Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 9

    1 Samuel 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Kish was a wealthy man who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. His father was Abiel, his grandfather was Zeror, his great-grandfather was Becorath, and his great-great-grandfather was Aphiah.
  2. Kish had a son named Saul, who was better looking and more than a head taller than anyone else in all Israel.
  3. Kish owned some donkeys, but they had run off. So he told Saul, "Take one of the servants and go look for the donkeys."
  4. Saul and the servant went through the hill country of Ephraim and the territory of Shalishah, but they could not find the donkeys. Then they went through the territories of Shaalim and Benjamin, but still there was no sign of the donkeys.
  5. Finally they came to the territory where the clan of Zuph lived. "Let's go back home," Saul told his servant. "If we don't go back soon, my father will stop worrying about the donkeys and start worrying about us!"
  6. "Wait!" the servant answered. "There's a man of God who lives in a town near here. He's amazing! Everything he says comes true. Let's talk to him. Maybe he can tell us where to look."
  7. Saul said, "How can we talk to the prophet when I don't have anything to give him? We don't even have any bread left in our sacks. What can we give him?"
  8. "I have a small piece of silver," the servant answered. "We can give him that, and then he will tell us where to look for the donkeys."
  9. "Great!" Saul replied. "Let's go to the man who can see visions!" He said this because in those days God would answer questions by giving visions to prophets. Saul and his servant went to the town where the prophet lived.
  10. (SEE 9:9)
  11. As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to get water, and the two men said to them, "We're looking for the man who can see visions. Is he in town?"
  12. "Yes, he is," they replied. "He's in town today because there's going to be a sacrifice and a sacred meal at the place of worship. In fact, he's just ahead of you. Hurry
  13. and you should find him right inside the town gate. He's on his way out to the place of worship to eat with the invited guests. They can't start eating until he blesses the sacrifice. If you go now, you should find him."
  14. They went to the town, and just as they were going through the gate, Samuel was coming out on his way to the place of worship.
  15. The day before Saul came, the LORD had told Samuel,
  16. "I've seen how my people are suffering, and I've heard their call for help. About this time tomorrow I'll send you a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who will rescue my people from the Philistines. I want you to pour olive oil on his head to show that he will be their leader."
  17. Samuel looked at Saul, and the LORD told Samuel, "This is the man I told you about. He's the one who will rule Israel."
  18. Saul went over to Samuel in the gateway and said, "A man who can see visions lives here in town. Could you tell me the way to his house?"
  19. "I am the one who sees visions!" Samuel answered. "Go on up to the place of worship. You will eat with me today, and in the morning I'll answer your questions.
  20. Don't worry about your donkeys that ran off three days ago. They've already been found. Everything of value in Israel now belongs to you and your family."
  21. "Why are you telling me this?" Saul asked. "I'm from Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my clan is the least important in the tribe."
  22. Samuel took Saul and his servant into the dining room at the place of worship. About thirty people were there for the dinner, but Samuel gave Saul and his servant the places of honor.
  23. Then Samuel told the cook, "I gave you the best piece of meat and told you to set it aside. Bring it here now." The cook brought the meat over and set it down in front of Saul. "This is for you," Samuel told him. "Go ahead and eat it. I had this piece saved especially for you, and I invited these guests to eat with you." After Saul and Samuel had finished eating,
  24. (SEE 9:23)
  25. they went down from the place of worship and back into town. A bed was set up for Saul on the flat roof of Samuel's house,
  26. and Saul slept there. About sunrise the next morning, Samuel called up to Saul on the roof, "Time to get up! I'll help you get started on your way." Saul got up. He and Samuel left together
  27. and had almost reached the edge of town when Samuel stopped and said, "Have your servant go on. Stay here with me for a few minutes, and I'll tell you what God has told me." After the servant had gone,

    Chapter 9 introduces us to Saul who was to become the first king over Israel, fulfilling the request of the people for a king. Though God planned for Israel to eventually have a king, this request came ahead of His timing. God granted it anyway offering them the opportunity to learn the folly of getting what they asked for rather than seeking what God intended for them. Why did God choose Saul to be the first king? We can only guess. The only thing that seemed to commend him was his good looks and stature. God, in a typical fashion, used someone who, by human standards, was least likely to be a candidate.

    Saul himself pointed out that, as a Benjaminite, he was from the smallest tribe of Israel, and his family was of little significance within the Benjaminite tribes. The book of Judges, chapters 19-21, describes an event in which people of Gibeah, Saul's hometown, raped and killed a woman and wanted to do the same with the woman's Levite husband. In retribution, the other Israelite tribes united to address this shameful act. When the people of Gibeah wouldn't hand over the men who committed this crime, the whole tribe of Benjamin came to the town's defense against the united tribes of Israel. The result was that the men of Benjamin were all killed except for 600 who were allowed to live to avoid the loss of a whole tribe. This was Saul's legacy, and yet he was God's choice for king.

    It is always interesting to read of God's orchestration of events. In the case of Saul, God needed to point him out to the prophet Samuel so he would know that Saul was God's pick for king. Samuel would then make it known both to Saul and to Israel. God orchestrated events simultaneously with Saul and with Samuel to make this happen. In Saul's case, his father's donkeys had strayed and his father sent him out to look for them. As for Samuel, God told him, "At this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over My people Israel." (9:16) And so the two met as Saul was looking for the prophet to help him find the donkeys and as the prophet was looking for Saul to meet him as the Lord had revealed the day before.

    Before Saul even told Samuel of his mission to find the donkeys, Samuel invited Saul to be his guest at a feast at the high place to which he had also invited 30 leading men. Then Samuel invited Saul to spend the night at his house. We will read more of these events in chapter 10. Whatever else we might learn from such accounts, we should learn not to presume what God will or will not do. We should never discount something because we think God would not do that, for we are apt to be wrong every time we attempt to apply human reasoning to God's actions. It is always the best policy to let God be God and accept what He wants to do in the way He wants to do it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 8

    1 Samuel 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Samuel had two sons. The older one was Joel, and the younger one was Abijah. When Samuel was getting old, he let them be leaders at Beersheba.
  2. (SEE 8:1)
  3. But they were not like their father. They were dishonest and accepted bribes to give unfair decisions.
  4. One day the nation's leaders came to Samuel at Ramah
  5. and said, "You are an old man. You set a good example for your sons, but they haven't followed it. Now we want a king to be our leader, just like all the other nations. Choose one for us!"
  6. Samuel was upset to hear the leaders say they wanted a king, so he prayed about it.
  7. The LORD answered: Samuel, do everything they want you to do. I am really the one they have rejected as their king.
  8. Ever since the day I rescued my people from Egypt, they have turned from me to worship idols. Now they are turning away from you.
  9. Do everything they ask, but warn them and tell them how a king will treat them.
  10. Samuel told the people who were asking for a king what the LORD had said:
  11. If you have a king, this is how he will treat you. He will force your sons to join his army. Some of them will ride in his chariots, some will serve in the cavalry, and others will run ahead of his own chariot.
  12. Some of them will be officers in charge of a thousand soldiers, and others will be in charge of fifty. Still others will have to farm the king's land and harvest his crops, or make weapons and parts for his chariots.
  13. Your daughters will have to make perfume or do his cooking and baking.
  14. The king will take your best fields, as well as your vineyards, and olive orchards and give them to his own officials.
  15. He will also take a tenth of your grain and grapes and give it to his officers and officials.
  16. The king will take your slaves and your best young men and your donkeys and make them do his work.
  17. He will also take a tenth of your sheep and goats. You will become the king's slaves,
  18. and you will finally cry out for the LORD to save you from the king you wanted. But the LORD won't answer your prayers.
  19. The people would not listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want to be like other nations. We want a king to rule us and lead us in battle."
  20. (SEE 8:19)
  21. Samuel listened to them and then told the LORD exactly what they had said.
  22. "Do what they want," the LORD answered. "Give them a king." Samuel told the people to go back to their homes.

    Samuel served well as judge over Israel for some 30 years. He had corrected her course in returning the people to worshipping God and getting rid of their idols. But as he grew old and turned leadership over to his sons, they turned out to be corrupt like Eli's sons. For this reason the role of judge was taken from Samuel's family as it had been taken from Eli's. But it was not taken away so violently. Instead of Samuel's sons being killed, the people requested a king to rule over them instead of judges, and instead of Samuel's sons. The request troubled Samuel, for Israel was to be a theocracy with God as their king.

    God did have a plan to give Israel a king, a man after His own heart, but the time was not yet right for that. So the circumstances and timing of Israel's request for a king was improper. Neither did their reasons for wanting a king have the best of motives. They did not say, "your sons do not follow your example. Appoint a king who will lead us in righteousness." Instead, they said, "appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have." (8:5) Their focus was more on the ways of the world than on the ways of God. Though the timing was wrong and their reasons not the best, God determined to give them what they wanted and let them suffer the consequences. He would warn them first of what those consequences would be. Like any of us who are bent on having what we want, God's warning of the consequences had no effect on them. Maybe they were forgetting that the source of the warning was not Samuel who delivered it, but God who told Samuel to warn them. They no doubt thought, like any of us do at times, that what Samuel said may be true in some cases, but it wouldn't happen in our case.

    So God said to Samuel, "Listen to them. Appoint a king for them." (8:22) We can commend these elders of Israel for taking their request to Samuel and having him make the appointment of a king even if we cannot commend them for jumping ahead of God in making the request. A more commendable approach might have been to go to Samuel with their concerns about the leadership of his sons and asked him to seek God's instructions for a solution. Instead, they had their own solution and wanted Samuel to validate it for them.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 7

    1 Samuel 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The people of Kiriath-Jearim got the chest and took it to Abinadab's house, which was on a hill in their town. They chose his son Eleazar to take care of it,
  2. and it stayed there for twenty years. During this time everyone in Israel was very sad and begged the LORD for help.
  3. One day, Samuel told all the people of Israel, "If you really want to turn back to the LORD, then prove it. Get rid of your foreign idols, including the ones of the goddess Astarte. Turn to the LORD with all your heart and worship only him. Then he will rescue you from the Philistines."
  4. The people got rid of their idols of Baal and Astarte and began worshiping only the LORD.
  5. Then Samuel said, "Tell everyone in Israel to meet together at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you."
  6. The Israelites met together at Mizpah with Samuel as their leader. They drew water from the well and poured it out as an offering to the LORD. On that same day they went without eating to show their sorrow, and they confessed they had been unfaithful to the LORD.
  7. When the Philistine rulers found out about the meeting at Mizpah, they sent an army there to attack the people of Israel. The Israelites were afraid when they heard that the Philistines were coming.
  8. "Don't stop praying!" they told Samuel. "Ask the LORD our God to rescue us."
  9. Samuel begged the LORD to rescue Israel, then he sacrificed a young lamb to the LORD. Samuel had not even finished offering the sacrifice when the Philistines started to attack. But the LORD answered his prayer and made thunder crash all around them. The Philistines panicked and ran away.
  10. (SEE 7:9)
  11. The men of Israel left Mizpah and went after them as far as the hillside below Beth-Car, killing every enemy soldier they caught.
  12. The Philistines were so badly beaten that it was quite a while before they attacked Israel again. After the battle, Samuel set up a monument between Mizpah and the rocky cliffs. He named it "Help Monument" to remind Israel how much the LORD had helped them. For as long as Samuel lived, the LORD helped Israel fight the Philistines.
  13. (SEE 7:12)
  14. The Israelites were even able to recapture their towns and territory between Ekron and Gath. Israel was also at peace with the Amorites.
  15. Samuel was a leader in Israel all his life.
  16. Every year he would go around to the towns of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah where he served as judge for the people.
  17. Then he would go back to his home in Ramah and do the same thing there. He also had an altar built for the LORD at Ramah.

    Revival came to Israel and the people turned to the Lord as they had not for a very long time. Samuel challenged their sincerity by telling them, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you." (7:3) And so they did, proving their sincerity in turning to the Lord. In response to their willingness to get rid of the foreign gods, Samuel gathered the people to Mizpah and prayed "to the LORD on your behalf," (7:5) seeking the Lord's forgiveness for their sin of unfaithfulness.

    While Israel was still gathered at Mizpah, as if the Lord were testing them, the Philistines marched up to attack them. The Israelites had not come prepared for battle and were terrified and asked Samuel to keep praying to God on their behalf. Israel didn't need to even fight the Philistines for "The LORD thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they fled before Israel." (7:10) Once the Philistines were on the run, the Israelites pursued them and struck them down as they ran.

    In recognition of what God had done for them, Samuel setup a stone which he named Ebenezer meaning, "The LORD has helped us to this point." (7:12) Following these events the Philistines no longer invaded Israel's territory. As long as Samuel lived the Lord's hand was against the Philistines. Samuel became judge over Israel at this time. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 6

    1 Samuel 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. After the sacred chest had been in Philistia for seven months,
  2. the Philistines called in their priests and fortunetellers, and asked, "What should we do with this sacred chest? Tell us how to send it back where it belongs!"
  3. "Don't send it back without a gift," the priests and fortunetellers answered. "Send along something to Israel's God to make up for taking the chest in the first place. Then you will be healed, and you will find out why the LORD was causing you so much trouble."
  4. "What should we send?" the Philistines asked. The priests and fortunetellers answered: There are five Philistine rulers, and they all have the same disease that you have.
  5. So make five gold models of the sores and five gold models of the rats that are wiping out your crops. If you honor the God of Israel with this gift, maybe he will stop causing trouble for you and your gods and your crops.
  6. Don't be like the Egyptians and their king. They were stubborn, but when Israel's God was finished with them, they had to let Israel go.
  7. Get a new cart and two cows that have young calves and that have never pulled a cart. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take the calves back to their barn.
  8. Then put the chest on the cart. Put the gold rats and sores into a bag and put it on the cart next to the chest. Then send it on its way.
  9. Watch to see if the chest goes on up the road to the Israelite town of Beth-Shemesh. If it goes back to its own country, you will know that it was the LORD who made us suffer so badly. But if the chest doesn't go back to its own country, then the LORD had nothing to do with the disease that hit us--it was simply bad luck.
  10. The Philistines followed their advice. They hitched up the two cows to the cart, but they kept their calves in a barn.
  11. Then they put the chest on the cart, along with the bag that had the gold rats and sores in it.
  12. The cows went straight up the road toward Beth-Shemesh, mooing as they went. The Philistine rulers followed them until they got close to Beth-Shemesh.
  13. The people of Beth-Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley. When they looked up and saw the chest, they were so happy that they stopped working and started celebrating.
  14. The cows left the road and pulled the cart into a field that belonged to Joshua from Beth-Shemesh, and they stopped beside a huge rock. Some men from the tribe of Levi were there. So they took the chest off the cart and placed it on the rock, and then they did the same thing with the bag of gold rats and sores. A few other people chopped up the cart and made a fire. They killed the cows and burned them as sacrifices to the LORD. After that, they offered more sacrifices.
  15. (SEE 6:14)
  16. When the five rulers of the Philistines saw what had happened, they went back to Ekron that same day.
  17. That is how the Philistines sent gifts to the LORD to make up for taking the sacred chest. They sent five gold sores, one each for their towns of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron.
  18. They also sent one gold rat for each walled town and for every village that the five Philistine rulers controlled. The huge stone where the Levites set the chest is still there in Joshua's field as a reminder of what happened.
  19. Some of the men of Beth-Shemesh looked inside the sacred chest, and the LORD God killed seventy of them. This made the people of Beth-Shemesh very sad,
  20. and they started saying, "No other God is like the LORD! Who can go near him and still live? We'll have to send the chest away from here. But where can we send it?"
  21. They sent messengers to tell the people of Kiriath-Jearim, "The Philistines have sent back the sacred chest. Why don't you take it and keep it there with you?"

    The Philistines had brought a curse on themselves by capturing the Israelite's ark of the Lord. Everywhere they took it people broke out with tumors. After seven months they were anxious to get rid of the ark and return it to Israel, but out of their superstitious mindset they assumed it must be done in a particular way, so they consulted their diviners.

    To this point the Philistines had moved the ark three times with no reported negative outcomes except for the outbreak of tumors wherever the ark resided. Presumably God didn't care how they returned the ark, only that they returned it. But the diviners came up with a plan that fit their pagan thinking and included a scheme to determine if the ill effects related to the ark were by chance or really due to the God of Israel. First, they prepared a guilt offering of five gold objects resembling the tumors and five resembling mice, corresponding to the number of Philistine rulers. The ark was to be returned riding on a new cart, that had never been used, along with these offerings. The cart was to be pulled by two milk cows that were still nursing calves and had never been yoked. These cows were to be the test of whether the tumors were caused by chance or not. Natural instinct for the cows would be to go to where their calves where penned up, but if they headed toward Israel it must surely be a sign that the tumors were caused by Israel's God.

    Sure enough, the cows headed straight for Israel with the Philistine rulers following on foot. They stood and observed as the cart arrived in the field at Beth-shemesh and was enthusiastically received by the people harvesting wheat there and also as the people chopped up the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. The Philistines may have missed what happened next, though. Some of the men of Beth-shemesh looked inside the ark, which was strictly forbidden, and a number of them were struck down. Some Bible translations say 70 men were struck down and others that 50,070 were struck down. The number is uncertain.

    Israel was in much need of returning fully to the Lord and seeking Him with their whole hearts. Though their enthusiastic reception of the ark gave the appearance that they had returned to the Lord, the reality is more likely that they were simply enthused about the return of a symbol of their tradition. Often our loyalties are more to tradition than to God Himself and we, ourselves, often cannot tell the difference. That is, until God leads us to follow Him in a way that breaks with tradition. Then it becomes apparent where our hearts are. It was such a call to follow God and break with tradition that led to Christ's crucifixion. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 5

    1 Samuel 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The Philistines took the sacred chest from near Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod.
  2. They brought it into the temple of their god Dagon and put it next to the statue of Dagon, which they worshiped.
  3. When the people of Ashdod got up early the next morning, they found the statue lying facedown on the floor in front of the sacred chest. They put the statue back where it belonged.
  4. But early the next morning, it had fallen over again and was lying facedown on the floor in front of the chest. The body of the statue was still in one piece, but its head and both hands had broken off and were lying on the stone floor in the doorway.
  5. This is the reason the priests and everyone else step over that part of the doorway when they enter the temple of Dagon in Ashdod.
  6. The LORD caused a lot of trouble for the people of Ashdod and their neighbors. He made sores break out all over their bodies, and everyone was in a panic.
  7. Finally, they said, "The God of Israel did this. He is the one who caused all this trouble for us and our god Dagon. We've got to get rid of this chest."
  8. The people of Ashdod had all the Philistine rulers come to Ashdod, and they asked them, "What can we do with the sacred chest that belongs to the God of Israel?" "Send it to Gath," the rulers answered. But after they took it there,
  9. the LORD made sores break out on everyone in town. The people of Gath were frightened,
  10. so they sent the sacred chest to Ekron. But before they could take it through the town gates, the people of Ekron started screaming, "They've brought the sacred chest that belongs to the God of Israel! It will kill us and our families too!"
  11. The people of Ekron called for another meeting of the Philistine rulers and told them, "Send this chest back where it belongs. Then it won't kill us." Everyone was in a panic, because God was causing a lot of people to die,
  12. and those who had survived were suffering from the sores. They all cried to their gods for help.

    Victorious in battle over the Israelites, the Philistines carried the ark of the Lord they had taken from Israel and set it in the temple of their god Dagon as a trophy of their victory. Setting the ark next to, or at the tail of the idol of Dagon they seemed to be making the statement that their god was victorious over the God of Israel. But they were to discover the God of Israel to be omnipotent and their god Dagon to be impotent. The first morning after placing the ark in the temple they found the idol of Dagon had fallen face down. They set it back up and the next morning found that it had fallen again and the head and hands were broken off. Still failing to comprehend the significance of what was happening, they superstitiously made a rule about not walking on Dagon's threshold.

    Since subtlety was lost on the Philistines God took stronger measures, striking them with tumors. Then they put the pieces together, recognizing that "The ark of Israel's God must not stay here with us, because His hand is severe against us and our god Dagon." (5:7) First they moved the ark from Ashdod to Gath. Though this gave relief to the people of Ashdod it caused the people of Gath to be afflicted, so they decided to move it to Ekron, but the people of Ekron protested, "They've moved the ark of Israel's God to us to kill us and our people!" (5:10) Calling together the Philistine rulers, it was decided that the ark of Israel's God must be returned "to its place so it won't kill us and our people!" (5:11)

    Though the Philistines were superstitious and naive, thinking these objects to be deities, the Israelites had not acted much differently having carried the ark to battle with them as if it contained God Himself. But this desire to contain God in a box for one's personal benefit is as old as mankind and is still alive and well today. Man cannot seem to get over the idea that God exists for his benefit and continually questions what good a God is who doesn't serve me to the standard I expect. In reality, though, it is not until man learns that life is about God and not about himself that life takes on any meaning or purpose.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 4

    1 Samuel 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Then Samuel would speak to the whole nation of Israel. One day the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines. They set up camp near Ebenezer, and the Philistines camped at Aphek.
  2. The Philistines made a fierce attack. They defeated the Israelites and killed about four thousand of them.
  3. The Israelite army returned to their camp, and the leaders said, "Why did the LORD let us lose to the Philistines today? Let's get the sacred chest where the LORD's agreement with Israel is kept. Then the LORD will help us and rescue us from our enemies."
  4. The army sent some soldiers to bring back the sacred chest from Shiloh, because the LORD All-Powerful has his throne on the winged creatures on top of the chest. As Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas,
  5. brought the chest into camp, the army cheered so loudly that the ground shook.
  6. The Philistines heard the noise and said, "What are those Hebrews shouting about?" When the Philistines learned that the sacred chest had been brought into the camp,
  7. they were scared to death and said: The gods have come into their camp. Now we're in real trouble! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before.
  8. We're in big trouble! Who can save us from these powerful gods? They're the same gods who made all those horrible things happen to the Egyptians in the desert.
  9. Philistines, be brave and fight hard! If you don't, those Hebrews will rule us, just as we've been ruling them. Fight and don't be afraid.
  10. The Philistines did fight. They killed thirty thousand Israelite soldiers, and all the rest ran off to their homes.
  11. Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and the sacred chest was captured.
  12. That same day a soldier from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefront to Shiloh. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show his sorrow.
  13. He went into town and told the news about the battle, and everyone started crying. Eli was afraid that something might happen to the sacred chest. So he was sitting on his chair beside the road, just waiting.
  14. He was ninety-eight years old and blind, but he could hear everyone crying, and he asked, "What's all that noise?" The soldier hurried over and told Eli,
  15. (SEE 4:14)
  16. "I escaped from the fighting today and ran here." "Young man, what happened?" Eli asked.
  17. "Israel ran away from the Philistines," the soldier answered. "Many of our people were killed, including your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. But worst of all, the sacred chest was captured."
  18. Eli was still sitting on a chair beside the wall of the town gate. And when the man said that the Philistines had taken the sacred chest, Eli fell backwards. He was a very heavy old man, and the fall broke his neck and killed him. He had been a leader of Israel for forty years.
  19. The wife of Phinehas was about to give birth. And soon after she heard that the sacred chest had been captured and that her husband and his father had died, her baby came. The birth was very hard,
  20. and she was dying. But the women taking care of her said, "Don't be afraid--it's a boy!" She didn't pay any attention to them.
  21. Instead she kept thinking about losing her husband and her father-in-law. So she said, "My son will be named Ichabod, because the glory of Israel left our country when the sacred chest was captured."
  22. (SEE 4:21)

    Accounts of this chapter depict Israel at her lowest spiritual point yet. The things of God were being treated as a heathen diety. Though Samuel was becoming a known figure in Israel, Eli and his sons were still in charge of the temple. During this time Israel found herself at war again with the Philistines. Israel's army went out to meet the Philistines and lost 4,000 men on the battlefield in the first day of battle. Demoralized, the elders of Israel asked why the Lord let them be defeated? But they didn't take this question to the Lord. Instead they came up with their own very bad solution. They decided to get the ark of the Lord from Shiloh and take it with them into battle.

    When the ark was brought into the Israelite camp, the Israelites let out a great shout, encouraged now that they could go back into battle and defeat the Philistines. When the Philistines heard of it they panicked, but their leaders encouraged them to be brave and to fight. Mustering their courage, the Philistines went back into battle with the Israelites and defeated them even more than before, killing 30,000 Israelite foot soldiers, capturing the ark of the Lord, and killing Eli's two sons. When word of these events was sent to Eli, he fell backward from his chair and broke his neck killing him.

    When Eli's pregnant daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, heard of the death of her husband, she went into labor and died in childbirth. Before she died she named the baby Ichabod, saying, "The glory has departed from Israel," she said, "because the ark of God has been captured."  (4:22) The Israelites had errored greatly. It would take the leadership of Samuel to bring them back to the Lord and resolve their delimma.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 3

    1 Samuel 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Samuel served the LORD by helping Eli the priest, who was by that time almost blind. In those days, the LORD hardly ever spoke directly to people, and he did not appear to them in dreams very often. But one night, Eli was asleep in his room,
  2. (SEE 3:1)
  3. and Samuel was sleeping on a mat near the sacred chest in the LORD's house. They had not been asleep very long
  4. when the LORD called out Samuel's name. "Here I am!" Samuel answered.
  5. Then he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am. What do you want?" "I didn't call you," Eli answered. "Go back to bed." Samuel went back.
  6. Again the LORD called out Samuel's name. Samuel got up and went to Eli. "Here I am," he said. "What do you want?" Eli told him, "Son, I didn't call you. Go back to sleep."
  7. The LORD had not spoken to Samuel before, and Samuel did not recognize the voice.
  8. When the LORD called out his name for the third time, Samuel went to Eli again and said, "Here I am. What do you want?" Eli finally realized that it was the LORD who was speaking to Samuel.
  9. So he said, "Go back and lie down! If someone speaks to you again, answer, 'I'm listening, LORD. What do you want me to do?' " Once again Samuel went back and lay down.
  10. The LORD then stood beside Samuel and called out as he had done before, "Samuel! Samuel!" "I'm listening," Samuel answered. "What do you want me to do?"
  11. The LORD said: Samuel, I am going to do something in Israel that will shock everyone who hears about it!
  12. I will punish Eli and his family, just as I promised.
  13. He knew that his sons refused to respect me, and he let them get away with it, even though I said I would punish his family forever.
  14. I warned Eli that sacrifices or offerings could never make things right! His family has done too many disgusting things.
  15. The next morning, Samuel got up and opened the doors to the LORD's house. He was afraid to tell Eli what the LORD had said.
  16. But Eli told him, "Samuel, my boy, come here!" "Here I am," Samuel answered.
  17. Eli said, "What did God say to you? Tell me everything. I pray that God will punish you terribly if you don't tell me every word he said!"
  18. Samuel told Eli everything. Then Eli said, "He is the LORD, and he will do what's right."
  19. As Samuel grew up, the LORD helped him and made everything Samuel said come true.
  20. From the town of Dan in the north to the town of Beersheba in the south, everyone in the country knew that Samuel was truly the LORD's prophet.
  21. The LORD often appeared to Samuel at Shiloh and told him what to say.

    Chapter 3 reveals even more of Samuel's pivotal role in Israel's history. It was mentioned in reflections for chapter 1 that he helped usher in the era of the kings, closing out the era of judges. In this chapter we learn how God used him to also usher in the era of the prophets, Samuel being the first of that era. With this transition, God delivered His messages to Israel through prophets rather than through the priests. The priests had proven to be unreliable servants of the Lord, and as with Eli's sons, had proven to be evil. God was eliminating Eli's family and descendants from the priesthood and assigning the priesthood in general a less significant role. Eli, himself, was not evil but lacked the courage to reign in his sons, looking the other way when he saw them straying.

    The first instance of God speaking directly to Samuel is recorded in this chapter. One evening as Samuel was reclining in the temple attending to the lamp of the Lord, he heard a voice call his name. Thinking it was Eli calling him he went to Eli saying, "Here I am." But it wasn't Eli. After two more times Eli realized the Lord was speaking to Samuel and so he told Samuel to go back, and when he heard the voice again to respond saying, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." (3:10) Samuel did this and the Lord spoke to him saying, "I am going to judge his (Eli's) family forever because of the iniquity he knows about: his sons are defiling the sanctuary, and he has not stopped them." (3:13) The next morning Eli pressed Samuel to tell what the Lord had said, so Samuel told him. Word of the Lord's judgment on him was not news to Eli. He had heard it previously from an unnamed "man of God."  Resigned to the Lord's will, Eli said, "He is the LORD. He will do what He thinks is good." (3:18)

    From that day forward Samuel became established throughout much of Israel as a prophet of the Lord because the Lord "revealed Himself to Samuel by His word." (3:21) God had found one in whom He could entrust His word. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 2

    1 Samuel 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Hannah prayed: You make me strong and happy, LORD. You rescued me. Now I can be glad and laugh at my enemies.
  2. No other god is like you. We're safer with you than on a high mountain.
  3. I can tell those proud people, "Stop your boasting! Nothing is hidden from the LORD, and he judges what we do."
  4. Our LORD, you break the bows of warriors, but you give strength to everyone who stumbles.
  5. People who once had plenty to eat must now hire themselves out for only a piece of bread. But you give the hungry more than enough to eat. A woman did not have a child, and you gave her seven, but a woman who had many was left with none.
  6. You take away life, and you give life. You send people down to the world of the dead and bring them back again.
  7. Our LORD, you are the one who makes us rich or poor. You put some in high positions and bring disgrace on others.
  8. You lift the poor and homeless out of the garbage dump and give them places of honor in royal palaces. You set the world on foundations, and they belong to you.
  9. You protect your loyal people, but everyone who is evil will die in darkness. We cannot win a victory by our own strength.
  10. Our LORD, those who attack you will be broken in pieces when you fight back with thunder from heaven. You will judge the whole earth and give power and strength to your chosen king.
  11. Elkanah and Hannah went back home to Ramah, but the boy Samuel stayed to help Eli serve the LORD.
  12. Eli's sons were priests, but they were dishonest and refused to obey the LORD. So, while people were boiling the meat from their sacrifices, these priests would send over a servant with a large, three-pronged fork.
  13. (SEE 2:12)
  14. The servant would stick the fork into the cooking pot, and whatever meat came out on the fork was taken back to the priests. That is how these two priests treated every Israelite who came to offer sacrifices in Shiloh.
  15. Sometimes, when people were offering sacrifices, the servant would come over, even before the fat had been cut off and sacrificed to the LORD. Then the servant would tell them, "The priest doesn't want his meat boiled! Give him some raw meat that he can roast!"
  16. Usually the people answered, "Take what you want. But first, let us sacrifice the fat to the LORD." "No," the servant would reply. "If you don't give it to me now, I'll take it by force."
  17. Eli's sons did not show any respect for the sacrifices that the people offered. This was a terrible sin, and it made the LORD very angry.
  18. The boy Samuel served the LORD and wore a special linen garment
  19. and the clothes his mother made for him. She would bring new clothes every year, when she and her husband came to offer sacrifices at Shiloh.
  20. Eli would always bless Elkanah and his wife and say, "Samuel was born in answer to your prayers. Now you have given him to the LORD. I pray that the LORD will bless you with more children to take his place." After Eli had blessed them, Elkanah and Hannah would return home.
  21. The LORD was kind to Hannah, and she had three more sons and two daughters. But Samuel grew up at the LORD's house in Shiloh.
  22. Eli was now very old, and he heard what his sons were doing to the people of Israel.
  23. "Why are you doing these awful things?" he asked them. "I've been hearing nothing but complaints about you from all of the LORD's people.
  24. (SEE 2:23)
  25. If you harm another person, God can help make things right between the two of you. But if you commit a crime against the LORD, no one can help you!" But the LORD had already decided to kill them. So he kept them from listening to their father.
  26. Each day the LORD and his people liked Samuel more and more.
  27. One day a prophet came to Eli and gave him this message from the LORD: When your ancestors were slaves of the king of Egypt, I came and showed them who I am.
  28. Out of all the tribes of Israel, I chose your family to be my priests. I wanted them to offer sacrifices and burn incense to me and to find out from me what I want my people to do. I commanded everyone to bring their sacrifices here where I live, and I allowed you and your family to keep those that were not offered to me on the altar. But you honor your sons instead of me! You don't respect the sacrifices and offerings that are brought to me, and you've all gotten fat from eating the best parts.
  29. (SEE 2:28)
  30. I am the LORD, the God of Israel. I promised to always let your family serve me as priests, but now I tell you that I cannot do this any longer! I honor anyone who honors me, but I put a curse on anyone who hates me.
  31. The time will come when I will kill you and everyone else in your family. Not one of you will live to an old age.
  32. Your family will have a lot of trouble. I will be kind to Israel, but everyone in your family will die young.
  33. If I let anyone from your family be a priest, his life will be full of sadness and sorrow. But most of the men in your family will die a violent death!
  34. To prove to you that I will do these things, your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will die on the same day.
  35. I have chosen someone else to be my priest, someone who will be faithful and obey me. I will always let his family serve as priests and help my chosen king.
  36. But if anyone is left from your family, he will come to my priest and beg for money or a little bread. He may even say to my priest, "Please let me be a priest, so I will at least have something to eat."

    Chapter 2 reveals a much larger purpose God had for Samuel than simply the answer to Hannah's prayer. The chapter begins with Hannah's song of thanksgiving to the Lord. She was fully appreciative to the Lord for His answer to her prayer. If she was at all sorrowful to give up her son to the Lord to honor her vow, she makes no hint of it. Instead, she praises the Lord for His kindness to her. Her song has similarities to Mary's song when she learned she was pregnant with Jesus.

    Hannah's song is followed by a depiction of Eli's evil sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Meanwhile, "The boy Samuel served in the LORD's presence and wore a linen ephod." (2:18) God was raising up a priest to replace Eli's evil sons. Though Eli's heart seemed to be right, he had lost control of his sons, and he efforts to correct them as reports of their evil conduct came to him fell on deaf ears. "They would not listen to their father." (2:25) It was too late for them. They had gone too far and God planned to kill them.

    Then, a man of God, who goes unnamed, came to Eli and told him that the Lord "will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestral family, so that none in your family will reach old age." (2:31) In their place the Lord "will raise up a faithful priest for Myself." (2:35) This is a reference, of course, to Samuel. Furthermore, he said of Samuel, "He will do whatever is in My heart and mind. I will establish a lasting dynasty for him, and he will walk before My anointed one for all time." Not only does this man of God speak of Samuel replacing Eli as priest, he speaks of his involvement with the Lord's anointed king.

    God had much planned for this son who was an answer to Hannah's prayer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 1

    1 Samuel 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Elkanah lived in Ramah, a town in the hill country of Ephraim. His great-great-grandfather was Zuph, so Elkanah was a member of the Zuph clan of the Ephraim tribe. Elkanah's father was Jeroham, his grandfather was Elihu, and his great-grandfather was Tohu.
  2. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Although Peninnah had children, Hannah did not have any.
  3. Once a year Elkanah traveled from his hometown to Shiloh, where he worshiped the LORD All-Powerful and offered sacrifices. Eli was the LORD's priest there, and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas served with him as priests.
  4. Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he gave some of the meat to Peninnah and some to each of her sons and daughters.
  5. But he gave Hannah even more, because he loved Hannah very much, even though the LORD had kept her from having children of her own.
  6. Peninnah liked to make Hannah feel miserable about not having any children,
  7. especially when the family went to the house of the LORD each year. One day, Elkanah was there offering a sacrifice, when Hannah began crying and refused to eat.
  8. So Elkanah asked, "Hannah, why are you crying? Why won't you eat? Why do you feel so bad? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"
  9. When the sacrifice had been offered, and they had eaten the meal, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli was sitting in his chair near the door to the place of worship.
  10. Hannah was brokenhearted and was crying as she prayed,
  11. "LORD All-Powerful, I am your servant, but I am so miserable! Please let me have a son. I will give him to you for as long as he lives, and his hair will never be cut."
  12. Hannah prayed silently to the LORD for a long time. But her lips were moving, and Eli thought she was drunk.
  13. (SEE 1:12)
  14. "How long are you going to stay drunk?" he asked. "Sober up!"
  15. "Sir, please don't think I'm no good!" Hannah answered. "I'm not drunk, and I haven't been drinking. But I do feel miserable and terribly upset. I've been praying all this time, telling the LORD about my problems."
  16. (SEE 1:15)
  17. Eli replied, "You may go home now and stop worrying. I'm sure the God of Israel will answer your prayer."
  18. "Sir, thank you for being so kind to me," Hannah said. Then she left, and after eating something, she felt much better.
  19. Elkanah and his family got up early the next morning and worshiped the LORD. Then they went back home to Ramah. Later the LORD blessed Elkanah and Hannah
  20. with a son. She named him Samuel because she had asked the LORD for him.
  21. The next time Elkanah and his family went to offer their yearly sacrifice, he took along a gift that he had promised to give to the LORD.
  22. But Hannah stayed home, because she had told Elkanah, "Samuel and I won't go until he's old enough for me to stop nursing him. Then I'll give him to the LORD, and he can stay there at Shiloh for the rest of his life."
  23. "You know what's best," Elkanah said. "Stay here until it's time to stop nursing him. I'm sure the LORD will help you do what you have promised." Hannah did not go to Shiloh until she stopped nursing Samuel.
  24. When it was the time of year to go to Shiloh again, Hannah and Elkanah took Samuel to the LORD's house. They brought along a three-year-old bull, a twenty-pound sack of flour, and a clay jar full of wine. Hannah and Elkanah offered the bull as a sacrifice, then brought the little boy to Eli.
  25. (SEE 1:24)
  26. "Sir," Hannah said, "a few years ago I stood here beside you and asked the LORD
  27. to give me a child. Here he is! The LORD gave me just what I asked for.
  28. Now I am giving him to the LORD, and he will be the LORD's servant for as long as he lives." Elkanah worshiped the LORD there at Shiloh, and

    As we read this account of the birth of Samuel with some foreknowledge of the events, we realize that God was providing Israel, through this birth of the child Samuel, a strong leader who would see the nation through a historical transition which ended the period of judges and ushered in the era of the kings. As is often the case, God's purposes were birthed out of personal grief. In this case, it is the childlessness of Hannah, Samuel's mother.

    Samuel's parents, Elkanah and Hannah, were faithful worshippers of God, making annual treks to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices. These times seemed to also heighten Hannah's grief over being barren, made especially troublesome due to the taunting of her rival, Peninnah, Elkanah's second wife who had children. On a particular annual visit to Shiloh, Hannah was especially troubled and poured out her heart to the Lord.  As she prayed, she made a vow to the Lord that "if You will take notice of Your servant's affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut." (1:11) Eli, the priest, observed her praying silently and thought her drunk because her lips moved but she made no sound. When he scolded her for being drunk she explained that she was praying "from the depth of my anguish and resentment." (1:16) Eli then told her to "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you've requested from Him." (1:17)

    God did grant her petition, and soon after returning home she conceived and gave birth to the son Samuel. After Samuel was born, Hannah did not make the annual trip to Shiloh until he was weaned. When he was weaned Hannah again made the trip taking with her a special sacrifice to offer to the Lord in thankfulness for answering her prayer. She also presented Samuel to Eli, giving him to stay and live at the temple in keeping with her vow to give the son to the Lord. Samuel was probably three years old at this time.

    We can learn from this that personal joy emerges from joining ourselves with God's purposes. It is doubtful that Hannah had any clue of what God had planned, but in her desire for a son she chose to give back to God for His purposes the son He gave her should He answer her prayer. It was out of this commitment to God that Hannah received the joy of having a son that she desired. And it was from her commitment that God raised up a priest who would lead Israel through a huge transition.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Reflections on Ruth 4

    Ruth 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. In the meanwhile, Boaz had gone to the meeting place at the town gate and was sitting there when the other close relative came by. So Boaz invited him to come over and sit down, and he did.
  2. Then Boaz got ten of the town leaders and also asked them to sit down. After they had sat down,
  3. he said to the man: Naomi has come back from Moab and is selling the land that belonged to her husband Elimelech.
  4. I am telling you about this, since you are his closest relative and have the right to buy the property. If you want it, you can buy it now. These ten men and the others standing here can be witnesses. But if you don't want the property, let me know, because I am next in line. The man replied, "I will buy it!"
  5. "If you do buy it from Naomi," Boaz told him, "you must also marry Ruth. Then if you have a son by her, the property will stay in the family of Ruth's first husband."
  6. The man answered, "If that's the case, I don't want to buy it! That would make problems with the property I already own. You may buy it yourself, because I cannot."
  7. To make a sale legal in those days, one person would take off a sandal and give it to the other.
  8. So after the man had agreed to let Boaz buy the property, he took off one of his sandals and handed it to Boaz.
  9. Boaz told the town leaders and everyone else: All of you are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi the property that belonged to Elimelech and his two sons, Chilion and Mahlon.
  10. You are also witnesses that I have agreed to marry Mahlon's widow Ruth, the Moabite woman. This will keep the property in his family's name, and he will be remembered in this town.
  11. The town leaders and the others standing there said: We are witnesses to this. And we pray that the LORD will give your wife many children, just as he did Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob. May you be a rich man in the tribe of Ephrath and an important man in Bethlehem.
  12. May the children you have by this young woman make your family as famous as the family of Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.
  13. Boaz married Ruth, and the LORD blessed her with a son.
  14. After his birth, the women said to Naomi: Praise the LORD! Today he has given you a grandson to take care of you. We pray that the boy will grow up to be famous everywhere in Israel.
  15. He will make you happy and take care of you in your old age, because he is the son of your daughter-in-law. And she loves you more than seven sons of your own would love you.
  16. Naomi loved the boy and took good care of him.
  17. The neighborhood women named him Obed, but they called him "Naomi's Boy." When Obed grew up he had a son named Jesse, who later became the father of King David.
  18. Here is a list of the ancestors of David: Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahshon, Amminadab, Ram, Hezron, and Perez.
  19. (SEE 4:18)
  20. (SEE 4:18)
  21. (SEE 4:18)
  22. (SEE 4:18)

    This concluding chapter of Ruth is a joyful contrast to its opening chapter depicting loss. Chapter three describes Ruth going to the threshing floor and laying down at Boaz's feet. When he awoke, found her there and asked who she was, she requested that he exercise his role as family redeemer and take her as his wife, "Spread your cloak over me, for you are a family redeemer." (3:9) He assured her that he would fulfill this role, but there was a closer relative than he and he must first give this relative the option of redeeming her. After this exchange between them, Ruth remained at his feet until just before dawn, and then got up and went home to Naomi. When Ruth told Naomi of all that happened, Naomi assured Ruth that Boaz would not rest until he had resolved the matter that very day.

    Sure enough, once it was fully daylight, Boaz arose and went directly to the city gate where business transactions were conducted in the presence of the city elders. He sat down and waited a short time until the nearer relative, who goes unnamed, passed by the gate. Boaz called the man over to him and conducted his business.  Although the attention to this point was on redeeming Ruth the widow, redeeming the dead man's property was also a responsibility of the family redeemer so the property would not be lost to the family. So it was a package deal for the family redeemer. Boaz revealed the package to the closer relative in two parts. First he presented the land. The closer relative responded to this positively, "I want to redeem it," he answered. (4:4) Then Boaz added, "On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess." (4:5) To this, the relative said, "I can't redeem it myself, or I will ruin my own inheritance." (4:6) We can only speculate as to the reasons for this. The fact that the relative remained unnamed suggests that, at least to the writer of the book, his refusal to redeem the land and widow was looked upon with contempt. In his defense, though, Boaz had already at least suggested his willingness to be the redeemer if this relative refused so it wasn't as if there was no help for Ruth.

    The elders were pleased with Boaz's redemption of Ruth and pronounced a blessing on their union saying, "May the LORD make the woman who is entering your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built the house of Israel." (4:11) To be like Rachel they hoped that being barren as was Rachel, the Lord might bless Ruth with a son as He did Rachel. They also hoped that Ruth would be blessed, as was Leah, to have many sons. Their blessing also expressed the desire that Boaz would be "famous in Bethlehem." Their blessings were all fulfilled.

    A son was born to Boaz and Ruth who was the grandfather of King David and in the lineage of Christ. Ruth joined the ranks of those God used for His purposes because of their faith and not because of their parentage. Faith, not merit, is always what God looks for. After all, no one merits His favor. It is only in God's mercy, which He chooses to extend to us because of our faith, that anyone is blessed and used by God.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reflections on Ruth 3

    Ruth 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day, Naomi said to Ruth: It's time I found you a husband, who will give you a home and take care of you.
  2. You have been picking up grain alongside the women who work for Boaz, and you know he is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be threshing the grain.
  3. Now take a bath and put on some perfume, then dress in your best clothes. Go where he is working, but don't let him see you until he has finished eating and drinking.
  4. Watch where he goes to spend the night, then when he is asleep, lift the cover and lie down at his feet. He will tell you what to do.
  5. Ruth answered, "I'll do whatever you say."
  6. She went out to the place where Boaz was working and did what Naomi had told her.
  7. After Boaz finished eating and drinking and was feeling happy, he went over and fell asleep near the pile of grain. Ruth slipped over quietly. She lifted the cover and lay down near his feet.
  8. In the middle of the night, Boaz suddenly woke up and was shocked to see a woman lying at his feet.
  9. "Who are you?" he asked. "Sir, I am Ruth," she answered, "and you are the relative who is supposed to take care of me. So spread the edge of your cover over me."
  10. Boaz replied: The LORD bless you! This shows how truly loyal you are to your family. You could have looked for a younger man, either rich or poor, but you didn't.
  11. Don't worry, I'll do what you have asked. You are respected by everyone in town.
  12. It's true that I am one of the relatives who is supposed to take care of you, but there is someone who is an even closer relative.
  13. Stay here until morning, then I will find out if he is willing to look after you. If he isn't, I promise by the living God to do it myself. Now go back to sleep until morning.
  14. Ruth lay down again, but she got up before daylight, because Boaz did not want anyone to know she had been there.
  15. Then he told her to spread out her cape. And he filled it with a lot of grain and placed it on her shoulder. When Ruth got back to town,
  16. Naomi asked her what had happened, and Ruth told her everything.
  17. She also said, "Boaz gave me this grain, because he didn't want me to come back without something for you."
  18. Naomi replied, "Just be patient and don't worry about what will happen. He won't rest until everything is settled today!"

    As noted in the previous chapter, with Ruth's good fortune of happening into the fields of Boaz and his kind and generous reception to her, Naomi's hope was restored that the Lord had not forgotten her. She recognized that Ruth's good fortune was not coincidental but rather God's providence. With the restoration of her hope came the restoration of her spirit and healing of her depression. Whereas Ruth had taken the initiative before to go out into the fields to provide them food, Naomi now took the initiative to formulate a plan to provide for Ruth's security through marriage.

    Chapter two established that Boaz was not only a kind man and helpful to Ruth but he was also Elimelech's relative. Now, in chapter three, it is established that he was also a kinsman redeemer. This meant that he had a responsibility to fulfill the custom of levirate marriage which was to marry the widow of a deceased brother who had no son so a son might be born of that marriage on behalf of the one deceased. Naomi's plan to provide marriage security for Ruth involved taking advantage of Boaz's family position. Her plan, however, did not involve going to Boaz and verbally asking him to fulfill this obligation. Maybe this was because they were women and such boldness was not appropriate.

    Naomi's plan involved Ruth going to the community threshing floor at a given time when Naomi knew Boaz would be there to thresh his grain. She also knew he would spend the night close to his grain to protect it. So, according to the plan, Ruth was to dress so her identity was hidden and go to the threshing floor when Boaz would be there but not reveal her identity to him. She was to merely observe his activities while eating and drinking and then notice where he laid down to sleep. When he was asleep she was to uncover his feet and lie down at his feet.

    Ruth followed Naomi's instructions and during the night while she lay at Boaz's feet, he was suddenly awakened and noticed her there and asked who she was. She told him, "I am Ruth, your slave," she replied. "Spread your cloak over me, for you are a family redeemer." (3:9) Boaz blessed her for her actions and assured her he would fulfill his obligation to marry her but there was another relative who was a closer redeemer and he needed to offer him the first opportunity to exercise this role. If he did not choose to do so, Boaz would. When daylight approached he sent her home with six measures of barley.

    Ruth told Naomi all that happened and Naomi said to her, "Wait, my daughter, until you find out how things go, for he won't rest unless he resolves this today." (3:18)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reflections on Ruth 2

    Ruth 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day, Ruth said to Naomi, "Let me see if I can find someone who will let me pick up the grain left in the fields by the harvest workers." Naomi answered, "Go ahead, my daughter." So right away, Ruth went out to pick up grain in a field owned by Boaz. He was a relative of Naomi's husband Elimelech, as well as a rich and important man.
  2. (SEE 2:1)
  3. (SEE 2:1)
  4. When Boaz left Bethlehem and went out to his field, he said to the harvest workers, "The LORD bless you!" They replied, "And may the LORD bless you!"
  5. Then Boaz asked the man in charge of the harvest workers, "Who is that young woman?"
  6. The man answered, "She is the one who came back from Moab with Naomi.
  7. She asked if she could pick up grain left by the harvest workers, and she has been working all morning without a moment's rest."
  8. Boaz went over to Ruth and said, "I think it would be best for you not to pick up grain in anyone else's field. Stay here with the women
  9. and follow along behind them, as they gather up what the men have cut. I have warned the men not to bother you, and whenever you are thirsty, you can drink from the water jars they have filled."
  10. Ruth bowed down to the ground and said, "You know I come from another country. Why are you so good to me?"
  11. Boaz answered, "I've heard how you've helped your mother-in-law ever since your husband died. You even left your own father and mother to come and live in a foreign land among people you don't know.
  12. I pray that the LORD God of Israel will reward you for what you have done. And now that you have come to him for protection, I pray that he will bless you."
  13. Ruth replied, "Sir, it's good of you to speak kindly to me and make me feel so welcome. I'm not even one of your servants."
  14. At mealtime Boaz said to Ruth, "Come, eat with us. Have some bread and dip it in the sauce." Right away she sat down with the workers, and Boaz handed her some roasted grain. Ruth ate all she wanted and had some left over.
  15. When Ruth got up to start picking up grain, Boaz told his men, "Don't stop her, even if she picks up grain from where it is stacked.
  16. Be sure to pull out some stalks of grain from the bundles and leave them on the ground for her. And don't speak harshly to her!"
  17. Ruth worked in the field until evening. Then after she had pounded the grain off the stalks, she had a large basket full of grain.
  18. She took the grain to town and showed Naomi how much she had picked up. Ruth also gave her the food left over from her lunch.
  19. Naomi said, "Where did you work today? Whose field was it? God bless the man who treated you so well!" Then Ruth told her that she had worked in the field of a man named Boaz.
  20. "The LORD bless Boaz!" Naomi replied. "He has shown that he is still loyal to the living and to the dead. Boaz is a close relative, one of those who is supposed to look after us."
  21. Ruth told her, "Boaz even said I could stay in the field with his workers until they had finished gathering all his grain."
  22. Naomi replied, "My daughter, it's good that you can pick up grain alongside the women who work in his field. Who knows what might happen to you in someone else's field!"
  23. And so, Ruth stayed close to the women, while picking up grain in his field. Ruth worked in the fields until the barley and wheat were harvested. And all this time she lived with Naomi.

    This account of Ruth is a bright spot in the darkness of the period of judges. Respect for both God and man are demonstrated by the key players of the account: Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. However, there is also an allusion to the darkness of the period in verse 22 when Naomi encourages Ruth to work Boaz's young women so "nothing will happen to you." Other translations speak more plainly of the danger, "no danger now of being raped in some stranger's field." (2:22 The Message)

    1:22 tells us that Naomi and Ruth had arrived in Bethlehem "at the beginning of the barley harvest." Soon after their arrival Ruth took the initiative to go to the fields to gather grain, asking permission of her mother-in-law to do so. It was no accident that the field she went to belonged to Boaz who was a relative of Ruth's deceased father-in-law. The writer of the account mentions Boaz in verse 1 to highlight the "divine appointment" of Ruth going to his field. When Boaz comes to the field near the noon hour he notices Ruth and enquires of his servants concerning her identity. Learning who she was, he instructed his servants to allow her to glean in his field continually and not to harass her. Also they were to allow her to drink from their water jars.

    When Ruth asked Boaz why he was showing her such kindness, Boaz expresses the respect he had for her because of everything she had done for her mother-in-law, leaving her father and mother and the land of her birth and coming to a people she didn't know so she could help Naomi. Boaz asked the Lord to "reward you for what you have done, and may you receive a full reward from the LORD God of Israel." (2:12) We see from this the respect Boaz had for Ruth and that he was a godly man. He showed further kindness to Ruth by inviting her to eat with him and his workers, a kindness not normally extended to gleaners.

    Ruth returned home that evening with nearly a full bag of grain, enough to feed her and Naomi for several days. When Naomi asked Ruth whose field she had worked in and learned it was Boaz, she said, "May he be blessed by the LORD, who has not forsaken his kindness to the living or the dead." (2:20) Naomi was encouraged that the Lord had not forgotten her, though in her grief it appeared that He had.

    It is important that we are always close to the Lord through prayer and reading of His word. Otherwise in times of difficulty we lose perspective of His love and faithfulness. In our discouragement during such times we are tempted to draw away from God, convinced He has drawn away from us. But these are the times we need instead to draw even nearer to Him.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reflections on Ruth 1

    Ruth 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Before Israel was ruled by kings, Elimelech from the tribe of Ephrath lived in the town of Bethlehem. His wife was named Naomi, and their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. But when their crops failed, they moved to the country of Moab. And while they were there,
  2. (SEE 1:1)
  3. Elimelech died, leaving Naomi with only her two sons.
  4. Later, Naomi's sons married Moabite women. One was named Orpah and the other Ruth. About ten years later,
  5. Mahlon and Chilion also died. Now Naomi had no husband or sons.
  6. When Naomi heard that the LORD had given his people a good harvest, she and her two daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab and go to Judah. As they were on their way there,
  7. (SEE 1:6)
  8. Naomi said to them, "Don't you want to go back home to your own mothers? You were kind to my husband and sons, and you have always been kind to me. I pray that the LORD will be just as kind to you.
  9. May he give each of you another husband and a home of your own." Naomi kissed them. They cried
  10. and said, "We want to go with you and live among your people."
  11. But she replied, "My daughters, why don't you return home? What good will it do you to go with me? Do you think I could have more sons for you to marry?
  12. You must go back home, because I am too old to marry again. Even if I got married tonight and later had more sons,
  13. would you wait for them to become old enough to marry? No, my daughters! Life is harder for me than it is for you, because the LORD has turned against me."
  14. They cried again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth held on to her.
  15. Naomi then said to Ruth, "Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and to her gods! Why don't you go with her?"
  16. Ruth answered, "Please don't tell me to leave you and return home! I will go where you go, I will live where you live; your people will be my people, your God will be my God.
  17. I will die where you die and be buried beside you. May the LORD punish me if we are ever separated, even by death!"
  18. When Naomi saw that Ruth had made up her mind to go with her, she stopped urging her to go back.
  19. They reached Bethlehem, and the whole town was excited to see them. The women who lived there asked, "Can this really be Naomi?"
  20. Then she told them, "Don't call me Naomi any longer! Call me Mara, because God has made my life bitter.
  21. I had everything when I left, but the LORD has brought me back with nothing. How can you still call me Naomi, when God has turned against me and made my life so hard?"
  22. The barley harvest was just beginning when Naomi and Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, arrived in Bethlehem.

    The book of Ruth and its account of the woman Ruth is a bright spot out of the period of the judges which had few positive accounts related through the book of Judges. This was a dark period for Israel, dark primarily because of her lack of faith in God.

    This account of Ruth begins also in darkness, but it soon takes a turn for good. It begins with a famine in the land of Israel which very likely was a result of God's judgement on Israel - not an uncommon occurance throughout the history of Israel. Due to the famine, a family from Bethlehem decided to move to the land of Moab where there seemed to be promise of more prosperity. Doing so, however, was an act of disobedience with Israel's covenant with God. If the territory east of the Jordan, where Moab was located, was not experiencing famine one might wonder why this family did not choose to go to the area east of the Jordan where fellow Israelites lived? Yet, if the famine was God's judgment on all Israel even the region east of the Jordan which belonged to Israelite tribes would also be experiencing the famine. Would not the best choice for the family and for Israel be to turn to God in repentance and look to Him for deliverance?

    The choice of this family, the head of which was Elimelech along with his wife Naomi and their two sons, was to move to the heathen land of Moab. There the two sons married Moabite women which was also a break with the covenant. If we are looking for people worthy of God's blessing they are not to be found in this account. But then, none are ever worthy of God's blessing. It is only due to God's love and mercy that any receive His blessings. In time, Elimelech and both his sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law widowed. Is this also God's judgment on this family? Naomi certainly thought so as she states in verse 21, "the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has pronounced judgment on me."

    In her grief, Naomi decided to return to her home and her people, and possibly also to God. Unexpectedly, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, decided to go with her, leaving behind her home, her people, and her gods. She made a life-long commitment to stay with Naomi and adopt her people and her God as her own. Her commitment also included the risk of never again to marry and have the security of a husband that was so vital to women of that period. In Ruth's statement of commitment to Naomi she invoked the judgment of Naomi's God on her if she allowed anything but death to separate her from Naomi.

    Naomi's decision to return to her home and people was the beginning of a new life of blessing for Naomi, though she didn't realize it. Ruth's commitment to her was a sign of this new life and the chapter leaves us with yet another sign of good things to come when it says, "They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest." The famine was over and there was new life in Israel.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Reflections on Judges 21

    Judges 21 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When the Israelites had met at Mizpah before the war with Benjamin, they had made this sacred promise: "None of us will ever let our daughters marry any man from Benjamin."
  2. After the war with Benjamin, the Israelites went to the place of worship at Bethel and sat there until sunset. They cried loudly and bitterly
  3. and prayed, "Our LORD, you are the God of Israel. Why did you let this happen? Now one of our tribes is almost gone."
  4. Early the next morning, the Israelites built an altar and offered sacrifices to please the LORD and to ask his blessing.
  5. Then they asked each other, "Did any of the tribes of Israel fail to come to the place of worship? We made a sacred promise that anyone who didn't come to the meeting at Mizpah would be put to death."
  6. The Israelites were sad about what had happened to the Benjamin tribe, and they said, "One of our tribes was almost wiped out.
  7. Only a few men of Benjamin weren't killed in the war. We need to get wives for them, so the tribe won't completely disappear. But how can we do that, after promising in the LORD's name that we wouldn't let them marry any of our daughters?"
  8. Again the Israelites asked, "Did any of the tribes stay away from the meeting at Mizpah?" After asking around, they discovered that no one had come from Jabesh in Gilead.
  9. (SEE 21:8)
  10. So they sent twelve thousand warriors with these orders: "Attack Jabesh in Gilead and kill everyone, except the women who have never been married."
  11. (SEE 21:10)
  12. The warriors attacked Jabesh in Gilead, and returned to their camp in Canaan with four hundred young women.
  13. The Israelites met and sent messengers to the men of Benjamin at Rimmon Rock, telling them that the Israelites were willing to make peace with them.
  14. So the men of Benjamin came back from Rimmon Rock, and the Israelites let them marry the young women from Jabesh. But there weren't enough women.
  15. The Israelites were very sad, because the LORD had almost wiped out one of their tribes.
  16. Then their national leaders said: All the women of the Benjamin tribe were killed. How can we get wives for the men of Benjamin who are left?
  17. If they don't have children, one of the Israelite tribes will die out.
  18. But we can't let the men of Benjamin marry any of our daughters. We made a sacred promise not to do that, and if we break our promise, we will be under our own curse.
  19. Then someone suggested, "What about the LORD's Festival that takes place each year in Shiloh? It's held north of Bethel, south of Lebonah, and just east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem."
  20. The leaders told the men of Benjamin who still did not have wives: Go to Shiloh and hide in the vineyards near the festival.
  21. Wait there for the young women of Shiloh to come out and perform their dances. Then rush out and grab one of the young women, then take her home as your wife.
  22. If the fathers or brothers of these women complain about this, we'll say, "Be kind enough to let those men keep your daughter. After all, we couldn't get enough wives for all the men of Benjamin in the battle at Jabesh. And because you didn't give them permission to marry your daughters, you won't be under the curse we earlier agreed on.
  23. The men of Benjamin went to Shiloh and hid in the vineyards. The young women soon started dancing, and each man grabbed one of them and carried her off. Then the men of Benjamin went back to their own land and rebuilt their towns and started living in them again.
  24. Afterwards, the rest of the Israelites returned to their homes and families.
  25. In those days Israel wasn't ruled by a king, and everyone did what they thought was right.

     Dysfunctional is a term that comes to mind in reading these last chapters of Judges. The writer of Judges has repeatedly mentioned in these last chapters that "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted." (21:25) Evidently the writer saw this lack of central leadership to be the reason for this dysfunction, but God's intent was that He be their king and that they listen to Him and follow His leading. They had turned their backs on God, though, which was the real reason for their dysfunction. The result was that they were victims of their own rash decisions.

    The Israelites had vowed to kill all of the Benjamites because of their vile actions at Gibeah, but once they had nearly annihilated the tribe they lamented the near loss of a whole tribe. Then they set about to find loopholes in their vows to correct the destruction caused by the initial vow. Only 600 men remained of the tribe of Benjamin and they needed brides for them to keep the tribe from extinction. They remembered their vow to kill any Israelites that didn't come out to help them kill the Benjaminites (another rash vow) so they used this vow to kill the people of Jabesh-gilead who had not helped. However, they spared the young women who had never been married which turned out to be 400. This was 200 short the number they needed for the 600 surviving Benjamites.

    To get the needed 200 brides for the Benjamites without breaking their vow not to give them their own daughters, they looked for a loophole in the vow and found it. They could not give them their daughters but their was nothing to keep the Benjamites from taking a daughter. They remembered a festival at Shiloh that was approaching and arranged with the Benjamites to hide in the vineyard and when the young girls came out to dance each man would slip out and grab a girl and run off with her. Thus they could round out the number of wives needed without breaking any vows. What a farse! As Matthew Henry states, "They would have acted better if they had repented of their rash oaths, brought sin-offerings, and sought forgiveness in the appointed way, rather than attempt to avoid the guilt of perjury by actions quite as wrong."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Reflections on Judges 20

    Judges 20 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The Israelites called a meeting of the nation. And since they were God's people, the meeting was held at the place of worship in Mizpah. Men who could serve as soldiers came from everywhere in Israel--from Dan in the north, Beersheba in the south, and Gilead east of the Jordan River. Four hundred thousand of them came to Mizpah, and they each felt the same about what those men from the tribe of Benjamin had done. News about the meeting at Mizpah reached the tribe of Benjamin. As soon as the leaders of the tribes of Israel took their places, the Israelites said, "How could such a horrible thing happen?"
  2. (SEE 20:1)
  3. (SEE 20:1)
  4. The husband of the murdered woman answered: My wife and I went into the town of Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night.
  5. Later that night, the men of Gibeah surrounded the house. They wanted to kill me, but instead they raped and killed my wife.
  6. It was a terrible thing for Israelites to do! So I cut up her body and sent pieces everywhere in Israel.
  7. You are the people of Israel, and you must decide today what to do about the men of Gibeah.
  8. The whole army was in agreement, and they said, "None of us will go home.
  9. We'll send one tenth of the men from each tribe to get food for the army. And we'll ask God who should attack Gibeah, because those men deserve to be punished for committing such a horrible crime in Israel."
  10. (SEE 20:9)
  11. Everyone agreed that Gibeah had to be punished.
  12. The tribes of Israel sent messengers to every town and village in Benjamin. And wherever the messengers went, they said, "How could those worthless men in Gibeah do such a disgusting thing?
  13. We can't allow such a terrible crime to go unpunished in Israel! Hand the men over to us, and we will put them to death." But the people of Benjamin refused to listen to the other Israelites.
  14. Men from towns all over Benjamin's territory went to Gibeah and got ready to fight Israel.
  15. The Benjamin tribe had twenty-six thousand soldiers, not counting the seven hundred who were Gibeah's best warriors.
  16. In this army there were seven hundred left-handed experts who could sling a rock at a target the size of a hair and hit it every time.
  17. The other Israelite tribes organized their army and found they had four hundred thousand experienced soldiers.
  18. So they went to the place of worship at Bethel and asked God, "Which tribe should be the first to attack the people of Benjamin?" "Judah," the LORD answered.
  19. The next morning the Israelite army moved its camp to a place near Gibeah.
  20. Then they left their camp and got into position to attack the army of Benjamin.
  21. Benjamin's soldiers came out of Gibeah and attacked, and when the day was over, twenty-two thousand Israelite soldiers lay dead on the ground.
  22. The people of Israel went to the place of worship and cried until sunset. Then they asked the LORD, "Should we attack the people of Benjamin again, even though they are our relatives?" "Yes," the LORD replied, "attack them again!" The Israelite soldiers encouraged each other to be brave and to fight hard. Then the next day they went back to Gibeah and took up the same positions as they had before.
  23. (SEE 20:22)
  24. (SEE 20:22)
  25. That same day, Benjamin's soldiers came out of Gibeah and attacked, leaving another eighteen thousand Israelite soldiers dead on the battlefield.
  26. The people of Israel went to the place of worship at Bethel, where the sacred chest was being kept. They sat on the ground, crying and not eating for the rest of the day. Then about sunset, they offered sacrifices to please the LORD and to ask his blessing. Phinehas the priest then prayed, "Our LORD, the people of Benjamin are our relatives. Should we stop fighting or attack them again?" "Attack!" the LORD answered. "Tomorrow I will let you defeat them."
  27. (SEE 20:26)
  28. (SEE 20:26)
  29. The Israelites surrounded Gibeah, but stayed where they could not be seen.
  30. Then the next day, they took the same positions as twice before,
  31. but this time they had a different plan. They said, "When the men of Benjamin attack, we will run off and let them chase us away from the town and into the country roads." The soldiers of Benjamin attacked the Israelite army and started pushing it back from the town. They killed about thirty Israelites in the fields and along the road between Gibeah and Bethel. The men of Benjamin were thinking, "We're mowing them down like we did before." The Israelites were running away, but they headed for Baal-Tamar, where they regrouped. They had set an ambush, and they were sure it would work. Ten thousand of Israel's best soldiers had been hiding west of Gibeah, and as soon as the men of Benjamin chased the Israelites into the countryside, these ten thousand soldiers made a surprise attack on the town gates. They dashed in and captured Gibeah, killing everyone there. Then they set the town on fire, because the smoke would be the signal for the other Israelite soldiers to turn and attack the soldiers of Benjamin. The fighting had been so heavy around the soldiers of Benjamin, that they did not know the trouble they were in. But then they looked back and saw clouds of smoke rising from the town. They looked in front and saw the soldiers of Israel turning to attack. This terrified them, because they realized that something horrible was happening. And it was horrible--over twenty-five thousand soldiers of Benjamin died that day, and those who were left alive knew that the LORD had given Israel the victory.
  32. (SEE 20:31)
  33. (SEE 20:31)
  34. (SEE 20:31)
  35. (SEE 20:31)
  36. (SEE 20:31)
  37. (SEE 20:31)
  38. (SEE 20:31)
  39. (SEE 20:31)
  40. (SEE 20:31)
  41. (SEE 20:31)
  42. The men of Benjamin headed down the road toward the desert, trying to escape from the Israelites. But the Israelites stayed right behind them, keeping up their attack. Men even came out of the nearby towns to help kill the men of Benjamin,
  43. who were having to fight on all sides. The Israelite soldiers never let up their attack. They chased and killed the warriors of Benjamin as far as a place directly east of Gibeah,
  44. until eighteen thousand of these warriors lay dead.
  45. Some other warriors of Benjamin turned and ran down the road toward Rimmon Rock in the desert. The Israelites killed five thousand of them on the road, then chased the rest until they had killed two thousand more.
  46. Twenty-five thousand soldiers of Benjamin died that day, all of them experienced warriors.
  47. Only six hundred of them finally made it into the desert to Rimmon Rock, where they stayed for four months.
  48. The Israelites turned back and went to every town in Benjamin's territory, killing all the people and animals, and setting the towns on fire.

    When all the Israelite tribes learned of the perverse behavior of the men of Gibeah they were incensed and all the tribes assembled "as one body before the LORD at Mizpah." (20:1) They began with a hearing to learn what happened and to determine what should be done. After hearing what occurred, they determined unanimously to go against the city of Gibeah. First, however, they attempted to resolve the situation peacefully by asking the Benjamites to hand over "the perverted men in Gibeah so we can put them to death and eradicate evil from Israel." (20:13) The Benjamites refused, choosing instead to assemble their own army and go up against their fellow Israelites. It is amazing what pride will motivate one to do. Whether or not all the Benjamites agreed the behavior of their brothers, their pride caused them to defend it to the point of death. This in itself borders on perversion. 

    So the tribe of Benjamin mustered an army of 26,000 to go up against their brothers who had an army of 400,000. Amazingly, the Benjamites were initially victorious, killing 22,000 Israelites on the first day and another 18,000 the second day. Both days the Israelites were driven to weep "before the Lord" and inquire of Him whether they should continue the battle. Following the first day's defeat the Lord answered their enquiry by saying, "Fight against them." The second time the Lord said, "Fight, because I will hand them over to you tomorrow." (20:28) Sure enough, the next day they nearly annihilated the Benjamites.  Verses 29-35 give an overview of the battle on that day followed by a more detailed account in verses 36-46.

    The chapter concludes by telling us that 600 Benjamites were able to escape to the "rock of Rimmon" where they stayed four months. Also that the entire city of Gibeah was destroyed along with all its people and animals. One positive that came from this whole account was that the Israelites turned to the Lord for guidance. After Turning away from the Lord to idols as prominently has they had, one wonders what caused them to turn to the Lord rather than their other gods in this crises? Was it the deep down realization that these other gods were not really gods? That they had no real powers to solve this delimma?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reflections on Judges 19

    Judges 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Before kings ruled Israel, a Levite was living deep in the hill country of the Ephraim tribe. He married a woman from Bethlehem in Judah,
  2. but she was unfaithful and went back to live with her family in Bethlehem. Four months later
  3. her husband decided to try and talk her into coming back. So he went to Bethlehem, taking along a servant and two donkeys. He talked with his wife, and she invited him into her family's home. Her father was glad to see him
  4. and did not want him to leave. So the man stayed three days, eating and drinking with his father-in-law.
  5. When everyone got up on the fourth day, the Levite started getting ready to go home. But his father-in-law said, "Don't leave until you have a bite to eat. You'll need strength for your journey."
  6. The two men sat down together and ate a big meal. "Come on," the man's father-in-law said. "Stay tonight and have a good time."
  7. The Levite tried to leave, but his father-in-law insisted, and he spent one more night.
  8. The fifth day, the man got up early to leave, but his wife's father said, "You need to keep up your strength! Why don't you leave right after lunch?" So the two of them started eating.
  9. Finally, the Levite got up from the meal, so he and his wife and servant could leave. "Look," his father-in-law said, "it's already late afternoon, and if you leave now, you won't get very far before dark. Stay with us one more night and enjoy yourself. Then you can get up early tomorrow morning and start home."
  10. But the Levite decided not to spend the night there again. He had the saddles put on his two donkeys, then he and his wife and servant traveled as far as Jebus, which is now called Jerusalem.
  11. It was beginning to get dark, and the man's servant said, "Let's stop and spend the night in this town where the Jebusites live."
  12. "No," the Levite answered. "They aren't Israelites, and I refuse to spend the night there. We'll stop for the night at Gibeah,
  13. because we can make it to Gibeah or maybe even to Ramah before dark."
  14. They walked on and reached Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin just after sunset.
  15. They left the road and went into Gibeah. But the Levite couldn't find a house where anyone would let them spend the night, and they sat down in the open area just inside the town gates.
  16. Soon an old man came in through the gates on his way home from working in the fields. Most of the people who lived in Gibeah belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, but this man was originally from the hill country of Ephraim.
  17. He noticed that the Levite was just in town to spend the night. "Where are you going?" the old man asked. "Where did you come from?"
  18. "We've come from Bethlehem in Judah," the Levite answered. "We went there on a visit. Now we're going to the place where the LORD is worshiped, and later we will return to our home in the hill country of Ephraim. But no one here will let us spend the night in their home.
  19. We brought food for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves, so we don't need anything except a place to sleep."
  20. The old man said, "You are welcome to spend the night in my home and to be my guest, but don't stay out here!"
  21. The old man brought them into his house and fed their donkeys. Then he and his guests washed their feet and began eating and drinking.
  22. They were having a good time, when some worthless men of that town surrounded the house and started banging on the door and shouting, "A man came to your house tonight. Send him out, so we can have sex with him!"
  23. The old man went outside and said, "My friends, please don't commit such a horrible crime against a man who is a guest in my house.
  24. Let me send out my daughter instead. She's a virgin. And I'll even send out the man's wife. You can rape them or do whatever else you want, but please don't do such a horrible thing to this man."
  25. The men refused to listen, so the Levite grabbed his wife and shoved her outside. The men raped her and abused her all night long. Finally, they let her go just before sunrise,
  26. and it was almost daybreak when she went back to the house where her husband was staying. She collapsed at the door and lay there until sunrise.
  27. About that time, her husband woke up and got ready to leave. He opened the door and went outside, where he found his wife lying at the door with her hands on the doorstep.
  28. "Get up!" he said. "It's time to leave." But his wife didn't move. He lifted her body onto his donkey and left.
  29. When he got home, he took a butcher knife and cut her body into twelve pieces. Then he told some messengers, "Take one piece to each tribe of Israel
  30. and ask everyone if anything like this has ever happened since Israel left Egypt. Tell them to think about it, talk it over, and tell us what should be done." Everyone who saw a piece of the body said, "This is horrible! Nothing like this has ever happened since the day Israel left Egypt."

While chapters 17 and 18 illustrate the idolatry to which Israel had succumbed, the remaining chapters of Judges illustrate the moral depravity and anarcy to which the nation had stooped. Again, a Levite is involved, one who had taken for himself a second-status wife referred to as a concubine. Such practice was never sanctioned by God, but as with the previous account involving a Levite, these guardians of the Mosaic law no longer knew the law. The concubine was unfaithful to him, turning to prostitution, and then returned to her father's home.

The Levite traveled the distance from the hill country in Ephraim to Bethlehem, where the concubine's father lived, to bring her back with him. After a prolonged stay at his father-in-law's, the Levite began the journey back to his home taking with him the concubine. As nightfall approached on their first day of travel, they passed up Jerusalem, a foreign city at that time, and went on to Gibeah to spend the night. We see a glimpse into the inhospitality of the people in Gibeah in that no one took in the Levite and his servant and concubine to spend the night, which was an honored practice of the time. At the last minute an old man finally took them in. Before long perverted men of the city surrounded the house and demanded that the Levite come out so they could have sex with him. This sounds very much like the people of Sodom.

The demand of the perverted men is astonishing, but just as astonishing is the response of the Levite who pushed his concubine out the door for the men to do as they wished with her, thus saving himself. The next morning the Levite went out the door, not to go looking for the concubine, but to leave on his journey. He found her dead on the doorstep. The Levite put her body on his donkey and returned home. To arouse action against this crime, the Levite cut up the body into 12 parts and sent them with an account of what happened throughout the territory of Israel.