Judges 9-16: From Abimelech to Samson

The succession of Judges continues, some with in depth stories and others with simple mentions. I like to think it works like us and the histories of our presidents. A president whose name you barely get taught probably kept the peace and/or were not faced with a situation like Lincoln or FDR. Maybe, maybe not.

Chapter nine

Meet Abimelech, who might as well be a Lannister in Game of Thrones. His story is awful and takes please entirely within this chapter. I just want to note that he doesn’t appear to actually have been a judge of Israel at any point. His story just happens within the same period, perhaps.

Chapter ten

This chapter begins with two judges, Tola and Jair, who appear to have been low-key successes. Nothing terrible or great happens, just a mention of them as judges and the amount of time they judged before their deaths.

This next time that Israel forgets about God and then gets enslaved and then remembers Him and try to get His help, God is not inclined to help them. The exact phrasing of the Lord was:

Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.

There was some more build up, but that’s the end of his words that time. Yeah, that was bound to happen eventually. But He did help them in the end, just maybe not those exact people.

Chapter eleven

This chapter focuses on the exploits of Jephthah, who defeats some other armies that were threatening Israel at the time. He reminds some kings who are all vengeful over their lands just why things came to be the way they were. These were apparently those peoples that had everything taken when the Israelites were passing through after the Exodus and just asked for safe passage. The Israelites weren’t given safe passage and battle ensued. Now they’re mad about it.

An interesting section of this chapter discusses a vow he makes in exchange for a win against these armies. He vows to give to God a burnt offering of whatever comes out to greet him when he gets home. He doesn’t count on being missed by his one and only daughter and laments when she comes out. But this is her response:

Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.

So she consents to this, but with that small request. I have no idea what it may mean to “weep for my virginity” in this context. I remember something back in Leviticus about not sacrificing kids, but I think this might have fallen into a weird caveat because he didn’t know it would be his kid when he made it and then he had to follow it, right? Either way, she consented, so he was good to do it though he apparently didn’t want to. But he did it, as vowed. There is a note in the study portion of the Bible that I have that indicates that it may have turned into a more figurative sacrifice instead of a burnt offering due to it being his daughter and she would just have to remain a virgin. That might help a bit with the context of the virginity thing, but not much.

Chapter twelve

Jephthah’s story ends here some time after a dispute with the Ephraimites over not being called to help in this most recent conflict. Afterwards, they argue over it and the result was a lot of dead Ephraimites. Interestingly, they use a bit of their own culture and language to weed out who is one of them and who is not. It’s where the word “Sibboleth” comes from. Say it right and you may enter, say it wrong and you get the sword. I don’t even know why the Ephraimites thought they should be called, because they are not a part of Israel.

Jephthah continues judging but eventually dies and then the honor is bestowed upon Ibzan, Elon, and then Abdan by the end of the chapter.

Chapter thirteen

Samson’s birth is foretold to his mother, who is not named in the chapter. The father is named, Zorah, and she is referred to solely as his wife. The angel comes and tells her of the son they will have and that he will be a Nazirite from birth.

Chapter fourteen

Samson gets married to an unamed Philistine woman. There’s a lion that he tears apart with his bear hands and then honey that grows in it that he both eats and shares. Ick. Then there’s a riddle about it, which I didn’t understand the point of. I mean, I get the riddle and that they were entertainment at the time, but there’s this undercurrent of him “trying to best them” that didn’t make sense. Why?

In the end, the wife convinces him to give her the answer to the riddle and then she gives it to the people after they had threatened the lives of her family and then he gets mad. Meanwhile, she is “given to his companion, who had been his best man.”

Also, he was supposed to be a Nazirite. He shouldn’t have touched the dead lion. He shouldn’t have married outside the Israelites.

Chapter fifteen

We learn here that it was her father that gave her away to Samson’s companion. While that isn’t wholely better, I had thought Samson did it at first. He goes to see her and is told about it at the beginning of this one. He’s denied and then decides to burn everything down. Not surprisingly, they all went to war against the a group Israelites over the whole thing. They were not big fans of the whole thing and decided to detain and turn Samson in to the Philistines but that was about the time that “the spirit of the Lord” came upon him and he broke free and killed 1000 men.

Chapter sixteen

Here’s the more famous part of Samson’s story when he meets a prostitute and after many questioning sessions confesses the root of his strength. Of course she uses it against him and they capture him. Then there’s the whole toppling the building on himself and all of them scene. All because he couldn’t just stop going to see her. I had no idea that Delilah wasn’t even a wife. She was a prostitute loyal to the opposing side.


Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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