Sunday, April 18, 2010


Judges 10-12

Judges ten starts with brief descriptions of two minor judges, Tola and Jair, who "led Israel" for 23 and 22 years after the time of Abimelech. Then Israel turned away from God and he put them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites. The Israelites cried out to God, acknowledged their sin, "got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD."

Chapter eleven tells the story of Jephthah, a son of Gilead by a prostitute, who was driven away by his legitimate brothers. But he was a mighty warrior and when the Ammonites made war on Israel, the elders of Gilead begged him to be their commander. They promised that he would be their leader if he agreed, even after the battle, some he came to Mizpah and agreed to lead them. He sent word to the king of the Ammonites asking why he had attacked Israel, and was told that when Israel came out of Egypt, "they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably." Jephthah answered that Israel had requested passage through Edom and Moab and been refused, and so had skirted those territories and then been attacked anyway. "The LORD...gave Sihon and all his men into Israel's hands" and they took all that land. And no one had even tried to take it back in three hundred years. "I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me." But the king of Ammon ignored him. "Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah." He made a vow to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his door when he returned home if the LORD gave the Ammonites into his hands, which he did when he went to fight them. When Jephthah returned home, the first thing that came out of his door was his daughter, his only child. He cried and tore his clothes, and she told him that he must keep his vow to the LORD, but asked for two months "to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry." And when she returned, he did as he had vowed.

Chapter twelve starts with an altercation between Jephthah and the men of Ephraim. The men of Ephraim threatened to burn Jephthah's house down because he had not called them to fight the Ammonites. He called the men of Gilead together and fought against them. The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim and killed and Ephraimite that tried to cross. Jephthah led Israel for six years. The chapter ends with brief notes on three more minor judges, Ibzan (seven years), Elon (ten) and Abdon (eight).

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Does Abimelech count as a judge? I'm not sure. In any event, it's easy to see the parallels between he and Jephthah. Each is the son of a prominent man, but not by a wife (and it might be interesting to do a study of what the difference is between the usage of the words translated as "concubine" and "prostitute"). Each is a warrior, shunned by the prominent man's other sons. But they certainly did not follow the same path.
  • The LORD told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and he prepared to do so, but the angel of the LORD stopped him. No one told Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter - he made an extravagant but stupid vow, and while one can understand that he felt a need to complete it, it's hard to make much sense of this story. How does one honor the LORD by committing an act which is objectively evil? Was not one of the evils of the culture of Canaan the act of child sacrifice to Baal or Moloch? I cannot make this one work.

Proverbs 26:1-16

I'm not sure what to make of this:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Yes, they are not directly contradictory, because the secondary clauses are not opposite. But the first verse says don't answer a fool, the second verse says, essentially, that you should.

There are several more proverbs by analogy in this section.

Proverbs 26

1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
honor is not fitting for a fool.

2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
an undeserved curse does not come to rest.

3 A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey,
and a rod for the backs of fools!

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.

6 Like cutting off one's feet or drinking violence
is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool.

7 Like a lame man's legs that hang limp
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

8 Like tying a stone in a sling
is the giving of honor to a fool.

9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

10 Like an archer who wounds at random
is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.

11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly.

12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

13 The sluggard says, "There is a lion in the road,
a fierce lion roaming the streets!"

14 As a door turns on its hinges,
so a sluggard turns on his bed.

15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
than seven men who answer discreetly.

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