The Old Testament Study
reported by John-Peter Gernaat
The book of Judges is the story of how the Israelites fail twelve times to remain faithful to YHWH. These twelve judges were called by YHWH to judge the Israelites for their unfaithfulness and the lead them back into faithfulness. They heard the message, they were a prophet, and they led the people.
The twelve judges are:
The cycle of events described at the start of the book is as follows:
The Angel of YHWH described in the story could be the Archangel Michael.
The story starts with Gideon threshing wheat in the winepress. It is a sign that he was to be a leader. This is a sacramental celebration.
When YHWH addresses Gideon after the Angel of YHWH has spoken, Gideon recognises his lordship and calls YHWH: Lord. (Today we recognise Christ as our Lord. The lordship changes over time.) Gedeon expresses that his family is the lowliest in their tribe and he is least in the family. Here we have a reference to “the last shall be first and first shall be last”.
We are then presented with an extraordinary situation in that Gideon asks YHWH to wait while he prepares an offering and YHWH agree to wait. When we read the preparation of the offering we realise that YHWH waited for a significant period of time. The offering consisted of bread and broth (of a goat). The religious ceremony in which we found Gideon continued. Gideon was a man who recognised that which had to be done. (We begin to understand the importance of what lives in the African Traditional religious life. An animal sacrifices its life in order to provide spiritual nourishment. These concepts live on in many religious traditions, even in Christianity, but the sacrifice on the cross of the Lamb of God, alleviates our need to sacrifice an animal.) A sacrifice must happen for communication, for communion, to happen. Gideon wished to commune with the Angel of YHWH. The sacrifice of a living animal is a deep desire to communicate with the spiritual world. It is not primitive. The angel of YHWH caused the sacrifice to burn completely to ash as a sign that the sacrifice had been accepted. Now something new could emerge.
The instruction YHWH gave to Gideon was to take a complete complement of servants (a full household) and destroy the altar of Baal (Adonis, the wrong lord for the Israelites to worship) and a seven-year-old bull. He must sacrifice a time in which they were unfaithful for a time in which they will be faithful again. He must sacrifice the bull with the wood of the sacred pillar of Baal to YHWH. They did it by night under the light of the moon of YHWH.
When the enemies came to invade, Gideon gathered the tribes and then asked for a sign for their victory. He placed lamb’s fleece on the ground and the dew fell only on the fleece. Two great signs of the Zodiac: the fleece of Aries and the water of Aquarius. Both of these symbols were significant to the peoples of Sumeria. Aquarius as servant of the god Enki and Aries as the hired man. These symbols are reimagined in the John 11 as the Good Shepherd, where the sheep run away from the hired man who flees at the first sign of danger. These powerful imaginations continued to live on for the people. Then the dew fell only on the ground. The dew is a blessing, firstly on the lamb and then the earth is blessed.
Gideon had too many people with him, so YHWH send home those with fear. 22 000 returned home while 10 000 remain: a thousand times a complete picture. Then YHWH selected based on how the men drank water. Three hundred lapped the water and they become the army of Gideon. These men took with then the horns of those who return home. The symbol of being horned speaks to a power that connects with something higher, beyond themselves. Three hundred is a three-foldness of 100 which a completeness 10 times over.
Deborah (and Barak)
After the death of one of the judges – scripture scholars are not certain whether the judges in the book of Judges are mentioned chronologically or are random, therefore it may be after the death of Shamgar (who gets only one verse in the book of Judges) – the Israelites strayed from their fidelity to YHWH (Yahweh of the Elohim). A Canaanite king oppressed them for twenty years, half the period of full spiritual development, who had an army of 900 chariots of war, not a full army of 1000, under the command of Sisera. Deborah was a prophetess who dwelt under a palm tree and the tree was named after her: the tree of Deborah. There, she acted as a judge for the complaints that the people of Israel brought to her.
She is described as “the wife of Lapidoth”. The original Hebrew described her as a woman of Lapidoth, but as there was never such a place name the assumption was that she must have been married to a man of that name. Wife can also be interpreted as simply woman or female, as it is comes to us in English words like midwife, not a spouse. However, lapidoth is derived from an ancient Hebrew word that meant a torch or lightning, fire. Therefore, it is more likely that Judges describes her as a fiery woman.
She sent for Barak and told him what YHWH had instructed her. He, Barak, must assemble an army from certain of the tribes, 10 000 men, a complete army, and face the Canaanite army under Sisera. Barak felt that he could do this only with her at his side. Deborah prophesises that should she accompany Barak Sisera would not be killed by Barak or his army, but by a woman. And so it happened. YHWH “discomforted” the Canaanite army and the Israelites defeated them. Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled on foot until he found an encampment of Kenites. These were people friendly to the Canaanites and he was welcomed into the tent by the wife of household, Jael. However, when Sisera was asleep she betrayed him and drove a tent peg through his temple into the ground. Jael came out to meet Barak and displayed Sisera to Barak.
Samson (and Delilah)
Samson is the last of the judges. We did not begin the story with his defeat of the Philistines, but rather at the story of Delilah.
Samson was a Nazarite who remained connected to the pure cosmic sources through his hair. It is worth considering that horns are made of hair. In not ever cutting his hair, Samson gained great physical strength through this connection to the cosmic forces. In a time of peace Samson loved Delilah. Delilah was offered eleven hundred pieces of silver (not a completeness of 12, falling short by 1) by each of the leaders of the Philistines to discover the source of Samson’s strength. Three times she asked Samson and three times he told her what was required to subdue him and each time when she did as he had instructed, he breaks free. She used the ruse “the Philistines are coming” to test whether she had been successful and each time he broke free from the bonds. He did not encounter the Philistines in any of these attempts although they were watching from a safe vantage point on the first occasion. Samson therefore did not suspect her treachery, thinking her only curious. When he told her the true source of his strength Delilah immediately recognised that he was being honest and she called the Philistines. They cut his hair and subdued him.
The story of Samson ends when the Philistines offered a sacrifice to their god Dagon, a god with a fish tail from Ancient Sumer, who was the father of Baal. Samson is brough from prison, so weak that a boy could subdue him, and led him to be the amusement of the Philistine leaders. Samson asked to rest against the pillars of the great house where the feast was being held and calling on YHWH he pushed over the pillars bring down the roof and killing all who were in the house, including himself. In that act he killed more people that during his defeat of the Philistines that brought peace to Israel.
Through this story we can learn that in times of weakness a new strength is always growing, as Samsons hair grew back in prison. There is always an abb and flow, never a consistent holding in time.
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