Judges Chapter 19

During the period of judges in Israel, the people were without kings and generally without prophets. As the Lord’s people, they were expected to live righteously by following the laws given to them by God. If they would follow God’s law, they would receive blessings and protection. If they did not, the Lord would allow bondage and greater trials to come upon them. This chapter begins as follows:

1 And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah.
2 And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Beth-lehem-judah, and was there four whole months.
3 And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.
4 And his father in law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.

A Levite, who was from the side of mount Ephraim, had a concubine. His concubine left her husband and committed adultery. She went to the home of her father and lived there for four months. The Levite went to her father’s house to bring her back, and when he arrived there, his father-in-law was pleased to see him. The father-in-law kept him there as a guest for three days.

5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel’s father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way.
6 And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel’s father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry.
7 And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again.
8 And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel’s father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them.
9 And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel’s father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.
10 But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him.
11 And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it.
12 And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah.
13 And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah.
14 And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.
15 And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.

They stayed for a meal on the forth day, because the father begged him to stay. Then the father-in-law asked him to stay again, because he wanted the Levite to be content. He asked him to remain again on the fifth day, so they stayed for a good part of the day. The father-in-law asked him to stay again, but the man refused and went on his way. They stopped in Jebus, but the Levite would not stay there because it was not an Israelite city. The Levite decided they would continue on to Gibeah, of the tribe of Benjamin, and stay there. When they arrived, they did not have a place to stay, so they sat in the street.

16 And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites.
17 And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou?
18 And he said unto him, We are passing from Beth-lehem-judah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Beth-lehem-judah, but I am now going to the house of the Lord; and there is no man that receiveth me to house.
19 Yet there is both straw and provender for our asses; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing.
20 And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street.
21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the asses: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.

An old man, who was also from mount Ephraim, but lived in Gibeah, saw the man in the street and asked him where he was coming from and where he was going. The Levite told him they were returning to mount Ephraim, where they were from, from Beth-lehem-judah. The Levite was returning to the house of the Lord. He told him that no one would give them a place to stay for the night. The man asked them to stay with him for the night.

22 Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.
23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.
24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.
25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.
26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light.
27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.
28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.

As they were in the home, merrily eating and drinking, the sons of Belial encircled the house and came asking for the man that had entered the old man’s home. They planned to abuse the man. The old man begged for the men not to do this wicked thing to his guest. Instead, the old man offered his daughter and the Levite’s concubine to the men. The men would not listen to the old man, so the Levite gave them his concubine. The men of the city abused the concubine all night and then let her go the next morning. She went back to the old man’s house, to her husband. When the Levite went to leave, he saw her on the ground. He told her to get up, but she did not answer him, because she had died. He lifted her body onto a donkey and he left with her.

29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.
30 And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.

He brought her to his home, cut her into twelve pieces and sent them to each of the tribes of Israel. Those who witnessed it, said that nothing like it had been done in Israel since they had come out of Egypt.

The people of Benjamin, specifically in the city of Gibeah, had become a wicked and perverse people. This way of coming after a visitor or stranger, to abuse them and have their way with them, was truly wicked. It reminds me of the things that happened to Lot in the city of Sodom, just before the Lord destroyed the entire city for its wickedness. I think that the wickedness of the people of Gibeah, was likely the result of allowing other nations to remain in the area of Benjamin when they had been given instruction to destroy the nations in the land. This is quite possibly the outcome of other nations being an influence on the Israelites.

There are places in the world today, which are set apart by the world for unrighteous and unholy activities. There are men and women in the world who are like the men of Gibeah and Sodom, who sought wicked ways to find pleasure. These types of places and people can influence our own lives in negative ways. This is why we need to be watchful always. I don’t think that the men of Gibeah were influenced to do this wickedness over night, but that over time they were lulled into this behavior. At one time, the men of Gibeah had been blessed people of the Lord. The world had influenced them. The idea that the righteous of the world need to change their ways to be more accepting of the behavior of others, is how this influence starts. If, at first, we think that the choices of others will never effect us and we begin to allow things to happen willingly around us, it will not be long before we are expected to accept that wickedness as a way of life, to condone it in the lives of others, and then even begin to allow it into our own lives. Those who desire to be disciples of Christ and righteous people of God, must stand for what is right and shun those things they know to be against the commandments of God. Our covenants and promises to God, are more important than pleasing men.

Judges Chapter 18

In the last chapter of Judges, we read about a man named Micah, who had a house of idols. He had also consecrated his own priests, including his son and a Levite. The book of Judges continues as follows:

1 In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.
2 And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there.
3 When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here?
4 And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest.
5 And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.
6 And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the Lord is your way wherein ye go.

At this point in time, the tribe of Dan had need of an inheritance in Israel. Since there was no king in Israel for them to approach about it, they went seeking for their inheritance on their own. Five men of valor eventually came to mount Ephraim where Micah lived. They found the Levite there, and recognized him. They asked how he came to be there and he told them that Micah had made him his priest. Being a priest, they asked him to ask God where they could find land. He told them to go on in peace, possibly directing them, and it sounds like he gave them the blessing of the Lord.

7 Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.
8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?
9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.
10 When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.

The men went to Laish, where the people lived a separated, quiet life, without a magistrate to lead them and tell them if how they lived was right or wrong. They went back to their tribe in Zorah and Eshtaol and told them to come with them to take the good land and possess it. They told them that they would find a good land where they would not want for anything in the earth.

11 And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war.
12 And they went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjath-jearim.
13 And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah.

The Danites sent out 600 men of war and went to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah.

14 Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim, and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.
15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him.
16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate.
17 And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war.
18 And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the priest unto them, What do ye?
19 And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel?
20 And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.
21 So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them.

The five who had seen the land already, told their brothers that Micah had treasures and idols. The army went to the house of Micah and waited at the gate. The five spies took the treasures and idols. The priest came to the Danites and asked what they were doing, and they told him to quietly go with them to be the priest to the entire tribe of Dan instead of being the priest to one man. He was glad for their offer and went with them.

22 And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan.
23 And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?
24 And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee?
25 And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household.
26 And the children of Dan went their way: and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.
27 And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire.
28 And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Beth-rehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein.
29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.

After the priest had left with men of their tribe, the neighbors of Micah gathered together and caught the men of Dan. The men of Dan asked why Micah brought the gathering after them. Micah said they had taken his idols and his priests, which were all he had. They warned Micah that if he did not remain quiet, he might be killed by angry men, along with his household. The men of Dan continued their leave, and Micah, knowing that they were greater in power than he was, returned to his house. The men of Dan went on to the land of Laish and destroyed the city. Because the people there had separated themselves, they had no rescue. This became the city of Dan.

30 And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.
31 And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

The Danites set up idolatry in the city of Dan, with the idols they had taken from Micah. They also set up the sons of Jonathan as the priests. These remained during the time that the tabernacle remained in Shiloh.

The thing that I think about the most in this chapter, and the previous chapter, is the description of the time they lived in. It was a time without a king. It was a time when each man, or each family, did what was best for themselves, with no one to lead them. It seems that in addition to it being a time without a king, it was possibly a time without a prophet. I wonder if the reason that the Lord left them without a prophet or king, for so long, was because the people had their hearts drawn so far from him. The Israelites had been promised great blessings if they would remember the Lord and keep His commandments. They had become a wicked and idolatrous people. In general, the traditions of their fathers had led them away from the Lord. I can’t help but imagine that a time without leadership and without the blessings of the Lord, would have been a confusing time. I am very grateful to live in a time when the gospel is available on the earth. I am grateful to live in circumstances where the commandments of God can be known and followed. I feel so blessed to have a prophet of God on the earth today. I know that following guidance and commandments from the Lord, through His holy prophets, I can be truly happy and my family will be blessed.

Judges Chapter 17

There had been several judges who had led Israel since the time of Joshua’s death. The Israelites were in bondage to the Philistines. They had been led by Samson, who sacrificed his own life in captivity among the Philistine leaders, in order to destroy them. The time of Israelite judges continues with the following:

1 And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my son.
3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.
4 Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah.
5 And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.
6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Micah was an Ephraimite, who had taken silver shekels from his mother. He repented and returned them to her. She told him that she had wanted to dedicate them to the Lord for Micah, and had the plan to make an image with them. She tried to give it to him, but he returned it to her. She took them and had them made into a graven image for their household. Micah had a house of false gods and consecrated his own priests, including his son.

At this time, all of Israel was living according to their own desires. They did right by themselves and did not live under one ruler. A nation does not become unified by this kind of lawlessness. If they had lived as a nation devoted to the Lord, they would have been given the direction needed to be one and do what was right by God; not that which was right according to individual men.

7 And there was a young man out of Beth-lehem-judah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
8 And the man departed out of the city from Beth-lehem-judah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.
9 And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Beth-lehem-judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place.
10 And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.
11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons.
12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.
13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.

A Levite of the tribe of Judah, journeyed to the house of Micah from Beth-lehem-judah. As a Levite, he had no inheritance, and he was looking for a place to live. Micah offered his home if he would be his priest. Micah offered to pay him and provide food and clothing to him. The Levite accepted and was content living there. Michah treated him as family and consecrated him as a priest for his family. Micah felt he would please the Lord, by having a Levite for his priest.

The Levites had a right and obligation to become priests in Israel, though I think if he had been living as a priest to the Lord, he would have been serving in the tabernacle. It appears to me, to be an issue of consecrating false priests for his worship of false gods. This is a case of one trying to do what was right, in all the wrong ways. The Lord had established one way with many specific rules and great blessings connected with that singular plan. This path that Micah had chosen, was not going to bring him the blessings of the Lord. In our day, there is also only one path that the Lord has given us. We are to follow the example and teachings of the Son of God, even Jesus, and that is the one path that will bring us closer to God. There will be many other ways that we could choose to live and many that may seem good on the surface, but only the one path will lead us to return to live with God and receive of the greatest blessings he has to offer.

Judges Chapter 16

Samson was a judge in Israel, who had been raised by his parents, as a Nazarite. He had made covenants with God, and had been blessed with mighty strength as a gift of the spirit. His strength had already brought Israel, the beginnings of deliverance from the bondage of the Philistines. However, Samson had broken most of his covenants with the unrighteous choices he had made. The story of Samson continues:

1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
2 And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him.
3 And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.

Samson saw a harlot in Gaza, and went to be with her. Again, his weaknesses got the better of him, and he went against his covenants by doing this. The people of Gaza learned that Samson was there, and encompassed him in the city, with the intent to kill him the next morning. Samson got up at midnight, and carried away the doors of the gate of Gaza, carrying them up the hill.

4 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.
5 And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.

Samson came to love a woman named Delilah, and when the Philistine lords learned of it, they went to her and told her to entice him into telling them how he had his strength. They wanted to be able to take him, bind him and afflict him, which I’m guessing would have been to torture him. For her part, they were willing to pay Delilah 1,100 pieces of silver each.

6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.
7 And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man.
8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them.
9 Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire. So his strength was not known.
10 And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.
11 And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man.
12 Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber. And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.
13 And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.
14 And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.

Delilah asked Samson straight out, what his weakness in his strength was, so that they could bind him. Samson lied and said that he would be weak if he was bound with seven green undried withs, or new cords. She told the Philistines and the lords brought her the withs to bind him. The men waited to grab him, and she told him that the Philistines were there to take him. He broke the bands, so they did not truly know where his strength was. Delilah asked again, and he lied again by saying that he would be weak if they used new ropes to bind him. She tied him with new ropes and told him the men were there to attack him. Once again, he broke the ropes without any difficulty. For a third time, she asked how he had his strength, and he lied again and told her he would be weak if sheave weaved a web, of the loom, into seven locks of his hair. She did it and once it was fastened, she told him the Philistines were there, and he left with his hair still fastened.

15 And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.
16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand.
19 And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.

Delilah enticed Samson by telling him if he loved her, he would tell her instead of not being honest with her. Finally, he gave in, just as he had with his first wife, and he told her that his strength would be gone if his head was shaved, because he was a Nazarite. She could tell that he was being honest with her this time. She told the Philistines and then made Samson fall asleep on her lap. As he slept, a man shaved seven locks of his hair. He became weak and she woke him with news of the Philistines again. He thought he would be able to escape them as he had before because he had not realized that his gift of strength had left him.

I get the impression that Samsom may have thought his strength had more to do with himself then strictly with the Lord and his covenant. It is as if he knew in his mind that he was to keep his hair for his covenant, but he did not understand in his heart, that his strength truly came from the Lord.

21 But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.
22 Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.
23 Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.
24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.
25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.
26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.
27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.
28 And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
31 Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.

The Philistines grabbed him and blinded him, then they took him to Gaza, bound him and put him in prison. His hair began to grow again. When the Philistines gathered together to sacrifice to their god and celebrate that Samson had been captured, they brought him out of the prison to mock him. They put him between the pillars. Samson asked the boy who brought him there, to allow him to feel the pillars of the house. The house was full of 3,000 Philistines there, including the lords. Samson prayed to the Lord, that he might be avenged for loosing his sight, by regaining his strength for just that one moment. He grabbed the two pillars, one in each hand and then pulled on them with all his might. The Lord gave him strength and the house fell on all who were inside, killing himself and 3,000 others. His family went down to gaza and took his body to bury him. He had judged Israel for 22 years.

This story is not far from reality for the life of anyone who would choose to make covenants with the Lord. Whether we choose to believe it or not, the moment we step foot on the path of discipleship, we begin to have an enemy who desires to bind us. There are many who lie in wait, for us to make a mistake. The army of the adversary encircles our homes and sends things in to entice us. They will never tire, but will be persistent in their attempts to reveal our weaknesses. We must remain strong, and when we make mistakes, we need to be quick to repent and rely on the strength of the Lord.

It is interesting to see that over the course of his adult life, Samson did several things to go against the covenant of a Nazarite, but it was not until he had gone against the entire covenant, that his strength was removed from him. He had been blessed with physical strength, but did not seem to be strong in character. I wonder, if he had been faithful to his covenants, would he have been a man of character strength as well? Samson’s weakness was not loosing his strength, but giving in to the temptations of his life, including finally, giving in to the enticements of Delilah, when I am sure he knew it might put him against the standards of the Lord. In Doctrine and Covenants 3:4, we read, “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.” The Lord blesses each of us with talents and gifts, just as He blessed Samson. If we live up to the promises and covenants we make with the Lord, we will be blessed with greater gifts as well. If we choose to live only a portion of our covenants, or if we choose not recognize the hand of the Lord in our ability to use those gifts, we will be missing out on the full measure of blessings that the Lord has in store for us. There will eventually come a time, when those who choose the path of disobedience, as Samson did, will indeed receive justice for their choices.

Judges Chapter 15

Samson had been raised as a Nazarite by his parents, with the hopes in helping to deliver Israel from bondage. This was the promise from the Lord, before he had been born, if he would remain faithful to his covenants. After he was married out of the covenant, he was deceived by his philistine wife, and had left her. His story continues:

1 But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in.
2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her.

Samson returned to his wife some time later, but her father had given her to the old companion of Samson. His father-in-law offered his younger daughter to Samson.

3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.
4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.
5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.

Samson felt he could go against the Philistines, with reason, and would be blameless in his retribution. He burned the crops of the Philistines. I don’t think that he would have truly been blameless here. He was angry at what had been done to him, so he destroyed their property out of vengeance.

6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.

The Philistines worked out that Samson had burned their crops, because his father-in-law had given his wife away. They took the wife of Samson, and her father, or her father’s house, and burned them with fire.

7 And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.

Samson declared to them that he would avenge them, and it sounds like he destroyed the Philistines who had killed his wife. Then he went to the rock Etam to dwell. I don’t think Samson was going to hold on to any additional grudges against the Philistines, but did what he thought was fair retribution for what was taken from him.

9 Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.
10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us.
11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.
12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.
13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.

The Philistines gathered in the land of Judah, to go against Samson for what he had done to their people. 3,000 men of Judah went to Samson in Etam, asking why he had gone against the Philistines who ruled over them. He told them that he had reason to, after what the Philistines had done to him. The men of Judah told Samson that they intended on taking him, bound, to the Philistines. Samson had the men swear that they would not attack him or kill him themselves. They agreed and took Samson down from Etam, bound with new cords.

14 And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.
15 And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramath-lehi.

As he was brought into Lehi, where the Philistines waited, the Philistines shouted at him. The gift of strength from the Spirit of the Lord gave Samson the ability to loose himself from the bands. He found the jawbone of an ass and used it to kill a thousand Philistines. When he was done, he threw the jawbone away from himself. Considering his vow as a nazarite, which included not touching any carcass, I wonder about the choice in his weapon. Additionally, he was not told by the Lord to go and kill these Philistine men. Rather, he killed them for what had been done to him before. I think it might have been another case of not really living the covenant.

18 And he was sore athirst, and called on the Lord, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?
19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof En-hakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.
20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

Samson felt he would die from thirst, so he pleaded with the Lord to help him so that he would fall into the hands of his enemies. God split a hollow, or a basin as the footnote says, and water came out for Samson to drink. Then he was no longer weak from thirst. He became the judge of Israel for twenty years, during the time when the Philistines ruled over them.

Even with the many times that Samson had not lived up to a lot of the covenant of a nazarite, the Lord continued to allow him to have the gift of strength. The Lord is long-suffering with our choices of disobedience. He will give us the opportunities we need to repent and return to Him, but eventually there will come a time, when the Lord will have to let the consequences of our own actions determine the blessings we have. This time for Samson, would come in the next chapter.

Judges Chapter 14

Samson was born and raised as a Nazarite. He was a man of covenant with the Lord, who had been blessed with spiritual gifts in order to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. The story of Samson continues in this chapter as follows:

1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.
3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Samson had grown up and at one point traveled to Timnath, where he saw one of the Philistine women, who he wanted for a wife. His parents pleaded with him to choose a wife from the Israelites, who were the covenant people, but Samson wanted her. According to verse 4, the Lord had allowed Samson to become interested in the daughter of the Philistines, in order to use it against the Philistines. I think this verse could also be interpreted that Samson felt it was his duty to become closer to the Philistines which ruled over the Israelites, in order to fulfill the purposes of the Lord. Up to this point, there is nothing to go against the idea that Samson was living according to his covenants and that indeed, the spirit was persuading him to choose this woman for his wife because it would mean the eventual deliverance of Israel. The only issue, is that in seeking after a Philistine woman, he was preparing to go against his own covenants as a Nazarite.

5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him.
6 And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.
7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.

Samson and his parents, traveled to Timnath, where a young lion came against Samson. Samson was blessed by the spirit, with great strength to kill the lion with his bare hands. He told his parents what had happened. Then, he went and talked to the woman whom he desired to marry.

I don’t think I have ever thought of physical strength as a gift of the spirit, but in this case it was. Gifts of the spirit can be either of a physical nature or a spiritual nature. For example, a physical gift of the spirit is a talent to play beautiful music, where a gift of the spirit would be something like the gift of discernment. His gift needed to be a physical strength, so that he would be able to help deliver Israel from a physical bondage.

8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.
9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.

Some time passed, and he returned to Timnath to take her to be his wife. He went to see the carcass of the lion he had previously killed, and saw a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass. Samson ate of the honey and took some to his parents to eat. He did not tell his parents where the honey had come from. This was another example of Samson going against the covenants of a nazarite. They were not to touch any carcass, not even if it was a member of his own family. He broke his covenant with this choice.

10 So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.
11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.

Manoah, the father of Samson, went to get the woman. Samson had a feast, which was the tradition. 30 men of the philistines, were brought to him, to be companions of Samson.

12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments:
13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.
14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.
15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so?
16 And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee?
17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people.
18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

Samson told the men a riddle and challenged them, that if they could answer it correctly in seven days of the feast, he would give them garments. If they could not answer it, he told them they were to give him garments. I think this was like placing a bet with these men. He gave them his riddle and after three days they had not been able to answer it. By the seventh day, they went to Samson’s new wife and threatened her to use her power of persuasion with him to learn the answer, or they would burn her home and her father’s home. She went to Samsom and cried to him, that if he loved her he would have told her the answer to his riddle. Samson told her that he had told no one the answer, not even his own parents. She begged him for the remainder of the days of feasting, and he eventually gave in and told her the answer. She told the men the answer. Then just before the challenge was lost by the Philistines, they answered the riddle, and Samson knew it was because he had been deceived by his wife.

19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house.
20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

Because he was deceived, Samson used the gift of strength that came upon him by the spirit, went to the placed called Ashkelon, and killed 30 Philistines, taking spoil from them. He gave the garments to those that had answered the riddle. He was angry and left to return to his father’s house. His wife was then given to his companion and friend.

Again, Samson broke his covenant as a Nazarite, by seeking revenge against those who had wronged him. He was not using his God-given gift of strength to do good. When we are blessed with gifts from the spirit, in the form of physical or spiritual gifts, we are being given the opportunity to do greater things. These gifts can help us to further the work of the Lord on the earth, if we choose to develop and use them in this way. Samson may have been blessed by God with his strength, but he was not following the counsel of the angel who visited his parents before they conceived him. His choices would not lead to good things for him. Likewise, if we fail to use our own gifts for good, they will not bring us blessings. If we use and develop them as God would want us to, we will be able to bless our own lives, as well as the lives of those around us.

Judges Chapter 13

During the time of judges in Israel, men were chosen and raised up to deliver the people and lead them in their battles with other nations. The Israelites repeatedly returned to idolatry and wickedness when these judges died. Consistently, the result was that the Lord allowed them to fall into the hands of their enemies. This cycle would eventually lead them to remember the Lord and repent of their wickedness. When they had repented and turned back to God, He would deliver them from their enemies by raising another judge. This cycle continues in this chapter, which begins:

1 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.

This time, the Israelites were in bondage to the Philistines for 40 years, because they returned to wickedness.

2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.
3 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, could not have any children because his wife was barren. An angel came to his wife and told here that even though she could not have any children, she would be blessed to have a son. She was commanded to abstain from drinking wine or eating those things that were considered unclean. Then, when her son was born, she was to raise him wholly dedicated to the Lord. Her son was to be a Nazarite, or a consecrated man, who would never drink wine or cut his hair. The angel promised that her son would deliver Israel from the Philistines.

6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name:
7 But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.

She told Manoah of the angel and what he had told her would happen to her.

8 Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.
9 And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her.
10 And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day.
11 And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am.
12 And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?
13 And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware.
14 She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.

Manoah prayed to the Lord, that the man would come again to teach them how to raise the child they were to have. This showed his faith in the words of his wife, and his willingness to accept this calling from the Lord. The angel came again to his wife as she was in the field. She ran to get Manoah, and together they went to the angel. Manoah accepted the calling and asked what they should do for the child. The angel told them to do as his wife had already been commanded.

15 And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee.
16 And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the Lord. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the Lord.
17 And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour?
18 And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?
19 So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the Lord: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.
20 For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.
21 But the angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord.
22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.
23 But his wife said unto him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.

Manoah asked the man, not knowing he was an angel, to stay with them until he could prepare a meal for him, or possibly to make a sacrifice in his name. The angel told him that he would stay, but would not eat. He told him to make his offering to the Lord. Manoah asked the angel of his name, so that they could honor him when the promise to them was fulfilled. The angel would not tell them his name and told them it was secret. Manoah made the offering to the Lord, and as they watched the flame rise, the angel ascended in the flame. Then Manoah and his wife realized that he was more than man, but was an angel of the Lord, and they fell down to worship the Lord. Monoah expected that they should die for seeing the Lord, but his wife told him that the Lord had accepted their offering and made them these promises, so she knew they would not die for seeing what they had seen.

24 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.
25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

The wife of Manoah had the child and called him Samson. He was blessed by the Lord and was moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord. The manual I am reading along with my study, says that this was a reference to spiritual gifts being given to Samson, not that he had the spirit with him. Gifts of the spirit are given to every man. In Doctrine and Covenants 46:11, we read, “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.” At times, gifts of the spirit were bestowed upon Samson, which probably put him in a better position to become the man of strength which he would later need to be.

What a huge blessing it would have been for the wife of Manoah, to be allowed to have a child, knowing that she was not able to have any. This experience of being visited by an angel to deliver this message is beyond my imagination. While, I could not fully understand the glory of this experience, I think it should cause us to reflect on the story of the Savior, who like Samson, was to be conceived and raised as a child wholly dedicated to God, so that he could deliver others from bondage. While Samson was to begin the deliverance of Israel at that time, the Savior, Jesus the Christ, was to make possible the deliverance of all mankind, in all the history of the world. What a blessing it must have been to be the parents of Samson, who were privileged to raise a child that had the potential to be completely devoted to the Lord and become a great blessing for the house of Israel.

Judges Chapter 12

Jephthah was a mighty man, who was raised to be a judge in Israel. He had led the Israelites to victory over the children of Ammon. He recognized the Lord’s hand in causing them to be victorious in battle. The story of Jephthah continues in this chapter.

1 And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire.
2 And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands.
3 And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me?
4 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.
5 And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;
6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.
7 And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.

The men of the tribe of Ephraim, were offended by Jephthah because he had not gathered them to fight against the Ammonites. They threatened to destroy his house. Jephthah reminded the men of Ephraim, that they had not given them aid when the Ammonites had been causing them strife. Instead, he had to take control and fight the battle without their help. The men of Gilead gathered with Jephthah, to fight against the men of Ephraim. Gilead struck at the Ephraimites, which called them fugitives of the people of Ephram and Manasseh. Then the men of Gilead went on to the passages of Jordan and blocked the path. If an Ephramite came, they asked if he was an Ephramite. If he said no, they told him to say the word or language of Shibboleth. He would not speak correctly, so they would kill him. They killed 42,000 men of Ephraim in this manner. Jephthah was the judge over Israel for six years before he died.

8 And after him Ibzan of Beth-lehem judged Israel.
9 And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.
10 Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Beth-lehem.
11 And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years.
12 And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun.

Following the death of Jephthah, Ibzan judged Isreal. He had 30 sons and 30 daughters. He sent his 30 daughters off to be married, and took in 30 women for his sons. He was the judge for seven years. Then, a man named Elon judged Israel for ten years.

13 And after him Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel.
14 And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years.
15 And Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died, and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites.

A Pirathonite, of Ephraim, called Abdon, was the next judge of Israel for eight years. He had 40 sons and according to the footnote, 30 grandsons, who, it would seem, ruled with him in Israel.

This story of Jephthah and the people of Ephraim is an example which shows that Israel was not one united nation. They were twelve tribes who descended from the same family, but who were separated at this point. They refused to help one another in times of great need, which led them to fight each other. The nation of Israel would not be a strong nation, if they continued to live like this. If they had chosen to follow the Lord with all their hearts, the Lord could have brought them together as the strongest nation. This principle applies to people today, and it can be easily seen in the family unit. When we unite as a family, strong in the gospel of Christ, we can have the strength to get through any trial and face any temptation. If we are not united and choose to focus on our personal needs and desires rather than the needs of other family members, we can become weak as a whole and will likely be effected badly when difficulties arise. Our families need the strength that comes from gathering together in righteousness and love. This is the blessing that comes to those who strive to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Judges Chapter 11

The Ammonites gathered against the people of Israel and had been oppressing the people in Gilead about 18 years. The people of Israel had repented and returned to the Lord with a plea for deliverance from their enemy. The people of Gilead tried to decide who could lead them in their fight against the Ammonites. This chapter begins:

1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of an harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah.
2 And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman.
3 Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him.

Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a harlot. The other sons of Gilead, born of his wife, had cast Jephthah out from among them. They did not want him to gain any part of their inheritance, because of his mother. Jephtah fled to the land of Tob. Men of the world gathered together with him.

4 And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.
5 And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob:
6 And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon.
7 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?
8 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.
9 And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be your head?
10 And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words.
11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh.

When the Ammonites came against the Israelites, the elders of Gilead went to find Jephtah in Tob. They asked him to be the captain of their army, I am thinking because he is described of being a mighty man of valor, or great courage. Knowing they had cast him out, he asked why they came to him now in their distress. They needed him, so they offered him the position to lead the army and then to become their leader in Gilead. He made an agreement with them, that if the Lord did indeed deliver the Ammonites into their hands through his leadership, he was to be their leader. The elders made an oath with him, with the Lord as their witness, so Jephtah agreed and became their leader. I think that if the men of Ammon were delivered by the hand of the Lord, that would have been proof to the people of Gilead, that Jephtah was chosen by the Lord to lead the Israelites.

Just as the men of Gilead had done to Jephthah, sometimes we cast out the Lord from our lives, and we return to Him only when we are also in distress. The Lord also expects that He will then be our leader, as He is the one who delivers us from our own bondage. The Lord would lead Jehpthah to help His people, Israel.

12 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land?
13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.
14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon:
15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:
16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh;
17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
18 Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab.
19 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.
20 But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel.
21 And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.
22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.
23 So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?
24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.
25 And now art thou any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them,
26 While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time?
27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon.
28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.

Jephthah sent messengers to ask the king of the Ammonites why they had come against them. The king said that his land had been taken by the Israelites when they came from Egypt, and he wanted them back. He told Jephthah to return the land peacefully. Jephthah told the king that the Israelites had not taken any of the land from them, but that when they had tried to pass through the land in the wanderings, the kings of Edom and Moab would not allow them to pass through in peace. The Israelites had been forced to go around the land instead, and when they came to the land of Arnon in Moab, they tried again to pass peaceably through the land of the Amorites, but the king raised up an army against Israel. Jephthah told them that the Lord delivered Sihon and his people into the hands of the Israelites, and they then gained possession of the land of the Amorites. It was the Lord who had given them the land for their possession, which the men of Ammon now wanted to possess. He asked them if their god, Chemosh, had given them a land of possession, wouldn’t they have possessed it. Whatever land was given to the Israelites by the Lord, they would take that land as their possession. Jephthah asked the king if he thought they were better off than Balak, the king of Moab, who had fought against Israel, and whose people had not been able to gain the land. Jephthah told him that the Israelites were innocent against them and the Lord would judge between the Ammonites, if their king would not listen to the words he sent him.

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.

Jephthah and his men, came up against the Ammonites through Gilead. Jephthah made a vow with the Lord, that if the Lord would deliver the Ammonites into his hand, that he would sacrifice to the Lord, whatever came out of his own house to meet him when he returned home. I don’t know why he felt the need to make such a strong vow to the Lord, no knowing what would come out to meet him when he returned. My only thought was that in other nations at the time, many people sacrificed people and things to their false gods, for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps this line of reasoning had influenced him. According to these verses, he was already being blessed with the spirit of the Lord. Sometimes we do and say things without thinking them through first, allowing the spirit to help us discern properly, and in this case, I don’t think that this was going to work out well.

32 So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands.
33 And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

Jephthah went forward in faith, to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. He defeated Ammon with a very great slaughter.

34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.
36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
37 And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.
38 And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,
40 That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

When Jephthah returned to his own home, his only daughter, which was his only child, came out to welcome him home. He rent his clothing when he realized what had been done. He could not go back on the vow he had made with the Lord. She told him to keep his vow with the Lord, because the Lord had destroyed their enemy. She asked him first, to allow her two months to go into the mountains to mourn her virginity, which he did. She returned after two months of mourning, and he sacrificed her, as he had promised. After that, the women of Israel lamented for her for four days of the year.

The Lord had commanded the Israelites, not to make thoughtless oaths. Vows are not to be taken lightly, especially with the Lord. God will keep promises and will justly expect us to keep them as well. Jephthah knew he had to keep his vow since the Lord had fulfilled His end of it. His daughter was a woman of faith, who recognized the importance of keeping promises with the Lord, and valued that more than her own life. I am sure that the realization of what he had done, remained with Jephthah from that time on. We do not want to have such regrets in our own lives. We should make the promises to the Lord, which we have been asked to make, and never swear by the heavens for other things. God will bless us for our faith and courage, without thoughtless promises.

Judges Chapter 10

This period in the Israelites history, was a time when judges were raised to lead Israel. The last judge was Gideon, who led the Israelites to peace from the enemies. Gideon mistakenly led the people to the path of idolatry, through the creation of some kind of idol. At his death, one of his sons desired to become ruler of Israel. Through secret combinations and persuasion, he was made king of Israel. He ruled in wickedness for around three years and then was killed in a fight with his own people. This chapter begins:

1 And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim.
2 And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.

For 23 years, a man named Tola, judged Israel. Nothing more is said here, so it would seem that they lived in some amount of peace, at least from external enemies.

3 And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years.
4 And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havoth-jair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead.
5 And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.

The next judge was Jair. He led them for 22 years. His 30 sons lived an elevated lifestyle among the Israelites in Gilead.

6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not him.
7 And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.
8 And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.
9 Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed.

Once again, the Israelites returned to the wickedness of idolatry. They turned from the Lord, which would teach us that during the time of the previous judge, Jair, they were living a life where they worshiped the Lord. The consequence for turning from the Lord, was that he allowed them to fall into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites. For 18 years, the eastern Israelites were oppressed by their enemies. Eventually, the Ammonites crossed over the Jordan, and began to fight the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim as well.

10 And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.
11 And the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?
12 The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.
13 Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.
14 Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

The Israelites remembered that the Lord had helped them in the past. They recognized that they had forsaken, or abandoned God and had served other gods. Because of their desire to worship the gods of other nations, the Lord was not quick to hear their cries and deliver them this time. Rather, they were also forsaken and told to ask the gods they worshipped to save them. They had been warned of this by prophets before this time.

15 And the children of Israel said unto the Lord, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.
16 And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.
17 Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh.
18 And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.

The Israelites recognized that they had sinned and pleaded that God would deliver them and give them punishment some other way. They repented, gave up their idolatry and began to serve the Lord once again. Their enemy, the Ammonites, gathered against them to fight. The Israelites in Gilead asked one another who would start the fight against the people of Ammon. Whoever did this, would be the leader in Gilead.

At this point, I think that the Israelites recognized that the Lord was not with them because of their wickedness. There may have been fear among them because of this, and they needed someone to stand forth with courage, if they were going to be successful in battle against the Ammonites.

Time and time again, the Lord was there waiting, while the people had forsaken Him and turned to false gods. God continued to deliver them every time they remembered him, which seemed to fall at times of trials and tribulation. There comes a point, when God must allow greater trials to come upon His people, in order to recommit them to living righteously. In Helaman 12:3 “And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.” The promises remain for us in our time as well. When we live righteously and strive to follow the commandments of God, he will bless us with deliverance from our enemies and the adversary. The Lord will bless us with prosperity and with an abundance of His spirit. But, if we turn from him until we are faced with adversity and trials, He may be slow to hear our own cries. We may need to be chastened through great difficulties and suffering, before He will fight our battles, so that we can learn true repentance and humility. As the doctrine of the gospel teaches us, it is better for us to choose to remember the Lord and live righteously, especially in the better times of our lives, so that the Lord will be there for us in the harder parts of life.


About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.

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