Judges 13-16 Samson, The Twelfth Judge.

All the saints in the bible are shown with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Samson, however, doesn’t convey much good, until the end, when in a pitiful and abject condition he makes a stand as much for himself as for the LORD. It is a depressing story. Yet, he is named in that great list of faithful witness bearers at Hebrews 11. If for no other reason, the LORD is showing that every moment there is hope of making a difference, even if it is with our last bit of strength and breath. For an entire generation, 40 years, the Philistines ruled over the covenanted nation. Into this context the LORD blesses a couple, in Manoah and his wife with a son, who was to be dedicated solely to the LORD’s service from birth.

Right away we expect something really special from one created and called by the LORD from his birth. One may think of Moses, or later Samuel, or Jeremiah, but Samson’s story is far different. The LORD did indeed use him to punish the Philistines, but the life he lived seems to be compromised at every turn. Whether it was his wife or Delilah, the debilitating effect of the women in his life leads one to think that he would have been better of remaining celibate. In our bibles we have four chapters covering him, but there seems little of import, except to be as an example not to follow, but for showing, again, that one can still end well. It is telling, that one may enjoy the benefits of being born into a covenant community, and fail miserably.

One gets the clear impression that what concerned the LORD the most was idolatry. He was given strength to tear down the pillars, because the Philistines had attributed their victory over Samson to their gods. This is perhaps another sobering lesson. Beyond the LORD’s concern for his own, there is always this overriding intention to rebuke idolatry wherever it is found. All our actions stem from whether we have covenantal fidelity, a faith that shows itself in love and loyalty to the LORD, and to one another. Many wonder at the relative emphasis placed upon Samson compared with Othniel, but it doesn’t seem to be a concern for the narrator(s). Warnings sometimes teach better than anything else.

Judges 12:8-15 Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon.

Again we find the so-called minor judges judging only, for there are no war narratives. It is said of Ibzan that he brought in thirty daughters for his sons in marriage, but it does not that they came from outside the covenant. He did however fail for having so many wives. He judged for seven years. Elon, however, judged for ten years, with no mention of many children, or any for that matter. Then comes Abdon, a Pirathonite, and if a foreigner the LORD again showed that he reigns through the insignificant ones. He judged for eight years. So altogether these three so-called minor judges, judged for 25 years, and it would seem the nation had rest.

Judges 11-12:7 Jephthah And His Daughter.

Once again the LORD raises up an insignificant outcast. Jephthah was cast out by his brothers because he was also the son of a prostitute. Of course they neglect to mention that it was their father who impregnated her because he failed his own daughter. I believe that the LORD raised up Jephthah to shame them. The elders accepted that the LORD had witnessed their desire for this castaway. The choosing of Jephthah by the people highlights what was their chief concern – one who proved himself militarily. However, Jephthah may have also been far more attuned spiritually than them as well, and hence the secret of his victories, for he vows to dedicate whatever would come out of his house to the LORD if he returned in victory, and he honoured this vow (30-31). He did not sacrifice his daughter as some suppose, but he dedicated her to the LORD’s service alone. Hence the reason why she would mourn her virginity, and not her death. We must also commend his daughter as well, for she agreed (39).

Only someone deeply immersed in the word, and in particular the history of the LORD’s deliverance of his people as they sought to possess the land, would have been able to recite the history which Jephthah recites. He is like the LORD’s prosecuting attorney against them, prior to their just defeat. They did not heed his words, words consonant with the scriptural testimony, and so they suffered for it (28). After the defeat of the foreign intruders Ephraim once again pipes up that they should have been enlisted in this battle, but this was only so that they could take credit away from the LORD, unlike Jephthah. Sadly, Jephthah’s reign was only for 6 years, but he was a blessed man, as was his daughter. He was not pure of course. It could be said that Jephthah was being rebuked by the LORD for his own desire to be their supreme ruler, for his only offspring would be consigned to virginity. Once again we see the ever increasing desire of the people to reject the LORD as their true King.

Judges 10 Tola, Jair, And The Continuing Sin Of Idolatry.

Tola is said to have saved Israel, without war. The so-called minor judges, other than Shamgar who had Deborah with him, saved Israel by judging righteously, without war. So also Jair, although he clearly had more than one wife, with 30 sons, and we are not told how many daughters. Again, after these two judges, Israel’s downfall is their idolatry. Now it is the pagans who are entering the promised land to execute the LORD’s judgment against them yet again. They cry out that they have sinned, but the LORD has heard this before. If they really repented they would destroy the idols and renew the covenant with ‘I AM’. Once again the LORD’s acts of deliverance are brought to their attention, showing what happens to the covenant people when they forget the sovereign LORD of history. However, they say again, with this rebuke, that they have sinned, and thus we have a double witness against themselves, in this matter of life and death. Despite their sinful desire for a king, like later with Saul, they had put away their idols, so the LORD will raise up Jephthah.

Judges 9 Abimelech, Jotham, The Shechemites, And A Woman Of Thebez.

I am amazed that I could complete a course with Dr. Waltke of Regent, and read commentaries that purport to understand the covenantal context of Judges, and none of them mention the significance of Jotham delivering his curses from Mt. Gerizim, the place where the law prescribed for the recitation of blessing. However, such is the significance of this whole narrative of Abimelech and Jotham. The nation, when they rebelled, nevertheless thought that they were entitled to blessing, including power and wealth, and the defeat of their enemies. However, the most significant point in their history was the fact that the LORD renewed his covenant with them, as per recorded in Deuteronomy, and as Moses concluded the fifth book of the Pentateuch, there would be blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience. We cannot confuse this with election, some of the elect also suffered in the nation, for the prevailing sin of the nation as a whole. Here, Abimelech massacre’s the 70 sons of Gideon, because he thought that this would solidify for him power and wealth, he would become Israel’s first king, and this is what the majority wanted.

The people desired a king like all the other nations, and as the LORD would reveal to Samuel, this was a rejection of Samuel the last of the judges, to usher in the reign of Saul. That we have OT professors who claim to understand the background of the law, and Deuteronomy in particular, miss this most important point is sad and pathetic. Today’s professors know less than the average protestant reformed layman. Waltke was disappointed with the biblical illiteracy of his students, but I am surprised at his! He should have treated the reformed heritage as more than a train stop in his chaotic academic journey. I guess refusing to state that the God created everything in the span of six days meant he couldn’t stay there. Shechem, where Joshua renewed the covenant (24), is the place where this conspiracy and rebellion finds root, so it was only fitting that Jotham, the only son of Gideon to survive the massacre, would deliver, as a prophet no less, his curses from Mt. Gerizim, for they had turned to warrior LORD of hosts against themselves. Their blood was now on their own heads.

Three years later, Jotham showed himself to be a true prophet when his predictions concerning Abimelech and the people of Shechem were fulfilled in their destroying each other, for the same selfish and rebellious reasons and motives. Applying the same principle of nepotism, one Gaal had the gall to think that one even closer to the people should be their king. It is interesting that the closer the people came to getting a king, the less area and people he would be a king of. However, Abimelech had an ally in Zebul, a man no one should trust. In any case, those who worshipped Baal berith (meaning ‘covenant’) would suffer the curses of the covenant as Jotham had prophesied. Abimelech thought that he could gain a victory over an otherwise innocent neighbour by repeating the plan to burn down their tower, but again a woman comes to the fore with more brains than him, and not a little bit f cunning and strength, for she kills him with a millstone, despite the actions of his armour bearer. The narrator’s opinion of theis narrative should be clear to all (9:56-57).

Judges 8:22-35 A Black Mark And Subsequent Fall.

As with nearly ever great leader of faith in the bible, their lives are not without blemish. Here Gideon sinned in acquiescing in the people’s desire for a king, and leadership by nepotism, instead of the LORD’s calling of faithful judges, as the law prescribed. The ephod represented a seeking out of the LORD’s will by his sovereign revelation, something which in this case Gideon did not do. Instead, like David, he had many wives through whom he had many sons, it would seem to install them as his successors, instead of seeking the LORD’s will in prayer for his successor. Not only this, but worst of all he had a son by an unbelieving concubine. So again, when Gideon passed, Israel again did evil, not only forgetting his past deeds, but also what he had done for them through Gideon.

Judges 7 – 8:3 The LORD Defeats The Midianites Through Gideon’s Leadership.

Here we have the central motif of the book, that God would give his people victory by the few and humble, “lest Israel claim glory for itself” (v. 2), and the LORD chose to so through Gideon. As for signs, this time it is the LORD who initiates the giving of a sign, being the Midianite’s dream and its interpretation (9-14). Gideon responded with worship, and obedience in leading the fight. With 300 the LORD proved that the victory was through him, and Gideon, a man of faith. The proud Ephramites, objected to Gideon not enlisting them, but they served only as a foil, proving the LORD’s words, that Israel was more prone to claim victory in themselves, than to give the glory to the LORD (8:1-3). On the war path the people of Succoth and Penuel refuse them sustenance for the battle and their journey, so they make good on their threat to punish them (vv. 4-21). Some amazingly argue that this was sinful vengeance on their part, rather than what it was, the LORD cursing those who cursed them. It is amazing how so-called exegetes can be oblivious to the wider covenantal scope of scripture!

Judges 6 Gideon – Mighty Man Of Valor.

There is an interesting note in the New Geneva Study Bible (to which Waltke and other contributed) which states the following. “Each major judge except for Othniel verbally acknowledges God’s control in Israel’s victory (4:14; 7:15; 11:21-30; 15:18; 16:28).” (337) This is odd for those who are so called pro-Judah, and hold up Othniel as the best example of a judge we have in the book! Chapter six begins by highlighting Israel’s desperate state, for again departing from the LORD. They planted but their enemies reaped. When they cry out to the LORD, again he sends them a prophet, someone who will deliver what was of first importance – his word. This prophet again reiterated the history of the LORD’s mighty acts of deliverance in their history (vv. 8-9). Their bondage was due to their not obeying his voice (v. 10). Into this context the LORD raised up Gideon (v. 11).

The Angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, which is not something that could be said of the previous judges. Gideon was smart in threshing grain in a winepress, because his enemies would have found him out otherwise. The one that some so-called exegetes call among the worst of the judges is addressed by the Angel of the LORD as a “mighty man of valor!” (v. 12) He appears to be one of the few who actually reflected back upon the nations history, and he immediately also acknowledges that the LORD had indeed forsaken them (v. 13). The LORD, we are told, turned to him, not just an angel. He delivers to Gideon a call, and tells him that he is being sent (v. 14). Then, in what is a central motif in the book, he states that he is the least in his fathers house, and his clan “is the weakest in Manasseh” (v. 15). This is an important admission on his part, for it is the book’s central motif.

Gideon seems to apprehend what those before him gave no direct mention of – God uses the least to shame those who think they are great, achieving victories in their own power. Waltke found it amazing that the Gideons named their organization after Gideon, but I am amazed that Waltke could miss something so central and obvious to this book, and indeed to the whole of salvation history, especially of the godly remnant seed! Through the godly leadership of Gideon they would fight “as one man” (v. 16). Many view Gideon’s desire to bring an “offering” as weak faith, but we are not told this. This could very well be Gideon’s desire to confirm that this was indeed the LORD speaking to him, and calling and sending him, which he rejoices in the confirmation (vv. 22-23). He then built an altar there to the LORD there, because now he knew it would not be idolatrous (v. 24).

Some suggest that Gideon was a coward in following the command of the LORD to tear down the Baal altar at night. However, although he did indeed fear, it is also true that the LORD in fact came to him at night, and the point is he obeyed, despite the fact that it was his father’s idol (vv. 25-27). This forced his father to decide that moment who he would fear the most, and so began those who followed Gideon, the ten servants and his father also. They could let Baal fight for himself, or they could go up against Gideon and the LORD. They chose wrongly! (vv. 28-33). “But the Spirit of the LORd came upon Gideon, and he again seeks confirmation of the word promised, which is given (34-40). Again, it seems odd that if this was a sinful act, that the LORD would indeed confirm the signs (plural)! Gideon indeed is showing himself to be a mighty man of valor, for with him the word confirmed takes precedence.

Judges 5 The Song Of Deborah.

 

Deborah as a minister of the word being a prophetess, and Barak as warrior, together occupy the offices which the other judges had in their one person. Here the two however sing together, as God intended (v. 1). Victory was inseparable from instruction and adherence to the law-word of the covenant. Two things were sought of the nation, which are the constant refrain of this book, leaders who would judge by the word, and fight for a complete victory, and a people who would “willingly offer themselves.” (v. 2). Then they would be blessed. Deborah, under inspiration of the Spirit recounts the history of the LORD delivering his people up to her present with the foreigner Shamgar, with her as judge concerning the word. It went all the way back to the covenant at Sinai (vv. 3-6). At the time when Deborah, Barak, and Shamgar came on the scene, the people were vagabonds, afraid to venture out on the highways and byways. It wasn’t until the word came through Deborah that they turned from their idols and then the LORD gave them victory (vv. 7-9).

They celebrated the new day when the LORD’s redemptive acts were again recited and judgment according to the law was to be found at the gates (vv. 10-11). Again, of the tribes extolled in this battle, Benjamin is mentioned but not Judah (vv. 12-15a). An argument could be made that the narrator(s) favoured Benjamin over Judah. The people would seek for a judge to be their king, preferable from Judah, but from him not even a judge would rise. As Jordan pointed out in his commentary on Judges, the descendants of Judah were forbidden from leadership for ten generations because they were bastards, which the law forbade (Dt. 23:2)! On the other hand, Rueben, Gilead, Dan, and Asher carried on with life as usual, refusing to fight with their brothers, but Zebulun “jeopardized their lives,” and “Naphtali also” (vv. 18). Deborah notes that it was the LORD overflowing the river Kishon that ultimately gave them their victory over the iron clad chariots they so much feared (v. 21). They were instruments of The LORD’s curse upon Meroz (vv. 22-23).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section X. 1

“All those whom God has predestined unto life,” immediately points to what is precedent to the issue of a gospel call, namely that before the foundation of the world, God who ‘dwells’ in eternity purposed to save some, the elect, and not others, the reprobate. This was predestined before time. It is a distinction to be made on a general call to all humanity, and that which may be defined by the adjective ‘effectual’. “And those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call (Rom. 8:30, 11:7; Eph. 1:10-11). Then, in the time he created, God chose and continues to choose, that specific moment in time to make the outward call effectual to the elect. To all others who hear but don’t respond in repentance and faith, the fruit of efficacious grace, he leaves to their own inexcusable condition. “By his word (which is heard by many), “and Spirit,” some, namely the elect, receive the regenerating work of the Spirit, which brings about repentance and faith (II Th. 2:13-14; II Cor. 3:3, 6).

These elect, God has taken “out of that state of sin and death in which they were by nature.” This simply affirms that all people are born in a state of sin and death, which we have by our union with Adam in that first covenant at the dawn of creation. Out of the mass of humanity, the elect are transferred to a state of “grace and salvation by Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:2; Eph. 2:2:1-5; II Tim. 1:9-10).” Here we see the Spirit’s ultimate focus, which he makes ours, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does he do this? He does this by “enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God (Acts 26:18; I Cor. 2:10-12; Eph. 1:17-18).” Here we learn that, although the Spirit may work on any “spiritually,” he only works “savingly to understand,” for the elect. “The things of God,” do here specifically pertain to the gospel. As part of regeneration, the Spirit must take “away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).” The Spirit must get to our core as persons, the heart of the matter.

It is only as the elect are given a new heart or core, that they may have a “renewing” of “their wills.” In other words, as noted in the last chapter, the will is not some kind of person within a person that is somehow less affected by sin, and can make a decision to accept the gospel, for which a heart of stone is completely incapable of on its own. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,* and this is no less the case when thinking of the will to act in repentance and faith. This God does, “by his almighty power determining them to that which is good (Dt. 30:6; Ezek. 11:19; 36:27; Phil. 2:13).” Here we have re-emphasized that any good to come from us, especially in the matter of our salvation, is only “by his almighty power.” It is by his power that he “effectually” draws the elect “to Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19); yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” What seems by some to be a unresolvable paradox, is perhaps only viewed as such because we are dull to how it is that God in fact predestines all things.

*(Ps. 14:1; Pr. 4:23; 10:11; 21:2; 24:12; Ezek. 11:21; 16:30; Mt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45).