Saturday, September 30, 2006


Today is the big day. We haven't been to bed yet for Friday, however. The Little Woman and I just got back from a trip to Walmart for ribbon to put on the baskets carried by the flower girls.

The Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner went well. We capped it off with a slide show The Engaged One made on her computer, showing her and her groom growing up.

We have to be at the church in 11 hours for pictures. Tomorrow will be a quick one.

I guess I'll go practice saying "her mother and I do" a few times before going to bed.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Judges 13
The Consecration of Samson

13:2 Samson The Nazirite

2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”

After the 40 years of oppression by the unconquered Philistines, God again raised up a judge and deliverer, Samson. This passage shows us God chose Samson for this role, not only before he was born, but before he was conceived. God has a plan he works on constantly to accomplish his will. He is always ahead of us in what he knows, what he plans and how he works. The Lord told Jeremiah this in chapter 1 verse 5. He said “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” This message was conveyed by the “angel of the Lord” again, as was the message to Gideon.

Paul also spoke of himself this way. In Galatians 1:15 says “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”.

The Israelites could not see God working for their deliverance. They could only see the Philistines and their suffering. But God was working nonetheless. It is the same in our lives. We may not see God at work, but he is.

In this case, God went to a woman who could not have children to bring the promised deliverer. We have seen this several times. Isaac, the child of promise, was born to barren Sarah. Samuel was given to Hannah, who was barren before that time. John the Baptist was born to a barren Elizabeth (see Luke 1:7).

God not only gave this special son to a barren woman, he claimed him as a Nazirite, who would abide by the Nazirite vow. He was so special, he would be a Nazirite even in the womb, for his mother was instructed not to drink or violate the dietary laws.

The Nazirite vow is set out in Numbers 6. Read Numbers 6:1-7. You can see this passage contemplates a temporary vow, but Samson was set aside for a permanent vow. In verse 5, the angel said the would be a Nazirite to God from the womb. This also appears to the be the case with Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1:11). The term “Nazirite” comes from the Hebrew word “nazir”, which means consecrated or separated. The Nazirite was not allowed to drink wine or strong drink, cut his hair or touch a corpse. In fact, the Nazirite cannot have anything to do with the grape at all: no vinegar and go grapes or raisins allowed. They are, in effect, Southern Baptists.

John the Baptist seems also to have been a Nazirite from the womb, according to Luke 1:15 and 7:33, and Paul took a temporary Nazirite vow to pacify the Jews in Acts 21.

Trivial fact: Rastafarians also take the Nazirite vow.

13:8-14 Manoah Seeks Further Instruction

8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” 11 And Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12 And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child's manner of life, and what is his mission?” 13 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14 She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.”

Although Manoah received the message from his wife, he asked God to give him further instructions. To his credit, he waned to be sure he knew how to raise this special child. God answered that prayer, and the angel of god came again, and again appeared to the woman alone. The angel appeared as a man, as he had with Gideon.

Manoah made a great statement of faith. He said in verse 12, “…when you words come true…”. He did not question this prophetic statement at all, he just wanted to make sure he did the right thing. The angel gave no new instructions, however, he just repeated the things he had told Manoah’s wife.

Manoah also asked to know the mission God had for Samuel, as Nazirites often took the vow to fulfill a specific mission. However, God did not share the future with Manoah.

13:15-23 Manoah Worships

15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” 16 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) 17 And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”

As Gideon had done, Manoah wanted to prepare a gift of food. The angel declined to eat, but instructed Manoah to prepare burnt offering. Manoah did so, along with a grain offering, and offered it on a rock, also as Gideon had done. This is interesting, as the Lord had given instructions through Moses that offerings were to be make at the Tabernacle. The Lord accepted the offering, as the offering was consumed by fire, and the angel ascended to heaven with the flame. This is again similar to the experience of Gideon.

Manoah did not realize until the offering was accepted, that this was the Lord, and he asked the name of the man. The man would not give his name, but indicated it was wonderful. Later, of course, Isaiah would attach that name to the promised Messiah, in Isaiah 9:6 as “Wonderful Counselor”. Here, the angel proves he is the Lord by doing something wonderful, after proclaiming that to be a quality of his name, in consuming the offering and ascending to heaven.

At that point, Manoah and his wife realized this was the Lord, and they fell to the ground and worshipped. The writer here called the Lord the “one who works wonders”.

Manoah panicked when he realized he had seen the Lord, for no one can see God and live. See Exodus 33:20. He did not understand he had seen the pre-incarnate Christ, in human form, and, therefore, would not die. His wife took a more practical take, saying the Lord could not mean to kill us if he accepted the offering and announced the birth of a child. Manoah’s wife comes across as the more perceptive and wise person in this account.

13:24-25 Samson is Born

24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

So, Samson was indeed born to the formerly barren woman. He lived under the blessing of the Lord as he grew up. Then, the Spirit began to work in him. It is the Spirit that provides the power for men and women to accomplish great things for God.

Judges 12

12:1-6 Ephraim Complains Again

12:1 The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.” 2 And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. 3 And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” 4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.” 5 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” 6 they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.

After Gideon won his battle, the Ephraimites complained that Gideon did not call them until it was clean up time. See Judges 8:1. Gideon pacified them by telling them they had won the greater glory by capturing and killing the two kings. This time, however, Jephthah could not pacify them, possibly because he reminded them that he had indeed called them and they had not come. He gave credit to the Lord for the victory, but that did not satisfy them, either. This time there is a fight, but Jephthah defeated them, captured the fords of the Jordan so they could not return home, and killed 42,000 of them. This is the first civil war in Israel, but you can see that the tribes are not unified.

The judges were more local than national in their leadership and did not unite the whole nation behind them. In that sense, they provide a positive argument for a king that would rule the whole nation. Yet, that was not the pattern of the Lord’s leadership with them. The Lord first appointed Moses, who was a combination of judge, prophet and priest. Moses appointed leaders of the tribes in Deuteronomy 1:9-16, along with judges to settle disputes. Joshua took over that role until the conquest concluded. Then these tribal leaders, or elders and judges took over. God would raise up a judge who was a greater leader or military leader when necessary. Evidently, though, had Israel kept the covenant, there would have been no need for the military leader, as God would have protected them.

The last of the judges was Samuel, who operated as a priest and judge. When he got old, and his sons did not follow in his ways, the people demanded a king. The Lord told Samuel that their demand for a king was a rejection of the Lord as king over Israel. See 1 Samuel 8:7.

“Shibboleth” passed into English vocabulary as a test to see what side a person is on in a conflict.

12:7- 15 Jepthah and His Successors

7 Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead. 8 After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. 9 He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem. 11 After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. 13 After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

Jepthah was the first in a series of judges who would only judge for short periods of time until the time of Samson.

Jephthah 6
Ibzan 7
Elon 10
Abdon 8

These men judged Israel for 31 years, then 13:1 tells us Israel turned again to idolatry and suffered until the time of Samson, a period of 40 years.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

JUDGES 10-11

10:1-5 Tola and Jair

10:1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir. 3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. 5 And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

After Abimelech was killed, the next 40 or so years seem to have been uneventful under two judges. You do see evidence of continued polygamy, as evidenced by Jair’s 30 sons. He also liked to display his wealth, putting all this 30 sons on donkeys at a time when Israelites did not ride horses.

10:6 Further Disobedience
6 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him.

Somewhere in this time, Israel turned to even more idol worship, adding other gods to Baal and Ashtaroth, the Canaanite deities. The also worshipped gods of several other countries as they came into contact with them. This finally led to their forsaking the Lord and not serving him. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Whatever you serve will take you away from service to the Lord, whether it is a pagan god, money, success or popularity.

When you put any of these in first place instead of God, you sin. The first commandment was “You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me” in Exodus 20:3. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” God wants first place in your devotion, but, not only first place, but total and complete devotion.

10:7-9 The Consequences of Disobedience

7 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, 8 and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. 9 And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.

When Israel forsook the worship of the Lord, the Lord forsook Israel and quit protecting them. They again fell into oppression, this time by the Philistines and the Ammonites. The Philistines would continue to be enemies of Israel right up until Samuel’s judgeship, when the Lord defeated them as recorded in 1 Samuel 7. This was double trouble, as the Ammonites attacked from the east, and the Philistines from the west. That is why they were severely distressed.

10:10-16 Repentance

10 And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites (Masoretic text; Septuigint has “Midianites”) oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.

Israel finally came to repentance, when things got bad enough. The Lord responded by pointing out his grace to them. He had saved them from 7 enemies, but they responded by worshipping that many foreign gods. They depth of God’s grace was matched by the depth of their depravity.

The Lord also pointed out that their false gods did not save them. But, when they returned to serving him, he acted to protect them again.

10:17 Israel Needs A Leader

17 Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. 18 And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

The deliverance of Israel began with the actions of the Ammonites, who gathered together in Gilead and prepared to attack. Israel also mustered to defend itself, camping at Mizpah. Gilead may refer to all the land east of the Jordan river, in what is now the country of Jordan. Mizpah was where Laban overtook Jacob as he fled from him, and they made a covenant and marked it with a pile of stones. Laban called it Mizpah, a place of watching, saying the Lord would watch between them and hold Jacob accountable to his part of the covenant.

11:1-3 The Biography of Jephthah

11:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.

These 3 verses are a bracket in the story to give the biography of Jephthah. He is similar to Abimelech, in that he is the son of a leader, but not by his wife. He was excluded by the sons of the wife and driven out to Tob, which 2 Samuel 10:6-8 tells us is up near or in Syria. Like Abimelech, he became a warrior and recruited other outcasts to follow him. He is an ancient outlaw, or warlord, or ronin.

11:4-11 From Outcast To Leader

4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight with the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight with the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight with the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.

There must have been no one around that seemed capable of leading the Israelites into battle, because they went to Jephthah and recruited him. He gave them a hard time, since he had been driven out by them. But, they promised to make him their leader.

Ironically, as Laban had told Jacob, Jephthah tells the elders God will be a witness between them.

So, although Jephthat bore many common traits with Abimelech, he actually became a leader or judge of Israel.

11:12-28 Jephthah’s Parlay

12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.” 14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 18 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’ 20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. 22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23 So then the Lord, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the Lord our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The Lord, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.” 28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.

Jephthah first parlayed with the king of the Ammonites, and asked why they were attacking Israel.

The king responded that they came for justice, seeking the return of the land Israel had taken from them. This sounds like some of today’s disputes, doesn’t it?

Jephthah responded with his own history lesson, denying that Israel had taken anything from Ammon. It is true that Israel did not attack Ammon, as God had forbidden it, according to Deuteronomy 2:19, as their land had been given to them by God as the children of Lot. Israel did attack and defeath the Amorite king, Sihon, and took possession of his kingdom. One portion of Sihon’s kingdom had formerly belonged to Moab and Ammon, and had been conquered by Sihon and occupied by the Amorites. This is recorded in Numbers 21:26, although the land is called Moab, and this is the land the king is talking about. Joshua 13:25 records Joshua giving out this land and even calls it “half the land of the children of Ammon”.

Jephthah also made reference to Chemosh, the god of Moab, and presumably of Ammon, saying if he hasn’t given you this land before, why try to take it now?

His final argument is, we have held this land for 300 years, and you did not try to take it back, so why do it now? But, the Ammonites were determined, and believed Israel weak, so they refused to leave.

11:29-33 Victory By The Spirit

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever [1] comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it [2] up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah and empowered him to win the battle and defeat the Ammonites.

Verse 30 records a terrible vow Jephthah made to the Lord, in return for victory, to sacrifice someone from his household, the first one who comes out of his house to greet him when he returns. The Lord did not require this vow and there is no precedent for it in battle.

11:34-40 Jephtha Fulfills A Sinful Vow

34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

Jephthah only had one child, and she came out to meet him to celebrate his victory. Jephthah determined to keep his vow, even though the Lord is silent. His daughter likewise cooperates with this vow.

Leviticus 1:2 specifies the burnt offering as an offering of livestock. If one could not bring livestock, he sacrificed birds. The offering is made by a priest. In Leviticus 17, the Lord commanded that burnt offerings only be made at the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who offered a burnt offering elsewhere was to be cut off from his people. Leviticus 20:1-5 records the Lord forbidding any Israelite from offering his children to Molech, which was a fire sacrifice. The penalty was death.

There were burnt offerings for vows. Leviticus 22:18-19 tells us the Lord said it must be a bull or a male sheep or goat without blemish. Finally, Leviticus 27 tells us that vows concerning persons are valued by the payment of silver. So, there was no basis for Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter in a vow to the Lord.

The Lord used Jephthah to bring deliverance from the Ammonites, but Jephthath had his flaws. And, the Philistines are still oppressing Israel. Jephthah only brought 6 years of peace to Israel.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Baptist Blogger has an interesting report of Frank Page speaking at chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Judges 9

9:1-6 The Abimelech Conspiracy

9:1 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother's relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother's family, 2 “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.” 3 And his mother's relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5 And he went to his father's house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6 And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.

After Gideon’s death, Israel had to deal with the aftermath. Chapter 8 told us they returned to idolatry.

In addition, Gideon’s polygamy had an effect. It is the pattern of man to look to the sons of a great leader for continued leadership. It is also the pattern of man for the son of a great leader to expect to be the leader. Chapter 8 told us about Abimelech, the son of Gideon by his concubine: 29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech.

So, Abimelech was Gideon’s son, but his mother lived in another town, Shechem. He probably resented his status as the son of a concubine rather than a full wife. There was also likely some rivalry and resentment by the residents of Shechem that they were not the center of power as Ophrah was. This created an environment for rebellion. So Abimelech went to Shechem to stir up rebellion and become king. The judges were chosen by God, though, and did not pass down authority through the family. Gideon, in contraxt to Abimelech, refused to become king and said the Lord would rule over them.

Abimelech said which is better, to be ruled by all the sons of Jerubbaal, or by me? I am your brother, meaning he grew up there, his mother was related to the families there, and he was one of them. Gideon had refused to be king, and evidently his sons had followed his wishes, so that is a baseless accusation. But Abimelech is stirring up trouble.

Shechem was also a center of pagan worship, as a temple to Baal was there. Ophrah certainly had a problem with the ephod of Gideon that some came to worship, but probably still had the worship of the Lord in place. Shechem was an old Canaanite city and, though Israel conquered it, they had returned to its old ways. They were supporting the temple substantially, as shown by the store of silver they had to give to Abimelech and his army.

Since they worshipped Baal, they may also have not wanted to support Gideon, whose name was Jerubbaal, or Baal contends with him.

We see the religious rivalry played out when Abimelech captures Gideon’s sons and kills them on the stone. This appears to be a sacrifice to Baal in revenge for Gideon’s destruction of the altar to Baal. The seed of the serpent is attacking the seed of Eve.

9:7-21 Jotham’s Tale

7 When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. 8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
16 “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house and have done to him as his deeds deserved— 17 for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian, 18 and you have risen up against my father's house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative— 19 if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.” 21 And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.

Jotham used a parable to tell the people of Shechem that their actions were foolish in making Abimelech their king. In addition, he includes a prophecy of their destruction.

Shechem sat in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, so Jotham stood on the mountain and yelled down at them from a position of safety.

The olive tree represented a good man, such as Gideon. He would not do it. He would not leave the abundance God provided for him in order to be king, implying that was not part of God’s blessing.

They also offered the throne to the fig tree and the vine. These might be symbolic of Gideon’s sons and grandsons, or may just mean good, fruitful men.

But, Abimelech is the bramble, a thorn bush. It has no fruit or usefulness. But, it accepted the throne readily and sought the destruction of those who would not submit to him. So, Jotham said, if you did this in good faith, fine. If not, may you be destroyed by this very fire. It is both a prophecy and a curse.

9:22-25 What A Man Sows

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers. 25 And the leaders of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way. And it was told to Abimelech.

God worked against both Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem by letting them experience the fruit of their own treachery. First they deal treacherously with the family of Gideon, then with Abimelech. This was caused by an evil spirit, but one which was sent by God. God may use many means to bring about his will.

So the leaders of Shechem set up an ambush for all who passed between the mountains and robbed those who came through. The word of it got back to Abimelech.

9:26-29 Gaal’s Liquid Courage

26 And Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him. 27 And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech. 28 And Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? 29 Would that this people were under my hand! Then I would remove Abimelech. I would say [1] to Abimelech, ‘Increase your army, and come out.’”

The people of Shechem did not all like the rule of Abimelech. A new family moved in, and they did not want to serve Abimelech. Gaal began to complain and gather his family to oppose Abimelech. The leaders of Shechem joined in. On this occasion, they all got drunk, went to the temple of Baal and reviled Abimelech.

Notice that Abimelech stirred up Shechem originally by appealing to them as the home town boy against the sons of Gideon. But, now, the argument goes against him, even though it is made by a newcomer to the city. It appears that Gaal may not be a Hebrew, but a Canaanite, because he urges the people to follow the men of Hamor, father of Shechem.

Hamor was a Hivite. His son, Shechem, is the name sake of this city. The Hivites, who are descendants of Canaan\Ham (see Genesis 10:15-17) had previously lived with the Israelites, when Jacob bought land there. Shechem is the one who raped Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and suffered a slaughtering of his people after the trickery of Jacob’s sons. This is recorded in Genesis 34.

Gaal is a lot like Abimelech. He does not submit to the established authority and wants power to himself.

9:30-33 Spies

30 When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled. 31 And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now therefore, go by night, you and the people who are with you, and set an ambush in the field. 33 Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them as your hand finds to do.”

While all this bragging and plotting went on, there was a spy. Zebul, the head guy, was still loyal to Abimelech, probably owing his authority to him. He tipped off Abimelech and helped him plan an ambush.

9:34-41 Gaal’s Defeat

34 So Abimelech and all the men who were with him rose up by night and set an ambush against Shechem in four companies. 35 And Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, and Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from the ambush. 36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops!” And Zebul said to him, “You mistake [4] the shadow of the mountains for men.” 37 Gaal spoke again and said, “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners' Oak.” 38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them.” 39 And Gaal went out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech. 40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate. 41 And Abimelech lived at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives, so that they could not dwell at Shechem.

Zebul worked to keep Gaal and his soldiers off balance, while Abimelech came at them in four companies. Ambimelech defeated Gaal and drove him out of Shechem.

9:42-45 The Killing Fields

42 On the following day, the people went out into the field, and Abimelech was told. 43 He took his people and divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. And he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. So he rose against them and killed them. 44 Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and killed them. 45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

Abimelech then gave up totally on ruling Shechem and sought to destroy it. He killed all those who went out to work in the fields, then attacked the city. He took the city, destroyed it and sowed it with salt to show his disdain for it (he did not salt the fields which would have rendered them useless). (Barbarossa did this to Milan in 1162.) He has now basically slaughtered not only Gideon’s family, but his family and former supporters and the other inhabitants of the town.

9:46-57 The Two Towers

46 When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith. 47 Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done.” 49 So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women. 50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it. 51 But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the roof of the tower. 52 And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” And his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. 56 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. 57 And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

When all else was lost, the leaders of Shechem went to the fortified temple of Baal and hid in the tower. Abimelech did not respect Baal any more than he respected the Lord, and burned them to death. About 1,000 more people died.

After killing the people of Shechem, Abimelech went to Thebez and sought to kill them and destroy their tower. It must have been a sister city to Shechem. However, a woman dropped a millstone on him and crushed his skull. His pride lasted until the end, as he had a servant kill him rather than have it said a woman killed him. But we know a woman killed him.

Abimelech reaped what he sowed: violence, treachery and evil. He even died by a stone, after killing his brothers on a stone. Likewise, the people of Shechem also reaped. Galatians 6:7-8 says “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’Daniel 4:34-35.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The church needs constantly to hear God's Word. Hence the central place of preaching in public worship. Preaching is not an intrusion into it but rather indispensable to it. For the worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. John Stott, "The Bible: Book for Today" (Leicester: IVP, 1982),
p. 57.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I came in from work to find The Engaged One watching a rerun of the television show "7th Heaven". The wife of the minister lost her father on that episode. Her mother had died previously, and she told her husband she felt like an orphan. It seems like a strange thing for an adult to say, but losing a parent puts a hole in the universe that never gets filled.

A friend told me the same thing some years ago, after losing her father. I was struck dumb when she told me, and realized what a horrible friend I had been, not at all tapping into the pain and lonliness she felt. A few years later I lost my father. She was a much better friend than I, expressing both sympathy and empathy born of mutual pain.

Since that time I have tried to feel the pain of others more, rather than wall it off as I have most of my life. Our too busy culture breeds this distance, or at least encourages it. Most of the time we don't have time to think, much less to feel. We miss most of the tragedies and sufferings of even our close friends.

As Christians, this is clearly a sin. We are told to bear each other's burdens. We do not meet this command solely by sending cards. We have to share the pain, hold each other up and get involved, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

Men are the worst pain avoiders. I know men who won't visit long time friends because they have hospital phobia. One even would not visit his wife after surgery. He said he didn't "do" hospitals. There is no "bearing" going on there. But I can tell you, when you are sitting in the waiting room or at the funeral home, that friendly face makes a lot of difference. Yes, I know you don't know what to say. Neither do I. Just say you're sorry, give a hug, and sit with them. It's enough, really.

If you are too busy to know when those around you are in pain, you are too busy. If you are aware of their pain, but too busy to help, you need to "unbusy" yourself. Church members are to rejoice together, suffer together, live together and die together. Being too busy at work is not one of the options.

I'm preaching to myself here, too.


Sunday, September 10, 2006


8:1-3 Jealousy in the Aftermath

8:1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight with Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. 2 And he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the grape harvest of Abiezer? 3 God has given into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger [1] against him subsided when he said this.

The Ephraimites were angry that Gideon did not call them for the fight. They seemed to be jealous that Gideon accomplished without them. Gideon turned out to be quite a diplomat. He diffused their anger with compliments of their great achievements. I once heard it said you could get a lot done if you didn’t care who got the credit.

The victory at Oreb is mentioned in Isaiah 10:26.

8:4-9 No Succor In Succoth

4 And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. 5 So he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” 6 And the officials of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?” 7 So Gideon said, “Well then, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” 8 And from there he went up to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way, and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9 And he said to the men of Penuel, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”

Although Gideon and his small band had routed the Midianites and were chasing them, neither the people of Succoth or Penuel were willing to feed them. There is a feeling here of contempt for Gideon’s small force and fear of the Midianites. If Gideon did not prevail, the Midianites might take revenge on those who helped Gideon.

Succoth, ironically, means “shelters” and was named by Jacob, after his meeting with Esau upon his return from Paddan Aram and built shelters for his livestock. He had just been at Peniel, where he wrestled with the angel. This is all recorded in Genesis 32-33.

So, these people would not support Gideon with food even though they were all Israelites, and he was fighting for Israel. He was also the Lord’s chosen servant for this task. But they would not support him.

This angered Gideon, who threatened retaliation against them both.

8:10-12 Capture of the Kings

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about 15,000 men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East, for there had fallen 120,000 men who drew the sword. 11 And Gideon went up by the way of the tent dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah and attacked the army, for the army felt secure. 12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled, and he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.

Gideon continued his pursuit, and attacked the 15,000 men left of the army of 135,000. He still only had 300 men. The army had relaxed, thinking they had escaped by crossing the Jordan. But, Gideon attacked them and captured two of the kings.

8:13-17 Gideon’s Revenge

13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres. 14 And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. 15 And he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are exhausted?’” 16 And he took the elders of the city, and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them taught the men of Succoth a lesson. 17 And he broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

After his victory, Gideon returned. He took the 77 elders of Succoth and whipped them with briers. He broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

8:18-21 Gideon’s Revenge II

18 Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “Where are the men whom you killed at Tabor?” They answered, “As you are, so were they. Every one of them resembled the son of a king.” 19 And he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you.” 20 So he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise and kill them!” But the young man did not draw his sword, for he was afraid, because he was still a young man. 21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself and fall upon us, for as the man is, so is his strength.” And Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.

Gideon killed the 2 kings in retaliation for their killing his brothers at Tabor.

8:22-23 Refusing the Throne

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”

Now that Gideon led the fight to save Israel from the Midianites, the Israelites want to make him king and his family the royal family.

Gideon declined and said the Lord would rule over them. He understood that the Lord had won this victory and was the true king of Israel.

It is sad that the Israelites did not give God the glory for the victory, but sought to glorify Gideon. There is no mention of a feast or sacrifice to the Lord. Human beings are very prone to worship the tool God uses, rather than God. This happens today with preachers and speakers. We often call it a cult of personality. Almost all big churches and ministries are built on one person who is attractive and charismatic. The person is often the focus of attention and publicity, rather than the church or ministry, much less the Lord.

8:24-28 Gideon’s Reward-Israel’s Sin

24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels [2] of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon.

Although Gideon declined the throne, he did seek a financial reward. With the gold he received, he made an ephod. An ephod was part of the dressing of the High Priest. It is thought to have been a skirt with shoulder straps, or an apron type of garment, according to Exodus 28. (also, see Micah 5) The weight of the gold used to make it was around 50 pounds. He took it back to his home town and placed it there. It could be that he put it on to inquire of the Lord, and, thus bypassed the priesthood. We see David do this also, use the ephod to inquire of the Lord, in 1 Samuel 23:9. Gideon already had an altar to the Lord, where he had made sacrifice, so he may have added the ephod and had a competing place of worship to the tabernacle at Shiloh.

The Israelites began to treat it as an idol and worshipped it, becoming unfaithful to the Lord. So, evidently, did Gideon and his family, as it became a snare to them.

Nonetheless, Gideon’s obedience to the Lord produced a peace which lasted for a generation, or 40 years.

Matthew Henry said “Hitherto the times of Israel had been reckoned by forties. Othniel judged forty years, Ehud eighty—just two forties, Barak forty, and now Gideon forty, providence so ordering it to bring in mind the forty years of their wandering in the wilderness. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation. And see Eze. 4:6. After these, Eli ruled forty years (1 Sa. 4:18), Samuel and Saul forty (Acts 13:21), David forty, and Solomon forty. Forty years is about an age.”

8:29-35 The Death of Gideon

29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, [3] for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.

Gideon returned home after his military victories. In that, he showed humility. But, he did not obey God in other respects. In addition to planting the ephod, Gideon took on many wives and concubines, and has 70 sons. Once was born in Schechem and was called Abimelech (“my father, a king”). His name is mentioned because of what he does later. (It also makes you wonder if Gideon had second thoughts about taking the kingship. Or, it could have been that his mother, as a concubine rather than a full wife, wanted to increase his stature. )

After Gideon died, the Israelites returned to Baal worship and abandoned the worship of the Lord. They began with false worship of the ephod, then went to false religion with false gods. They also did not recognize Gideon’s family for what Gideon had done. Baal-berith means Baal, or Lord, of the covenant, or Baal with whom they have a covenant, a particular affront to the Lord who truly was in covenant with Israel. Judges 9:4 tells us there was a temple to Baal-berith there.
The International Mission Board meets this week. Expect a week of intrigue, secrecy and rear end covering.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


7:1-8a God Seeking His Glory

More than 30,000 men responded to Gideon’s call. But God did not want that. God wanted the victory to be clearly his, so that Israel would not boast that it had won the battle in its own strength. God said, Isaiah 42:8, he would not share his glory with another. We should always be careful to give the Lord glory for what he accomplishes and not try to take the glory for ourselves. It worked out badly for Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.

So Gideon lets the fearful ones go back home, which turned out to be two thirds of the force, or 20,000 left. That left 10,000 men, but God again said it was too many, so the army was reduced to 300 men. As nervous as Gideon has been, you have to figure this was pretty nerve wracking, even though God told him he would bring the victory. This is especially true as you realize there were at least 135,000 of the enemy present.

This process was actually prescribed in Deuteronomy 20:1-9.

7:8b-14 Further Assurances

God told Gideon he was ready to attack and that he would win, but offered him further assurance. He sent him to the camp. At the camp, Gideon overheard a man tell of a dream and his friend’s belief that it symbolized the victory of Gideon over Midian. It is sort of like Balaam’s donkey delivering the message. God used a pagan to convey a message, and Gideon is more fired up than when God told him directly.

7:15-25 Victory From the Lord

Gideon’s first response to the dream is to worship God. It is as if he finally believed. God. His second response is to obey God. With his 300 men, armed with trumpets, jars and torches, they attacked. The Midianites panicked and turned on each other. The Israelites pursued them. The tribe of Ephraim came and captured two of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed them and beheaded them, bringing the heads to Gideon.

We have this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:5-10).

Friday, September 08, 2006

In case you sent your kids to Baylor, you might want an update of the Beckwith saga. Baylor denied tenure to Francis J. Beckwith, associate professor of church-state studies. Beckwith is a nationally known and respected scholar, so academics around the country were shocked and appalled. Beckwith has many publications and teaching honors.

The most likely source of dissatisfaction with Beckwith by the Baylor establishment is this religious conservatism. In a statement making me glad Baylor is a former rather than current Southern Baptist School, it was noted that it was Beckwith's teaching, not his scholarship, that resulted in denial of tenure.

So, of course, you want to know, what was the guy teaching that was offense to a bunch of Texas Baptists at Baylor? He was accused of using the classroom to spread his Christian views.

I'm feeling better and better about sending kids to a state school. It's easier to tell the Christians from the Lions. It appears that the Lions have the upper hand at Baylor.
Dr. Helen on women learning to shoot.

Monday, September 04, 2006


6:1-6 Midian Oppresses Israel

6:1 The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. 3 For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.

Israel had 40 years of peace after the defeat of Jabin, King of the Canaanites, according to the last verse of Judges 5. Then, the people began to do evil in the sight of the Lord. Verse 10 of chapter 6 indicates they returned to the worship of Baal and the other Canaanite deities. The Lord gave them over to the Midianites for 7 years. (The Midianites were descendants of Abraham and Keturah according to Genesis 25:2. They were allied with the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau according to Genesis 36:12. The people of the east may have been Arab tribes.)These were the people who led Israel astray in the book of Numbers, and which the Israelites defeated. Yet, 200 years later, God has brought them back to haunt Israel.

Again we see the working of the conditional covenant of Sinai. When the people turned from God, God withdrew his protection and brought them adversity. They are, in effect, in exile in their own land.

This seven years was really bad. The country was overrun by Midianites and Amalekites. They came from the east and went all the way to the western coast, where Gaza is (a Philistine city). The Israelites were hiding in caves. When they planted crops, the enemy came and took them, as well as their livestock. People were starving, their homes and villages were destroyed, so they were homeless, and they faced death constantly. Verse 6 says they were brought very low. The curses of Deuteronomy 28 had come upon them.

The irony is that they worshipped Baal in order to secure bountiful crops and livestock. Yet, that very worship caused them to lose their crops and livestock. God is demonstrating to them the folly of their idolatry, but they are not understanding it. Later in the history of Israel, God says it to them again. In Hosea 2:8-9, he said:
And she (Israel) did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver an gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore, I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness.
In contrast, when Israel kept the covenant, God let them reap where they did not sow. See Joshua 24:13.

6:7-10 The Word of the Prophet

7 When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, 8 the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage. 9 And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

When things got bad enough, the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. Baal just wasn’t cutting it. In response, the Lord did something a different. Instead of just raising up a judge, he first sent a prophet with a message to the nation. In chapter 2, he did this with an angel, but here, with a prophet.

This message reminded Israel of the covenant. It began with a historical recitation of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. This is exactly how the covenant began. Look at Exodus 20:1-2. God began the covenant with a description of what he had done for Israel. After that, he told them what they must do. They must honor the Lord as god and not have any other gods. The prophet repeated that requirement here in Judges 6:10. This is a summary of the covenant. God told what he had already done and explained what they must do.

Then the prophet told them they had broken the covenant. They had not obeyed God’s voice. He even reiterated that he had delivered them from all that oppressed them (verse 9), to remind them it was not the lack of power on his part that was the problem, it was their lack of obedience.

Why did the Lord send a prophet when the people were asking for a deliverer? Because the Lord was not going to deliver them until they repented and returned to him. The cried out for relief, but not for repentance. The Lord required repentance. Deuteronomy 30:2, required that they “return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul…”

This is the constant message of the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Their job is to tell Israel that it has violated the covenant. Often, they also tell Israel what the future consequences will be if they do not repent, and call them to repentance. Here, the consequences are already in play, so the prophet has no need to spell them out. But, notice that the prophet does not tell the people that deliverance is on its way.

But, it is.

6:11-12 The Call of Gideon

11 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

In verse 11, the scene shifts from the call to repentance to God’s deliverance. He is calling a deliverer. He has the person picked out and he sent the angel of the Lord to do the calling.

The deliverer is Gideon. He is living with his dad, who is the head of the family, within the tribe of Benjamin, and probably owns the town of Ophrah where this tree is. He had managed to grow some wheat and harvest it without having it stolen by the Midianites. He is hiding from the Midianites in the winepress, so they will not see him threshing grain and take it. This is probably a tub sunk into the ground, and Gideon is down in it hitting the grain with a stick. This is not an impressive looking individual so far.

The angel came and sat down under a tree. He watched Gideon threshing down in the winepress. It is almost as if the angel is having a hard time believing this is the guy who God has chosen as the deliverer. But it is, so the angel addressed him as such. He said ‘The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” These are great theological and prophetic words. If God is with Gideon, he is empowered to accomplish the task God gives him. He will become the valiant man God has chosen him to be.

Gideon, like Moses, had some reservations.

6:13-18 Gideon’s Doubts

13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, [1] if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord [2] turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” 16 And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” 17 And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speaks. with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”

Gideon’s first question is whether the Lord was actually with Israel. He has twisted the tale a bit, as the angel said the Lord was with Gideon, and Gideon responds asking if the Lord is with the nation. Clearly, the Lord was not with the nation and that was the point of their suffering. Gideon called attention to this by bringing up the wonderful deeds the Lord did in delivering them from Egypt, as he had heard from his elders. He did not mention the covenant, or Israel’s sin. But, he did realize that the Lord had indeed given them over to the Midianites.

The angel of the Lord then made it clear to Gideon that he was calling him as the deliverer of Israel. He told him to go and save Israel. Again, you see a similarity to the call of Moses, whom the Lord told to go and deliver Israel. He asked him a rhetorical question, “do I not send you?” He said, in other words, Gideon, you are going, because I am sending you.

He also referred again to Gideon’s might, which has not been displayed. “Go in this might of yours” would sound sarcastic, but instead, I think the Lord is telling him he will have might from the Lord to accomplish this deliverance.

Notice that the speaker is referred to the second time as “the Lord”, not the angel of the Lord. It seems to be another appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ.

Gideon’s second question deals not with the Lord’s presence, but with Gideon’s insufficiency. He is the youngest son in the smallest clan of the tribe. This again sounds like Moses making excuses. The Lord was not taking excuses that day, though, and answers Gideon as he answered Moses, that God would be with him.

Gideon absorbed these statements from the Lord, but did not trust that this indeed was the Lord. He wanted a sign. He intended to bring an offering. The Lord agreed to that.

6:19-24 Gideon’s Offering

19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah [3] of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. 20 And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

Gideon prepared a gift which he hoped the angel would accept and after which the angel would give him a sign. It was a meal consisting of a young goat and unleavened cakes of bread. The Lord accepted the offering and consumed it by fire. Then, the Lord disappeared. Gideon saw all this as a sign that he had indeed been in the presence of the Lord and, therefore, the Lord was with him as the chosen deliverer of Israel.

He was afraid he would die, for no one may look on the Lord and live. But, the Lord assured him he would live. Gideon built an altar to the Lord on that spot, calling it “the Lord is peace” or “YWHW shalom”. He has acknowledged the Lord as God and has worshipped him.

6:25-27 Restoring Proper Worship

25 That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father's bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” 27 So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night.

In Gideon’s second encounter with God, the Lord gives Gideon his first assignment. That assignment is to destroy the altar to Baal, along with the accompanying Asherah pole, then to build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice upon it. Gideon is too afraid to do it in daylight, but he does do it, only at night. This is a clear proclamation that the Lord is superior to Baal and that he is to be worshipped instead of Baal.

6:28-32 Resistance to True Worship
28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon [4] was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.

The men of the town got up the next morning to find the altar of Baal missing and the Asherah pole removed. In addition, a new altar was present, with the remains of the offering of a bull upon a fire built of the Asherah pole. They were very unhappy, maybe even expecting retribution from Baal if they did not defend his honor. Upon finding out that Gideon did it, they seek him to kill him.

Gideon’s father joined the fight, however, even prophesying that anyone who contended for Baal would die by the next morning. The fact that his altar had been broken down and replaced by an altar to the Lord seemed to be a sign of Baal’s defeat by the Lord, so they left Gideon alone.

6:33 The Midianites Attack

The Midianites and their allies came again into Israel. They crossed the Jordan River and camped in the Valley of Jezreel.

This is fitting, for 2 reasons. First, this big valley is a fertile land where grain would be grown. Its name actually means “God sows”. We know from the beginning of this chapter that the Midianites came at harvest time with all their animals and devoured or destroyed the crops. We know Gideon had harvested some grain, because he was secretly threshing it when the Angel of the Lord approached him.

The second reason is that the valley spreads out to the north and east from Mount Carmel and is the most convenient passage for people crossing the country. Many battles were fought here. It was the only east-west access between the coast and the Jordan Valley. The Way of the Sea, or the Via Maris, ran from Egypt through this valley. There is a hill on the northern boundary called Megiddo, where a fortress was built. 1 Kings 9:15 tells us Solomon built a fortress there. Jehu defeated the army of Jezebel on the plain, according to 2 Kings 9, and King Josiah was killed there according to 2 Kings 23:29. So much blood was shed in these plains that both Jezreel and Megiddo became symbols of violence and judgment. See Hosea 1:4-5. The Mountain of Megiddo, in Hebrew, is har Megiddo, which has been anglicized into Armageddon. The Bible speaks of the gathering of armies in this valley at the place of Armageddon.

So, the enemy was gathered and God was ready to act.

6:34-40 Gideon Gets Ready

You can tell God was ready to act, because the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. Without the Spirit, Gideon was neither a leader nor a warrior.

First, Gideon summoned support. He blew the trumpet to summon his own tribe, the Abiezrites. He also sent messengers to the tribes of Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Napthali. Manasseh was the tribe that was allotted most of the plain, and Gideon was a member of that tribe. Asher and Zebulun border the plain on the north. Napthali is further north. However, Gideon did not summon Issachar, although it directly borders the plain on the north. Neither did he summon any of the tribes to the south of the plain.

Gideon not only sought help from the other tribes, he sought reassurance from God. He had already been told he was chosen of God to deliver Israel from Midian and that God would be with him. He spoke with the Angel of the Lord. He was given a sign in the consuming of the meal by fire. Yet, here he still seeks another sign.

This is where the saying about putting out the fleece comes from. Gideon did it not just once, but twice. He even seemed to sense he was pushing it, as he asked the Lord not to be angry with him. The Lord did give him the sign both times. Gideon should have been ready to go.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


There is a fair amount of “buzz” going on in town about Southwestern Seminary and its censoring of Dwight McKissic.

McKissic is a local, black pastor. His church is aligned, I believe, with both the SBC and the National Baptist Convention, which is fairly common for conservative, black congregations. McKissic is also a new trustee on the board of the seminary. He was invited to speak at chapel, and spoke on tongues and the “private prayer language”. You can read the transcript of the sermon on Wade Burleson’s blog.

The sermon is quite thoughtful and well presented. McKissic believes in the expression of tongues in the private prayer setting. This has previously been raised as an issue within the International Mission Board, when Jerry Rankin said he did it.

What made matters really interesting is that Southwestern refused to post the sermon on its website, as it normally does after chapel. It also issued a statement. You can read more about the statement on Burleson’s website, or go to the Seminary website and read it.

There is one statement that I would weigh in on. It said "Furthermore, though most of Rev. McKissic’s message represented a position with which most people at Southwestern would be comfortable, Rev. McKissic’s interpretation of tongues as 'ecstatic utterance' is not a position that we suspect would be advocated by most faculty or trustees. In keeping with Baptist convictions regarding religious liberty, we affirm Rev. McKissic’s right to believe and advocate his position. Equally in keeping with our emphasis of religious liberty we reserve the right not to disseminate openly views which we fear may be harmful to the churches."

First of all, I would like to point out to Dr. Patterson that he has just censored one of his own trustees. This is the equivalent of a CEO telling a board member, to whom he reports, to shut up. That’s pretty amazing.

Second, I’m not sure how important it is that his view is not advocated by most faculty or trustees. He is a trustee. If his view is unacceptable, he should not have been appointed as a trustee. Someone either goofed seriously, or his view is at least tolerable. In addition, if his presentation is based on scripture and it is thoughtfully presented, as it appears to be, why not let it stand? If you oppose it, as seminary president, you have many forums in which to present your ideas. Why not do that, rather than embarrass a Godly pastor who is a community leader and one of your trustees?

Third, it was a bad move to remove the sermon from the website, or to refuse to post it. No one really likes censorship, so the Seminary looks bad. It created a stir where none was necessary. It could have been posted, a few people would have read it, and life would go on. Now, the Seminary has made it a big issue.

Associated Baptist Press ran an article on it. It refers to McKissic as “Trustee McKissic” for extra impact. McKissic has escalated his comments as well. He said "I couldn't figure out how a policy that contradicts the teaching of many of our believing theologians could be enacted like that. That was amazing to me. I was so disappointed by the policy that I gave serious consideration to leading my church out of the Southern Baptist Convention." He went on to say he believes the policy is “an intrusion of privacy, an invasion of privacy, totally unnecessary, and would exclude a great number of Baptists who would make excellent missionaries." He also said it was extra-biblical.

However, when McKissic said he did not think Seminary President Patterson had a problem with his view of tongues, I have to think he is being disingenuous. Patterson has spoken against the practice of tongues before, and is known to be behind some of the trouble Rankin ran into after admitting the practice. I think it is more likely that McKissic knew it was a problem and thought he had the right to address it. That is fine by me, but not saying you didn’t know it was a problem. I agree that Patterson should have addressed it first personally, before criticizing him on the website. So, what we have here is two Christian leaders using explosives. McKissic threw a grenade in the chapel and it went off. Patterson responded with a nuclear missile. Christian love is not expressed or exhibited, the denomination is embarrassed yet again by the misconduct of its leaders, and we cannot figure out why membership is not growing.