Judges
The book of Judges refers to the time between Joshua and Solomon.

When Judah attacked, Yahva delivered the Canaanites and Perizzites into their power. They killed 10,000 in Bezek. They met Adonibezek in Bezek and fought him. When they killed the Canaanites and Perizzites, Adonibezek fled. They pursued him and when they caught him, they cut off his thumbs and big toes. Adonibezek said; “Seventy kings used to pick up scraps under my table with their thumbs and big toes cut off. As I did, god has repaid me.” He was brought to Jerusalem and died there. The Judahites captured Jerusalem and killed the people then burnt the city.

Later the Judahites fought against the Canaanites who lived in the mountain region, in the Negev and in the foothills. Judah also marched against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath-arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. They marched against the inhabitants of Debir (formerly called Kiriath-sepher). Caleb said; “To the man who captures Kiriath-sepher, I will give my daughter Achsah in marriage.” Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz captured it; so Caleb gave him Achsah. When she came to him, she induced him to ask for some land. Then, as she alighted from the donkey, Caleb asked her; “What do you want?” She answered; “Give me a present. Since you have put me in Negev, give me pools of water.” So Caleb gave her what she wanted, both the upper and the lower pool.

The descendants of Hobab the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, came with the Judahites from the City of Palms to the wilderness of Arad in the Negev and settled among the Amalekites. Then Judah went with his brother Simeon, and they defeated the Canaanites who lived in Zephath. They put the city under the ban and renamed it Hormah. Judah captured Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Ashdod with their territories. Yahva was with Judah so they gained possession of the mountain region. But they could not dispossess those who lived on the plain because they had iron chariots. As Moses had commanded, they gave Hebron to Caleb, who then expelled the three sons of Anak.

The Benjaminites could not expel the Jebusites dwelling in Jerusalem, so they live together in Jerusalem to the present day.

Joseph also attacked Bethel, and Yahva was with them. Joseph reconnoitered Bethel, (formerly called Luz). The scouts saw a man coming out of the city and said to him; “Tell us the way into the city and we will spare you.” He showed them the way into the city where they destroyed it but spared the man and his entire clan. The man went to the land of the Hittites where he built a city and called it Luz.

Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, or Megiddo with their towns. The Canaanites continued to live in this district. When Israel grew stronger, they conscripted the Canaanites as laborers but did not expel them. Ephraim did not expel the Canaanites from Gezer so the Canaanites lived among them in Gezer.

Zebulun did not expel the inhabitants of Kitron or Nahalol. The Canaanites lived among them and became forced laborers.

Asher did not expel the inhabitants of Acco or Sidon, nor take possession of Mahaleb, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehob. So the Asherites settled among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, for they were not expelled.

Naphtali did not expel the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh or Beth-anath. They settled among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. The inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became forced laborers.

The Amorites hemmed in the Danites in the mountain region, not permitting them to come down to the plain. So the Amorites continued to live in Harheres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim, but as the power of Joseph grew, they were conscripted as laborers. The territory of the Amorites extended from the Akrabbim pass, from Sela and upward.

A messenger of Yahva went from Gilgal to Bochim, saying; “I brought you from Egypt and led you into the land which I promised your ancestors. I said; ‘I will never break my covenant with you, but you must not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you must pull down their altars.’ But you did not listen to me. Look what you have done! For I also said; ‘I will not clear them out of your way; they will become traps, and their gods a snare for you.’”

When the messenger of Yahva had spoken these things to the Israelites, the people wept aloud. They named that place Bochim and they offered sacrifice there to Yahva.

When Joshua dismissed the people the Israelites went, each to their own heritage, to take possession of the land. The people served Yahva during the entire lifetime of Joshua, and of those elders who outlived Joshua and had seen the great work Yahva had done for Israel. Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of Yahva, died at the age of 110 years and was buried within the borders of his heritage at Timnath-heres in the mountain region of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash.

When the rest of that generation went to their ancestors, and a later generation arose that did not know Yahva or the work he had done for Israel, the Israelites violated Yahva’s laws. They served the Baals and abandoned Yahva, the God of their ancestors who rescued them from Egypt. They followed gods of the peoples around them, bowed to them, provoking Yahva.

Because they had abandoned Yahva to serve Baal and the Astartes, the anger of Yahva flared against Israel. He delivered them to plunderers who despoiled them. He sold them to enemies around them; and were no longer able to withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched, Yahva turned against them, as Yahva had sworn to them. They were in great distress. Finally Yahva raised judges to save them from their plunderers but they did not listen to their judges. They had prostituted themselves by worshiping other gods. They were quick to stray from the way of their ancestors, who had obeyed Yahva’s laws. When Yahva raised up judges for them, he was with the judge and save them from their enemies as long as the judge lived. Yahva would change his mind when they groaned in their affliction under their oppressors. But when the judge died, they would do worse than their ancestors, following other gods, serving and bowing to them, relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn ways.

The anger of Yahva flared against Israel, he said; “Because this nation has transgressed my covenant, which I enjoined on their ancestors, and has not listened to me, I will not remove any more nations that Joshua left when he died. They will be a test for Israel, to see if they will follow the way of Yahva as their ancestors did.” Yahva allowed these nations to remain instead of expelling them immediately. He had not delivered them to Joshua.

Yahva allowed these nations to remain to temper the Israelites who had not experienced war—to teach warfare to those generations of Israel who had never experienced it. The Philistines, Canaanites, Sidonians, and Hivites (who lived in the mountains Lebanon between Baal-hermon and Lebo-hamath) served as a test to see if Israel would obey Yahva’s commands. The Israelites settled among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage, and gave their daughters to their sons in marriage, and served their gods.

Othniel.

The Israelites violated Yahva’s laws; they forgot Yahva and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of Yahva flared and he sold them to Cushan-rishathaim, king of Aram Naharaim. The Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years. When they cried to Yahva, he raised up a savior for them: Othniel, son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz. The spirit of Yahva came on him, and he judged Israel. When he marched to war, Yahva delivered Cushan-rishathaim to him. His hold on Cushan-rishathaim was firm and the land was at rest for 40 years until Othniel died.

Ehud.

Again the Israelites did what was evil to Yahva so he strengthened Eglon, king of Moab, against Israel. With the Ammonites and Amalek as allies, he defeated Israel, taking possession of the City of Palms. The Israelites served Eglon for 18 years.

But when the Israelites cried out to Yahva, he raised a savior; Ehud, son of Gera, a Benjaminite, who was left-handed. The Israelites would send their tribute to Eglon by him. Ehud made himself a two-edged dagger a cubit long, and strapped it under his clothes on his right thigh. He presented the tribute to Eglon who was a very fat man. When he had finished presenting the tribute, he dismissed the troops who had carried the tribute. But he himself turned back at the sculptured stones near Gilgal, saying; “I have a secret message for you, O King.” The king said; “Silence!” Then when all his attendants had left, Ehud went to where he sat alone in his cool upper room. Ehud said; “I have a word from Yahva for you.” As the king rose from his throne, Ehud drew the dagger from his right thigh with his left hand, and thrust it into Eglon’s belly. The hilt went in after the blade and the fat closed over the blade so he could not withdraw it from the body.

Then Ehud went out to the porch, shutting and locking the doors of the upper room. When Ehud had left and the servants came, they saw that the doors of the upper room were locked, and thought; “He must be relaxing in the cool chamber.” They became disturbed when he did not open the doors. Finally they opened them. Their lord was lying dead on the floor.

During their delay Ehud escaped and, passing the sculptured stones, took refuge in Seirah. On his arrival, he sounded the horn in the mountain region of Ephraim. The Israelites went down from the mountains with him as their leader. “Follow me,” he said; “Yahva has delivered your enemies the Moabites to you.” They followed him and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, permitting no one to cross. On that occasion they slew about 10,000 Moabites, all of them strong warriors. Not one escaped. So Moab was brought under domination of Israel. The land had peace for 80 years.

Shamgar.

After him there was Shamgar, son of Anath, who slew 600 Philistines with an ox goad. He, too, was a savior for Israel.

Deborah and Barak.

When Ehud died the Israelites again transgressed the laws of Yahva. Yahva gave them to the Canaanite king, Jabin, who reigned in Hazor. The general of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. But the Israelites cried to Yahva. With his 900 iron chariots Jabin harshly oppressed the Israelites for 20 years.

At that time the prophet Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under her palm tree, between Ramah and Bethel in the mountain region of Ephraim, where the Israelites came her for judgment. She had Barak, son of Abinoam, summoned from Kedesh of Naphtali. She told him; “This is what Yahva commands; ‘Go, march against Mount Tabor with 10,000 men from Naphtali and Zebulun. I will draw Sisera to you in the Valley of Kishon with his chariots and troops, and deliver them to you.’” Barak answered; “If you come with me, I will go; if not, I will not go.” “I will certainly go with you,” she replied; “but you will gain no glory on this expedition, for Yahva will give Sisera to a woman.” So Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.

Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and 10,000 men followed him. Deborah went with him. Heber the Kenite had detached himself from Cain, the descendants of Hobab, Moses’ father-in-law, and had pitched his tent by the trees of Zaanannim, near Kedesh.

It was reported to Sisera that Barak, son of Abinoam, had gone to Mount Tabor. So he mustered all 900 of his iron chariots and all his forces from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the Valley of Kishon. Deborah said to Barak, “Get up! On this day Yahva has delivered Sisera to you. He marches before you.” Barak descended Mount Tabor, followed by his warriors. Yahva threw Sisera with all his chariots and forces into panic before Barak. Sisera himself fled on foot, but Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth-ha-goiim. The entire army of Sisera was killed, not even one man surviving.

Sisera led to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin and Heber. Jael went out to meet Sisera, saying; “Come into my tent, my lord; do not be afraid.” So he went into her tent and she covered him with a rug. He said to her; “Please give me a little water to drink. I am thirsty.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and then covered him. “Stand at the entrance of the tent,” he said; “If anyone asks; ‘Is someone here?’ say; ‘No!’” Jael took a tent peg and a mallet. When Sisera was in a deep sleep from exhaustion, she approached him stealthily and drove the peg through his temple into the ground, so he died. When Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, saying; “Come, I will show you the man you seek.” He went with her and Sisera lay dead with the tent peg through his temple.

On that day Yahva humbled the Canaanite king, Jabin. Israel pressed heavily on him until they finally destroyed the Canaanite king.

Song of Deborah.

On that day Deborah sang this song with Barak:

When uprising broke out in Israel,

When the people rallied for duty—bless Yahva!

Hear, O kings! Heed, O princes!

I will sing, I will sing to Yahva,

I will make music to Yahva, the God of Israel.

Lord, when you departed Seir,

When you marched through the plains of Edom,

Earth and heaven quaked,

The sky poured rain.

The mountains trembled,

Before Yahva, the One of Sinai,

Before Yahva, the God of Israel.

In the time of Shamgar, son of Anath,

In the time of Jael, roads were abandoned

And caravans ceased:

Travels used winding trails.

Freedom gone beyond the walls.

Until I, Deborah, a mother in Israel, arose.

When war came the city gates,

No shield was to be found, no spear,

Among 40,000 in Israel!

My heart is with the leaders of Israel,

With the volunteers—bless Yahva!

Those who ride on white donkeys,

Sitting on saddle blankets,

And those who walk the road,

Sing of them to the music at the wells.

There they recite the deeds of Yahva,

The victories of the people of Israel.

Awake, awake, Deborah!

Awake, awake, strike up a song!

Arise, Barak!

Take captive your captors, son of Abinoam!

The people of Yahva went with him against the warriors.

From Ephraim, their base in the Amalek;

Benjamin, following your troops.

From Machir leaders came down,

From Zebulun wielders of the commander’s staff.

The princes of Issachar were with Deborah,

Issachar, ever loyal to Barak;

Into the valley they followed his command.

Among the clans of Reuben

Great were the searching of heart!

Why did you stay by your tents

Listening to the sound of the herds?

Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan;

Why did Dan stay by his ships?

Asher remained by the shore,

Staying in his coves.

People of Zebulun risked death,

As did Naphtali on the open heights!

Kings of Canaan came and fought;

At Taanach by the waters of Megiddo;

They took no loot of silver.

From the skies, the stars fought;

From their courses they opposed Sisera.

The torrent of Kishon swept them away;

Overwhelmed them in the Kishon Valley.

My lords: Trample down the strong!

Then the hoofs of the horses thundered,

The galloping, galloping of warrior steeds.

“Curse Meroz,” says the messenger of Yahva,

“Curse, curse its inhabitants!”

For they did not come to help Yahva,

The help of Yahva against the warriors.”

Most blessed of women is Jael,

The wife of Heber the Kenite,

Blessed among tent-dwelling women!

He asked for water, she gave him milk,

In a princely bowl she brought him cream.

Her left hand on a tent peg,

Her right hand, a workman’s hammer.

She hammered Sisera, crushed his head;

She shattered, pierced his temple.

At her feet he sank down, fell, lay still; slain.

From the window Sisera’s mother looked down,

Crying through the lattice:

“Why is his chariot so long in coming?

Why are the sounds of his chariots delayed?”

The wisest of her attendant answers her;

She even replies to herself;

“They must be dividing the spoil they took:

A woman or two for each man,

Loot of dyed cloth for Sisera,

Loot of ornate dyed cloth,

Ornate dyed cloths for my neck.”

So perish all your enemies, O Lord!

May those who love you be like the bright sun rising!

Then the land was at rest for 40 years.

The Call of Gideon.

The Israelites trespassed Yahva’s laws. He delivered them to Midian for seven years, so that Midian dominated Israel. In fear of Midian the Israelites made dens in the mountains; caves and strongholds. During that time, whenever the Israelites sowed their crops, Midian, Amalek, and the Kedemites would camp near them, and waste the harvest to the border of Gaza, leaving no sustenance in Israel, and no sheep, cattle, or donkey. For they would come with their livestock, and their tents would appear as thick as locusts. They would be too many to count when they came. Israel was reduced to utter poverty by Midian. So the Israelites cried out to Yahva.

When Israel cried out to Yahva because of Midian, Yahva sent a prophet to the Israelites who said to them; “Yahva says; ‘I brought you from Egyptian slavery. I rescued you from Egypt and all your oppressors. I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I am your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are dwelling’. But you did not listen to me.”

The messenger of Yahva sat under the tree in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. Joash’s son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press to save it from the Midianites when the messenger appeared to him saying; “Yahva is with you, mighty warrior!” “My lord,” Gideon said to him; “if Yahva is with us, why has all this happened? Where are his wondrous deeds about which our ancestors told us; ‘Did not Yahva bring us from Egypt?’ Now Yahva has abandoned us and delivering us to Midian.” Yahva turned to him and said; “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from Midian. Is it not I who send you? But he answered him; “Please, my Lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in Manasseh and I am the least significant in my father’s house.” Yahva said; “I will be with you and you will kill every man in Midian.” He answered; “If you favor me, give me a sign that you are speaking with me. Please do not depart until I come to you, bringing my offering and setting it before you.” He answered; “I will await your return”.

Gideon prepared a young goat and an ephah of flour in the form of unleavened cakes. Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them to the one under the tree and presented them. The messenger said to him; “Take the meat and unleavened cakes and lay them on this rock; then pour the broth over them.” When he had done that, the messenger of Yahva stretched out the tip of his staff. When he touched the meat and unleavened cakes, a fire came from the rock, consuming the meat and unleavened cakes. Then the messenger disappeared. Gideon, now aware that it had been the messenger of Yahva, said; “Alas: I have seen the messenger of Yahva face to face!” Yahva answered; “You are safe. Do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built an altar to Yahva and called it Yahva-shalom. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

That night Yahva said to him: Take your father’s bull, the one fattened for seven years, and destroy your father’s altar to Baal. Cut down the Asherah beside it and build an altar to Yahva on top of this stronghold. Then take the bull and offer it as a whole-burnt sacrifice on the wood from the Asherah. Gideon, with ten of his servants, did as Yahva commanded. But he was too afraid for his family and the townspeople to do it by day: He did it at night. Early the next morning the townspeople found that the altar of Baal had been dismantled and the Asherah cut down, while the fattened bull was offered on the altar. They asked one another “Who did this?” They inquired and searched until they were told, “Gideon, son of Joash, did it.” So the townspeople said to Joash, “Bring out your son to die for dismantling the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah.” But Joash replied to all who were standing around him; “Is it for you to take action for Baal or be his savior? Anyone who takes action for him shall die by morning. If Baal is a god, let him act for himself since his altar has been dismantled!” From that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, because of these words; “Let Baal take action against him whoe dismantled his altar.”

Midian, Amalek and the Kedemites mustered and crossed into the Valley of Jezreel where they camped. Gideon was clothed with the radiance of Yahva, and blew the horn summoning Abiezer to follow him. He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali summoning warriors to follow him. They advanced to meet the others. Gideon said to Yahva; “If indeed you are going to save Israel through me as you have said, I am putting this woolen fleece on the threshing floor, and if dew is on only the fleece, while all the ground is dry, I will know that you will save Israel through me.” Early the next morning when he wrung out the fleece, he squeezed enough dew from it to fill a bowl. Gideon then said to Yahva, “Do not be angry with me if I speak once more. Let me make just one more test with the fleece. Let the fleece alone be dry but let there be dew on all the ground.” In the morning only the fleece was dry but dew was on all the ground.

Defeat of Midian.

Early the next morning Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) camped by the spring of Harod with all his soldiers. The camp of Midian was north of him, beside the hill of Moreh in the valley. Yahva said to Gideon; “You have more soldiers than I need to deliver Midian to them, lest Israel vaunt itself against me saying; ‘My own power saved me.’ Tell the soldiers; ‘If anyone is afraid, let him leave! Let him depart from Mount Gilead!’” 22,000 soldiers left, but 10,000 remained. Yahva said to Gideon; “There are still too many soldiers. Lead them down to the water: I will test them there. If I tell you that a certain man is to go with you, he must go with you. But no one is to go if I tell you he must not.” When Gideon led the soldiers down to the water, Yahva said; “Everyone who laps up the water as a dog does with its tongue you shall set to one side and everyone who kneels down to drink raising his hand to his mouth you shall set to the other side.” Those who lapped up the water with their tongues numbered 300, but the rest of the soldiers knelt to drink the water. Yahva said to Gideon; “With these 300 I will save you and deliver Midian to you. Let the other soldiers go.” They took supplies that the soldiers had with them, as well as their horns, and Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents, but kept the 300 men. The Midian camp was below him in the valley.

That night Yahva said to Gideon; “Descend on the camp. I will deliver it to you. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your aide Purah and listen to what they say. After that you will have the courage to attack the camp.” He went with his aide Purah to the outposts of the armed camp. The Midianites, Amalekites and Kedemites were lying in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could not be counted, for they were as many as the sands on the seashore. When Gideon arrived, one man was telling another about a dream. “I had a dream,” he said; “that a round loaf of barley bread was rolling into the camp of Midian. It came to a certain tent and struck it and turned it upside down, and the tent collapsed.” “This can only be the sword of the Israelite Gideon, son of Joash,” the other replied. “Yahva has delivered Midian and all the camp to him.” When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its explanation, he bowed. Then returning to the camp of Israel, he said; “Arise, for Yahva has delivered the camp of Midian to you.”

He divided the 300 men into three companies, and provided them with horns and empty jars with torches inside the jars. “Watch me and follow my lead,” he told them. “I will go to the edge of the camp, and you must do as I do. When I blow the horn, you must blow horns all around the camp and cry out; ‘For Yahva and Gideon!’” Gideon and the hundred men with him came to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the posting of the guards. They blew the horns and broke the jars. When the three companies had blown their horns and broken their jars, they took the torches in their left hands, and the horns in their right, cried; “A sword for Yahva and Gideon!” They all remained standing in place around the camp, while the whole camp began to run and shout and flee. When they blew the 300 horns, Yahva set the sword of one against another throughout the camp, and they fled as far as Beth-shittah in the direction of Zeredah, near the border of Abel-meholah at Tabbath.

The Israelites were called to arms from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh t0 pursue Midian. Gideon also sent messengers throughout the mountain region of Ephraim to say, “Go down to intercept Midian, and seize the water courses against them as far as Beth-barah, as well as the Jordan.” So the Ephraimites were called to arms, and they seized the water courses as far as Beth-barah, and the Jordan as well. They captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, killing Oreb at the rock of Oreb and Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb. Then they pursued Midian, but they had the heads of Oreb and Zeeb brought to Gideon beyond the Jordan.

The Ephraimites said to him; “What have you done to us, not summoning us when you went to fight against Midian?” They quarreled bitterly with him but he answered them; “What have I done in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? It was to you Yahva delivered the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I been able to do in comparison with you?” When he said this, their anger against him subsided.

When Gideon crossed the Jordan, he and his men were exhausted and famished. So he said to the people of Succoth; “Will you give my followers some loaves of bread? They are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.” But the princes of Succoth replied; “Are the lands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your possession, so that we should give food to your army?” Gideon said; “Very well; when Yahva has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna to me, I will thrash your bodies with desert thorns and briers.” He went to Penuel and made the same request of them, but the people of Penuel answered him as had the people of Succoth. So to the people of Penuel, too, he said; “When I return in peace, I will demolish this tower.”

Zebah and Zalmunna were now in Karkor with a force of about 15,000 men; all who were left of the Kedemite army, 120,000 swordsmen having fallen. Gideon went by the route of the tent-dwellers east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the force when it felt secure. Zebah and Zalmunna fled and Gideon pursued them. He captured these two kings of Midian, terrifying the entire force.

Then Gideon, son of Joash, returned from battle by the pass of Heres. He captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. He listed the 77 princes and elders of Succoth.

He went to the Succoth princes, saying; “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom you taunted me, saying; ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your possession, that we should give food to your weary men?’” He seized the elders of the city, and with desert thorns and briers he thrashed the people of Succoth. He also demolished the tower of Penuel and killed the people of the city.

Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna; “What about the men you killed at Tabor?” “They were all like you,” they replied. “They appeared to be princes.” “They were my brothers, my mother’s sons,” he said. “As Yahva lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” Then he said to his firstborn, Jether, “Go, kill them.” But the boy did not draw his sword, for he was afraid. Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come, kill us yourself, for as a man is, so is his strength.” So Gideon stepped forward and killed Zebah and Zalmunna. He also took the crescents that were on the necks of their camels.

The Israelites then said to Gideon; “Rule over us—you, your son, and your son’s son—for you saved us from the power of Midian.” But Gideon answered them; “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you. Yahva must rule over you.”

Gideon went on to say; “Let me make a request of you. Give me, each of you, a ring from his spoils.” (Since they were Ishmaelites, the enemy had gold rings.) “We will certainly give them,” they replied, and they spread out a cloak into which everyone threw a ring from his spoils. The gold rings he had requested weighed 1,700 gold shekels, apart from the crescents and pendants, the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and apart from the trappings that were on the necks of their camels. Gideon made an ephod out of the gold and placed it in his city, Ophrah.

Midian was subjected by the Israelites; they no longer held their heads high. The land had peace for 40 years, during the lifetime of Gideon.

Gideon’s Son Abimelech.

Then Jerubbaal, son of Joash, went to live in his house. Gideon had 70 sons, for he had many wives. His concubine who lived in Shechem also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech. At a good old age Gideon died and was buried in the tomb of Joash, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. But after Gideon was dead, the Israelites again prostituted themselves by following the Baals, making Baal-berith their god. The Israelites did not remember Yahva who had delivered them from their enemies around them. Nor were they loyal to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) who had done so much for Israel.

Abimelech, son of Jerubbaal, went to his mother’s kin in Shechem, saying to them and the clan to which his mother’s family belonged; “Put this question to all lords of Shechem; ‘Which is better for you: that 70 men, all Jerubbaal’s sons, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ You must remember that I am your own flesh and bone.” When his mother’s kin repeated these words on his behalf to all gods of Shechem, they set their hearts on Abimelech, thinking; “He is our kin.” They also gave him 70 pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless men and outlaws as his followers. He then went to his father’s house in Ophrah, and killed his brothers, the 70 sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone. Only the youngest son of Jerubbaal, Jotham, escaped, for he was hidden. Then all lords of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled and made Abimelech king at the tree at the memorial pillar in Shechem.

When this was reported to Jotham, he went to the top of Mount Gerizim and cried out in a loud voice:

Hear me, leaders of Shechem,

May Yahva listen you!

One day the trees went out

To anoint a king over themselves.

They said to the olive tree;

“Reign over us.”

But the olive tree answered them,

“Must I give up my rich oil.

By which gods and human beings are honored,

And go off to hold sway over the trees?”

Then the trees said to the fig tree;

“Come; reign over us!”

But the fig tree answered them;

“Must I give up my sweet aroma

And my sweet fruit

To hold sway over the trees?”

Then the trees said to the vine,

“Come, reign over us.”

But the vine answered them;

“Must I give up my wine,

That cheers gods and human beings,

To hold sway over the trees?”

Then all the trees said to the thorn;

“Come; you reign over us!”

The thorn answered,

“If you are anointing me in good faith,

To make me king over you,

Come, and take refuge in my shadow.

But if not, let fire come from the thorn

And consume the cedars of Lebanon.”

“Now if you have acted in good faith and integrity in appointing Abimelech your king; if you have acted with good will toward Jerubbaal and his house; and if you have treated him as he deserved. My father fought for you at the risk of his life when he delivered you from Midian, but you have risen against my father’s house today and killed his 70 sons and made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the lords of Shechem, because he is your kin. If, then, you have acted in good faith and integrity toward Jerubbaal and his house today, then rejoice in Abimelech and may he in turn rejoice in you! But if not, let fire come from Abimelech to devour the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo, and let fire come from the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.” Then Jotham escaped to Beer, where he remained for fear of his brother Abimelech.

When Abimelech had ruled Israel for three years, Yahva put an antagonism between Abimelech and the lords of Shechem, and they broke faith with the house of Abimelech. This was vengeance for the violence done to the 70 sons of Jerubbaal by their brother Abimelech and the lords of Shechem, who encouraged him to kill his brothers. The lords of Shechem set men in ambush for him on the mountaintops. They robbed all who passed on the road, which was reported to Abimelech.

Gaal, son of Ebed, and his kin passed through Shechem. The lords of Shechem trusted him and went into the fields; harvested the grapes from their vineyards, trod them out, and held a festival. Then they went to the temple of their god, where they ate and drank while cursing Abimelech. Gaal asked; “Who is Abimelech? Who is Shechem that we should serve him? Did not the son of Jerubbaal and his lieutenant Zebul serve the men of Hamor, father of Shechem? So why should we serve him? If these troops were entrusted to my command, I would depose Abimelech. I would challenge Abimelech; ‘Get a larger army and come out!’”

When Zebul, ruler of the city, heard what Gaal said, he was angry and sent messengers to Abimelech in Arumah; “Gaal, son of Ebed, and his kin have come to Shechem and are agitating the city against you. Take action tonight by setting your troops in ambush in the fields. At sunrise tomorrow, feign a raid on the city. When he and his troops come engage you, deal with him as best you can.”

During the night, Abimelech with his soldiers set an ambush outside Shechem in four companies. Gaal watched from the entrance of the city gate. When Abimelech and his soldiers rose from their ambush, Gaal saw the soldiers and called to Zebul; “Soldiers descending from the mountains!” But Zebul answered; “You see men where there are only shadows.” But Gaal continued; “Soldiers are coming from the region of Tabbur-haarez and one company is coming by Elon-meonenim.” Zebul said; “Where now is your boast; ‘Who is Abimelech that we should serve him?’ Are these not the troops for whom you expressed contempt? Go fight them.” Gaal led the lords of Shechem to fight Abimelech. When Abimelech engaged him, he fled. Many were slain at the city gate. Abimelech returned to Arumah while Zebul drove Gaal and his kin out of Shechem.

The next day the army marched into the field, which was reported to Abimelech. He divided his troops into three companies and set an ambush. He watched until he saw the army leave the city; then attacked them. Abimelech and one company rushed in and stood at the city gate, while the other two companies attacked those in the field. Abimelech fought against the city all day. He captured it, killing the people, and demolished the city, sowing it with salt.

When they heard of this, the lords of the Migdal-shechem went into the crypt of the temple of El-berith. It was reported to Abimelech that all the lords of the Migdal-shechem were gathered together. So he went up Mount Zalmon with his soldiers. He cut some dry brushwood and carried it to his shoulder, telling his soldiers to do the same. Following Abimelech, they placed it against the crypt. Then they burnt the crypt so that the people of Migdal-shechem perished─about 1,000 men and women.

Abimelech proceeded to Thebez, and captured it. All the men and women as well as the nobles of the city fled to a strong tower in the city, shutting themselves as far as the roof of the tower. Abimelech attacked the tower. When he came to the tower gate, a woman cast a millstone on Abimelech’s head, fracturing it. He immediately called his armor-bearer saying; “Draw your sword and kill me so no one will say; ‘A woman killed him.’” His attendant killed him with his sword. When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they returned to their homes.

Yahva repaid the evil that Abimelech had done in killing his brothers and punished the people of Shechem for their wickedness just as Jotham, son of Jerubbaal cursed them.

Tola.

Later Tola, son of Puah, son of Dodo, an Issacharite, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir in the mountain region of Ephraim. When he had judged Israel 23 years, he died and was buried in Shamir.

Jair.

Jair the Gileadite came after him and judged Israel 22 years. He had 30 sons who each possessed city in Gilead (these are called Havvoth-jair). Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

Oppression by the Ammonites.

The Israelites again transgressed Yahva’s laws; serving the Baals and Ashtarts; the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, the Ammonites, and the Philistines. Since they had abandoned him, Yahva became angry with Israel and abandoned them to the Philistines and Ammonites. For 18 years they afflicted and oppressed the Israelites in Bashan, and in the Amorite land east of Jordan in Gilead. The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to attack Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim. Israel was in great distress. The Israelites pleaded to Yahva; “We have sinned against you by serving the Baals.” Yahva answered; “Did not the Egyptians, Amorites, Ammonites, Philistines, Sidonians, Amalekites, and Midianites oppress you? Yet when you pleaded to me and I saved you, you again abandoned me and served other gods. Therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry to the gods you have chosen; let them save you in your distress.” But the Israelites said to Yahva; “We have sinned. Punish us as you wish. Only save us today!” They expelled the foreign gods from their midst and served Yahva so that he grieved over the misery of Israel.

The Ammonites assembled for war and camped in Gilead while the Israelites assembled and camped at Mizpah. The leaders of the Gilead army agreed; “Whoever begins the war against the Ammonites shall be leader of all Gilead.”

Jephthah.

Jephthah, the Gileadite, was the son of a prostitute, fathered by Gilead. Gilead’s wife bore him other sons. When they were grown these sons drove Jephthah away, saying; “You inherit nothing since you are the son of a prostitute.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers to the land of Tob. He became a known warrior so that landless men joined him to raid the land.

Later, when the Ammonites went to war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from Tob, saying; “Be our commander and lead our fight against the Ammonites.” “Are you not the men who hated me and drove me from my father’s house?” Jephthah replied. “Why do you come to me now in your distress?” The elders said; “If you go with us to fight against the Ammonites, you will be the leader of all Gilead.” Jephthah answered; “If you bring me back to fight against the Ammonites and Yahva delivers them up to me, I will be your leader.” The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah; “Yahva is witness that we will do as you say.” So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead and the army made him their commander. Jephthah gave his orders in the presence of Yahva in Mizpah.

He sent messengers to the Ammonites king; “What do you have against me that you come to fight me in my land?” The Ammonites king answered; “Israel took my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok and the Jordan when they came from Egypt. Now restore it peaceably.”

Again Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonites king, saying; “Jephthah says: ‘Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. When we came from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying; “Let me pass through your land.” But the king of Edom did not consent. They also sent to the king of Moab, but he too was unwilling. So Israel remained in Kadesh. Then they went through the wilderness, bypassing the lands of Edom and Moab, they arrived to the border of Moab and camped beside the Arnon. Thus they did not enter Moab, for the Arnon is the boundary of Moab. Then Israel sent messengers to the Amorite king Sihon, who was king of Heshbon. Israel said to him, “Let me pass through your land to my own place.” But Sihon refused to let Israel pass through his territory. He gathered all his soldiers, and they camped at Jahaz and fought Israel. But Yahva gave Sihon and his entire army to Israel, who defeated them and occupied all the land of the Amorites who lived in that region. They occupied all the Amorite territory from the Arnon to the Jabbok and the wilderness to the Jordan. Yahva dispossessed the Amorites for his people, Israel. Are you going to dispossess them? Should you not take possession of that which your god Chemosh gave you to possess, and should we not take possession of all that Yahva has dispossessed for us? Now, are you any better than Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or make war against them? Israel has dwelt in Heshbon and its villages, Aroer and its villages, and all the cities on the banks of the Arnon for 300 years. Why did you not recover them during that time? As for me, I have not sinned against you, but you wrong me by making war against me. Let Yahva, who is judge, decide this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites!’” But the king of the Ammonites ignored Jephthah’s message.

Jephthah’s Vow.

The essence of Yahva came on Jephthah. He passed through Gilead, Manasseh, and Mizpah of Gilead as well. From Mizpah he crossed Jordan to attack the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow to Yahva; “If you deliver the Ammonites to me, when I return from the Ammonites in peace, the first person who comes out of my house to greet me shall belong to Yahva. I will sacrifice him as a burnt offering.”

Jephthah then crossed to fight the Ammonites. With Yahva’s aid he defeated them very severely; from Aroer to the approach of Minnith—20 cities in all—and to Abel-keramin. The Ammonites were subjected by the Israelites. When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, his daughter —his only child—came to meet him, dancing and playing the tambourine. When he saw her, he tore his garments and said; “O my daughter! You have brought calamity upon me. I have vowed to Yahva and I cannot take it back.” “Father,” she replied; “Do with me as you vowed, because Yahva has taken vengeance for you against your enemies the Ammonites.” Then she said to her father; “Grant me have this favor: Wait for two months, so that I and my companions may wander in the mountains, weeping for my innocence.” “Go,” he replied and sent her away for two months. So she departed with her companions and wept for her innocence in the mountains. At the end of the two months she returned, and he sacrificed her as he had vowed.

It became a custom in Israel for Israelite women to yearly mourn the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days of the year.

The Shibboleth Incident.

The men of Ephraim mustered and crossed to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah; “Why did you go to fight with the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We will burn your house on top of you.” Jephthah answered them, “My soldiers and I were engaged in a battle with the Ammonites. They were pressing us hard, and I cried out to you, but you did not come to save me. When I saw that you were not coming, I risked life and crossed Jordan to fight the Ammonites, Then Yahva delivered them to me. Why should you attack me today?” Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The men of Gilead defeated Ephraim. Gilead seized the fords of the Jordan against Ephraim. When any of the fleeing Ephraimites said; “Let me pass,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he answered, “No!” they would ask him to say ‘Shibboleth.’ If he said ‘Sibboleth,’ not pronouncing it correctly, they would seize and kill him at the fords. They killed 42,000 Ephraimites at that time.

Jephthah the Gileadite judged Israel for six years, then he died and was buried in his city in Gilead.

Ibzan.

After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had 30 sons and 30 daughters whom he gave in marriage outside the family, while bringing 30 wives for his sons from outside the family. He judged Israel for seven years. Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.

Elon.

After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel for ten years. Elon died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.

Abdon.

After him Abdon, son of Hille, the Pirathonite, judged Israel. He had 40 sons and 30 grandsons, and 70 riding donkeys. He judged Israel for eight years. Abdon died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim in the mountain region of the Amalekites.

Birth of Samson.

The Israelites again transgressed the laws of Yahva, who then delivered them to the Philistines for 40 years.

There was a man from Zorah, Manoah of the Danites. His wife was barren and had borne no children. An angel of Yahva appeared to the woman and said; “Though you are barren you will conceive and bear a son. Be careful to drink no wine or beer and to eat nothing unclean until you bear a son. No razor shall touch his head for the he will be a nazirite for Yahva from the womb. He will begin to save Israel from the Philistines.”

The woman went and told her husband, “A man appearing to be a fearsome angel of Yahva came to me. I did not question him, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will conceive and bear a son. So drink no wine or beer, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be a nazirite for Yahva from his birth until his death.’” Manoah prayed to Yahva. “Please, my Lord,” he said, “may the angel of Yahva return to teach us what to do for the boy.”

Yahva heard the prayer of Manoah, and the angel came again as the woman was sitting alone in the field. The woman ran quickly to tell her husband. “The man who came to me the other day has appeared again,” she said. Manoah followed his wife. When he reached the man, he said; “Are you the one who spoke to my wife?” I am,” he answered. Manoah asked; “When what you say comes true, what rules must the boy follow? What must he do?” The angel answered; “Your wife must heed all things that I said. She must not eat anything that comes from the vine, she must not drink wine or beer, and she must not eat anything unclean. Let her observe all that I have commanded.” Then Manoah said to the angel; “Permit us to detain you, so that we may prepare a young goat for you.” But the angel answered Manoah; “Though you detained me, I could not eat your food. But if you want to prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to Yahva.” Manoah did not know that he was the angel of Yahva. Then Manoah said to the angel, “What is your name, that we may honor you when your words come true?” The angel of Yahva answered him; “Why do you ask my name? It is wondrous.” Then Manoah took a young goat with a grain offering and offered it on the rock to Yahva. While Manoah and his wife were watching, as the flame from the altar rose to the sky the angel ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they prostrated themselves; but the angel of Yahva was seen no longer. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of Yahva and said to his wife; “We will die for we have seen Yahva.” But his wife replied; “If Yahva had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted offerings from our hands! He would not have let us see and hear all this.”

The woman bore a son and named him Samson. When the boy grew up Yahva blessed him. The essence of Yahva came to him for the first time in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Marriage of Samson.

Samson went to Timnah where he saw one of the Philistine women. On his return he told his father and mother; “I saw a Philistine woman in Timnah. Get her as a wife for me.” His father and mother said; “Is there no woman among your kin or all your people, so that you must take a woman from the uncircumcised Philistines?” Samson answered, “Get her for me; she is the one I want.” His father and mother did not know that this had been instigated by Yahva, as an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time they ruled Israel.

Samson went to Timnah with his father and mother. When he entered the vineyards of Timnah, a young lion came roaring toward him. But the essence of Yahva rushed to Samson and he tore the lion apart barehanded, as one tears a young goat. Without telling his father or mother what he had done, he again spoke to the woman. Later, when he came to marry her, he looked at the remains of the lion. A swarm of bees with honey was in the lion’s carcass. He scooped some honey into his hands and ate it as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave them some to eat but did not tell them that he had scooped it from a lion’s carcass.

His father also went to the woman. Samson gave a feast there since it was customary. From fear of him, they brought 30 men to be his companions. Samson said to them; “Let me propose a riddle to you. If within the seven days of the feast you solve it, I will give you each a linen tunic and a sets of garments. But if you cannot answer it, you must each give me a tunic and a set of garments.” “Propose your riddle,” they responded; “and we will listen to it.” So he said;

Out ofthe eater came food,

Out of the strong came sweetness.

For three days they were unable to answer the riddle. On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife; “Did you invite us here to reduce us to poverty? Trick your husband into solving the riddle or we will burn you and your family.” So Samson’s wife wept at his side and said; “You just hate me! You do not love me! You proposed a riddle to my people but did not tell me the answer.” He said to her; “If I did not tell even my father or my mother, must I tell you?” But she wept beside him during the seven days the feast lasted. On the seventh day, he told her the answer, because she pressed him. Then she explained the riddle to her people.

On the seventh day, before the sun set, the men of the city said to him;

What is sweeter than honey?

What is stronger than a lion?

He replied to them;

If you had not plowed my heifer,

You would not have solved my riddle.

The essence of Yahva came on him, and he went to Ashkelon, where he killed 30 men and stripped them. He gave their garments to those who answered the riddle. Then he returned to his own family in anger. Samson’s wife married his companion.

Samson Defeats the Philistines.

Later, in the wheat harvest season, Samson visited his wife, bringing a young goat. When he asked to go into his wife’s room her father refused him, saying; “I thought you repudiated her, so I gave her to your companion. Her younger sister is prettier; you may have her instead.” Samson said; “This time I am without guilt if I harm the Philistines.” He caught 300 jackals, and tying them tail to tail, he tied torches between each pair of tails. He then kindled the torches and set the jackals loose in the Philistines’ standing grain, thus burning both the shocks and standing grain, the vineyards and olive groves.

When the Philistines asked who did this, they were told; “Samson, son-in-law of the Timnite, because his wife was taken and given to his companion.” The Philistines burnt her and her family. Samson said; “If this is how you act, I will not stop until I have taken revenge on you.” He slaughtered them. Then he stayed in a cave on the crag of Etam.

The Philistines camped in Judah, deploying themselves against Lehi. When Judah asked; “Why have you attacked us?” They answered; “To take Samson prisoner and treat him as he has done to us.” Men of Judah─3,000─went to the cave on the crag of Etam and said to Samson; “You know that the Philistines are our rulers. Why have you done this to us?” He answered; “As they have done to me, so have I done to them.” They said to him; “We have come to bind you and deliver you to the Philistines.” Samson said; “Swear that you will not attack me yourselves.” “No,” they replied; “we will only bind you and hand you over to them. We will certainly not attack you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him from the crag. When he reached Lehi, and the Philistines came shouting to meet him, the essence of Yahva rushed to him: The ropes around his arms became like flax consumed by fire, and his bonds melted away. Coming upon the fresh jawbone of a donkey, grasped it, and killed 1,000 men. Then Samson said;

With the jawbone of a donkey

I have piled them in a heap;

With the jawbone of a donkey

I have slain 1,000 men.

As he finished speaking he threw the jawbone from him; so that place was named Ramath-lehi. Being very thirsty, he cried to Yahva; “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall to the uncircumcised?” Then Yahva split the cavity in Lehi and water issued from it. Samson drank until he revived. Hence it is called En-hakkore in Lehi to this day.

Samson judged Israel for 20 years while the Philistines ruled.

Once Samson went to Gaza where he visited a prostitute. The people of Gaza were told; “Samson has come here,” so they surrounded him with an ambush at the city gate. All the night they waited, saying; “At dawn we will kill him.” Samson lay there until midnight. Then he arose, seized the doors of the city gate and the gateposts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He hoisted them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the ridge opposite Hebron.

Samson and Delilah.

After that he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek named Delilah. The Philistines lords said to her; “Trick him to find where he gets his great strength, so that we may overcome him and make him helpless. Then we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”

Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the source of your great strength and how you may be bound securely.” “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings;” Samson answered, “I will grow weaker and be like anyone else.” So the lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings with which she bound him. She had men lying in ambush, and she said to him; “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” He snapped the bowstrings as a strand of fiber is snapped by a whiff of flame. His strength remained unexplained.

Delilah said to Samson; “You have mocked me and lied to me. Now tell me how you may be bound.” “If they bind me tight with new ropes with which no work has been done,” he answered; “I will grow weaker and be like anyone else.” So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them. Then she said to him; “The Philistines attack, Samson!” For there were men lying ambush. But he snapped the ropes from his arms like thread.

Delilah said to Samson again; “You have mocked me and lied to me. Tell me how you may be bound.” He said; “If you weave the seven locks of my hair into the fabric and fasten them with a weavers pin, I shall grow weaker and be like anyone else.” When he went to bed, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the fabric, then fastened them with the pin. Then she said; “The Philistines attack, Samson!” Awakening, he pulled out both the loom and the fabric.

Then she said; “How can you say ‘I love you’ when your heart is not mine? Three times already you have mocked me, not revealing the source of your great strength!” She pressed him continually and pestered him till he was weary of it. He finally told her all that he knew, saying; “No razor has touched my head, for I have been a nazirite for Yahva since birth. If I am shaved, my strength will leave me, then I will grow weaker and be like anyone else.” When Delilah realized that he had told her the truth, she summoned the lords of the Philistines; “Come this time for he has told me the truth.” So the lords of the Philistines brought the money to her. She put him to sleep on her lap, and called for a man who shaved off the seven locks of his hair. He immediately became helpless, for his strength had left him. When she said; “The Philistines attack, Samson!” he woke from his sleep and though; “I will go out as I have done before and free myself.” He did not realize that Yahva had left him. The Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. Then they brought him to Gaza and bound him with bronze fetters, and put him to grinding grain in prison. But his hair began to grow as soon as it was shaved.

The Death of Samson.

The lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to celebrate. They said; “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, to us.” When the people saw him, they praised their god;

Our god has delivered into our power

Our enemy, the ravager of our land,

The one who has multiplied our slain.

When their spirits were high, they said; “Bring Samson that he may amuse us.” So they brought Samson from the prison to amuse them. They made him stand between the columns, and Samson said to the attendant holding his hand; “Put me where I may touch the columns that support the temple, so I may lean against them.” The temple was full of men and women: all the lords of the Philistines were there, and from the roof about 3,000 men and women watched Samson in amusement. Samson cried to Yahva, saying; “Lord, remember me! Strengthen me only this once that I may avenge myself in one blow against the Philistines for my eyes.” Samson grasped the two middle columns which supported the temple and braced himself against them: right and left. Then saying; “Let me die with the Philistines!” Samson pushed hard, and the temple fell upon the lords and all the people in it. In dying, he killed more than he had killed during his lifetime.

His kinsmen and all his father’s house bore him for burial in the grave of Manoah, his father, between Zorah and Eshtaol. He had judged Israel for 20 years.

Micah and the Levite.

There was a man from the mountain region of Ephraim named Micah. He said to his mother; “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you pronounced a curse and even said it in my hearing—I have that silver. I took it. Now I will restore it to you.” Then his mother said; “May my son be blessed by Yahva!” When he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother, she said; “I consecrate the silver to Yahva on behalf of my son to make an idol overlaid with silver.” When he restored the silver to his mother, she took 200 pieces and gave them to the silversmith, who made an idol overlaid with the silver. It remained in the house of Micah. The man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim. He installed one of his sons as his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as they wished.

There was a young Levite from Bethlehem in Judah residing there. He left Bethlehem to find a residence. On his journey he came to the house of Micah in the mountain region of Ephraim. “Where do you come from?” Micah asked him. He answered; “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah seeking a residence.” “Stay with me,” Micah said; “Be my priest and I will give you ten silver pieces a year, a set of garments, and your needs for living.” He pressed the Levite, who agreed to stay. Micah installed the Levite as his priest who became like one of his sons. The Levite remaining in the house of Micah. Micah said, “Now I know that Yahva will make me prosperous since I have a Levite as my priest.”

Migration of the Danites.

In those days the tribe of the Danites were in search of a heritage, since at that time no heritage had been allotted to them among the tribes of Israel.

So the Danites sent five powerful men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to reconnoiter the land of Laish. They went into the mountain region of Ephraim, and spent the night there. When they were near the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of a young Levite. They went to him, asking; “Who brought you here? What are you doing here? What is your interest here?” “This is what Micah has done for me,” he replied; “He has hired me and I have become his priest.” They said to him; “Consult Yahva, so that we may know whether the journey we are making will be successful.” The priest said; “Go in peace! Your journey is approved by Yahva.”

The men continued to Laish where they saw the people living securely as the Sidonians lived; quiet and trusting with ample natural resource. They lived far from the Sidonians and Arameans. When the five returned to their kin in Zorah and Eshtaol, they were asked; “What do you have to report?” They replied; “Come; do not hesitate to attack them. The land is very good. Do not hesitate to take possession! You will find a trusting people with land extending broadly. Yahva has indeed given it to you—a place where no natural resource is lacking.”

So 600 Danites warriors left Zorah and Eshtaol and marched into Judah camping west of Kiriath-jearim; it is called Mahaneh-dan to this day. From there they went to the house of Micah in the mountain region of Ephraim.

Then the five men who had reconnoitered the land said to their kin; “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, teraphim, and an idol overlaid with silver? Now decide what you must do!” So they went to the young Levite at the home of Micah and greeted him. The 600 armed Danites stationed themselves at the entrance of the gate. The five men entered the house of Micah with the priest standing there. They took the idol, the ephod, the teraphim and the metal image. When the priest asked them; “What are you doing?” they said; “Be still! Be silent! Come with us and be our priest. Is it better for you to be priest for the family of one man or to be priest for a tribe and clan in Israel?” The priest, agreeing, took the ephod, the teraphim, and the idol, and went with the troops. As they departed, they placed their children, their livestock, and their goods at the head of the column.

After the Danites left, Micah and the men in the nearby houses mustered and overtook them. They called to the Danites, who said to Micah; “What do you want by this muster?” “You have taken my god, which I made for myself, and you have taken my priest as well,” he answered. “What is left for me? How, then, can you ask me, ‘What do you want?’” The Danites said to him, “Do not raise your voice to us, for our aggravated men will kill you and your family!” Then the Danites departed. Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, returned home.

Having taken what Micah had made and his priest, they attacked Laish, a quiet and trusting people; killing them and burning the city. No one came to their aid, since the city was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with the Arameans. The city was in the valley of Beth-rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and occupied it. They named it Dan after their ancestor who was born to Israel, but Laish was the former name. The Danites set up the idol, and Jonathan (son of Gershom, son of Moses) and his descendants were priests for the tribe of the Danites until the land went into captivity. They maintained the idol Micah had made as long as a temple of Yahva was in Shiloh.

The Levite from Ephraim.

In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a Levite residing in remote parts of the mountain region of Ephraim had taken a concubine from Bethlehem of Judah. But his concubine spurned him and returned to her father’s house where she stayed for four months. Her husband, with his servant and a pair of donkeys, and went to soothe her and bring her back. When he arrived the young woman’s father saw him and came joyfully to meet him. His father-in-law urged him to stay and they spent three days; eating and drinking. On the fourth day they rose early and he prepared to go. But the young woman’s father said; “Refresh yourself with a little food; you can go later.” So they stayed and the men ate and drank together. Then the young woman’s father said to the husband; “Why not spend tonight here and enjoy yourself?” The man started to go, but when his father-in-law pressed, he spent the night there.

On the fifth morning he rose early to depart, but the young woman’s father said; “Refresh yourself!” With coaxing he tarried until the afternoon when they ate together. When the husband was ready to go with his concubine and servant, the young woman’s father said; “See, evening is approaching. Stay for the night. Enjoy yourself and depart early tomorrow.” The man, however, refused to stay another night. He and his concubine left with a pair of saddled donkeys and traveled until they came near Jebus, which is now called Jerusalem. Since they were near Jebus with night approaching, the servant said; “Master, let us spend the night in this city of the Jebusites.” But his master replied; “We will not stay in a foreign city where there are no Israelites. Come, let us go to another place; either Gibeah or Ramah.” They continued until sunset when they were near Gibeah of Benjamin.

They entered Gibeah to spend the night. The man sat in the town square, but no one invited them to spend the night. In the evening, however, an old man came from his work in the field; he was from the mountain region of Ephraim, although he was living in Gibeah where the local people were Benjaminites. When he noticed the traveler in the town square, the old man asked; “Where are you going and where have you come from?” He said; “We are traveling from Bethlehem of Judah to the mountain region of Ephraim, where I am from. I have been to Bethlehem and now I am going home; but no one has invited me into his house. We have straw and fodder for our donkeys, and bread and wine for myself and for my maidservant and the young man who is with my servant; there is nothing else we need.” “Rest assured,” the old man said; “I will provide for your needs but do not spend the night in the public square.” He led them to his house and mixed fodder for the donkeys. They washed their feet, then ate and drank.

The Outrage at Gibeah.

While they were enjoying themselves, men of the city (a bunch of scoundrels) surrounded the house and beat on the door. They said; “Bring out the man staying in your house so that we may converse with him.” The man who was the owner of the house went out saying; “Please, my brothers; do not be so wicked. This man was invited into my house; do not commit this terrible crime. Instead, let me bring out my virgin daughter and this man’s concubine. Humiliate them, or do whatever you want; but against him do not commit such a terrible crime.” But the men would not listen. So the Levite seized his concubine and thrust her out to them. They raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go near sunrise. At the approach of morning the woman collapsed at the entrance of the house and lay there until her husband rose in the morning and opened the door to start again on his journey. “Come, let us go,” he said, but there was no answer. So the man placed her on a donkey and started again for home. On reaching home, he cut her up limb by limb into twelve pieces and sent them throughout Israel. He instructed the men whom he sent; “Say to all the men of Israel; ‘Has such a thing ever happened since the Israelites came from Egypt? Consider it; take counsel and give orders.’”

Assembly of Israelites.

The Israelites assembled as one, from Dan to Beer-sheba including the land of Gilead, at Mizpah. The leaders of the people presented themselves in the assembly of Yahva’s people —400,000 armed foot soldiers. Meanwhile, the Benjaminites heard that the Israelites had gone to Mizpah. The Israelites asked; “How did this evil happen?” The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, testified; “It was at Gibeah of Benjamin, which my concubine and I had entered for the night. The men of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded me in the house at night. I was the one they intended to kill me, but they abused my concubine and she died. I cut her up and sent her parts through all the territory of Israel, because of the terrible evil they had done. Israelites! Give your judgment and counsel in this matter.” All the people rose together; “None of us will return to home; we will muster against Gibeah by lot, taking from each tribe ten percent of their warriors and procuring supplies to exact from Gibeah of Benjamin the full measure of the terrible crime.”

The tribes of Israel sent men to the tribe of Benjamin saying; “Why has this evil occurred among you? Surrender the scoundrels in Gibeah so that we may execute them, thus purging this evil from Israel.” The Benjaminites refused to listen to their kin. Instead, they mustered to battle the Israelites. They mustered 26,000 warriors in addition to the inhabitants of Gibeah, who mustered 700 expert left-handed men, each able to sling a stone at a hair without missing. The men of Israel, without Benjamin, mustered 400,000 warriors. They asked Yahva at Bethel; “Who will first attack the Benjaminites?” Yahva replied; “Judah first.” The Israelites rose in the morning and prepared to attack Gibeah.

War with Benjamin.

The men of Israel marched out to battle Benjamin at Gibeah. The Benjaminites marched out of Gibeah and killed 22,000 men of Israel. But the Israelite army took courage and again prepared for battle at the same place. The Israelites wept before Yahva until evening. “Shall I again engage my brother Benjamin in battle?” they asked. Yahva answered; “Attack!” When the Israelites attacked the Benjaminites on the second day, they killed 18,000 Israelites. So the entire Israelite army went to Bethel, where they sat weeping before Yahva. They fasted until evening; presenting burnt offerings and communion offerings to Yahva. The Israelites consulted Yahva (for the ark of the covenant of Yahva was there, and Phineha, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was standing in his presence), asking; “Shall I again battle my brother Benjamin or shall I stop?” Yahva said; “Attack! For tomorrow I will deliver him to you. Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah.

When the Israelites attacked the third day, they approached Gibeah as previously. When the Benjaminites met the army, they began, as previously, to attack some of the troops along the trails to Bethel and to Gibeah, killing; about 30 Israelites. The Benjaminites assumed that the Israelites were routed as previously. The Israelites, however, were planning t0 flee and draw them from the city onto the trails. Then the Israelites rose at Baal-tamar, and the ambushers rushed from west of Gibeah, attacking Gibeah with 10,000 select Israelites. The fighting was severe but no one knew a disaster was looming. Yahva defeated Benjamin for Israel, killing 25,100 Benjaminite swordsmen.

Israel gave ground to Benjamin, trusting in the ambush they had set at Gibeah. Then the men in ambush, having made a sudden dash against Gibeah, entered, and destroyed the entire city. Israel had arranged for the ambushers to send a smoke signal from the city, and the men of Israel would then wheel about in the battle. Benjamin, having begun by killing about 30 men of Israel, thought; “Surely they are completely routed as before.” When the smoke signal began to rise from the city, Benjamin looked back and the whole city burning. Then Israel wheeled about, throwing the Benjaminites into confusion. Then the Benjaminites saw that they were defeated with disaster was closing on them. They retreated before Israel toward the wilderness, while the fighting pressed them. The ambushers of the city were spreading destruction. They surrounded Benjamin, pursued them from Nohah and drove them to a point east of Gibeah, where 18,000 Benjamin warriors fell. They fled into the wilderness toward the crag of Rimmon. The Israelites picked off 5,000 men on the trails and kept pace with them as far as Gidom, where they killed another 2,000. The total Benjaminites who died that day was 25,000 warriors, but 600 fled into the wilderness to the crag of Rimmon, where they remained for four months.

Then Israel turned back against the Benjaminites, killing the inhabitants of the cities, the livestock, and all they found. They burnt all the cities they found.

Ensuring a Future for Benjamin.

The men of Israel took an oath at Mizpah; “None of us will give his daughter in marriage to anyone from Benjamin.” So the people went to Bethel and remained there before Yahva until evening, raising their voices in bitter weeping. They said; “Lord of Israel, why has this happened in Israel that one tribe of Israel should be missing?” Early the next day the people built an altar there offering burnt offerings and communion offerings. Then the Israelites asked; “Are there any among the tribes of Israel who did not come to Yahva for the assembly?” A solemn oath was taken that anyone who did not go to Yahva at Mizpah should be killed.

The Israelites were disconsolate over their brother Benjamin saying; “Today one tribe has been cut off from Israel. What can we do about wives for the survivors, since we have sworn by Yahva not to give them any of our daughters?” When they asked; “Is there anyone among the tribes of Israel who did not come to Yahva in Mizpah?” they found that no one of Jabesh-gilead had come to the assembly. A roll call of the people was taken, and not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was present. The assembly sent 12,000 warriors with orders; “Go kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead: Every male and every woman who has had relations with a male shall be killed.” Finding in Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgin women, they brought them to Shiloh, in Canaan. The assembly sent word to the Benjaminites at the crag of Rimmon, offering them peace. Benjamin returned, and were given wives from the virgins of Jabesh-gilead who had been spared; but these were not enough for them.

The people regretted the breach between the tribes of Israel and Benjamin which Yahva had made. The assembly elders said; “How will the survivors have wives? The women of Benjamin have been killed. The survivors of Benjamin must have heirs so that the tribe will not be eradicated. Yet we cannot give them our daughters.” The Israelites had taken an oath; “Anyone who gives a wife to Benjamin shall be cursed!” Then they thought of the yearly feast to Yahva at Shiloh, north of Bethel, east of the trail that goes from Bethel to Shechem, then south of Lebonah. They told the Benjaminites; “Set an ambush in the vineyards. When you see the women of Shiloh come to join the dances, come out of the vineyards and steal a wife for each of you from the women of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we shall say to them, ‘Release them to us as a kindness, since we did not take a woman for every man in battle. Nor did you yourselves give your daughters to them, thus incurring guilt.’”

Each Benjaminite seized a wife from the dancers, and returned his heritage, where they rebuilt the cities and settled them. The Israelites dispersed to their own tribes and clans; each to his own heritage.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as they desired.



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