Saturday, April 17, 2010


James 3-5

In chapter seven, Gideon (who is also called Jerub-Baal, because he tore down Baal's altar) was told by the LORD that he had too many men, because if they defeated Midian with that many, Israel might boast of its own strength rather than the LORD. So Gideon told his many that any who were afraid should go home, and twenty-two thousand left, leaving ten thousand. The LORD told Gideon that there were still too many, so they went down to the spring, and separated "those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." Those who got down on their knees were sent home, leaving Gideon with three hundred men. That night, the LORD told Gideon to go down into the valley where the Midianite camp was and "listen to what they are saying." When he did, he heard a man tell another of a dream which they interpreted as meaning that God had given the Midianites and the whole camp into Gidon's hands. He divided his three hundred into three companies, and all took trumpets and empty jars. They approached the Midian camp and blew their trumpets and broke the jars and the Midianites all fled, and the LORD caused the men in the camp to attack each other with swords. The army fled and Gideon sent messengers into the hill country calling the Ephraimites to take the Jordan ahead of them. They did, and captured and killed two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb.

In chapter eight, the Ephraimites are resentful of Gideon not calling them at the beginning, but he praise their grapes and said that God gave Oreb and Zeeb into their hands, and their resentment subsided. As Gideon and his men chased the remains of the Midianites, they were exhausted and asked for bread in Succoth, but the officials refused and Gideon promised to "tear your flesh with desert thorns and briers." In Peniel, the same refusal was made and he swore to tear down their tower. Gideon caught up to the armies of Zebah and Zalmunna (two kings of Midian) and routed their forces. As they returned through Succoth, he punished the men with desert thorns and briers, and he had said he would. "He also pulled down the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the town." He told his oldest son Jether to kill the two kings, but he was only a boy and afraid so he did it himself. Then the Israelites wanted to make him a king, but he refused, saying that "the LORD will rule over you." But he asked for one earring from each from their share of the plunder. He made all the gold into an ephod which he plaeced in his town, Ophrah, and "Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family." So during Gideon's lifetime, Israel had forty years of peace. He went home to live and seventy sons by many wives, and a son Abimelech by a concubine in Shechem. But as soon as he died, Israel turned back to Baal, and failed to show kindness to the family of Gideon for all that he had done.

Chapter nine tells of how Abimelech, son of Gideon by a concubine in Schechem, went to his mother's brothers and clan and asked whether they'd rather have seventy of Jerub-Baal's sons rule over them or just him, their own flesh and blood. The Shechemites agreed to follow him and gave him silver, with which he hired "reckless adventurers" and went to Ophrah and killed the seventy sons, other than Jotham, the youngest, who escaped by hiding. Jotham went to the top of Mount Gerizima nd called out to the people of Shechem a story of trees seeking a king, which ended with a warning or prophecy. He told them that if they had "acted honorably and in good faith" when they had made Abimelech king, "may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too!" But if not, "let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you...and let fire come out from you...and consume Abimelech!" And then Jotham fled. Abimelech governed Israel for three years and then "God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem." Gaal moved with his brothers into Schechem and he asked, "who is Abimelech that we should be subject to him?" News of this reached Abimelech who gathered his troops and took up position outside the city in four companies. There was a battle and Gaal and his brothers were driven out of Shechem. The next day, Abimelech took the city, destroyed it and salted it. He burned the tower of Shechem, killing the people who had taken refuge there. Then he moved on to Thebez, and repeated the process. As he tried to set it on fire, however, a woman dropped a millstone on his head and cracked his skull. He told his armor-bearer to kill him, so that it couldn't be said that "a woman killed him." "Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • The citizens of Succoth and Peniel were not particularly accommodating or helpful to Gideon and his men, but it's hard to see that the response of killing them all is justified.
  • The story of Judges, again, is the repeated failure of the people of Israel to follow God. They are repeatedly seduced by the culture around them. And every time, God saves them, and then they turn away. Again.

Proverbs 25:15-28

This section features several analogies. "Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble....Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control." I once heard someone in a speech say something that I like, and have thought of many times - "I like analogies, because they create a picture in the mind." We can understand intellectually that false testimony is bad, but we can also try to justify or rationalize it. The comparison to a "club or a sword or a sharp arrow" makes it a lot hard to rationalize away.

Proverbs 25:15-28 (New International Version)

15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded,
and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

16 If you find honey, eat just enough—
too much of it, and you will vomit.

17 Seldom set foot in your neighbor's house—
too much of you, and he will hate you.

18 Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor.

19 Like a bad tooth or a lame foot
is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble.

20 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on soda,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you.

23 As a north wind brings rain,
so a sly tongue brings angry looks.

24 Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

25 Like cold water to a weary soul
is good news from a distant land.

26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.

27 It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one's own honor.

28 Like a city whose walls are broken down
is a man who lacks self-control.

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