Now, therefore, as Gideon was relating this to some young men, they believed him, and immediately there was an army of ten thousand men got ready for fighting. But God stood by Gideon in his sleep, and told him that mankind were too fond of themselves, and were enemies to such as excelled in virtue. Now that they might not pass God over, but ascribe the victory to him, and might not fancy it obtained by their own power, because they were a great many, and able of themselves to fight their enemies, but might confess that it was owing to his assistance, he advised him to bring his army about noon, in the violence of the heat, to the river, and to esteem those that bent down on their knees, and so drank, to be men of courage; but for all those that drank tumultuously, that he should esteem them to do it out of fear, and as in dread of their enemies. And when Gideon had done as God had suggested to him, there were found three hundred men that took water with their hands tumultuously; so God bid him take these men, and attack the enemy. Accordingly they pitched their camp at the river Jordan, as ready the next day to pass over it.
But Gideon was in great fear, for God had told him beforehand that he should set upon his enemies in the night-time; but God, being willing to free him from his fear, bid him take one of his soldiers, and go near to the Midianites' tents, for that he should from that very place have his courage raised, and grow bold. So he obeyed, and went and took his servant Phurah with him; and as he came near to one of the tents, he discovered that those that were in it were awake, and that one of them was telling to his fellow soldier a dream of his own, and that so plainly that Gideon could hear him.
The dream was this: - He thought he saw a barley-cake, such a one as could hardly be eaten by men, it was so vile, rolling through the camp, and overthrowing the royal tent, and the tents of all the soldiers. Now the other soldier explained this vision to mean the destruction of the army; and told them what his reason was which made him so conjecture, viz. That the seed called barley was all of it allowed to be of the vilest sort of seed, and that the Israelites were known to be the vilest of all the people of Asia, agreeably to the seed of barley, and that what seemed to look big among the Israelites was this Gideon and the army that was with him;
"and since thou sayest thou didst see the cake overturning our tents, I am afraid lest God hath granted the victory over us to Gideon."
When Gideon had heard this dream, good hope and courage came upon him; and he commanded his soldiers to arm themselves, and told them of this vision of their enemies. They also took courage at what was told them, and were ready to perform what he should enjoin them. So Gideon divided his army into three parts, and brought it out about the fourth watch of the night, each part containing a hundred men: they all bare empty pitchers and lighted lamps in their hands, that their onset might not be discovered by their enemies. They had also each of them a ram's horn in his right hand, which he used instead of a trumpet. The enemy's camp took up a large space of ground, for it happened that they had a great many camels; and as they were divided into different nations, so they were all contained in one circle. Now when the Hebrews did as they were ordered beforehand, upon their approach to their enemies, and, on the signal given, sounded with their rams' horns, and brake their pitchers, and set upon their enemies with their lamps, and a great shout, and cried,
"Victory to Gideon, by God's assistance,"
a disorder and a fright seized upon the other men while they were half asleep, for it was night-time, as God would have it; so that a few of them were slain by their enemies, but the greatest part by their own soldiers, on account of the diversity of their language; and when they were once put into disorder, they killed all that they met with, as thinking them to be enemies also. Thus there was a great slaughter made. And as the report of Gideon's victory came to the Israelites, they took their weapons and pursued their enemies, and overtook them in a certain valley encompassed with torrents, a place which these could not get over; so they encompassed them, and slew them all, with their kings, Oreb and Zeeb.
But the remaining captains led those soldiers that were left, which were about eighteen thousand, and pitched their camp a great way off the Israelites. However, Gideon did not grudge his pains, but pursued them with all his army, and joining battle with them, cut off the whole enemies' army, and took the other leaders, Zeba and Zalmuna, and made them captives. Now there were slain in this battle of the Midianites, and of their auxiliaries the Arabians, about a hundred and twenty thousand; and the Hebrews took a great prey, gold, and silver, and garments, and camels, and asses. And when Gideon was come to his own country of Ophrah, he slew the kings of the Midianites.
However, the tribe of Ephraim was so displeased at the good success of Gideon, that they resolved to make war against him, accusing him because he did not tell them of his expedition against their enemies. But Gideon, as a man of temper, and that excelled in every virtue, pleaded, that it was not the result of his own authority or reasoning, that made him attack the enemy without them; but that it was the command of God, and still the victory belonged to them as well as those in the army. And by this method of cooling their passions, he brought more advantage to the Hebrews, than by the success he had against these enemies, for he thereby delivered them from a sedition which was arising among them; yet did this tribe afterwards suffer the punishment of this their injurious treatment of Gideon, of which we will give an account in due time.
Hereupon Gideon would have laid down the government, but was over-persuaded to take it, which he enjoyed forty years, and distributed justice to them, as the people came to him in their differences; and what he determined was esteemed valid by all. And when he died, he was buried in his own country of Ophrah.
Judges after Gideon make war
NOW Gideon had seventy sons that were legitimate, for he had many wives; but he had also one that was spurious, by his concubine Drumah, whose name was Abimelech, who, after his father's death, retired to Shecbem to his mother's relations, for they were of that place: and when he had got money of such of them as were eminent for many instances of injustice, he came with them to his father's house, and slew all his brethren, except Jotham, for he had the good fortune to escape and be preserved; but Abimelech made the government tyrannical, and constituted himself a lord, to do what he pleased, instead of obeying the laws; and he acted most rigidly against those that were the patrons of justice.
Now when, on a certain time, there was a public festival at Shechem, and all the multitude was there gathered together, Jotham his brother, whose escape we before related, went up to Mount Gerizzim, which hangs over the city Shechem, and cried out so as to be heard by the multitude, who were attentive to him. He desired they would consider what he was going to say to them: so when silence was made, he said, That when the trees had a human voice, and there was an assembly of them gathered together, they desired that the fig-tree would rule over them; but when that tree refused so to do, because it was contented to enjoy that honor which belonged peculiarly to the fruit it bare, and not that which should be derived to it from abroad, the trees did not leave off their intentions to have a ruler, so they thought proper to make the offer of that honor to the vine; but when the vine was chosen, it made use of the same words which the fig-tree had used before, and excused itself from accepting the government: and when the olive-tree had done the same, the brier, whom the trees had desired to take the kingdom, (it is a sort of wood good for firing,) it promised to take the government, and to be zealous in the exercise of it; but that then they must sit down under its shadow, and if they should plot against it to destroy it, the principle of fire that was in it should destroy them.
He told them, that what he had said was no laughing matter; for that when they had experienced many blessings from Gideon, they overlooked Abimelech, when he overruled all, and had joined with him in slaying his brethren; and that he was no better than a fire himself. So when he had said this, he went away, and lived privately in the mountains for three years, out of fear of Abimelech.
A little while after this festival, the Shechemites, who had now repented themselves of having slain the sons of Gideon, drove Abimelech away, both from their city and their tribe; whereupon he contrived how he might distress their city. Now at the season of vintage, the people were afraid to go out and gather their fruits, for fear Abimelech should do them some mischief. Now it happened that there had come to them a man of authority, one Gaal, that sojourned with them, having his armed men and his kinsmen with him; so the Shechemites desired that he would allow them a guard during their vintage; whereupon he accepted of their desires, and so the people went out, and Gaal with them at the head of his soldiery. So they gathered their fruit with safety; and when they were at supper in several companies, they then ventured to curse Abimelech openly; and the magistrates laid ambushes in places about the city, and caught many of Abimelech's followers, and destroyed them.
Now there was one Zebul, a magistrate of the Shechemites, that had entertained Abimelech. He sent messengers, and informed him how much Gaal had irritated the people against him, and excited him to lay ambushes before the city, for that he would persuade Gaal to go out against him, which would leave it in his power to be revenged on him; and when that was once done, he would bring him to be reconciled to the city. So Abimelech laid ambushes, and himself lay with them. Now Gaal abode in the suburbs, taking little care of himself; and Zebul was with him. Now as Gaal saw the armed men coming on, he said to Zebul, That some armed men were coming; but the other replied, They were only shadows of huge stones: and when they were come nearer, Gaal perceived what was the reality, and said, They were not shadows, but men lying in ambush. Then said Zebul,
"Didst not thou reproach Abimelech for cowardice? why dost thou not then show how very courageous thou art thyself, and go and fight him?"
So Gaal, being in disorder, joined battle with Abimelech, and some of his men fell; whereupon he fled into the city, and took his men with him. But Zebul managed his matters so in the city, that he procured them to expel Gaal out of the city, and this by accusing him of cowardice in this action with the soldiers of Ahimelech. But Abimelech, when he had learned that the Shechemites were again coming out to gather their grapes, placed ambushes before the city, and when they were coming out, the third part of his army took possession of the gates, to hinder the citizens from returning in again, while the rest pursued those that were scattered abroad, and so there was slaughter every where; and when he had overthrown the city to the very foundations, for it was not able to bear a siege, and had sown its ruins with salt, he proceeded on with his army till all the Shechemites were slain.
As for those that were scattered about the country, and so escaped the danger, they were gathered together unto a certain strong rock, and settled themselves upon it, and prepared to build a wall about it: and when Abimelech knew their intentions, he prevented them, and came upon them with his forces, and laid faggots of dry wood round the place, he himself bringing some of them, and by his example encouraging the soldiers to do the same. And when the rock was encompassed round about with these faggots, they set them on fire, and threw in whatsoever by nature caught fire the most easily: so a mighty flame was raised, and nobody could fly away from the rock, but every man perished, with their wives and children, in all about fifteen hundred men, and the rest were a great number also. And such was the calamity which fell upon the Shechemites; and men's grief on their account had been greater than it was, had they not brought so much mischief on a person who had so well deserved of them, and had they not themselves esteemed this as a punishment for the same.
Now Abimelech, when he had affrighted the Israelites with the miseries he had brought upon the Shechemites, seemed openly to affect greater authority than he now had, and appeared to set no bounds to his violence, unless it were with the destruction of all. Accordingly he marched to Thebes, and took the city on the sudden; and there being a great tower therein, whereunto the whole multitude fled, he made preparation to besiege it. Now as he was rushing with violence near the gates, a woman threw a piece of a millstone upon his head, upon which Abimelech fell down, and desired his armor-bearer to kill him lest his death should be thought to be the work of a woman: - who did what he was bid to do. So he underwent this death as a punishment for the wickedness he had perpetrated against his brethren, and his insolent barbarity to the Shechemites. Now the calamity that happened to those Shechemites was according to the prediction of Jotham, However, the army that was with Abimelech, upon his fall, was scattered abroad, and went to their own homes.
Now it was that Jair the Gileadite, of the tribe of Manasseh, took the government. He was a man happy in other respects also, but particularly in his children, who were of a good character. They were thirty in number, and very skillful in riding on horses, and were entrusted with the government of the cities of Gilead. He kept the government twenty-two years, and died an old man; and he was buried in Camon, a city of Gilead.
And now all the affairs of the Hebrews were managed uncertainly, and tended to disorder, and to the contempt of God and of the laws. So the Ammonites and Philistines had them in contempt, and laid waste the country with a great army; and when they had taken all Perea, they were so insolent as to attempt to gain the possession of all the rest. But the Hebrews, being now amended by the calamities they had undergone, betook themselves to supplications to God; and brought sacrifices to him, beseeching him not to be too severe upon them, but to be moved by their prayers to leave off his anger against them. So God became more merciful to them, and was ready to assist them.
When the Ammonites had made an expedition into the land of Gilead, the inhabitants of the country met them at a certain mountain, but wanted a commander. Now there was one whose name was Jephtha, who, both on account of his father's virtue, and on account of that army which he maintained at his own expenses, was a potent man: the Israelites therefore sent to him, and entreated him to come to their assistance, and promised him the dominion over them all his lifetime. But he did not admit of their entreaty; and accused them, that they did not come to his assistance when he was unjustly treated, and this in an open manner by his brethren; for they cast him off, as not having the same mother with the rest, but born of a strange mother, that was introduced among them by his father's fondness; and this they did out of a contempt of his inability [to vindicate himself]. So he dwelt in the country of Gilead, as it is called, and received all that came to him, let them come from what place soever, and paid them wages. However, when they pressed him to accept the dominion, and sware they would grant him the government over them all his life, he led them to the war.
And when Jephtha had taken immediate care of their affairs, he placed his army at the city Mizpeh, and sent a message to the Ammonite [king], complaining of his unjust possession of their land. But that King sent a contrary message; and complained of the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, and desired him to go out of the land of the Amorites, and yield it up to him, as at first his paternal inheritance. But Jephtha returned this answer: That he did not justly complain of his ancestors about the land of the Amorites, and ought rather to thank them that they left the land of the Ammonites to them, since Moses could have taken it also; and that neither would he recede from that land of their own, which God had obtained for them, and they had now inhabited [above] three hundred years, but would fight with them about it.
And when he had given them this answer, he sent the ambassadors away. And when he had prayed for victory, and had vowed to perform sacred offices, and if he came home in safety, to offer in sacrifice what living creature soever should first meet him, he joined battle with the enemy, and gained a great victory, and in his pursuit slew the enemies all along as far as the city of Minnith. He then passed over to the land of the Ammonites, and overthrew many of their cities, and took their prey, and freed his own people from that slavery which they had undergone for eighteen years.
But as he came back, he fell into a calamity no way correspondent to the great actions he had done; for it was his daughter that came to meet him; she was also an only child and a virgin: upon this Jephtha heavily lamented the greatness of his affliction, and blamed his daughter for being so forward in meeting him, for he had vowed to sacrifice her to God. However, this action that was to befall her was not ungrateful to her, since she should die upon occasion of her father's victory, and the liberty of her fellow citizens: she only desired her father to give her leave, for two months, to bewail her youth with her fellow citizens; and then she agreed, that at the aforementioned thee he might do with her according to his vow. Accordingly, when that time was over, he sacrificed his daughter as a burnt-offering, offering such an oblation as was neither conformable to the law nor acceptable to God, not weighing with himself what opinion the hearers would have of such a practice.
Now the tribe of Ephraim fought against him, because he did not take them along with him in his expedition against the Ammonites, but because he alone had the prey, and the glory of what was done to himself. As to which he said, first, that they were not ignorant how his kindred had fought against him, and that when they were invited, they did not come to his assistance, whereas they ought to have come quickly, even before they were invited. And in the next place, that they were going to act unjustly; for while they had not courage enough to fight their enemies, they came hastily against their own kindred: and he threatened them that, with God's assistance, he would inflict a punishment upon them, unless they would grow wiser. But when he could not persuade them, he fought with them with those forces which he sent for out of Gilead, and he made a great slaughter among them; and when they were beaten, he pursued them, and seized on the passages of Jordan by a part of his army which he had sent before, and slew about forty-two thousand of them.
So when Jephtha had ruled six years, he died, and was buried in his own country, Sebee, which is a place in the land of Gilead.
Now when Jephtha was dead, Ibzan took the government, being of the tribe of Judah, and of the city of Bethlehem. He had sixty children, thirty of them sons, and the rest daughters; all whom he left alive behind him, giving the daughters in marriage to husbands, and taking wives for his sons. He did nothing in the seven years of his administration that was worth recording, or deserved a memorial. So he died an old man, and was buried in his own country.
When Ibzan was dead after this manner, neither did Helon, who succeeded him in the government, and kept it ten years, do any thing remarkable: he was of the tribe of Zebulon.
Abdon also, the son of Hilel, of the tribe of Ephraim, and born at the city Pyrathon, was ordained their supreme governor after Helon. He is only recorded to have been happy in his children; for the public affairs were then so peaceable, and in such security, that neither did he perform any glorious action. He had forty sons, and by them left thirty grandchildren; and he marched in state with these seventy, who were all very skillful in riding horses; and he left them all alive after him. He died an old man, and obtained a magnificent burial in Pyrathon.
Strength of Samson and his deeds against Philistines
AFTER Abdon was dead, the Philistines overcame the Israelites, and received tribute of them for forty years; from which distress they were delivered after this manner: -
There was one Manoah, a person of such great virtue, that he had few men his equals, and without dispute the principal person of his country. He had a wife celebrated for her beauty, and excelling her contemporaries. He had no children; and, being uneasy at his want of posterity, he entreated God to give them seed of their own bodies to succeed them; and with that intent he came constantly into the suburbs together with his wife; which suburbs were in the Great Plain. Now he was fond of his wife to a degree of madness, and on that account was unmeasurably jealous of her.
Now, when his wife was once alone, an apparition was seen by her: it was an angel of God, and resembled a young man beautiful and tall, and brought her the good news that she should have a son, born by God's providence , that should be a goodly child, of great strength; by whom, when he was grown up to man's estate, the Philistines should be afflicted. He exhorted her also not to poll his hair, and that he should avoid all other kinds of drink, (for so had God commanded,) and be entirely contented with water. So the angel, when he had delivered that message, went his way, his coming having been by the will of God.
Now the wife informed her husband when he came home of what the angel had said, who showed so great an admiration of the beauty and tallness of the young man that had appeared to her, that her husband was astonished, and out of himself for jealousy, and such suspicions as are excited by that passion: but she was desirous of having her husband's unreasonable sorrow taken away; accordingly she entreated God to send the angel again, that he might be seen by her husband. So the angel came again by the favor of God, while they were in the suburbs, and appeared to her when she was alone without her husband. She desired the angel to stay so long till she might bring her husband; and that request being granted, she goes to call Manoah. When he saw the angel he was not yet free from suspicion, and he desired him to inform him of all that he had told his wife; but when he said it was sufficient that she alone knew what he had said, he then requested of him to tell who he was, that when the child was born they might return him thanks, and give him a present.
He replied that he did not want any present, for that he did not bring them the good news of the birth of a son out of the want of any thing. And when Manoah had entreated him to stay, and partake of his hospitality, he did not give his consent. However he was persuaded, at the earnest request of Manoah to stay so long as while he brought him one mark of his hospitality; so he slew a kid of the goats, and bid his wife boil it. When all was ready, the angel enjoined him to set the loaves and the flesh, but without the vessels, upon the rock; which when they had done, he touched the flesh with the rod which he had in his hand, which, upon the breaking out of a flame, was consumed, together with the loaves; and the angel ascended openly, in their sight, up to heaven, by means of the smoke, as by a vehicle. Now Manoah was afraid that some danger would come to them from this sight of God; but his wife bade him be of good courage, for that God appeared to them for their benefit.
So the woman proved with child, and was careful to observe the injunctions that were given her; and they called the child, when he was born, Samson, which name signifies one that is strong. So the child grew apace; and it appeared evidently that he would be a prophet, both by the moderation of his diet, and the permission of his hair to grow.
Now when he once came with his parents to Timhath, a city of the Philistines, when there was a great festival, he fell in love with a maid of that country, and he desired of his parents that they would procure him the damsel for his wife: but they refused so to do, because she was not of the stock of Israel; yet because this marriage was of God, who intended to convert it to the benefit of the Hebrews, he over-persuaded them to procure her to be espoused to him. And as he was continually coming to her parents, he met a lion, and though he was naked, he received his onset, and strangled him with his hands, and cast the wild beast into a woody piece of ground on the inside of the road.
And when he was going another time to the damsel, he lit upon a swarm of bees making their combs in the breast of that lion; and taking three honey-combs away, he gave them, together with the rest of his presents, to the damsel. Now the people of Timhath, out of a dread of the young man's strength, gave him during the time of the wedding-feast (for he then feasted them all) thirty of the most stout of their youth, in pretense to be his companions, but in reality to be a guard upon him, that he might not attempt to give them any disturbance. Now as they were drinking merrily and playing, Samson said, as was usual at such times,
"Come, if I propose you a riddle, and you can expound it in these seven days' thee, I will give you every one a linen shirt and a garment, as the reward of your wisdom."
So they being very ambitious to obtain the glory of wisdom, together with the gains, desired him to propose his riddle. He,
"That a devourer produced sweet food out of itself, though itself were very disagreeable."
And when they were not able, in three days' time, to find out the meaning of the riddle, they desired the damsel to discover it by the means of her husband, and tell it them; and they threatened to burn her if she did not tell it them. So when the damsel entreated Samson to tell it her, he at first refused to do it; but when she lay hard at him, and fell into tears, and made his refusal to tell it a sign of his unkindness to her, he informed her of his slaughter of a lion, and how he found bees in his breast, and carried away three honey-combs, and brought them to her. Thus he, suspecting nothing of deceit, informed her of all, and she revealed it to those that desired to know it. Then on the seventh day, whereon they were to expound the riddle proposed to them, they met together before sun-setting, and said,
"Nothing is more disagreeable than a lion to those that light on it, and nothing is sweeter than honey to those that make use of it."
To which Samson made this rejoinder:
"Nothing is more deceitful than a woman for such was the person that discovered my interpretation to you."
Accordingly he gave them the presents he had promised them, making such Askelonites as met him upon the road his prey, who were themselves Philistines also. But he divorced this his wife; and the girl despised his anger, and was married to his companion, who made the former match between them.
At this injurious treatment Samson was so provoked, that he resolved to punish all the Philistines, as well as her: so it being then summer-time, and the fruits of the land being almost ripe enough for reaping, he caught three hundred foxes, and joining lighted torches to their tails,he sent them into the fields of the Philistines, by which means the fruits of the fields perished. Now when the Philistines knew that this was Samson's doing, and knew also for what cause he did it, they sent their rulers to Timhath, and burnt his former wife, and her relations, who had been the occasion of their misfortunes.
Now when Samson had slain many of the Philistines in the plain country, he dwelt at Etam, which is a strong rock of the tribe of Judah; for the Philistines at that time made an expedition against that tribe: but the people of Judah said that they did not act justly with them, in inflicting punishments upon them while they paid their tribute, and this only on account of Samson's offenses. They answered, that in case they would not be blamed themselves, they must deliver up Samson, and put him into their power. So they being desirous not to be blamed themselves, came to the rock with three thousand armed men, and complained to Samson of the bold insults he had made upon the Philistines, who were men able to bring calamity upon the whole nation of the Hebrews; and they told him they were come to take him, and to deliver him up to them, and put him into their power; so they desired him to bear this willingly.
Accordingly, when he had received assurance from them upon oath, that they would do him no other harm than only to deliver him into his enemies' hands, he came down from the rock, and put himself into the power of his countrymen. Then did they bind him with two cords, and lead him on, in order to deliver him to the Philistines; and when they came to a certain place, which is now called the Jaw-bone, on account of the great action there performed by Samson, though of old it had no particular name at all, the Philistines, who had pitched their camp not far off, came to meet them with joy and shouting, as having done a great thing, and gained what they desired; but Samson broke his bonds asunder, and catching up the jaw-bone of an ass that lay down at his feet, fell upon his enemies, and smiting them with his jaw-bone, slew a thousand of them, and put the rest to flight and into great disorder.
Upon this slaughter Samson was too proud of what he had performed, and said that this did not come to pass by the assistance of God, but that his success was to be ascribed to his own courage; and vaunted himself, that it was out of a dread of him that some of his enemies fell and the rest ran away upon his use of the jaw-bone; but when a great thirst came upon him, he considered that human courage is nothing, and bare his testimony that all is to be ascribed to God, and besought him that he would not be angry at any thing he had said, nor give him up into the hands of his enemies, but afford him help under his affliction, and deliver him from the misfortune he was under. Accordingly God was moved with his entreaties, and raised him up a plentiful fountain of sweet water at a certain rock whence it was that Samson called the place the Jaw-bone, transgressed the laws of his country, and altered his own regular way of living, and imitated the strange customs of foreigners, which thing was the beginning of his miseries; for he fell in love with a woman that was a harlot among the Philistines: her name was Delilah, and he lived with her. So those that administered the public affairs of the Philistines came to her, and, with promises, induced her to get out of Samson what was the cause of that his strength, by which he became unconquerable to his enemies. Accordingly, when they were drinking, and had the like conversation together, she pretended to admire the actions he had done, and contrived to get out of him by subtlety, by what means he so much excelled others in strength. Samson, in order to delude Delilah, for he had not yet lost his senses, replied, that if he were bound with seven such green withs of a vine as might still be wreathed, he should be weaker than any other man.
The woman said no more then, but told this to the rulers of the Philistines, and hid certain of the soldiers in ambush within the house; and when he was disordered in drink and asleep, she bound him as fast as possible with the withs; and then upon her awakening him, she told him some of the people were upon him; but he broke the withs, and endeavored to defend himself, as though some of the people were upon him. Now this woman, in the constant conversation Samson had with her, pretended that she took it very ill that he had such little confidence in her affections to him, that he would not tell her what she desired, as if she would not conceal what she knew it was for his interest to have concealed.
However, he deluded her again, and told her, that if they bound him with seven cords, he should lose his strength. And when, upon doing this, she gained nothing, he told her the third thee, that his hair should be woven into a web; but when, upon doing this, the truth was not yet discovered, at length Samson, upon Delilah's prayer, (for he was doomed to fall into some affliction,) was desirous to please her, and told her that God took care of him, and that he was born by his providence, and that
"thence it is that I suffer my hair to grow, God having charged me never to poll my head, and thence my strength is according to the increase and continuance of my hair."
When she had learned thus much, and had deprived him of his hair, she delivered him up to his enemies, when he was not strong enough to defend himself from their attempts upon him; so they put out his eyes, and bound him, and had him led about among them.
But in process of time Samson's hair grew again. And there was a public festival among the Philistines, when the rulers, and those of the most eminent character, were feasting together; (now the room wherein they were had its roof supported by two pillars ;) so they sent for Samson, and he was brought to their feast, that they might insult him in their cups. Hereupon he, thinking it one of the greatest misfortunes, if he should not be able to revenge himself when he was thus insulted, persuaded the boy that led him by the hand, that he was weary and wanted to rest himself, and desired he would bring him near the pillars; and as soon as he came to them, he rushed with force against them, and overthrew the house, by overthrowing its pillars, with three thousand men in it, who were all slain, and Samson with them.
And such was the end of this man, when he had ruled over the Israelites twenty years. And indeed this man deserves to be admired for his courage and strength, and magnanimity at his death, and that his wrath against his enemies went so far as to die himself with them. But as for his being ensnared by a woman, that is to be ascribed to human nature, which is too weak to resist the temptations to that sin; but we ought to bear him witness, that in all other respects he was one of extraordinary virtue. But his kindred took away his body, and buried it in Sarasat his own country, with the rest of his family.
Boaz marries Ruth, become great grandparents of David
NOW after the death of Samson, Eli the high priest was governor of the Israelites. Under him, when the country was afflicted with a famine, Elimelech of Bethlehem, which is a city of the tribe of Judah, being not able to support his family under so sore a distress, took with him Naomi his wife, and the children that were born to him by her, Chillon and Mahlon, and removed his habitation into the land of Moab; and upon the happy prosperity of his affairs there, he took for his sons wives of the Moabites, Orpah for Chillon, and Ruth for Mahlon. But in the compass of ten years, both Elimelech, and a little while after him, the sons, died; and Naomi being very uneasy at these accidents, and not being able to bear her lonesome condition, now those that were dearest to her were dead, on whose account it was that she had gone away from her own country, she returned to it again, for she had been informed it was now in a flourishing condition.
However, her daughters-in-law were not able to think of parting with her; and when they had a mind to go out of the country with her, she could not dissuade them from it; but when they insisted upon it, she wished them a more happy wedlock than they had with her sons, and that they might have prosperity in other respects also; and seeing her own affairs were so low, she exhorted them to stay where they were, and not to think of leaving their own country, and partaking with her of that uncertainty under which she must return. Accordingly Orpah staid behind; but she took Ruth along with her, as not to be persuaded to stay behind her, but would take her fortune with her, whatsoever it should prove.
When Ruth was come with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem, Boaz, who was near of kin to Elimelech, entertained her; and when Naomi was so called by her fellow citizens, according to her true name, she said,
"You might more truly call me Mara."
Now Naomi signifies in the Hebrew tongue happiness, and Mara, sorrow. It was now reaping thee; and Ruth, by the leave of her mother-in-law, went out to glean, that they might get a stock of corn for their food. Now it happened that she came into Boaz's field; and after some thee Boaz came thither, and when he saw the damsel, he inquired of his servant that was set over the reapers concerning the girl. The servant had a little before inquired about all her circumstances, and told them to his master, who kindly embraced her, both on account of her affection to her mother-in-law, and her remembrance of that son of hers to whom she had been married, and wished that she might experience a prosperous condition; so he desired her not to glean, but to reap what she was able, and gave her leave to carry it home.
He also gave it in charge to that servant who was over the reapers, not to hinder her when she took it away, and bade him give her her dinner, and make her drink when he did the like to the reapers. Now what corn Ruth received of him she kept for her mother-in-law, and came to her in the evening, and brought the ears of corn with her; and Naomi had kept for her a part of such food as her neighbors had plentifully bestowed upon her. Ruth also told her mother-in-law what Boaz had said to her; and when the other had informed her that he was near of kin to them, and perhaps was so pious a man as to make some provision for them, she went out again on the days following, to gather the gleanings with Boaz's maidservants.
It was not many days before Boaz, after the barley was winnowed, slept in his thrashing-floor. When Naomi was informed of this circumstance she contrived it so that Ruth should lie down by him, for she thought it might be for their advantage that he should discourse with the girl. Accordingly she sent the damsel to sleep at his feet; who went as she bade her, for she did not think it consistent with her duty to contradict any command of her mother-in-law.
And at first she lay concealed from Boaz, as he was fast asleep; but when he awaked about midnight, and perceived a woman lying by him, he asked who she was; - and when she told him her name, and desired that he whom she owned for her lord would excuse her, he then said no more; but in the morning, before the servants began to set about their work, he awaked her, and bid her take as much barley as she was able to carry, and go to her mother-in-law before any body there should see that she had lain down by him, because it was but prudent to avoid any reproach that might arise on that account, especially when there had been nothing done that was ill. But as to the main point she aimed at, the matter should rest here, -
"He that is nearer of kin than I am, shall be asked whether he wants to take thee to wife: if he says he does, thou shalt follow him; but if he refuse it, I will marry thee, according to the law."
When she had informed her mother-in-law of this, they were very glad of it, out of the hope they had that Boaz would make provision for them. Now about noon Boaz went down into the city, and gathered the senate together, and when he had sent for Ruth, he called for her kinsman also; and when he was come, he said,
"Dost not thou retain the inheritance of Elimelech and his sons?"
He confessed that he did retain it, and that he did as he was permitted to do by the laws, because he was their nearest kinsman. Then said Boaz,
"Thou must not remember the laws by halves, but do every thing according to them; for the wife of Mahlon is come hither, whom thou must marry, according to the law, in case thou wilt retain their fields."
So the man yielded up both the field and the wife to Boaz, who was himself of kin to those that were dead, as alleging that he had a wife already, and children also; so Boaz called the senate to witness, and bid the woman to loose his shoe, and spit in his face, according to the law; and when this was done, Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son within a year's time. Naomi was herself a nurse to this child; and by the advice of the women, called him Obed, as being to be brought up in order to be subservient to her in her old age, for Obed in the Hebrew dialect signifies a servant. The son of Obed was Jesse, and David was his son, who was king, and left his dominions to his sons for one and twenty generations. I was therefore obliged to relate this history of Ruth, because I had a mind to demonstrate the power of God, who, without difficulty, can raise those that are of ordinary parentage to dignity and splendor, to which he advanced David, though he were born of such mean parents.
Birth of Samuel the Prophet
AND now upon the ill state of the affairs of the Hebrews, they made war again upon the Philistines. The occasion was this: Eli, the high priest, had two sons, Hophni and Phineas. These sons of Eli were guilty of injustice towards men, and of impiety towards God, and abstained from no sort of wickedness. Some of their gifts they carried off, as belonging to the honorable employment they had; others of them they took away by violence. They also were guilty of impurity with the women that came to worship God at the tabernacle, obliging some to submit to their lust by force, and enticing others by bribes; nay, the whole course of their lives was no better than tyranny. Their father therefore was angry at them for such their wickedness, and expected that God would suddenly inflict his punishments upon them for what they had done. The multitude took it heinously also. And as soon as God had foretold what calamity would befall Eli's sons, which he did both to Eli himself and to Samuel the prophet, who was yet but a child, he openly showed his sorrow for his sons' destruction.
I will first despatch what I have to say about the prophet Samuel, and after that will proceed to speak of the sons of Eli, and the miseries they brought on the whole people of the Hebrews. Elcanah, a Levite, one of a middle condition among his fellow citizens, and one that dwelt at Ramathaim, a city of the tribe of Ephraim, married two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. He had children by the latter; but he loved the other best, although she was barren. Now Elcanah came with his wives to the city Shiloh to sacrifice, for there it was that the tabernacle of God was fixed, as we have formerly said.
Now when, after he had sacrificed, he distributed at that festival portions of the flesh to his wives and children, and when Hannah saw the other wife's children sitting round about their mother, she fell into tears, and lamented herself on account of her barrenness and lonesomeness; and suffering her grief to prevail over her husband's consolations to her, she went to the tabernacle to beseech God to give her seed, and to make her a mother; and to vow to consecrate the first son she should bear to the service of God, and this in such a way, that his manner of living should not be like that of ordinary men. And as she continued at her prayers a long time, Eli, the high priest, for he sat there before the tabernacle, bid her go away, thinking she had been disordered with wine; but when she said she had drank water, but was in sorrow for want of children, and was beseeching God for them, he bid her be of good cheer, and told her that God would send her children.
So she came to her husband full of hope, and ate her meal with gladness. And when they had returned to their own country she found herself with child, and they had a son born to them, to whom they gave the name of Samuel, which may be styled one that was asked of God. They therefore came to the tabernacle to offer sacrifice for the birth of the child, and brought their tithes with them; but the woman remembered the vows she had made concerning her son, and delivered him to Eli, dedicating him to God, that he might become a prophet. Accordingly his hair was suffered to grow long, and his drink was water. So Samuel dwelt and was brought up in the temple. But Elcanah had other sons by Hannah, and three daughters.
Now when Samuel was twelve years old, he began to prophesy: and once when he was asleep, God called to him by his name; and he, supposing he had been called by the high priest, came to him: but when the high priest said he did not call him, God did so thrice. Eli was then so far illuminated, that he said to him,
"Indeed, Samuel, I was silent now as well as before: it is God that calls thee; do thou therefore signify it to him, and say, I am here ready."
So when he heard God speak again, he desired him to speak, and to deliver what oracles he pleased to him, for he would not fail to perform any ministration whatsoever he should make use of him in; - to which God replied,
"Since thou art here ready, learn what miseries are coming upon the Israelites, - such indeed as words cannot declare, nor faith believe; for the sons of Eli shall die on one day, and the priesthood shall be transferred into the family of Eleazar; for Eli hath loved his sons more than he hath loved my worship, and to such a degree as is not for their advantage."
Which message Eli obliged the prophet by oath to tell him, for otherwise he had no inclination to afflict him by telling it. And now Eli had a far more sure expectation of the perdition of his sons; but the glory of Samuel increased more and more, it being found by experience that whatsoever he prophesied came to pass accordingly.
Ark of the Covenant taken by Philistines
ABOUT this time it was that the Philistines made war against the Israelites, and pitched their camp at the city Aphek. Now when the Israelites had expected them a little while, the very next day they joined battle, and the Philistines were conquerors, and slew above four thousand of the Hebrews, and pursued the rest of their multitude to their camp.
So the Hebrews being afraid of the worst, sent to the senate, and to the high priest, and desired that they would bring the ark of God, that by putting themselves in array, when it was present with them, they might be too hard for their enemies, as not reflecting that he who had condemned them to endure these calamities was greater than the ark, and for whose sake it was that this ark came to be honored. So the ark came, and the sons of the high priest with it, having received a charge from their father, that if they pretended to survive the taking of the ark, they should come no more into his presence, for Phineas officiated already as high priest, his father having resigned his office to him, by reason of his great age.
So the Hebrews were full of courage, as supposing that, by the coming of the ark, they should be too hard for their enemies: their enemies also were greatly concerned, and were afraid of the ark's coming to the Israelites: however, the upshot did not prove agreeable to the expectation of both sides, but when the battle was joined, that victory which the Hebrews expected was gained by the Philistines, and that defeat the Philistines were afraid of fell to the lot of the Israelites, and thereby they found that they had put their trust in the ark in vain, for they were presently beaten as soon as they came to a close fight with their enemies, and lost about thirty thousand men, among whom were the sons of the high priest; but the ark was carried away by the enemies.
When the news of this defeat came to Shiloh, with that of the captivity of the ark, (for a certain young man, a Benjamite, who was in the action, came as a messenger thither,) the whole city was full of lamentations. And Eli, the high priest, who sat upon a high throne at one of the gates, heard their mournful cries, and supposed that some strange thing had befallen his family. So he sent for the young man; and when he understood what had happened in the battle, he was not much uneasy as to his sons, or what was told him withal about the army, as having beforehand known by Divine revelation that those things would happen, and having himself declared them beforehand, - for what sad things come unexpectedly they distress men the most; but as soon as [he heard] the ark was carried captive by their enemies, he was very much grieved at it, because it fell out quite differently from what he expected; so he fell down from his throne and died, having in all lived ninety-eight years, and of them retained the government forty.
On the same day his son Phineas's wife died also, as not able to survive the misfortune of her husband; for they told her of her husband's death as she was in labor. However, she bare a son at seven months, who lived, and to whom they gave the name of Icabod, which name signifies disgrace, - and this because the army received a disgrace at this thee.
Now Eli was the first of the family of Ithamar, the other son of Aaron, that had the government; for the family of Eleazar officiated as high priest at first, the son still receiving that honor from the father which Eleazar bequeathed to his son Phineas; after whom Abiezer his son took the honor, and delivered it to his son, whose name was Bukki, from whom his son Ozi received it; after whom Eli, of whom we have been speaking, had the priesthood, and so he and his posterity until the thee of Solomon's reign; but then the posterity of Eleazar reassumed it.
Church / Outreach Links - Church of God Money - Church Logos - Live Sabbath Services
Back Issues - Church Photos - Memorial - Addresses - Messages Online
In Transition - Subscribe / Contact - Email List - Advertise
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God