Monday, April 1, 2013

More tales from Judges

I have been reading the book of Judges for about the last week. It is interesting, although, in spots, gruesome. In fact, the book started off in an unpleasant way, when the descendants of Judah and Simeon went to fight against the Canaanites and the Perizzites. In the battle, 10,000 men were killed. Not only that, the Israelites managed to capture the fleeing king, Adoni-Bezek. Apparently, he was a tyrant. He was tortured by having his thumbs and big toes cut off. Oddly enough, he wasn't angry about this gruesome action taken against him. He said that he deserved it because he had cut off the thumbs and big toes of seventy kings that he had subjugated.
And, speaking about the number seventy, there was a guy named Abimelech. This seems to be a common name in the Old Testament. In Genesis, Abram was traveling with his wife, Sarai, when they stopped in Schechem to stay for a while. The king there was Abimelech. Abram was afraid that he would be killed because his wife was so beautiful. To avoid an immediate demise, he told a lie by telling Abimelech that Sarai was his sister. Years later, Isaac, the son of Abraham (formerly known as Abram), told exactly the same lie to Abimelech for exactly the same reason. He was afraid that, if anyone knew that Rebekah was his wife, he would be killed. Rebekah was beautiful. In both instances, disaster struck Abimelech and his people because of Abram's and Isaac's lies.
Well, centuries have passed. This new Abimelech was the son of an Israelite judge, Gideon, and a concubine. Therefore, he was illegitimate. Gideon had been a busy man. He won a battle against the Midianites, with 300 men, who were equipped with trumpets, pitchers, and torches. So, anyway, when Gideon wasn't leading his troops, he was busy with family. He had a number of wives. With those wives, he had seventy sons. He also had Abimelech with a concubine.
When Gideon passed away, Abimelech decided that he wanted to be a king. There was only one problem. Or there were seventy problems. They had more of a legitimate claim on the throne than did Abimelech. So Abimelech decided to get rid of those seventy problems permanently. He killed all of his brothers. Then he became the king. After three years, he was assassinated, and, thus, his kingly days came to a halt.
There are numerous incidents of sibling rivalry in the Bible, but this takes sibling rivalry to a new, disgusting extreme.
One of the more interesting characters in Judges is Deborah. She was married to a man named Lappidoth, but she didn't gain her fame or position because of anything that her husband did. Deborah was a prophetess and a judge. She is the first woman to be mentioned in the Bible in the role of a leader. She was described as a wife and a prophetess. She was not a military leader. When she needed a military leader, she called on Barak. He was called on to destroy the Canaanites. But he refused to go alone, and he insisted that Deborah had to accompany him, and she did so. Nevertheless, Barak's victory against King Hazar (the Canaanite king) was impressive and it led to good times for the Israelites. They experienced forty years of peace, under the leadership of Deborah. She was a quiet woman who served God. She was not mean or dominating. She simply was a wife and a prophetess and a good judge. She was considered to be pious and a woman of great wisdom.
And she was rare... a woman who led her people during a time when women rarely, if ever, held that role.
Check out this link for a picture of Deborah
The painting was made in 1901 by Charles Landelle (1821-1908). He was a French painter, who had a variety of specialties, including "orientalist." Here is more information about Charles Landelle
Next time: Samson and Delila!

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