The sons of Jediael (1 Chr 7:10-7:11)

“The son of Jediael was Bilhan. The sons of Bilhan were Jeush, Benjamin, Ehud, Chenaanah, Zethan, Tarshish, and Ahishahar. All these were the sons of Jediael according to the heads of their ancestral houses, mighty warriors, seventeen thousand and two hundred, ready for service in war.”

First, there is the question is this Jediael or Ashbel, or are they the same? There are 2 other biblical people with the same name as Jediael. Did this biblical writer try to eliminate all names that hinted at Baal? This guy had a son named Bilhan, who had 7 sons. The only other Bilhan was a Horite, so that there can be no confusion about him.   4 others have the same name as (1) Jeush. (2) Benjamin is of course the famous son of Jacob whose name appears more than 140 times. It is surprising how few people take the name of their ancestral father. This (3) Ehud, the great grandson of Benjamin might be the same Ehud that was the 2nd judge in Judges, chapter 3. He was a Benjaminite, but the son of Gera. The only other (4) Chenaanah was the father of the false prophet in 1 Kings, chapter 22. (6) Tarshish was the name of a town outside of Canaan. (5) Zethan and (7) Ahishahar only appear here. These sons of Jediael or the Ashbelites have over 17, 200 warriors, once again assuming that this is the time of David.

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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.’

Ehud (Judg 3:12-3:30)

“The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. Yahweh strengthened King Eglon of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of Yahweh. In alliance with the Ammonites and the Amalekites, he went and defeated Israel. They took possession of the city of palms. So the Israelites served King Eglon of Moab eighteen years.”

After the death of Othniel, the Israelites became evil again. The Moabites were considered descendents of Lot. King Eglon of Moab, which was on the other side of Jordan, took over the city of palms, Jericho. He was in an alliance with the Ammonites, who also were east of Gad and Reuben, and the Amalekites who came from the Sinai area. Somehow Yahweh gave the strength to the Moab king, who ruled for 18 years.

“But when the Israelites cried out to Yahweh, Yahweh raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The Israelites sent tribute to King Eglon of Moab with Ehud. Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length. He fastened this sword on his right thigh under his clothes. Then he presented the tribute to King Eglon of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. When Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, King Eglon sent the people who carried the tribute on their way. But he himself turned back at the sculptured stones near Gilgal, and said. ‘I have a secret message for you, O king.’ So the king said.   ‘Silence!’ All his attendants went out from his presence. Ehud came to him, while he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. He said. ‘I have a message from God for you.’ So he arose from his seat. Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon’s belly. The handle also went in after the blade. The fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly. Then the dirt came out. Then Ehud went out into the vestibule. He closed the doors of the roof chamber on him, and locked them.”

Here is the amazing story of how Ehud killed poor fat King Eglon with a ½ yard long sword that stuck in him. Ehud was left handed and had a sword strapped to his right thigh. When he got to Gilgal, Ehud turned back. He said he had a secret message for the king. Then all the others left. He then stabbed King Eglon, who was a very fat man. The sword stuck in his belly. Ehud walked out and locked the door after him.

“After he had gone, the servants came. When they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought. ‘He must be relieving himself in the cool chamber.’ So they waited until they were embarrassed. When he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them. There was their lord lying dead on the floor.”

His guards thought that Eglon was relieving himself, so they left him alone. Finally, they did not know what to do, so they unlocked the chamber to see him dead.

“Ehud escaped while they delayed. He passed beyond the sculptured stones, and escaped to Seirah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim. The Israelites went down with him from the hill country, having him at their head. He said to them. ‘Follow after me. Yahweh has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.’ So they went down after him. They seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, and allowed no one to cross over. At that time they killed about ten thousand of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men. No one escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. The land had rest for eighty years.”

What a great story! Ehud led a troop from Ephraim against the Moabites at the Jordan River. They killed 10,000 Moabite able bodied men. This led to a peace of 80 years, a very long time. Ehud had killed the fat king with his sword and then led a troop that defeated the Moabites. Ehud was judge #2.