Chapter 7: Judges
Judg:1:12: And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.
According to the laws of the United States, this was incest: a marriage between first cousins. But, according to the Bible, such marriages are not incest, since we are plainly told that Caleb had wholly followed the Lord:
Josh:14:14: Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.
Judg:1:19: And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.
One can only conclude from this that iron chariots are more powerful than the Lord!
Judg:2:11: And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:
It sounds like God could not make up his mind: should he punish his chosen people, or deliver them from their oppressors? First he did one, then "repented" and tried the other. The Bible tells us elsewhere that God cannot "repent":
Num:23:19: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Repenting would mean that God had not foreseen the results of his actions; if he had known that the Israelite's "groanings" would bother him, then he simply wouldn't have punished them in the first place. Or, he might've planned ahead of time to just punish them for a certain length of time and then restore them, but an all-knowing, all-powerful being would never repent of his actions.
It seems as though God chose the wrong people: these dim-wits, after repeatedly witnessing God's power compared to the lifeless idols of the surrounding nations, abandoned Jehovah in favor of Baal and Ashtaroth! How, then, were these people any better than the people God had massacred to make way for them? The Israelites repeatedly demonstrated that they were no more committed to Jehovah than the Canaanites were. So why had God destroyed those Baal worshippers, the Canaanites, but then rescued those Baal worshippers, the Israelites, from their oppressors? Does God use a double standard in contradiction to his own stated principles:
Lev:19:35: Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.
Judg:2:21: I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:
Previously in the book of Judges, we were told that some of the natives were not driven out "because they had iron chariots" (Judg. 1:19). But the writer of this part of Judges gave two other reasons for God not having driven out all of the native inhabitants of the land. (This was done in spite of the fact that the second reason was given as the "only" reason!) The first reason (quoting God) was to: "prove Israel whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not." Why would an all-knowing God have to conduct a test? Wouldn't the God who "reads hearts" know the answer to this question already without having to resort to this?
The second ("only") reason, was to teach war to the new generations of Israelites. This implies that warfare is a good thing in and of itself. Whatever happened to "Thou shalt not kill"?
Judg:3:12: And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
Isn't that a nice story to read with your children?
It must be noted that Eglon was doing God's will by oppressing the Israelites: "the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD." So, Eglon was very much in the same situation as the former Israelite leaders who had massacred the Canaanites because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord. But, instead of rewarding Eglon for doing God's will, Eglon received a dagger in the belly as a "message from God" delivered by another man that God had "raised up" as a "deliverer"!
Given the example of Eglon, I guess it was a good thing for the likes of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, that God never started feeling sorry for the Canaanites the way he started feeling sorry for the Israelites. If he had, then those "heroes of the Bible" would probably have been knifed to death by some God-appointed "deliverer" of the Canaanites!
Judg:4:17: Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
This is an example of someone being false to their word: pledging peace, and then committing a violent murder. Was this put in the Bible as a bad example? No; Deborah, the judge of Israel at that time, celebrated this cruel betrayal of the peace pact in song:
Judg:5:24: Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
Far from disapproving of Jael's actions, the Bible literally sings her praises! Do you think this is a good, moral lesson that we should teach to our children? Do you think someone reading this as "God's Word" is likely to be a better person for it?
Judg:6:1: And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
How can it be that the Midianites were as plentiful as is here related? Except for some virgin girls, the Midianites were completely exterminated way back in Moses' time:
Num:31:7: And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
How, then could there now be such a swarm of Midianites that they were able to subdue Israel? The only "Midianites" who could still have been in existence at this time would've been descendants of the virgin girls whom the Israelite men had raped. These descendants would have had far more Israelite blood in them than Midianite blood by the time of our story, and they would've been living amongst the Israelites as Israelites.
The writer of Judges must've overlooked or forgotten the fact that the writer of Numbers had already killed off all of the Midianites.
Judg:8:4: And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
It was rather arrogant of Gideon to expect the native people to aid and abet him: the enemy of their people! But because they didn't cowardly feed the invading horde of Israelites, Gideon promised to tear their flesh in punishment.
Judg:9:23: Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
Once again we read of God sending an "evil spirit" which causes men to behave "treacherously". So much for "free will"!
Judg:10:13: Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.
Remember this: God stated as plainly as possible that he would deliver the Israelites no more. We shall, in due course, see if he is true to his word.
Judg:11:4: And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel.
Judg:11:12: 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?
Here, Jephthah had a chance to conclude peace by returning what the Israelites had stolen: the land. But Jephthah turned down the offer of peace, claiming that the Israelites had not stolen the land (how the Israelites had come to occupy the land which the Ammonites formerly lived in, Jepthah does not explain). He concluded his rationalization with these words:
Judg:11:24: 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.
In other words, since they believed the gods were behind the success or failure of every venture, and since the Israelites had been able to steal the land away from the Ammonites, it must've been the will of the gods (or at least the more powerful Israelite god). Therefore the Ammonites could have no justifiable objection to their expulsion from their own land. Following this logic, a person could justify any action, no matter how unethical, as long as it was successful.
Judg:11:29: 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.
But wait a minute; remember when God had said (back in chapter 10, verse 13) that he would deliver Israel no more? In light of this, how could it be true to say that "the LORD delivered them into his hands"? Either one (or both) of these verses must be false, or God is a liar.
Judg:11:33: 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 set fire to his (unnamed) daughter as a sacrifice to his god Jehovah for success in war. If we were to read such a barbaric thing in any book other than the Bible we would be quick to condemn it.
Nowhere is this act condemned in the Bible. God did not "stay his hand" as he had done when the sacrificial victim was a male (in the case of Isaac). God was evidently content to let the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter take place. In fact, in the "New Testament" Jephthah is praised as a man of faith (Heb. 11:32-38)!
An angel announced to Manoah and his (unnamed) wife that they would have a son that would be a nazarite. They named the son Samson. At some point Samson became enamored of a certain Philistine woman and told his parents to get her for him. Since God's Law strictly forbade marrying non-Israelites, Samson's parents tried to dissuade him.
Judg:14:4: 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.
Why would God need to seek an occasion against the Philistines via Samson's sin? In the past he had simply warred against Israel's enemies with no other provocation other than that they held Israel in subjection.
Judg:14:12: 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:
There are just way too many days in this week! If "it came to pass on the seventh day" that the men asked Samson's (unnamed) wife to entice him, and then "she wept before him the seven days while their feast lasted," then the feast must've lasted 13-14 days, not seven.
Judg:14:18: 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.
Here, Samson referred to his (unnamed) wife as a heifer!
Judg:14:19: 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.
So, in order to pay off his foolish wager, Samson murdered 30 innocent people and stole their garments (and presumably their sheets) and gave them to the men he had tried to swindle. If they had America's Most Wanted back then, this sleaze bag known as Samson would be on the top of their most-wanted list! But the Bible assures us that he was only able to accomplish his great crimes through "the spirit of the Lord" which "came upon him"! What does this tell us about the Lord of the Bible?
Judg:14:20: But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.
Judg:15:1: 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.
Judg:15:2: 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.
After committing mass murder, and after leaving his wife, Samson assumed he could waltz back into his wife's bed by offering her a kid! Instead of kicking him out, her father generously offered Samson his younger daughter! But this didn't please him:
Judg:15:3: And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.
By what moral logic did Samson conclude that he would be "less blameless" than the Philistines? His Philistine wife had remarried after he had abandoned her and had become a thief and a murderer. That was the only "crime" on the Philistine side. Samson, in contrast, was not only guilty of theft and murder, but also animal abuse, arson, and destruction of property. There's no telling how many people would be left to starve after Samson burned their crops.
Judg:15:6: 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.
Samson should've known that they would punish his wife for his outrageously destructive behavior, but his own sense of pride must've outweighed his concern for her. This act fueled his fire to commit more violence:
Judg:15:7: And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
Judg:15:14: 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.
Despite this mass destruction of human life, the last thing we read about Samson -- which seems to be said in tribute -- is:
Judg:16:30: So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
This was written about a "hero of the Bible"!
Judg:18:27: 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.
In other words, the native inhabitants of Laish were minding their own business when the Israelites came and killed them, burned their city, and built their own city ("Dan") atop the ruins. Not only that, but they did this act accompanied by an idol they had stolen from Micah. Once they had taken the city they installed the worship of this idol. So how were the Israelites any better than the people they massacred? This was certainly not a case of God fighting for the Israelites so that they could set up his worship over the corpses of wicked people and the ruins of pagan temples. In this instance they had a graven image for their god -- and it seemed to work just as well.
Judg:19:22: 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.
This seems to be a repeat of the story of Lot in Sodom. Once again we see what value was placed on women: a father willingly offered to let a bunch of thugs rape his daughter and his guest's concubine! But this time the thugs were not some wicked foreigners, giving justification for God's destruction: they were Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin! These were "God's chosen people"!
Judg:19:25: 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.
As each tribe received a dismembered piece of the woman, it dawned on them that a great wrong had been committed. But instead of conducting an investigation to determine the responsible parties, they decided to destroy the entire tribe of Benjamin! But the men of the tribe of Benjamin fought back, and in their first encounter they killed 22,000 Israelites:
Judg:20:21: And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.
Judg:20:23: (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)
Amazingly, the God of justice and love approved of Israel's taking vengeance on the entire tribe of Benjamin for the actions of a few!
Judg:20:25: And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.
Despite God's urging the Israelites on to do battle with their brother-tribe, the Israelites again suffered enormous casualties, while the tribe of Benjamin apparently went unscathed!
Judg:20:28: And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.
And yet again God urged them to battle! This time he promised to "deliver" the tribe of Benjamin into their hand. Why hadn't God done this in the initial battle instead of watching as 40,000 Israelites were killed in the previous engagements?
Judg:20:31: And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel.
But finally the other tribes gained the upper hand, and massacred all but 600 of the tribe of Benjamin:
Judg:20:47: But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.
After realizing the enormity of what they had done, the Israelites repented and began worrying about a foolish oath they had all taken:
Judg:21:6: And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.
They hit upon a novel solution to this problem: they would wreak further violence and moral outrage by massacring all but the virgin girls of a certain Israelite city, and then give these virgins to the remaining 600 men of the tribe of Benjamin:
Judg:21:8: And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly.
At this point they realized that 400 virgins were not enough for the 600 men, so they decided to abduct the young girls of yet another city:
Judg:21:20: Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
It is important to keep one's word. But when one has vowed such a foolish oath, and when all the parties involved later realize that the oath is counter-productive, then the thing to do is to admit that it was a mistake, and forget about the oath. Words are not magic. Words can be taken back. It would've been better for all concerned if the Israelites had broken their vow. It's too bad God didn't impart this simple moral truth to his chosen people.
But the Israelites repeatedly showed extremely poor judgment in this matter. Their poor judgment caused a snowball effect which made matters worse and worse.
First, they decided to kill all the men, women, and children of the tribe of Benjamin (along with their animals) for the crime of a few men. God approved of this decision and encouraged them to go ahead with the plan more than once after they had thought better of it!
Second, they vowed not to give any of their daughters to any man of the tribe of Benjamin. Yet they didn't want to see the tribe utterly disappear. Their own violence and stupidity had created this dilemma.
So, they killed the men, women, and children (except for the virgin girls) of Jabesh-Gilead! Then they abducted the virgins and "gave" them to the men of the tribe of Benjamin.
Finally, they also encouraged the men of Benjamin to abduct virgin girls from Shiloh.
These were the actions of "God's chosen people". Some of these outrageous acts were explicitly encouraged by the God of the Bible (the "God of love and justice"), the rest were implicitly approved. I ask you, in all honesty, can you read this and maintain that this is a "holy book" of moral instruction? If so, please explain to me how; I would really like to know.