The Bible: Judges

So in Deuteronomy I complained about how Moses gave this lecture about how the people of Israel would betray the Lord and be punished for their sins, etc, and it really irritated me. Well, here’s the start of all the crap that’s going to happen to them, and sure enough it’s pretty thoroughly their own fault. Once more, I am reminded of Game of Thrones (a show that I actually don’t watch, but keep up-to-date on via summaries) in the way a bunch of unpleasant people wander around doing awful things to one another.

Plus, this should probably have an NC-17 rating, and more likely just be banned, because it is gruesome. And while previous books have been all pro-genocide, this one is pretty pro-rape.

Four nations* were left alive in order to provide a lesson in warfare to the generations of Israelites, and thus we have a timeline made up of conquerings and rebellions, covering the various “Judges” of Israel. There is no particular explanation of how a Judge is chosen or found, and very little information on some of them. (Footnotes mark the six who actually got stories.)

Bad guy: King Cushanrishathaim of Aram-naharaim conquered for 8 years
Judge: Othniel son of Kenaz judged for 40 years
Bad guy: Eglon of Moab conquered for 18 years
Judge: Ehud son of Gera, the Benjamite judged for 80 years**
Judge: Shamgar son of Anath judged (killed 600 Philistines)
Bad guy: King Jabin of Canaan conquered for 20 years
Judge: Deborah wife of Lappidoth judged for 40 years***
Bad guy (nation): Midian conquered for 7 years
Judge: Gideon, called Jerubbaal, son of Joash judged for 40 years****
(Judge? Bad guy?): Abimelech son of Jerubbaal, conquered? judged? for 3 years+
Judge: Tola son of Puah son of Dodo judged for 23 years
Judge: Jair the Gileadite judged for 22 years
Bad guy (nation): Philistines and Ammonites conquered for 18 years
Judge: Jephthah the Gileadite, bastard son of Gilead judged for 6 years ++
Judge: Ibzan of Bethlehem judged for 7 years
Judge: Elon the Zebulunite judged for 10 years
Judge: Abdon son of Hillel judged for 8 years
Bad guy: Philistines conquered for 40 years
Judge: Samson judged for 20 years +++

After Samson we trail off away from judges and get a random story about Micah who gets wealthy in chapter 17 and then gets it stolen away from him by a bunch of other Israelites in chapter 18.

Then comes the really rape-tastic story of the Benjamites (chapters 19-21), which starts out reminiscent of Lot’s situation in Genesis 19, where he offers his daughters to a mob in Sodom in place of his angelic visitors. Except that in Genesis, Lot’s daughters were not accepted as suitable replacement, while in Judges a mob of Benjamites do wind up accepting a Levite’s concubine in his stead. So they gang rape the concubine to death. In the morning, the Levite cuts his dead concubine into 12 parts and sends the parts to the different tribes of Israel to call up an army. The Benjamites refuse to give up to justice the actual participants in the gang rape and thus a series of remarkably even battles takes place, with the Benjamites eventually losing to the extent that their entire tribe was killed with the exception of 600 soldiers who fled into a particularly inhospitable area. Victory was declared but then they had the problem of 600 males left in the tribe of Benjamin and no women and all the other tribes of Israel had sworn not to give any wives to Benjamin but were also unwilling to just let them die out.

The army that had just slaughtered all the women and children of the Benjamites figured out that they could fix this by invading a Canaanite town, killing all the males and the adult females and delivering the young females to the remaining Benjamites to be their wives. This plan provided 400 young girls to “marry” but wasn’t enough to give each Benjamite soldier a wife of his own. So the army told the remaining Benjamites to just kidnap sufficient girls from the religious celebration happening Shiloh, north of Bethel, and then explain to their unhappy fathers and brothers that at least the oath not to give wives to the Benjamites hadn’t been broken, because the Benjamites had taken the wives by force.

So everything worked out?



Summary: There were a bunch of people who weren’t as great as Moses or Joshua, but still somehow acquired the title of “Judge.” Occasionally they did stuff (ie, killed people.) Some other people did a lot of raping and sometimes it was bad and other times it was good.

Moral: Hahahahahahaha! “Moral,” you say. Hahahaha! The very last verse in the book is:

In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes. — Judges 21:25

* Philistines, Cananites, Sidonians, Hivites (Judges 3:1-4)

** The Moabite king he killed was so fat that Ehud left the sword in his body, hidden by the layers on fat, as he wandered out past the servants after his assassination of their king.

*** Deborah gets a song in addition to a rather convoluted story of manipulations.

**** Gideon makes God prove himself and then raises an army of some 20,000 people, but God decides that it’s too even a battle to really show God’s might, so has Gideon send 19,700 of them away, keeping only the soldiers who lap up water from the river like dogs.

+ It didn’t even seem clear to the narrator whether this guy was a good guy or a bad guy. He’s the son of Gideon, a previous judge, but he also killed his 70 brothers in order to inherit and winds up getting cursed and dying.

++ First occasion of human sacrifice: Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering.

+++ Samson gets four whole chapters (13-16) and is an idiot and an ass. Among other things, he makes a bet that he can’t afford, and when he loses, he goes out and kills some local townspeople to take their stuff so he can pay off his bet. And, of course, there’s the famous story of him and his hair and his wife Delilah who cuts it off to weaken him. Four times (4 times!) Delilah asks Samson what will weaken him, and then does it, and calls his enemies in. The first three times, Samson lies to her, breaks his bindings and kills his enemies. The fourth time he decided to tell the truth???



Next up: Ruth

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