Kenaz (1 Chr 4:13-4:14)

“The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. The sons of Othniel were Hathath and Meonothai. Meonothai became the father of Ophrah. Seraiah became the father of Joab, the father of Geharashim, so-called because they were artisans.”

The name Kenaz appears 11 times in biblical literature. There appears to be 2 people with that name, one was a son of Esau in Genesis, chapter 36. The other was the younger brother of Caleb. However, there was a 3rd who was the grandson of Caleb. This Kenaz played a role in Judges, chapter 3, and Joshua, chapter 15, as did his son Othniel. Othniel was the 1st judge of Israel after the death of Joshua so that he is a very important person, as the nephew of Caleb and a judge. However, his sons Hathath and Meonothai are only mentioned here. Ophrah is mentioned 9 times in the biblical literature, about 3 different people, but most of them refer to a particular place in Judges. There 11 different people with the name of Seraiah. Joab is another popular name with 128 occurrences. Obviously Joab, the nephew of David was the most important of the 3 people with this name. However, this Joab is the father of the artisans, the Geharashim that is only mentioned here.

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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.’

Othniel (Judg 3:7-3:11)

“The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh, forgetting Yahweh their God, and worshipping the Baals and the Asherahs. Therefore the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel. He sold them into the hand of King Cushan-rishathaim of Aramnaharaim. The Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the Israelites cried out to Yahweh, Yahweh raised up a deliverer for Israelites, who delivered them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of Yahweh came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war. Then Yahweh gave King Cushan-rishatham of Aram into his hand. His hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.”

The Israelites were worshipping false gods. Baal was a common god among the ancient Mid-eastern people. Asherah was a popular female god. Aram or Aramnaharaim was an area northeast of Canaan, probably what we call Syria today. This would be an early Syrian occupation by Cushan that lasted 8 years. Which territory was involved is not clear. Othniel is both the nephew and son-in-law of Caleb, who is the brother of Kenaz, the father of Othniel. Othniel had married his first cousin, Achsah, the daughter of Caleb. Othniel got the springs and land because of his wife, Achsah, Caleb’s daughter. Thus this 1st judge would be fairly close to the time Joshua since Caleb was a contemporary of his. The spirit of Yahweh came upon Othniel so that he became a judge, like what is to later happen to the other judges and prophets. For 40 years the land was safe while Othniel was the first judge, judge #1.

Caleb, Judah, and Benjamin (Judg 1:11-1:21)

“From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. Then Caleb said. ‘Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, I will give him my daughter Achsah as wife.’ Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it. Caleb gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. As she dismounted from her donkey, Caleb said to her. ‘What do you wish?’ She said to him. ‘Give me a present. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also Gulloth-mayim.’ So Caleb gave her the Upper Gulloth and Lower Gulloth.”

Here we take up the story of Caleb and his daughter that was in Joshua, chapter 15. He gives his daughter to his nephew to marry. However, the explanation is that the land is in the Negeb, the dry area, so that she requests the springs in the upper and lower area of Gulloth. In fact this section is almost a repeat of the stories in Joshua, chapters 10 and 11.

“The descendants of Hobab, the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad. Then they went and settled with the Amalekites. Judah went with his brother Simeon. They defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the city was called Hormah.”

Hobab was the brother-in-law of Moses, but here he is called the father-in-law, when earlier the father-in-law was called Jethro. Arad and Zephath or Hormah were southern towns in the territory of Judah. The Amalekites were a nomadic tribe on the northern Sinai Peninsula, east of Egypt and south of the territory of Judah.

“Judah also took Gaza with its territory, Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. Yahweh was with Judah. He took possession of the hill country, but could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain, because they had chariots of iron.”

Judah then took the three coastal towns of Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron with their surrounding territories, which later become Philistine cities. Yahweh was with Judah in winning all these battles. However, despite Yahweh on their side, they could not conquer the lowland area because the enemy had iron chariots, which Judah did not seem to have.

“Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said. Caleb drove out from it the three sons of Anak. But the Benjaminites did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. The Jebusites have lived in Jerusalem among the Benjaminites to this day.”

There seems to be a contradiction about Jerusalem, which is on the boundary line between Judah and Benjamin. Here the Benjaminites settle it with the local inhabitants, but earlier on the Judahites had won this city completely.