Monday, April 12, 2010

Judges, Chapters 6-8

The story of Gideon, as in the bibles. I wonder if the people who publish those have actually read this book?

Chapter 6

The Israelites sin again and are enslaved by the Midianites. Never mind that Moses killed all of them except the virgins what? A couple hundred years ago? Now they're breeding like grasshoppers (v. 5). The Israelites beg god to free them, so god sends an angel down to Gideon with a message. Gideon is skeptical, asking why this supposedly miraculous god has forsaken them. God then appears and tells him to free his people. Gideon is still skeptical, saying his tribe is the poorest of all, and he's the poorest of his tribe. God promises his assistance, but Gideon wants a sign now. He asks god to wait while he prepares a sacrifice of a goat and some bread. The angel tells him to put it on a rock, then touches the rock with his staff. This convinces Gideon.
God's next instruction is to vandalize his neighbors' altars to Baal and build his own altars to god. Gideon is afraid to do it in daylight, so he goes out at night. In the morning, they find the altar and the remains of the sacrificed bullock and are pissed off about not being invited to the barbecue. They ask around and figure out who is responsible, and demand his head. Gideon's father Joash defends him and warns them that if they fight for Baal, they won't live. Joash then renames him Jerubaal.

The Midianites and Amakelites gather an army together at Jezreel. Gideon blows a trumpet and his men gather. Then he asks god for more signs. He puts a piece of wool on the ground and asks god to make it wet without dampening the ground. God does, but Gideon wants one more sign. He asks god to make the ground wet and the fleece dry. What would Jonathan Creek make of that?

Chapter 7

Despite being enslaved, the Israelites have managed to raise and equip a massive army of 32 000, about the size of a small-ish country like Canada's today. So big, in fact, that god worries they'll think they saved themselves without any help from him. So Gideon tells them that anyone who's afraid can just go home. 22 000 do. But 10 000 is still too many for god, so he tells Gideon to take them to the river for a drink and he'll sort them out there. Most of the men scoop up the water in their hands, as you logically would if drinking out of a stream. Actually, in those times you'd have been better to seek out the wine. Better drunk than riddled with dysentery. But god wants the men who lap the water like dogs, who number 300.

Those 300 men get food and trumpets, the rest go home. One night, god tells Gideon to get ready, because they're going to attack. Gideon goes down to the Midianite camp on a recon mission. He overhears one soldier telling another about a dream he had where a barley cake smites a tent. His friend thinks it's a sign Gideon is going to win. Gideon goes back to his men and says it's time to attack. He divides the men into three companies, each with a trumpet and an oil lamp. He instructs them to surround the camp and on his signal, to attack, shouting The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. (v. 18). When they blow their trumpets, god causes the Midianites to attack each other. Some flee, and Gideon sends word to pursue and kill them. Two princes are captured and their heads sent to him.

Chapter 8

The men of Ephraim don't feel they got enough action in the whole Midianite massacre, but Gideon points out they killed two princes, and that placates them.

He then takes his army in pursuit of two Midianite kings. They come to the village of Succoth, where they ask for food, but are refused. Gideon vows to take revenge with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers. (v. 7). The people of Penuel likewise refuse him and he vows to tear down their tower.

Gideon eventually finds the two kings and their 120 000 men, slightly smaller than the current French army. He goes back towards Succoth and captures a young man from the village, who describes the leaders and elders. He brings the two kings into the town square and shows them to the people, then proceeds to beat the leaders to death with the promised thorns and briers. Then he goes to Penuel and tears down the tower and massacres the men of the town.

Gideon asks the kings who they killed at Tabor, and figures out they killed his brothers. He tells them regretfully that if they had spared his family, he could spare them, but as it is, he calls on his oldest son to kill them. The boy refuses. The kings taunt him, so Gideon kills them and takes the decorations off their camels. Father of the year, that one.

The people of Israel invite Gideon to be their king, but he says that's god's job. He does ask them to each give them an earring from their plunder. He casts the gold into an ephod, some kind of object of worship.

There is peace for 40 years, during which time Gideon manages to father an impressive 70 sons, not unlike a Saudi prince today. Only one is named, Abimelech of Shechem. Gideon dies eventually, and the people go back to worshipping Baal and stop paying tribute to Gideon's family.

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