When last we met, a lot of people died. A lot of people. The Bible said that the city of Ai was very small, but just the army of that city alone consisted of 12,000 men. So imagine that number, plus all of the women, children, and men unable to fight in the army. Plus, that was just one small city, the Israelites attacked and destroyed many cities and villages. They wiped out an entire region. Let that simmer for a few minutes. Still God was unhappy, because the Israelites had failed to break down the altars of the people they had defeated. He now refused to help the Israelites defeat their enemies; instead, their enemies would forever be a “thorn” in their side. By thorn in their side, God means I’m going to test the hell out of them by using foreigners to lure the Israelites into worshipping other gods. Whereby, I can have other foreigners attack, kill and enslave them. “Thorn in the side” was somewhat of an understatement. Thorn in the side is like your weird uncle making ridiculous political statements at every family gathering. Thorn in your side is like your little sister forever borrowing you clothes without asking. Enslavement? Slightly more than thorny. So the people wept and most likely tore their clothes. That is what you do in times of sadness. Don’t cry, don’t seek revenge, don’t even shake it off, just tear your clothes.
Over time, the generation of Israelites who had come out of the desert to fight for and win their land died out. The very next generation “knew not what the Lord had done for them.” Really guys? You couldn’t tell bedtime stories about that time God helped you kill thousands upon thousands of people? Ok, maybe not bedtime stories, but how about a sobering talk with your teenager about how your people came to be in the promised land? But that didn’t happen, and the Israelites began intermarrying with the outsiders still living amongst and around them. They also did the worst thing anyone could possibly do: they worshipped other gods. So God sent raiders to plunder and enslave the Israelites. Then God felt bad and “raised up” judges (leaders, judges are leaders of the people) who would set the Israelites back on the path to the correct God and fend off their enemies. The judges were a good idea; they rescued the Israelites from slavery when they wondered astray and brought them back to God. But once each judge died, the little wankers were right back at it, “prostituting” themselves to other gods.
For instance: the Israelites were being naughty, so God “sold them into the hands” of a foreign king. The Israelites got super whiney, so God sent the nephew of Caleb to save everybody, and he did. But once Caleb’s nephew died, the people turned naughty again. So God sold them into slavery again. Then they were saved again by a new judge. So the Israelites are again free and at peace. And then they’re jerks again, rinse and repeat.
Then there was a lady judge, Deborah. She did the judge thing and saved the Israelites from slavery. She got help from another lady, Jael (not an actual judge), who got to put a tent spike through a foreign king’s temple. Gross, right?
And then, there’s judge Gideon. Gideon’s a tool. God comes to Gideon, telling him that He will save the Israelites through him, and Gideon’s all but I’m a loser, and are you sure you’re God? So God does some God stuff to prove who He is. Then He has Gideon destroy an altar built for another god. This pisses people off because the Israelites like their other god, and they want to kill Gideon. But Gideon points out that they shouldn’t kill him, because if the god whose altar he destroyed is angry, that god should punish him. And the people seem to find logic in/agree with that. Then Gideon doubts God again, and God has to do more cool God stuff to prove Himself before Gideon will just do what the hell he was told. Finally, Gideon agreed and called together a huge army. But God didn’t want a huge army. If there was a huge army, the Israelites might think that they had earned the victory for themselves instead of God handing it to them . It had to be really obvious that God was behind it. So, He had Gideon send home all but 300 men. Which men to keep was decided by how they drank water out of a stream. Men who lapped it up like a dog were chosen to fight. The normal ones were sent home. Obviously no manners=mad fighting skills, because with those 300 men, Gideon routed a huge enemy; I think mostly by trickery. Then the 300 chased people down, beheaded the two leaders and brought their heads back to Gideon. Could have sworn I had seen this movie and that the 300 all died. But I was distracted by abs, so really anything could have happened, and I wouldn’t know.
Gideon and his army followed after the bits of the foreign army they hadn’t already killed. (“The rest” of the army is 15,000 men. 15,000 men left out of the huge army that he completely stomped with 300). He tried to to get people in the area to give his army of 300 food and water, but they refused. Eventually, Gideon caught up to the foreign army and killed everybody. Then he went back and punished those who would not give food and water to his army. Some he killed, some he tortured with thorns and briers. He also destroyed their stuff. After he saved the enslaved Israelites, they tried to get Gideon to be their king. But he was all, No, God will be your king. Sounds like a guy on the straight and narrow, right? Wrong. As repayment for saving them, Gideon made all of the rescued Israelites give him a gold earring. (These people somehow escape slavery with riches every time.) Then he made some fancy priests clothes, an ephod, with the earrings, and people began worshipping the ephod. The ephod became a “snare” to Gideon and his family as they lost touch with worshipping God and worshipped Gideon’s pimp suit instead. So much for the straight and narrow. Behold, my gold pimp suit!
And then Gideon died, and the people prostituted themselves to other gods again.
Gideon had 70 sons and an Abimelech, henceforth known as Abi, because Abimelech is hard do type. Abi was Gideon’s concubine baby. After Gideon had died, Abi killed Gideon’s other 70 sons (all 70 in one day, in one place) and claimed the kingship that his father had rejected. Not all of the Israelites were super happy about the whole killing 70 people thing, and some planned to overthrow him. This resulted in a lot of fighting and a lot of death, including people being burned alive in a tower. God was not pleased with Abi and had to punish him for killing his brothers. So, while Abi was sieging a tower, a woman dropped a millstone on his head, craking his skull. At that point, Abi asked the man closest to him to run him through with a sword so that no one could say that a woman had killed him. And so, that asshole died.
And then there are some more judges who don’t get any cool stories. And again the Israelites did evil stuff. Then this random dude had a bunch of sons. One of which, Jephthah (aka Jeph, I’m not typing that every time), was born to a prostitute. Jeph was a mighty warrior, but his brothers kicked him out, because he was a bastard, and they didn’t want him to get any of their inheritance.
Unfortunately, for the brothers, the Israelites were soon under attack from a foreign enemy. Because Jephthah was such a kick-ass warrior, they went to him to ask for help. Jephthah was like, Didn’t you shits kick me out? They responded, Yeah, but we’re little wussies, so if you save us, we’ll make you our leader (judge). And Jeph agreed. He also made an arrangement with God that if God helped him defeat his enemy, he would sacrifice whatever was first to come out of his front door when he got home. Then Jephthah kicked some serious ass, killed some folks and went home. Unfortunately for Jeph, his daughter (and only child) was the first thing to come out of his front door when he got home. Jeph was understandably way upset and tore his clothes, but his daughter told him to do as he had promised. She just wanted one month to roam the hills crying over the fact that she would never be married. No really, that’s what she asked for… and seriously, that’s why she wanted time to grieve. So Jeph gave her a month, and then sacrificed her as a burnt offering. It is extra-special super sad, because she was a virgin.
Later, one of the tribes, Ephraim, came over to Jeph’s turf and got really angry, because Jeph hadn’t invited them to come fight in some battle. Then they had their very own Israelite civil war over whether or not someone had been invited to go and help kill people. 42,000 Ephraimites died, and they lost control of the ford on the River Jordan. Apparently, some tribes had different accents by this time, because after Jeph’s tribe took control of the ford, they would ask anyone trying to cross to pronounce a specific word. If they didn’t pronounce it correctly, they were probably Ephraimite and were immediately killed.
Then Jeph died. And then there were a bunch more judges who were boring. And then… drum roll… motherf’n Samson. Not yet though, you’ll have to wait ’til next time.