Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of Judges

The book of Judges recounts the battles between the Israelites and enemies such as the Canaanites, Amorites, Ammonites, Arameans, Midianites, and Philistines. It also recounts a number of battles and events that take place amongst the Israelites themselves.

Summary Judges 1: Judges begins with the conquest of Canaan. Judah conquers most of its territory but the other tribes are not as successful. While the other tribes are able to subjugate the Canaanites and Amorites to forced labor, they are unable to dispossess them from the land.

Summary Judges 2: An angel reprimands the people for forsaking God. Joshua’s death is recounted, and the people’s sinfulness is described.

Summary Judges 3: Yahweh sends Othniel to save the Israelites from the king of Aram. Yahweh then sends Ehud to kill the king of Moab. Finally, Shamgar kills 600 Philistines with an ox goad.

Summary Judges 4: Yahweh sends Deborah the prophetess and Barak the warrior to destroy the Canaanite army. The glory, however, goes to Jael the Kenite for killing the Canaanite general with a tent peg.

Summary Judges 5: Deborah and Barak sing about their victory over the Canaanites. They praise Yahweh, the Israelite warriors, and Jael, but scold the tribes that failed to join the fight.

Summary Judges 6: The Midianites oppress the Israelites. An angel appears to Gideon and tells him to destroy his father’s idols. Gideon destroys the idols and is given a sign that he will succeed at war.

Summary Judges 7: In order to emphasize His own role in the victory, Yahweh tells Gideon to diminish the troop number from 32,000 to 300. Gideon is given a sign of success, and he routs the Midianites.

Summary Judges 8: Gideon requests bread from two towns but the townspeople send him away. He kills the kings of Midian and takes revenge on the people who spurned his request by destroying their two towns. Gideon rejects an offer to be king and the Israelites worship other gods after he dies.

Summary Judges 9: Abimelech takes control of Shechem and kills his seventy brothers. When a rebellion led by Gaal precipitates, Abimelech kills the entire city. He also attacks Thebaz, but a woman kills him by dropping a millstone on his head.

Summary Judges 10: Two chiefs, Tola and Jair, rule over Israel one after the other. After their deaths the Israelites worship other gods. Yahweh is incensed and gives them over to the Amorites and Ammonites.

Summary Judges 11: Jephthah becomes the leader of the Gileadites. When the Ammonites cause trouble, he vows to sacrifice the first person he sees when he returns from war. After lecturing and defeating the Ammonites, his daughter is the first person to greet him. Jephthah offers his daughter as a sacrifice.

Summary Judges 12: Jephthah leads the Gileadites to victory over the Ephraimites. Three other chiefs named Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon rule Israel after Jephthah dies.

Summary Judges 13: An angel appears to Manoah and his wife and tells them they will have a Nazirite child. The child is born and he is named Samson.

Summary Judges 14: Samson is engaged to marry a Philistine girl. At his celebratory feast, he poses a riddle to thirty Philistine men. They cajole Samson’s wife into giving them the answer and Samson responds by killing the thirty men.

Summary Judges 15: Samson burns the Philistine fields when is denied access to his wife. After being handed over to the Philistines, Samson kills 1,000 of them with a jawbone.

Summary Judges 16: Samson falls in love with a Philistine named Delilah. She persuades him to reveal the source of his strength and then double-crosses him. He is tortured in a Philistine arena but manages to destroy the edifice. In doing so, he kills himself and the enemy in attendance.

Summary Judges 17: Micah builds a house of worship and hires a young Levite to serve as his priest.

Summary Judges 18: The Danites, who cannot find a place to live, migrate northward. They abduct Micah’s priest and seize his religious objects. They massacre the people of Laish, rename the town Dan, and set up a new religious center for themselves.

Summary Judges 19: A Levite settles in Gibeah for the night after picking up his concubine from his father-in-law’s house. The men of Gibeah attempt to sodomize him but end up raping the concubine until her death. As a response, the Levite dismembers his wife’s corpse and sends her body parts throughout the land of Israel.

Summary Judges 20: The Israelites wage war against Benjamin for the actions of Gibeah. After three days of intense battle, the Israelites nearly wipe out the entire tribe of Benjamin. All of the women and children are put to the sword and only six-hundred men survive.

Summary Judges 21: The Israelites are disturbed by the possible annihilation of Benjamin. However, they previously swore  to keep their daughters from the Benjaminites. In order to save Benjamin, they kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead and give the girls to the Benjaminites. The Benjaminites also kidnap girls from the annual festival and take them as their wives.

Judges 21 – “Restoring Benjamin”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The Israelites are disturbed by the prospect that one of their tribes will be  annihilated. Yet, they swore  to keep their daughters from the Benjaminites. In order to save Benjamin, they kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead and give the girls to the Benjaminites. The Benjaminites also kidnap girls from the annual festival and take them as their wives.

II. Photo
The Israelites instruct the Benjaminites to kidnap: “As soon as you see the girls of Shiloh coming out to join in the dances, come out from the vineyards; let each of you seize a wife from among the girls of Shiloh, and be off for the land of Benjamin.” (v. 21)

III. Important Verses
1: Now the men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “None of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjaminite.”
2-3: The people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening. They wailed and wept bitterly, and they said, “O LORD God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that one tribe must now be missing from Israel?”
5, 8, 10-12: The Israelites asked, “Is there anyone from all the tribes of Israel who failed to come up to the assembly before the LORD?” For a solemn oath had been taken concerning anyone who did not go up to the LORD at Mizpah: “He shall be put to death.”… They inquired, “Is there anyone from the tribes of Israel who did not go up to the LORD at Mizpah?” Now no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the camp, to the assembly…. So the assemblage dispatched 12,000 of the warriors, instructing them as follows: “Go and put the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead to the sword, women and children included. This is what you are to do: Proscribe every man, and every woman who has known a man carnally.” They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 maidens who had not known a man carnally; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
19-22: They said, “The annual feast of the LORD is now being held at Shiloh.” (It lies north of Bethel, east of the highway that runs from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.) So they instructed the Benjaminites as follows: “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards. As soon as you see the girls of Shiloh coming out to join in the dances, come out from the vineyards; let each of you seize a wife from among the girls of Shiloh, and be off for the land of Benjamin. And if their fathers or brothers come to us to complain, we shall say to them, ‘Be generous to them for our sake! We could not provide any of them with a wife on account of the war, and you would have incurred guilt if you yourselves had given them [wives].’”
25: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he pleased.

IV. Outline
1. The oath not to give a daughter to Benjamin
2-3. The problem: Benjamin will be wiped out
4-12. The first plan and its execution: kill the men of Jabesh-gilead
13-14. Peace with the Benjaminites; A dearth of girls
15-23. The second plan and its execution: the Benjaminites steal girls from the festival
24. The Israelites disperse
25. Summary statement: No king, no order

V. Comment
The book of Judges ends with a dilemma: how will the Israelites, who swore to keep their daughters from the remaining Benjaminites, prevent the tribe of Benjamin from being wiped out? They brew two plans, the first involving murder and the second involving kidnapping. First, they decide that the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead deserve to die for not gathering at Mizpah. They kill the people of Jabesh-gilead and give the young girls “who did not know a man carnally” to the Benjaminites. Then, they tell the Benjaminites to kidnap girls from the festival at Shiloh. The festival, which includes dancing in the vineyards, is probably some form of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), which takes place after the summer fruit harvest.

The book ends on what appears to be a critical note: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he pleased.” (v. 25) Collins writes: “Like many of the stories in Judges, this one is not edifying. It can contribute to moral education by showing the horror of some kinds of behavior. Later tradition would labor to portray the judges in a positive light… The biblical text, however, seems designed to show the depravity of human, and specifically Israelite, nature and its need for divine mercy and assistance, rather than to exemplify any human virtue.” (214)

Three important sites are mentioned in chapter 21: Shiloh, Bethel, and Mizpah. According to Halpern, Shiloh is “a place N of Bethel inside the land of Canaan where the Israelites convened sacred assemblies in the days before Solomon established the Jerusalem temple as the major center of [Israelite] worship (Joshua 19:51; Judg 18:31; 21:12–21). The priests who presided at this shrine appear to have been from the lineage of Eli (1 Samuel 1–4; 14:3; 1 Kgs 2:27). At some early time the shrine was apparently abandoned (Jer 7:12–14; 26:6–9; cf. Ps 78:60).” (Halpern, Baruch. “Shiloh” in ABD V, 1213-15) South of Shiloh is Bethel, which, according to Brodsky is “next to Jerusalem the most frequently occurring place name in the OT, referring both to a city and to a religious sanctuary which was either in or near the city. Two factors, somewhat interrelated, are responsible for the importance of Bethel: (1) it was associated with a religious sanctuary; and (2) it lay along a crossroads and near a physical and political frontier that divided the central hill country of Palestine into two parts.” (Brodsky, Harold. “Bethel (place)” in ABD 1, 710-712) Finally, according to Arnold Mizpah “”was a city of political, military, and cultic significance located in Benjaminite territory. It frequently appears in stories set in the premonarchical period and is associated with a motif whereby all the Israelite tribes gather in solemn cultic assembly to pray before undertaking Holy War against an enemy… Recent research (e.g., Aharoni 1968: 30) suggests that such border fortresses not only controlled military and economic access to Judah, but served an important cultic function as well. Sites like Mizpah may have contained sanctuaries where travelers could offer proper sacrifices to the national lord on entering or leaving the land. This role may explain the origins of Mizpah’s subsequent cultic importance in Judah, and Hosea’s vague condemnation against the priests, who “have been a snare at Mizpah” (Hos 5:1)” (Arnold, Patrick M. “Mizpah (place)” in ABD IV, 879–81).

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Arnold, Patrick M. “Mizpah (place)” in ABD IV, 879–81
Brodsky, Harold. “Bethel (place)” in ABD 1, 710-712
Butler, Trent C. “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Halpern, Baruch. “Shiloh” in ABD V, 1213-15
Photo taken from http://www.osfq.org/10ans/images/osfq_droits0.jpg

Judges 20 – “The Israelites Take Revenge”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The Israelites wage war against Benjamin. After three days of intense battle, the Israelites nearly wipe out the entire tribe of Benjamin. All of the women and children are put to the sword, and only six-hundred men survive.

II. Photo
The Israelites plan their attack: “A time had been agreed upon by the Israelite men with those in ambush: When a huge column of smoke was sent up from the town, the Israelite men were to turn about in battle.” (vv. 38-39a)

III. Important Verses
1-2: Thereupon all the Israelites — from Dan to Beer-sheba and from the land of Gilead — marched forth, and the community assembled to a man before the LORD at Mizpah. All the leaders of the people and all the tribes of Israel presented themselves in the assembly of God’s people, 400,000 fighting men on foot.
12-13: And the tribes of Israel sent men through the whole tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this evil thing that has happened among you? Come, hand over those scoundrels in Gibeah so that we may put them to death and stamp out the evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not yield to the demand of their fellow Israelites.
17-18: The men of Israel other than Benjamin mustered 400,000 fighting men, warriors to a man. They proceeded to Bethel and inquired of God; the Israelites asked, “Who of us shall advance first to fight the Benjaminites?” And the LORD replied, “Judah first.”
25-28: But the Benjaminites came out from Gibeah against them on the second day and struck down 18,000 more of the Israelites, all of them fighting men.  Then all the Israelites, all the army, went up and came to Bethel and they sat there, weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening, and presented burnt offerings and offerings of well-being to the LORD. The Israelites inquired of the LORD (for the Ark of God’s Covenant was there in those days, and Phinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest ministered before Him in those days), “Shall we again take the field against our kinsmen the Benjaminites, or shall we not?” The LORD answered, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hands.”
46-48: Thus the total number of Benjaminites who fell that day came to 25,000 fighting men, all of them brave. But 600 men turned and fled to the wilderness, to the Rock of Rimmon; they remained at the Rock of Rimmon four months. The men of Israel, meanwhile, turned back to the rest of the Benjaminites and put them to the sword — towns, people, cattle — everything that remained. Finally, they set fire to all the towns that were left.

IV. Outline
1-2. The Israelites gather in Mizpah
3-7. The Levite speaks up
8-11. The Israelites decide to wage war on Gibeah
12-13. The entire tribe of Benjamin resists
14-19. Battle preparations
20-21. Day #1: The Benjaminites prevail
22-25. Day #2: The Benjaminites prevail
26-28. The Israelites worship their God
29-37. Day#3: The Israelites vanquish the Benjaminite army
38-47. (Another version of the story)
48. The Israelites destroy the tribe of Benjamin

V. Comment
No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://www.idahofireinfo.blm.gov/east/2008_photos/timber_wfu/smoke_column_10012008.gif

Judges 19 – “A Horrible Rape Murder in Gibeah”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
After picking up his concubine from his father-in-law’s house, a certain Levite settles in Gibeah for the night. The men of the city attempt to sodomize him, but end up raping the concubine until her death. As a response, the Levite dismembers his wife’s corpse and sends her body parts throughout the land of Israel.

II. Photo
The people are shocked when they see the concubine’s body parts: “And everyone who saw it cried out, ‘Never has such a thing happened or been seen from the day the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt to this day!’” (v. 30a)

III. Important Verses
11-13: Since they were close to Jebus, and the day was very far spent, the attendant said to his master, “Let us turn aside to this town of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” But his master said to him, “We will not turn aside to a town of aliens who are not of Israel, but will continue to Gibeah. Come,” he said to his attendant, “let us approach one of those places and spend the night either in Gibeah or in Ramah.”
22-25: While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the town, a depraved lot, had gathered about the house and were pounding on the door. They called to the aged owner of the house, “Bring out the man who has come into your house, so that we can be intimate with him.” The owner of the house went out and said to them, “Please, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. Since this man has entered my house, do not perpetrate this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. Let me bring them out to you. Have your pleasure of them, do what you like with them; but don’t do that outrageous thing to this man.” But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and pushed her out to them. They raped her and abused her all night long until morning; and they let her go when dawn broke.
28-29: “Get up,” he said to her, “let us go.” But there was no reply. So the man placed her on the donkey and set out for home. When he came home, he picked up a knife, and took hold of his concubine and cut her up limb by limb into twelve parts. He sent them throughout the territory of Israel.
30: And everyone who saw it cried out, “Never has such a thing happened or been seen from the day the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt to this day! Put your mind to this; take counsel and decide.”

IV. Outline
1-14. The Levite, his servant, and his concubine set off
15-21. An old man of Gibeah takes them into his home for the night
22-26. Men of Gibeah rape the Levite’s concubine all night long
27-29. The Levite dismembers his concubine and sends her portions throughout the land
30. Public outrage

V. Comment
Judges 19 is one of the most shocking in the Hebrew Bible. After picking up his concubine, a certain Levite steers clear of a non-Israelite city and chooses to spend the night in Gibeah: “Since they were close to Jebus, and the day was very far spent, the attendant said to his master, ‘Let us turn aside to this town of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.’ But his master said to him, ‘We will not turn aside to a town of aliens who are not of Israel, but will continue to Gibeah. Come,’ he said to his attendant, ‘let us approach one of those places and spend the night either in Gibeah or in Ramah.’” (vv. 11-13) Collins writes: “The assumption that it is safer to lodge among Israelites than among Gentiles proves to be tragically mistaken. The story that unfolds is very similar to the story of Sodom in Genesis 19. The men of Gibeah want to abuse the stranger. The man who has takin him in is horrified and offers them his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine instead. In Genesis Lot’s offer of his virgin daughters is rendered unnecessary by divine intervention. There is no such intervention here. The Levite’ concubine is sacrificed to the cause, raped all night, and found dead in the morning.” (214) The story reaches a grotesque climax with vv. 28-29: “‘Get up,’ he said to her, ‘let us go.’ But there was no reply. So the man placed her on the donkey and set out for home. When he came home, he picked up a knife, and took hold of his concubine and cut her up limb by limb into twelve parts. He sent them throughout the territory of Israel.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://farm1.static.flickr.com/138/318077155_24fd75485c.jpg

Judges 18 – “The Danites Do As They Please”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The Danites, who cannot find a place to live, migrate northward. They abduct Micah’s priest and seize his religious objects. They also massacre the people of Laish and set up a new religious center for themselves.

II. Photo
The people of Dan do as they please: “The six hundred Danite men, girt with their weapons of war, stood at the entrance of the gate, while the five men who had gone to spy out the land went inside and took the sculptured image, the ephod, the teraphim, and the molten image.” (vv. 16-17a)

III. Important Verses
1: In those days there was no king in Israel, and in those days the tribe of Dan was seeking a territory in which to settle; for to that day no territory had fallen to their lot among the tribes of Israel.
2-4: The Danites sent out five of their number, from their clan seat at Zorah and Eshtaol — valiant men — to spy out the land and explore it. “Go,” they told them, “and explore the land.” When they had advanced into the hill country of Ephraim as far as the house of Micah, they stopped there for the night. While in the vicinity of Micah’s house, they recognized the speech of the young Levite, so they went over and asked him, “Who brought you to these parts? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” He replied, “Thus and thus Micah did for me — he hired me and I became his priest.”
7: The five men went on and came to Laish. They observed the people in it dwelling carefree, after the manner of the Sidonians, a tranquil and unsuspecting people, with no one in the land to molest them and with no hereditary ruler. Moreover, they were distant from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anybody.
11: They departed from there, from the clan seat of the Danites, from Zorah and Eshtaol, six hundred strong, girt with weapons of war.
16-17: The six hundred Danite men, girt with their weapons of war, stood at the entrance of the gate, while the five men who had gone to spy out the land went inside and took the sculptured image, the ephod, the teraphim, and the molten image. The priest was standing at the entrance of the gate, and the six hundred men girt with their weapons of war
22-27a: They had already gone some distance from Micah’s house, when the men in the houses near Micah’s mustered and caught up with the Danites. They called out to the Danites, who turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you mustered?” He said, “You have taken my priest and the gods that I made, and walked off! What do I have left? How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter’?” But the Danites replied, “Don’t do any shouting at us, or some desperate men might attack you, and you and your family would lose your lives.” So Micah, realizing that they were stronger than he, turned back and went home; and the Danites went on their way, taking the things Micah had made and the priest he had acquired.

IV. Outline
1-2. The Danites send spies
3-6. The spies meet Micah’s priest
7. The spies are intrigued by Laish
8-12. The tribe decides to move
13-27a. The Danites seize Micah’s priest and cultic objects
27b-29. The Danites conquer Laish
30-31. The Danite religious centers

V. Comment
Chapter 18 tells the story of the Danite’s violent migration. The fully armed tribe robs Micah’s religious center and massacres the people of Laish. Collins writes: “According to Josh 19:40-48, the original territory of the Danites included the city of Ekron, which is known to have become part of the Philistine confederacy, and stretched northward to Joppa. But ‘when the territory of the Danites was lost to them, the Danites went up and fought against Leshem,’ which they captured and renamed Dan. Samson was a Danite, and he is located in proximity to the Philistines. According to Jud 1:34, the Amorites repelled the Danite and would not let them come down into the plain. In Judges 18 the Danites are still seeking a territory to live in. This time the place they find is called Laish, at the northern extremity of Israel. Laish and Leshem are presumably tvariant names for the same place.” (213)

It is interesting to note that the city of Dan was the location of one of King Jeroboam’s two temples: “Jeroboam said to himself, ‘Now the kingdom may well return to the House of David. If these people still go up to offer sacrifices at the House of the LORD in Jerusalem, the heart of these people will turn back to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and go back to King Rehoboam of Judah.’ So the king took counsel and made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ He set up one in Bethel and placed the other in Dan.” (1 Kgs 12:26-29) Because of this fact, Collins writes: “Even though the mission of the Danites is portrayed in terms that recall the initial conquest by Joshua (especially in the matter of spying out the land), we are told twice that the people of Laish were ‘quiet and unsuspecting.’ The naked aggression of the Danites is not disguised. Moreover, the cult of [the Lord] that is established at Dan is of questionable origin. It involves idols that were stolen from the house of Micah in Ephraim, and a Levite who is portrayed as a rather mercenary character. The use of household idols seems to have been a normal part of early Israelite religion, but it was counter to [Torah] law. Nonetheless, the story is told without much editorial comment. Readers are free to see for themselves how things were in Israel when there was no king.” (213)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://salvos.org.au/image?src=/scribe/sites/more/files/images/stock/doorknock.jpg&width=300&height=190

Judges 17 – “Micah’s House of Worship”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Micah builds a house of worship and hires a young Levite to serve as his priest.

II. Photo
Micah builds a house of worship: “ Now the man Micah had a house of God; he had made an ephod and teraphim and he had inducted one of his sons to be his priest.” (v. 5)

III. Important Verses
1-2: There was a man in the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you, so that you uttered an imprecation which you repeated in my hearing — I have that silver; I took it.” “Blessed of the LORD be my son,” said his mother.
5: Now the man Micah had a house of God; he had made an ephod and teraphim and he had inducted one of his sons to be his priest.
6: In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did as he pleased.
13: “Now I know,” Micah told himself, “that the LORD will prosper me, since the Levite has become my priest.”

IV. Outline
1-5. Micah builds a beit ‘elohim “house of god(s)”
6. Political situation
7-13. Micah hires a Levite to serve as his priest

V. Comment
Chapter 17, which describes the beit ’elohim “house of god(s)” that Micah sets up, is an overture to the narrative of chapter 18. The beit ’elohim will eventually be robbed by the tribe of Dan as they build their new home in the city of Laish.

One of the more important verses in our chapter is v. 6: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did as he pleased.” Collins writes: “The last four chapters of the book of Judges are framed by statements that ‘in those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes’ (17:6; 21:25). Reminders that ‘in those days there was no king in Israel’ are also interspersed in the intervening chapters. The stories suggest that when there was no king the society tended to disintegrate.” (213)

Verses 4-5 describes the beit ’elohim that Micah makes: “So when he gave the silver back to his mother, his mother took two hundred shekels of silver and gave it to a smith. He made of it a sculptured image (pesel) and a molten image (masseikha), which were kept in the house of Micah. Now the man Micah had a house of God; he had made an ephod and teraphim and he had inducted one of his sons to be his priest.” Sculpted idols and molten images are strictly forbidden elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible (for pesel see Ex 20:4; Lev 26:1; Deut 4:16, 23, etc.; for masseikha see Ex 34:17; Lev 19:4; Num 33:52, etc.). Yet, the ephod appears in many contexts. While the ephod was primarily a priestly garment, it was worn by certain non-priests besides David. Meyers writes: “Since the word ephod refers to a sacred vestment, most of the usages are in the priestly passages of the Pentateuch, mainly in the tabernacle texts of Exodus. However, other individuals involved in cultic activity—notably Gideon (Judg 8:27), the priest of Micah (Judg 17:5; 18:14, 17, 18, 20), Eli (1 Sam 14:3), Samuel (1 Sam 2:18, 28), and David or his priests (1 Sam 21:9; 22:18; 23:16; 30:7; 2 Sam 6:14; 1 Chr 15:27)—are associated with the ephod. In Hos 3:4 it is mentioned, along with the teraphim, independently of a priestly figure.” (“Ephod,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. II p. 550)

In regards to the teraphim, it is possible that they are the ’elohim in Micah’s house of ’elohim. Indeed, many scholars surmise that the ’elohim in Ex 22:7-8 means teraphim. Those verses read as follows: “If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall be brought unto ha’elohim [in order to make it clear] that he did not send his hand against the other’s property. For all cases of transgression, for an ox, for an ass, for a sheep, for a garment, for any lost thing that he says “this is it,” the case of both of them shall come unto ha’elohim. He whom ‘elohim condemns shall pay back double to the other.” Support for this theory can be drawn from the equation of the teraphim with ’elohim in Gen 31:19, 30-32.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
““Ephod,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. II p. 550
Photo taken from http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Beersheba_four_horned_altar,_tbq110702.jpg

Judges 16 – “Delilah’s Betrayal; Samson’s Death”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Samson falls in love with a Philistine named Delilah. She persuades him to reveal the source of his strength and then double-crosses him. He is tortured in a Philistine arena but manages to destroy the edifice. In doing so, he kills himself and the enemy in attendance.

II. Photo
Samson’s eyes are gouged and he burns for revenge: “O Lord GOD! Please remember me, and give me strength just this once, O God, to take revenge of the Philistines, if only for one of my two eyes!” (v 28)

III. Important Verses
1:  Once Samson went to Gaza; there he met a whore and slept with her.
4-5: After that, he fell in love with a woman in the Wadi Sorek, named Delilah. The lords of the Philistines went up to her and said, “Coax him and find out what makes him so strong, and how we can overpower him, tie him up, and make him helpless; and we’ll each give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”
15-17: Then she said to him, “How can you say you love me, when you don’t confide in me? This makes three times that you’ve deceived me and haven’t told me what makes you so strong.” Finally, after she had nagged him and pressed him constantly, he was wearied to death and he confided everything to her. He said to her, “No razor has ever touched my head, for I have been a nazirite to God since I was in my mother’s womb. If my hair were cut, my strength would leave me and I should become as weak as an ordinary man.”
21: The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and shackled him in bronze fetters, and he became a mill slave in the prison.
22: After his hair was cut off, it began to grow back.
28-30: Then Samson called to the LORD, “O Lord GOD! Please remember me, and give me strength just this once, O God, to take revenge of the Philistines, if only for one of my two eyes.” He embraced the two middle pillars that the temple rested upon, one with his right arm and one with his left, and leaned against them; Samson cried, “Let me die with the Philistines!” and he pulled with all his might. The temple came crashing down on the lords and on all the people in it. Those who were slain by him as he died outnumbered those who had been slain by him when he lived.
31: His brothers and all his father’s household came down and carried him up and buried him in the tomb of his father Manoah, between Zorah and Eshtaol. He had led Israel for twenty years.

IV. Outline
1-3. A midnight tryst with a prostitute; Samson escapes death
4-17. Delilah cajoles Samson into revealing the source of his strength
18-21. Samson’s hair is cut, he is imprisoned, and his eyes are gouged out
22. Samson’s hair grows back
23-25. Samson is humiliated
26-30. Samson kills himself with many Philistines
31. Samson’s family buries him

V. Comment
Chapter 16 is the last of the Samson chapters. It tells the story of Samson’s downfall and death. When dealing with Samson’s portrayal, many scholars focus on what seems to be the two conflicting sides of Samson: he is either a pious holy-man or a mythic hero driven by honor, lust, and revenge. The latter can be seen in verses 1-3: Samson sleeps with an unnamed prostitute and storms off in the middle of the night. It can also be seen in v. 22 which explains the reason for Samson’s reinvigorated strength: “After his hair was cut off, it began to grow back” – his strength seems to be a natural phenomenon, not a divine gift. Yet, the pious Samson is depicted in v. 28: “Then Samson called to the LORD, ‘O Lord GOD! Please remember me, and give me strength just this once, O God, to take revenge of the Philistines, if only for one of my two eyes.’” Thus, according to v. 28 it is his prayer – not his hair – which allows him to kill the Philistines. Yet, according to scholars, even his prayer is egotistical: Samson asks for revenge for what was done to him, not what was done to his people.

With this in mind it is easy to understand the following comment of Collins: “The story of Samson is a popular folktale about a legendary strong man, not unlike the Greek tales about the labors of Heracles (Hercules is the Latin form of the name). At no point is Samson motivated by concern for Israel. He shows no awareness of a covenant or of the exodus tradition. He honors his bet, in a way, but he does not seem to be constrained by any moral code, except honor and vengeance. His story is preserved in the Bible as part of the lore of Israel, and it is a gripping and entertaining story. The [editor] gives it only a light sprinkling of piety, and never suggests that Samson is a moral exemplar. Rather, he is a tragic hero; a person of extraordinary (if brutish)talent who has a fatal weakness in his attraction to Philistine women. The story could easily serve to discourage marriage with foreign women, a favorite [biblical] theme, but the readers are left to draw their own inferences in this regard.” (212) While Samson is frequently painted as a pious man, at his core he is driven by lust and revenge.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Trent C. Butler, “Judges” (Word Biblical Commentary vol. 8; Nashville: Nelson, 2009).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://www.positive-pathways.net/images/stockimages/anger.jpg