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Ezekiel

Background

Ezekiel, whose name means ‘God strengthens,’ was born in Jerusalem during a time of great upheavals caused by the invading Babylonian army. He can be found on the Biblical Timeline at the end of 600 BC. Ezekiel is introduced in the first chapter as ‘the priest, the son of Buzi’. He received one of his first fantastic visions of four-faced and winged creatures as well as ‘the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God’ while living in exile near the Kebar river in Babylon. His ministry started seven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and covered the events between 590 B.C. and 571 B.C. He was already working as a priest when he was captured and taken to Babylon in 597 B.C.

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Daniel and Ezekiel were roughly the same age, although Daniel was already established in his prophetic ministry in Babylon by the time Ezekiel arrived (Ezekiel 14:14 and 20, 28:3). Ezekiel was married, the death of his wife is recorded in Ezekiel 24:15-27.

The Book of Ezekiel

Ezekiel
“Biblical illustration of Book of Ezekiel Chapter 37”

Destruction of Jerusalem

Ezekiel’s prophecies are divided into three parts:

  1. the condemnation of Judah and the total destruction of Jerusalem (chapters 1-24)
  2. the prophecies against foreign nations (25-39)
  3. the plans for rebuilding the new temple (40-48)

The first part consists of a series of prophecies concerning Judah. He was called by God to prophesy against the people by eating a scroll with laments written on it (2:8-10; 3:1-3). The prophecies of Ezekiel about the fall of Jerusalem were full of symbolism which included

* The drawing of a map of Jerusalem under siege on a clay tablet (4:1-3).

* Lying on his left side for 390 days for each year of Israel’s sins and 40 days on his right side for each year of Judah’s sins (4:4-8).

* The ration of bread baked with cow dung as fuel to symbolize scarcity and Israel’s impending captivity into the land of the Gentiles (4:9-17).

* The divine razor used by Ezekiel in cutting up his hair into three parts which symbolized the people who will die of famine and disease in the city, those killed outside the city walls, and those who will be scattered (5:1-13).

The last prophecies against Jerusalem can be read on the 24th chapter, while the 25th chapter up to the 32nd is series of messages against Judah’s neighbors. Those who received condemnation were the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, the Phoenicians of Tyre and Sidon, and Egyptians.

Promise of Restoration

Ezekiel is not all gloom and doom. The last parts of his prophecies were promises of restoration. His fantastic vision of a valley full of dry bones connecting with each other and coming back to life is a symbol of hope for the people of Israel who will be freed from captivity and will return to Jerusalem in due time (37:1-14). He received a vision as early as the 14th year from the fall of Jerusalem (40:1) about God’s detailed plans for a new temple. Ezekiel also received instructions on the new borders and divisions of the land for each tribe. A sacred site will be allotted between Judah and Benjamin as the place where the new temple will stand. A river of healing will flow out from the temple to the Dead Sea.

References:
Curtis, Adrian, and Herbert G. May. Oxford Bible Atlas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007
https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-ezekiel
Picture By Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18884417
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Temple, The Completion of the Second

In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple Solomon built and proceeded to deport the people of Judah to Babylon. The temple was rebuilt later, wich is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Poster with World History around 530 BC.

According to the Bible, they stayed in captivity for seventy years until the rise of King Cyrus of Persia, who conquered the Neo-Babylonian empire. Cyrus allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem from Babylon in 538 BC, and more than 40,000 people (Ezra 2:64) chose to go back to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel. They brought with them gold and silver articles recovered from the Babylonian temple after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem.

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The first thing they did was to rebuild the altar and offer sacrifices to the Lord after they had settled in Jerusalem. The construction of the second temple began in 520 BC, which was two years after they arrived in Jerusalem. Cedar logs from Lebanon were imported to build the temple, and the foundation was completed soon after. But some local residents opposed the building of the second temple, and they discouraged the former exiles from continuing with the construction. The construction work will not resume until the second year of the reign of King Darius (Ezra 4).

Temple
“Building of Solomon’s temple”

The people led by Zerubbabel and Jeshua resumed the construction of the temple after the encouragement of prophets Haggai and Zechariah. But the governor of Trans-Euphrates Tattenai banded together with some people to discourage them again. He schemed by sending a letter to the new Persian king Darius asking him to confirm an earlier decree by King Cyrus, which permitted the people of Judah to rebuild their temple.

Darius discovered a memorandum by Cyrus and told Tattenai to allow the people to continue the temple construction. Tattenai was also instructed to help the Jews and pay for the full construction cost. He followed Darius’ decree and the second temple was completed in 516 BC, which was the sixth year of Darius’ reign (Ezra 6). The temple was dedicated to the Lord and sacrifices were offered there once again. Ezra the scribe arrived in Jerusalem soon after the construction of the temple was completed.

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Shishak (Shoshenq I) Against Jerusalem

Shishak (Shoshenq I) of Egypt was one of the few foreign kings named in the Bible and was known for his raid in Jerusalem during the time of Rehoboam. He can be found on the Bible Timeline around 979 BC. 2 Chronicles 12 offers a detailed account of Shishak’s raid on Jerusalem, which happened in the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign. Shishak took with him thousands of chariots, horses, and soldiers to strike the fortified towns of Judah. These towns fell under the onslaught of Shishak’s troops, and they continued to Jerusalem for another wave of attacks. Shishak then invaded Jerusalem and looted the treasures of the Lord’s Temple. He also stole the treasures of Solomon’s royal palace including the gold shields, which were replaced by Rehoboam with bronze shields.

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Libyan Origin and Rise to Power

Shishak
Pharaoh Akhenaten

The Libyans who lived on the coast of Marmarica and Cyrenaica first appeared during the rule of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Akhenaten. They were included as military escorts of the king. High ranking Libyans also accompanied Egyptian nobility to temple ceremonies. Evidence of this can be seen on various stone reliefs in the Tomb of Ahmose and Meryra at Amarna.

The Meshwesh and Libu tribes raided Egyptians territories and clashes with the Egyptian troops were common at the time of the 19th and 20th Dynasties. Libyan immigrants also settled in the nome of Bubastis in the Nile Delta during periods of famine, but some of them were children of early Libyan garrison troops who grew up in Egypt. As centuries passed, the population of the immigrants increased and they successfully integrated into the Egyptian society. Their chieftains also gained enough wealth and power to marry into Egyptian noble families.

Shoshenq I was one of the first Meshwesh chieftains who rose to power, and he became the second Pharaoh of Libyan origin after his uncle Osorkon, the Elder. Marriage with some of the members of the royal family also played an important role in easing Shoshenq’s rise to power. He arranged the marriage between his son Osorkon I and Maatkare, the daughter of Psusennes II who was the last Egyptian pharaoh of the 21st Dynasty.

Rule of Egypt

The 21st Dynasty was marked by a division of power between the pharaohs ruling from Tanis in Lower Egypt and the High Priests of Amun based in Thebes in Upper Egypt. Shoshenq unified political authority under his rule and ensured that the high priests would not hold as much power as the pharaoh held. Priests were consulted for oracles, but they did not influence political decisions and foreign policies.

He appointed his own son, Prince Iuput, as a High Priest of Thebes to strengthen his own rule and reduce the power of other priests. Iuput was also the commander-in-chief of the army and governor of Upper Egypt. The loyalty of family members and supporters was rewarded with their appointment to administrative posts, as well as marriages to royal daughters.

Shoshenq had planned on building a great court in the temple of Amun at Karnak, but this remained unfinished at the time of his death. Shoshenq’s military victories were inscribed at the Bubastite Portal, which is the entrance to the Precinct of Amun-Re temple complex.

Invasion of Palestine and Death

Egypt’s influence over Palestine decreased during the division of political power of the 21st Dynasty. Shoshenq reestablished Egypt’s power over Palestine by launching a series of raids into a number of towns, including Shunem, Gibeon, Megiddo, Beth Horon, and Ajalon among others.

Shoshenq reestablished trade with Phoenicia during the time of King Abibaal of Byblos. A statue of Shoshenq I that had an inscription of Abibaal, was found in a temple in Byblos. It symbolized the goodwill between two kingdoms during their reign.

Shoshenq died shortly after his invasion of Palestine, and he was succeeded by his son Osorkon I as pharaoh.

References:
http://penn.museum/documents/publications/expedition/PDFs/29-3/Egyptians.pdf
Shaw, Ian, and John Taylor. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000
Ash, Paul S. David, Solomon and Egypt: A Reassessment. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999. Accessed March 18, 2016
CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58987
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James the Greater

Saint James the Greater was one of Jesus’ first disciples and one of the apostles who was killed because of his faith. (The life of Christ and his ministry with the twelve apostles is listed on the Bible Timeline after 1 AD). Jesus had first called Simon and his brother Andrew to follow him. He then found the other brothers, James, and John. They were in a boat with their father, Zebedee. Jesus found the fishermen repairing their nets and told them to follow him. They got up, and they left their father behind. (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19; Luke 5:10)

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James was the son of Zebedee and Salome (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40, 16:1). He was the elder brother of John the Beloved and probably called “the Greater” because he was older or taller than James the Less. As he was one of the first disciples of Jesus, the description (epithet) “the Greater” would also make sense.

James_the_Greater
“Saint James the Greater”

An introduction of all twelve apostles can be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:17-18; Luke 6:14). The list included both James, son of Zebedee and James, son of Alphaeus. He and his brother John were called “sons of thunder” (Boanerges) because they were easily angered. Jesus rebuked them when the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus as he passed through their village. The brothers had asked him if they should “call down fire from heaven to burn them up” (Luke 9:54).

Jesus was with James and John when he taught in the synagogue of Capernaum and cast out an evil spirit from a man. The brothers were also present when Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law and saw him heal the sick people of the town (Mark 1:21-34). James, along with Peter and John, were among the apostles who were close to Jesus as they witnessed his transfiguration (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28) as well as the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:40, 51-56).

Jesus gave both James, John, their mother Salome, and the other apostles present a lesson in serving others in Matt. 20:20-24 and Mark 10:35-41. Their mother asked Jesus if her two sons could “sit in places of honor next to Jesus” and he rebuked them. Jesus would later bring James, John, and Peter with him in the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion (Matt. 26:37; Mark 14:33). He was also present during and after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:6-13).

According to the Historia Compostelana, which was published in the 12th century, James preached first in Judea and Samaria and sailed later to Spain. He came back to Judea but was sentenced to death by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1-3). After his death, his body was transported by boat to the shores of Iberia (Spain) and was buried in Santiago de Compostela, a city which now bears his name. The city’s cathedral houses the relics of Saint James and has become the center of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The relics were authenticated by Pope Leo XIII on November 1, 1884.

References:
Orr, James. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1939
Maddrell, Avril, Alan Terry, and Tim Gale. Sacred Mobilities: Journeys of Belief and Belonging
Picture By Guido RenibgH3Bqotg5nTTw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21880518
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David and Bathsheba, How old was their son when he died?

The question: Can you tell me the age of the infant son of David and Bathsheba from their adultery when he died?

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Bethsheba

Answer: No. All we know is that Nathan the prophet was sent to David after the child was born but we do not know how long it was after he was born. We also know that the child was struck ill on that day and lived for seven days. The history is found in 2 Samuel Chapters 11-12. It is interesting that during the entire nine months until the birth of the child and Nathan’s visit David did not write any new psalms. Also, it’s interesting to me that David and Bathsheba’s fifth son, born after the death of their first, is named Nathan.

An excellent discourse on these chapters including repentance, forgiveness, the effects of sin on those around us and more can be found in Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible

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Absalom

Absalom was the third son of David and Maacah, the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3). He can be found on the Bible Timeline Chart around 1029 BC. Absalom had a sister named Tamar whose rape by their brother Amnon played a crucial role in Absalom’s rebellion.

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Early Life

Absalom was one of the sons born to David in Hebron and described as a handsome man who had no rival in Israel when it comes to physical beauty (2 Samuel 14:25). Over the course of time, Absalom had three sons and one daughter also named Tamar. He was known to be a charming man who insinuated his way into the hearts of the people of Israel to gain power (2 Samuel 15:1-6).

The Rape of Absalom’s Sister Tamar and His Escape to Geshur (2 Samuel 13)

The Bible does not gloss over the mistakes and weaknesses of many of its central characters, especially the House of David. It is ironic that the meaning of Absalom’s name was “Father of Peace” when his violent deeds resulted in a struggle for the kingdom with his father David that ultimately led to Absalom’s death. The narrative started in 2 Samuel 13 when Amnon schemed with his cousin Jonadab to bring Tamar, his half-sister, and Absalom’s sister, into his quarters by pretending to be sick and have her cook for him because he lusted after her.

King David unwittingly agreed when Amnon made the request and sent his daughter to Amnon’s quarters to prepare the food. She was then raped and cast out by her half-brother. The news reached her brother Absalom and her father, David. While they both were angry with Amnon, the incident was hushed up. Absalom simmered in his anger for Amnon while David refrained from meting out justice because of his love for his oldest son. Absalom had Amnon murdered afterward. Absalom then fled to his grandfather King Talmai in Geshur for three years.

Absalom
“David fleeing from Jerusalem”

Reinstatement and Rebellion (2 Samuel 14 and 17)

David longed to see his son Absalom in spite of his crime. Absalom returned to Jerusalem after a successful scheme by Joab involving a woman from Tekoa. She told the story of her two sons who killed each other. After his reinstatement, Absalom conspired to overthrow David and declared himself king over Israel in Hebron. David had to leave Jerusalem after most of the people sided with Absalom. Meanwhile, David sent his adviser Hushai back to serve and spy on his son. To add insult to injury, Absalom also slept with his father’s wives as advised by Ahithophel, David’s former counselor.

Ahithophel also promised Absalom to kill David himself so a civil war could be averted, but Hushai fooled Absalom and counseled against a direct assassination. Hushai suggested that they gather an army and go to an open war with David and his men. The news of the attack reached David, and they were able to escape. He assembled his men to prepare for a battle against his son but instructed his commanders and the soldiers not to harm Absalom.

Death (2 Samuel 18)

During the battle, Absalom got his hair caught in the branches of a tree. He was killed by Joab and was deeply mourned by David when news of his son’s death reached him. Absalom was buried in Ephraim’s Forest where Joab’s men threw his body into a deep pit and put piles of rock over it (2 Samuel 18:17).

References:
Picture By William Brassey Hole – http://www.orientalism-in-art.org/David-fleeing-from-Jerusalem-is-cursed-by-Shimei.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20344164
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Israel, Wars with

 The Consequences of Disobedience

Israel was greatly protected by God, but through disobedience, they experience many wars and hardships. This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart between 1004 BC and 904 BC. It all started with exogamy or marriage outside of the ethnic group. This was generally frowned upon and even expressly forbidden in Israel in the ancient times (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). The patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob practiced endogamy, marriage within the group. They even went as far as marrying their own close relatives.

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The law against intermarriage with other ethnic groups that surround Israel was laid out to prevent them from worshiping other gods and ensure Israel’s fidelity to Yahweh. Israel was not chosen because of any special attributes it might have, but simply because of God’s love (Deuteronomy 7:7-11). This covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so the people must keep it or there will be consequences as shown in the Books of Judges and Kings.

Israel_War
“Solomon sinned by acquiring many foreign wives. Solomon’s descent into idolatry, Willem de Poorter, Rijksmuseum.”

The command to unconditionally obey the Lord was also passed by David to his son in 1 Kings 2:1-4, but Solomon was led astray because of his marriage to foreign women. It was said that he married 700 wives of royal birth (which included an Egyptian princess) and had 300 concubines. They led him to worship and build shrines to other gods in the Canaanite pantheon such as Chemosh, Ashtoreth (Astarte), and Molech (Moloch). The consequences of this particular disobedience were reaped by Solomon’s descendants firsthand.

God warned Solomon to turn away from worshiping other gods but the warning fell on deaf ears. As a result, God promised to tear the kingdom away from Solomon’s son and give a portion of it instead to one of Solomon’s own servants. God still honored his covenant with David by leaving a piece of the kingdom to Solomon’s son where his dynasty reigned over the years.

Jeroboam, King of Israel and Rehoboam, King of Judah (1 Kings 11:26 to 1 Kings 14)

Similar to Kings before him, Jeroboam was appointed ruler over Israel through a prophecy. Jeroboam worked for Solomon as a foreman on one of his building projects. However, a meeting with the prophet Ahijah would change his life forever. After tearing his new cloak, the prophet gave Jeroboam 10 pieces of the scraps which symbolized the ten tribes of Israel, thus fulfilling God’s warning to Solomon before he died. Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam after this prophecy and Jeroboam fled to Egypt afterward.

Solomon died years later and his son Rehoboam now held the throne. As the person who threatened his life was now dead, Jeroboam was compelled to come back to Israel and fulfill the prophecy. Meanwhile, Rehoboam was not doing very well as king either. Solomon’s extensive building projects required heavy labor from the people he employed and at Rehoboam’s ascension as king, they petitioned the newly-crowned ruler to lighten their load.

Instead of following his father’s advisers who told him to grant the request of his people, Rehoboam followed the counsel of his friends and rejected the pleas of his own people. This sowed the seeds of discord in his own house resulting in a rebellion, fulfilling God’s warning and Ahijah’s prophecy. The 10 tribes which broke away from the House of David then elected to make Jeroboam as their king.

Descent into Civil War

Rehoboam mobilized an army of 180,000 men from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (1 Kings 12:21) but was thwarted when the prophet Shemaiah told them not to fight their own brothers. Rehoboam’s counterpart in the northern kingdom was also busy making himself gold calves to prevent the people from worshiping in Jerusalem.

Jeroboam had made Shechem the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel and had the gold calves installed in Dan at the northern end of Israel and South in Bethel. In his insecurity, he committed a list of sins that may have surpassed or equaled Solomon in his worship of other gods.

Ahijah prophesied Jeroboam’s downfall in 1 Kings 14:1-19 while Rehoboam and the people of Judah were also busy making themselves Asherah poles and sacred pillars. The Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonq I (the Biblical Shishak) raided Jerusalem during Rehoboam’s reign. There were also constant wars between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah during both kings’ time. Jeroboam outlived two kings of Judah and the few remaining years of his reign overlapped the reign of King Asa of Judah (1 Kings 15:1 and v 9). Wars between the two kingdoms continued until the reign of Baasha of Israel and Asa of Judah.

References:
Picture By Willem de Poorterhttp://www.rijksmuseum.nl/collectie/SK-A-757, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34249416
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Israel, The Twelve Tribes of

The name Israel first appeared in Genesis 32:28 after Jacob wrestled with God at Peniel and reiterated in Genesis 35:9 with a promise of great blessings. Jacob was given the name Israel which in Hebrew means ‘he struggles with God’ and the group of people descended from him were called Israelites. The Twelve Tribes of Israel is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart between 1254 BC – 1004 BC. 

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Division of Tribal Lands in Canaan

The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert before they were allowed by God to defeat the Canaanites who had already settled in the land. By mid-1200 BC and under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites had conquered most of the Promised Land, and the displaced ethnic groups included the following:

Hittites
* Girgashites
* Amorites
* Canaanites
* Perizzites
* Hivites
* Jebusites (although this tribe was still in Jerusalem during the time of David [2 Samuel 5:6])

Joshua 14 gives us a detailed account of the division of lands between the tribes of Israel. With the exemption of the tribe of Levi, who received only towns for their livestock to graze in due to their duty as priests (Numbers 18:24). Joseph received his inheritance through his sons Manasseh and Ephraim, who were claimed by Jacob as his.

This geographical division of land among the Twelve Tribes of Israel existed from the period when judges ruled the land and into the reign of Israel’s kings. Some of the tribes or nations that remained in the area and bordered the land of the Israelites were the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites who most of the time opposed and made war with the Israelites.

Twelve_Tribes_of_Israel
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Judges, Time of the

The Book of Judges chronicles the time between the chaotic period after the death of Joshua up to the appointment of Israel’s first king, Saul. This is listed on the Bible Timeline Poster between 1254 – 1104 BC. Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, had conquered much of Canaan. Except the territories of the Philistines, the Geshurites, and territories of the Canaanites “extending from the stream of Shihor on the border of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron” (Joshua 13:3). A full text of territories yet to be conquered can be read in Joshua 13:1-6 and the division of land among the tribes follows that.

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Judges
Moses and the Ten Commandments

As the time of Joshua’s death approached, he gathered all the tribe leaders and reiterated God’s commandments to them. That they were not to deviate from the laws given through Moses, worship other gods except Yahweh, and intermarry with the remaining people in the land who may lead them astray. These were explicitly and repeatedly stated in Joshua 23:6-16 and 24:14-19. As shown in the Book of Exodus, as well as the succeeding books, the people of Israel were prone to be led astray. There were also several complaints and sporadic bursts of rebellion. Such as the instances when they worshiped the Gold Calf (Exodus 32), their complaints about the manna (Numbers 11:4), and the report of Canaan by the scouts (Numbers 13 and 14).

Confederation of Tribes During the Judges’ Time

The cycle of Israel’s apostasy and deliverance continued to the time of the judges when the tribes of Israel had already settled in most of the conquered lands. These territories, however, were surrounded by hostile peoples and the tribes’ failure to purge them completely was a source of the problem. The condition set out by God through Moses and Joshua was for Israel to follow the Lord and refrain from worshiping other gods, but more often than not this condition was violated, and hostile people soon took over.

List of Judges and Hostile Tribes

Hostile Tribe/Nation Judge
Aram Naharaim Othniel (3:7-11)
Moab Ehud (3:12-30)
Philistia Shamgar (3:31)
Canaan Deborah and Barak (4:1—5:31)
Midian Gideon (6:1—8:35)
Hard times under Abimelech, Tola, and Jair (9:1—10:5)
Ammon Jephthah (10:6—12:7)
Minor judges Ibzan, Alon, and Abdon (12:8—15)
Philistia Samson (13—16)
Samuel is last of the major judges including his sons (1 Samuel 8:1-7)

 

This period of chaos also produced some of Israel’s most courageous leaders and put a spotlight on Deborah, the lone female judge. It also highlights the accomplishments of Gideon, who slew thousands of Midianites and their allies with the help of just 300 Israelite men. One of the most outstanding judges was Samson, who led Israel for 20 years and delivered them from the oppression of the Philistines. He was one of Israel’s last great judges before Samuel.

The succeeding chapters after the heroic sacrifice and victory of Samson in the temple of Dagon (or Dagan, ancient Semitic deity) was of several notable stories about the life of the Israelites. Including the idolatry in the tribe of Dan and Israel’s war with the tribe of Benjamin. The time of the judges ended with the death of Samuel and the appointment of Saul as the first king of Israel.

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Israel under Midianites

Around 1229 BC, Israel found itself under the rule of the Midianites where it is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart. The years following the conquest of Canaan and the death of Joshua saw Israel without a ruler. The book of Judges chronicles Israel’s cycle of worshiping other gods such as

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The book of Judges chronicles Israel’s cycle of worshiping other gods (such as Baal and Asherah) to repentance during times of oppression. This led to deliverance through the leadership of various judges until the appointment of Saul as king over a unified Israel. Various nations, such as Syria or Aram Naharaim (Judges 3:8), Moab (Judges 3:12), Ammon, Amalek, Philistia (Judges 3), and Canaan (Judges 4) took turns in conquering and oppressing the people of Israel. Each time they were delivered by God when they repented. He also appointed judges who led them to victories, such as Othniel (Judges 3:7), Ehud (Judges 3:12), Shamgar (Judges 3:31), and the prophetess Deborah (Judges 4).

Israel_Peace
“An angel announces Gideon his victory against the Midianites.”

This cycle of turning away from God and repentance continued till the time of Gideon, the son of Joash from the tribe of Manasseh. He helped deliver them from the oppression of the Midianites. The Midianites and the Israelites had a long, intertwined history as Midian was one of Abraham’s son by his third wife, Keturah. The Midianites settled in the area of the Sinai peninsula and may have also settled across the Gulf of Aqaba on the west coast of Arabia.

Moses, later, moved to Midian into voluntary exile after killing an Egyptian. He then and married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, priest of Midian. The relationship between two groups of people teetered between alliance (such as in the case of Moses’ father-in-law Jethro and his son Hobab [Numbers 10:29]) and much of the time, hostile aggression.

In Judges 6, Israel once again turned away from God and worshiped other gods. They were handed over to the Midianites. Then they suffered from economic sabotage when Midianites and allied peoples such as the Amalekites destroyed their crops. The livestock was also taken away, reducing the Israelites to starvation.

Raiding and stealing of Israelite crops and livestock was so severe that when God sent an angel to Gideon, he was found “threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). This went on for seven years.

The Israelites were successfully delivered from the oppression of the Midianites through the leadership of Gideon. Other judges followed, delivering the people of Israel from their enemies after Gideon’s death. It even seemed that the Midianites were completely subdued after the time of Gideon and soon faded into obscurity.

References:
http://www.britannica.com/topic/Midianites
Picture By Wolfgang SauberOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34868324