Posted by cherylem on May 16, 2010
Here are my notes for Lesson #19, on Judges
• The transition from a tribal society under the leadership of elders and eventually charismatic “judges” to a nation under a monarch is traced through the books of Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel.
• Wars of the judges were very limited in scope, not involving the entire nation of Israel at any one time; wars intermittent
• The “judges” functioned more as charismatic military leaders/saviors/deliverers than people adjudicating the law
• “Deuteronomistic” framework.
6 major, 6 minor* (minor “judged” for less time) judges (one anti-judge: Abimelech)
Each differs from the last in background, class, even gender. Note the warrior nature of the judges.
1200* Othniel Judges 3 From Judah, fought Edom or Syria
1170 Ehud Judges 3 From Benjamin, fought Moab. A left-handed man. Bathroom humor?
1150 Shamar Judges 3 Non-Israelite, fought Philistines
1125 Deborah Judges 4-5 With Barak, from Ephraim, fought N. Canaanites
1100 Gideon Judges 6-9 From Manasseh, fought Midianites – camel nomads. Hints of
annunciation of his birth? Divinely chosen? Chosen for his
weakness. Not devout.
1080 (Abimelech) Judges 9-10 Anti-judge. Wicked king. Son of Gideon. Abimelech: “My
father is king.” Complete disaster.
1080 also Tola, Jair
1070 Jephthah Judges 11-12 From Gad, fought Ammonites. An outlaw. Tragic story of his
1070 Also Isban, Elon, Abdon
1070 Samson Judges 13-16 From Dan, fought Philistines. Fatal weakness toward foreign
women; not a moral exemplar
*all dates approximate, best guesses
Israel’s government and religion:
• No central government. The Bible describes the early Israelite socio-political unit as the tribe.
• Tribe is attached to a territory. (2nd half of Joshua: division of land into 12 units for the 12 tribes)
• Fairly independent tribes united by a common religious covenant and military necessity. Religious life not consistently practiced among all the tribes
• Similar to other tribal confederations: Midianites, Arameans, Ishmaelites, Edomites. Etc.
Structure and Composition of the book of Judges:
a. 1:1 – 2:5 Record of Israel’s failure to obtain total conquest and statement they had broken the covenant
b. 2:6 – 3:6 General overview o the pattern of recurring cycles of covenant breaking during the time of the judges
2. Stories of the Judges
12 judges, 6 major, 6 minor
Illustrates recurrent cycles of apostasy
Illustrates progressive deterioration of Israel (Israel being new to start with)
Judges become less ideal and less successful over time
Total chaos, anarchy, apostasy, civil war at end of the time of the judges: a king is needed!
a. 17-18. Apostasy of Dan and migration north. Micah’s idolatrous shrine.
b. 19-21. Civil war with Benjamin, apostasy and failure of the covenantal and sacrificial mechanisms. Gruesome story of the Levite’s concubine. (only time most were united was against one of their own!)
• The stories of the judges were almost certainly handed down orally initially.
• How was Judges written/compiled? Most likely, in stages, ending with the organization around and condemnation of Israel for breaking the covenant.
• It is not always possible to distinguish between the “voice of God” and the “voice of the majority” because Ancient Israel could not always distinguish between the two (see Joshua 22 and Numbers 13:1-3 versus Deut. 1:22-23 – stories of the spies – for instance.) Some theological drama involved.
Assumptions and conclusions of Judges:
1. God is just (righteous) and sovereign (all-powerful)
2. Israel is the chosen people of God
3. God’s justice requires and his power ensures that:
• When Israel is righteous, God will bless
• When Israel is idolatrous (wickedness = worship Gods of Canaan), God will curse
⇒ Therefore, all victories in war will be seen as coming from the hand of God and all defeats will be seen as coming from Israel’s wickedness.
⇒ In addition, all victorious war leaders will be seen as inspired/strengthened by God and chosen by God regardless of their personal failings, non-Israelite origin, methods of operation, etc.
Fundamental differences between worship of YHWH (the one God) and Baalism
Divine intervention in history, unrepeatable historical events, man on a journey to God through time – dynamic and changing, sacrifice understood to remind of historical events and covenant.
Polytheistic intervention in nature, cyclic myths, man trapped in cycles of nature, sacrifice maintains the status quo: fertility of the womb and the land
To think about: why would there be social military, psychological and other forces acting on the Israelites to syncretize (reconcile and unite) the two religions?
It is a near miracle that the Israelite religion survived at all.
Reasons given for partial conquest of Canaan:
1. To prevent wild animals from taking over after rapid depopulation (Ex. 23:29-30; Deut. 7:22-23)
2. Superior arms and fortifications of Canaanites (Judges 1:9)
3. Israel’s making alliances with Canaanites (Judges 2:1-15)
4. Punishment of Israel’s sin (Judges 2:20-21)
5. God’s testing of Israel (Judges 2:22-23; 3:4)
6. Later Israel needed to be instructed in the art of war (Judges 3:1-3)
Chapter 1: a list of places failed to be taken by the Israelites.
Chapter2: 1-5. COVENANT LAWSUIT #1
Chapter 6: 7-10. COVENANT LAWSUIT #2.
King Benjamin sermon?? Mosiah 3 ff.
To think about: What is the Deuteronomistic History/School? It is believed that:
1. Written, compiled, edited, etc. around the time of the exile and destruction of Jerusalem. (the destruction: 587 B.C. )
2. Responsible for at least Deuteronomy through 2 Kings. Joshua – 2 Kings = “former prophets”
3. Concept of Israel’s election occurs first time in Deuteronomy. Election = holy, separated to God. Separate from the common, ordinary (mundane).
4. Dangers of a superiority complex (See 1 Nephi 17:31-35; Deut. 8:17; Deut. 9:4)
5. Providential concern (Hosea will further develop Deut. 8) (Deut. 32:10)
To think about: What is the “former prophets” and the “later prophets”? How will knowing this help us understand the Old Testament?
The Former Prophets include the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. They read as a historical narrative. This material is a theologically oriented account of Israel’s history from the conquest of Canaan, or what is represented as the conquest of Canaan, to the destruction of the state by the Babylonians in 587-586 BCE. This material is therefore crucial background to reading the Latter Prophets. Now the Latter Prophets is a collection of books, each of which bears the name of the individual whose prophecies it purports to contain. These prophets delivered their oracles at critical junctures in Israel’s history, in the nation’s history, so their words are only going to make sense to us if we first understand the particular historical crises that they are addressing. And that historical narrative that runs from Joshua through 2 Kings provides that information. It tells us of the critical junctures in the nation’s history, and that will help us then slot the different prophets. (http://www.freeversity.org/liberal-arts-1/religious-studies/introduction-to-the-old-testament-hebrew-bible Lecture 12)
We’ll talk about this more and how it relates to Lehi, Nephi, the Book of Mormon, etc. in later weeks.
To think about: Satan in the Old Testament. Where is Satan?
• Basically 5 references in the Old Testament to Satan (some go on for 3-4 verses, but the same reference)
• Basically four references to “devils”, all of them mentioning sacrificing their children to “devils.”
• Serpent: creation story. Serpent as devil after that does not exist except perhaps Isaiah 27:1
• Lucifer: Isaiah 14:12.
• What are the ramifications of this?
New Testament Use:
The importance of faith: Hebrews 11:32, 33
From the Class Member Study Guide:
What can we learn from Deborah about being a true friend? How have your friends helped you face difficult challenges or obey the Lord’s commandments? How can we be better friends to others?
• As a Nazarite and a member of the house of Israel, Samson made covenants with the Lord. What covenants do we make with the Lord? How have these covenants strengthened you?
• What were the consequences of Samson’s violation of his covenants? (See Judges 16:17–21.) What are the consequences when we violate our covenants?
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