The effect of reading the book (2 Chr 34:19-34:21)

“When King Josiah heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king consulted Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micaiah, the secretary Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah. ‘Go! Inquire of Yahweh for me and for all who are left in Israel and Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. The wrath of Yahweh that is poured out on us is great. Our ancestors did not keep the word of Yahweh, to act in accordance with all that is written in this book.’”

Once again, this is practically word for word from 2 Kings, with a few minor changes. After listening to the reading of this book, King Josiah tore his clothes, the sign of anguish, being upset, or mourning. He then called and consulted with a group of people to find out more about this book from Yahweh. This group included the priest Hilkiah, the king’s secretary Shaphan, his son Ahikam, who will later be governor of Judea and a friend of Jeremiah the prophet, as well as Abdon and Asaiah. He mentioned both Israel and Judah and not just Judah as in 2 Kings. The king felt that the wrath of Yahweh was upon them because they and their ancestors had not followed what was written in this book.

The ancestors of Saul at Gibeon (1 Chr 9:35-9:38)

“In Gibeon lived the father of Gibeon, Jeiel. The name of his wife was Maacah. Hs first-born son was Abdon, then Zur, Kish, Baal, Ner, Nadab, Gedor, Ahio, Zechariah and Mikloth. Mikloth became the father of Shimeam. These also lived opposite their kindred in Jerusalem, with their kindred.”

This is exactly the same as in the previous chapter except for Shimeam who was called Shimeah. This is the only time this name appears so it merely was a change from an “h” to an “m.” I will simply repeat what I said last chapter. This is an attempt to show the ancestors of Saul. There are about 10 different people with the name of Jeiel. Jeiel with his wife Maacah had 9 sons. There were 9 different biblical women with the name of Maacah. Gibeon was a city of the Hivites that made a pact with Joshua, Joshua, chapter 9. Gibeon then became a Levitical city in Benjamin territory, about 6 miles northwest from Jerusalem. It is not sure whether there ever was a person called Gibeon. (1) Abdon the first born was the name of one of the judges that preceded Samson in Judges, chapter 12, but there were also a couple of other people with the name of Abdon, including the son of Shashak. There was 1 other (2) Zur who was a king of Midian. There were 5 people with the name of (3) Kish, the most important being the father of Saul. It is not clear whether this is the father of Saul or a great uncle. Although (4) Baal usually refers to the supreme divinity of the Canaanites or any foreign god, there were 2 biblical people with that name, one here and the other a Simeonite. There were 4 biblical people with the name of (5) Nadab, the most famous being the son of Aaron and King Nadab of Israel (910-909 BCE). There are 2 or 3 people named (6) Gedor, but there also was a place called Gedor in the mountains of Judah. (7) Ahio was also the name of one of the sons of Beriah and someone who helped with the ark at the time of David. This is the only time that the name (8) Zecher appears. (9) Mikloth was somehow important because he was the father of Shimeah, which is also the name of one of David’s brothers. They lived in Jerusalem, but it was close to Gibeon.

The sons of Shashak (1 Chr 8:22-8:25)

“Ishpan, Eber, Eliel, Abdon, Zichri, Hanan, Hananiah, Elam, Anthothijah, Iphdeiah, and Penuel were the sons of Shashak.”

This Shashak, who was the son of the Benjaminite Beriah, had 11 sons. (1) Ishpan, (9) Anthothijah, and (10) Iphdeiah appear only here. (2) Eber was the same name as the son of Elpaal, while (3) Eliel is the same name as a son of Shimei. (4) Abdon was the name of one of the judges that preceded Samson in Judges, chapter 12, but there were also a couple of other people with the name of Abdon. There were 12 other people with the name of (5) Zichri with 4 of them being Benjaminites including the son of Shimei just mentioned before this. There were 9 people named (6) Hanan, but none of them Benjaminites besides this one. 13 people had the name of (7) Hananiah, while 5 others were named (8) Elam. There were 2 people with the name of (11) Penuel, but that was a town on the east side of the Jordan River that Gideon had some trouble with in Judges, chapter 8.

The towns of the Gershonites (1 Chr 6:71-6:76)

“To the Gershonites were given out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Golan in Bashan with its pasture lands and Ashtaroth with its pasture lands. Out of the tribe of Issachar were given Kedesh with its pasture lands, Daberath with its pasture lands, and Ramoth with its pasture lands, and Anem with its pasture lands. Out of the tribe of Asher were given Mashal with its pasture lands, Abdon with its pasture lands, and Hukok with its pasture lands, and Rehob with its pasture lands.   Out of the tribe of Naphtali were given Kedesh in Galilee with its pasture lands, Hammon with its pasture lands, and Kiriathaim with its pasture lands.”

Here are the details about the towns given to the Gershonites, based on Joshua, chapter 21. From the half-tribe of Manasseh the Gershonites got 2 towns. 1 was the refuge town of (1) Golan as in Joshua, but the other was (2) Ashtaroth and not Beeshterah that was mentioned in Joshua. There were 4 towns given to the Gershonites from the tribe of Issachar, (1) Kedesh, (2) Daberath, (3) Ramoth, and (4) Anem. Only Daberath is the same as in Joshua. Here Kedesh takes the place of Kishion. Ramoth takes the place of Jarmuth. Anem takes the place of En-gannim. There were 4 from Asher, (1) Mashal, (2) Abdon, (3) Hukok, and (4) Rehob. Here 3 of the 4 are exactly the same as in Joshua. Only Hukok takes the place of Helkath, which sounds close enough. Finally the 3 towns of Naphtali were (1) Kedesh in Galilee, (2) Hammon, and (3) Kiriathaim. Kedesh is the same but there are differences as Hammon takes the place of Hammoth-dor, while Kiriathaim takes the place of Kartan in Joshua.

My Understanding of Judges

The Book of Judges is a series of odd stories about the twelve judges in Israel. Some judges seem important and others do not. There was no set pattern of how the judges came to be judges. However, all of them receive ‘the Spirit of Yahweh.’ These judges seem more like military leaders who are then somehow put in charge to keep peace.

However, there is a practical mini-play within each judge story. The Israelites do evil or bad things that displease Yahweh. They usually turn away from Yahweh to Baals or other gods. Then the enemies of Israel get an upper hand. So then the people cry to Yahweh for a leader. Yahweh then sends his ‘Spirit’ on this new leader. The new leader or judge defeats the enemy. Peace is then restored temporarily or for a period of time, until the next incident occurs.

The basic structure is simple. There are two introductions summarizing what had happened to Canaan and what was going on there. Then the stories of the twelve judges unfolded. Finally there is an appendix about the Danites and Benjaminites and what happened to them.

Judges seems to have two sources. One seems to be a collection of oral stories about local tribal heroes. The second source might be a lost book about the wars of Israel. It is not clear whether this was a compilation of stories or the work of one individual putting them together. Clearly there was a monarchist tendency with a pro-Judah stance that would date it to the time of the kings or later. Judges talks about this period being a time without kings so that everyone did what they thought was right. It definitely is in the Deuteronomytradition, following up on Joshua. Once again, this would put the final redaction and writing of this book in the sixth or seventh century BCE around the time of the Exile. In fact, in the appendix there is a mention of ‘up to the time of the captivity.’

The six major judges are Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, a female judge, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, a real super hero. The six lesser judges are Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. The last six are barely mentioned with just a sentence or two about them. On the other hand, the major judges have wonderful stories or incidents around their lives. The four major ones, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson have longer more elaborate stories, while Othniel and Ehud have only one simple story about them.

Each judge had an enemy. Othniel fought the King of Aram. Ehud killed the fat King Eglon the Moabite in his chamber. Deborah with Barak the field general fought Sisera, the captain of King Jabin at Hazor. Judges then has a beautiful canticle where Deborah empathizes with Sisera’s mother. Gideon fought against the gods of Baal. He was involved in a lot of battles with the people on the east side of the Jordan, particularly the Midianites and the Amalekites. Abimelech, the bastard son of Gideon, killed his seventy brothers. He was like the first king, at least of a certain area around Shechem. Jephthah fought against the Ammonites. Then, of course, super hero strong Samson fought against the Philistines. There are some fantastic stories about Samson, his riddles, his super strength, Delilah and the cutting his hair, with his final suicide destruction of the Philistine temple.

The Appendix at the end of this book has two stories without judges, about the Danites and Benjaminites. Both stories are quirky. Somehow this guy Micah had his own little shrine. However, the Danites took his Levite priest and his idol. They then attacked the northern town of Laish and established themselves in northern Israel.

The other story took place at Gibeah, where there was this terrible incident that almost led to the extinction of the Benjaminites. Some townspeople raped and killed the concubine of a Levite, who got everyone relied up against the people of Gibeah. The Benjaminites took issue and were nearly wiped out in a battle with the rest of Israel. Then they find a strange way to help the Benjamin tribe survive.

So the period of time when everyone did what they wanted was slowing coming to an end. Judges is a fairly good example of the various tribal skirmishes that took place in the Promised Land. Sometimes, it was tribe against tribe, while other times, there was a common enemy. Each one of the judges had a call from Yahweh. They were not kings, but more like fighting prophets filled with the ‘Spirit of Yahweh.’

Abdon (Judg 12:13-12:15)

“After Elon, Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite died. He was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.”

There are a lot of biblical people with the name of Abdon. Pirathon is a town near Jappa in Ephraim. He had a strange combination of sons and grandsons that added up to 70. Each one of them had a donkey. He ruled as judge for 8 years. He was judge #11. This sets the stage for judge #12, Samson, the most famous of all the judges. Most of these judges had large families with many children. However, the children seem to have very little impact.