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 9-10: The King, The Man

Judges 9:  Who is the true King?

Jdg 9:1-57  Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family,  (2)  “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”  (3)  And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.”  (4)  And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him.

Moses, Jotham, Christ

It is unfortunate that Abimelech is named after pagan kings – the king of Gerar (in Genesis 20-21) and another king of Gerar, respectively in the time of Abraham and Isaac.  He had the makings of a king indeed – but not a Christian king.  He did not model after his father who contended with Baal, and it seemed that his works represented his faith in a god which endorsed murder over mercy.  In continuation of the theme of dualism, of meek against the proud; of the small army of Yahweh against the large armies of the Eastern tribes – here, we see Abimelech seeking to be a leader, against Gideon’s initial humility, approached by the Angel rather than approaching the Angel for self-glory.

Secondly, it may be intentional that we see a contest of sorts between the seventy sons of Jerubbaal and the one son of Jerubbaal.  The number seventy (Genesis 46:27 – Jacob’s household in Egypt; Exodus 24 – the seventy chosen elders) is, like the number 12, symbolic of God’s government and God’s household.  Here, Jerubbaal’s 70 children would have represented that peaceful household; instead, Abimelech traded these children for 70 pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, ironically titled the lord of the covenant, though he is more like fellowshipping with darkness (c.f. 2 Corinthians 6:14) by hiring worthless and reckless fellows (v.4) rather than people who followed him because of being an approved leader in the Spirit.  He is no different from Judas who had sold Christ by attaining silver as well (Matthew 26-27).

However, we must understand that in both cases Christ is not ‘sold’ to Satan strictly speaking, for the judgment of death was executed by the Father on the cross.  Satan had no power of executing that judgment, for he too is subject to eternal death in the prison of hell.  Satan is the one who tempts others into the same judgment of the Father, taking more and more people with him into the lake of fire where he is also punished.  Christ did not satisfy the wrath of Satan as if they were two Angels fighting against one another, akin to the Gnostic doctrine of creation; rather, Christ died to satisfy the wrath of his Father and his own wrath against sin (for Christ himself is also the judge of the book of Revelation).

It is in this sense that we see the false lord of the covenant, he who masquerades as an angel of light, is literally using silver (through Abimelech) as the leaders of Israel had done through Judas.  In both cases, Abimelech and Judas are vessels of evil, and both (as well as Baal-berith, the Satan who mocks by imitating the true Lord of the covenant) are subject to God’s curse of typological retribution as we shall soon see:

(5)  And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.  (6)  And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.  (7)  When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you.

Gerizim and the blood of Christ

And so Jotham, he who proclaims that Jehova is perfect, is the youngest, most meek, and is hidden from the tyranny and madness of Abimelech.  Like Moses and Christ, he escaped the impending wrath on the innocent 70, the innocent children of Israel; and yet he returns to the top of Mount Gerizim, the mount of blessing to ironically proclaim judgment upon Abimelech, who himself was standing ironically by the oak of the pillar at Shechem which represented the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis 12.  Here, we see a juxtaposition of the unrighteous king, anointed at the symbolic place of Shechem when the true king, Jotham, stood by the place of blessing (Gerizim) which is simultaneously a place of cursing for Abimelech.

In similar way, the blood of Christ is also a blessing for believers, and a curse for unbelievers.  Jotham’s choice to proclaim these truths at Gerizim after being in hiding is more profound than meets the eye.  Though Deuteronomy 11:29 and Deuteronomy 27 both account for the blessings given on Mount Gerizim, it would seem more appropriate (according to Deuteronomy 11:29) for Jotham to have chosen Mount Ebal to pronounce proper curses on Abimelech.  Yet, in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, it states that:

“According to the traditions of the Samaritans it was here that Abraham sacrificed Isaac, that Melchizedek met the patriarch, that Jacob built an altar, and at its base dug a well, the ruins of which are still seen. Some scholars think there is ground for the first belief; but careful observers of the locality discredit it and believe Moriah to be the spot.  Gerizim was the site of the Samaritan temple, which was built there after the captivity, in rivalry with the temple at Jerusalem. Gerizim is still to the Samaritans what Jerusalem is to the Jews and Mecca to the Mohammedans.”

It is unclear whether this has an impact on Jotham’s choice, though I personally hold to the truth of Genesis 22 that Moriah is the same location of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Issac and the eventual fulfilment of that sacrifice by the true sacrifice of the Lamb.  Whatever the case may be, Jotham’s choice of Gerizim has the double-impact of shaming Abimelech for assuming blessing upon himself when he is more deserved of the judgment of Christ, the blood which cleanses believers but pronounces punishment on non-believers.

(8)  The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’  (9)  But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’  (10)  And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’  (11)  But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’  (12)  And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’  (13)  But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’  (14)  Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’  (15)  And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’  (16)  “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house and have done to him as his deeds deserved–  (17)  for my father fought for you and risked his life and delivered you from the hand of Midian,  (18)  and you have risen up against my father’s house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the leaders of Shechem, because he is your relative–  (19)  if you then have acted in good faith and integrity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you.  (20)  But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the leaders of Shechem and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the leaders of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech.”

The Parable of the Tree

In this parable, we see a tree seeking to anoint a king over them: looking at olive tree (v.8-9); the fig tree (v.10-11); the vine (v.12-13); and the bramble (v.14-15) – the decreasing size and appropriateness for a proper shade (v.15), from the most useful olive tree to the most worthless bramble.  Adam Clarke especially focuses on the “word אטד  atad, which we translate bramble, is supposed to mean the rhamnus, which is the largest of thorns, producing dreadful spikes, similar to darts”.  It is quite clear that Jotham is using the trees to illustrate the same truths which Christ illustrated by the fruit of a tree either rooted in Christ or rooted in the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah (c.f. Matthew 12:33).  It appears that the first three, the olive, fig tree, and the vine each have their respective elements which bless the user, be that for medicinal use, for culinary consumption (whether fruit or wine) – but the bramble is the most dangerous and thorny, and Clarke describes it as the “emblem of an impious, cruel, and oppressive king”.

Upon the mentioning of the bramble, v.16-18 then focuses on the illegitimacy of Abimelech as the son of his female servant, looking at the worthiness of kingship to come through Gideon’s good works as he was anointed as judge; but Abimelech carried no such weight and instead denied the works of his father by murdering his other sons.  V.19-20 then ends on the God who answers by fire which, like the blood of Christ, either destroys or refines a person. 

It is here that we learn by the olive, fig and vine each refuse royalty.  The common refrain for each is “Shall I leave…” – as if royalty is a bad thing which deprives them of their original purpose.  Rather, this is the same response of the called and great reluctant saints; from Abraham to Jacob; from Jacob to Moses; from Moses to David – so entirely different from the calling of those, like the bramble, who seek to power and instead infect the public with a lack of refuge.  As if a bramble can provide shade, let alone anything else which is of benefit to those being ruled by it?  So also our Christ need not proclaim his divinity except through his works, his fruit; who desired not to become the temporal physical king of Israel (John 6:15), but the true king of heaven and earth (John 18:36).  Jotham, the type of Christ, was born a king (c.f. Matthew 2:2), being the only other descendant left; he was the true king who should have been celebrated (c.f. Mark 15); and thus he stood on the mount of blessing, cursing those who are unfaithful and blessing those who are and will not be subject to the judgment of fire (v.19), indicative of the last days when the wheat shall be separated from the chaff for good.

Thus, Jotham’s participation ends here as he hides in Beer, the well, fulfilling the prophetic role of Christ’s incarnation as the king denied to his rightful true throne, waiting to return and to be revealed as the true king of Israel whilst Abimelech, Satan, pretended to be the prince of the world though he was at most a guardian cherub.  Although Jotham is not mentioned again here, we will see his name appear again in 2 Kings as a king of Judah.

(21)  And Jotham ran away and fled and went to Beer and lived there, because of Abimelech his brother.  (22)  Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.  (23)  And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,  (24)  that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.  (25)  And the leaders of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountaintops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way. And it was told to Abimelech.  (26)  And Gaal the son of Ebed moved into Shechem with his relatives, and the leaders of Shechem put confidence in him.  (27)  And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech.  (28)  And Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who are we of Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him?  (29)  Would that this people were under my hand! Then I would remove Abimelech. I would say to Abimelech, ‘Increase your army, and come out.'”

Immediately after the disappearance of Jotham, during the three years of Abimelech’s reign God had sent an evil spirit, His tool, to repay Abimelech for the blood he spilt.  Indeed, the blood is on his hands (Ezekiel 3:18), just as the blood of innocent Abel (Hebrews 12:24) cried out for justice, and thus the LORD sent a spirit of evil, a spirit of confusion (Deuteronomy 28) similar to the fall of the Tower of Babylon, so that Abimelech will soon realise that he is short of allies and that his office as judge and king would fail miserably.

The introduction of Gaal and his subsequent removal is also indicative (and typological) of the invasion of foreign nations ruling over Israel, prophetic of Assyria and Babylon’s eventual rule over Israel and their eventual displacement when Israel is re-established.  It should not come as a surprise that the inclusion of this event of Abimelech as a ruler rather than a mere judge – the latter office related to warfare upon the approval of Yahweh and guiding Israel to Christ; whereas Abimelech, the wicked bramble, sought warfare and did not guide Israel to Christ.  His rule is like that of the kings in the Old Testament, leading to the eventual displacement of Israel by foreign nations.  Gaal who is named loathing, along with his men seemed to serve Hamor the father of Shechem, the perpetrators of Dinah’s rape in Genesis 34.  Indeed, though the Shechemites had committed a grave sin, Simeon and Levi’s retaliation was also condemned.  Gaal’s invasion of Israel, his reviling of Abimelech, were a result of Abimelech’s own work leading to this curse (Deuteronomy 27-28) upon the land.

(30)  When Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.  (31)  And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his relatives have come to Shechem, and they are stirring up the city against you.  (32)  Now therefore, go by night, you and the people who are with you, and set an ambush in the field.  (33)  Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them as your hand finds to do.”  (34)  So Abimelech and all the men who were with him rose up by night and set an ambush against Shechem in four companies.  (35)  And Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance of the gate of the city, and Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from the ambush.  (36)  And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the mountaintops!” And Zebul said to him, “You mistake the shadow of the mountains for men.”  (37)  Gaal spoke again and said, “Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and one company is coming from the direction of the Diviners’ Oak.”  (38)  Then Zebul said to him, “Where is your mouth now, you who said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out now and fight with them.”  (39)  And Gaal went out at the head of the leaders of Shechem and fought with Abimelech.  (40)  And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him. And many fell wounded, up to the entrance of the gate.  (41)  And Abimelech lived at Arumah, and Zebul drove out Gaal and his relatives, so that they could not dwell at Shechem.

What is interesting about Gaal’s reliance on Zebul’s word is that he already knew Zebul was Abimelech’s office in v.28.  His pride and lack of wisdom has brought himself in this web of betrayal, Zebul betraying Gaal, Gaal (as a leader of the Shechemites) betraying the trust the Shechemites had with Abimelech, and Abimelech betraying the trust of his brothers, the sons of Jerubbaal.  This is the infection and curse of sin, that the betrayal shall spawn and the mutual devouring resulting as a direct opposite to the mutual loving of the Trinity.  So dark is Gaal’s eyes that he only sees the shadow of the truth, which brought death to his doorstep.  V.37 seems to furthermore amplify this mystical appearance of Abimelech’s army in the form of ‘sorcery’ (for Diviners’ Oak in v.37 literally means a “practice of conjuring/soothsaying, מעוננים, a practice of witchcraft of sorts).

Yet, the truth behind the shadows is no ‘magic’ – it is in fact what we are called to do, to look beyond the shadows of the true images as reflective of the similar truth of the faithful men of the Old Testament.  Are the OT saints clear about their object of faith, or have their sights been darkened like that of Gaal, that they have mere faith in shadows and promises but they did not take hold of the true reality of the Trinity’s work?  Paul Blackham looks at this in “Bible Overview” (pg. 307, F.A.Q Appendix I):

“There are Christians who see the promises in the Old Testament as physical and earthly, and see those promises of God as speaking of nothing beyond earthly land, kings and signs.  This perspective sees the Old Testament people as trusting in these promises, without knowing of the person of Christ.

However, it seems to us that the best way to understand the Old Testament is around the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In all the promises and signs of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ was presented to his church.  The great creeds and confessions of the historic Christian church tend to take this view of the Old Testament [quoting the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) Question and Answer 19; the 39 Articles of the Church of England (1571) Article 7; the Westminster Confession (1647) Chapter 7; the Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) Article 7.”

The irony compounds itself as Abimelech chose to stay at Arumah, ill-suitably named as “exalted” – as if Abimelech, through this temporary victory, is a sign of exaltation.  Israel, too, descended into this failure when she had exalted righteously through David the typological son of God, and had been humbled temporarily in the invasion of Babylon and Assyria, but once again forgetting the spirit of the law by the time of Christ’s incarnation (John 3; Acts 2).

(42)  On the following day, the people went out into the field, and Abimelech was told.  (43)  He took his people and divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. And he looked and saw the people coming out of the city. So he rose against them and killed them.  (44)  Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city, while the two companies rushed upon all who were in the field and killed them.  (45)  And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.  (46)  When all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem heard of it, they entered the stronghold of the house of El-berith.  (47)  Abimelech was told that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem were gathered together.  (48)  And Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bundle of brushwood and took it up and laid it on his shoulder. And he said to the men who were with him, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do as I have done.”  (49)  So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women.

We see here the horror of Abimelech’s revenge – he went on to destroy the leaders of the Tower of Shechem, hiding in the house of the God of covenant, as opposed to lord of covenant (Baal-berith), that the LORD would use Abimelech to destroy the very thing which brought Abimelech the seventy pieces of silver.  Whatever revenge Simeon and Levi had enacted on the Shechemites, here Abimelech had similarly done as a ruler of Israel.  Although Israel is not as mildly numbered as in the days of Abraham (Genesis 34), it is still true that the name of Israel will stink in the middle of Canaan.  How can they be a light to the nations when Abimelech’s victories do not give glory to God, but is a result of restoring the name which Gaal has defiled?  It is not for Christ’s name, nor for the restoration of Christ’s reputation; but for the restoration of his own pride, social status and recognition.

(50)  Then Abimelech went to Thebez and encamped against Thebez and captured it.  (51)  But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the leaders of the city fled to it and shut themselves in, and they went up to the roof of the tower.  (52)  And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire.  (53)  And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.  (54)  Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.'” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.  (55)  And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home.  (56)  Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.  (57)  And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

Yahweh’s disapproval finally came when he captured Thebez and planned to re-enact the same method of murder by burning all those within a tower – as is shown in v.53.  Like the case with Deborah and Jael, the symbol of the weaker vessel destroying the king of Israel, we see the humiliation of Christ, his death on the cross, the Rock of his work destroying the head of a serpent like Abimelech, cutting off the bramble from the olive tree, the fig tree, the vine.  And as soon as Abimelech the representative head was crushed by the woman (the young man thrusting him through in the end being another act of final deception), so the evil returned on the men of Shechem “on their heads”, similarly replaying that curse of Jotham akin to the curse on the serpent’s head in Genesis 3.

Though Jotham’s proclamation is seen as a curse, we have already investigated what this means in a Christ-focused context, for all evil consider Christ as a ‘curse’ as well (c.f. Mark 5).  Because of the silent narrative up to v.56, it is easy to see Abimelech’s works as similar to that of God given all the warfare; but it is also hard to deny Abimelech’s deception, lies and betrayal even to his very last request to die as if by sword when he is really crushed by the Rock; his vengeful heart as shadowed by Simeon and Levi, both disapproved for their retaliation on the Shechemites; and his own rise to the throne without the true anointing of the olive, fig or vine.  Jotham’s curse was in fact the undercurrent of the entire chapter, finally confirmed in v.57.  His absence is indeed duly noted, but his word remained true.  So also Christ’s ascension to the symbolic Mt. Gerizim, pronouncing the deception of Satan, enables us to preach the true gospel to the four corners of the earth so that all evil is cursed and all faithful are blessed as the Word stays true in contrast to the lies which we make (Romans 3:4).

Judges 10:  Who is the man…?

The Humble Judges

Jdg 10:1-18  After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim.  (2)  And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.

After the dictatorial reign of Abimelech came the humble worm Tola, the son of Puah (“splendid”), the son of Dodo (“his beloved”), a man of Issachar.  It is important for us to look at the meaning of the names, given Abimelech’s name which indicates royalty (which was achieved via ungodly means), so also Tola was exalted as judge of Israel for twenty three years contrary to his character as implied by his name.  So also in Isaiah 41:14, we learn that the more humble and submissive Israel is, the more God decides to aid the nation which has no self-pride nor self-confidence left:

“After Abimelech had debauched Israel by his wickedness, disquieted and disturbed them by his restless ambition, and, by the mischiefs he brought on them, exposed them to enemies from abroad, God animated this good man to appear for the reforming of abuses, the putting down of idolatry, the appeasing of tumults, and the healing of the wounds given to the state by Abimelech’s usurpation. Thus he saved them from themselves, and guarded them against their enemies. He was of the tribe of Issachar, a tribe disposed to serve, for he bowed his shoulder to bear (Gen. 49:14, 15), yet one of that tribe is here raised up to rule; for those that humble themselves shall be exalted. He bore the name of him that was ancestor to the first family of that tribe; of the sons of Issachar Tola was the first, Gen. 46:13; Num. 26:23. It signifies a worm, yet, being the name of his ancestor, he was not ashamed of it. Though he was of Issachar, yet, when he was raised up to the government, he came and dwelt in Mount Ephraim, which was more in the heart of the country, that the people might the more conveniently resort to him for judgment. He judged Israel twenty-three years (v. 2), kept things in good order, but did not any thing very memorable.” – Matthew Henry

Though Matthew Henry mentions in the very last line that Tola was appointed to keep things ‘in good order, but did not any thing very memorable’, we should try and remember the contrast between chapter 10 and chapter 9.  Chapter 9 we see the egomaniac Abimelech matched by the detail spent on his escapades; here, in chapter 10, we see the worm who had judges Israel over seven times longer than Abimelech’s reign, and had humbly saved Israel by faith in Christ who grants him all victories (c.f. Hebrews 11 – by faith in Christ the judges would achieve this temporary salvation of Israel).  And so it could not be more fitting that such humility is matched by the humble attribution to Tola, escape to describe his work of obedience in a matter of two verses.  Similarly, for Jair:

(3)  After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years.  (4)  And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead.  (5)  And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

Jair, the enlightened one, had the blessing of much procreation like Jerubbaal.  Fortunately, these sons lived peaceful lives without the fear of their own brother massacring them, and it is possible that these thirty cities, named after Jair himself, were given to each of the thirty sons.  Again, like Tola, his life is humbly accounted for and though the narrative here is silent, the writer of Hebrews would also understand Jair to be blessed through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Jair died, and was buried in Kamon, elevated and ascended to the Father with his descendants materially blessed and equally enlightened.

Yet, in these forty-five years of peace (both the rule of Jair and Tola added together) Israel had fallen back into idolatry, the common refrain of “again”:

(6)  The people of Israel again [my emphasis] did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.  (7)  So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites,  (8)  and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.

Trinity and adultery

Leviticus 26 is, among the latter chapters of Deuteronomy, indicative of the fallen nature of Israel.  In fact, the entire Pentateuch is a record of the fall of man, with Leviticus 17 being the pinnacle Day of Atonement recording the necessity of a God-man mediator to cleanse the sins of all mankind once and for all.  Without this faith in the God-man, Israel will only descend into spiritual adultery as is the case with the Baalim, the Ashtaroth, gods of Syria, Sidon, Moab, Ammonites, Philistines.  We are not advocating polytheism, a common trait amongst many religions (especially that of Hinduism); and neither are we advocating modalism, as if God appears in different modes (or within Christian modalism, as if God appeared as Father, Son and Spirit at different times when he is apparently Unitarian).  Rather, the Trinitarian God has revealed Himself to us as one unit, as one family, as one Elohim – the Father and the Son united by the Spirit in love, a fully Trinitarian relationship because the Spirit is also a Person, preventing any Binitarian agenda as is accused of Barth who furthered this inter-Trinitarian thought in his Church Dogmatics (this is proposed in Book III Volume I, but it takes a deeper understanding of Barth’s pneumatology to understand whether or not his agenda leans towards Binitarianism rather than Trinitarianism, which it does not seem to be).

Instead, we find these gods separated; these gods made from the hands of men; these gods worshipped to please the hearts of Israelite.  Indeed, these Israelites perhaps mentioned the same thing as people do today, “If only I worshipped all the gods, pleased all gods, then I would receive blessing from the real ones among the false ones”.  As if this is a supermarket selection!  God is not to be man-handled, but contrarily man is to be God-handled, for God had made man to participate in the intra-Trinitarian love which unites all of them into one family (c.f. John 17).  This adultery can only lead to impending punishment and anger (v.7).

It is also not ironic that one of the oppressors are the Ammonites, the posterity of Lot.  Although in retrospective Lot has been called a saint (2 Peter 2:7), he was not a very evangelistic one nor a very faithful one for being caught up in one distress after another (c.f. Genesis 14; 29).  His wife who looked back upon Sodom and Gomorrah and his daughters who developed an incestuous relationship with him were all the marks of a person of lapsed or back-sliding faith.  Thus, it makes sense for the Ammonites who had introduced these foreign gods to become a snare for Israel, for Lot himself was snared by his surrounding cultures like his posterity.

For the Ammonites to cross the Jordan and fight against the major tribes of Israel is undoubtedly the reason why Israel would turn to the LORD after great distress, knowing that their numbers and personal might can no longer help their survival.  What is of great interest to me is that they had ready access to the LORD (v.10).  It is not as if this was a generation which had lost the law; instead, they knew the LORD’s name and they could have called to Him by looking at the testimony of the tabernacle where His Shekinah would dwell.  They did not forget His Name, but they have forgotten His deeds (v.11-12).  It was only until their repentance was whole (v.16) that the evidence of their faith was shown; and only then did the LORD grieve painfully for Israel (Matthew Henry’s translation: “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel”which follows the KJV, where the original Hebrew for ‘grieve’, קצר, could also mean “mourn”).

(9)  And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.  (10)  And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.”  (11)  And the LORD said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines?  (12)  The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand.  (13)  Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more.  (14)  Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”  (15)  And the people of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.”  (16)  So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.  (17)  Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah.  (18)  And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

Who is The Man?

Although there is no immediate work which the LORD has done for Israel despite their repentance, it is clear that v.18 is meant to be a cliff-hanger – the great question being “Who is the man?”

The answer to that should be clear:  look to the tabernacle within the camp.  Look to what it means when the High Priest goes from the laver to the altar covered in innocent animal’s blood to the two pieces of furniture of the Spirit and the Son in the Holy of Holies to the burning incense of prayer at the curtain and through to the curtain to the Ark of the Covenant, to the mercy seat also sprinkled with the blood of innocent animals.  Look to the LORD dwelling over that mercy seat, and be reminded of the time when Gideon was commissioned by the Angel (Judges 6); when the Angel fought for Barak (Judges 5:23); when the Angel was asked to protect Israel’s children (Genesis 48:16); when the Angel led Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan (Exodus 14:19); when the Angel led Moses to the Father (Exodus 19 on the third day); when the Angel supped with the elders of Israel on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24).  The Angel Who leads us to the Father (c.f. Matthew 11).  We who were made as typical images (Genesis 1:26-27), as shadow images, as images in likeness to the prototypical Son of God – the image of God to Whom we are to conform to (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49).

This question is not limited to the Israelites calling upon this “man” in the Old Testament.  Indeed, the righteous man is mentioned more than once in Psalms, in fact opening the Psalter with chapters 1 and 2 referring to the Righteous and Blessed Man, the Son Who shall be kissed lest He break the nations.  Christ in the New Testament sends similar riddles about this “man” in the form of the parables.  Glen Scrivener in his series on the parables in 2008 had looked at the importance of Christ both in the New and the Old Testament, for often we think of this man as a mere judge.  As a mere man who is particularly filled with the Spirit.  However, the whole thrust of Scripture is to describe how everything relates and should point us to Christ the Man.  Indeed, He is the Man who sought us, the church, the treasure in the field (Matthew 13:44-46) as a result of the radical “othercentredness of the triune life”;  He is the Good Samaritan above and beyond the shadow of the Levite and the Priest for He was the Outsider (Hebrews 13:13) coming to the church left for dead;  He is the Father in the sense that the Father’s fatherhood is seen in the Son:

Jesus is the father.  Plain and simple.  Jesus is the father.  Jesus is the good shepherd ([Luke 15]v4-7), he’s the good woman (v8-10), he’s the good father (v11-32).  It just seems blindingly obvious don’t you think?  And have we been confused on this simply because of the role ‘father’?  Well Jesus casts himself as father even in the Gospels – ‘Son, your sins are forgiven… Daughter, your faith has healed you.’  He has children (Is 8:18; 53:10; Heb 2:13; see also Luke 7:35).  If He can be a woman and even a mother hen, it’s not at all inappropriate for Him to be pictured as father.”

And so, we can only realise that Jesus “is at the very centre of this drama” whether Old or New Testament.  The stories of the judges so far can only highlight the shadow nature of the judges (Abimelech being the first to rule against God’s will), though the Israelites calling for “the man” indeed is an indication that their reliance on the judge is condition to the fact that this judge obeys God’s commandments as a king would.  Yet, these judges have, in the previous few chapters, proven to be weak; to be meek; to be taken from humble origins; to be outcast.  So also, Jesus even in the parable of the ‘prodigal sons’ “goes out… bears the shame… pleads… appears weak and He celebrates sinners.  This is not prompted by the sinner’s repentance, which was calculating at best, but by His own reconciling love… You have (as Barth put it) the father going into the far country to hoist the lost onto his shoulders and bring them home.  Luke 15 is no Christ-less, cross-less forgiveness tale.  Christ and His cross is the heart of it all.” – Glen Scrivener in “Who’s the Daddy” dated 2 October 2008 part of the “Who’s the Man” series.

And so the church gathers at Mizpah, the watchtower – the watchmen at the wall preaching the gospel diligently (Ezekiel 3), and furthermore watching for the day when Christ would fulfil the shadows, prophecies, typologies, Christophanies made in the Old Testament and shame the adulterated world on the cross to display that eternal love between the Father and Him sustained by the Spirit before creation.

Judges 9-10: The King, The Man