+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Opening – (Northumbria Community)
One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory.
Reading: Judges 7-11 (NLT)
Gideon Defeats the Midianites
Judges 7 (NLT)
+ Too many warriors – So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.
But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.
+ The chosen few – The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.
The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”
+ Gideon gathers intelligence – So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”
His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”
+ The battle plan – When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” He divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch in it.
Then he said to them, “Keep your eyes on me. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do. As soon as I and those with me blow the rams’ horns, blow your horns, too, all around the entire camp, and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon!’”
+ The panic attack – It was just after midnight, after the changing of the guard, when Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the Midianite camp. Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars. Then all three groups blew their horns and broke their jars. They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands, and they all shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!”
Each man stood at his position around the camp and watched as all the Midianites rushed around in a panic, shouting as they ran to escape. When the 300 Israelites blew their rams’ horns, the Lord caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords. Those who were not killed fled to places as far away as Beth-shittah near Zererah and to the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath.
+ The chase – Then Gideon sent for the warriors of Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh, who joined in chasing the army of Midian. Gideon also sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down to attack the Midianites. Cut them off at the shallow crossings of the Jordan River at Beth-barah.”
So all the men of Ephraim did as they were told. They captured Oreb and Zeeb, the two Midianite commanders, killing Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. And they continued to chase the Midianites. Afterward the Israelites brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon, who was by the Jordan River.
Gideon Kills the Midianite Kings
Judges 8 (NLT)
Then the people of Ephraim asked Gideon, “Why have you treated us this way? Why didn’t you send for us when you first went out to fight the Midianites?” And they argued heatedly with Gideon.
But Gideon replied, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t even the leftover grapes of Ephraim’s harvest better than the entire crop of my little clan of Abiezer? God gave you victory over Oreb and Zeeb, the commanders of the Midianite army. What have I accomplished compared to that?” When the men of Ephraim heard Gideon’s answer, their anger subsided.
+ Succoth’s rebuff – Gideon then crossed the Jordan River with his 300 men, and though exhausted, they continued to chase the enemy. When they reached Succoth, Gideon asked the leaders of the town, “Please give my warriors some food. They are very tired. I am chasing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”
But the officials of Succoth replied, “Catch Zebah and Zalmunna first, and then we will feed your army.”
So Gideon said, “After the Lord gives me victory over Zebah and Zalmunna, I will return and tear your flesh with the thorns and briers from the wilderness.”
+ Peniel’s rebuff – From there Gideon went up to Peniel and again asked for food, but he got the same answer. So he said to the people of Peniel, “After I return in victory, I will tear down this tower.”
+ Gideon defeats remaining Midianites – By this time Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with about 15,000 warriors—all that remained of the allied armies of the east, for 120,000 had already been killed. Gideon circled around by the caravan route east of Nobah and Jogbehah, taking the Midianite army by surprise. Zebah and Zalmunna, the two Midianite kings, fled, but Gideon chased them down and captured all their warriors.
+ Gideon punishes Succoth and Peniel – After this, Gideon returned from the battle by way of Heres Pass. There he captured a young man from Succoth and demanded that he write down the names of all the seventy-seven officials and elders in the town. Gideon then returned to Succoth and said to the leaders, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna. When we were here before, you taunted me, saying, ‘Catch Zebah and Zalmunna first, and then we will feed your exhausted army.’” Then Gideon took the elders of the town and taught them a lesson, punishing them with thorns and briers from the wilderness. He also tore down the tower of Peniel and killed all the men in the town.
+ Gideon executes Zebah and Zalmunna – Then Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “The men you killed at Tabor—what were they like?”
“Like you,” they replied. “They all had the look of a king’s son.”
“They were my brothers, the sons of my own mother!” Gideon exclaimed. “As surely as the Lord lives, I wouldn’t kill you if you hadn’t killed them.”
Turning to Jether, his oldest son, he said, “Kill them!” But Jether did not draw his sword, for he was only a boy and was afraid.
Then Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, “Be a man! Kill us yourself!” So Gideon killed them both and took the royal ornaments from the necks of their camels.
Gideon’s Sacred Ephod
Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.”
+ The Lord will rule over you – But Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you! However, I do have one request—that each of you give me an earring from the plunder you collected from your fallen enemies.” (The enemies, being Ishmaelites, all wore gold earrings.)
“Gladly!” they replied. They spread out a cloak, and each one threw in a gold earring he had gathered from the plunder. The weight of the gold earrings was forty-three pounds, not including the royal ornaments and pendants, the purple clothing worn by the kings of Midian, or the chains around the necks of their camels.
+ But the sacred became a trap – Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.
That is the story of how the people of Israel defeated Midian, which never recovered. Throughout the rest of Gideon’s lifetime—about forty years—there was peace in the land.
+ Gideon’s death – Then Gideon son of Joash returned home. He had seventy sons born to him, for he had many wives. He also had a concubine in Shechem, who gave birth to a son, whom he named Abimelech. Gideon died when he was very old, and he was buried in the grave of his father, Joash, at Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer.
+ Israel’s relapse – As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping the images of Baal, making Baal-berith their god. They forgot the Lord their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them. Nor did they show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon), despite all the good he had done for Israel.
Abimelech Made King Over Shechem
Judges 9 (NLT)
One day Gideon’s son Abimelech went to Shechem to visit his uncles—his mother’s brothers. He said to them and to the rest of his mother’s family, “Ask the leading citizens of Shechem whether they want to be ruled by all seventy of Gideon’s sons or by one man. And remember that I am your own flesh and blood!”
+ Abimelech’s treachery – So Abimelech’s uncles gave his message to all the citizens of Shechem on his behalf. And after listening to this proposal, the people of Shechem decided in favor of Abimelech because he was their relative. They gave him seventy silver coins from the temple of Baal-berith, which he used to hire some reckless troublemakers who agreed to follow him. He went to his father’s home at Ophrah, and there, on one stone, they killed all seventy of his half brothers, the sons of Gideon. But the youngest brother, Jotham, escaped and hid.
Then all the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo called a meeting under the oak beside the pillar at Shechem and made Abimelech their king.
+ Jotham’s parable: the thornbush made king – When Jotham heard about this, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted,
“Listen to me, citizens of Shechem! Listen to me if you want God to listen to you! Once upon a time the trees decided to choose a king. First they said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king!’ But the olive tree refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the olive oil that blesses both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
“Then they said to the fig tree, ‘You be our king!’ But the fig tree also refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing my sweet fruit just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
“Then they said to the grapevine, ‘You be our king!’ But the grapevine also refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the wine that cheers both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
“Then all the trees finally turned to the thornbush and said, ‘Come, you be our king!’ And the thornbush replied to the trees, ‘If you truly want to make me your king, come and take shelter in my shade. If not, let fire come out from me and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’”
+ Jotham confronts Shechem – Jotham continued, “Now make sure you have acted honorably and in good faith by making Abimelech your king, and that you have done right by Gideon and all of his descendants. Have you treated him with the honor he deserves for all he accomplished? For he fought for you and risked his life when he rescued you from the Midianites. But today you have revolted against my father and his descendants, killing his seventy sons on one stone. And you have chosen his slave woman’s son, Abimelech, to be your king just because he is your relative.
+ Jotham’s curse – “If you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Gideon and his descendants today, then may you find joy in Abimelech, and may he find joy in you. But if you have not acted in good faith, then may fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leading citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo; and may fire come out from the citizens of Shechem and Beth-millo and devour Abimelech!”
Then Jotham escaped and lived in Beer because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.
Shechem Rebels against Abimelech
+ God stirs up trouble – After Abimelech had ruled over Israel for three years, God sent a spirit that stirred up trouble between Abimelech and the leading citizens of Shechem, and they revolted. God was punishing Abimelech for murdering Gideon’s seventy sons, and the citizens of Shechem for supporting him in this treachery of murdering his brothers. The citizens of Shechem set an ambush for Abimelech on the hilltops and robbed everyone who passed that way. But someone warned Abimelech about their plot.
+ Gaal incites rebellion – One day Gaal son of Ebed moved to Shechem with his brothers and gained the confidence of the leading citizens of Shechem. During the annual harvest festival at Shechem, held in the temple of the local god, the wine flowed freely, and everyone began cursing Abimelech. “Who is Abimelech?” Gaal shouted. “He’s not a true son of Shechem, so why should we be his servants? He’s merely the son of Gideon, and this Zebul is merely his deputy. Serve the true sons of Hamor, the founder of Shechem. Why should we serve Abimelech? If I were in charge here, I would get rid of Abimelech. I would say to him, ‘Get some soldiers, and come out and fight!’”
+ Zebul reports to Abimelech – But when Zebul, the leader of the city, heard what Gaal was saying, he was furious. He sent messengers to Abimelech in Arumah, telling him, “Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers have come to live in Shechem, and now they are inciting the city to rebel against you. Come by night with an army and hide out in the fields. In the morning, as soon as it is daylight, attack the city. When Gaal and those who are with him come out against you, you can do with them as you wish.”
+ Abimelech descends on Shechem – So Abimelech and all his men went by night and split into four groups, stationing themselves around Shechem. Gaal was standing at the city gates when Abimelech and his army came out of hiding. When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, “Look, there are people coming down from the hilltops!”
Zebul replied, “It’s just the shadows on the hills that look like men.”
But again Gaal said, “No, people are coming down from the hills. And another group is coming down the road past the Diviners’ Oak.”
Then Zebul turned on him and asked, “Now where is that big mouth of yours? Wasn’t it you that said, ‘Who is Abimelech, and why should we be his servants?’ The men you mocked are right outside the city! Go out and fight them!”
+ Abimelech humiliates Gaal – So Gaal led the leading citizens of Shechem into battle against Abimelech. But Abimelech chased him, and many of Shechem’s men were wounded and fell along the road as they retreated to the city gate. Abimelech returned to Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem.
+ Abimelech destroys Shechem – The next day the people of Shechem went out into the fields to battle. When Abimelech heard about it, he divided his men into three groups and set an ambush in the fields. When Abimelech saw the people coming out of the city, he and his men jumped up from their hiding places and attacked them. Abimelech and his group stormed the city gate to keep the men of Shechem from getting back in, while Abimelech’s other two groups cut them down in the fields. The battle went on all day before Abimelech finally captured the city. He killed the people, leveled the city, and scattered salt all over the ground.
+ Abimelech destroys Shechem’s elite – When the leading citizens who lived in the tower of Shechem heard what had happened, they ran and hid in the temple of Baal-berith. Someone reported to Abimelech that the citizens had gathered in the temple, so he led his forces to Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and chopped some branches from a tree, then put them on his shoulder. “Quick, do as I have done!” he told his men. So each of them cut down some branches, following Abimelech’s example. They piled the branches against the walls of the temple and set them on fire. So all the people who had lived in the tower of Shechem died—about 1,000 men and women.
God Punishes Abimelech
Then Abimelech attacked the town of Thebez and captured it. But there was a strong tower inside the town, and all the men and women—the entire population—fled to it. They barricaded themselves in and climbed up to the roof of the tower. Abimelech followed them to attack the tower. But as he prepared to set fire to the entrance, a woman on the roof dropped a millstone that landed on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.
He quickly said to his young armor bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me! Don’t let it be said that a woman killed Abimelech!” So the young man ran him through with his sword, and he died. When Abimelech’s men saw that he was dead, they disbanded and returned to their homes.
In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done against his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also punished the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled.
Tola Becomes Israel’s Judge
Judges 10 (NLT)
After Abimelech died, Tola son of Puah, son of Dodo, was the next person to rescue Israel. He was from the tribe of Issachar but lived in the town of Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. He judged Israel for twenty-three years. When he died, he was buried in Shamir.
Jair Becomes Israel’s Judge
After Tola died, Jair from Gilead judged Israel for twenty-two years. His thirty sons rode around on thirty donkeys, and they owned thirty towns in the land of Gilead, which are still called the Towns of Jair. When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.
The Ammonites Oppress Israel
+ Israel abandons God – Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They served the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. They abandoned the Lord and no longer served him at all. So the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites, who began to oppress them that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites east of the Jordan River in the land of the Amorites (that is, in Gilead). The Ammonites also crossed to the west side of the Jordan and attacked Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim.
+ Israel repents – The Israelites were in great distress. Finally, they cried out to the Lord for help, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.”
The Lord replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!”
+ God is grieved – But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.
At that time the armies of Ammon had gathered for war and were camped in Gilead, and the people of Israel assembled and camped at Mizpah. The leaders of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever attacks the Ammonites first will become ruler over all the people of Gilead.”
Jephthah Becomes Israel’s Judge
Judges 11 (NLT)
Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him.
+ Gilead recruits Jephthah – At about this time, the Ammonites began their war against Israel. When the Ammonites attacked, the elders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. The elders said, “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites!”
But Jephthah said to them, “Aren’t you the ones who hated me and drove me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”
“Because we need you,” the elders replied. “If you lead us in battle against the Ammonites, we will make you ruler over all the people of Gilead.”
+ Jephthah promised kingship – Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the Lord gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?”
“The Lord is our witness,” the elders replied. “We promise to do whatever you say.”
So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and commander of the army. At Mizpah, in the presence of the Lord, Jephthah repeated what he had said to the elders.
+ Jephthah confronts Ammonites – Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon, asking, “Why have you come out to fight against my land?”
The king of Ammon answered Jephthah’s messengers, “When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they stole my land from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River and all the way to the Jordan. Now then, give back the land peaceably.”
“This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not steal any land from Moab or Ammon. When the people of Israel arrived at Kadesh on their journey from Egypt after crossing the Red Sea, they sent messengers to the king of Edom asking for permission to pass through his land. But their request was denied. Then they asked the king of Moab for similar permission, but he wouldn’t let them pass through either. So the people of Israel stayed in Kadesh.
“Finally, they went around Edom and Moab through the wilderness. They traveled along Moab’s eastern border and camped on the other side of the Arnon River. But they never once crossed the Arnon River into Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab.
“Then Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled from Heshbon, asking for permission to cross through his land to get to their destination. But King Sihon didn’t trust Israel to pass through his land. Instead, he mobilized his army at Jahaz and attacked them. But the Lord, the God of Israel, gave his people victory over King Sihon. So Israel took control of all the land of the Amorites, who lived in that region, from the Arnon River to the Jabbok River, and from the eastern wilderness to the Jordan.
+ God gave us your land – “So you see, it was the Lord, the God of Israel, who took away the land from the Amorites and gave it to Israel. Why, then, should we give it back to you? You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the Lord our God gives us. Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he try to make a case against Israel for disputed land? Did he go to war against them?
“Israel has been living here for 300 years, inhabiting Heshbon and its surrounding settlements, all the way to Aroer and its settlements, and in all the towns along the Arnon River. Why have you made no effort to recover it before now? Therefore, I have not sinned against you. Rather, you have wronged me by attacking me. Let the Lord, who is judge, decide today which of us is right—Israel or Ammon.”
But the king of Ammon paid no attention to Jephthah’s message.
+ God’s Spirit comes upon Jephthah – At that time the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and from there he led an army against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of my house to meet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
+ Jephthah crushes the Ammonites – So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory. He crushed the Ammonites, devastating about twenty towns from Aroer to an area near Minnith and as far away as Abel-keramim. In this way Israel defeated the Ammonites.
When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter came out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. She was his one and only child; he had no other sons or daughters. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. “Oh, my daughter!” he cried out. “You have completely destroyed me! You’ve brought disaster on me! For I have made a vow to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.”
And she said, “Father, if you have made a vow to the Lord, you must do to me what you have vowed, for the Lord has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me do this one thing: Let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin.”
“You may go,” Jephthah said. And he sent her away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children. When she returned home, her father kept the vow he had made, and she died a virgin.
So it has become a custom in Israel for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.
“Lament for a Lost Child” – Freedom High School Patriot Singers (Orlando) performing Lament for a Lost Child by Jere Hutcheson at the 2012 Spring Concert. (St. Luke’s Cathedral)
Blessing – (Northumbrian Community)
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Categories: Life in Christ