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The Bible’s Most Questionable Judge

An Unnamed Levite Goes Wild

If Judge Deborah is the reluctant hero and Micah is the anti-hero, then the final character listed in the book of Judges might be viewed as a questionable hero. This judge, a Levite whose name is not given, has a dubious set of morals and a morose method of getting attention. He’s a most questionable judge.

Consider his story:

  • The Levite had a concubine who ran away from him. He waited four months, before looking for her.
  • Upon their trip home, the men of Gibeah, with their unrestrained sexual appetites, desire the Levite. His response is to offer them his concubine as an alternative.
  • After abusing and misusing her all night, she crawls to the house and dies.
  • The Levite then cuts her body up and sends the pieces around the country.

His countrymen, sufficiently riled up, go on a rampage against the men of Gibeah, who are aided by surrounding cities from the tribe of Benjamin. This effective “civil” war results in tens of thousands of people being killed and the tribe of Benjamin being essentially annihilated.

While all the other judges in the book of Judges went after other nations, this quasi judge went after his own people. Yes, evil was confronted, but at a high cost and over an event that could have been avoided.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Judges 19-21, and today’s post is on Judges 19:1-3.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Deborah, the Judge and Hero

Judge Deborah

Judge Deborah was a reluctant hero.

Deborah, also a prophetess, received instructions from God to relay to Barak. His mission was to lead a battle against their oppressors. When she shared this with Barak, he balked (as did Moses, Jonah, Gideon, and many others when God called them to a task).

Barak didn’t want to go alone and insisted Deborah go with him. She agreed, but predicted that if she did, a woman would receive credit for the victory and not Barak.

Apparently emboldened by her presence, Barak then did as instructed and led the army to victory. There’s no mention of her actually doing anything to ensure victory, except that she merely going with Barak. Yet, she receives more accolades than Barak

I’m not sure if Barak lacked confidence in himself or in God, but either way, he wavered and didn’t obey God without question. Despite Barak’s reluctance, God still accomplished his purpose, albeit through Deborah.

It is always easier to serve God with a friend, but sometimes what God asks for is a solo effort.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Judges 4-6, and today’s post is on Judges 4:8-9.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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God Talks to Gideon—and to Us

Discover More about Gideon

Another familiar character in the book of Judges is Gideon. There are three whole chapters devoted to him. He is a fearful man who is at first cautious of God’s call. But eventually he does fully obey what God says to do.

There are three initial things that God tells him, through his angel messenger:

  1. “The Lord is with you mighty warrior!” Gideon’s response is to change the subject.
  2. “Go in the strength that you have and save Israel.” To this, Gideon in effect says, “How? I am nobody!”
  3. “I will be with you.” At this point, Gideon asks for proof that the words are really from God. And when Gideon doubts the first confirmation that God provides, the doubting man asks for a second one.

We can learn two key lessons from this exchange.

God’s Perspective is the Right Perspective

First, God may see us differently then we see ourselves, and it’s unwise to question God’s perspective. He knows all things. We don’t.

We Must Do What We Can and Trust God with the Rest

The second insight is that we need to move forward to the extent that our abilities allow. That is, we must do our part and not expect God to do something for us that we can do ourselves.

Then God will be with us. He will make up for what we lack.

This is an important balance to maintain. One error is to not do anything, even what we can do, because of the enormity of the task, while the other extreme is to try to do it all ourselves without God’s help.

Be Like Gideon

Instead, we need to do what we can and trust God to do the rest—just like Gideon.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Judges 4-6, and today’s post is on Judges 6:12-16.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Micah: The Anti-Hero

A curious fellow in the book of Judges is Micah (not to be confused with the prophet Micah who lived many centuries later and has a book of the Bible named after him).

This Micah, with two chapters surrounding him, is not listed as a judge and does not lead the people to overthrow their oppressors.

If anything, Micah is an anti-hero or anti-judge. There is nothing positive in his story:

  • He steals silver from his mom.
  • When he later confesses this to her, she blesses him! Then she tells him to keep the silver and make an idol.
  • Micah uses the silver to cast an idol and carve an image; he also makes a shrine and fabricates an ephod.
  • A wayward Levite happens by and Micah hires him to be his priest. (Although all priests are Levites, most Levites are not priests; this was determined by ancestry. This Levite is likely not meant to be a priest, yet he jumps at the chance, even though—according to the Law of Moses—he is in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing.)
  • Since Micah now has a priest, he concludes that God will bless him, (which doesn’t seem to be the case.)

This is all backstory. Men from the tribe of Dan are looking for some land and come upon a “peaceful and unsuspecting people”—not an oppressing people, which the other Judges fought against, but a peaceful people.

The men from Dan, bent on conquering, steal Micah’s idol, image, and ephod, as well as enticing away his “priest.” They go into battle and win. They and their descendants worship Micah’s idol for several centuries.

Seemingly, everything Micah did was wrong.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Judges 16-18, and today’s post is on Judges 18:27-31.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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The Victory and Despair of Jephthah

Another judge, who is prominently noted in the book of Judges is Jephthah. Jephthah, the son of a prostitute which doesn’t say much for his dad>was exiled from his people. However, when they became oppressed by a foreign power, they turned to him, asking for his help.

Eventually he agreed to their petition, doing exactly what they asked.

In his zeal for victory, however, he made an ill-advised vow to God. He promised God that if he were granted success, he would sacrifice the first thing he saw when he returned home. Tragically, it was his daughter—his only child—who first greeted him upon his victorious homecoming.

Distraught over his rash promise, his daughter urged him to do exactly as he had pledged.

It is unclear to me if this was to be a literal sacrifice, as Abram almost did with Isaac, or a figurative sacrifice of giving her over to God’s service, as Samuel’s mother did with him.

Regardless, Jephthah’s reckless pledge resulted in a painful and regrettable loss for the otherwise victorious Jephthah.

We can learn from Jephthah’s foolhardy words, guarding carefully what we say and promise.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Judges 10-12, and today’s post is on Judges 10:6-12:7.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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The Honor for the Victory Goes to a Woman

Barak Chickens Out and Insists Judge Deborah Goes with Him

The book of Judges is a colorful read about some strange characters. Except for Judge Deborah, all the other judges in this book are male. That makes Deborah unique. Perhaps that’s why I like her so much, even more so than the better-known Gideon and Samson.

Passing on God’s instructions, Deborah tells Barak to raise an army and go fight their enemy, led by Sisera. Barak cowers. He says the only way he’ll do that is if Deborah goes with him. What a chicken. What a poor example of leadership.

Judge Deborah agrees to go with him, but she gives him a warning. She prophesies that since he won’t do as God instructed, the credit for the victory will go to a woman (Judges 4:8-9). I once thought she’s referring to herself. But she isn’t. She’s talking about another woman.

Jael is the one who receives credit for the victory. Click To Tweet

As the battle wages on—that Barak leads with Deborah’s support—the enemy Sisera flees for his life. He ends up at the home of Jael. She welcomes him and pretends to befriend him. She feeds him and lulls him to sleep.

Then she drives a tent peg into his temple and kills him (Judges 4:21). Though it’s graphic, much like the rest of the book of Judges, a tent peg is likely the only means she has available to kill him.

Jael is the woman Deborah prophesied about. Jael is the one who receives credit for the victory. And we get confirmation of this in the next chapter when we read what I call the Psalm of Deborah. There she blesses Jael and recounts the details of her exploits (Judges 5:24-27).

We hail Judge Deborah as a courageous woman and worthy judge. We remember Barak for his lack of courage and cowardice. And we celebrate Jael for her brave actions. The honor of this victory goes to her.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Judges 4-6, and today’s post is on Judges 5:24.]

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Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Leadership Lessons from the Book of Judges

The people did as they saw fit in the book of Judges; things aren’t much different today

The book of Judges is a curious one, containing some really questionable content, especially toward the end of the book. The judges it highlights are a colorful bunch, some exhibiting quite dubious behavior.

It boils down to leadership and a lack of leadership. Judges gives us some leadership lessons.

In Judges, the people are a motley collection, and I cringe over some of their attitudes and actions. Yet despite the shortcomings of many, they do lead people to freedom and to a refocus of their attention on God.

This cycle of disobedience (rejecting God), oppression (punishment), liberation (rescue), and returning to God (obedience) is a reoccurring theme in the book of Judges.

Another reoccurring theme is the phrase, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). In fact, this is the concluding sentence of the book of Judges, a fitting end to a collection of stories, some of which I find quite disconcerting.

Leadership Lessons

Without the godly leadership of a king, the people flounder. (Of course, we will later learn they don’t fair too well under the rule of kings either, most of who will rebel against God and lead their people to follow their errors.)

The in vogue “religion” today is to make up our own religion. Click To Tweet

Today we also lack godly leadership. And without good leaders people pretty much do as they see fit. So, true to our nature, most everyone is doing whatever he or she wants.

We see this with the in vogue religion of today, where people make up their own religious beliefs, their own set of rules – or lack thereof. We are so in need of good leaders to guide us.

Yet we are all leaders, be it in society, the political arena, education, at work, in our home, and even of ourselves—we are especially leaders of ourselves. Doing as we see fit can lead us down a wrong path. Instead, we need to let God lead us and then do what he wants.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Judges 19-21, and today’s post is on Judges 21:25.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Who are the Other Judges?

So far, we have covered seven of the 15 judges mentioned in the book of Judges. They are the more commonly known judges, merely because there is more written about them. That leaves eight remaining judges, for whom very little is known.

Often their entire life is summarized in just a couple of verses. They are:

Othneil (Judges 3:7-11) overpowered foreign oppression, resulting in 40 years of peace—until he died. (Trivia: He was Caleb’s nephew.)

Ehud (Judges 3:12-3:30) posed as a peaceful envoy with a private message for the king. The message was thrusting a sword into the king’s fat belly. Ehud then escaped, rallied the troops, and routed the enemy army. Then there was 80 years of peace. (Trivia: he was left-handed.)

Shamgar (Judges 3:31) killed 600 Philistines. (Trivia: he used an oxgoad—“a sharp wooden stick”)

Tola (Judges 10:1-2) led Israel for 23 years; then he died.

Jair (Judges 10:3-5) led Israel for 22 years; then he died. (Trivia: he had 30 sons, who rode 30 donkeys, and controlled 30 towns.)

Ibzan
(Judges 12:8-10) led Israel for seven years; then he died. (Trivia: he intermarried his 60 children to people from other tribes.)

Elon
(Judges 12:11-12) led Israel for ten years; then he died.

Abdon
(Judges 12:13-15) led Israel for eight years; then he died. (Trivia: his 40 sons and 30 grandsons rode 70 donkeys.)

From this, I have two general observations:

First, for many, there is seemingly strange trivial information provided. While it may seem nonsensical to us now, it may have had important meaning back then. If we can ascertain it, additional insight could be gained.

Second, more importantly, the recorded impact of these judges was largely limited to their lifetime; no mention is made of them setting up a successor or influencing others to lead after their death.

Contemplation: What are you doing to extend your influence beyond your life?

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Abimelech: A Failure

One of Gideon’s sons was Abimelech. It is arguable if Abimelech should be counted as a judge. If so, he would be classified as a failure, for he violently seized power, did not fight for or liberate his people from foreign powers, but instead fought internally, with much loss of life as a result—including his own.

Abimelech was the son of a concubine (or slave). Interestingly, another judge, Jephthah, was a son of the prostitute. Jephthah, however, unlike Abimelech, was a successful judge, who liberated his people, whereas Abimelech killed—or caused the death—of his people.

Both Abimelech and Jephthah had a less than ideal start in life, but what they did with it was opposite from each other. Jephthah became a hero; Abimelech, a tyrant.

[Judges 9 and 10:6-12:7]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Judge Deborah

Deborah is another familiar judge, with two chapters in the book of Judges devoted to her. There are some noteworthy facts about her:

First, she is the only female judge in the entire book. This was very counter-cultural for the day—and very cool!

Second, she was the only judge who actually “held court”—which would be consistent with our modern understanding of what a judge does.

Third, she was also a prophetess. Although there are many prophets listed in the Bible, there are only seven prophetesses (a female prophet). They are:

  • Miriam (Moses and Aaron’s sister), Exodus 15:20
  • Deborah, Judges 4:4
  • Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Chronicles 34:22
  • Noadiah (a bad prophetess), Nehemiah 6:14
  • Isaiah’s wife, whose name is not given, Isaiah 8:3
  • Anna, the prophetess in the temple who was waiting for Jesus, Luke 2:36
  • Jezebel, the evil prophetess mentioned in the Revelation 2:20.

Deborah was also a reluctant hero. She didn’t want notoriety, but that is exactly what she received.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.