Here we begin to hear of the deeds of some of the other judges that saved Israel.
The chapter actually begins with an accounting of the nations that were left behind during the taking of the land. It says that they were left to continue to test Israel and make sure that the laws were being followed. While I hate the idea of testing in this way, I find it interesting that this ensures that they weren’t simply following the laws “by default” because there was no temptation. Not to mention, they chose to leave some of those nations on their own.
Here we find the exploits of Othniel, Ehud, and Shangar.
Then comes Deborah. Her story is one of the more famous of the book. She’s also given considerably more space, her story encompasses the entire chapter and bleeds into the next one. She’s debated over as a “token” at times because she is the only female judge mentioned. Some say she was a special exception, others say that she was proof of a greater participation among women then we give them credit for. I find her introduction interesting when thinking of the arguments:
Now Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at the time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgement.
None of this sounds like she was a special exception to some rule of God’s that we are not given that women are not to participate in judging. I don’t remember that rule. But there have been a lot of rules covered and I could have missed it. Even if I did, I would think a greater note would be there. It’s a hotly debated issue and likely to remain one.
Every time I’ve heard this story, it’s sounded like Deborah was the one to do it, but no. A woman that leader took refuge with killed him and then flagged down Barak, the leader of the Israelite army. This then leads to the destruction of the city this army came from.
The woman who kills the opposing army’s commander is also named in the chapter. She is Jael. Another interesting thing to note about her is that she is descended from Moses’s father-in-law. Yep, the commander just went into the wrong tent to ask for help.
This entire chapter covers the “Song of Deborah and Barak” which recounts their exploits in the last chapter. None of the others had a song, I wonder if she turns out to be the only one. The recording of the songs are interesting because they appear to be for those who do great feats, but not every great feat gets one. How is this determined?
The people descend again and fall on hard times and here enters Gideon. There’s something really comforting to me about the way that Gideon’s story begins. His first words refute that God is still with them and don’t sound very much like someone who believes in God at all. What I love about it is that doubt doesn’t mean it’s over. There was no specific criteria to what made him a judge at this point, just that he was chosen. Probably because he didn’t have any other way besides God to attain much. It would have to be God that helped him, unlike some of the more well off Israelites. Or as best as I can guess.
Gideon is told to take down some altars to other gods nearby and he does so. There’s a bit of a commotion and it’s settled by people saying that those gods could take out their anger on him if they are really gods.
Then he’s not shy about asking for signs. There are three in this chapter.
This one start out with God giving Gideon some ways to get rid of some of his amassed army. If the army used could have done it on their own, God knows the people would give credit to themselves. So the instructions are to lessen the number down to one that would be undeniably helped by God. Then the pursuit of Midian begins.
The pursuit continues into this chapter when it is all won. When they were defeated, like with the other judges, there was peace and faith until that judge died. So when Gideon died, like the four before him that saved their contemporaries, the people turned away from God again.
People talk about the God from the Old Testament like everything was always fire and brimstone, but there’s a surprising amount of patience and understanding here. I don’t think He’s given enough credit for that.