all the children of Israel that were on the other side of Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed (10:7-9).
Now Rueben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh that was on the other side of Jordan, they were now being oppressed by the Amorites that were over on that area that actually were in the territory before they had come. But then the children of Ammon pass on over Jordan and began to fight in the land of Judah and Benjamin and all, Ephraim.
And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also because we have served Baalim (10:10).
Double sins; forsaking God, one. Serving Baalim, two.
And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, from the Philistines? From the Zidonians, and from the Amalekites, and the Maonites, who did oppress you; and you cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hands. Yet you have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation (10:11-14).
So Israel at this point had come to a very sad point in their history for God said, “Hey, I delivered you from the Egyptians, from the Amorites, from all of these people; the Philistines and now you’ve forsaken me. I’m not going to deliver you anymore. You go and call upon the gods that you have chosen to serve. Let them deliver you.” It is possible for a person to sin against the grace of God to the point where God turns that person over to a reprobate mind. God is through with us; that’s it.
God said to Jeremiah concerning Ephraim he said, “Hey, Jeremiah don’t pray anymore for Ephraim, for her good. For if you do I’m not going to even listen to your prayers.” To, what was it? Hosea, he said, “Ephraim has given over to her idols, let her alone.” I’m through. I’m not going to deal with them anymore. I’ve had it. Tragic, when God says of a person, “Hey that’s it. I’m not going to deliver you anymore. You’ve chosen to serve these other gods, you made your choice. All right, call on them. Let them deliver you from your tribulation.”
People oftentimes say it really doesn’t make any difference which god you serve, you know, all roads lead to heaven. False. It makes a big difference the god that you serve, but it really makes the big difference when you’re in trouble. That’s when the difference really shows up, when you’re really needing help. And God says, “Cry unto the gods that you have chosen to serve.” But they can’t help me.
So, the children of Israel said unto the LORD, we have sinned: [they began confessing] do thou unto us whatsoever seems good to you; deliver us only, we pray thee, today. And thy put away the strange gods from among them, they served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel (10:15-16).
So God has a soft touch I guess and the people did the right thing and God went ahead to deliver them once more. And the person that God chose at this time was Jephthah the Gileadite, chapter eleven. He became the ninth judge.
He was a mighty man of valour, he was the son of a harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and the wife’s sons when they grew up, they threw Jephthah out, and they said, You’re not going to inherit our father’s house; you’re the son of a strange woman. So Jephthah fled from his brothers, and he dwelled in the land of Tob: and there gathered unto him vain men who began to [sort of pal around him]. And it came to pass in the process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And it was so, when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead sent to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said to Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we might fight with the children of Ammon. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did you not hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? why are you now come because you are in distress? The elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that you may go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all of the inhabitants of Gilead. So Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If you bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivers them before me, shall I be your head? And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not according to your words (11:1-10).
In other words will you let me rule over you?
So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, the people made him the head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all of his words before the LORD in Mizpeh. And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What have you to do with me, that you come against me to fight in my land? And the king of the children of Ammon and said to the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even to Jabbok, and unto Jordan: and now therefore restore those lands again peaceably (11:11-13).
So there was a little sort of a running feud. Jephthah sent, and he said, “Hey, why are you guys coming to fight to take away our land?” And they sent back, “Hey, we were here before you ever thought of being here. We lived here before you came and you came and took the land away from us.”
So he wrote back to them another message. It said, “No way. We were willing to live peaceably. You came out against us. You started the fight and we wiped you. And so the land belongs to us. We’ve been dwelling there all along. How come you haven’t come sooner to reclaim it? Why didn’t you take it then you know, if it was your land? So we settled in it. It’s our land.”
And so they then gathered together to battle. Now, at this point Jephthah made a vow unto God. He said, “Lord if you will deliver these people of Ammon or the Amonites into my hand giving me victory over them, then I will sacrifice unto you the first thing that comes out of the door of my house when I return home as a burnt offering unto thee.”
So God delivered the Amonites into the hands of Jephthah. And he was coming home victorious, leading the armies and who should come out the door of his house then his daughter, his only child? With a tambourine and a song that she had made up of the great victories of her father and the how great of dad and everything he was. And when he saw her come out the door he said, “Oh sweetheart, you’ve brought grief to my soul today.”
And she said, “Dad, whatever you promised the Lord to do, go ahead and do.” And so he told the vow that he had made and she said, “All right you know, you’ve made a vow to God and you’re to do it but,” she said, “Allow me a couple of months to go through the mountains with my friends and just sort of bewail my virginity.” And so she went through the mountains bewailing her virginity for a couple of months.
And it came to pass [verse thirty-nine] at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year (11:39-40).
Now, number one, God had forbidden human sacrifice. There is a question of whether or not he actually killed her. The burnt offering sacrifice was actually a sacrifice of concencration unto God. And there are some commentators who teach that he gave her to God to perpetual virginity. In other words, to keep her from ever marrying and she was consigned to a life of celibacy because of the vow her father had made. That is possible, it isn’t probable but it is possible. From the apparent reading of the text he did this awful thing and actually sacrificed his daughter unto the Lord.
However, I am convinced that God did not require it of him nor would God require it of him. Under the law where your first child actually was to be given to God, God made provisions for the redemption of the first child with an animal. And I’m certain that God would have allowed Jephthah to make a substitution for his daughter in this case.
We must remember that in the society that was surrounding the children of Israel in those days, human sacrifice of your children was a very common thing to the pagan gods. In the worship of Malak, in the worship of Baal, the common practice was the sacrificing of your children unto god, unto your gods. In the uncovering of the houses of the Canaanites, in the foundations of the houses they discovered many jars with the skeletons of babies. They considered a good luck omen to actually bury your baby in the foundation when you build a house sacrificing it unto the gods and so forth. And it was common practice among the pagans by which the children of Israel surrounded. But it was something that was strictly forbidden by God. So if Jephthah did it, he did it of his own will, not because God demanded it. It is a very horrible thing. It is hard for us to understand. We cannot really blame God. You say, “But why did God allow her to come first out of the house? Why didn’t she chase the cat out in front of her or something?” That I don’t know.
Now, remember the men of Ephraim when Gideon came back having, you know, gotten the victory and they said, “Why didn’t you call us?” Well here they are again, chapter twelve.
AND the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Why did you pass over to fight against the children Ammon, and you didn’t call us to go with you? We’re going to burn you and your house with fire (12:1).
Well, they got by with this kind of stuff with Gideon. Gideon was just a very, you know, diplomatic, mild-mannered fellow, but not so Jephthah. He was the son of a harlot, tough cookie. He grew up with a tough crowd and you don’t mess with Jephthah like you would with Gideon. And so they came to Jephthah throwing on in the same trip that they threw on Gideon years earlier.
And Jephthah said, I and my people (12:2)
Now look, notice, Jephthah was a very egocentric person. Notice all the I’s and the my’s and so forth in these next few verses. It demonstrates the guy’s egocentricities.
And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and I called you, and you delivered me not out of their hands. And when I saw that you daily delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are you come up against me, me this day, to fight against me? (12:2-3)
So notice all these personal pronouns the guy’s using. He’s very egocentric.
And Jephthah gathered together all of the men of Gilead, and they fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, You Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim and among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites. And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites (12:4-5):
They come over against them into the land of Gilead, cross Jordan coming over against them. And so the men of Jephthah took the forts where they cross the Jordan River. And as the Ephraimites were trying to sneak back into their own land they’d stop them and they’d say, “Say Shibboleth: and say are you an Ephraimite?”
“Oh no, we’re not Ephraimites.”
They’d say, “Say Shibboleth” and the guys from Ephraim couldn’t pronounce, couldn’t pronounce the "sh" sound and they’d say, “Sibboleth” and they knew that they were then Ephraimites and so they’d wipe them out. And some forty-five, forty-six thousand Ephraimites bit the dust: forty-two.
And Jephthah judged Israel for six years. And he died, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead (12:7).
So really he didn’t reign too long, just six years. And then the tenth judge was this guy Ibzan from Bethlehem and his claim to fame was he had thirty sons and thirty daughters who he sent abroad to marry with the kings from other nations and he took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. So he shipped his daughters out and then took thirty daughters from other kingdoms for his sons. He judged Israel for seven years. He was buried in Bethlehem. Then Elon became the eleventh judge. He was from the tribe of Zebulon. He judged Israel for the years and he was buried at a high or rather Ajalon or Aijalon in the country of Zebulum.
Then Abdon became [the twelfth] judge, [the son of Hillel] and he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on seventy donkeys: and he judged Israel for eight years (12:13-14).
These guys really didn’t do very much. Not much is told about them.
[Now, again] The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. There was a certain man from Zorah, he was of the tribe of Dan, and his name was Manoah; and his wife was barren (13:1-2),
And one day she was out in the field and an angel of the Lord visited her there in the field. And told her that she was going to become pregnant, she was going to bare a son and through her son God was going to begin delivering the children of Israel from the Philistines.
Now the angel said, “The son is to be dedicated unto God. You’re not to allow a razor to come to his head.” A Nazarite vow, not cutting your hair. Also he was not to drink any wine, strong drink, anything that came from the vine for he was to be a Nazarite from his birth, dedicated his life. His life was to be dedicated unto God, a commitment of his life to God. Well, she was all excited. She ran and she told her husband about this man that met her in the field, told her that she was going to become pregnant and have a son and that she was not to shave his hair and not give him any wine or strong drink.
And he said, “What did he look like? And what did he tell you?” And he said, “Oh God, if it’s really you that appeared, appear again so we can get some further instructions what we are to do with this child.”
So she was out in the field again and the angel of the Lord appeared again. And she said, “Would you mind waiting here. My husband wants to meet you.” So she ran and got her husband and said, “The man who appeared to me in the beginning is here again.” So Manoah came running up and said, “I just, you know, I heard the story and I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted to know, you know, a little bit more instructions. She was sort of excited and I wanna make sure I got the, you know, the instructions straight. How we’re suppose to raise this kid and what we’re supposed to do with him and all, and tell me again.” So the angel repeated he said, “Just like I told her. Don’t give him any wine, anything that comes from the vine, don’t cut his hair. He is to be a Nazarite, dedicated unto God.”
And so Manoah said, “Look, I want—” well he wanted to—
Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, [verse fifteen] I pray thee, let us detain you, until we have made ready a kid for thee. And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though you detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD. So Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is your name, so that when your sayings come to pass that we might honour you. And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? (13:15-18)
That word secret, in the Hebrew, is actually wonderful. “Why you ask me my name seeing it is wonderful?”
So Manoah took the kid with a meal offering, and he offered it on a rock unto the LORD: and the angel of the LORD did wondrously; while Manoah and his wife looked on (13:19).
For while the fire was coming up, the angel stepped into the fire and descended up to heaven And Manoah fell on his face and said “Oh, we’re going to be wiped out. We saw an angel of the Lord face to face.”
And his wife said, “Hey, what do you mean? If God wanted to wipe us out why would he tell us we’re going to have a baby and all this and give us all these promises.”
And so he said, “Well, I guess you’re right.” So the level head prevailed of Manoah’s wife.
So she bare a son, called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him in times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol (13:24-25).
And so, the valley of Zorah and Eshtaol are actually eight miles from Jerusalem towards Tel Aviv. And that it is a very beautiful fertile valley through there. It was part of the inheritance of the tribe of Dan. And so this is where he grew up and God’s Spirit began to move on him at various times.
NOW Samson went down to Timnath (14:1),
Which was a Philistine city and there he fell in love with one of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came home and he said to his parents, “I want you to go down and make arrangements for me to marry that girl.”
And they said, “Awe come on, Samson. All these beautiful Israeli girls around here, why do you have to go down and fall in love with a Philistine?” Now they didn’t know that God was seeking an occasion against the Philistines.
Samson is a self-willed young kid, he said, “Hey, don’t give me a bad time. Just go down and make the arrangements.”
So his parents went down to make the arrangements and Samson was tagging along behind them and a lion jumped him. And the spirit of the Lord came on him and he took that lion and ripped the thing in two just like it had been a little goat or something. Tossed the carcass over the bushes, dusted off his hands, didn’t tell anybody. The parents went on down to Timnath and he got to see his girlfriend. They made all the arrangements for the dowry and so forth so that he could marry her.
And so the time for the wedding came and so they were on their way back to Timnath. Again his parents went ahead of him and curious, he got to the place where he tossed the carcass in the bushes and he wondered what that old carcass looked like by now. And so he went over to see what the carcass looked like, the degree of deterioration and all at this point, and he saw that bees had made a hive in the carcass. There was a honey cone there. So he grabbed it, began to eat the honey, caught up with his parents and gave them some of the honey to eat. Still didn’t tell them what happened, went on down to Timnath, started the whole wedding festival.
Now, in those days they really did a big number for weddings. It was a seven-day kind of a feast prior to the wedding, really celebrated, the last of your single days. So they appointed thirty of the Philistines to be his companions during this period of revelry, the partying and all prior to the wedding.
And so Samson said to these thirty Philistines, I’m going to give you a riddle: and if you can tell me the riddle by the time of the wedding day, then I will give you thirty shirts and thirty changes of garments: But if you can’t tell me the riddle at the end of the seven days, then you gotta give me thirty shirts and thirty changes of garments (14:12-13).
The guy says, “What’s your riddle?” And so he gave to them the riddle.
And he said, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And these guys for three days hassled with this thing (14:14).
Out of the eater came forth meat. Out of the strong came forth sweetness. And after three days and they hadn’t gotten anywhere with it they came to his bride-to-be and they said, “What a rat you are. You’re just trying to rip us off. That’s why you chose us to be his companions. Trying to get thirty shirts and thirty changes of garments out of us for your treauso or whatever, no way.” They said, “You better find out what that riddle is or we’re going to burn you and your dad’s house.”
And so, she came to Samson and said, “You really don’t love me.”
He said, “What do you mean I don’t love you?”
“Oh, if you love me you would’ve told me what the riddle is.”
He said, “No, what are you talking about? I haven’t even told my parents what the riddle is.”
“See I told you, you didn’t love me.” And she started this always with tears and day after day you know, here’s this bride to be always in tears. “You don’t love me.”
And finally Samson had it. Couldn’t stand the tears no more and said, “Awe, it means nothing.” He said, “I killed this lion and out of his carcass there was a honeycomb so out of the eater there came forth sweets. So, she told these guys. The day of the wedding came so Samson said, “Okay, what’s the riddle fellas?”
And they said,
What’s stronger than a lion and what’s sweeter than honey? And he really got angry and he said, You haven’t been plowing with my heifer, you’d never found out (14:18).
That’s an interesting, I imagine, colloquial kind of a phrase in those days calling your wife a heifer. “You’d haven’t been plowing my heifer, you’d never known.” And he got upset. And he went down to Ashkelon, one of the Philistine cities along the coast of the Mediterranean. Got a hold of thirty Philistines, cracked their skulls, took their shirts and their clothes, came back and paid off his debt and went home. After he cooled down he came back to see his wife and that’s where the next problem began. We’ll get into that in our next week study as we move along with Samson. Interesting character. I have a lot I want to share with you about Samson but we’ll wait until we get the full story next week and then we’ll draw some interesting observations and analogies from Samson.