Friday, January 9, 2015

49. Anti-Heros and One Heroine

Gideon, a well-loved biblical hero, had his own set of self-inflicted problems.  About him, is written, Gideon had seventy sons who were his own offspring, for he had many wives.  As if that isn't enough, he kept another woman for the times when he was not at home, his concubine who was in Shechem.  To greatly compound the problem she also bore him a son, whose name he called Abimelech. Judges 8:30-31.

Abimelech's 70 legitimate brothers would not accept him as one of them.  So, long story short; Abimelech killed the oldest 69 of his brothers, but the youngest one escaped by hiding. This whole story is in Judges 8:29-9:57.

Samson is the last judge of Israel in the Book of Judges.  His story is a convoluted history of lies and revenge; a story of different women to please his selfish desires.  Samson's last act of revenge was also a suicidal act. See Judges 13:1-16:31.

The second part of this book starts in 17:1 and it relates some of the darkest, most murderous episodes in the history of Israel.  The main point of this section is: In those days (there was) no king in Israel; everyone did right in his own eyes.  Words with similar meaning are found in Judges 17:6. 18:1: 19:1: 21:25.

Bible commentators agree that the stories in this section do not follow after the period of the judges, but should be interspersed into the period of the judges.  To maintain continuity, the judges were listed in sequence first.  The following stories are individual anecdotes not involving any judges.  It contains horrible atrocities which the Israelites committed against each other and against other nations.

This section starts with Micah, not the prophet Micah, a spoiled brat of a child, now grown into manhood, who stole about 28 pounds of silver from his mother.  When he returned it to her, she said, Oh, you wonderful child. Thank you for bringing it back, now you may have some of it to make an idol for your house.  The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols.  Whatever happened to the 2nd commandment, Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth.
Ex. 20:4 CEV.

Not only that, but he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.
Judges 17:5.  This was so totally against the laws set forth by Moses.   Only Levites were to be priests in Israel, but Micah's son was of the tribe of Ephraim and so was not qualified to be a priest.

Then, by chance, a Bethlehemite of the tribe of Judah who was a Levite happened to stop by at Micah's house, looking for work.  Being a lower sort of person, he was content to be a priest in a house, which had idols, and to lead the family to worship at those idols.

There is some confusion in the fact that the Bible says that he was of the tribe of Judah and that he was a Levite.   Matthew Henry, in his commentary, clarifies by saying this refers to the fact that his mother was from the tribe of Judah but his father was a Levite.

As it happened in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in; and they passed by the house of Micah, who had his own "built in" priest. The Danites persuaded the young priest that it would be better for him to be a priest over a whole tribe rather than just one family. So the priest’s heart was glad; and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and took his place among the people. Well, with a promotion like that he probably would not need to live on beggar's wages anymore. When Micah complained to the Danites about what they had done, they told him, Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry men fall upon you, and you lose your life, with the lives of your household!”
Judges 17:1-18:26. Remember, their forefathers were brothers!

A Bright Star in Dark Days

The story of Ruth and Naomi also falls into the period of the judges.

Elimelech and Naomi, with their two sons, moved to Moab because of a famine in Canaan. In Moab the husband and both sons passed away leaving Naomi a widow with two daughters-in-law.  Many years before this

1. Abram and his extended family moved from Canaan to Egypt because of famine.

2. Years later, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt for the same reason.

3. Now, Elimelech and Naomi move to Moab, again, it is because of famine.

4. Later, in the history of Israel, during Elijah's time, Canaan suffered from seven years of drought.

Canaan is called the land of milk and honey.  I wonder, compared to which other country? Throughout the Bible people are constantly moving away from Canaan just to find food because of a local drought.  By the way: The flow rate of the Jordan River once was 1.3 billion cubic metres per year; as of 2010, just 20 to 30 million cubic metres per year flow into the Dead Sea. Wikipedia.  Earlier some had predicted that by 2012 the Jordan River would have ceased to exist.

Now, back to Naomi.  Some lessons to learn from this story are:

1. a daughter in law can be loyal to her mother in law.

2. cultural and racial differences do not need to stand in the way of true friendship.

3. For those who accept that the Bible predicts the future, 4:11-12 holds a beautiful promise. May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. ... because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman.  As it happens Ruth was the great-great-grandmother of King David and, of course, we know that The Messiah was born in Bethlehem of the line of David.  So this bright promise, in the dark days of Israel, was fulfilled with the Birth of Christ.

Many posts ago we noticed a similar promise in Gen. 3:15, Jehovah said, And I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head.  That promise, in different words, is repeated many times throughout the Old Testament, as it is, here, in the Book of Ruth.

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