Book of Ruth

The book of Judges ended on a low note, and the book of Ruth does not open optimistically either.  Yet, what we find throughout the book is a tale of redemption in Jesus Christ; although this is the first book where it seems that God is silent, it is in fact entirely underpinned by the gospel story of redemption from famine.  It is fittingly quiet on the LORD’s direct communion with Ruth, Naomi and Boaz, yet it is drenched with symbolism, places, names and types which explains to the reader God’s dedication of the recapitulation of the body of Christ through the ordained salvation method of through His Anointed Son.

It is a book which many mistake to have been included purely to chronicle the events of the following books which speak of the kingship of Saul and David; yet if we were to simply look at Ruth as a story of a ‘humble and meek’ woman who was used by God to display the glory of Christ coming through humility, coming through a despised Moabite, then the message will be sorely saturated and much of what the Spirit wishes to communicate to the Spirit-filled reader will be lost.  Both Antiochene and Alexandrian interpretations of this book are still subject to Christ’s words in John 5:39, that all Scripture testifies to him in several layers beyond that of mere prophecy or chronology.

Ruth 1:  Israel in Slavery

Ruth thus begins with a famine during the time of the judges, and this pattern of fullness-famine-fullness is explored several times throughout the previous books:  the leadership of Joseph and the blessings given to Israel in Egypt, leading to the widespread enslavement of the Israelites, culminating in the great Exodus to Canaan; the giving of Abraham’s wife to a king in both Genesis 12 and 20, a type of captivity over Abraham’s wife, the bride and the church, only for the wife to be returned to her lord, her husband, with greater blessings than what they have begun with; and the grander scheme of Eden, where Adam and Eve were but spiritual infants in the garden of Eden:

“Thus the enkrateia tradition could hold the state of Adam before the formation of Eve, or the supposed virginal condition of the protoplasts, to be the ideal after which to aspire, even seeing its perfection as entirely derivative of a pre-sexuality or a-sexuality.  Here is the danger in misinterpreting Irenaeus as a restorationst, for Irenaeus saw the innocence of Eden as a state of immaturity, the growth from which would necessarily include marriage, the basis of the blessing of increase [referencing Against All Heresies Book III and Genesis 1:27-8]” – Michael Reeves in his unpublished doctorate thesis “The Glory of God – The Christological Anthropology of Irenaeus of Lyons and Karl Barth”

This theology of maturation, not to be confused with a type of Darwinist theology, takes us to realise that Naomi has to experience her death, her own baptism in Christ, so that she can also experience the resurrection – restoration to Eden – and ascension, going beyond Eden, so that we mature beyond the template of Eden which is only a shadow and type of New Creation.  So this should teach us of the handing over of power to Satan in the fall but only for him to be crushed by Christ who takes the maturing church, including Adam and Eve, to the greater New Jerusalem.

Famine to Glory

This is reflected in the geographical movement of Elimelech and his family, including his wife Naomi, his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, and their respective Moabite wives (Elimelech’s daughters-in-law) Orpah and Ruth.  V.1-5 begins with Elimelech leaving Bethlehem with his Israelite family because of a famine, and his sons finding Moabite wives in Moab, a direct correlation to the period of the latter chapters of Genesis where Jacob and his eleven sons found themselves in foreign land – Egypt, because of a great famine.  Yet, upon receiving news that the LORD had “visited his people and given them food” they return to Judah where there is the house of bread, Bethlehem.

Note how the centrality of Old Testament evangelism is honed in on Israel as light to the nations; Israel is his people, by default implying at this time that Moab is not.  Thus, the movement of Elimelech’s family from Bethlehem to Moab and back to Judah is meant to be a parallel to Abraham’s movement from Canaan to Egypt and back to Canaan (Genesis 12-13).  So also Naomi’s name is changed similarly, from Sweetness to Bitterness, from having two sons and a husband taken from her (v.5) to the Almighty dealing bitterly with her (v.20), though three chapters later she will receive even greater blessings than when she had as Naomi, a glory greater than Eden.  “I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (v.21)  These are the words of a half gospel; of Christ who died and did not resurrect, of Israel in slavery and there being no exodus – but Christ is indeed alive, and Israel is indeed saved.

The Offspring in Bethlehem

Throughout this entire episode, we should not assume that Elimelech is a sinner; contrarily, we receive only a neutral narrative which explains that he, alongside his two Israelite sons, had died in foreign land.  It is in this context that we can see the similarities between Elimelech, Jacob and Israel in the wilderness.  All three parties have died prior to entering Canaan; all three knew that the Israelites were the chosen people, that restoration would come firstly to Israel and bless the nations surrounding her.  And yet, what is so important about the story of Elimelech, who is named “my God is king”, is that he is like those Israelites of the previous generations who called Yahweh his king.  Any one of the Israelites could be the direct forefather of Jesus Christ, the one offspring in Galatians 3:16-19, and yet it would seem that Elimelech’s line is finished in v.5.  Naomi is thus only left with her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Naomi.

What is important to realise is that Elimelech’s line is of course restored through Boaz and Ruth’s marriage; this effectively gives the inheritance back into the line of Mahlon, Elimelech’s son, the sick one – whose name is revived only through Israel, God’s chosen people especially in Bethlehem.

If read independently, this is also an allusion to Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, for The Offspring was born not in Moab, not in Egypt, not in the wilderness, but in the House of Bread for He is our Bread of life (John 6:48).  However, if read in context of the book of Ruth being sandwiched between Judges and 1 Samuel, we can see how the message becomes more poignant; the continual refrain of rest and slavery in Judges with the book ending on slavery means that the immediate rest should come not in Saul, nor David, nor Solomon, but in the offspring of Elimelech who died outside of Israel like Jacob, whose name perpetuated not in Moab but in Israel, though he was buried in Moab (c.f. Genesis 49:29-30; 50:5).

Therefore, where we see Orpah leave upon Naomi’s pleading in v.11-14, we can also see how Elimelech’s line is essentially stopped there.  Scripture does not mention again what happens to Orpah or Elimelech’s line through Orpah, but it appears that she heeded Naomi’s advice to find a new husband in Moab (v.8).  Orpah went to find a husband, witnessing the LORD allegedly abandoning Naomi, and even if she were to find a husband, no longer would her line of descendants proclaim like Elimelech that “God is King”.  This is the importance of seeing the difference Orpah’s progeny and Ruth’s; the former submitted to silence as if it is not important anymore, but Ruth’s being the highlight for the progeny extended through Israel and not in Moab.

Orpah shall find her husband by the blessing of her gods (v.15) who haven’t abandoned her like Yahweh has allegedly done with Naomi; Orpah shall be connected to the other husbands, to the other Baalim.  Yet, Ruth will go where Naomi will go, lodge where Naomi will lodge, Naomi’s people being Ruth’s people – the first picture of the Gentiles taking shelter under the Israelite wings, of Japheth joining the tent of Shem (v.15-18, Genesis 9:27).  This therefore appropriately occurs during the barley harvest (v.22), a time akin to the Pentecost the festival of harvest when the Spirit was given to the Gentiles, the church of Israel becoming once again a world-wide church which the church prior to Moses typified, and here prophesied as through the joining of Ruth to Naomi, of Ruth to Boaz, of Elimelech’s line restored and glorified with the addition of this Gentile – of Israel’s glory shared with the Gentiles together.

Ruth 2:  Incarnation

Boaz the Redeemer

The story does not beat around the bush, and immediately takes us from the desolation and wilderness of chapter 1 to fulfilling the true meaning of this barley harvest in chapter 2.  This is found in Boaz, incidentally a name used for one of Solomon’s brazen pillars in the temple porch (2 Chronicles 3:15).   He is indeed a pillar of faith, a cornerstone of Christian history, a type of Christ-the-Redeemer and the Israelite husband to his soon-to-be wife, a Gentile, Ruth.

Yet, whilst the focus of the chapter is on Boaz, we first see the eagerness of the Gentile, of the despised Moabite which may still be fresh in the minds of the Israelites since the conflict of Ehud and Eglon in Judges 3-4.  V.2-3 of chapter 2 in particular points us to the same principle of the Gentile who approached Christ (Matthew 15:27) as we see Ruth gleaning the Israelite field, the field which belongs to Boaz the type of Christ.  In this field bought by Christ (Matthew 13:44-46), the field being the world, the great pearl is the church and Ruth is this great pearl in Boaz’ eyes which he would have to sacrifice his own estate for (c.f. chapter 4v.6).

Immediately, we are taken to Boaz’ proclamation – “the LORD be with you” (Yahweh imachem, LORD with you) – and indeed, Boaz is with Ruth, as Christ is with the Gentile and Israelite church in this field, the world.  This man from Bethlehem is proclaiming and typifying the truth of Immanuel, God with us, and the narrative of v.8-18 taking us deep inside the mind of Christ as if He is directly speaking through Boaz.  This is a breath-taking speech, a type of wedding proposal:

8Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10Then(G) she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should(H) take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11But Boaz answered her,(I) “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12(J) The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13Then she said,(K) “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

14And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until(L) she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

17So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah[b] of barley. 18And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over(M) after being satisfied.

Christ is our LORD who takes notice of the foreigner (v.10; Acts 26:23; Romans 3:29, 11:11-25); who knows by the Spirit of the troubles of Ruth (v.11; c.f. Luke 10 parable of the Samaritan); who provides refuge under the banner of the “God of Israel” and not the Baalim of Moab as Orpah has run after; who eats with his bride (Exodus 24; Matthew 26:26) and has communion with her by the bread and the wine (v.14) – continually reminding His angels and His Church (v.15; c.f. Deuteronomy 4:26; 1 Samuel 12:5; Job 16:19; Hebrews 12:1) and Israelites to welcome her into the House of God.

Ruth in the Race of Faith

V.20 is thus a turning point for Naomi, a type of exodus for her as she begins to understand that she no longer has to call herself Mara as the LORD has not forsaken the living or the dead.  It is interesting how in the same verse, Naomi does not mention the closest redeemer who Boaz knew about (according to the kinsman-redeemer mandate of Leviticus ??), but her consistent focus on Boaz tells us that his actions typify Christ more than that of the closest redeemer who does not even glorify Christ through his duty of redeemer.  Yet, v.21-23 remains the current commandment concerning Ruth’s status in this field as she is protected from being assaulted by staying until the end of the harvest by the encouragement and upholding of her Israelite sisters; just as Hebrews 3 (?) taught us that we are to keep running in this race of faith by the Spirit and Christ the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), protected from the attack of Satan (1 Corinthians 10:13) as we stand inside the field of Boaz as Christ’s precious pearl (Matthew 13:46).

Ruth 3:  From Death to Ascension

Many people tend to look at the third chapter of Ruth and frown upon Ruth taking initiative for her action like that of a prostitute.  However, this is to read too much of an assumption into Ruth’s actions, for we need to remember that Boaz is the one who offered protection to Ruth; he is the first who extended compassion to this despised Moabite, like Christ who loved us before we loved him (Romans 5:10).

Upon this, Ruth is but hoping to prepare herself as a viable bride for Boaz to marry, and the entire preparation process is akin to the process of the Shulamite bride of the Song of Songs (Song of Songs 4) both analogies pointing to the washing and anointing of the church presented holy and blameless before her bridegroom on the great Wedding Day.

Christ and the Church

This is especially interesting given that Ruth is led by her mother-in-law (v.1-6), a Christian and an Israelite, giving godly advice to Ruth.  This is by no means a whoring of Ruth; contrarily, it is a deep theology of man and wife, of Christ and the Church.  It is in the sleeping of Adam that the church, Eve, was born – which is but a typifying of Christ who had to sleep in the earth and rise again for the global Church to be truly born:

“…Adam was put to sleep. We remember that it is said of believers that
they fall asleep, rather than that they die. Why? Because whenever
death is mentioned sin is there in the background. In Genesis 3 sin
entered into the world and death through sin, but Adam’s sleep
preceded that. So the type of the Lord Jesus here is not like other
types in the Old Testament. In relation to sin and atonement there is
a lamb or a bullock slain ; but here Adam was not slain, but only put
to sleep to awake again. Thus he prefigures a death that is not on
account of sin, but that has in view increase in resurrection. Then
too we must note that Eve was not created as a separate entity by a
separate creation, parallel to that of Adam. Adam slept, and Eve was
created out of Adam. That is God’s method with the Church. God’s
‘second Man’ has awakened from His’sleep’and His Church is created in
Him and of Him, to draw her life from Him and to display that
resurrection life.

God has a Son who is known to be the only begotten, and God is seeking
that the only begotten Son should have brethren. From the position of
only begotten He will become the first begotten, and instead of the
Son alone God will have many sons. One grain of wheat has died and
many grains will spring up. The first grain was once the only grain ;
now it is changed to be the first grain of many. The Lord Jesus laid
down His life, and that life emerged in many lives. These are the
Biblical figures we have used hitherto in our study to express this
truth. Now, in the figure just considered, the singular takes the
place of the plural. The outcome of the Cross is a single person: a
Bride for the Son. Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for
” – Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Life” Chapter 11

Ruth thus approached Boaz deep in the night and uncovering and laying by his feet as a sign of submission to Boaz her potential Head (Genesis 49:10; Exodus 3:5 – the taking off of the sandals as a sign of submission; Exodus 4:25; Joshua 3:13; Psalm 8:6, 58:10; Hebrews 2:8), with Ruth in particular seeing Boaz as akin to how Moses saw Christ (Exodus 19:4; Psalm 36:7) by her language – “I am Ruth, your servant.  Spread your wings [corners of a garment in the ESV footnote] over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”  This call for salvation is typical of the church yearning for God (c.f. Job 19:25; Psalm 57:1, 61:4).  The ESV footnote which looks at wings as alternatively the “corners of a garment” only calls me back to Isaiah 61 where Christ clothes us with the garment of righteousness, and Ruth understands that the decision of salvation and redemption comes through Boaz alone and not by her own efforts.  V.10 is as if Christ himself is blessing Ruth and condemning Orpah, that Ruth would go for a godly man rather than a husband of other gods; that Ruth would cling onto Christ as the end of chapter 2 intimated through her perseverance in the harvest, rather than be distracted by the lust of her eyes.

V.13 thus is a beckoning for the Church to remain, and that in the morning Christ would redeem us.  We are thus still in the night, wandering in the wilderness already saved from Moab, from Egypt, from slavery – and moving towards Canaan, towards Bethlehem of Judah, towards New Creation .  Yet, it is still spiritual night, and though Christ arrived as light had entered darkness (John 1), Christ’s return is the great Resurrection Day as Boaz proclaims that the Redeemer will redeem Ruth in the morning.  Yet, it is not the treacherous false kinsman-redeemer (chapter 4v.6) which Satan masquerades as, but Christ who is the only one entitled to be one with the Church as Adam and Eve and Boaz and Ruth.

However, these things are yet to be given, and just as God gave us the Holy Spirit as a deposit of this truth to come, so also Boaz grants Ruth this deposit through the symbolism of barley during this period of harvest (v.15) typical of the Pentecost.  The mother-in-law may ask Ruth to learn how the matter turns out, but we know that with the barley harvest in our heart, with the Spirit testifying to Christ and He the Father, the morning will come with the arrival of the true Kinsman-Redeemer.  Christ and His Father are working to this day (v.18, John 5:17), and will not have the long Sabbath Rest until the matter is settled once and for all (2 Peter 3:9).

Ruth 4:  His return on the Wedding Day

So twelve men gather before the gate of the city, and one of them the closest kinsman-redeemer; yet, instead of redeeming his kinsman, he looked only to the property of Naomi.  He would rather have her parcel of land (v.3) without responsibility, literally a free gift.  With this kinsman-redeemer, he has no intention of perpetuating the name of Elimelech and like Satan who is equally condemned to the pit, he has no power in perpetuating the name of Elimelech let alone the desire to help anyone perpetuate their name.  Yet, it is under Boaz the type of Christ that we all have new names which will perpetuate in New Creation (c.f. Revelation 2:17), rather than under the false pretence of this unnamed kinsman-redeemer who has failed to understand the spirit of the Levitical (?) law.

Cloud of Witnesses

This is where we see the self-sacrificial and costly nature of salvation – that Christ would endanger his own inheritance and his estate by conjoining Himself to the Church, so that Christ and Church would have such a union so that we are essentially standing with Him in the communion of the Holy Trinity:

Being born of the Spirit describes a work of the Spirit in the Christian, which Goodwin sees as analogous to the conception of the human nature of Christ.  This new birth is not the ‘begetting’ of a nature that is the very same as the nature of the Spirit Himself, that is, it is not a communication of the Godhead to us making us “God of God”.  Just as the two natures of Christ are not confused or mixed, so the Spirit does not become the new nature.  Neither is this new nature a spark of the divine life put within, because we are only creatures and can only ever be creatures”. – Paul Blackham in his unpublished doctoral thesis “The Pneumatology of Thomas Goodwin”

It is Christ who took on our flesh, and was emptied so that we are made full (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21); that He would be Mara so that we can be restored beyond Naomi.

The physical emblem of this is stored in the explanation behind “the custom in former times” (v.7) which concerns redeeming and exchanging, much like the great exchange of our sins with His righteousness in Luther’s terms:

“In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of communion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and redemption. For, since Christ is God and man, and is such a Person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned, nay, cannot sin, die, or be condemned, and since His righteousness, life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty,–when I say, such a Person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of His wife, nay, makes them His own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were His, and as if He Himself had sinned; and when He suffers, dies, and descends to hell, that He may overcome all things, and since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow Him up, they must needs be swallowed up by Him in stupendous conflict. For His righteousness rises above the sins of all men; His life is more powerful than all death; His salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.

Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its Husband Christ. Thus He presents to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus He betrothes her unto Himself “in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies” (Hosea ii. 19, 20).

Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? Christ, that rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all His good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in Him, and since she has in her Husband Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, “If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine,” as it is written, “My beloved is mine, and I am His” (Cant. ii. 16). This is what Paul says: “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” victory over sin and death, as he says, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. xv. 56, 57).” – Martin Luther’s “The Freedom of the Christian”

Thus the sandal of the redeemer is given to Boaz (v.9-11), so that all may be placed under the footstool of Christ (Luke 20:43):

9Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to(H) Chilion and to Mahlon. 10Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife,(I) to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”

Such is the nature of Christ’s proclamation of His marriage to us; He announces it to the clouds of witnesses, be they angels, the Spirit, the creatures, the groaning earth or even those being held in the pit (1 Peter 3:19) – these are the witnesses awaiting the revelation of the glory of the sons of God (Deuteronomy 4:26; 1 Samuel 12:5; Job 16:19; Romans 8:19-23; Hebrews 12:1) that the line of Spiritual Israel has perpetuated into New Jerusalem, that the name of the dead – be that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon or even you – will be preserved eternally in the New Kingdom, so that none of our inheritance is cut off as long as we are grafted into Christ and allow us to stand righteous at the gate of the new heaven and earth (Revelation 22:14).

Thus, just as Justin Martyr saw Leah and Rachel as respectively the Old Church of Israel and the New Global Church with Japheth in the tents of Shem (Genesis 9:27), so also the elders saw Ruth as akin to Rachel and Leah in the typifying of the building up the house of Israel (v.11-12) into an international Church, for it is indeed through Ruth’s story that we see a restoration of God’s people not to the idyllic template of Eden, but to the real glory of Christ Who is greater than Eden, and transcends the barriers of the nations.

The spiritual insight of the House of Perez (v.12) in fact draws several parallels between Genesis 38 and the story of Ruth (taken from and my commentary on Genesis 38):

Gen 38


Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite

Elimelech moved away from his people to Moab

Judah and his son marry a Canaanite

Mahlon and Chilion marry Moabites

Judah’s two sons die

Elimelech and his two sons die

Judah and Onan act unfaithfully as kinsman-redeemer

Boaz acts faithfully as kinsman-redeemer, the un-named redeemer of Ruth 4 does not act faithfully

Tamar faithfully seeks to continue the line

Ruth faithfully seeks to continue the line

Tamar offers herself as a prostitute to Judah

Ruth seeks to seduce Boaz in a way which could almost be considered entrapment

Judah dishonourable and seduced by Tamar

Boaz is honourable in his conduct to Ruth

Tamar is included in the people of Israel and is an ancestor of Boaz, David and Jesus

Ruth is included in the people of Israel and is an ancestor of David and Jesus

Like Tamar, Ruth is an outsider who was brought within the House of Israel – and in fact they are huge contributors to the line of David down to Christ, fulfilling the prophecy of Japheth and Shem – a picture of the Gentiles and Israelites joining together against the spiritual Canaanites which include many of the physical church of Israel.

Restorer of Life in the House of Perez

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, and Boaz did this upon his return in the morning, that on the first meeting he gave her the deposit of the barley, and that on his second return he is waiting to be married to her – so our Christ who gave us the Spirit in His incarnation would return to enable us the full intimacy of marital union.

Such is the new glory given to Naomi, that Obed the grandfather of David is greater to her than “seven sons” – exceeding the period of joy that she had with her family in Edenic times and she is restored beyond Mara, beyond Naomi.  Like a model of Genesis 3, the Seed is to come, the Seed who is the redeemer whose name shall be renowned in Israel!  The focus of this blessing and prophecy is thus on Obed – “He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to HIM” [my emphasis, v.15].  The immediate comment that David is borne of Obed shows us that Christ, in the line of David, is actually the true meaning of this restorer and nourisher of life, the redeemer whose name shall be renowned in true Israel.

Naomi is one of the few remnants left of Israel in the wilderness, just like Joshua and Caleb, and their names are upheld through their progeny as those two leaders nursed Israel into the great chosen nation.  Indeed, a son is born to Naomi, not Mara – and this is such a direct contrast to the bitterness by the end of the book of Judges, that it is so fitting for us to see the familial love entirely restored from Obed to Ruth, from Ruth to Naomi (v.15), from Ruth to Boaz, from Boaz to Ruth – this flow of love stemming from the fountain of the Trinity passing on to all who had experienced such pain of being once outcast and now restored to greater wonders.  Ruth the Moabite is no longer distinguishable as a daughter-in-law, as she is considered truly the family of the Israelites (Ruth 2:2, 2:8, 2:22; 3:1, 3:10, 3:11, 3:16, 3:18), the inheritance of Israel given to her just as Christ has used Israel to give it to all of us today.  The narrative’s focus is that she is indeed the daughter-in-law, but Ruth is according to Naomi’s choice of words truly her daughter, and Orpah truly standing outside of this Church of Christ.

The Book of Ruth therefore ends by taking us back to the house of Perez, reminding us of the glory given to Tamar of the offspring coming by her line down through Ruth (Galatians 3:16-19).  Here we see this important house recorded:  Perez who breached the family of Israel as being of mixed heritage, initially enclosed in Hezron but leading to exaltation through Ram, being one of the prince’s people through Amminadab, with Nahshon the enchanter being the brother-in-law of Aaron by his sister Elisheba (Exodus 6:23), and Salmon who – like Judah and Boaz – married women of non-Israelite blood (Rahab, c.f. Matthew 1:5), leading to the swiftness of Boaz to the salvation of Ruth resulting in the service of Obed, finally ascending to the wealth of Jesse the Bethlehemite (1 Samuel 16:1, 18; 17:58) which were cared for by David, the well-beloved Son of Man as one of the greatest types of Christ.

From this genealogy at the end of the book, we are given the context of the prophecy concerning the restorer of life in chapter 4:12, 4:15 – culminating in King David.  Obed was merely the passage to this restorer, as was Perez; and as the next book tells of the story of the true king David toppling the faithless king Saul, it is in the narrative of 1 and 2 Samuel that we find one of the longest drawn out typologies of Christ in the Old Testament, He who became our close Kinsman in order to complete the work of the Redeemer.

Book of Ruth

Judges 19-21: Who is the King?

Judges 19:  Christ the Levitical Concubine

Jdg 19:1-30  In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.  (2)  And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months.  (3)  Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him.

Judges chapters 19 and 20 follow on naturally from chapter 17, where “in those days… there was no king in Israel”.  This is deliberate, for we are brought to focus on two aspects of this fallen period – the focus on Bethlehem (for the Levite Jonathan, the descendant of Moses, came from there; and the concubine of the upcoming chapters also resided there with her father), as well as the focus on the period when there is absolutely no king – no judge, no king, no ruler, no head.  Why did chapters 17-21 of Judges come after the period of the judges, when chronologically this is occurring after the rule of Joshua?

I believe it points us to the emphasis of God’s pattern of creation and redemption: of chaos first, then formation, then filling – then Sabbath; and the process once more repeated, just as the trees die and rise up again from their ‘death-like’ sleep from winter to summer.  However, during this Godless and king-less period, Bethlehem is the centre of the attention.  Bethlehem is a small place of low repute (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6), and it is from this small place where we find King David and the true King Jesus Christ (John 7:42).  Where Jonathan, the heretical Levite, came from Bethlehem in the previous chapters, the concubine of the Levite in chapter 19 also comes from Bethlehem.

What is characteristic of this Levite-concubine relationship at the beginning of the chapter is that this ‘concubine’ is seen by some commentators as a ‘wife’ as well.  Adam Clarke postulates that the original languages indicate how this concubine was not necessarily unfaithful to the Levite, and here he quotes an alternative translation:

“who when she was alienated from him, or angry with him, left him”.

Yet, is not spiritual adultery the same as alienation from God?  This hendiadys is important for us in drawing the parallel between the relationship of the mysterious unnamed concubine and mysterious unnamed Levite.  Unlike the previous stories of Judges, chapters 19-21 include no names, except for names of places.

As such, it should be the joint meaning of concubine and her being from Bethlehem that we understand the character of the Levite’s love.  He is unlike Jonathan; this Levite has the law written in his heart (v.12-13, 18), extends his love like that of God with us (Hosea 2), and is not tempted by food nor drink to become slothful or gluttonous.  Because his character is so strongly contrasted to Jonathan, the narrator points us to the concubine as the centre of the Levite’s attention.  This concubine is redeemed by the Levite who wished to travel from Ephraim to Bethlehem, back to the House of God then to his home in Ephraim.  The journey as described in v.3 is purposeful – it is a journey of compassionate love, the love of Christ for his enemies; the love of Christ for his church.  This pitiful church, this pitiful whorish bride from the least of the clans of Judah where darkness resides – it is here that light enters into the world and shone the brightest in the form of virgin birth.

(4)  And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there.  (5)  And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.”  (6)  So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.”  (7)  And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again.

This is a joyful reconciliation – and we see from the taking of the concubine an image of Eden.  For God had created Adam and his woman, taking both to His bosom as a shadow of taking Christ, the Father’s true image, to His bosom.  Yet, unlike Christ and much to the similarity of the earliest church of man and wife, the concubine leaves the side of the priest and returns to her father in Bethlehem.  She would rather return to darkness than to abide in light.

Through the Levite’s compassionate love of his enemy, the prostitute who had alienated herself from Christ is redeemed by His love.  There is an unexplained silence between the Levite and his bride for four months, and upon the end of that silence he goes to reclaim her: just as Christ and Israel had a silence for four hundred years between the entrance to Egypt and the great exodus; and between Malachi and Matthew, before Christ’s incarnation into Bethlehem.  Even the father of the bride is blessed and it is a picture of temporary joy, of feasting and drinking as Christ was sent into Bethlehem to enjoy communion with us daily until his crucifixion.  He is the God who eats with us (Exodus 24), though this be a shadow of things to come, and we are his treasured possession who He wishes to spend more time with (Matthew 13:46).  Yet, he cannot remain with us forever (John 20:17), and must return to Shiloh where the House of the LORD is; He must return to the Holy of Holies.

(8)  And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them.  (9)  And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”  (10)  But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him.  (11)  When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.”  (12)  And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.”  (13)  And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.”

It is on the fifth night that the Levite stayed at Gibeah, the fifth day being the day of the filling of the water creatures in Genesis 1 – a sign of judgment as on day two of creation.  So here is similarly a sign of judgment on both Gibeah and the church.  The reason for the Levite to desist from staying at Jerusalem (Jebus) is because it is a city of foreigners – above all, the city which had persecuted Christ in His final days up to His crucifixion.  It is still not yet named Jerusalem, the city of peace, for it is now Jebus – a threshing floor.  Yet, the nature of Jerusalem during the time of Christ’s incarnation is like a threshing floor, for it is not a true city of peace until New Jerusalem in new creation.  Thus the Levite’s dismissal of Jebus is Christ’s dismissal of Jerusalem as a city of God, because it is filled with foreigners rejecting Him.

This truth is further expanded once the Levite moves to Gibeah, a hill (like Ramah, also meaning “hill”).  For the gospel of Christ’s humiliation and ascension is recorded in this narrative, the Levite who left Ephraim, the land of double-fruitfulness where the House of the LORD resided, entered into the dark and unimportant land of Bethlehem to retrieve his concubine-bride, and to return to Ephraim by the hill (be that Ramah or Gibeah) like Christ who is the One who ascended the holy hill (Psalm 24:3).

(14)  So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin,  (15)  and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.  (16)  And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites.  (17)  And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?”  (18)  And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house.  (19)  We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.”  (20)  And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.”

And like the story of Bethlehem where Joseph and Mary could not find a place to stay, here a man from Ephraim was also sojourning in Gibeah.  Note that he is not from Gibeah, like Lot who was not from Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot stood by the city gates, bowing down when the angels came to visit him; Gibeah, who knew the man to be a Levite going by the way of the House of the LORD (v.18-20) equally provided shelter for he who does the LORD’s will.  As Christ has said in Matthew 25:31-46, this is an act of service as if done to Christ himself.  Judgment has already been proclaimed onto Gibeah, as no-one in Gibeah seemed to be humbled by the prospect that they wish to know a Levite; just as no-one in Sodom and Gomorrah revered the angels as Lot did.  The Levite entered Bethlehem and was merry with the father-in-law and the concubine; the Levite enjoyed himself with the friendly stranger from Ephraim sojourning in Gibeah; and so Christ enjoys fellowship and communion with the minority and those who are outcast and humble in the world.  Yet, Gibeah, to become Gibeah of Saul, is presumably a place of recognition – and for its recognition, it fails to recognize the Levite, the Priest, the Christ.

(21)  So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.  (22)  As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.”  (23)  And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing.  (24)  Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.”  (25)  But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go.  (26)  And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.  (27)  And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.  (28)  He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home.  (29)  And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel.  (30)  And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

It is quite clear that the narrative is not completely unbiased.  Given the focus on the righteous Levite who is a type of Christ’s humiliation and ascension; the focus on the stranger from Ephraim sojourning in Gibeah as akin to righteous Lot; and the focus on the worthless fellows (v.22) of the tribe of Benjamin as the culprits of these chapters, the minority party in Christ are pitted against the majority party of Satan in the middle of the land of Israel.  It is an internal struggle of the physical against the spiritual church, when there is no king in the land of Israel.  This is especially highlighted in contrast to Gibeah of Saul, in contrast to Jebus the true spirit of Jerusalem then, because both are cities hostile to the LORD.

Only with this backbone to the final chapters of Judges can we then understand the difficult nature of v.23-30.  Two direct parallels can be drawn with respect to the giving of the concubine and the virgin daughter – the story of Abraham in Genesis 12 where he offered his wife as his sister; and Lot in Genesis 19.  With respect to Abraham labeling his wife as his sister, he is in fact not far from the truth, for his wife Sarah is indeed his half-sister if we were to trace the line of genealogy.  Furthermore, Abraham’s giving of Sarah to the Pharoah is seen as the giving of the church to Pharoah; while the church is protected, unharmed and not violated, Pharoah contrarily is plagued by God’s curses, sending Abraham and his wife away with more riches than they came.  This is the story of salvation, that God would create a beautiful bride, only for her to be sent into the world temporarily given over to Satan but the true restoration is the removal of power from this fallen steward into the hands of Christ, who is better than Eden.  So also, the story resonates with the concubine whom the Levite conjoined himself with, the concubine who alienated herself from him but he would go the length to humiliate himself into Bethlehem and return by way of the hill to Shiloh in Ephraim.  So the concubine is temporarily given over but is redeemed into the faithful hands of the Bridegroom.

Similarly, Lot’s giving of his two daughters to the Sodomites is a sign of rejection, knowing that his two daughters are worthless for they are the source of incest and the source of the tribes against Israel.  Lot has changed much after his salvation by the hands of God through Abraham in Genesis 14; and his reverence for Yahweh is noticeable, which means that his actions are led by the Spirit revealing a truth deeper than merely for us to condemn him for giving his two daughters away.

Therefore, with regards to both stories, they are not stories where we investigate the individual morality of the saint; rather, they are stories displaying a greater truth of the giving over of the church into the hands of Satan so that all is restored in Christ.  Dev Menon looks at it in this way:

“God gives good gifts to all men in His provision
then He places a famine on these things so that they don’t satisfy (cf. Hag 1).  Then a Ruler is raised up that stores good things in Himself, so that at the time of uttermost famine – all good things are found only in One Person, the true Joseph – Chris; so even in creation itself (of course after the church reveals it), we can say:

Acts 14:17
Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.

Look around you and see the abundant provision of the Lord showing He is good – yet these things are going to be and have now been stored up in Christ and will be completely removed on the day of Judgment.”

Alternatively the giving up of the apostates into the hand of Satan will leave them condemned in him (Romans 1:24-28, especially note the repeated phrase “gave them up”; c.f. Revelation 20:13).

With this understanding, we can now see why the Levite gave his concubine over to the men of Gibeah.  She, unlike the virgin daughter, is the body of the Levite;  she is the proud church who is sent into the world by the Priest, attacked from each and every direction.  She will ultimately die as a martyr, completely consumed by death just as Christ himself died on the cross for us.  What we therefore see which is happening to the concubine is also what we saw in Leviticus 17 on the Day of Atonement – the two goats, one killed on the spot whereas the other being left in the wilderness bearing the sins of Israel.  So we see here a graphic representation of the same truth, the body of the Head entirely destroyed just as Christ himself was destroyed for bearing the sins of mankind.  He was raped, he was abused all night as he was throughout his trials from the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, and teased on the cross by the Roman officials – He is our Priest and we His concubine in Him, as He took on the duty and the experience of the concubine in His incarnation, taking His blood up the hill to the House of the LORD.

So, upon the rising of the Levite on the new morning, the condemnation shall come in the appropriate and righteous vengeance for the murdered church on the Day of Resurrection; for the murdered body of Christ as Christ himself had received punishment on behalf of the believers (v.29-30).  Indeed, the separation of the body of Christ into twelve pieces is akin to the separation of the body of Christ into the 12 apostles, the foundation of the New Testament Church; yet one will be the cause of rebellion, he who is from the tribe of the son of the right hand (Benjamin) but is in fact filled with people who fight with their left.  He who is like Judas, masquerading as a son of the right hand, as an apostle of Christ, though he is very much following in the spirit of Satan.  This is also picked up by Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke:

“… All the forces they could bring into the field were but 26,000 men, besides 700 men of Gibeah (Jdg_20:15); yet with these they will dare to face 400,000 men of Israel, Jdg_20:17. Thus sinners are infatuated to their own ruin, and provoke him to jealousy who is infinitely stronger than they, 1Co_10:22. But it should seem they depended upon the skill of their men to make up what was wanting in numbers, especially a regiment of slingers, 700 men, who, though left-handed, were so dexterous at slinging stones that they would not be a hair’s breadth beside their mark, Jdg_20:16. But these good marksmen were very much out in their aim when they espoused this bad cause. Benjamin signifies the son of the right hand, yet we find his posterity left-handed.” – Matthew Henry

“ולא יחטא  velo yachati, and not sin: και ουκ εξαμαρτανοντες; Sept. Here we have the true import of the term sin; it signifies simply to miss the mark, and is well translated in the New Testament by ἁμαρτανω, from α, negative, and μαρπτω, to hit the mark. Men miss the mark of true happiness in aiming at sensual gratifications; which happiness is to be found only in the possession and enjoyment of the favor of God, from whom their passions continually lead them. He alone hits the mark, and ceases from sin, who attains to God through Christ Jesus.” – Adam Clarke

It is especially ironic given Clarke’s analysis that these left-handed men as ‘not missing the mark’ (i.e. not sinning) – such is the pride of Satan that he perhaps believed by delusion that he can sit on the throne of the Father though he is anything but ‘hitting the mark’.

As the 12 pieces of His body are sent to the coasts of Israel (v.29 re-translation from the Hebrew), so are these men from the corners of Israel brought together as one under the banner of Christ as we shall see in chapter 20.  Yet, if they did not avenge the death of the concubine, then blood of her corpse will literally be on their hand (c.f. Ezekiel 3), just as the blood of Christ will be a result of our own murdering of Him.  To re-iterate the truth of Matthew 25:31-46, what is done to the concubine is as done to Christ himself, who is her Head.

Judges 20:  The Breach of Israel

Jdg 20:1-48  Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah.  (2)  And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword.  (3)  (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?”  (4)  And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night.  (5)  And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead.  (6)  So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel.  (7)  Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.”  (8)  And all the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house.  (9)  But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot,  (10)  and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may repay Gibeah of Benjamin, for all the outrage that they have committed in Israel.”  (11)  So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man.

The key of the opening verses of chapter 20 lies in v.11 – that they are all united as one against the city using the same Hebrew as Genesis 2:24 – they shall be אֶחָד (echad).  The second focus lies in the place where they are united as one – they are united at Mizpeh, the watchtower where a heap of stones were piled up by Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31) on Mount Gilead as a witness to the covenant between them; and similarly this is the watch-tower where the Israelites resisted the Ammonites (Judges 10) and where Jephthah met his daughter in Judges 11.  It is aptly named for it is a place where there is either impending judgment or salvation, and it is here that the Trinitarian communion of Israel gathered as one man against Benjamin, a difficult feat unless they were united under the One Man Jesus Christ.  And thus, it is effectively this One Man who judges Benjamin, by the word of the Levite.

(12)  And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What evil is this that has taken place among you?  (13)  Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel.  (14)  Then the people of Benjamin came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel.  (15)  And the people of Benjamin mustered out of their cities on that day 26,000 men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who mustered 700 chosen men.  (16)  Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.  (17)  And the men of Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered 400,000 men who drew the sword; all these were men of war. (18)  The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.”

So finally we see the judgment upon the Benjaminites, the people who attempted to both know the Levite as well as murder him (v.5).  What is peculiar is that after chapters of silence, the Israelites finally speak to the LORD and inquire of Him in v.18.  Note how he says that Judah shall go up first, for Jesus Christ is the first to conquer, He who is from the line of Judah.  However, also see that the LORD does not say that Judah will conquer; Judah will merely go up first.  In the words of Matthew Henry, “… this honour was done to Judah because our Lord Jesus was to spring from that tribe, who was in all things to have the pre-eminence. The tribe that went up first had the most honourable post, but withal the most dangerous, and probably lost most in the engagement. Who would strive for precedency that sees the peril of it?”  Thus, despite the overwhelming majority of Israelites pinned against the Benjaminites, unless the battle is by the hand of the LORD, the Israelites will still lose.

(19)  Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah.  (20)  And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah.  (21)  The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites.  (22)  But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day.  (23)  And the people of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until the evening. And they inquired of the LORD, “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against them.”  (24)  So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day.  (25)  And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword.  (26)  Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.  (27)  And the people of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days,  (28)  and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.”

Here, we finally see that the victory at judgment is achieved only through burnt offerings and peace offerings, on the second day of their battle against Gibeah.  Their first inquiry of the LORD indicated that Christ shall lead the battle through Judah; their second inquiry of the LORD on the second day indicated that Christ must die for the battle to be won; and so the LORD will achieve this victory on the third day, just as the death of Christ who took on the flesh of the concubine is equally avenged on the third day:

(29)  So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah.  (30)  And the people of Israel went up against the people of Benjamin on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times.  (31)  And the people of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city. And as at other times they began to strike and kill some of the people in the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the open country, about thirty men of Israel.  (32)  And the people of Benjamin said, “They are routed before us, as at the first.” But the people of Israel said, “Let us flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.”  (33)  And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the men of Israel who were in ambush rushed out of their place from Maareh-geba.  (34)  And there came against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was hard, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was close upon them.  (35)  And the LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel, and the people of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day. All these were men who drew the sword.  (36)  So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah.  (37)  Then the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush moved out and struck all the city with the edge of the sword.  (38)  Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in the main ambush was that when they made a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city  (39)  the men of Israel should turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel. They said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.”  (40)  But when the signal began to rise out of the city in a column of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to heaven.  (41)  Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed, for they saw that disaster was close upon them.

Thus the defeat of the Benjaminites came from Baal-tamar, aptly named the “Lord of palm trees” (v.33), for the true LORD of palm trees, the true husband of palm trees (Exodus 15:27; Leviticus 23:40; Numbers 24:6; 1 Kings 6:29-35; Psalm 92:12; Ezekiel 41:18; Revelation 7:9) is the Christ who judges the physical church who is part of the world outside of Noah’s ark.

However, the true glory of the prophesied Christ in these verses is that the Benjaminites had thought they were victorious.  When they violated, abused and martyred the body of Christ, they had not thought of the repercussions.  They merely satiated their lustful desires, and arrogantly believed that victory is in their clasp.  Yet, whilst our LORD was humiliated and received beatings, which discouraged even those closest to Him and discouraged others to the point of questioning whether there is true victory after all, we finally see the light shine the brightest in the midst of darkness.  We truly experience light greater at noon than it is at dawn, which entered not merely in Bethlehem, but could shine fear into the hearts of the depths of Babylon.  After the imminent victories of Israel on the third day, we see a turn of the tide.  Where it has always been clear that Benjamin is under judgment the day they dedicated themselves to abuse and violate the Levite’s wife, it is also clear that Christ’s humiliation is but temporary.  His victory is already gained, and we are victors in His Name.

How much similarity there is therefore between the gospel, which seemed first so tragic and yet so astounding?  V.41 sums up the case for all those who mocked Noah; who patronized him into believing that there is no rain to come – and yet, like Satan, all these non-believers will be “dismayed, for they [will see] that disaster [is] close upon them”.  This phrase will be especially fitting on the Day of Resurrection, for while Noah sails away in the Ark of Christ, everyone outside will only feel the rain drop heavier and heavier on their shoulders.

(42)  Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them. And those who came out of the cities were destroying them in their midst.  (43)  Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east.  (44)  Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor.  (45)  And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways. And they were pursued hard to Gidom, and 2,000 men of them were struck down.  (46)  So all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor.  (47)  But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months.  (48)  And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they found they set on fire.

And this is the nature of the sinner, that instead of turning to Israel for solace, one would rather escape into the direction of the wilderness.  What idiocy!  As if the death of an entire generation of Israelites in the wilderness did not already teach them of the lack of shelter in the wilderness!   Not only do they run aimlessly, but it is made clear by the narrator that they are running to the rock of Rimmon from Nohah – from calmness and tranquility to Rimmon, bearing the same name as a deity of wind, rain and storm worshipped by the Syrians of Damascus, and finally to Giddom, a placing of cutting down.

Revelation 6:15 clarifies this entirely – that these self-proclaimed kings of Gibeah, of Gibeah of Saul, are nothing but false rulers, hiding in clefts of rocks but not hiding in the cleft of the Rock.  These false liars can only turn to more lies for comfort for that is what they do best, and they turn instead to Rimmon, another man-made God.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

“…the Benjamites, in the beginning of the battle, were confident that the day was their own: They are smitten down before us, v. 32, 39. Sometimes God suffers wicked men to be lifted up in successes and hopes, that their fall may be the sorer. See how short their joy is, and their triumphing but for a moment. Let not him that girdeth on the harness boast, except he has reason to boast in God… Evil was near them and they did not know it, v. 34. But (v. 41) they saw, when it was too late to prevent it, that evil had come upon them. What evils may at any time be near us we cannot tell, but the less they are feared the heavier they fall. Sinners will not be persuaded to see evil near them, but how dreadful will it be when it comes and there is no escaping! 1 Thess. v. 3… Though the men of Israel played their parts so well in this engagement, yet the victory is ascribed to God (v. 35): The Lord smote Benjamin before Israel. The battle was his, and so was the success…”

Although this success seemed to indicate that Israel has restored itself of a true ruler, a true King – Yahweh – the following chapter immediately connotes otherwise, for the final verse of the book of Judges still rings true as a theme of the latter chapters of Judges:

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:  Spiritual Famine before Recapitulation

1 Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.

2 And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly.

3 And they said, O LORD, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?

This is a question asked also upon the death of Judas.  Who can replace him?  Who shall be the 12th apostle?  It is important for us to see, indeed, that the missing tribe and missing apostle would not inherently affect the unity of Israel, of the church.  Yet, the missing tribe and the missing apostle is equivalent to a missing representative head – for the number 12 represents theocracy, represents true Christocracy, then the instituted 12 leading men and tribes should be upheld to represent the eternal government of God in creation.

Such is the propensity of man’s hurriedness that they make such hasty oaths as to not marry any of their daughters to Benjamin as an act of glory to God, for God himself caused a ‘breach’ in the House of Israel (v.15).  This will be an important theme throughout the chapter.

And like the book of Acts where the choice of Matthias (Acts 1:23-26) is indicative of the hurriedness in replacing Judas, so this is shown equally in this chapter.  Paul is the new 12th apostle, and what an apostle he became – effectively sent to the Gentiles though he still had a yearning for the Jews.  Instead, Israel did not inquire of the LORD and looked to restore Benjamin’s inheritance through robbing the virgins of Jabesh-gilead who were placed in Shiloh.

4 And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

5 And the people of Israel said, Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD? For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, He shall surely be put to death.

6 And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, One tribe is cut off from Israel this day.

7 What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?

8 And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah? And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly.

9 For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there.

10 So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones.

11 This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.

12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

It is immediately apparent as to the selfish nature of Israel’s worship – they would rather build another altar besides the brazen altar of the tabernacle, which intimates prayer and worship through Jesus Christ alone in the House of God.  Adam Clarke suggests that this is due to the recurring refrain between chapters 17-21: “This affords some evidence that this was not a regular place of worship, else an altar would have been found in the place; and their act was not according to the law, as may be seen in several places of the Pentateuch. But there was neither king nor law among them, and they did whatever appeared right in their own eyes.”  Instead, what we find here are hasty oaths – the first one in v.1, and the second one in v.5.  v.6 moves on to say that Israel (not, not the LORD) had compassion for Benjamin, despite their first oath which would have effectively cut off the inheritance of Benjamin.  V.7 seems to suggest that they are not restoring the inheritance because of God’s leading (for they did not provide offerings by the brazen altar but by the altar of their own choosing), but because of their own desires.

Thus, the extermination of the camp from Jabesh-gilead, again, is not a leading from God but from their oath, some commentators calling this a ‘criminal excess’, others noting that the Israelites now have strayed from God after devoting Benjamin to destruction for they are supporting their own authority, following their own lead, their own theology of worship.  The Pharisaic heart began in the garden of Eden, and this treacherous vine has spread to Israel in the time when there was no king; when they would rather, by initiative, follow their own hearts, try to avoid the spirit of the law, of the oath, by conjuring up a plan of destroying the men and married women of Jabesh-gilead, and by stealing the girls of Shiloh to fill the tribe of Benjamin.  Is this the way of creating a new foundation for the 12th and youngest tribe?  By hasty oaths, misled compassion, murder, thievery?  The breach occurred for it was necessarily, and now we understand the extent of Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:

Gen 49:27  “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil.”

Note that both King Saul and Apostle Saul are from this tribe; the latter having changed his name from that of the faithless king, of the old order – yet what is important is that we note how the book of Judges, chronologically, is placed before the period of the first king Saul.  To take Saul out of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:21), rather than David out of Judah, is indeed a prophetic implication that Saul was never meant to be the king after Yahweh’s heart.  Saul may be from humble Benjamin, but only because Benjamin was humbled in this inter-tribal war and because God deliberately humbled the tribe by cutting off its inheritance; but David is from humble Bethlehem, because it is virtually unknown and is also a place where Jonathan the Levite and the concubine originally came from.

13 Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them.

14 And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them.

15 And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?

17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel.

18 Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters. For the people of Israel had sworn, Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.

v.15 in particular is revealing of the heart of Israel – the people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel?  The word for “because” in Hebrew bears many different meanings, and it could also be aptly changed to when, except that, surely and so forth – given the context.  And the context here calls for a direct contention between Yahweh’s intention to deprive Benjamin of its inheritance and Israel’s compassion by repopulating Benjamin as a direct contradiction to the LORD’s destruction in the previous chapter.

19 So they said, Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.

20 And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards

21 and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.

Such is the fallenness of Israel when they are not led by the king, that they would encourage this essential rape of the women of Shiloh, a direct parallel to the act of the sin of Gibeah by raping that poor concubine.  Israel effectively restored the fall of Benjamin, and though Benjamin rebuilt the towns and lived in them, their hearts were essentially still not circumcised; the 400 virgins from the tribe essentially corrupted like those who were devoted to destruction.

23 And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them.

24 And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

The end of Judges begs the question: surely it would have been wiser to end on chapter 16, at least by the end of the period of the Judges?  However, what the narrator aims to do is not to put our faith in the judges; rather, to put our faith in the Judge who will rule forevermore.  The death of the judges always lead to years of spiritual famine that persecution would not come from the outside but even from the inside; and to end the book of Judges on famine is to suggest that the following books will cover a restoration, a great restoration, fitting of the famine.

Is this book therefore followed up with the story of Saul?  No.  Story of David?  No.  Of Solomon?  No – but of Ruth.  What a peculiar placing of the books of the Old Testament, that Ruth, this woman from a cursed non-Israelite tribe would be the focus of the next book.  Yahweh will use her as the true restoration to come after the period of the judges, for the judge may be like a ruler, these humble men who are anointed with the Spirit; but only the Anointed One can carry the title of the true king and true judge.  The foundation for that understanding must come firstly through the joining of the Moabite and the Israelite, of Ruth and Boaz, for us to understand the global nature of the spiritual church which both David and Solomon were merely a typical kings of.   It is thus fitting for us to remind ourselves of the end of Joshua chapter 24 – that the land of Gibeah in the hill country of Ephraim was meant to belong to the High Priest Phinehas.  The treachery of Gibeah and their subsequent devotion to destruction should have implicated a restoration of the land to the High Priest; but soon Israel fell into false altar worship, fell into religiousness of vow-making, and fell deeper and deeper into Pharisaic religion – and although this is temporarily remedied throughout the period of judges, only through the progeny of Ruth can true healing be achieved.

Judges 19-21: Who is the King?

Judges 17-18: The House of God at Shiloh

Judges 17:  False Gospel

The False Tabernacle and the False Gospel

Commentators have postulated that chapters 17-18 are located in a chronology previous to that of the period of judges.  V.6 is indicative of the period, though strictly speaking the judges were not kings.  We must remember that the judges are placed firmly between the time when Israel was led entirely by the Angel of the LORD, when men like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were led also by His physical divine appearances alongside other mediators who typified the role of Christ in their lives; and the time when Israel finally received a rightful king like the surrounding nations – but neither these mediators nor judges nor kings are sufficient in themselves unless they brought the Israelites closer to Yahweh.

It is interesting to note the contrast between chapter 17 and the previous chapters of Judges.  The noted pattern is that of fall, redemption; and fall, redemption.  Here, we see a period where there are no judges.  There is no typified redeemer.  And what a chaotic period is must have been, because these Israelites in the latter chapters of Judges are no saints such that judges were not necessary, for they have not placed their faith in Christ.

1There was a man of(A) the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said,(B) “Blessed be my son by the LORD.” 3And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make(C) a carved image and(D) a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” 4So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother(E) took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. 5And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made(F) an ephod and(G) household gods, and(H) ordained[a] one of his sons, who became his priest. 6(I) In those days there was no king in Israel.(J) Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

And so the chapter begins with a man called Micah – “who is like God?”  From the name itself, the Hebrew reader is led to falsely assume that this is a man who wishes to be led by God; and in some sense, this is true, through not for Christ-glorifying reasons.  This is a man who stole money from his mother, restored it out of fear of being cursed by her; this is a man who sought to create his own temple of God, sought to make his own tabernacle and equipment, sought to establish his own priest, so that he can give glory to the LORD.  However, this is also a man much like he who is described in Matthew 7:  21(Z) “Not everyone who(AA) says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will(AB) enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who(AC) does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22(AD) On that day(AE) many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not(AF) prophesy in your name, and cast out demons(AG) in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23(AH) And then will I declare to them, ‘I(AI) never knew you;(AJ) depart from me,(AK) you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew Henry reveals that in v.5, it is more fitting to describe Micah as having “a house of gods, a house of God, so the Septuagint, for so he thought it, as good as that at Shiloh, and better because his own, of his own inventing and at his own disposal; for people love to have their religion under their girdle, to manage it as they please. A house of error, so the Chaldee, for really it was so, a deviation from the way of truth and an inlet to all deceit. Idolatry is a great cheat, and one of the worst of errors. That which he aimed at in the progress of his idolatry, whether he designed it at first or no, was to mimic and rival both God’s oracles and his ordinances.

Indeed, let us look at what he has tried to accomplish.  Firstly, his production of teraphim, the images by which he might seek advice – these are his “oracles”, his own equivalent to the urim and thummim.  Secondly, the usage of his house as a temple of God, with a copy of the ephod for his appointed priest.  What ridicule this is, to create their own tabernacle, when Joshua 22 had so firmly taught that there is only one altar, the brazen altar of the true House of God.  Adam Clarke describes these things:

“Perhaps the whole of this case may be stated thus: Micah built a house of God-a chapel in imitation of the sanctuary; he made a graven image representing the ark, a molten image to represent the mercy-seat, teraphim to represent the cherubim above the mercy-seat, and an ephod in imitation of the sacerdotal garments; and he consecrated one of his sons to be priest. Thus gross idolatry was not the crime of Micah; he only set up in his own house an epitome of the Divine worship as performed at Shiloh.”

As much credit as Clarke would wish to give Micah, it would seem that he is closer to idolatry rather than setting this up as a mere epitome.  Why?  Because he is worshipping the gods; he is denying the centrality of the one tabernacle by setting up a rival tabernacle which is clearly more than a mere epitome by its extravagant detail and nature in comparison to the altar of witness in Joshua 22. Even the eastern tribes were given an immensely difficult time to explain their copy, the altar of witness, which was not used for offerings but merely had an imposing size: and here, so soon after the chronological events of Joshua 22, do we find another copy: this time, not of a mere altar, but of the entire works of the Levitical system.

What is especially poignant about this piece of history is its placement in the latter half of the book of Judges instead of the first few chapters.  I believe this has much to do with the silver and the tribe of Dan being a featured theme of chapter 16, where Samson, a judge of the tribe of Dan, was seduced by Delilah, who similarly received 1100 pieces of silver.  Here, the silver is the source of similar seduction, affecting the tribe of Dan as their attempt to conquer Laish, or Leshem (as recorded in Joshua 19), is fully accounted for in the next chapter.  Where the silver in chapter 16 is used to seduce Delilah, and that much of the Philistines had provided offerings to their god Dagon after the temporary victory over Samson, so also the silver here is not a true offering to the LORD.  Micah, and his mother, are tarnishing the LORD’s reputation, though they are calling upon His Holy Name.  In a re-iteration of the passage from Matthew 7, this is a pandemic: the pandemic of religion, of false pretension that true protection comes from such measly Spirit-less works.  Clarke’s analysis of the Hebrew gives some insight here:

“[The Hebrew word for “priest” in this chapter is] cohen, which the Targum translates chumera. The word cohen is the common name in Hebrew for a priest of the true God; but sometimes it is applied to idolatrous priests. When it is to be understood in the former sense, the Targum renders it cahen; when in the latter, it uses the word chumera, by which it always understands an idolatrous priest. But that this was not a case of idolatry, and that the true God was worshipped here, is evident from the word Jehovah being used, Judges 17:4, and oracular answers being given at this house, as we see from Judges 18:6.”

This would therefore shed light on Micah’s knowledge of the illegitimacy of his own temple of God, as he desperately sought the help of a true Levite, rather than a false priest which he had no authority to anoint or ordain in consecration to the LORD.

7Now there was a young man of(K) Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to(L) the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. 9And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” 10And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me(M) a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. 11And the Levite(N) was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12And Micah(O) ordained the Levite, and the young man(P) became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Like Balaam who was a hired prophet, Jonathan (the Levite, who is yet to be named until the end of chapter 18) is a hired Levite.  This Levite is a man who broke many of the ordinances of being part of this privileged and holy tribe – for he worked for money, rather than for the LORD.  He was in the position to rebuke Micah, especially given the incident of the eastern altar of witness; instead, he was “content to dwell with the man”, Micah.  To Micah, Jonathan was both a son and a father; a son, for he was presumably younger than Micah; a father, for he is the one who will enable Micah’s prosperity (v.13).  Micah’s delusion runs deep – the LORD will only give him prosperity if he has Christ, if he has the living object of faith, rather than mere shadows.  One can consume as much communion, have as many baptisms as one wishes – but only Christ can give one true food and living water.  His delusion is at a height as high as his arrogance, as he presumes to consecrate even this Levite (v.12).  The ESV footnote indicates the difficulty of the translation of v.12, which Clarke also investigates:

vayemalle eth yad, he filled his hands [as noted in the ESV footnote], i.e., he gave him an offering to present before the Lord, that he might be accepted by him. He appointed him to be priest; God was to accept and consecrate him; and for this purpose he filled his hand; i.e., furnished him with the proper offering which he was to present on his inauguration.”
Thus we see a man, terribly fearful of the LORD, attempting to do all the right things to gain His reward though forgetting that these rituals are mere shadows; and despite being shadows, it is important to distinguish that the rituals still have a set procedure in order to display the gospel of Christ, rather than a gospel of Satanic works.  Even the priest is not properly ordained, as the Hebrew reveals: he is not given the anointing of oil, the representation of the giving of the Spirit; in which case, how can the priest do any work for God?  How is he ‘wholly consecrated’ if he was to freely serve different masters?  A simple offering is a huge insult in denying the presence of the Spirit in the priest’s work.

In the following two cases, Micah has failed – by trying to please the gods, he did not find assurance in the prophesied Anointed One; in trying to please the gods, he re-invented his own rituals and failed to grasp what the more Spirit-led Israelites saw: the Son of God who must be sacrificed before the true Temple of God and bring his blood into the Holy of Holies.  Micah’s pitiful rendition of the tabernacle provides none of that truth.  It is entirely empty of the gospel and empty of the involvement of the Trinity whether symbolic or not.

Judges 18:  The Unitarian God

Samson and Delilah; Dan and the Idols

1(Q) In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days(R) the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. 2So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe,(S) from Zorah and from Eshtaol,(T) to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came(U) to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 4And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me:(V) he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5And they said to him,(W) “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 6And the priest said to them,(X) “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the LORD.”

As if echoing Judges 13, instead of one man Samson, we find five able men from Zorah and from Eschtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it.  Samson had dwelled in the camp of Dan between those two places, and yet this one man Samson, being led by the Spirit, is far more capable than these men.

V.6 is the answer to their inquiry – and indeed it does come to fruition.  However, it would appear that their methods are contrary to what was commanded of them in the “art of Christian warfare”.  As the inquiry stems not from the tabernacle, not from speaking to Yahweh nor from standing before His shekinah presence, but merely from the priest himself (since the attention on the actual tabernacle at Shiloh is deliberately left till the last verse of this chapter).  As Matthew Henry queried, “Should he be enquired of by them? Eze. 14:3. They seem to have had a greater opinion of Micah’s teraphim than of God’s urim; for they had passed by Shiloh, and, for aught that appears, had not enquired there of God’s high priest, but Micah’s shabby Levite shall be an oracle to them. He betakes himself to his usual method of consulting his teraphim; and, whether he himself believed it or no, he humoured the thing so well that he made them believe he had an answer from God encouraging them to go on, and assuring them of good success (v. 6): “Go in peace, you shall be safe, and may be easy, for before the Lord is your way,’’ that is, “he approves it’’ (as the Lord is said to know the way of the righteous with acceptation), “and therefore he will make it prosperous, his eye will be upon you for good, he will direct your way, and preserve your going out and coming in.’’ Note, Our great care should be that our way be such as God approves, and, if it be so, we may go in peace. If God care for us, on him let us cast our care, and be satisfied that we cannot miss our way if he go before us.”  Indeed, but the Danites have not received true peace, because the LORD is not before them nor is He visibly with Micah or the Levite.  Thus, the Danites go to spy on Laish (or otherwise named as Leshem):

7Then the five men departed and came to(Y) Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians,(Z) quiet and unsuspecting, lacking[b] nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how(AA) they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 8And when they came to their brothers at(AB) Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?” 9They said,(AC) “Arise, and let us go up against them, for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good.(AD) And will you do nothing?(AE) Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land. 10As soon as you go, you will come to an(AF) unsuspecting people. The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands,(AG) a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”

It is interesting how these five men compared the people of Laish with the Sidonians, both peoples part of cities ill-governed and ill-guarded.  The translation of v.7 may be better read as them seeing “the people that [were] therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and [there was] no magistrate in the land, that might put [them] to shame in [any] thing“.  This is quite a different translation from the positive display of Laish in the words of the Danite spies, when in fact they are speaking of the sloth, carelessness, and laxness in terms of being ready for war.  Did these men not know that the Danites are coming to conquer them?  Or that they are in the middle of a war between tribes, nations and faiths?  This is an idle city, which had no dealing with others surrounding it (or specifically, no dealing with Syria, the Hebrew word being aram as Clarke postulates; the confusion between adam [man] and aram [Syria] is easy to make, though the message of the chapter maintains the same); and it lived too far away from receiving support from others – ironically displaying the same truth as Micah, who turned to idolatry by creating a convenient temple of worship when he should have gone straight to Shiloh, however far he geographically might have been, to Jesus Christ.

So while Laish is an inward-looking idle city who could have sought proper support from fellow Canaanite brethren, Micah could have been truly shielded from the LORD’s wrath if he sought refuge in the true tabernacle as opposed to his own.  While Laish is a city of sloth, possessing much wealth, “quiet and unsuspecting”, careless – so also Micah, a slothful man who possessed enough wealth to hire a Levite and lived a careless life for failing to observe carefully the true ordinances and revelations of God despite being a god-fearer.

11So 600 men of the tribe of Dan,(AH) armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called(AI) Mahaneh-dan[c] to this day; behold, it is west of(AJ) Kiriath-jearim. 13And they passed on from there to(AK) the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah. 14Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that(AL) in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.” 15And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and(AM) asked him about his welfare. 16Now the 600 men of the Danites,(AN) armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17And(AO) the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took(AP) the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war. 18And when these went into Micah’s house and took(AQ) the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19And they said to him, “Keep quiet;(AR) put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us(AS) a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.

These Danites are such a contrast in comparison to Samson.  Samson rarely resorted to weapons of war, and these Danites are fully armed even at the gate near Micah’s abode.  These fully armed men, though fearsome, are still a small number compared to the Israelite armies and warfare between the books of Numbers and Joshua.  They had camped at near Kiriath-Jearim, the city of woods, where the place is renamed Mahaneh-dan which is where Samson had grown up in the Spirit prior to his mission against the Philistines (c.f. Judges 13:25), displaying the chronology of these events are prior to Samson.  However, where Samson grew in Spirit, these Danites did not bear the Spirit nor the wisdom – especially in failing to discern between seeking the advice from the true priests at Shiloh, and rather receive deluded advice from a hired, young Levite, whose heart was set on present worldly riches and glory (v.20).  Although Jonathan had treated Micah as his own father, and that he had acted as a spiritual father to Micah, he would rather relinquish such intimate relations for a greater reputation, even though the Levitical tribe as a whole is dignified in its holy service.

The delusion of Jonathan, Dan, and Micah

It appears then that Jonathan, enticed by silver; and the Danites, who were dim and lawless; are a strong contrast with the period of the judges, when especially juxtaposed to the comparatively Spirit-led and lawful Samson, who in turn was led by truly God-fearing parents.  Thus, the microcosm of the heresy of Micah, extends to the macrocosm of the heresy of the tribe of Dan within the nation Israel.  This is a false gospel – to preach that Christ the priest would only represent one tribe, one pitiful 600-member clan of the entire Israel, when He is part of the non-exclusivist Trinitarian community for the whole church, the whole of Israel!  What can these gods in v.20 do, but cause more destruction?  How can they forcefully move these gods as to go before them, as in v.6 of this chapter, when the living Angel of the Father moves upon His sending and own volition?

21So they turned and departed, putting the little ones and the livestock and(AT) the goods in front of them. 22When they had gone a distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house were called out, and they overtook the people of Dan. 23And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” 24And he said,(AU) “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?'” 25And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” 26Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home.

V.24 reveals that Micah is fully aware that the gods are made by his own hands, and yet he would approach the 600-strong men to retrieve them.  The burly Danites, so selfishly keeping the gods and the priest to themselves, should provide some revelation to Micah who had been doing the same at the beginning of the chapter.  The true tabernacle at Shiloh simply cannot be horded; it cannot be given to one family, let alone one clan or tribe.  To keep “God” as if He is inanimate, as if He needs protection, is to deny his very livelihood and utter superiority over our feeble hands.  Yet, this is the attitude of those who wish to protect such relics, such idolatrous worship, is as described by Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 19:

14Hezekiah received(V) the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. 15And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel,(W) enthroned above the cherubim,(X) you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16(Y) Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear;(Z) open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent(AA) to mock the living God. 17Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods,(AB) but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand,(AC) that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that(AD) you, O LORD, are God alone.”

27But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people(AV) quiet and unsuspecting, and(AW) struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28And there was no deliverer because it was(AX) far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to(AY) Beth-rehob. Then they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29And they named the city(AZ) Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but(BA) the name of the city was Laish at the first. 30And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom,(BB) son of Moses,[d](BC) and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day(BD) of the captivity of the land. 31So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made,(BE) as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

And such is the result of not having the LORD go before them – that they should attack a “quiet and unsuspecting” city like Laish; a city which did not launch any apparent attacks on the Danites – a defenceless city.  Yet, the blood-lust of the Danites as they had been travelling around ready to attack with their armed weaponry, as opposed to being ready to provide acts of grace which was commanded of them (c.f. Deuteronomy 10-12), is the driving force of this campaign.  In the words of Matthew Henry, ” the measure of the iniquity of the Canaanites was full, [and] that of the Danites was but beginning to fill.”  It is a campaign of oppression; of brow-beating; of idolatry – with no parties in these two chapters truly inquiring of the LORD, though we see His name used carelessly, no-one bothering to truly go to Shiloh as the true tabernacle stands there, unused.  Laish, though made into a somewhat innocent victim of the massacre, is not without guilt – for they, like the clan of Dan and like Micah, are also idle and lonely men.

The theme of these chapters manifests the truth of the false, Unitarian God where we see no fellowship and guidance of the spiritual church.  The fact that there is no deliverer for Laish is also echoing the cities of refuge placed around Canaan so that one would have immediate help – and though the context is not applicable to this particular instance, the principle behind it is the same: that the unity of the church of Christ should mean that we are mutual intercessors, calling upon that one Redeemer.  Laish had fallen into a false sense of security, and it has no church, no brother, no other nation, to turn to who can lead it to the one true God in times of the worst spiritual warfare.  Thus, by the end of Judges 18, Laish, Dan, and Micah are all victims of self-delusions.

The Tabernacle

And so chapter 18 ends on two notes which emphasises on these delusions – that the false temple and the heretical Levite are both contrasted to the silent tabernacle at Shiloh.  To find out by the end of this historical event that the Levite is called Jonathan (sarcastically meaning “the gift of Jehovah”), who descends from Moses, the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3).  Some translations render it to be Manasseh, instead of Moses, but the ESV and Adam Clarke both seem to be in agreement:

“Who this Manasseh was, none can tell; nor does the reading appear to be genuine. He could not be Manasseh the son of Joseph, for he had no son called Gershom nor could it be Manasseh king of Israel, for he lived eight hundred years afterwards.

Instead of Manasseh, the word should be read Mosheh, MOSES, as it is found in some MSS., in the Vulgate, and in the concessions of the most intelligent Jews. The Jews, as R. D. Kimchi acknowledges, have suspended the letter: nun, over the word thus,

-which, by the addition of the points, they have changed into MANASSEH, because they think it would be a great reproach to their legislator to have had a grandson who was an idolater. That Gershom the son of Moses is here intended, is very probable. See the arguments urged by Dr. Kennicott, Dissertation I., p. 55, and see the Var. Lect. of De Rossi on this place.”

Jonathan is anything but meek; he has failed to give glory to his ancestor, and unlike Moses’ meekness which led him to constantly ask direction from the Angel and from the Father, there is no clarity as to who it is that Jonathan seeks direction from.  That, I believe, is the crux of these two chapters – the aimlessness of the parties as they are led by their own desires, their own lusts:  Jonathan’s reputation beyond the glory of being a Levite; the Danites’ hope to secure their own physical land; Micah’s obsession with pleasing the LORD; Laish’s false sense of security – all of which can be entirely satisfied at the “house of God [which] was at Shiloh”.  This is the house where the Levite finds his true pride; this is the life of the Levite who needs no physical land as he looks to new creation; this is the life of the Levite, that he is no hired pawn, but that all should gather at the House of God rather than create their own religion; this is the house of the Levite where all can find eternal refuge from future harm.

Judges 17-18: The House of God at Shiloh

Judges 15-16: The Sun of Righteousness

Judges 15:  The Omen

Firstfruits at the Rock of Etam

1After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with(A) a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. 2And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her,(B) so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” 3And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.” 4So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. 6Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife(C) and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up and(D) burned her and her father with fire. 7And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.” 8And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow, and he went down and stayed in the(E) cleft of the rock of Etam.

From Judges 15 onwards we finally receive further revelation on how our Christ would suffer on our behalf.  His first wife has been like Israel, whoring herself to the neighbouring nations, and so he temporarily gave her up to discipline her; and in-so-doing, he also managed to destroy the neighbouring nations so that he would eventually redeem Israel once more.

Here, the chapter begins with something similar – at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit the wife whom he had left alone after some days.  He did not leave her for a long time, and yet her father would not allow him to go in.  Why not?  He is still her husband!  Even though the apple of Jacob’s eye was Rachel, Leah is still his wife, though Jacob’s marriage to Leah was effected against his will and thus the context is not entirely parallel to the current situation.

In the same way, during the Shavuot, the Pentecost – a time of the first fruit of wheat harvest – we are given the Spirit to spread the gospel and gather those (especially the Israelites) who have been ousted from the physical land of Canaan (Romans 11) back into the loving arms of the loyal and faithful husband.  As such, it is only adding to insult when the Timnite father decided to impose his values onto Samson the Nazirite, who would rather love his wife than to marry the sister of his first love (Leviticus 18:18).

It is thus fitting that when Christ is refused by Israel’s relatives to allow a warm embrace, Christ is entitled to wreck the harvest of the enemies whilst it is a time of harvest of the souls of men.  The Shavuot should be a time of rejoicing as the Spirit is given to others, and here we see Samson, tying 150 pairs of foxes (or jackals as according to the Hebrew  שועלים  shualim) together with a firebrand per couple, a frenzied attack through the use of an animal which symbolises the ruin of vineyards (Song of Songs 2:15), causing frustration by occupying the mountains of Judea (Lamentations 5:18), and used as allegories to false prophets (Ezekiel 13:4):

“We never find Samson, in any of his exploits, making use of any person whatsoever, either servant or soldier, therefore, in this project, he chose to make use of foxes as his incendiaries. They had injured Samson by their subtlety and malice, and now Samson returns the injury by subtle foxes and mischievous fire-brands. By the meanness and weakness of the animals he employed, he designed to put contempt upon the enemies he fought against. This stratagem is often alluded to to show how the church’s adversaries, that are of different interests and designs among themselves, that look and draw contrary ways in other things, yet have often united in a fire-brand, some cursed project or other, to waste the church of God, and particularly to kindle the fire of division in it.”Matthew Henry

This imagery is potent, a reversal of the fortunes of the seemingly all powerful Philistines, the rulers of the lands.  Samson is fearless, and the fire which he uses to destroy his enemy with the jackals and foxes as a type of the fire used to cause confusion and destruction as recorded in 2 Peter 2.  Instead of directing it at the church however, it is now directed at the enemy.  The fire is a mere first fruit of the true judgment, as the phrase “smote them hip and thigh with a great stroke” in fact indicates a great slaughter.  Samson did not merely lame them, but it seemed to be a phrase indicating an attack of desperation (c.f. Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke), as Samson did not make use of any person save himself – he who is a type of the One Who trod the winepress alone, stamping on the enemy with anger alongside the foxes which destroy their vineyards (Isaiah 63:1-6):

1Who is this who comes from(A) Edom,
in crimsoned garments from(B) Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”

2Why is your(C) apparel red,
and your garments like his(D) who treads in the winepress?

3(E) “I have trodden the winepress alone,
(F) and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood[a] spattered on my garments,
and stained all my apparel.
4(G) For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption[b] had come.
5I looked, but(H) there was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.
6I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
(I) I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

Afterwards, Samson stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam, “which is a strong rock of the tribe of Judah” (Josephus, Antiquities Book V Chapter VIII).  So Samson hid in the Rock of Judah, in Christ, for true refuge – knowing that Christ is the one who brings true vengeance, and not Samson himself who is merely a shadow and must taste the heavy responsibilities of Messiah-hood in the Spirit.

9Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and(F) made a raid on(G) Lehi. 10And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” 11Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that(H) the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two(I) new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

From v.9-13, we see almost a direct prophecy of our LORD Christ being bound by the Pharisees, by the Sanhedrin, by the particular group of murderous Jews who looked not to Christ but to themselves.  Israel, in these short verses are no different from the Israel during the Roman period.  “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us?”  Indeed, the same query is asked of Christ when Herod, Pontius Pilate, and numerous other governors’, officials’, and Caesars’ titles are thrown at the true King of the Jews.  Thus, the willingness of Samson to be bound is like that of Isaac when his elderly father should have no strength to do so; and also like that of Christ, who has displayed his abilities to evade the crucifixion until His appointed time.  Samson had the Spirit, and could easily destroy all 3000 men of Judah – and instead, he imitated our Christ here, as the lonely outcast Nazirite.  V.13 is ironic – “we will surely not kill you” – even though Pontius Pilate knew better that the blood is indeed on the hands of the Israelites when Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:24).   In the words of Matthew Henry:

“Thus a whole band of men was sent to seize our Lord Jesus, that blessed Samson, though a tenth part would have served now that his hour had come, and ten times as many would have done nothing if he had not yielded… Blamed him for what he had done against the Philistines, as if he had done them a great injury. Such ungrateful returns have those often received that have done the best service imaginable to their country. Thus our Lord Jesus did many good works, and for these they were ready to stone him… They begged of him that he would suffer them to bind him, and deliver him up to the Philistines. Cowardly unthankful wretches! Fond of their fetters and in love with servitude! Thus the Jews delivered up our Saviour, under pretence of a fear lest the Romans should come and take away their place and nation. With what a sordid servile spirit do they argue, Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? And whose fault was that? They knew they had no right to rule over them, nor would they have been sold into their hands if they had not first sold themselves to work wickedness.

And so Samson is akin to the One Who was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, meek and humble.

14When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him.(J) Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it,(K) and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16And Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”

17As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place(L) was called Ramath-lehi.[a]

Upon Samson’s arrival in the hands of the Philistines, he is once more led by the Spirit’s initiation Who gave him freedom from the bonds and cords.  Samson has not yet been labelled as a ‘sinner’ – in fact, all his pursuits from Judges 13 to 15 have been by the guidance of the Holy Spirit for he is a faithful Nazirite.  Thus, the typology of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is withheld, though we see glimpses of the truth of the One who was bound to the enemy in death so to ensure the death of the enemy alone.  Matthew Henry describes the Spirit’s loosing of the cords as similar to the loosing of the “bands of death, and its cords, the grave-clothes, [fell] from his hands without being loosed”.

Much like the picture of the deceptive foxes used to humiliate the Philistines, God is not short of analogies and imageries as he inspires Samson to take the bone of an ass, a despicable and humble animal, to work Spirit-led wonders on the rulers of the land.  This place is thus called “Ramath-lehi” – the lifting up of the jaw-bone.  Indeed, this place is symbolic of the lifting up of the humiliated Christ so that his enemies are equally humiliated; the King who trod the wine-press, the lifeblood splattered onto the garments of the Saviour.

18And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the LORD and said,(M) “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19And God split open the hollow place that is(N) at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank,(O) his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore;[b] it is at Lehi to this day. 20And he judged Israel(P) in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

Samson is thus continually protected because of his unceasing reliance on Jesus Christ.  V.18-20 shows a very literal reliance on He who gives the living water of life (John 7:38; Revelation 7:17).  So also when Melchizedek provided Abraham with bread and wine to emulate communion, we see here a drinking of the water of the Spirit after the immense victory during the time of wheat harvest, twice performed through the humble means of the judge of Israel.  Like Christ on the cross who thirsted, He received His eventual refreshment by the sustainment of the Spirit through the three days in the deep and drank continually from the spring.  It is fitly named En-hakkore, the spring of him who called – because Christ is the one who called to the Father after committing His spirit to Him, and by drinking of the Spirit He managed to revive and shed his grave-clothes and previous bonds.

In spite of his victories, there is a looming omen behind these events – the building up of Samson’s enemies as the actions and typologies which Samson represents increasingly emulates that of Christ.  However, up to chapter 15, Samson is still seen as the powerful unyielding Nazirite who is used by Yahweh to conjoin himself to his enemies as a picture of Christ conjoining himself to Satan to destroy him.  The omen comes to a climax in Judges 16 to which we now turn.

Judges 16 – Christ nailing Satan to the cross

Delilah, the third woman

In this chapter we see the climax of the omen unravel – the story of Samson and Delilah.

Oftentimes people characterise Samson as the man easily seduced in this historic parable, and Delilah as that definitive Babylonian whore.  That caricature may be true in respect of Delilah, but certainly not the entire message preached.  Matthew Henry sees this final scene as Samson being as the “little sun set under a cloud, and yet, just in the setting, darted forth one such strong and glorious beam as made him even then a type of Christ, conquering by death”.  Indeed, without seeing Christ revealed in these pages, we have lost the essence of the build up so far – all the rich allusions to the third day, to the coming death, resurrection and ascension of Samson.  These themes will be entirely explored here, where in previous chapters we have seen mere shadows and fragments.

1Samson went to(Q) Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. 2The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they(R) surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

With respect to the prostitute, this event is almost entirely dismissed by the narrative, as if we should entirely ignore her.  Instead, the focus once more is on Samson against the non-Israelites – this time the Gazites.  Yet, even Samson escaped death here, from the city Gaza renowned for its titular description: a city that is fortified and strong, ironically could not even fortify nor display its strength in the face of Samson.  Furthermore, the focus then shifts to Samson carrying the gate of the city and the two posts – a sign of the strength of the city (Genesis 22:17; 24:60), being entirely undermined by the monstrous strength of Samson entirely due to the Spirit.  And to where does Samson carry the ‘gate’ of the city?  To Hebron, the first deposit of Canaan received and bought by Abraham and his wife Sarah (Genesis 23).  This is a sign of the new land we have yet to inherit, and what we see is the burden with which Samson is to carry to walk up that holy hill as Christ did on his ascension (Psalm 24:3).

It is difficult to comment on the reason why he went into the prostitute, but it would seem that Samson’s common problem is the lust of his eyes.  Yet, in the lust of his eyes, God managed to make a parable out of him representing that of Christ crucified.  This is perhaps why not much more of the narrative is devoted to this second woman of Samson’s life, despite his staunch refusal to marry his wife’s sister.  As imperfect a type of Christ Samson is, God still managed to work miracles and wonders through him, enabling all those who would later receive this story to see how God would put His Son through the same trials, though the Son would have the fullness of the Spirit to fight against such sexual lusts representative of spiritual adultery.

Furthermore, though the narrative does not mention it, I believe the narrator inserted the second woman as a tool in building up to the third and last woman whom Samson would be involved with, to express the theology of the number three even further.  This number has come up before (when the riddle of the young lion was not solved after three days), and will feature again throughout this chapter.

4After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5And(S) the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her,(T) “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to(U) humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could(V) subdue you.”

It is in the Valley of Sorek, the red crimson valley, that we meet the Babylonian whore Delilah, the feeble one.  How ironic it is that she looks so feeble in the face of the Sun, in the face of Samson, and it is here that Samson will spill his blood in this valley.  Delilah, like Judas, is bribed; and unlike Christ who was given the fullness of the Spirit, Samson’s submission to Delilah is to satisfy the lust of his eyes though the typology of Christ’s incarnate work is still effected.  In the same situation, we know Christ would choose in wisdom what Samson did, though Christ would do it in the beginning with the knowledge of the salvific work through his enjoining to the whore of Babylon; but Samson may not have come to such a knowledge of the prophetic work of Christ’s salvation through him being enjoined to Delilah until after his eyes are gouged out.

7Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried,(W) then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 8Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

10Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound.” 11And he said to her, “If they bind me with(X) new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 12So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

13Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 14So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web.[c] And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

What is interesting is that, in three times, Samson is playing with the possibility of him being tied down by this Satanic enemy.  We can find much parallel to Christ, who had also taunted Satan with the number of times in which He could have been maimed, could have been slain in the midst of his ministry on earth.  Here, Samson provides to Delilah:

Samson’s suggestions Samson’s actions
Seven fresh bowstrings not dried (v.7) Snapped as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire (v.9)
New ropes that have not been used (v.11) Snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread (v.12)
Weave seven locks of Samson’s head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin (v.13) Pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web (v.14)

It is straightforward to see that he overcame each with ease – however, with the last we see something peculiar.  Why would the binding of his hair make his less strong?  It would seem that with each suggestion, it is getting closer and closer to the heart of the issue – his hair which must not be shaved.  The truth behind the events is to display simply that Samson cannot be bound.  He who cannot be bound must be bound only by his own volition – as is the case here after three times, indicating the death of Samson, the death of the type of Christ to come soon.

15And she said to him,(Y) “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16And(Z) when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17And he told her all his heart, and said to her,(AA) “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”

The Death

Like Christ, Samson chose to reveal these truths to the Satan, the enemy – and on this the enemy acted.  His holiness in entirety is symbolically represented by his hair, his life.  As in Jeremiah 7:29, the hair is used as an analogy of life; to cut it and to throw it away is akin to forsaking life.  So here, we see a parable of Christ’s death – in the cutting of the hair of Samson, we finally see a full and consequential picture of Samson hair being cut.  Here, we see the Nazirite truly bearing sin; truly cut off from God.  Indeed, as Christ yearned, “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).  And so, through the various imageries of Samson binding himself to several non-Israelite women, his binding to the third woman; revealing the truth of his weakness after the third time; are all a collective imagery of Christ binding himself to the sinner’s punishment of the cross.  Samson cannot be a more fitting judge to portray this truth, for three times he enjoined himself to a prostitute, a Gentile, a temptress – all different facets of the character of Satan: who is The Prostitute, The Spiritual Gentile, The Tempter.  And all three times, God has displayed his victory over the enemies through the prophetic enjoining of Christ to the enemy.

Satan has longed to peer deep into this mystery of salvation, and this truth was revealed to him just as Samson has revealed this truth, revealed ‘all his heart’, to Delilah as well:

Eze 28:1-3  The word of the LORD came to me:  (2)  “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god–  (3)  you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you…

So also in 1 Peter 1:12, this is the same salvific plan which the angels longed look at.  This is not a ‘secret’ kept from them, just as it is not a secret kept from Lucifer when he was a morning star himself.  Regardless, Lucifer still went forward to crucify this Christ – such stupidity, such nonsense, such absolute arrogance.

18When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought(AB) the money in their hands. 19She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began(AC) to torment him, and his strength left him. 20And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that(AD) the LORD had left him. 21And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles.(AE) And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

So Samson is made to go into a sleep that induced his spiritual death – a death-like sleep.  It is here that his strength left him, as he left his life on the cross.  The LORD had left him.  And he now finally endures the torture which he had been teasing, truly bound without escape just as Christ was truly bound in the shackles of the pit, the prison, until rising again on the third day.  The hair, though cut, is but temporary – for it will grow again, and so also Samson will be refreshed just as he was when he drank from En-hakkore.  This putting out of his eyes, is so that he would see not with his physical sight, his lust – but that he would truly be anointed by the Spirit and complete the life-long mission of the defeat of the Philistines when his hair grows back and live by faith.

The Resurrection

23Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to(AF) Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24And when the people saw him,(AG) they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.”[d] 25And(AH) when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and(AI) on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

Let us look at Adam Clarke’s understanding of Dagon’s physical traits:

Unto Dagon their god – Diodorus Siculus describes their god thus:

Το μεν προσωπον εχει γυναικος, το δ’ αλλο σωμα παν ιχθους;

“It had the head of a woman, but all the rest of the body resembled a fish.””

What a monstrous and hideous god – to make the woman the head, and to have the body a fish which is symbolic of leaderless men (Habbakuk 1:14).  So it is only fitting to have so many men and women reach their deserved climax through the ‘resurrection’ of Samson, that while he still seem humiliated he was in fact the powerful Anointed One whom the LORD had never really left.

Of course, the entire story is not without its irony embodied in v.24 – “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us”.  Indeed, that is what Satan wants to believe – that his enemy, Christ, is given into the hands of the fallen ones.  However, the true living Yahweh had planned this long before any Philistines have been killed through the anointed one, Samson, in chapter 13.

28Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD,(AJ) please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him(AK) between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.

Adam Clarke vehemently denies the typology of Samson to Christ, but I think it to be too assumptive to deny Christ’s direct involvement in the election of Samson as a grand picture of God’s enjoining to Israel, the prostitute, to work the salvation of all nations; of God’s enjoining to the church, the prostitute, to sanctify her, wash her, and bless others through her (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Yet, this sanctification must come from the death and re-birth of the church, for one must be born-again just as Christ must die first before being born anew.  Yet, Satan is to die and remain dead – and not live again (c.f. Genesis 3:15).  As much parallel as there is in Samson’s life to Hercules, with Clarke believes that the latter fable is inspired by the former history, the focus of the story is once again not on Samson per se.  It is on the greater mystery of God’s victory through the death and resurrection of the anointed one, who has supernatural strength – the implication of the God-man Christ undergoing the same trials as prophesied in detail in Isaiah.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

“Christ was plainly typified. He pulled down the devil’s kingdom, as Samson did Dagon’s temple; and, when he died, he obtained the most glorious victory over the powers of darkness. Then when his arms were stretched out upon the cross, as Samson’s to the two pillars, he gave a fatal shake to the gates of hell, and, through death, destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14, 15), and herein exceeded Samson, that he not only died with the Philistines, but rose again to triumph over them.”

So, Samson typified that true morning sun of righteousness, and as such has been one of the more graphic and important typologies of Christ in the Old Testament.

Judges 15-16: The Sun of Righteousness

Judges 13-14: The Nazirite and His Father

Judges 13:  Christ the Nazirite

The miraculous birth of the Messiah, the Nazirite

1And the people of Israel again(A) did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD gave them(B) into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.

2There was a certain man of(C) Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah.(D) And his wife was barren and had no children. 3(E) And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4Therefore be careful(F) and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son.(G) No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be(H) a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall(I) begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6Then the woman came and told her husband,(J) “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome.(K) I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7but he said to me,(L) ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.'”

Numbers 6 explained the prophetic connection between the Nazirite vow and Jesus, the spiritual Nazirite.  What is interesting about Numbers 6 is the connection between the shaving of the Nazirite’s hair and the eventual shaving of Samson’s hair in Judges 16:

(Numbers 6): 13“And this is the law for the Nazirite,(K) when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting, 14and he shall bring his gift to the LORD, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish(L) as a sin offering, and one ram without blemish(M) as a peace offering, 15and a basket of unleavened bread,(N) loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and their(O) grain offering and their(P) drink offerings. 16And the priest shall bring them before the LORD and offer(Q) his sin offering and his burnt offering, 17and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest shall offer also its grain offering and its drink offering. 18And the Nazirite(R) shall shave his consecrated head at the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire that is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 19And the priest shall take the(S) shoulder of the ram, when it is boiled, and one unleavened loaf out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and(T) shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite, after he has shaved the hair of his consecration, 20and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD.(U) They are a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed. And after that the Nazirite may drink wine.

We should perceive thus, that this Samson is undoubtedly another type of Christ – this time portraying a deeper picture of the Christ who was chosen, before His incarnation, by the Father to complete the work of incarnation, complete and positive obedience on earth until his death, resurrection and ascension.  In the cutting of Samson’s hair we see the bondage which he endured (further explored when we come to chapter 16), but we shall see that his life prior to and after the shaving of his head is akin to the life of the Christ, living a life of obedience on earth and drinking wine in anticipation of new creation – a picture more strongly shown after his resurrection (just as a Nazirite is to enjoy wine only after the end of his holy consecration to the LORD).  We shall not mistake the reasons for the synchronisation of the end of the Nazirite’s vow to enjoin the shaving of the head and the offering of the sin and burnt offering, as if the shaving of the head is seen simultaneously as a sacrificial offering pointing to Christ – and so the shaving of Samson’s head (after being bound by his enemies, like Christ) is also an image of Christ’s death on the cross; and the growth of his hair akin to the imminent re-birth of Christ.

However, at this stage we are merely arriving at the birth of Samson, who is the son of Manoah aptly named as rest.  For it is true that Samson, like Christ, advocated true Sabbath-rest by his victory over the Philistines; and this importance is coupled with the obedience of the mother in conceiving this child despite being barren, akin to the impossibilities of child-birth in women like Sarah and Rachel to emphasise the impossibility of the virgin birth through Mary.

What is important for us to notice is v.5 – that Samson is to begin to save the Philistines – but not entirely.  This careful language is also noticeable in Genesis 22 when Abraham observed that the sacrificial lamb has not yet been offered at Moriah (until Christ’s death on the cross at Moriah, Jerusalem).  This is to emphasise that, like Isaac who was made to re-enact the death of Christ on the cross by carrying wood to Moriah as the sacrificial lamb on the 3rd day, so also Samson is seen to be a type of the Christ who truly completed the work of salvation typified by his victorious defeat of the Philistines in the next four chapters.

And much like the instance of Mary’s receipt of revelation from an angel of God, here we see Christ himself revealing to Manoah’s wife that she will conceive a child who is already consecrated to the LORD (v.6); a child of rest, a child named Samson – who is like the sun, the sun of righteousness!

8Then Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But Manoah her husband was not with her. 10So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.” 11And Manoah arose and went after his wife and came to the man and said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to this woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true,(M) what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?” 13And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. 14She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine,(N) neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.”

What is of especial importance here is that the Angel first appeared to the woman, and then from the woman to the man.  The same has occurred in respect of the angel in Luke 1:26-38, and it is assumed that the angel appears to Joseph on a separate second occasion as mentioned in Matthew 1:18-25.  Just as Mary was frustrated and confused by her sudden conception of a baby because she was still a virgin, this is distinguished from Manoah’s wife who was equally surprised though for the reason of being barren.  In both cases, the men are trusting in the LORD, specifically in v.12 as we see Manoah use the word ‘when’ (it would appear that Joseph struggled with Mary’s virgin pregnancy initially but overcame it just as Manoah received further confirmation from the Angel).  Unlike the pregnancies of the wives of earlier patriarchs in the Pentateuch, one significant importance regarding the birth of Samson is, as aforementioned, the pre-destined prophecy concerning his future: that he shall begin to save Israel from the Philistines, and that he is a Nazirite.  Note the immediate prophecy prior to Christ’s birth:

“Greetings,(BC) O favored one,(BD) the Lord is with you!”[c] 29But(BE) she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for(BF) you have found favor with God. 31And behold,(BG) you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and(BH) you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of(BI) the Most High. And the Lord God(BJ) will give to him the throne of(BK) his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob(BL) forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” – Luke 1:28b-32

There is much similarity between the two – the consecration of Christ and Samson; the duty of Christ and Samson; the miraculous birth of Christ and Samson; the future as a result of Christ and Samson – the former greater than the latter, but the latter typifying as a shadow to the former.

Furthermore, v.14 has one additional command compared to v.4 – “[do not] eat of anything that comes from the vine”.  The vine is commonly associated to vineyards, the growing place for wine and the ‘blood of the grapes’ (Genesis 49:11), a shadow to Christ’s blood which he did not institute as a sacrament in the form of wine in Communion until his work on the cross is fulfilled.  As if it is not clear enough that Manoah’s wife is to abstain from this ‘blood’ which should not be prematurely consumed (at least not until the Nazirite has completed his/her vow), so the Angel here emphasises the vine in correlation to the child’s “manner of life, and mission” (v.12).

15Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and(O) prepare a young goat for you.” 16And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) 17And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD,(P) “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18And the angel of the LORD said to him,(Q) “Why do you ask my name, seeing(R) it is wonderful?” 19So(S) Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works[a] wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching,(T) and they fell on their faces to the ground.

The Angel fulfilling His own prophecy

The translation of v.18 is better explained in the ESV than the KJV, where the latter speaks of the name being a ‘secret’, but the former speaks of the name being wonderful (akin to the Hebrew used in Isaiah 9:6 – the “Wonderful” Counsellor, Jesus Christ).  This also connects the character of Christ and the Angel, who not only calls Himself the name of the prophesied Messiah but also provides Himself amongst the offering to the LORD, the second LORD – the Father – in v.16.  And so, we see a direct picture of Christ, the Sent One, aligning Himself with the offering so that He truly offered and sacrificed Himself to the LORD, the Father in heaven, inside the flame by which the LORD answers (1 Kings 19:24).  And thus, in the picture of the sacrifice, we see both the type of incarnate work upon the altar and the Son himself acting out what He would later do on the cross.

There should be no confusion that the Angel is not a mere ‘angel’ – but that He is the visible LORD:

21The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife.(U) Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. 22And Manoah said to his wife,(V) “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” 23But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” 24And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson.(W) And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25(X) And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between(Y) Zorah and Eshtaol.

v.23 is dripping with penal substitutionary truth – if not for the offering, the LORD would have very probably been pleased to kill both Manoah and his wife:

“It is not likely that God, who has preserved thee so long, borne with thee so long, and fed and supported thee all thy life long, girding thee when thou knewest him not, is less willing to save and provide for thee and thine now than he was when, probably, thou trustedst less in him. He who freely gave his Son to redeem thee, can never be indifferent to thy welfare; and if he give thee power to pray to and trust in him, is it at all likely that he is now seeking an occasion against thee, in order to destroy thee? Add to this the very light that shows thee thy wretchedness, ingratitude, and disobedience, is in itself a proof that he is waiting to be gracious to thee; and the penitential pangs thou feelest, and thy bitter regret for thy unfaithfulness, argue that the light and fire are of God’s own kindling, and are sent to direct and refine, not to drive thee out of the way and destroy thee. Nor would he have told thee such things of his love, mercy, and kindness, and unwillingness to destroy sinners, as he has told thee in his sacred word, if he had been determined not to extend his mercy to thee.” – Adam Clarke

This is why the portrayal of the Son’s sacrifice is given prior to the naming of Samson, who is like the sun (commonly associated to the sun of righteousness, the Son) as narrated immediately after the revelation of the Angel, who is also the LORD, sacrificing Himself to the LORD in heaven amongst the offerings as a type of Samson’s work and ministry on earth which are also types of Christ’s incarnate work and ministry on earth.  So the growth of the young man also draws direct parallel to the growth of Christ in Luke 2:52, the wisdom in Christ as a result of the anointing of the Spirit in both men in their physical and spiritual maturation.  While Samson grew in these blessings in the camps of Dan his hometown, so also Christ grew in wisdom in his hometown, Nazareth.

Judges 14:  God and Israel

1(Z) Samson went down to(AA) Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah.(AB) Now get her for me as my wife.” 3But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters(AC) of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the(AD) uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”

4His father and mother did not know that it was(AE) from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.(AF) At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Where chapter 13 seemed to end on a high note of aspiration for Samson, just as the first few chapters of the gospels are definitive of the remaining parts of Jesus’ life, chapter 14 is nothing short of peculiar.  At the place of restraint, Timnah, Samson is without restraint when he asked his parents for a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines.  Here, it is easy to assume that Samson is under the influence of the Satanic influence which drove Samson to marry non-Christians, which in turn led him to idolatry; but we need to remember the context and the narration.  Samson is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, being a type of Christ, a Nazirite devoted to the service of the LORD.  Between Samson and the LORD, he is driven to marry this Philistine because of His prompting; this fellowship between Samson and Yahweh is something which even his parents do not understand.  So also Christ’s fellowship with the Father is of such confusion to Mary and Joseph at times.  The narrator, for fear that we assume too much into the text, immediately qualifies this apparently illegitimate marriage with v.4 – “His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD”.  Neither would we, if we were to omit v.4:

“Samson, under the extraordinary guidance of Providence, seeks an occasion of quarrelling with the Philistines, by joining in affinity with them – a strange method, but the truth is Samson was himself a riddle, a paradox of a man, did that which was really great and good, by that which was seemingly weak and evil, because he was designed not to be a pattern to us (who must walk by rule, not by example), but a type of him who, though he knew no sin, was made sin for us, and appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he might condemn and destroy sin in the flesh, Rom_8:3

As the negotiation of Samson’s marriage was a common case, we may observe…That is was weakly and foolishly done of him to set his affections upon a daughter of the Philistines; the thing appeared very improper. Shall one that is not only an Israelite, but a Nazarite, devoted to the Lord, covet to become one with a worshipper of Dagon? Shall one marked for a patriot of his country match among those that are its sworn enemies? He saw this woman (Jdg_14:1), and she pleased him well, Jdg_14:3. It does not appear that he had any reason to think her wise or virtuous, or in any way likely to be a help-meet for him; but he saw something in her face that was very agreeable to his fancy, and therefore nothing will serve but she must be his wife. He that in the choice of a wife is guided only by his eye, and governed by his fancy, must afterwards thank himself if he find a Philistine in his arms…

…God had forbidden the people of Israel to marry with the devoted nations, one of which the Philistines were, Deu_7:3…If there had not been a special reason for it, it certainly would have been improper in him to insist upon his choice, and in them to agree to it at last.” – Matthew Henry

Knowing especially that this is a man devoted to God’s mission, it is important to compare Samson who married a Philistine woman, and Christ whose mind was set on marrying the Bride – the Church.  Why did Samson marry?  Much like the parables which he provided throughout much of his life as Christ also did, Samson himself was also a parable testifying to Christ.  Matthew Henry states that he is a type of him who was made sin for us – and perhaps in this way, Samson married himself to sin throughout his life.  Sin, which is (by type) external to him, but by his own volition married himself to sin – the church.

Only in this sense can we truly see the embodied truth of what Christ has done for us: that He should take us in hand for marriage, destroying all the idols in our hearts (all the idolatrous Philistines attached to his wife) – even the wife herself if she was unfaithful.  So also, like Nadab and Abihu; like those who partake of communion but who are non-believers, are pronouncing the judgment of Christ upon themselves until the day they take of it as believers and understand the gospel truth which they have received blindly prior to conversion (1 Corinthians 11:27).  This is a possible message which Samson is portraying as he continues to marry worthless brides, marriages through which Samson’s character dominates and in turn purges the wives’ families of their corruption – a picture of Christ’s positive infectious healing by the Spirit through being married to us, the whore and prostitute of Hosea 3:3.  He took on sin, in the Spirit; and the idols in the church are destroyed, akin to the actions of Jerubbaal, so Israel would be loyal and no longer remain as whore.  So Samson is made a parable of Yahweh and Israel – Yahweh who made a marriage covenant with Israel, even though Israel is just like the Philistine bride and Delilah.

5Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6(AG) Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes.

In continuation of Samson being the type of Christ, here we find him facing a young ferocious lion in a vineyard of Timnah.  What I find interesting is the imagery of the episode – the destruction of a fierce opposition in what is a place of harvest, harvesting red wine and grapes indicative of the blood of Christ.  This is important to place alongside Samson who has been reliant on Yahweh by the Spirit, and so this serves as an important message alongside the pictures of Adam and Christ in the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemane respectively; where the former failed to proverbially tear the serpent, Satan, in pieces, here we see Samson, the better type of Christ, engaging directly and tearing this satanic force.  However, this is not complete without the blood of Christ, hence the associated imageries of gardens and vineyards, respectively inferring the tree on which Christ died and the blood which Christ spilt to achieve both his own death and the death of the serpent nailed to the cross:

“Christ engaged the roaring lion, and conquered him in the beginning of his public work (Mat_4:1, etc.), and afterwards spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them in himself, as some read it, not by any instrument. He was exalted in his own strength. That which added much to the glory of Samson’s triumph over the lion was that when he had done this great exploit he did not boast of it, did not so much as tell his father nor mother that which many a one would soon have published through the whole country. Modesty and humility make up the brightest crown of great performances.” – Matthew Henry

And like Christ whose matters meant more between Himself and His Father, so also here Samson refraining from mentioning the matter to his earthly parents as a sign that Christ’s strength in his incarnation is mysterious from the perspective of human capabilities.

Of further interest is v.7 – the juxtaposition of Samson destroying the lion, perhaps in the eyes of the woman who was pleasing in his eyes, rather than telling the event to his father and mother.  Who is this woman?  Why is she there?  Is it possible that she and the lion are aligned together?  It is most likely that she is the same woman mentioned in the earlier part of the chapter, for her representation of the Philistines is to shape the entire mission of Samson’s life.  Whatever the assumptions, it is most probable that the destruction of the lion is a prophecy of the destruction of this woman’s heritage for she was also in the vineyard, witnessing this man who is clearly anointed by the Spirit.  Where the young lion was destroyed on the cross and all believers cleansed by His blood, so the woman of Babylon would also be destroyed on the Day of Resurrection (Revelation 17:3-7).  Though the woman of Babylon is pleasing and beautiful even in the eyes of John, Samson here is typifying Christ in approaching this woman who stood by the ferocious beast which attacked him.

8After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.

Honey is commonly associated with the Promised Land (Exodus 3:8), but why is this coming from the carcass of the lion?  This is possibly implying the connection between the death of the young lion as the death of Jesus, the lion of Judah (Hosea 5:14; Revelation 5:5), providing fruits of new life from the death of another – an allusion to the new life we receive through the death of the Lamb.  This theme is further explored through the parable which Samson gives to the thirty companions at the wedding feast:

10His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12And Samson said to them,(AH) “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within(AI) the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty(AJ) changes of clothes, 13but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14And he said to them,

“Out of the eater came something to eat.  Out of the strong came something sweet.”

And in three days they could not solve the riddle.

Samson’s First Marriage Feast

There is something strangely proverbial about Samson’s words, and they would fit nicely into the book of Proverbs.  This “eater”, though referring directly to the young lion, would also allude to the spiritual symbolism behind it – Satan.  Glen Scrivener looks at this in his post “Eat Dirt Man-Eater!” parallel between Satan the “eater”, and Christ crushing this man eater:

Satan is the dust-eater (Genesis 3:14) whilst man is dust (Genesis 3:19); he is the man-eater (1 Peter 5:8), yet Christ will join man to crush the man-eater (Genesis 3:15); Christ does this by being Man eaten (John 6:51), yet only in this way does He swallow His enemies (1 Corinthians 15:54).  Those who do not eat (with) Christ get eaten (Revelation 19:18), yet those who eat Christ join Him in crushing the man-eater (Romans 16:20).  In this way, Christ humbles Himself in order to be exalted (Luke 14:11), meanwhile Satan, who exalted himself, will be humbled (Ezekiel 28:11-19).  Eating dust is the lot of the defeated enemy (Psalm 72:9), and Satan will eat dirt all the days of his life (Micah 7:17; Revelation 20:10). So eat dirt man eater!  There’s one Man you couldn’t swallow.  He’s swallowed you. Our food will be the Man eaten.  And you will eat dirt forever.”

Through this theology of ‘eating’, we see a direct comparison of Christ and Satan – which helps to clarify the parable of the young lion, out of which we receive such new creation blessings.  That is because in ‘eating’ – we receive two truths – the simultaneous truth of Christ and Satan’s death, yet in Christ’s death springs victory as Satan remains under mediated judgment.  That is why the death of the enemy will result in blessings for us; the death of the lion of Judah leading to that death of the enemy.  This is broadly understood by Matthew Henry as well:

“This riddle is applicable to many of the methods of divine providence and grace. When God, by an over-ruling providence, brings good out of evil to his church and people, – when that which threatened their ruin turns to their advantage, – when their enemies are made serviceable to them, and the wrath of men turns to God’s praise, – then comes meat out of the eater and sweetness out of the strong. See Phi_1:12. 2. His water was more considerable to him than to them, because he was one against thirty partners. It was not a wager laid upon God’s providence, or upon the chance of a die or a card, but upon their ingenuity, and amounted to no more than an honorary recompence of wit and a disgrace upon stupidity.”

v.14 in particular alludes once more to the theology of the ‘third day’ – that even on the third day they do not see this truth, the narrator pointing out to the theme of the third day being a day of new life, a day of resurrection, a day of the land being formed as in the third day of creation.  These companions are not enlightened; they do not understand how life can come from death – and so they have rejected the Spirit in understanding the light of the parable, and resorted to Satanic means to achieve this answer.

15On the fourth[b] day they said to Samson’s wife,(AK) “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is,(AL) lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16And Samson’s wife wept over him and said,(AM) “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because(AN) she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people.

God’s first bride – Israel, on the Seventh Day, the Day of Resurrection and Judgment

There to seems to be a contention in v.15 with regards to whether it was the fourth day or the seventh day as in the original Hebrew (which uses ‘seventh day’, as opposed to some LXX or Syriac manuscripts which use ‘fourth day’ – noted in the ESV footnote).  It would seem that ESV opted for ‘fourth day’ because of their failure to understand the truth within three days, thus making it their ‘fourth’ day when the 30 companions approached Samson’s wife for interrogation.

However, seventh day, as in Exodus 20:10 can very much point us towards the Sabbath.  Matthew Henry similarly muses that the fourth day on which the men have asked is in fact the ‘seventh day’, meaning the Sabbath.  Note also in chapter 14 v.10 that Samson went down there because of the preparation of the feast, but the text does not directly tell us whether or not the feast has already begun.  It would seem more likely that the seven days of the feast began after the Sabbath, which makes the presentation of Samson’s riddle as three days before the beginning of the actual feast.  Given the necessity to rest on the Sabbath, it would make more sense for the preparation to be prior to the Sabbath, enabling Samson the devoted Nazirite to rest on the Sabbath, then begin his wedding feast of seven days.  Only in this manner can we allow the wife of Samson to weep all seven days of the feast; otherwise, she can only possibly weep for three more days if the men approached her on the fourth day of the feast, as opposed to the fourth day since Samson posed them the riddle.

18And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,

“What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”

And he said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.”

So, the events from v.10-18 span over a period of ten to eleven days – the week inclusive, and the three days prior to the week of the wedding feast.  For seven days these men blackmailed Samson’s wife, taunted her when she should be enjoying her wedding feast.  This wife, despite knowing Samson’s amazing strength upon killing the young lion, did not confide in her husband.  Instead, she would rather side with the Philistines and remain allegiant to them than to her new head.  Equally, in our marriage to Christ we should be entirely devoted to Him as He was devoted to His Father as visibly seen in His incarnate life as the spiritual Nazirite.  On the day of the Wedding Feast, there shall be nothing to hold us back – no threat, no more sting of death – and yet Samson’s wife is here a representation of Lot’s wife, she who looked back onto her life pre-conversion.  As if this is not clearly presented in the chapter, the particular phrase of “ploughing with my heifer” amplifies this as understood by Adam Clarke:

If ye had not ploughed with my heifer – If my wife had not been unfaithful to my bed, she would not have been unfaithful to my secret; and, you being her paramours, your interest was more precious to her than that of her husband. She has betrayed me through her attachment to you. Calmet has properly remarked, in quoting the Septuagint, that to plough with one’s heifer, or to plough in another man’s ground, are delicate turns of expression used both by the Greeks and Latins, as well as the Hebrews, to point out a wife’s infidelities.”

Despite the taunts made from the thirty men, Samson’s statement is an expression of total loyalty of the Church to Christ; that if the Church was to whore herself however slightly to receive acceptance from other men, other lords and Baalim, then Christ would consider that as being unfaithful in his bed – in the shape of spiritual adultery.  It was meant to be a secret between husband and wife, just as all mysteries of God are revealed between Christ and the Church; yet, for the Church to reveal this mysterious truth to another does not mean that the man outside the Church is also Samson’s wife.  Quite the contrary – the men achieved such truths to deceive, just like the false prophets of 2 Peter 2.  They also have the word of truth, yet their revelations are not direct and are thus not like the bride, wearing the proper wedding attire to be afforded this trust and revelation between man and wife.  Yet, this deception came through the wife first, for she is also temporarily rejected by the end of this chapter for bridging Noah’s ark to the waters of judgment.

It is here that we can find some connection between the rejection of Samson’s wife with that of Christ’s rejection of physical Israel.  Though Samson’s first wife is not an Israelite, the picture here is that of a marriage to an unworthy nation so characteristic of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel, as if Yahweh was literally marrying a non-believer.  Such is the offer of salvation, that He loved Israel before Israel loved Him.  Yet, through the temporary rejection of Israel in the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities, we see God destroying both Babylon and Assyria, condemning their actions for ‘ploughing with God’s heifer [Israel]’.  Both Israel and the enemies are punished, but the former is still close to God’s breast as the latter are eternally condemned.  This will be further explored when Samson returns to his wife, just as God has not forgotten Israel to this day (Romans 11).

It would therefore seem that the second seventh day on which Samson finally received the answer is also a day of judgment for these men; so also on the spiritual second seventh day, the Second Coming of Christ, the sun will rise for the believers but the sun will proverbially fall for the unbelievers as they receive the fiery judgment of hell.  We enter into the marital communion, such spiritual intimacy, because of our object of faith – the Word of God.  Yet, these men tried to subvert the riddle, never intended to be understood by them, by speaking words falsely gained.  Men who are still blind and deaf (c.f. Isaiah 6:9, especially in the face of parables which are not to be understood by unbelievers) may speak all kinds of words but their hearts are still uncircumcised.  As Jesus said in Matthew 13:

11He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
” ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a] 16But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

It is thus fitting for such judgment to ensue on the thirty men immediately after they have failed to answer the parable in truly the same way as the bride.  And thus what they have, the thirty pieces of clothing, “will be taken from him” (Matthew 13:12), on the Day of Judgment:

19(AO) And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and he went down to(AP) Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. 20And Samson’s wife was given to(AQ) his companion,(AR) who had been his best man.

Here is thus a picture of the Son judging men, in hot righteous anger upon His return to the Father’s house, an implication that the marriage is not complete.  To echo Glen Scrivener’s earlier words – “Christ does this by being Man eaten (John 6:51), yet only in this way does He swallow His enemies (1 Corinthians 15:54).”  Samson is temporarily joined to this wife, so that God would, through him, swallow His enemies.  This action is clearly endorsed by Yahweh, as intimated by the Spirit in v.19; and it is only right for Samson to return to his father because he is not officially cleaved yet.  This cleaving of the Son from the Father, the thumb rule of marriage to the Church (Genesis 2:24), will not occur until Judges 16; just as the Son was not truly married to physical Israel, and in her temporary rejection we see a temporary destruction of the enemies in and around Canaan.  The true marriage is yet to come, and the true “death and resurrection” of Samson yet to be displayed.

Judges 13-14: The Nazirite and His Father

Judges 11-12: Felix Culpa and Foci of Judges

Judges 11:  Jephthah and the Blessed Fault in the Holy Vow

Jdg 11:1-40  Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah.  (2)  And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.”  (3)  Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.  (4)  After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel.  (5)  And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob.  (6)  And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.”  (7)  But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?”  (8)  And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”  (9)  Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head.”  (10)  And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The LORD will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.”

Jephthah and Christ – the Outsiders

Following on from Judges 10, we now see ‘the man’ to be Jephthah, another type of Christ.  The distinctive marks of this man are two-fold – that he is exalted as a “mighty warrior”, but also humiliated because he was “the son of a prostitute”.  Our Christ is not so different for He is the greatest warrior of all, he who is the King on Zion (Psalm 2:6), the One who shall break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel (Psalm 2:9).  Yet, He is also the One who bore the weight of the government (Isaiah 9:6), and is seen as an outsider (Hebrews 13:13) – the one who is identified not by His Heavenly Father, but by His earthly family (Matthew 13:55) and is despised for it.  Judges 11:2 might as well be directly applied in the synoptic gospels – “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman”.  Is that not the accusation made against Christ?  That He shall not have an inheritance in the house of the Father in heaven, because He is born into the family of Mary and Joseph?

Furthermore, v.3 is also prophetic of Christ and his disciples – mere fishermen, perhaps even from ancient times to this day and age seen as “worthless fellows”.  He finds these people in the land of Tob, a presumably good land, and here the comparisons between Jephthah and Abimelech are immediately noticeable.  These worthless fellows attracted to Jephthah like moths – they “collected around” Jephthah and went out with him, just like we are called to go out to Christ (Hebrews 13:13).  Instead, Abimelech had had to hire worthless and reckless fellows (Judges 9:4) who, if not for money, would not have even considered aiding Abimelech in his delusional conspiracy.  Jephthah is the outsider not because of his ability to lead as a judge, but because of his familial status as the son of the prostitute, a social outcast; Abimelech is the insider not because of his ability to lead as a judge, but because of his familial status as the son of Jerubbaal, a judge of awesome repute.  Jephthah had not asked to be a leader, though he is of that caliber; Abimelech desired leadership, much like that of Satan (Ezekiel 28) who was guardian cherub.

And so, when Christ was labeled as the King of the Jews at His crucifixion (Mark 15:18), it is ironic that it is exactly at the cross that we see His identity as the true King of men, though He was an outcast of a mere carpenter who fellowshipped with worthless men.  He was hated, even rejected by his own apostles (c.f. Peter’s three denials), but upon recognizing that He is indeed the King of the Jews, we have died with Him on the cross and are born again into the kingdom of heaven (John 3).  So also, Jephthah asked the Israelites to respect that prophetic truth, that if they require him to fight on their behalf and Yahweh gives him victory, then he must become their head just as Christ is our head when we acknowledge his victory over sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Indeed, Christ is neither mere teacher, nor miracle-worker from whom we reap benefits and use Him like a tool; but He is to be loved and worshipped as a Person of the Trinity, just as Jephthah is no mercenary but is protector of Israel because of his self-acknowledgment as head over her.

(11)  So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah.  (12)  Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?”  (13)  And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.”

Therefore, where at the end of chapter 10 they had hoped for this ‘one man’ at the watchtower Mizpah, he is now gathered at that same place to symbolically show that he is the one man though initially rejected by his own brethren.  Christ is our One Man, though initially rejected by his own townsmen, and by his own race the Jews.

Beginning with v.13 we learn about the accusations of the Ammonites – the Israelites taking away much land (Arnon/Jabbok/Jordan).  However, listen to Jephthah’s response:

(14)  Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites  (15)  and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites,  (16)  but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh.  (17)  Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.  (18)  “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab.  (19)  Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’  (20)  but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.  (21)  And the LORD, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country.  (22)  And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan.  (23)  So then the LORD, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them?  (24)  Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the LORD our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess.  (25)  Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them?  (26)  While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time?  (27)  I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.”

Historical Theology

It is of great importance, after reading these verses (v.14-27) to remember the history of the Israelites.  It is also of importance not to them, but also to us as Christians to acknowledge the sins and the justifications of the history of bearing the name of Christ – be that the wars of the Crusades or even our awareness of how many people have abused His Name for their purposes.

Yet, Jephthah is a great apologist – he time and time again appeals to two things between v.14-27:  the passive and diplomatic nature of Israel, and the LORD’s direct intervention and aid when Israel is bullied into war by the neighbouring nations.  This diplomatic nature came in the form of sending messengers (v.17, 19), and whereupon they were rejected from going through a land they would remain calmly for the LORD’s direction (end of v.17); finally, upon being attacked, the LORD took the initiative (rather than the Israelites) and protected His people (v.21, 23).  This last point is important; if not for the LORD, Israel would have quickly become a devoured nation – and so Jephthah appeals to Balak the son of Zippor (c.f. Numbers 22) as testimony of his own acknowledgment that Israel is nothing without Yahweh.  Indeed, Israel is a weak nation, but their Yahweh is mighty.  Even with all their enemies like Sihon (the tempestuous warrior), Heshbon (a stronghold), and Balak himself (the ‘devastator’), Israel had repeatedly exercised compassion and wrought victory in Yahweh’s name.  This is something which Chemosh, the subduing god of the Ammonites, cannot do.

It would seem, as in v.27, that the Ammonites of Jephthah’s day had thus made two mistakes: one, for failing to remember the acts of Israel and making empty accusations; and two, for failing to acknowledge the true living Yahweh as opposed to appeal to their dead god Chemosh which clearly cannot aid them.  Unsurprisingly, this is exactly the same line of argument made by Peter in Acts 2:22-2:36 where he interprets the history of Israel as it should always have been interpreted.

Note how Peter, like Jephthah, is merely employing the only one type of exegesis and hermeneutics used by Christ Himself (John 5:39; Luke 24:27) – which is to understand the Old Testament Christocentrically.  Jephthah is no different; though he does not mention Christ specifically, it is clear that Yahweh’s character is seen through the history of Israel in the face of the accusers.  How many times the Sanhedrin disagreed with Christ’s interpretation of the Old Testament and claimed the self-righteousness of their patriarchs?  And so we also see the same thing with the Ammonites twisting the truth of Israel’s conquers into something worthy of condemnation.  Furthermore, the Ammonites lacked the historical accuracy let alone acknowledging God’s involvement in the Israelites’ victories:

“Jephthah shows that the Israelites did not take the land of the Moabites or Ammonites, but that of the Amorites, which they had conquered from Sihon their king, who had, without cause or provocation, attacked them; and although the Amorites had taken the lands in question from the Ammonites, yet the title by which Israel held them was good, because they took them not from the Ammonites, but conquered them from the Amorites. So now the Lord – hath dispossessed the Amorites. – The circumstances in which the Israelites were when they were attacked by the Amorites, plainly proved, that, unless Jehovah had helped them, they must have been overcome. God defeated the Amorites, and made a grant of their lands to the Israelites; and they had, in consequence, possessed them for three hundred years.” – Adam Clarke

Thus, the condemnation against the Ammonites is increased – for failing to tremble before Yahweh like Balak; for failing to remember the history of Israel’s diplomatic nature; and for failing to understand the legitimacy of Israel’s holding over the Amorites and in turn leading to a rightful ownership of the lands in question.

The result of Peter’s exegesis in Acts 2 led to the immediate response of both the Gentiles and Jews in his presence: 37Now when(BH) they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers,(BI) what shall we do?

Unfortunately, the Ammonites did not meet Jephthah’s explanations with such humbleness:

(28)  But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.  (29)  Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites.  (30)  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand,  (31)  then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”  (32)  So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand.  (33)  And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.

The Vow between the Father and the Son

The irony of v.28-33 lies in v.33 – where Chemosh, the one who subdues, is the god of the Ammonites, we see here Jephthah to in turn subdued the Ammonites before the people of Israel, all by filling of the Holy Spirit (v.29).  However, as from the end of the previous chapter to the present verse, the focus has never been on the Ammonites.  It has been on the rejection, acceptance and the quality of the “one man” Jephthah – the one man whom the LORD gave to the Israelites upon their desperate call.  And this one man made a vow of a burnt offering upon the giving of the Ammonites into his hand, we are to assume that this vow is directly related to the overwhelming Spirit-led victory over the Ammonites where he single-handedly overcame twenty cities “with a great blow”.  A victory of such scale, by himself, may even rival that of Samson (in the latter chapters of Judges) even though Samson is often celebrated as the powerful judge.

Rather, this vow has taken the spotlight because of its controversy leading to several theologians questioning its translation.  Bullinger in “Great Cloud of Witnesses in Hebrews 11” had said that the “and” of v.31 should be changed to “or” – that “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, or I will offer it up as a burnt offering”.  In such a case, Bullinger is implying dedication to the LORD rather than a human sacrifice like an actual burnt offering.  Adam Clarke is similarly disturbed with the translations, and his in depth study of the Hebrew is quite enlightening:

“The text is והיה ליהוה והעליתיהו עולה  vehayah layhovah, vehaalithihu olah; the translation of which, according to the most accurate Hebrew scholars, is this: I will consecrate it to the Lord, or I will offer it for a burnt-offering; that is, “If it be a thing fit for a burnt-offering, it shall be made one; if fit for the service of God, it shall be consecrated to him.” That conditions of this kind must have been implied in the vow, is evident enough; to have been made without them, it must have been the vow of a heathen, or a madman. If a dog had met him, this could not have been made a burnt-offering; and if his neighbor or friend’s wife, son, or daughter, etc., had been returning from a visit to his family, his vow gave him no right over them. Besides, human sacrifices were ever an abomination to the Lord; and this was one of the grand reasons why God drove out the Canaanites, etc., because they offered their sons and daughters to Molech in the fire, i.e., made burnt-offerings of them, as is generally supposed…

It has been supposed that “the text itself might have been read differently in former times; if instead of the words והעליתיהו עולה, I will offer It a burnt-offering, we read והעליתי הוא עולה, I will offer Him (i.e., the Lord) a burnt-offering: this will make a widely different sense, more consistent with everything that is sacred; and it is formed by the addition of only a single letter, (א  aleph), and the separation of the pronoun from the verb. Now the letter א  aleph is so like the letter ע  ain, which immediately follows it in the word עולה  olah, that the one might easily have been lost in the other, and thus the pronoun be joined to the verb as at present, where it expresses the thing to be sacrificed instead of the person to whom the sacrifice was to be made. With this emendation the passage will read thus: Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me – shall be the Lord’s; and I will offer Him a burnt-offering.” For this criticism there is no absolute need, because the pronoun הו  hu, in the above verse, may with as much propriety be translated him as it. The latter part of the verse is, literally, And I will offer him a burnt-offering, עולה  olah, not לעולה  leolah, For a burnt-offering, which is the common Hebrew form when for is intended to be expressed. This is strong presumption that the text should be thus understood: and this avoids the very disputable construction which is put on the ו  vau, in והעליתיהו  vehaalithihu, Or I will offer It up, instead of And I will offer Him a burnt-offering.”

Although Bullinger’s translation is not as rigorous or detailed as Clarke’s, their theological disposition come to the same conclusion: that there is a separate burnt offering (which is given as such only if the “it” which came out of Jephthah’s house is a clean offering which Moses took great pains to explain in the book of Leviticus; it is thus clear that not every animal made in the context of a vow is a suitable offering); and if not a suitable offering, then Jephthah’s daughter in this particular instance is wholly dedicated, consecrated to the LORD.  There seems, in both of these theologians’ minds, to be no merging of the two.  They do not consider the giving of Jephthah’s daughter as a suitable sacrifice, especially not under the mandate of Leviticus 27 – not unless his daughter is redeemed.  However, whether the daughter is sacrificed will be further scrutinized by the end of the chapter.

(34)  Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter.  (35)  And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.”  (36)  And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the LORD has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.”  (37)  So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.”  (38)  So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains.  (39)  And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel  (40)  that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

It would appear, as aforementioned in Leviticus 27, that vows are greatly important to God.  The reason for this is because God Himself makes several vows – to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham and so forth, in the continual encouragement that the Seed will soon come through the seeds.  The very first vow made to created man was in the garden (Genesis 3:15), though this vow was an intra-Trinitarian promise made between the Father and the Son before creation (Isaiah 42:1; John 17; Revelation 13:8) making the first vow in the garden technically the ‘second’ vow, or the first expression to Adam of the true first vow made pre-creation.  With this in mind, v.36 should be understood in the context where vows are taken with utmost seriousness – and given the caliber of Jephthah as both type of Christ and captain of Israel, seen as a saint having faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:32) it is important that this great vow which granted him typological victory over Yahweh’s enemies is ultimately correlated to the great vow between the Father and the Son leading to the victory over Satan and the redemption and renewal of the corrupted creation.

It is here that Clarke continues with his Hebrew exposition:

“From Jdg_11:39 it appears evident that Jephthah’s daughter was not Sacrificed to God, but consecrated to him in a state of perpetual virginity; for the text says, She knew no man, for this was a statute in Israel. ותהי חק בישראל  vattehi chok beyishrael; viz., that persons thus dedicated or consecrated to God, should live in a state of unchangeable celibacy. Thus this celebrated place is, without violence to any part of the text, or to any proper rule of construction, cleared of all difficulty, and caused to speak a language consistent with itself, and with the nature of God… [With regards to v.40] I am satisfied that this is not a correct translation of the original לתנות לבת יפתח  lethannoth lebath yiphtach. Houbigant translates the whole verse thus: Sed iste mos apud Israel invaluit, ut virgines Israel, temporibus diversis, irent ad filiam Jepthe-ut eam quotannis dies quatuor consolarentur; “But this custom prevailed in Israel that the virgins of Israel went at different times, four days in the year, to the daughter of Jephthah, that they might comfort her.” This verse also gives evidence that the daughter of Jephthah was not sacrificed: nor does it appear that the custom or statute referred to here lasted after the death of Jephthah’s daughter.”

Thus, Clarke’s comprehensive theology of not accepting Jephthah’s daughter as human sacrifice has led him to retranslate much of the latter parts of chapter 11, including the true manner in which the people had sympathized – indeed comforted rather than wept – with and for Jephthah’s daughter.  However, for the sake of Hebrew interpretation he seemed not to be informed as thoroughly of the context as Matthew Henry who pointed out that there is no reason for her to weep of her virginity and holy dedication to the LORD for two months, for she had the whole life as a nun to do that.

However, it seemed that for Jephthah’s daughter there is a ‘time limit’ before which she could no longer weep.  There is of course the possibility that she wished to worship God in complete dedication, and would rather weep before being anointed for holy consecration (as according to Clarke and Bullinger’s translations of the verse) and thus commit to the ministry of God as a single woman in much rejoicing.  Yet, this is mere speculation: instead, what we do know is that she had wept profusely, going up and down the mountains to weep for her virginity (v.37).  In addition to these points, it is also possible for the daughter to have been redeemed for a price before a priest if she was actually devoted as in Leviticus 27:4 or 27:8 if Jephthah is a poor man.  Let us look at Matthew Henry’s investigation of the event which adds more insight than Clarke and Bullinger in terms of the context:

“…If he [Jephthah] sacrificed her, it was proper enough for her to bewail, not her death, because that was intended to be for the honour of God, and she would undergo it cheerfully, but that unhappy circumstance of it which made it more grievous to her than any other, because she was her father’s only child, in whom he hoped his name and family would be built up, that she was unmarried, and so left no issue to inherit her father’s honour and estate; therefore it is particularly taken notice of (Jdg_11:34) that besides her he had neither son nor daughter. But that which makes me think Jephthah did not go about thus to satisfy his vow, or evade it rather, is that we do not find any law, usage, or custom, in all the Old Testament, which does in the least intimate that a single life was any branch or article of religion, or that any person, man or woman, was looked upon as the more holy, more the Lord’s, or devoted to him, for living unmarried: it was no part of the law either of the priests or of the Nazarites. Deborah and Huldah, both prophetesses, are both of them particularly recorded to have been married women. Besides, had she only been confined to a single life, she needed not to have desired these two months to bewail it in: she had her whole life before her to do that, if she saw cause. Nor needed she to take such a sad leave of her companions; for those that are of that opinion understand what is said in Jdg_11:40 of their coming to talk with her, as our margin reads it, four days in a year. ”

Yet, one thing which the mentioned theologians have not investigated in detail is that she is Jephthah’s firstborn daughter; that she is a virgin; that it is an entirely difficult ordeal to have been devoted.  Given Matthew Henry’s weighing of context, which should similarly inform men of their translation of Hebrew, it would seem more likely that Jephthah’s daughter was duly sacrificed but at the cost of Jephthah’s own hasty vow.  Jephthah had made mistakes, but many saintly men have also done so – be that Gideon, Lot, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Adam.  Yet, they are still considered saints because of Christ, and not by their own caliber of works.  So Jephthah’s honouring of the vow is an honouring of the greater vow between the Father and the Son – the Son who was also a weeping virgin in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood.  The Son who was ordained to go up and down the holy hill (Psalm 24), ordained to be incarnate and ordained to ascend, just as Jephthah’s daughter had done so in contemplation of her impending death as symbolic of the Son’s impending death on the cross.  Matthew Henry makes this passing comment:

“Many circumstances, now unknown to us, might make this altogether extraordinary, and justify it, yet not so as that it might justify the like. Some learned men have made this sacrifice a figure of Christ the great sacrifice: he was of unspotted purity and innocency, as she a chaste virgin; he was devoted to death by his Father, and so made a curse, or an anathema, for us; he submitted himself, as she did, to his Father’s will: Not as I will, but as thou wilt.

And like every tragic event, it is marked with a memorial (e.g. the Passover and the Festival of the Unleavened Bread and the tragic deaths of the firstborn from unbelieving families) – thus making more sense of the people weeping for the death of Jephthah’s daughter like the Mary’s have done prior to Jesus’ resurrection, rather than mere comforting which seems to be a slight violation purely because of pre-informed theological presuppositions concerning God’s character.

Unlike the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 which is by the volition of Yahweh, this is an oath, a vow, made by Jephthah knowing that all vows are taken with utmost seriousness.  He did not match his care of words with the seriousness of taking the vow itself, but his honouring of the vow is perhaps the reason why the writer of Hebrews stated that he was also a man of faith, honouring that higher vow of the Son’s eventual sacrifice.  Would theologians then say that the Father is a cosmic child-abuser, or that He is an advocate of child-sacrifice akin to the religion of Molech?  Rather, the religion of Molech sacrificed children against their will; the religion of Molech sacrificed children hoping to appease that holy wrath of Yahweh.  Yet, the relationship with Christ honours the eventual redemption of the Son, just as Jephthah is honouring that same truth in hope of the eventual resurrection of his daughter (on the Day of Resurrection) despite his grievous mistake used by God to display a greater glory.  Like Isaac, she is willingly serving Yahweh (v.36-37 indicates her willingness to be a sacrifice) – and the picture of Genesis is heavily laden with the third-day imagery held at Moriah, the place of Christ’s eventual self-sacrifice.

Make no mistake – the death of Jephthah’s daughter is a grievous mistake.  It is not pleasing in God’s eyes that man should die instead of the God-man taking his/her place.  However, this is a vow made by Jephthah, not the Father.  It is a vow which the Father used for his glory, just as the Father had used the fallen creation for his glory of recapitulation in Irenaeus’ definition, that we may be glorified from dust to being ‘deified’ beyond dust – just as the fallen creation itself is not good in God’s eyes.  Instead, this is a type of felix culpa, a “blessed fault”:  we see that same image of the Father sacrificing His only and firstborn Son, just as Jephthah is doing so with his daughter, held at the Mizpeh the watchtower – watching for the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Judges 12:  The Word of God

Jdg 12:1-15  The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.”  (2)  And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand.  (3)  And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?”  (4)  Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.”  (5)  And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,”  (6)  they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.

War of Words

It would seem that this episode concerning Jephthah is a reflection of the same conflict between Gideon and Ephraim.  Why is it that Ephraim is so incredibly insecure?  Is it because of their imminent inheritance in comparison to Manasseh according to the blessing of Jacob?  Like the time with Gideon, Jephthah is equally non-blameworthy.  V.3 explains that Ephraim did not even go to save Gideon and Jephthah, the underdog and the outcast, even though (as Gideon implied) that the men of Ephraim are of greater stature and privilege.  As such, Ephraim is seen as a bully within Israel; browbeating and patronizing those who pass by his land, like a Middle-Eastern mafia, ensuring their own prophesied blessings not through faith and not through the corporate church, but through putting other tribes and people down.  This elitist, caste-like attitude is exactly the subject of the feud between Jephthah and Ephraim.  Indeed, the phrase “I took my life in my hand” is repeated in 1 Samuel 19:5 and 1 Samuel 28:21, both seen as positive instances as a result of faith in Christ, rather than an endorsement for works-salvation.  Without this faith, they would not have succeeded (Hebrews 11), as the men of Ephraim clearly show by their exploitation of cheap grace as in Bonhoeffer’s definition.  With this faith, they can even move mountains, hence the aforementioned victory of Jephthah against the numerous Ammonites.

As if Ephraim did not push their social-status weight around, v.4-5 certainly cemented their views against the outsiders and underdogs by calling the Gileadites fugitives.  It would seem that through this event, the deaths of the Ephraimites – all 42,000 of them – is one of the greatest civil wars that Israel has seen since the beginning of Scripture.  Yet, it is certainly telling of how Yahweh favours the underdog and the outsider than the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Sanhedrin.  Indeed, as in Isaiah 63:5, Christ has to work out salvation by himself, for Gideon and Jephthah are merely imitating the work of their Saviour who is rejected by all and accepted by rejected, ‘worthless’ men.  Hence, the end of this feud comprises of two things: the Ephraimites themselves becoming a victim of their curse as they are now truly fugitives instead of their accused Gileadite brothers; and secondly, that they are identified by their inability to speak the word “Shibboleth” properly, even though it be seemingly an extremely minor difference:

With regards to the term “Shibboleth” and “Sibboleth” I turn to Adam Clarke:

“The original differs only in the first letter ס  samech, instead of ש  sheen; אמר נא שבלת ויאמר סבלת  emar na Shibboleth, vaiyomer Sibboleth. The difference between ש  seen, without a point, which when pointed is pronounced sheen, and ס  samech, is supposed by many to be imperceptible. But there can be no doubt there was, to the ears of a Hebrew, a most sensible distinction… Had there been no distinction between the seen and samech but what the Masoretic point gives now, then ס  samech would not have been used in the word סבלת  sibboleth, but ש  seen, thus שבלת: but there must have been a very remarkable difference in the pronunciation of the Ephraimites, when instead of שבלת  shibboleth, an ear of corn, (see Job_24:24), they said סבלת  sibboleth, which signifies a burden, Exo_6:6; and a heavy burden were they obliged to bear who could not pronounce this test letter.”

It would seem that this choice of word may be related to the fords which the Gileadites have captured, for Shibboleth does not only mean ‘ear of grain’, but it could also mean ‘flowing stream and head’; contrary to Sibboleth which means ‘burden’ as well as ‘ear of grain or wheat’.  However, I think the focus of the word is in the first letter as Clarke has noted, the seeming gross negligence for the Ephraimites to be subject to such a minor detail.  Yet, this seemingly minor quibble is merely the peak of a mountain of discontent between Jephthah and Ephraim for Ephraim’s detestation of Gilead.  There is much parallel here between that of the man who attended the wedding ceremony without proper attire in Jesus’ parables (Matthew 22:11-14).  The response was not merely throwing the man back where he came from, but ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – a very similar response to Jephthah’s treatment of the Ephraimites.

So we should see how the Ephramites’ failure to speak the word properly, in crossing the river symbolic of the crossing of the river Jordan and the Red Sea as typological of salvation, is a direct correlation to a failure on their behalf to enter into the true Promised Land over what seems to be a minor quibble.  Yet, in God’s eyes, this minor quibble is what will cost us our salvation – and that is why the path is wide but the gate is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14).  Yet, this narrow gate can be entered through Jesus Christ, the one way, and by Him we can speak the right Word and wear the right dress to be accepted onto the other side of the river, through the waters of judgment; from bearing the burden of condemnation (Sibboleth) to reaching that flowing stream and head (Shibboleth), the river of life from the Head of the Church.

(7)  Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.  (8)  After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel.  (9)  He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.  (10)  Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.  (11)  After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years.  (12)  Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.  (13)  After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel.  (14)  He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. (15)  Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

It is then after the death of Jephthah that we come to the quick mentioning of other judges, through whom God had provided approximately thirty-one years of peace in several areas over Israel.  Yet, this time of rest is unsurprisingly followed by corruption, spiritual adultery and idolatry as the refrain of Judges goes.  The fall from Ibzan and Abdon who both had a large number of beasts and children displaying their wealth and honour.

Yet, what I have attempted to show is that through the lengthened expositions of the chosen judges according to the narrator of this book, it would seem that the shadows, prophecies and typologies of Christ and His incarnate work are permeated throughout these great men and women endowed with the Spirit.  History does not seem to be the main focus, for not all men had lives equally recorded.  Contrarily, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology and eschatology are, unsurprisingly, the main foci of the book of Judges as we learn that The Great Judge must have His share of the Spirit, the fullness of the Spirit which these judges do not have;  the One Man is the saviour of Israel who must first be humiliated before he can be exalted; the King-like leader’s victory over the non-Christian enemies is an initiation of Yahweh’s will to portray that final judgment on all nations on the Day of Resurrection, as opposed to his own effort like that of Abimelech – for even the Son knows not when He returns (Mark 13:32) except by depending on the Father and the Spirit.

All these points take us firmly into that vow between the Father and the Son, that they would use a type of felix culpa to ensure that His gospel is indeed preached to the neighbouring nations then, be that in the form of Jephthah’s grievous sacrifice of his only virgin daughter to the killing of the Ephraimites as a direct comparison between two types of ‘leaders’ in Israel – the true leader and the self-proclaimed ones.

We are thus moving closer and closer from the Mosaic administration of the law to the embodiment of the law in person like that of the king (Deuteronomy 17) as we begin to see stronger typologies of the God-man Christ beyond that of Christophanies which were also rife throughout Genesis to Joshua, until the time of the Kings as we are getting closer and closer to the time of Saul and David.

Judges 11-12: Felix Culpa and Foci of Judges