Study Guide

Book of Judges Quotes

  • Men and Masculinity

    Then Caleb said, "Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, I will give him my daughter Achsah as wife." And Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; and he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. (NRSV 1:12-13)

    And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. (KJV 1:12-13)

    Is there any quest manlier than a battle fought for the hand of a beautiful maiden? And yet, could this giving and taking of wives have somehow contributed to Israel's crisis of masculinity?

    But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and crushed his skull. Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armour and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, 'A woman killed him.'" So the young man thrust him through, and he died. (NRSV 9:53)

    And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died. (KJV 9:53)

    Did Abimelech preserve his masculinity with this little stunt, or diminish it? He's obviously most concerned here about his reputation as a man, which he thinks would be diminished if other men knew that a woman had killed him.

    Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, "O Lord, I pray, let the man of God whom you sent come to us again and teach us what we are to do concerning the boy who will be born." (NRSV 13:8)

    Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. (KJV 13:8)

    Manoah might be the most blameless man in Judges, and certainly the most blameless father. He seems excited about being a new daddy, but he's probably scared he's going to mess it up, so he's asking for God's "New Dad" guidebook.

    After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. (NRSV 16:4)

    And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. (KJV 16:4)

    "The purpose of a man is to love a woman."—Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Samson, more than anyone else in Judges, covers the two main requirements of traditional masculinity: love of fighting, and love of women. Does the way his romantic relationships go make him more of a man, or less?

    While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a depraved lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, "Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him." And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing." But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. (NRSV 19:22)

    Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. (KJV 19:22)

    This is the biggest masculinity fail in all of Judges, and is probably the most damning evidence that Israel's morality was in the toilet. Masculinity usually involves the protection of family, but here the men are either cowards who give up those in their care to murderous sexual aggressors, or are the aggressors themselves.

  • Women and Femininity

    At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. (NRSV 4:4)

    And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. (KJV 4:4)

    As in so many other instances, the Bible doesn't give us much detail about Deborah. How old do you think she was? What does she look like in your mind? What does a prophetess wear, and what is her attitude toward others?

    She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, "The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, 'Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun.' […] Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.' And she said, 'I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. (NRSV 4:6, 8-9)

    And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? […] And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. (KJV 4:6, 8-9)

    Doesn't this remind you of when you didn't want to go anywhere without your mom when you were little? What do you think Barak's relationship with Deborah was like? It says Deborah went to war with him. Do you think she actually fought in battle, or was she more of an observer?

    Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
 of tent-dwelling women most blessed. 
He asked water and she gave him milk,
 she brought him curds in a lordly bowl. 
She put her hand to the tent-peg and her right hand to the workmen's mallet; she struck Sisera a blow,
 she crushed his head,
 she shattered and pierced his temple. He sank, he fell,
 he lay still at her feet;
at her feet he sank, he fell;
 where he sank, there he fell dead. (NRSV 5:24)

    Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead. (KJV 5:24)

    After emphasizing Jael's femininity—she's a wife, a woman, and she served Sisera milk and butter—they dwell on an image of the defeated foe bowing at her feet. This juxtaposition makes Israel's victory more triumphant, but does it demean Jael in any way? Is she the hero, or is she a symbol of weakness that just makes Sisera look even lamer?

    But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and crushed his skull. Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armour and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, 'A woman killed him.'" So the young man thrust him through, and he died. (NRSV 9:53)

    And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull. 54 Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died. (KJV 9:53)

    What sort of symbolism can we find in this story? Abimelech, a man, was actively trying to kill the woman, along with everyone else in the tower. She dropped the stone in self-defense. Figuratively speaking, where else does that sort of thing occur?

    She said to him, "My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has given you vengeance against your enemies, the Ammonites." And she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: Grant me two months, so that I may go and wander* on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, my companions and I.""Go," he said and sent her away for two months. So she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made. She had never slept with a man. So there arose an Israelite custom[.] (NRSV 11:36)

    And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel[.] (KJV 11:36)

    This daughter took her duty very seriously. Why not just run away when she had the chance? This passage says a lot about the role of daughters in Israelite society, not to mention about the status of virginity/marriage-less-ness/childlessness. What could those two months in the mountains have consisted of for the daughter and her companions?

    There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, "Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son." (NRSV 13:2-3)

    And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. (KJV 13:2-3)

    In every society, one thing that a man almost certainly cannot do is have a baby, and childbearing can thus be a source of power for women. Why does God seem to often choose a barren woman (or, in at least one case, a virgin) to bear special babies?

    On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, "Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?" So Samson's wife wept before him, saying, "You hate me; you do not really love me. You have asked a riddle of my people, but you have not explained it to me." He said to her, "Look, I have not told my father or my mother. Why should I tell you?" She wept before him for the seven days that their feast lasted; and because she nagged him, on the seventh day he told her. Then she explained the riddle to her people. (NRSV 14:15-17)

    And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. (KJV 14:15-17)

    Was there something about Samson's relationship with his wife, or her relationship with the groomsmen, that prevented her from just telling him the truth? Samson could have saved her, but instead she sides with the guys who eventually kill her anyway. Did she have to? Of all the major female characters in Judges, Samson's wife is probably the most tragic.

    After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The lords of the Philistines came to her and said to her, "Coax him, and find out what makes his strength so great, and how we may overpower him, so that we may bind him in order to subdue him; and we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver." (NRSV 16:4-5)

    And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver. (KJV 16:4-5)

    Here, the lords of the Philistines use Delilah's sexuality as a tool to get what they want, but they pay her handsomely. So… is she being exploited by a male-dominated society, or is she exploiting said society? Delilah, you intriguing lady!

  • Jealousy and Abandonment

    Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, "I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you into the land that I had promised to your ancestors. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you. For your part, do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed my command. See what you have done! So now I say, I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become adversaries* to you, and their gods shall be a snare to you." (NRSV 2:1-3)

    And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. (KJV 2:1-3)

    Why does God leave the other gods in Canaan to be a snare, or trap, for Israel? It's like he's just waiting for them to cheat on him. Is that fair?

    […] and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord, and worshipped Baal and the Astartes. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune, as the Lord had warned them and sworn to them; and they were in great distress. (NRSV 2:12-15)

    And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. (KJV 2:12-15)

    They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but in this case it seems like heaven's fury is at least that bad. Is God afflicting Israel in order to get them to come back to him, or is he jealously exacting vengeance for how badly they hurt his feelings?

    Then the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord; they did not follow their example. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshipping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. (NRSV 2:16-19)

    Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. (KJV 2:16-19)

    In the long-distance relationship that God has with Israel, a go-between really goes a long way. The judges are like love letters between them, because they can communicate their needs and desires through them. When that communication is cut off, the relationship quickly tanks.

    So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; and he said, "Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died." In order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their ancestors did, (NRSV 2:20-22)

    And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. (KJV 2:20-22)

    Is God unfairly comparing the Israel of the past to the present Israel? Because each generation dies and is replaced by their descendants, could God's jealousy be a function of the fact that he, being immortal, constantly outlives his covenant people, and is thus constantly forced to forge new relationships with new partners?

    The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior." Gideon answered him, "But sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our ancestors recounted to us, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian." (NRSV 6:12-13)

    And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. (KJV 6:12-13)

    Are Gideon's feelings justified at all? He assumes that God has abandoned them because there don't seem to be any miracles occurring. If we asked God, though, he would say that it was Israel that abandoned him. If this were a modern relationship, who would the angel represent?

    That night the Lord said to him, "Take your father's bull, the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole* that is beside it; and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of the stronghold here, in proper order; then take the second bull, and offer it as a burnt-offering with the wood of the sacred pole* that you shall cut down." (NRSV 6:25-26)

    And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. (KJV 6:25-26)

    God seems to want Gideon to destroy the altar not only to prevent it from being used, but also as a symbolic gesture that Gideon will be faithful to him. Do lovers ever require or desire similar gestures from their partners?

    And the Lord said to the Israelites, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites oppressed you; and you cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet you have abandoned me and worshipped other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress." (NRSV 10:11-14)

    And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation. (KJV 10:11-14)

    God says, "We are never, ever, ever getting back together," but of course they do get back together later. So why did he say it? Was it meant to teach Israel a lesson, or was he just venting? What do his past actions for Israel have to do with his jealousy?

    After a while, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife, bringing along a kid. He said, "I want to go into my wife's room." But her father would not allow him to go in. Her father said, "I was sure that you had rejected her; so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister prettier than she? Why not take her instead?" Samson said to them, "This time, when I do mischief to the Philistines, I will be without blame." (NRSV 15:1-3)

    But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her. And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. (KJV 15:1-3)

    If anyone's jealousy is justified in Judges, it's Samson's. But is he entirely without blame for this mix-up? Does that say anything about God's relationship with Israel?

  • Violence

    But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The Israelites sent tribute by him to King Eglon of Moab. Ehud came to him, while he was sitting alone in his cool roof-chamber, and said, "I have a message from God for you." So he rose from his seat. Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon's belly […]. (NRSV 3:15, 20-21)

    But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly […]. (KJV 3:15, 20-21)

    This is the first instance of non-military violence in Judges. Is it a good start? Does it strike you as odd that the assassination of a physically disadvantaged victim is so celebrated? How could this be symbolic of God triumphing over his enemies?

    But Jael wife of Heber took a tent-peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground—he was lying fast asleep from weariness—and he died. (NRSV 4:21)

    Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. (KJV 4:21)

    The fact that she doesn't just kill Sisera, but pounds the nail all the way into the ground, is interesting. We know that Jael is justified by God, but what were her motivations? How about her emotions? Is she a cold-blooded killer, or was this terrifying for her?

    He went to his father's house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone; but Jotham, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, for he hid himself. (NRSV 9:5)

    And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. (KJV 9:5)

    What symbolism can you find in Abimelech's murder of Gideon's (Jerubbaal is another name for Gideon) other sons? What about the escape of the youngest son?

    She said to him, "My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has given you vengeance against your enemies, the Ammonites." And she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me: Grant me two months, so that I may go and wander* on the mountains, and bewail my virginity, my companions and I." "Go," he said and sent her away for two months. So she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. At the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to the vow he had made. She had never slept with a man. (NRSV 11:36-39)

    And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. (KJV 11:36-39)

    Was Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter really necessary? It wouldn't be the first time God required someone's death, of course, but this seems like such a fluke. Could this be saying something about the nature of violence and death?

    On the fourth* day they said to Samson's wife, "Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?" (NRSV 14:15)

    And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? (KJV 14:15)

    This is one of the most meaning-laden moves in Judges. She obviously believes their blatant threat to kill her if they don't get what they want. It seems like she must be feeling terrified, and yet she hides it from Samson somehow. Or was he too insensitive to notice? Did she try to tell him?

    Then the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town, took their spoil, and gave the festal garments to those who had explained the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father's house. (NRSV 14:19)

    And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house. (KJV 14:19)

    Whereas in other parts of the Bible, God's spirit is characterized as peaceful, quiet, and soft, in Judges it's almost always linked to anger and violence. Does God's spirit change depending on the circumstances? Why would the circumstances of Judges require it to be violent?

    And Samson said, "With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men." (NRSV 15:16)

    And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. (KJV 15:16)

    He doesn't seem like a reluctant warrior in the least. Indeed, he talks about his feats in poetic, almost sing-song language, as if he enjoys the slaughter. Notice that Samson says that he—not God—killed these men. He was surely aware that his strength came from God. What does it say about him that he never really mentions this until his death?

    So the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles; and he ground at the mill in the prison. (NRSV 16:21)

    But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. (KJV 16:21)

    Why did the Philistines just maim Samson instead of killing him outright? It seems like they kept him alive in order to use him as an example of their dominance. Sometimes violence finds its fullest expression in merely incapacitating enemies rather than killing them.

  • Betrayal

    Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, "Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear." So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. Then he said to her, "Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty." So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. He said to her, "Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say, 'No.'" But Jael wife of Heber took a tent-peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground—he was lying fast asleep from weariness—and he died. (NRSV 4:18-21)

    And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. (KJV 4:18)

    Normally in Middle Eastern culture, a breach of hospitality like this would be condemned. Why don't the rules seem to apply for Israel here? Could this type of betrayal be seen as a warning to Israel? To Israel's neighbors?

    They gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the temple of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. He went to his father's house at Ophrah, and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone; but Jotham, the youngest son of Jerubbaal, survived, for he hid himself. (NRSV 9:4-5)

    And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him. And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. (KJV 9:4-5)

    Although it doesn't say explicitly that Abimelech's brothers ever trusted him to begin with, we're pretty sure it's a given that killing a brother (or 2… or 69) is a betrayal. Ever since the first murder was committed against a brother, fratricide has carried an especially sinful meaning.

    And the Lord said to the Israelites, "Did I not deliver you* from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites oppressed you; and you cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet you have abandoned me and worshipped other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more.
    (NRSV 10:11-13)

    And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. (KJV 10:11-13)

    God is essentially saying, "After all I've done for you, this is the thanks I get?" But of course he didn't exactly do it for these people; he did it for their ancestors. When trust is thrust upon us without invitation, are we obligated to live up to it?

    On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, "Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?" So Samson's wife wept before him, saying, "You hate me; you do not really love me. You have asked a riddle of my people, but you have not explained it to me." He said to her, "Look, I have not told my father or my mother. Why should I tell you?" She wept before him for the seven days that their feast lasted; and because she nagged him, on the seventh day he told her. Then she explained the riddle to her people. The men of the town said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down, "What is sweeter than honey?
 What is stronger than a lion?" 
And he said to them, "If you had not ploughed with my heifer,
 you would not have found out my riddle." (NRSV 14:15-18)

    And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. (KJV 14:15-18)

    Samson's wife surely felt like she was forced to betray him. Even if it's not always as extreme as it is in her case, betrayals often occur when we are pulled in two directions and forced to pick one. With this in mind, does her betrayal seem any less egregious (that's fancy for super awful)?

    And Samson's wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man. (NRSV 14:20)

    But Samson's wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend. (KJV 14:20)

    Of course, betrayal by someone close to you (like a father-in-law) hurts worst of all. But did Samson bring this one upon himself? After all, he wasn't supposed to be entering into romantic relationships with Philistines anyway. Did Samson ask for this one, or is this totally Samson's father-in-law's bad?

    So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me what makes your strength so great, and how you could be bound, so that one could subdue you." (NRSV 16:6)

    And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. (KJV 16:6)

    Why did Samson trust Delilah in the first place? Was he blinded by love? And that brings up the age-old question of how she felt about him. Was she conflicted? Was this a self-betrayal as well? Details are sparse, and it's sort of more fun that way.

    When Delilah realized that he had told her his whole secret […] She let him fall asleep on her lap; and she called a man, and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. He began to weaken, and his strength left him. (NRSV 16:18-19)

    And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, […] And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. (KJV 16:18-19)

    The fact that Samson sleeps on her lap symbolizes the complete faith that he places in her. He willingly surrenders to her, trusting that she won't use this power in a way that will harm him. Why is it so easy sometimes to put our faith in people and things that we shouldn't?