Friday Bible Blogging Archive

Monday, May 13, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - 1 Samuel 1 to 1 Samuel 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleWell, I fell a little behind on this series, and posting to the blog in general. I've just been incredibly busy at work. I wasn't just working through my lunch breaks. Sometimes I even skipped eating entirely because there was so much to get done. Anyway, that project is now behind me, and I can get back to lunchbreak blogging (for a little while, at least - there's another deadline coming up in a few weeks, but after that, it should be back to normal).

The first ten chapters of 1 Samuel are mostly about their namesake, Samuel. Portions of the story are familiar, as I remember hearing them as readings growing up. These chapters also begin to tell the story of Saul, the first king of Israel in the Bible.

Samuel, Chapter 1

1 Samuel started with Elkanah, a man with two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah loved Hannah more, but she was barren, and Peninnah had given him children. Elkanah would treat Hannah more favorably, but Peninah gave her a hard time. So Hannah, in her despair, went to pray in the temple in one of the family's yearly visits to Shiloh, promising to give her first son to the Lord as a Nazirite if He would remember her. There was a slightly strange portion where at first, the priest, Eli, mistook her for being drunk, since she was praying by silently mouthing the words, but when confronted, she explained that she was indeed sober. Eli sent her on her way, and in due time, she did become pregnant and gave birth to a son, Samuel. When he was old enough to have been weaned, she took him to Shiloh, along with a bull to sacrifice and some flour and wine. She left him there as she said she would, under Eli's care, "given to the Lord".

The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) tells me that much of the Hebrew in this chapter and the coming chapters contains puns that are lost on an English reader. Mostly, these are references to Saul. For example, the wording used for petitioning the Lord sounds like Saul, and where it said 'he is given' in reference to Samuel, it could have been translated 'he is Saul to the Lord'. These puns have led some scholars to think that these stories were originally about Saul, not Samuel, but others think they're just allusions to Saul.

Samuel, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 started with the Song of Hannah. This was likely a later insertion into the book, and not originally about Hannah. It was general praise for God, the blessings he bestowed on Israel and his glory and power, along with defeating Israel's enemies.

Samuel grew up in Shiloh, "ministering before the Lord". His mother would take him a new robe every year, and she went on to have more children after him.

Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who the Bible described as "scoundrels". When people brought sacrifices to the Lord, they didn't follow the proper rules for what was to go to God and what they could keep for themselves, "they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt." Not just that, they would "lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting." So, God became angry, and sent a messenger to Eli to foretell the doom that awaited his family, "no one in your family shall ever live to old age," " all the members of your household shall die by the sword," "The fate of your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you--both of them shall die on the same day." And in a particularly sadistic turn, God was going to leave one of Eli's family alive just to torment them, "The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart".

There was also a mention that God was breaking a promise, though according to the NOAB, this promise didn't appear earlier in the Bible, "I promised that your family and the family of your ancestor should go in and out before me for ever."

Samuel, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 contained a story that I remember from my church-going days. Samuel slept in the Tent of Meeting, and one night, God called out to him, but Samuel mistook the voice for Eli. Twice he went to Eli asking him what he wanted, and Eli sent him back to bed saying that he hadn't called him. The third time, Eli realized what was going on, and told Samuel that it was the Lord who was trying to talk to him. When he heard the voice again, he said, "Speak, for your servant is listening," and God proceeded to tell Samuel of his plans for Eli and his family. The next morning, Eli convinced Samuel to relay his vision, and resigned himself to his fate.

The chapter closed with a few verses about how the Lord was with Samuel and how he became a "trustworthy prophet".

Samuel, Chapter 4

The Philistines launched a war against Israel. The Israelites lost the first battle, and so sent for the Ark of the Covenant to get the Lord on their side. Hophni and Phinehas went with the Ark. Unfortunately for them, just having the Ark wasn't enough. God didn't help the Israelites, and the Philistines beat them again, killing Eli's sons in the battle. Even worse for Israel, the Ark of the Covenant was captured. When news got back to Eli of what had happened, he fell backwards off his seat and broke his neck. When Phinehas's wife got news of the battle and Eli's subsequent death, she went into labor, but things went badly and she died of complications. But just before she died, the midwife told her, "Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son." It's not clear if she was supposed to be relieved that the baby was okay, or relieved because it was a boy. She named the boy Ichabod, which means "The glory has departed from Israel".

Samuel, Chapter 5

Next came a series of short stories describing what happened in the Philistine cities that tried to house the Ark of the Covenenat. First it went to Ashdod, and was put in a temple dedicated to the god, Dagon. The morning after the first night it was there, the statue of Dagon was found fallen over face first in front of the Ark - as if Dagon was submitting to Yahweh. The people righted the statue, but the next day it was found in the same position, only now the hands and head had come off the statue and were on the threshold. This was apparently the reason that worshipers of Dagon don't step on thresholds when they enter the temple. It's also a bit odd to think of Gods acting out through statues, in ways that people could only see the next morning.

After the people of Ashdod began suffering from tumors, they sent the Ark away to a different city, Gath. But they were struck with tumors, as well, both young and old, in a typical indiscriminate punishment of the Old Testament. So they sent the Ark on to Ekron, where people were also plagued with tumors.

From the description of these tumors, especially in the next chapter, the NOAB says it's likely this was an outbreak of bubonic plague.

Samuel, Chapter 6

The Philistines made a plan to return the Ark of the Covenant. They were going to put it in a cart along with a guilt offering of "Five gold tumours and five gold mice". The cart was to be pulled by "two milch-cows that have never borne a yoke", with their calves taken away from them. The idea was that the cows would go searching after their calves, and if they went straight towards Israel, it was a sign that the plagues had been caused by Yahweh. And of course, that's exactly what the cows did, going to Beth-shemesh. And the people of Beth-shemesh promptly slaugtered the cows to off therm a a burnt-offering to the Lord.

The last few verses explained a few details without much backstory, "The descendants of Jeconiah did not rejoice with the people of Beth-shemesh when they greeted the ark of the Lord; and he killed seventy men of them." So the people of Beth-shemesh wanted to be rid of the Ark since it was so dangerous, and called on the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim to come take it away from them.

Samuel, Chapter 7

The first few verses of chapter 7 closed out the Ark story, with the Ark staying in Kiriath-jearim for 20 years.

Next, Samuel told the Israelites that if they were finally ready to return to the Lord, they had to get rid of their foreign gods, "the Baals and the Astartes", which they did. Next, he had everyone gather at Mizpah, and the book very briefly described a purification ceremony. When the Philistines saw the Israelites gathering, they sent an army to attack them. But now that the Israelites were right with God again, they were able to defeat the Philistines in battle and win back their cities. And of course, there were animal sacrifices.

The chapter closed by describing that "Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life", and went on a circuit between three cities, judging from each of them for a year before moving on to the next.

Samuel, Chapter 8

When Samuel was old and his sons grew up enough to begin judging over Israel, they turned out to be immoral just like the sons of Eli, "they took bribes and perverted justice." The people of Israel were upset with the way Samuel's sons acted, and so asked for a king to rule over them.

These next several chapters and verses dealing with kings are a bit contradictory. At some points, it seems that God is very upset with the Israelites for wanting a king, because it goes against the plan he had for Israel. Other times, it seems like wanting a king is perfectly ordinary. Throughout, though, it certainly seems to be legendary. I can't imagine that a group of people would just come out and demand a king, rather than this happening through some tribal leader consolidating his power over other tribes. It very likely could have taken multiple generations, starting off with alliances, and later on centralizing power in one family.

So, in this chapter, God started off by agreeing to give Israel a king, but warning them of the repercussions, such as taxes and drafting sons into the army. But the people were unmoved by the warning and still wanted their king.

Samuel, Chapter 9

In chapter 9, we're finally introduced to Saul. He was a Benjaminite, son of Kish. "There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else." One day, some of Kish's donkeys went missing, so he sent Saul and a servant to go look for them. In their search, they came to the land of Zuph, and the servant knew there was "a man of God in this town", so they decided to go meet with him to see if he could tell them where the donkeys were. As it turned out, the seer ("for the one who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer") was Samuel. God had already told him that the future king of Israel would be meeting with him that day. So when Saul showed up, Samuel was expecting him, and after assuring him that the donkeys were safe, invited Saul to eat with him at the shrine, putting Saul and his servant at the head of the table and giving them the choicest meat. Samuel gave them a place to sleep that night. The next morning, as Saul and the servant were leaving, Samuel had the servant go on ahead so that he could have a private word with Saul.

Samuel, Chapter 10

Samuel pulled out a phial of oil to anoint Saul, and finally told him that he had been chosen by God to be the king of Israel. He gave him further instructions on where to go from there, and what he would see on his trip home. Everything turned out just as Samuel had predicted, and Saul ended up in Gibeah going into a "prophetic frenzy" with the other prophets there and issuing some prophecies of his own. This was the first explanation given in 1 Samuel about the origin of the phrase, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" A more demeaning explanation will be given in a later chapter, and apparently the difference is because the writer of this section supported Saul, while the writer of the later section supported David.

After the prophetic frenzy in Gibeah, Saul returned home. Saul's uncle (not his father) asked him what had happened, and Saul relayed most of the story except for the part about becoming king.

Samuel called together the people at Mizpah again, and cast lots to determine the king. The lots eventually fell to Saul, but he was hiding among the baggage. The people went and found him and appointed him as king. According to the NOAB, this may be a blending of two different traditions for how Saul became king. Afterwards, Samuel instructed the in "the rights and duties of the kingship", putting it all down in a book. Then everyone returned home. A few warriors "whose hearts God had touched" went with Saul, but "some worthless fellows" didn't accept his kingship and didn't take him a present.

The last few verses are really the start of the story that comes in the next chapter. Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been oppressing the Gadites and Reubenites, and had even gone so far as to gouge out the right eye of all of them. Seven thousand of the Gadites and Reubenites had escaped, but the rest of the telling of the story will have to wait until next week.


So, it is kind of nice to be back in a book telling a narrative, and one that actually goes a little more in depth into character development than previous books. It's a much more coherent approach, even if there still are signs that it's a blending of multiple traditions.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - Ruth 1 to Ruth 4

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleRuth is by far the shortest of the Biblical books that I've read so far - just 4 chapters long. It's also the shortest of the Historical Books, but not the shortest book of the Bible, or even of the Old Testament.

Ruth, Chapter 1

In a time of famine, Elimelech left Bethlehem in Judah to go live in Moab. He took his wife, Naomi, and their two sons. After a time, Elimelech died, and his sons married Moabites. But after about 10 years, the sons died, too, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, on their own. After hearing that the famine in Israel had ended, Naomi decided to return, but first she tried to send Orpah and Ruth back to their own mothers. Orpah left, but Ruth refused to leave her. There's a fairly well known passage from this section with a nice sentiment, where Ruth expressed her loyalty to Naomi.

Where you go, I will go;
   where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
   and your God my God.
17 Where you die, I will die--
   there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
   and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!'

Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, "the whole town was stirred because of them". Naomi asked the people to begin calling her Mara, instead - meaning 'bitter', as opposed to her previous name which means 'pleasant'.

Ruth, Chapter 2

To feed themselves, Ruth went to glean from the fields - gathering some of the grain left behind by the reapers. She just happened to go to the field that belonged to Boaz, a relative of Ruth's. She caught Boaz's eye, and he told her to stay in his fields with his young women, while at the same time he told his servants to keep an eye on her and provide her with extra grain. He even invited her to eat lunch with him. At the end of the day, she returned to Naomi with plenty of food and told her of the day's goings on.

Ruth, Chapter 3

Naomi instructed Ruth to clean herself up, put on her best clothes, and approach Boaz at the threshing floor, but only after he'd eaten and drank. When he went to lie down, she was to "go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do." Now, there's a little bit of a question as to what that's supposed to mean. 'Feet' was sometimes used as a euphemism for 'genitals' in the Bible, so some people might interpret those instructions in a sexual light. However, according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), at least, these words were to be taken at face value, since Ruth and Boaz followed all the appropriate customs in the rest of the book and wouldn't have committed such a sin here. Anyway, Ruth followed Naomi's advice, and when Boaz took notice, she asked him to "spread your cloak over your servant", an expression of marriage. Boaz agreed, but there was a closer next-of-kin who he would have to talk to, first.

Ruth, Chapter 4

The next day, Boaz met the other next-of-kin at the town gate to discuss the matter. The other next-of-kin was unwilling to marry Ruth, because "I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it."

Next came a passage that reminded me a bit of Grandpa Simpson telling a story.

7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8 So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, 'Acquire it for yourself', he took off his sandal.

So, Boaz and Ruth were married and had a son, Obed (though following custom, the son was given the name of Ruth's dead husband). The final few verses were genealogy, from Perez through a few generations to Obed, and then to Jesse, and then to David. I've read that these last few verses were probably tacked on, possibly in an attempt to legitimize David's claim to kingship (whose story will be told in upcoming books).


There's really not much to write about the book of Ruth. It was a short story about only a few characters. It's most likely allegorical, as the names of almost all the characters translate to something meaningful for the story (Elimelech - "My God is King", Naomi - "Pleasing", Mahlon - "Sickness", Chilion - "Wasting", Mara - "Bitter"). Perhaps the most significant lesson taken from it is that non-Jews can convert to Judaism and become full standing members of the community.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - Judges 11 to Judges 21

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 11 through 21 comprise the second half of the book of Judges. These chapters contain some stories that are more recognizable, such as Samson and Delilah.

The judges in these books display some rather questionable morality. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) notes that much of that is to intentionally present the judges in a bad light, as a kind of precursor to coming books, laying the foundation to make the case that monarchy will be good for Israel. This may be the case, but there are still aspects of God's involvement in the stories that are troubling.

Judges, Chapter 11

I closed last week's review with the Israelites on the verge of war with the Ammonites, but without anyone to lead them. This chapter described the leader, Jephthah. He was the son of a prostitute. Once his half-brothers were old enough, they drove him away to keep their inheritances larger. Jephthah ended up in the land of Tob and became a leader of a group of outlaws. With the coming war, the Israelite leaders approached Jephthah and asked for him to lead the army. Jephthah agreed under the condition that he would be the head of Israel, not just the army, and the Israelite elders agreed to his condition.

Jephthah began by trying to negotiate with the Ammonites, claiming that the land had never belonged to them. Unfortunately, the negotiations didn't work, and the war came. Next came a very disturbing aspect of the story. Jephthah made an oath with the Lord, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord's, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering." He was offering a human-sacrifice in exchange for victory! So, "the Lord gave them into his hand." Upon Jephthah return to his house, the first person out of the door to greet him was his daughter. But since he'd made an oath, it couldn't be broken. After giving her two months to wander the wilderness grieving for her fate, "she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made."

I know this story is supposedly to put Jephthah in a bad light, but God allowed it all to happen, and even kept his end of the oath that resulted in the daughter being sacrificed. He could have appeared like he did to Moses to stop the sacrifice, or even just let Jephthah fail.

Judges, Chapter 12

After the defeat of the Ammonites, the Israelites had some inter-tribal warfare. Jephthah and the men of Gilead fought against the Ephraimites. Jephthah and his men took a ford in the region, and killed any Emphraimites who tried to cross it. "Forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell at that time."

Jepthah was judge over Israel for six years before his death. This chapter closed with a list of the three judges who followed Jephthah.

Judges, Chapter 13

Chapter 13 introduced the story of Samson. It began in the same way as so many chapters of this book, "The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord", so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines for 40 years. But then, the angel of the Lord came to visit the unnamed wife of Manoah, and told her that she was going to have a son. He instructed her to "drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death." And if you recall the description of nazirites from Numbers, it meant that Samson was never to cut his hair.

The woman told her husband of the visit, who prayed to God for more guidance. So God sent the angel a second time, still going to visit the woman first, who had to go get her husband to be part of the conversation. After offering the angel food, the angel insisted that it be offered as a burnt offering, and "the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on."

There was one other interesting aspect from this chapter - the importance of names. When Manoah asked the angel for his name, the angel refused to give it to him.

Judges, Chapter 14

Chapter 14 contains a bit of an odd story. Once Samson was older, he decided he wanted a Philistine woman for a wife. His parents were troubled by this, but apparently, "this was from the Lord; for he was seeking a pretext to act against the Philistines."

One day, as Samson was walking near a vineyard by himself, he was attacked by a lion, and "The spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as one might tear apart a kid." But he didn't tell anyone about it. Then he went on to meet a woman, and "After a while he returned to marry her". On that trip, he saw the body of the lion, which had become inhabited by bees. So, Samson took the honey from inside the carcass, eating some of it for himself, and taking some of it back to his parents. But he didn't tell anybody where the honey came from.

So, a feast was prepared for the wedding, and as was apparently the custom (per the NOAB), Samson posed a riddle to the guests. The stakes were "thirty linen garments and thirty festal garments". If they solved the riddle, Samson would owe them, but if they couldn't then they would owe Samson. But Samson's riddle wasn't a fair one. It was based on the events with the lion and the honey, not something that anybody else could figure out, "Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet."

The guests of course couldn't solve the riddle, so they convinced Samson's wife to coax the answer out of him. After "she nagged him" for seven days, he finally broke and told her the answer, which she passed on to the guests, who then won the bet. Samson was furious, "If you had not ploughed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle." And immediately following that, "the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town, took their spoil, and gave the festal garments to those who had explained the riddle." And with that, he stormed away from the town, so his wife was given to another man, thinking Samson was gone for good.

Just like Jephthah's story was supposed to make him look bad, the NOAB says that this was supposed to make Samson look bad. But he only killed all those townspeople after "the spirit of the Lord rushed on him". It was God who enabled the killing.

Judges, Chapter 15

A while later, Samson went back to visit his wife, only to find out that she'd been given to another man. And of course, he was furious. So, he attached some foxes tail to tail, put a torch "between each pair of tails", then lit the torches and let the foxes free. They ran through the fields of the Philistines, setting all their crops ablaze. When the Philistines learned Samson had done it in revenge, they went to Samson's wife and her father, and burned them. Samson went on a killing spree, striking down many Philistines before going off to live on his own.

In retaliation, the Philistines went to Judah and punished the people there, so that the people of Judah would deliver Samson. Samson allowed the people of Judah to bind him, so long as they weren't going to attack him themselves. As soon as he was delivered to the Philistines, he broke his bonds and attacked. This is where the infamous story of the jawbone takes place. Judah picked up "a fresh jawbone of a donkey", and killed a thousand Philistines with it.

After the fighting was over and Samson was parched with thirst, he called out to God to not let him die of thirst, "so God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi", providing Samson with water.

Judges, Chapter 16

Next came a short story involving Samson and a prostitute. While visiting a prostitute in Gaza, the people learned of his presence, and decided to attack him come first light. But Samson arose at midnight, and then in an image that's almost cartoonish, he "took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron."

After that, Samson finally fell in love with Delilah. She was bribed by Philistine leaders to learn the secret of his strength, so she repeatedly tried to get him to admit it to her. On multiple occasions, he gave her a false answer, and that very night she would try to subdue him with whatever false answer he had given her, while Philistine soldiers lay in wait in the next room, only to learn she'd been fooled when he awoke and broke the bonds. You'd think that after waking up bound a few times, Samson would have become suspicious, but he eventually told Delilah the true source of his strength - his uncut hair. So that night, when he fell asleep with his head in her lap, she called in a man to cut his hair, and Samson lost his strength. The Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes, after which they bound him and took him to Gaza. In Gaza, he was put to work grinding at the mill in the prison. But we were given a ray of hope - his hair had begun to grow again.

The Philistine leaders gathered for a celebration and to offer a sacrifice to their god, Dagon. They called out Samson from the prison to humiliate him by making him perform for them. Samson prayed to God one last time, asking God to "remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes." With that, he pushed on the pillars between which he was standing, making the whole building collapse, killing everyone within it, "So those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life."

In the last line of the chapter, we learn that Samson had judged Israel for 20 years.

Judges, Chapter 17

Chapter 17 introduces us to Micah, a man from the hill country of Ephraim. The chapter started with him admitting to his mother that he'd taken 1100 pieces of silver from her and returning it. In turn, she took a portion of that silver to make an idol, which she kept in Micah's house. In addition, "Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim" and then made his son a priest.

One day, a young Levite who had been living in Bethlehem in Judah left the town to strike out on his own. He met Micah, and Micah asked the young Levite to stay with him as a priest, and to be like a father to him.

Judges, Chapter 18

Now the Danites still hadn't been allotted their territory, so they sent five scouts out looking for a suitable location. They came upon Micah's house, and recognized the young Levite. They received his blessing on their quest before continuing on. Next, they came upon Laish. The description the Bible gave is a little unsettling in that it really illustrates the warlike nature of the Israelites, "they observed the people who were there living securely, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing on earth, and possessing wealth."

So, the scouts returned to their tribe and gathered an army to conquer Laish. On the way, they went to the home of Micah, and convinced the young Levite to go with them, even stealing the idol, ephod, and teraphim. The young Levite tried to protest some, but they told him to "Keep quiet! Put your hand over your mouth..." A little way onward, Micah caught up to them and confronted them, but the Danites threatened Micah and he returned to his house empty handed.

In the end, the Danites conquered Laish, killing everyone in the city and taking the land for themselves, and putting up the idols in the city.

Judges, Chapter 19

Chapter 19 began a somewhat gruesome story. A Levite living in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. One day, she became angry with him and returned to her father's house. After a few months, the man went to win her back. There was a bit of an odd side story, where the man kept trying to leave, but the girl's father kept giving him food and drink and convincing him to spend another night. But eventually, on the fifth day, they left.

They made their way to a town named Gibeah, and waited in the town square until an old man invited them to stay at his house. Then, the story became reminiscent of Sodom. The men of the town came to the house and demanded to have the man so that "we may have intercourse with him". And like in that other story, the men trapped inside the house tried to appease the men trapped outside the house by offering them "my virgin daughter and his concubine", but the men of the town still wanted the Levite. But here is where the story went its own way. Instead of a miraculous rescue by angels, the Levite pushed his concubine out the door. The men raped and abused the concubine. In the morning, she fell at the door of the house, and when the man tried to rouse her, he discovered that she had been killed.

So, he took her body, threw it on a donkey, and took it back to his home. Then "he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel." Along with the body parts, he sent a message to form a counsel, since nothing like that had ever before happened in Israel.

Judges, Chapter 20

The people of Israel gathered to decide what was to be done. They sent emissaries throughout the tribe of Benjamin, demanding the men who had committed the crime so that they could be put to death. The Benjaminites refused to hand them over, so both sides formed up armies for battle. The non-Benjaminite Israelites went to the Ark of the Covenant to ask God what to do, and God told them to go out to battle. Two days in a row, the Benjaminites inflicted major casualties on the rest of Israel. Both nights, the Israelites returned to the Ark, and both times God told them to go back out to battle. But on the second night, God gave the Israelites further instructions on their tactics. On the third day, the main body of Israel was finally victorious, and killed all of the Benjaminites, including the women and children, except for a small group of men who escaped.

Judges, Chapter 21

The Israelites had made a vow that none of their daughters would marry the Benjaminites. But now that there were no female Benjaminites left alive, they lamented the fact that one of the tribes of Israel would go extinct. So they took a roll, and realized that no one from Jabesh-gilead had been at Mizpah when the vow was made. So 12,000 soldiers were sent to Jabesh-gilead, and commanded to "put the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead to the sword, including the women and the little ones". Only virgin girls were to be captured alive. These young girls were taken to the band of Benjaminite survivors, so that they could have wives. But their weren't enough girls to go around.

The Israelites found a loophole. The men from Benjamin who still didn't have wives were to go to Shiloh while they were having a festival, and hide in wait in the vineyards. When unsuspecting girls came by, the Benjaminites would kidnap them. That way, the girls weren't captured in battle, which apparently would have caused more war. But the Israelites also had broken their vow by giving their daughters to the Benjaminites. So, the Benjaminites kidnapped enough girls to keep their tribe going.

The chapter closed with a line that was repeated numerous times throughout this book,"In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes."


This book really paints a bad picture of Israelite morality in those days. Granted, as I wrote above, some people see this as laying the foundation to support monarchy in later books, by showing that the people need a strong leader to keep from behaving badly. And for the most part, the communication with Yahweh in this book wasn't as direct as it had been with Moses and Joshua. But God still played a troubling role in many of these stories, giving strength to the people that committed atrocities, or letting battles rage for days before divinely stepping in to give one side the victory.

Like I wrote last week, it's easy to see how this book could be based in reality. It doesn't present a completely idealized image of Israel. There's a lot of inter-tribal warfare and different gods being worshiped. It's almost as if these stories are descended from the early days of Judaism, when the people began to shift to the worship of one god instead of many, and when they began to come together as one nation. Though that's just the way I'm reading this book, and it's also possible that it is an 'idealized' view of Israel, but a rather dystopian view to stress the shortcomings of a society without a monarch.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - Judges 1 to Judges 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleToday marks another minor milestone in this series. It's the 6 month anniversary (mensiversary?) of my first post of the series. I'm just about 1/6 of the way through the Bible - not bad progress, but still a lot left to go. I hope I can keep up my motivation till the end of the series, and not peter out like I've seen other people's attempts to blog the Bible (like Blogging Biblically - a much more humorous take on the Bible than this series). I have to admit that it's getting pretty tedious right now, but maybe later chapters will pick up.

Judges is the next of the Historical Books. It begins just after Joshua's death, and goes through a series of ups and downs for Israel. The Israelites will forget God and get punished for it by being subjugated by neighboring peoples, until God feels sorry for them again and raises up a leader to free them. But once the leader dies, they fall back into their pagan ways, and get punished by God again. In chapters 1 through 10, at least, this pattern repeats over and over. And there aren't really any passages from these chapters that stand out as being particularly well known.

Judges, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 picks up the story of the Israelites immediately following the death of Joshua. They asked the Lord who was going to lead them in their fight against the Canaanites, and God appointed Judah. And of course, they fought and defeated many peoples and cities, sometimes killing everybody. One passage caught my eye - this would definitely be termed cruel and unusual punishment if it were to occur today.

6 Adoni-bezek fled; but they pursued him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 Adoni-bezek said, 'Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has paid me back.' They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

There was some repetition from Joshua. Recall the story from chapter 15 of Joshua where Othniel son of Kenaz conquered Kiriath-sepher and in so doing won Caleb's daughter, Achsach, as his wife. That story was repeated again in this chapter, this time apparently after Joshua's death.

The chapter moved on to other tribes, and their conquests against the peoples in the land. However, not all of the conquests were complete. Often times, it was noted that a tribe didn't manage to conquer all of a people, and so they continued to live in the land. However, there was usually an accompanying statement that those peoples were eventually subjected to forced labor once the Israelites became strong enough.

There was one passage that is probably recognizable to most skeptics who are familiar with the Iron Chariots website.

The Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain, because they had chariots of iron.

It makes you question the Lord's omnipotence if iron age weapons could stop him. This is also one of the verses that illustrates the translation issues with the New International Version (NIV) and a few other translations. This verse was harmonized by making it read "they were unable to drive the people from the plains", even though the original Hebrew isn't plural there.

Judges, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 began with God scolding the Israelites for not remaining faithful to the covenant, and took away his support in conquering the people's of the Promised Land. In despair, the people wept and made sacrifices to God.

Next the chapter went back to Joshua's death. It was almost like a second start to the book. This was another instance of repeating content from the previous book. To quote myself from last week, "after Joshua's death, Israel served the Lord for as long as the elders survived who had witnessed the works of the Lord." It also repeated the burial of Joshua.

After a few generations had passed, the Israelites abandoned God and began to worship Baal and the Astartes. This angered the Lord, so he punished them. "Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune..." But sometimes God tried to help, raising up "judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them." But the people would only follow the judges while they (the judges) were still alive, and then the people would again abandon Yahweh and go back to worshiping other gods. These verses were all pretty generic, not listing any of the specific judges or conquering peoples. This might have been an interlude, but I suspect it was more of an introduction to the chapters that were to follow.

Judges, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 continued on with the theme from the previous chapter, but got into more detail of "the nations that the Lord left to test all those in Israel..." Actually, there was a statement in this chapter that God left these nations intact specifically so that there could be war, "it was only that successive generations of Israelites might know war, to teach those who had no experience of it before." In a similar vein, there was a statement that the wars were simply to test Israel, "They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their ancestors by Moses."

Think about the morality of those statements. War didn't just happen because of the failings of people, or even because one group had acted sinfully and God wanted to punish them. God specifically wanted for there to be wars, and all the attendant suffering and cruelty, just to test the Israelites.

Next came a cycle of Israel abandoning Yahweh for other Gods, then being rescued by a hero, then abandoning Yahweh again. The heros included Othniel son of Kenaz, Ehud son of Gera, and Shamgar son of Anath.

Ehud actually got a bit of an extended story, and he actually behaved rather treacherously. He took a tribute to King Eglon of Moab (the then oppressor of the Israelites), but had strapped a dagger/short sword to his thigh, hidden under his clothes. After delivering the tribute, he told the king that he had a secret message for him, and the king sent everybody out of his chamber. In a scene that could have come from an action movie, Ehud told King Eglon, "I have a message from God for you," and then stabbed the king through the belly. He stabbed so hard (and Eglon was a bit fat), that the sword disappeared inside the king, "and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the dirt came out." I wonder if that last part is in reference to excrement. Anyway, he left the king to die in his chamber, locking the chamber doors behind him. The kings servants, thinking the king was relieving himself, were too embarrassed to enter the chamber until it was too late and the king was dead, giving Ehud enough time to escape. With the king dead, Ehud led the Israelites in conquering the Moabites.

Judges, Chapter 4

To start the chapter, "The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord," and suffered because of it. But the leader of Israel this time was a woman, "Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth". She summoned Barak son of Abinoam to lead an Israelite army against Sisera, the commander of the enemy army. But she warned Barak that he wasn't going to receive glory, "for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." There was the expected battle, the Israelites were victorious, and Sisera fled the battle field. He went to "the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite." Jael invited him inside, and hid him under a rug. After providing him with some milk to drink, she "went softly to him" and hammered a tent peg through his temple "until it went down into the ground". That was the turning point in the war against King Jabin, which the Israelites eventually won.

While it would be nice to think that having two women involved in an Israelite victory was a sign of some respect to women, Wikipedia notes that it might be "a further sign that Yahweh ultimately is responsible for the victory" and that allowing Sisera to be killed by a woman was "the ultimate degradation".

Judges, Chapter 5

Chapter 5 consisted almost entirely of the Song of Deborah. This was a victory hymn commemorating the Israelites' victory over the Canaanites. According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), this song probably pre-dated the text in the preceding chapter. There were also several discrepancies between the song and the prose, such as the tribes that participated and the details of Sisera's death. The glorification of violence, while par for the course for the Bible, was also rather graphic.

She put her hand to the tent-peg
   and her right hand to the workmen's mallet;
she struck Sisera a blow,
  she crushed his head,
  she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 He sank, he fell,
  he lay still at her feet;
at her feet he sank, he fell;
  where he sank, there he fell dead.

Judges, Chapter 6

Again, "The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord," and this time were turned over to Midian. The angel of the Lord came and sat under a tree where Gideon was beating out wheat to hide in a wine press. The angel told Gideon that he (Gideon) was to lead the Israelites against the Midianites. After questioning why God had abandoned them, Gideon next wondered how he was going to be the one to lead them, "My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." But Gideon was reassured that the Lord would be with him.

Gideon asked the angel to wait while he prepared a present, but also that he would like to see a sign that the angel was who he said he was. So Gideon prepared a meal for the angel and brought it out to him. The angel directed him to dump out the broth, and put the solid food on a rock. The angel touched the food with his staff, whereupon it burst into flames, and the angel disappeared.

At the Lord's command, Gideon pulled down the altar to Baal that his father had made, and cut down the adjacent sacred pole. Then he sacrificed a bull, burning it with the wood from the pole. Out of fear for his own safety, Gideon did all this at night. In the morning, when the people saw what had happened, they were furious and ready to kill Gideon, but Gideon's father came to his aid, threatening to kill anyone who defended Baal. He also made a statement that's a bit ironic, "If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been pulled down." Would that all religious people let their gods contend for themselves.

An army gathered to Gideon, but he wasn't done testing God just yet. He asked for two more proofs. Fist, he let a fleece out overnight, asking God for a sign by making only the fleece wet with dew, but not the adjacent ground. After this test, he asked for another the next night, by making only the ground wet, but leaving the fleece dry.

Judges, Chapter 7

Now Gideon was in a position to conquer the Midianites, but he had too large of a following. If he was victorious, the Israelites would think they had been successful on their own, and not give the credit to God. So, God had Gideon thin out his ranks. First, he sent home every man that was fearful of the upcoming battle, but there were still too many. So he took them down to the water, and all those that "lap the water with their tongues, as a dog laps" were separated from those that drank with their hands. There were only 300 who had drank like dogs, so they became Gideon's private force.

Gideon was still afraid to attack, so, at the Lord's command, he snuck down to the Midianite camp, and overheard a conversation between two soldiers. One had had a dream foretelling the victory of Gideon (though using symbols like a cake of barley bread). With this knowledge, Gideon finally had the courage he needed, and led his force in a sneak attack in the middle of the night. The Midianites fled, and then all of the Israelites chased them down. After the two captains of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, had been killed, their heads were taken to Gideon.

Judges, Chapter 8

The Ephraimites were at first upset with Gideon for attacking on his own, but he soothed their anger by pointing out that they had had the honor of killing Oreb and Zeeb.

But the fighting wasn't over. Gideon and his private force were still chasing down some of the enemy. When they arrived in the city of Succoth, they asked for bread. But the people of Succoth refused, "Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna, that we should give bread to your army?" Gideon threatened them, "I will trample your flesh on the thorns of the wilderness and on briers," and moved on. He received the same treatment in Penuel, and threatened them with knocking down their tower once he had caught Zebah and Zalmunna.

Before too long, Gideon did capture Zebah and Zalmunna. On his return trip, he caught a young man from Succoth, and interrogated him to learn the names of the city's officials and elders - 77 people. With that knowledge, he carried through with his threats, "he took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth. 17 He also broke down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city."

There was a bit of an odd story when it came time to kill Zebah and Zalmunna. Gideon told his firstborn son to kill them, but the son was still a boy and too afraid to draw his sword. So Gideon went and killed them himself.

With some of the gold from his conquests, Gideon made an ephod that he put on display in his town, "and all Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family," though not much else was said of it. Gibeon had many wives and 70 sons, plus another son, Abimelech, from his concubine.

Once Gideon died, Israel again abandoned the Lord.

Judges, Chapter 9

Abimelech had ambitions to be king. So, he went to his mother's kinfolk to gain their support, and "killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone". Only Gideon's youngest son, Jotham, survived by hiding. Jotham went to the top of Mount Gerizim, and gave a speech, calling down a curse on Abimelech. Immediately after, Jotham went into hiding out of fear of his brother.

Abimelech ruled for three years before the Lord "sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem". So, there was a new series of battles, this time between Abimelech and Gaal son of Ebed. After winning several battles, Abimelech finally met his end in the siege of a tower. A woman threw down a rock that crushed his skull. Rather than suffer the indignity of dying by the hand of a woman, Abimelech had one of his own men "thrust him through". So, after unknowingly enacting God's punishment on the people of Shechem, Abimelech received his own punishment.

Judges, Chapter 10

Two more judges were briefly mentioned, Tola son of Puah son of Dodo and Jair the Gileadite, before moving on to another story. "The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, worshiping the Baals and the Astartes, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines." And as before, God punished the people for it, but eventually began to feel pity for them. The Israelites "put away the foreign gods from among them and worshiped the Lord; and he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer."

The chapter closed with a gathering of armies in preparation for a battle, and the Israelites wondering who was going to rise up to lead them. But since I'm only reading ten chapters per week, the rest of the story will have to wait until next time.


This book is a bit tedious. It's the same cycle over and over. Israelites do evil in the sight of the Lord, he punishes them, eventually feels pity for them, gives them a leader to restore them, and then the Israelites abandon him again. I'm not sure how historically accurate these chapters are. I don't suspect that they're terribly accurate, but I can see them being based on real events. I mean, just about any nation is going to have its ups and downs - winning some wars, and losing others. When you're looking to the gods to justify outcomes of events, its easy to see how people would blame losses on sins, and credit victories to faithfulness. But I suspect these stories are from before there was a unified nation of Israel. I would guess that they're based more on tribal warfare.

At any rate, the actions of God's chosen heroes are remarkably violent, and not exactly the type of behavior that should be expected from noble military leaders.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Bible Blogging - Joshua 11 to Joshua 24

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 11 through 24 are the final verses of Joshua. They finish up with the conquest of the Promised Land, then get into a lot of detail on how the land was divided between all the different tribes of Israel, before describing the death of Joshua.

Joshua, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 begins the Northern Campaign. Like in the previous campaign, the kings of this region banded together to form an alliance against the Israelites. This time, they were specifically said to have "many horses and chariots". The wording in the notes of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) was actually pretty funny on this. It called them "dreaded horses and chariots". But with God on their side, it didn't matter. The Israelites "struck them down, until they had left no one remaining. 9 And Joshua did to them as the Lord commanded him; he hamstrung their horses, and burned their chariots with fire."

Next the Israelites slaughtered all the inhabitants of another city, Hazor, and burned the city to the ground. The book then mentioned that the Israelites conquered several more cities, killing all the inhabitants, but that they didn't burn down any more "of the towns that stood on mounds", just Hazor. And in these cities, they kept their spoils of war as booty.

The Israelites next moved on to another region and conquered yet more towns. The duration of these battles wasn't specified exactly, but "Joshua made war a long time with all those kings." This time, there was an explicit reference that "it was the Lord's doing to harden their hearts", keeping them from surrendering peacefully.

Then it was on to another region, conquering the Anakim. This included a statement that the people weren't conquered completely - just the portion of their lands in what had been promised to the Israelites, "None of the Anakim was left in the land of the Israelites; some remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod."

The last verse of the chapter stated that "the land had rest from war," bringing Joshua's final campaign to a close.

Joshua, Chapter 12

Chapter 12 was a list of Israel's conquests. It began with peoples east of the Jordan that Moses had conquered, and continued on to west of the Jordan and Joshua's victories. The way the list was worded was a bit odd. Here's an example.

9 the king of Jericho
the king of Ai, which is next to Bethel
10 the king of Jerusalem
the king of Hebron

Joshua, Chapter 13

This chapter began with God telling Jacob just how much more fighting remained to be done. This was, I believe, the first mention that the conquest of the Promised Land hadn't been complete. After listing all the peoples who would have to be conquered, and God promising that he would still aid the Israelites, Joshua was commanded to divide the land.

Now came a long, rather boring, detailing of all the lands of all the different tribes. This would go on for several more chapters. For the most part, it listed the cities that belonged to each tribe, along with a detailed description of the borders of their territory. However, different tribes received different levels of detail, with Judah getting the most attention. A few tribes had incomplete details of their borders, and a few were only addressed with a list of their cities.

Chapter 13 addressed the tribes that had gotten their inheritance directly from Moses, east of the Jordan before the Israelites conquered the promised land, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The chapter also described that the Levites weren't to receive any land as inheritance since "the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance".

Joshua, Chapter 14

Chapter 14 got into how the Promised Land was divided. The division was to be done by lots, assuming that God would control how the lots fell. But first, Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, one of the heroes who remained faithful to the Lord in the spy episode, received his special inheritance. He received Jephunneh, knowing that he would drive out the Anakim with God's help.

Joshua, Chapter 15

The first part of Chapter 15 described Judah's territory in detail, and then it was back to Caleb. He conquered a few towns on his own, but then for Kiriath-sepher, he made a bargain that whoever conquered it would receive his daughter, Achsach, as a wife. Othniel son of Kenaz conquered the city and got the girl. To make Achsach a bit of a hero herself, she asked her father for springs (the water type) as a present. It's so common in the Bible that it almost goes unnoticed, but note that before she was married, Caleb had complete ownership of his daughter, and could offer her to whoever he wanted, without having to get her consent.

The chapter was then back to Judah's inheritance, this time giving a long list of their cities.

Joshua, Chapter 16

This chapter covered the inheritances of the Josephites and Ephraimites, in far less detail than was given to Judah in the previous chapter.

Joshua, Chapter 17

This chapter covered the tribes of Manasseh and Joseph. There were a couple stories in addition to the details of the inheritances. One of the male descendants of Manasseh had no sons, only daughters, and so they approached the leaders to remind them of God's promise that they should also receive an inheritance, which they did.

The tribe of Joseph approached the leaders, and said that because their tribe was so numerous, that they deserved a larger inheritance. So, they were given both plains and hill country. They were going to have to "drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong."

Joshua, Chapter 18

There were still seven tribes who hadn't received an inheritance. Each was to provide three men to scout out the land, taking notes of all that was there "with a view to their inheritances". After they returned, lots were cast to divide the land. Note that these were lands that hadn't yet been conquered, so the inheritance was promise for the future. Joshua even issued an admonition, stating "How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?"

The remainder of the chapter described the inheritance of Benjamin in some detail.

Joshua, Chapter 19

The remaining tribes received their inheritances, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. None of these descriptions were very detailed.

Next came the inheritance of Joshua himself, the town of Tinmath-serah, which he rebuilt.

And with that, the inheritances were complete.

Joshua, Chapter 20

There was still some work to do on dividing the land, however. First came the cities of refuge (where people who had killed someone unintentionally could flee to be safe from the "avenger of blood").

Joshua, Chapter 21

Next came the towns for the Levites. Each of the tribes had to give up some towns for the Levites to live in. However, even though the Levites received 48 towns, they weren't divided evenly among the 12 tribes. This chapter was actually rather detailed in listing all the towns, which Levites in particular received each town, and which tribe was giving the town to the Levites. Now, the division of the land was pretty much complete.

Joshua, Chapter 22

The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who had their inheritance east of the Jordan, and who had been made to promise to fight alongside the rest of the Israelites in the conquest of the promised land, were told that they had fulfilled their duties, and that they could return to their lands and families.

These tribes decided to build an altar alongside the Jordan, on the Israelite side. The other tribes were furious, thinking that Reubenites et al were abandoning Yahweh and setting up the altar to worship other gods. I guess this must be coming from the tradition in Deuteronomy that centralized worship, as opposed to the traditions where Israelites built altars where it seemed appropriate. At any rate, the people of Israel gathered an Army to attack the eastern tribes, thinking that their wayward ways would attract God's wrath. But the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said that they'd built the altar as a monument, to show that they were united with the rest of Israel, even though they were east of the Jordan. They didn't intend to use it as an actual altar. This explanation soothed the Israelites, and nobody fought anybody.

Joshua, Chapter 23

After a long time had passed, Joshua had grown old and was nearing the end of his days. He summoned all the leaders of Israel to give them some final words. He assured them that God would fulfill his promise and that eventually all of the Promised Land would be conquered. He reminded them of all the good God had done for them, and told them to remain faithful to God and to follow his Law.

He warned them not to intermarry with the still remaining inhabitants of the Promised Land, lest they become "a snare and a trap for you". This type of xenophobia has obviously been a hallmark of much of the Bible so far, calling for the complete extermination of enemies. It's just a bit odd to see it like this, not even allowing intermarriage during a time of peace.

There was also a short warming not to "serve other gods and bow down to them".

Joshua, Chapter 24

Joshua again summoned all the leaders. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a different story, or if it comes from a different tradition of the same story (I suspect the latter). This time, he summarized in more detail all that the Lord had done, starting with Abraham. The book said that Abraham, his brother, and his father had originally served other gods before Yahweh called Abraham. Joshua continued on through to the conquering of the Promised Land, reminding the Israelites that it was God who was responsible for the conquest.

Joshua gave the Israelites one last chance on whether or not to serve Yahweh, with a line that most people will probably recognize, "Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Of course, the Israelites chose Yahweh. They were told to "put away the foreign gods that are among you" and to serve God. Joshua set up statues and a monument to commemorate the occasion.

After everyone had returned to their lands, Joshua died, at the age of 110, and was buried on his land.

There followed three short appendices. First, it was noted that after Joshua's death, Israel served the Lord for as long as the elders survived who had witnessed the works of the Lord. Then, the bones of Joseph, which had been brought all the way from Egypt, "were buried at Shechem, in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor". Finally, Eleazar son of Aaron and was buried at Gibeah. The NOAB mentioned that concluding Joshua with the death of a priest was probably due to the priestly influence.


The book of Joshua contained all the questionable morality (to put it charitably) I've come to expect from the Bible, but at least, like I wrote last week, it got back into a narrative for a little while. The descriptions of all of the inheritances were rather boring, but to be honest, I just skimmed through those.

The book struck me as legendary or mythical. It seemed like a way to describe how the different peoples of Israel came to have the particular lands they did. It wasn't just historical contingency (like probably happened in reality), but the result of divine intervention - God's will.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Selling Out