Bible study 231 – Judges 21: “The Benjaminite War 3 – Supplying wives”

The Israelites feel bad for having more or less annihilated the entire tribe of Benjamin — all they did was rape one woman, after all. The Israelites want to repopulate Benjamin, but since all 600 survivors are male, they need to find them wives first. They manage to supply 400 virgins from Jabesh-gilead, a city which conveniently did not participate in the slaughter of Benjamin, and which is therefore a legitimate target for slaughter itself (everyone apart from the kidnapped virgins are murdered). For the last 200 brides, all pretenses of legitimacy are thrown away, and the Israelites straight out tell the Benjaminite soldiers to kidnap women from a random city in the north (Shiloh) which hasn’t done anything wrong.

At the start of Judges, Israel was a newly conquered and prosperous land divided between 12 vibrant tribes. A few generations later, though, the land is mess of apostasy and violence. As Judges ends, the reader can’t help but feel that the country might have been better off with a unified monarchy under one king — preferably from the valiant tribe of Judah, and certainly not from the Sodomite tribe of Benjamin.

Judges 21:21
“… when the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. (…)”

Full text.

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Bible study 230 – Judges 20: “The Benjaminite War 2 – Annihilation”

The body parts of the dead concubine stirs up sentiments among the Israelites so much that 400,000 Israelite warriors immediately gather to wage war on the entire tribe of Benjamin. The Benjaminites defend the rapists of Gibeah, and at first cause huge casualties on the Israelite army. In the end, however, the Israelites crush the Benjaminite army, and slaughter every single civilian (including women and children) in the entire tribe of Benjamin. The only remnants of the tribe are 600 warriors who fled from the battle.

Judges 20:48
Meanwhile, the Israelites turned back against the Benjaminites, and put them to the sword — the city, the people, the animals, and all that remained. Also the remaining towns they set on fire.

Full text.


Bible study 229 – Judges 19: “The Benjaminite War 1 – The rape”

A Levite on his way from Bethlehem to Ephraim with his concubine, is given room and board by an Ephraimite in Gibeah, a city in the territory of Benjamin. Unfortunately, the population of Gibeah has decided to reenact the scene from Sodom in the book of Genesis: They demand to get to rape the Levite traveler, but the Ephraimite instead offers them his virgin daughter — and the Levite’s concubine (the Levite himself apparently does not resist this suggestion). The angry mob apparently ignores the virgin daughter, and instead rapes the Levite’s concubine to death. The next morning, the Levite throws her body onto his donkey, travels home, cuts her up into twelve pieces, and sends one piece to each tribe in Israel.

Judges 19:22
… They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we have have intercourse with him.”

Full text.

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The Levite brings his dead concubine home on a donkey. By Gustave Dore, ca. 1880. Source.


Bible study 228 – Judges 18: “Micah and Dan 2”

The first verse, which says that the tribe of Dan has not been allotted lands yet, directly contradicts Joshua 19 (although it has been suggested before that Dan lost their lands). Either way, they are looking for a place to live, and find some “quiet and unsuspecting” people in Laish. So they mount a war party and set off. On the way they find Micah and his shrine, and they steal his idol. Then they murder all the Philistines in Laish, and rename the place Dan.

Again, I’m not really sure what this story is about. Micah is certainly no saint, and neither is Dan (or they would have destroyed the idol). But nothing really bad happens to either party. Possibly, the story just serves to show how rotten to the core the Israelites were at this points (we are near the end of Judges).

Judges 18:24
… “You take my gods that I made, and the priest, and go away, and what have I left?”

Full text.


Bible study 227 – Judges 17: “Micah and Dan 1”

This and the next chapter is a strange story about a guy called Micah (no, not that Micah), and the tribe of Dan getting new lands. I don’t really understand the point or the moral of the story.

Micah steals silver from his mother, but returns it. She has an idol made out of the silver, which Micah puts in his house. He also has his own personal shrine, complete with priests (his son and a wandering Levite) wearing priestly clothing. Needless to say, this guy is breaking every rule in the Book.

Judges 17:5
This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim, and installed one of his sons, who became his priest.

Full text.

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This is possibly what an “ephod” looked like. Source.


Bible study 226 – Judges 16: “Samson 4 – Suicide attack”

Samson falls in love with a woman called Delilah, and the Philistines bribe her into finding out how to subjugate Samson. She asks hims three times, but Samson lies each time; but the fourth time, he tells her that by shaving off his hair he will lose his strength. (This is why his mother was instructed by God not to shave his head in chapter 13.) The next time Samson is asleep in her lap, Delilah has someone shave his hair, and the Philistines capture him and gouge out his eyes.

They hold a huge party in a temple, where thousands of Philistines watch Samson “perform for them”. But by now Samson’s hair has started to grow back, and so has his strength. He decides to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to murder everyone in the temple. So he grasps the two middle pillars of the temple and knock them over. The whole temple falls apart, crushing both Samson and the thousands of men and women inside.

Judges 16:30
Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.”

Full text.

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Samson and Delilah by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1528–30. Source.

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The Blinded Samson by Lovis Corinth, 1912. Source.

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Samson destroys the Philistine temple. Source.


Bible study 225 – Judges 15: “Samson 3 – Killing spree”

Some time after leaving his bride, whom he married solely to create a pretext for violence and whose people he deliberately offended and murdered before storming away from the wedding, Samson returns only to find she has married someone else. He figures out that this must be a good pretext for violence, and creates a strange contraption of three hundred foxes and burning torches to set the Philistines’ grain reserves ablaze.

The Philistines respond to the destruction of their food supplies by murdering his ex-bride and her father. This, of course, must only please Samson, since he finally has something that remotely resembles a pretext for violence; and he slays all the responsible Philistines.

News of these calamities reach the rest of the Philistines, who start attacking Judah to force them to give up Samson. So Judah ties up Samson and brings him to the Philistines; but he breaks free with his superhuman strength, and kills all the Philistines present.

Samson then rules Israel for twenty years.

Judges 15:15
Then he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached down and took it, and with it he killed a thousand men.

Full text.

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Samson with the Jawbone, Salomon de Bray. Source.