Judges and Samuel—Judges Review
1 Samuel 1:1
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #005
March 17, 2015
After a few moments of silent prayer, so that you have the opportunity to make sure you are in right relationship with God for the study of His Word, I will open in prayer. Let’s pray.
“Father, we’re thankful that we have this time to come together to focus upon Your Word. Father, in terms of those we need to be in prayer for, including Joy Riddle and their adult children, and those who were co-workers in the ministry with Glen, we pray for them. We pray that You will give them the wisdom, the finances, the resources they need to take care of all the legal things that have to be done, especially when a foreigner in another country dies. Father, we pray that You will open the door for whatever plans that they have, that things will run smoothly for them.
“Father, we know that there were numerous students in China who were dependent upon him and we pray that You’d provide someone who can take his place and someone who will be just as clear and just as precise in the teaching of the gospel, as well as teaching of the languages. Father, we pray for George and his recovery. Father, we’re thankful that George has not had any progression of the cancer, but neither has it regressed any. We pray for his strength. We are thankful that he is planning to come to the conference this summer. Father, we continue to pray for this congregation, for our spiritual strength and health, and that we might be a real light in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are continuing our study in the background to Samuel. I hope that tonight we will conclude this. I have a lot to cover, but it is important to understand the context of Samuel, because when Samuel begins, 1 Samuel 1:1, we are in the midst of the period that the Bible describes as the period of the Judges (slide 2). It doesn’t end at the end of the book of Judges. It continues through the life of Samuel. Samuel is the last judge, and before his life ends, towards the end of his ministry, the people reject his leadership and demand of him and of God that they give them a king like all of the other nations. That is really the crux of what the writers of these books, the prophets who wrote Judges, Samuel and Kings, are demonstrating. It is a key focal point. We’re connecting the books Judges and Samuel again. We looked at this last time, looking at the first king that was anointed king of Israel, who was not appointed by God, but was chosen by the men of Shechem. That was in the last lesson. He was Abimelech, the son of Gideon.
We saw that that was just a tremendous disaster and what this is showing is that the political solution isn’t the ultimate solution. That if the people’s heart, if the focus of the people, isn’t on the right things, isn’t spiritually focused in terms of truth. If it is mired in the relativism of paganism, then it doesn’t matter what you do in terms of the political solution. It just doesn’t work. That is a message we need to pay attention to. It doesn’t mean that we give up. It doesn’t mean that it is a hopeless situation. I talk to many folks who look at the political scene or the international scene; and they are hand ringers, and they think, “oh, I don’t see how we can get out of this.” Well, we can’t get out of this, but God can get us out of this. It’s been much, much worse in many, many places in history and throughout the history of mankind. And it was much, much worse during the time of the Judges.
We’re going to get a peek at that, but it is a message of great hope. We have to understand the bottom that Israel hit at the end of the book of the Judges to be able to appreciate how God in His grace turned everything around; and the high point by the time we get to the end of 1 Samuel, is that David, the answer to the problem, the king who is a man after God’s own heart, becomes the king of a united kingdom of Israel and leads them to their high point, to the high water mark in the history of Israel with the expansion of the kingdom under himself and under his son, Solomon. So to understand where we are starting in Samuel, we really have to understand the framework of that period of time. This time line that we’ve seen before (slide 3) orients us to this time in history in the period between 1000 BC and 1500 BC. The first mark on this timeline is 1446 BC, which is about as close as we can get in determining approximately the date of the Exodus.
After the Israelites were redeemed from slavery in Egypt because of disobedience, they are wandering in the desert for the next 40 years, and it is not until 1406 BC that the conquest begins, which takes approximately seven years to 1399 BC. Following that, you have a period of about 40 years with that generation, which is now the third generation after the Exodus. The first is the Exodus generation, the second is the conquest generation, the third is this consolidation generation, and they have not seen the work of God in the same way their parents or their grandparents saw the work of God; and they begin to compromise. They do not carry out the command of God to annihilate every man, woman and child among the Canaanites. This is described in Judges 1 as we see, as you read through the list of different tribes and what they are able to accomplish.
By the time you get to the end of that list halfway through the first chapter, you begin to see that these tribes do not accomplish their task of removing the Canaanites. They are compromising. They are living with the Canaanites, and they are beginning to assimilate into Canaanite culture. One of the tribes with the greatest record of failure was the tribe of Dan. We are going to focus on them a little bit later on; but this is the tribe of Dan, and they are given an inheritance that is in the area that is in the center of Israel between Jerusalem and Joppa. If you’ve been to Israel, it would be in that area along the highway that goes from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. That area is the area that was originally given to Dan. It is right on the edge of the hill country, and they are not able to dislodge the Canaanites that live there because of their lack of faith, because they’ve compromised at the spiritual level.
The important lesson here politically, and pay attention to this, (and there are some who are listening to me that really need to understand this. I hear this over and over again from certain people who hold to certain political views that we don’t need to pay attention to the social issues of the day; that we just need to pay attention to the economic issues of the day. They want to be economic conservatives, and they don’t want to get mixed up in either the abortion debate or in debates over same-sex marriage, or morality; that that has nothing to do with politics. They want to draw a distinction there as if moral issues and social issues are unrelated. Let’s just be economic conservatives; but the reality that God created in the Creation doesn’t make such a bifurcation); is that what God is showing is the spiritual failure on the part of people. Their immorality is what leads to economic, political, and military collapse.
It’s not the other way around. You can’t disconnect the two. Being a moral or social conservative is integrally connected to being an economic or political conservative. You can’t separate the two. You can’t act as if the moral and social issues can be just taken aside and let people do what they are going to do. The Bible says that these are integrally connected. You can’t just operate a political theory on the basis of empiricism alone because no test tube, no social science study, can ever uncover the facts that if you turn your back on God and you worship idols that this is going to yield military failure. There’s no way to measure that in the laboratory. So this is our picture, the historical image that the writers of Scripture want us to understand: that failure at the spiritual level leads to failure at the economic, military and political levels.
We have the period of consolidation, which becomes a period of compromise, and that leads to the period of the Judges. As we look at this, we have the period of the Judges, and at the end of that period (slide 4), the last two judges are Jephthah and Samson. I concluded with Jephthah last time. Jephthah is the one who sacrificed his daughter. It’s important to understand that. One of the images that a lot of Christians have is that just because somebody is mentioned in Hebrews 11, that they were a spiritually mature individual. That doesn’t apply to Samson, and it certainly doesn’t apply to Jephthah. It didn’t apply to Gideon. Gideon was a reluctant spiritual hero. He compromised after he won the battle and led the nation back into idolatry. It was his son as we saw in the last lesson, Abimelech, that leads the Shechemites into further rebellion against God. And arrogantly he wants to become the king of Israel and is indeed anointed as the king of Israel.
Samson is a womanizer. He has no virtue whatsoever. He has no integrity. He is a spoiled brat, and that’s the best you can say of Samson except at one point, at the very end of his life, he trusts God for a critical issue. God praises him in Hebrews 11. I take great encouragement from that. You can really screw up your life in a lot of major ways, but if you are obedient at a critical juncture in Your life, then that’s what God focuses on in terms of His praise for your life. Samson gets praised for that. It is during that same time period, at the end of the period of the Judges, that you have this corrupt, obese, high priest named Eli and his two horrible sons, who were abusing the women of Israel, Hopni and Phinehas, and that’s the end of the priesthood there and of their family line. Eli is going to be replaced by Samuel. This then leads into the first king who is given by God because the people have rejected him. God makes the point clear. “Samuel, they haven’t rejected you. Don’t take it to heart. They’ve rejected me. I’m going to give them a king that they want.”
This is often true. God gives us the leaders that we deserve. Just take that home. He gives us leaders, especially in a democratic republic like we have. We elect our leaders. They come out of the core of our culture. The leaders that are elected resemble us. They may not resemble you or me, but they resemble our culture. Many of us live somewhat isolated lives. If we live in the Bible belt, then we live in an isolated area as well because there are a lot of Christians around us. But there are a lot of areas in this country where Christians are few and far between, and they are hated and despised by a large percentage of people who live in those areas. Areas in the northeast and areas in the northwest you will have tens of thousands of people who never ever met a biblically based Christian in their life. All they know about a Bible-based Christian is the distortion they get from a liberal media and that forms their opinion. Much of our culture has turned against biblical Christianity.
But what they are turning against isn’t biblical Christianity. It’s a caricature, and it often it is a misrepresentation based on some extremist; but that is what passes for biblical Christianity in our culture. We are living a day not unlike that of the Judges, a time of degeneracy and a time of perversion. What that requires of us is even greater patience, even greater grace orientation, and even greater manifestation of the love of God toward those who in many people’s opinion just don’t deserve it, people who are as far away from God as they can be, who are at enmity, who hate God, but nevertheless we know that history is filled with examples of people who are running from God, people who hated God, people who were murdering Christians like Saul of Tarsus. And yet it was the love of God that drew them to the Cross, and they trusted in Christ as Savior; and it caused a remarkable shift. We can’t lose sight of the grace of God.
That’s the message that I see running through Judges and Samuel. This whole history is the great hope that we have in a God who can change things, a God who can transform culture and transform people if people will trust in Him. Samuel is replaced by the monarchy, Saul, David and then Solomon. One other name just popped up out of order (on the slide). Micah is this individual that we are going to look at who is important for understanding the background to Samuel. He introduces apostasy and spiritual and religious degeneracy into Israel. Now this slide is one we’ve seen before (slide 5). It is just showing how these Judges overlap. Jephthah, Samson, Samuel, all overlap. Samson dies about ten years before Saul is born. They are very close in time.
As we’ve seen in the period of the Judges (slide 6) we have this cycle of disobedience and rebellion against God, which leads to divine discipline. After 30–40 years, the people cry out to God, and God in His grace always provides a deliverer known as the Judge, who’s a combination judicial and military leader empowered (endued) by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of delivering Israel, not for their spiritual maturity. That’s another thing that’s really misunderstood. The role of the Holy Spirit to the individual in the OT is not in the realm of spiritual growth. It’s in the realm of just a few, less than a hundred. Maybe less than seventy in the OT have any kind of relation to the Holy Spirit, and it is just to empower them to perform their leadership function within the theocracy of Israel. He gives skill to Oholiab and Bezalel in order to build all of the furniture and do all of the craftsmanship, the jewelry and everything required in the tabernacle. He gave military skill to these leaders, but they are not spiritually mature.
These leaders often compromise the critical areas in terms of their understanding of spiritual truth. They’re products of their paganized, compromised culture, but God in His grace has raised them up and gives the skill needed to deliver the people. So there are these deliverers; and after they have been delivered for a while they fail the test of prosperity, and they go back into disobedience. The theme that runs through this section, if we step back a little bit and we look at Judges, Samuel and Kings, what you see is that God is showing in a broad stroke here that human beings alone can’t bring in the kingdom of God, cannot provide a Utopia. It is impossible because all human beings are flawed. If you don’t believe that then you are probably a political and theological liberal because that’s a dividing point. Biblical Christianity says that everybody is unrighteous.
The Psalmist said “there is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1–3; Psalm 53:1–2). Everyone is corrupt. That doesn’t mean they cannot do good things, but that they are corrupt by sin and that only God can change the situation. The political solution isn’t the ultimate solution, and that these kings are often flawed. This is the point in Judges 17:6. (slide 7) We see this refrain, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” It is repeated again in Judges 18:1, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” Judges 19:1, “there was no king in Israel.” He wants us to get the point that because there is an absence of the king, who should be God, there are no absolutes; they are in spiritual decline; and they are acting more and more like the Canaanites around them. So as we go through these Judges (slide 8): Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, you see each is worse than the one before. It’s a spiritual decline. At the end of the book of Judges the people are acting no differently from anyone else around them.
1 Samuel 8:5 (slide 9) is a passage I’ve talked about. I am going to skip through those verses (slide 10), but its Deuteronomy 33:5 (slide 11) that talks about God, “And He was King in Jeshurun.” That’s another name for Israel. “When the leaders of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together.” When Judges says there was no King in Israel this isn’t talking about Saul primarily. It is talking about God. They’ve rejected God as their King, and as such, they are turning to look for leadership in all of the wrong places. When we look at Judges, it is divided into three sections:
1. Introduction: Judges 1:1–3:6, which is an introduction to the book, and this gives us the overview of this cycle that God just talked about. It shows the relativism.
The more relativism that plays itself out through the 350 years of the Judges and how the people become more and more and more degenerate because they compromise more and more with the pagan worldview around us, is true today. You look at the evangelical church today. It is a far cry from where it was spiritually 50 years ago because it has compromised. The people, Christians, have compromised more and more with the pagan system around them. 50 years ago the vast majority of evangelicals believed in a literal six 24-hour consecutive day creation. 50 years ago they were consistent in their beliefs on inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture and the inspiration of Scripture, but now they are all over the board. 50 years ago they were predominately pro-Israel. There was always a small segment that wasn’t, but we’re losing a lot of ground in that area even today because of the inroads of replacement theology and because of the breakdown of the literal interpretation of Scripture and a breakdown in our understanding of inspiration.
So we are becoming more and more paganized. In fact the divorce rate in the evangelical church is higher than the divorce rate among non-Christians. We don’t look any different from the world around us, because when it comes to how we apply the Word, we go to church. We restrict it to Sunday morning, and then we go and live like everybody else during the rest of the week. In Judges 3:7–16:31, there is an analysis of the leadership of the people from Othniel to Samuel. These six judges are evaluated; and with each consecutive judge, things are worse. The last five chapters (Judges 17–21) focus on the breakdown among the people and the spiritual leadership. We see that you can’t just isolate it and say it is a problem with the leaders. The leaders reflect the values of the people. That’s what we are going to see tonight.
A couple of principles to be reminded of and cognizant of are:
1. That when a nation rejects the historical evidences for Christianity, they always become subjective. When you lose sight of objective truth and the evidence for objective truth, the only alternative you have is to base truth on how you feel, to base truth on what you want to be true. The reason that most non-Christians don’t believe in God or hate God is because God makes the rules, and they don’t want to play by God’s rules. They say “I don’t like Your rules so I don’t believe You exist.” It is like saying I don’t like certain rules in the NFL so I don’t believe the commissioner of the NFL exists. It is insane. People want a God, but they only want a God that will validate their rules and their values. So when a nation rejects historical evidences and objectivity, it always becomes subjective.
2. Subjectivity starts a slide into the morass of mysticism. It has happened that way throughout history. When you get into mysticism, you no longer believe there is objective truth; that truth is determined by how it impacts us. How it makes us feel, what we like, what we don’t like. You start talking to people and you say, “well why don’t you believe that this is true? Well that may be true for some people, but it’s not true for me.” That’s just pure relativism. “Well why don’t you like that? Well I don’t want to talk about it.” See? It is very hard to get people to talk rationally about something that is irrational; and mysticism and subjectivity are always irrational. So you can give them evidence for Christianity, but they reject that because they don’t believe at the very core of their thinking that you can find truth on the basis of reason and objectivity. They reject that assumption. It is very hard then to talk to irrational people from a rational grid. The people according to Romans 1, what Paul teaches there, is that people who reject truth are suppressing it in unrighteousness. They have mired themselves in a fantasy world. They have substituted for truth their own wish list of how they wish things really were, and now they’re living in that fantasy. Subjectivity always leads to mysticism.
3. Subjectivity in a nation, mysticism in a nation, always leads to the destruction of that culture. There is no hope. Once you get mired in subjectivity and mysticism, you have greased the skids; and there’s only one way to turn around, and that is to have interference, an intervention by God into history to reverse course. No culture has ever reversed course from a slide into mysticism in history without God entering in and breaking the cycle. In the classical world in Greece, you had a major shift from objectivity in the 5th century BC to subjectivity and mysticism by the time of Christ. The Romans followed them. What broke the cycle and prevented a complete implosion of western civilization? Christianity. God intervened into history by sending His Son at the fullness of time. It was Christianity that changed western civilization and brought western civilization back to a firm foundation of objective truth. That’s the only time in history that we’ve seen a culture recover.
Eastern cultures have never produced prosperity. They’ve never produced a high technology. They’ve never produced great freedom for their cultures. You think of the great mystical eastern cultures of India, the Asian countries. They’ve never been able to bring their people up to advance and go forward to build a culture of prosperity and freedom because they have destroyed it in their thinking through subjectivity and mysticism. They didn’t have that intervention of Christ until when? Until the 18th and 19th century when western missionaries brought the truth of the Gospel into those cultures, and that transformed those cultures. So India, and to some degree China and Japan, are what they are today because of the impact of biblically based thinking. I’m careful of my choice of words there. I’m not saying they all became Christian. I’m not saying that they all understood that, but after Shintoism was defeated in WWII and General MacArthur came in and revised the government of Japan and imposed a constitution on them, that cultural imposition came from what? It came from the west. It came from biblical Christianity.
That does not mean that they became a Christian culture, but the government was based upon those absolutes that came out of a Judeo-Christian framework. In India in the 19th century the missionaries who went with the army of Britain into India transformed that culture. They learned values. They learned about government. They learned about a western way of looking at things, and that’s what brought that culture to some degree out of its morass of Hinduism and the cast system and everything else. What changed it was the intrusion of God into that life, but without God, every culture that slips on that banana peel of mysticism goes down and goes down very hard. That’s what we see in the book of Judges, and that’s what things are going to be when we start in Samuel.
We start off in Samuel (slide 12), 1 Samuel 1:1 “Not there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim.” Ramathaim Zophim is shortened to Ramah. Ramah is not related to Ramallah, but it is near there, and it is just about 15–20 miles or so north of Jerusalem. It is important to remember this. Where is Samuel’s family from? They are from Ramah. If you are an observant student of the text and you start reading in 1 Samuel 1, you’ll go, “you know, that’s a little bit of an unusual way to state things in that first verse.” There was a certain man of a place. That sounds sort of formulaic. Actually there are four other places where you have a similar line. This isn’t something that is chosen just by accident. It just isn’t a stylistic thing that the writer of 1 Samuel came up with. Let’s just review something for a minute. The Hebrew Bible is divided into three sections:
That’s how it is organized. The Prophets are broken down into two categories:
The Former Prophets are comprised of the books:
See, in an English Bible they put Ruth in between. But if you are reading it in a Hebrew Bible, Ruth isn’t there. So you would read Judges 21, and then you’d go right into 1 Samuel 1. If you do that you’d be more likely to catch what I just pointed out. You’d be more likely to say you know there’s a certain tone to that first line that I’ve heard before recently. So this isn’t just by coincidence.
The writers of Scripture – who wrote Judges? Anybody know? No you don’t. We don’t know who wrote Judges. It was likely written by Samuel or one of the prophets associated with Samuel. Who wrote 1 Samuel? Who wrote the beginning part of the book of Samuel? Remember, it was written as one book. Who wrote the beginning part of Samuel? Probably Samuel. We don’t know for sure, but we have Samuel and Gad and Nathan; and these are the major prophets in Israel during this period of Saul, David, and Solomon. These men would have overseen the collection of the information under the inspiration of the Spirit and the writing of these books. So it’s not just haphazard that there are certain things in there. They make great literature, and great literature is filled with conflict. It’s filled with high drama. It grabs your attention. There’s conflict and conflict resolution. There’s also foreshadowing; and there’s parallelism.
I love reading a great murder mystery; but if you’re a careful reader of a murder mystery, you may not catch all the clues to who “done it” but you’re going to know certain things through the foreshadowing that’s indicated as you’re reading through the book. That’s what makes great literature. When you look at the Scripture, this is great literature. It has high drama, and it also has a lot of foreshadowing so that there are things that are happening in Judges that are foreshadowing things that are happening in Samuel. There are parallels between things that happen in Samuel and things that happen in the book of the Judges. It’s very likely that Samuel was the author of the book of Judges as well as the first part of Samuel. In any case, the writer was inspired by God the Holy Spirit. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel presuppose that you the reader are fully aware of the information that’s in the book of Judges. Otherwise, some of the things that are stated in Samuel won’t make sense. You won’t catch some of the connections that are being drawn.
So the writer of Samuel is developing certain themes as well as vocabulary from Judges, which he uses to tell the stories of Samuel and Saul and then David. So there are certain connections that are made through the use of language and phrases like this line, “There was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim” that you run into at the beginning that are drawing certain connections, making us focus on connections to Samson, whose story is told in Judges 13–16, and this individual Micah and his priest that he hires, and his cult that he started that’s described in Judges 17–18. Also, at the end of Judges we’re told the stories of these two priests, these two Levites. We’re told the story of the Levite that is hired by Micah to run this little cult out of his house in Judges 17–18; and there is this other Levite, both of whom have connections in Bethlehem as well as in the hill country of Ephraim.
This second priest, who’s connected by his concubine and the situation that develops, which is just one of the most tragic and atrocious things that takes place in the OT, is one of the darkest episodes in Israel’s history that leads to a bloody civil war that almost annihilates the tribe of Benjamin. Yet, the way the story is told, both of these episodes with these two priests, we’re left with sort of surprise endings in both of them. And that’s there for a purpose.
So let’s just start looking as some of these things: 1 Samuel 1:1 says, “There’s a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim.” We go back to the last part of Judges, and in the story of Samson (slide 13); Shimshon is his name in Hebrew. In the story of Samson in Judges 13:2 we are told; “Now there was a certain man from Zorah.” Now there is a definite connection that the writer of Samuel wants you to pay attention to. There are parallels, comparisons and contrasts between Samson and Samuel. I’ll look at those in just a minute.
Judges 17:1 starts, “Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim.” Most of that reads exactly the same in each place in the Hebrew. Judges 17:7, as that story develops, shifts from “there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim” to “there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah.” This is this Levitical priest. Then in Judges 19:1; Judges 17-18 are one story; Judges 19, 20 and 21 are a second story, and Judges 19:1 begins, that “there was a certain Levite.” So this is the only time in the OT we have this kind of language setup, this phraseology. So it’s not by accident. The writer of 1 Samuel 1:1 wants you to connect the dots back to what was going on in Israel at the end of this particular period.
So let’s talk about the first one. Why the connection to Samson? Let’s compare them a little bit. Let’s talk about Samson. Samson had his birth announced by the Angel of the LORD. It is a miraculous birth because His mother was barren. His birth is announced by the Angel of the LORD, but Samuel; I was going to make a chart of this today, but I had a printer problem and that took away my time to make this chart. So you should divide your notes in a column. Put Samson on one side, Samuel on the other. Samson had his birth announced by the Angel of the LORD. There was no announcement in relation to Samuel’s birth. Remember, his mother is under a lot of pressure. So she just goes to the temple and bargains with God, prays to God to give her a son. Both of their parents are barren. Samson’s mother is barren, can’t have a child; Samuel’s mother is barren and can’t have a child. Both of them are going to be lifelong Nazarites.
The Nazarite was a person who took a specific vow in the OT. That vow is described in Numbers 6:2–21; and in Judges 13:7 we’re told specifically that the Angel of the LORD instructed Samson’s mother, “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.” From birth to death, from womb to tomb he’s going to be a Nazarite. In 1 Samuel 1:11, in her vow to God, Hannah says “no razor will touch his hair.” He’s going to be a Nazarite. In the Nazarite vow there were about four things that were significant:
1. They were not just to abstain from wine; they weren’t to touch a grape. They weren’t to touch a vine. They weren’t to come into contact with anything related to grape, grape juice, a vine, a vineyard or wine at all. They were to completely abstain from that.
2. They were to refrain from cutting their hair or shaving. They were to let their beard grow completely and their hair grow without ever cutting it.
3. They were prohibited from eating anything unclean, from violating the laws of kashrut in the Mosaic Law, the dietary laws.
4. They were not to touch anything that had died. They couldn’t touch anything whatsoever that had died at all.
Those are the four conditions, the four fundamental issues, in the Nazarite vow. Both of them are to be lifelong Nazarites. We’re told that both of them were blessed of God. Samson, we’re told, grew before God, and he was blessed by God. Samuel was also blessed of God. God appeared to him and revealed things to him in 1 Samuel 3–4. Both are endued with the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God comes upon Samson in Judges 13:25. The Spirit of God comes upon Samuel in 1 Samuel 4. That is some of the similarities, but one of the differences is that Samson consistently violates his Nazarite vow. One of the first examples of this is that he comes to his parents and he demands them to let him take this Philistine girl from Timnah and marry her. He’s going to intermarry with the Canaanites; that’s a violation of the Mosaic Law. To get to her home in Timnah he travels through the vineyards. Now remember, he’s not supposed to touch a grape or touch a vine or have anything to do with the fruit of the vines. So he travels through the vineyards. He is callous about obeying his vow.
Samson does not just break his Nazarite vow when he tells Delilah and she cuts his hair off. He’s been violating his Nazarite vow almost his whole adult life. When he’s going on the way to Timnah to see this Philistine young lady, he is met with a lion. The Holy Spirit comes upon him and gives him the power to kill the lion; and when he comes back a little while later something miraculous has happened; and instead of that flesh just rotting in a mass of goo, It has hardened, almost petrified, which is very unusual; and bees have taken up residence inside that hardened flesh and produced honey. That takes a process, so there is no rotting of the flesh in that carcass. Samson stops, and he digs into the carcass. What is he doing? He’s violating the fourth part of that vow. He’s touching the dead. It may be that because this honey is inside of a carcass that may be rendered unclean because it is touching a dead thing. He’s violating the law of what he should eat.
Furthermore, later on, he’s going to kill a bunch of Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. That jawbone is part of a carcass. Again he’s violating his Nazarite vow. Then he goes to a Philistine prostitute in Gaza a few times; and then again he’s hot for Delilah, who’s another Philistine woman. He’s just violating the law and violating his vow over and over again. He’s a womanizer. He treats God casually. He’s abusive toward his parents. He’s abusive towards the women in his life. There is nothing positive stated about Samson in the book of Judges. If you want to see something positive stated about Samson you have to go to Hebrews 11. But the picture here that the writer of Judges wants us to understand, is that this guy is a spiritual failure. But at the end of his life, when he’s imprisoned by the Philistines down in Gaza, there he calls upon the Lord to give him the strength to destroy them. That’s the only act of faith and obedience to God in his life. Samson was to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but he failed.
At the beginning of Judges, the people have conquered the Promised Land. At the end of the book, they are under the thumb and the domination of the Philistines. Samson was unfaithful to God.
In contrast, Samuel keeps his vow. He witnessed the defeat of the nation by the Philistines when they captured the ark of God. But later on he saw that God gave Israel victory over the Philistines, and he would anoint David who would be the one who eventually completely defeated the Philistines and freed Israel from that domination. Samuel in contrast to Samson was faithful to God, and he’s the catalyst for bringing about this spiritual and political renewal in Israel. That gives us this contrast. The writer of Samuel specifically wants us to contrast Samuel and his life as a Nazarite with Samson. Remember, they live almost at the same time. Their lives overlap. The writer wants us to get that particular point.
The next thing we want to come to: Judges 13:14–16 tells us the story of Samson, and then we come to Judges 17. Chapter 17 tells us the story about Micah. This is a fascinating story. He is an individual that has this pseudo-religious framework. He has a name Miykayah. That would be the long form. It says that he is related to God. He has the name of Yahweh in his name. He has this veneer of obedience to God, but the shortened form is Micah, and he’s anything but obedient to God. He is a thief. He is an idolater. And he has an abusive relationship with his mother. I've pointed this out: what we see in paganism is that women become more and more abused as a result of the complete distortion of values. We see the first picture of him as he steals 1100 shekels of silver from his mother. That’s a sizable sum. When Delilah betrayed Samson, she wants as her reward 1,100 shekels of silver from each of the five lords of the Philistines. A shekel weighed four tenths of an ounce (0.4 oz). 1,100 shekels would be 440 ounces at today’s price of silver, about $7,000 US dollars.
What’s interesting is, if you read through the story when he hires this unnamed Levitical priest he says, “I am going to pay you ten shekels a year.” Ten shekels a year was something the priest could live on; so 1,100 shekels a year, that’s a tremendous sum. Micah steals this money, and he goes back and confesses and tells his mother, and she says in a very religious way, “well I’m going to dedicate this to the Lord.” She says, “Blessed be the Lord,” my son. You’re so great! You came back and confessed and gave me back my money, so we’ll dedicate the money to the Lord. She gives 200 shekels to her son, which is about six pounds of silver, to make an idol. She is really focused on the Lord, isn’t she? “Blessed be the Lord.” Let’s go make an idol! So I am going to give you 200 shekels. Well, she had dedicated all 1,100 shekels. I guess the other 900 was going to pay this priest that they eventually got.
Micah starts his own cult, and he builds his own little worship center there. He builds all the other accouterments. He makes some teraphim. He makes an ephod, all the things necessary to start his own little religion. Then he takes one of his sons and makes him a priest, Judges 17:5, “He consecrated one of his sons.” That would make Micah, probably in his 40s, maybe a little older. I think the age thing here is worth paying attention to. He’s probably in his 40s. He has sons that are probably anywhere from 15–25 years. He makes one of them a priest. So he’s made his own little religion. Then we’re reminded right after that in Judges 17:6, “In those days there is no king in Israel; everyone is doing what is right in his own eyes.” Get the point? Micah is a pure relativist.
Then we are told in Judges 17:7, “Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah.” A young man, pay attention to that, he is a naar, which means a young man, probably 20–25 years, a young man form Bethlehem. You are reading this. David is king. What are you thinking? Because this is written at a time when it is saying there was no king in Israel at that time. So it is written later under the monarchy. It’s brought to its final form. There was no king then; there is a king now. If you are reading this under David, you think, David’s from Bethlehem. See the foreshadowing. This priest is from Bethlehem and we’re not told his name. He says he was a Levite and staying there, “and the man departed from Bethlehem in Judah to stay wherever he could find a place and he came to the mountains of Ephraim.” He’s a Levite. He’s going to end up with this house of Micah that’s somewhere north of Jerusalem, but he doesn’t go to Shiloh.
If you are a priest, where are you supposed to serve? You are supposed to serve at the tabernacle. But this priest is obviously not looking to serve Yahweh in the tabernacle. He’s already apostate. There are these hints in the text. He’s just traveling around, and he comes to Micah and he says, “where are you from?” He says, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah. I’m on my way to find a place to stay. I’m not on the way to Shiloh to serve Yahweh,” he would have said, “I’m just looking around.” Micah says “well come live with me and be a priest to me and my family, and I will pay you 10 shekels of silver a year. I’ll buy you a suit of clothes and your substance. I’ll take care of all your logistical needs and pay you ten shekels a year, and you will be my little private priest.” The Levite says that sounds like a good deal.
What is interesting is that we are not told this guy’s name. He’s going to build suspense. What’s important is who this guy is; and we know he’s important because later on in the next chapter when this recon team from the tribe of Dan comes by and they hear the priest talk, they recognize his voice. They know who he is. He’s not some anonymous little priest who has no significance. In Judges 18 what we read is again we are reminded in Judges 18:1, remember, “there is no king in Israel.” Now the Danites are living down here. They’ve never been able to take their territory, so they are frustrated. They can’t go forward, no prosperity, no land. So they decide to send out five men as a recon team to go find a place that will be their inheritance.
The Danites go up to mountains of Ephraim. That’s the hill country north of Jerusalem and up into Samaria, what we call the northern part of the West Bank today. And they find Micah, and they recognize, Judges 18:4, the voice of the young Levite. They say “well who brought you here? What are you doing here? What’s going on?” The Levite said, “well this is what I did for Micah. He’s got a nice little religious gig going here, and he hired me; and we’ve got our own little cult going here.” They thought that was pretty interesting. They said, go “inquire of God.” Notice this is not Yahweh it is elohim, a generic god. “That we may know whether the journey we go on will be prosperous.” And like any good person who is pulling a hoax, he’s going to come back and say “yeah, God’s blessing you. You are going to have a successful journey.” So they headed on up north in Israel, way up north, to the area of Laish, which is Dan.
If you’ve been with me to Israel you know that we’ve been up there to Tel Dan. We’ve been up there and have seen the Canaanite gate from Laish at that particular time. They go up there, and they say “well these people are from Sidon. They are sort of an outpost to Colony. But the Sidonites haven’t sent any security forces over here. They don’t have a militia. They don’t have a police department. They are easy pickings. We are going to go back and tell everybody else in the tribe of Dan that we can take control here.” So they went back home and told everybody; and they put together a reconnaissance in force that would go and wipeout the inhabitants of Laish. And on their way back they’re going back through this area where Micah and his priest and their little cult are operating.
When they get there, the five men who had been the original recon team sneak up, and they tap this priest on the shoulder. They say “you know, you’ve got a nice little gig here, but nobody knows who you are. You’ve sort of disappeared off the radar. You’re not on the front page anymore, but if you go with us you can set up your idol, and you can set up your religious base up where we’re headed; and you can be a priest to the whole tribe of Dan.” The priest thinks that is pretty good, so they sneak off; and Micah tries to catch up with them, but they bully him and threaten him. He turns back. They head up to Laish, and they’re going to make this Levite their priest. We are finally told who this Levite is in Judges 18:30, “Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom.” Now we get his name. He’s Jonathan. He’s the son of Gershom.
See, the Masoretic Text just messed this all up because they had to change the name because they didn’t like the implications. So they inserted an ‘n’ in between the ‘m’ and the ‘s’. So if you have ‘ms’ you’ve got the name ‘Msseh’ but you put an ‘n’ in the middle you have the name ‘Mnsseh.’ And that’s what this says. “Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh.” That’s not what the Septuagint and the Vulgate and other older manuscripts say. The Masoretic Text is the only one that says “Manasseh.” All the others have the original reading I believe. This is Jonathan the grandson of Moses. Jonathan the son of Gershom, who’s the son of Moses. This guy has got a real heritage. If you set up the grandson of Moses as your priest, you are doing something. That’s why his voice was recognized by the men from Dan. He was “somebody” and they knew who he was. He is setting up this cult.
What the writer of Judges is saying is how extensive the perversion and the moral relativism was in Israel. The priesthood had become corrupt even to the point of corrupting the family of Moses. Now who is a Levite? Eli is a Levite. He’s the high priest, and his two perverted sons, Hopni and Phineas. See how this is setting us up to understand at the beginning of Samuel why we have such corruption. Then we come to Judges 19, and I’m going to really go through this fast because I want to tie it together. You have another Levite. This Levite is from the remote mountains of Ephraim, and he takes a concubine. She’s treated like a wife, but she is a woman of incredibly loose morals. He takes her from Bethlehem, and she comes back; and the first thing she does is she starts sleeping around with everybody. She plays the harlot against him, and she leaves him and goes back to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah. She’s there for four months, and he says enough of this. I’m going to go down and get her. He goes down, and his father-in-law says, “well let’s have a party.” And so they party for three days.
Then he’s going to leave on the fourth day, but the father-in-law starts getting him up early in the morning; so they party all day, and he says “no, I’m not going to leave.” On the fifth day he wakes up, and the father-in-law tries to pull the same stunt again. He says “no, I’m not going to do that. I’ve got to leave.” But he delays him enough that they get away late in the morning. So by the time it is getting dark and it’s time to rest, they are up near Jerusalem. Jerusalem at this time was still held by the Jebusites, and it is pagan. He doesn’t want to stay in a pagan town because if he stays in a pagan town, something bad might happen. So we need to press on and stay in a town controlled by Jews. So the options are either Ramah or Gibeah. Now that’s going to resonate with people. When you think of Bethlehem who do you think of? David. When you think of Ramah who do you think of? Ramah is short for Ramathaim the home of Elkanah, Hannah, and Peninnah. Eventually it will be the home where Samuel lives. What about Gibeah? Well after we get half way through Samuel, Gibeah will almost always be known as Gibeah of Saul.
So there are two options, either to go to Ramah, which will be the eventual home of Samuel. If you are reading this 200 years later you’re going to say, ah, he’s either going to go to Samuel’s home or he’s going to go to Saul’s home. Which is he going to do? He’s going to go to Gibeah. But if he goes to Gibeah now, this story sounds like something out of Genesis. It sounds just like Sodom and Gomorrah. I go back and I go through all the technicalities in the Judges series, and the similarities in the vocabulary between this Judges 19 and Genesis 19 is incredible. It’s the same kind of situation. They get in there late at night. They are going to camp out in the city square. An old guy in town comes up and says “what are y’all going to do?” He says “we’re just going to camp out here.” He says, “no, whatever you do you can’t stay here. Come to my house. It is too dangerous for you to camp out here.”
So they go to his house. He fixes dinner; and then they get this pounding on the door. And all the perverted homosexuals in town have gathered outside his house because they are bored with their sex life because they’ve all been with all the same guys for so many years. They want fresh meat, and this guy is there. So they want to have a gang bang rape on him all night long. Then this old man who has protected him says “no, you can’t do that to my guest. Take my virgin daughter.” Isn’t this great? This just shows how perverted the culture has become. “Take my virgin daughter and take his concubine.” Give up the women. You know women and children first and then the men, right? Okay, that’s his motto. This just shows how perverted they’ve gotten. So they take the concubine and they have a gang rape all night long. The next morning she finally gets away from them and just has enough life left in her to drag herself to the door of this house, and she dies on the doorstep. How tragic!
Now the Levite, this guy gets the reward for being the sensitive guy in the world. He comes out and says 'get up, let’s leave.' Of course she doesn’t move because she is already dead. He’s totally insensitive to this. He’s had a good night sleep while she’s out getting raped. It just shows how horrid the culture is! So he’s now incensed to what has happened here in Israel, what they’ve done to me. So he cuts her body up into twelve parts for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sends out a message with each part and he says we have to do something about this perversion in Benjamin. The rest of the tribes send men. They take 10% of them and they send an army to Benjamin; and they have this huge battle that lasts for three or four days. This is described in Judges 20, this war against the Benjamites. As they get engaged in this there are these battles that take place.
On the first day Benjamin is successful and kills 22,000 Israelites. On the second day he kills 18,000. What do the rest of the Israelites do now? Now they go to the Lord. They go up to Shiloh, and they pray, and they fast, and they offer burnt offerings and peace offerings, and they inquire of God what to do. And now God says through Phinehas the grandson of Aaron, “go to battle tomorrow and you will win.” So the next day they went to battle, and the Israelites slaughtered 25,100 Benjamites. Then the next day they slaughtered 25,000 more and then another undetermined number including women and children. What happened is that as they sent up the call to everybody, they said if anybody doesn’t show up, we’re going to come and we’re going to wipe you out. We’re going to kill everybody. So everybody came except for one town, Jebesh-Gilead.
So what happens after this battle? They made everybody swear an oath that they wouldn’t give their daughters to the Benjamites. So after this big slaughter, they killed women and children and all theses Benjamites, they’ve got a lot of young Benjamites who can’t get married because no other Jews will give them any of their daughters to marry. But what are we going to do? Now they live to regret their rash oath like Jephthah did. So they say “well did anybody not show up? The people from Jebesh-Gilead didn’t show up. Well, we’ve got to slaughter them because that’s what the oath is, but before we kill everybody in Jebesh-Gilead let’s find out how many virgin young women there are. We will let them live so they can marry the Benjamites because they didn’t swear an oath and we’re going to go kill everybody else.” So they went up and slaughtered everybody at Jebesh-Gilead except for 400 young virgins. They gave them as wives to Benjamin.
Isn’t this a lovely place to live? That’s where Samuel begins. Israel has become more corrupt, more perverted than the Canaanites ever were. We’ve got a long way to go in the United States, folks. Things may appear hopeless, but they’re a long way from rock bottom. God’s grace is still as sufficient today as it was then and the hope that we have is still the same hope, The Rock of our Salvation. God is still the one who can change things. But people need to hear the gospel. They need to hear the light of the Word and that is our responsibility. As Paul says to the Philippians, in Philippians 2:14–15, we are to shine as lights in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation and that’s what we need to do.
Father, we thank you for this opportunity to go through this material this evening and to reflect upon what you have to teach us and the reason you have revealed this to us to recognize the horrors of sin, the horrors of relativism, the horrors of paganism. How it destroys a culture; how that it destroys people; and that the only hope is to turn to You. The only hope is salvation through the Messianic King who’s represented by David but focuses on Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our only hope and the only hope for the world and the only hope for this nation. We pray that You might give us a passion to give the gospel to those who are lost. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.