Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 67

Judges 11–15, Psalm 49

Bible text(s)

1Jephthah, a brave soldier from Gilead, was the son of a prostitute. His father Gilead 2had other sons by his wife, and when they grew up, they forced Jephthah to leave home. They said to him, “You will not inherit anything from our father; you are the son of another woman.” 3Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. There he attracted a group of worthless men, and they went round with him.

4It was some time later that the Ammonites went to war against Israel. 5When this happened, the leaders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah back from the land of Tob. 6They said, “Come and lead us, so that we can fight the Ammonites.”

7But Jephthah answered, “You hated me so much that you forced me to leave my father's house. Why come to me now that you're in trouble?”

8They said to Jephthah, “We are turning to you now because we want you to go with us and fight the Ammonites and lead all the people of Gilead.”

9Jephthah said to them, “If you take me back home to fight the Ammonites and the LORD gives me victory, I will be your ruler.”

10They replied, “We agree. The LORD is our witness.” 11So Jephthah went with the leaders of Gilead, and the people made him their ruler and leader. Jephthah stated his terms at Mizpah in the presence of the LORD.

12Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of Ammon to say, “What is your quarrel with us? Why have you invaded our country?”

13The king of Ammon answered Jephthah's messengers, “When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they took away my land from the River Arnon to the River Jabbok and the River Jordan. Now you must give it back peacefully.”

14Jephthah sent messengers back to the king of Ammon 15with this answer: “It is not true that Israel took away the land of Moab or the land of Ammon. 16This is what happened: when the Israelites left Egypt, they went through the desert to the Gulf of Aqaba and came to Kadesh. 17Then they sent messengers to the king of Edom to ask permission to go through his land. But the king of Edom would not let them. They also asked the king of Moab, but neither would he let them go through his land. So the Israelites stayed at Kadesh. 18Then they went on through the desert, going round the land of Edom and the land of Moab until they came to the east side of Moab, on the other side of the River Arnon. They made camp there, but they did not cross the Arnon because it was the boundary of Moab. 19Then the Israelites sent messengers to Sihon, the Amorite king of Heshbon, and asked him for permission to go through his country to their own land. 20But Sihon would not let Israel do it. He brought his whole army together, made camp at Jahaz, and attacked Israel. 21But the LORD, the God of Israel, gave the Israelites victory over Sihon and his army. So the Israelites took possession of all the territory of the Amorites who lived in that country. 22They occupied all the Amorite territory from the Arnon in the south to the Jabbok in the north and from the desert on the east to the Jordan on the west. 23So it was the LORD, the God of Israel, who drove out the Amorites for his people, the Israelites. 24Are you going to try to take it back? You can keep whatever your god Chemosh has given you. But we are going to keep everything that the LORD, our God, has given us. 25Do you think you are any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? He never challenged Israel, did he? Did he ever go to war against us? 26For 300 years Israel has occupied Heshbon and Aroer, and the towns round them, and all the cities on the banks of the River Arnon. Why haven't you taken them back in all this time? 27No, I have not done you any wrong. You are doing wrong by making war on me. The LORD is the judge. He will decide today between the Israelites and the Ammonites.” 28But the king of Ammon paid no attention to this message from Jephthah.

29Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He went through Gilead and Manasseh and returned to Mizpah in Gilead and went on to Ammon. 30Jephthah promised the LORD: “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, 31I will burn as an offering the first person that comes out of my house to meet me, when I come back from the victory. I will offer that person to you as a sacrifice.”

32So Jephthah crossed the river to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory. 33He struck at them from Aroer to the area round Minnith, twenty cities in all, and as far as Abel Keramim. There was a great slaughter, and the Ammonites were defeated by Israel.

Jephthah's Daughter

34When Jephthah went back home to Mizpah, there was his daughter coming out to meet him, dancing and playing the tambourine. She was his only child. 35When he saw her, he tore his clothes in sorrow and said, “Oh, my daughter! You are breaking my heart! Why must it be you that causes me pain? I have made a solemn promise to the LORD, and I cannot take it back!”

36She said to him, “If you have made a promise to the LORD, do what you said you would do to me, since the LORD has given you revenge on your enemies, the Ammonites.” 37But she asked her father, “Do this one thing for me. Leave me alone for two months, so that I can go with my friends to wander in the mountains and grieve that I must die a virgin.” 38He told her to go and sent her away for two months. She and her friends went up into the mountains and grieved because she was going to die unmarried and childless. 39After two months she came back to her father. He did what he had promised the LORD, and she died still a virgin.

This was the origin of the custom in Israel 40that the young women would go away for four days every year to grieve for the daughter of Jephthah of Gilead.

Jephthah and the Ephraimites

1The men of Ephraim prepared for battle; they crossed the River Jordan to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross the border to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We'll burn the house down over your head!”

2But Jephthah said to them, “My people and I had a serious quarrel with the Ammonites. I did call you, but you would not rescue me from them. 3When I saw that you were not going to, I risked my life and crossed the border to fight them, and the LORD gave me victory over them. So why are you coming to fight me now?” 4Then Jephthah brought all the men of Gilead together, fought the men of Ephraim and defeated them. (The Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites in Ephraim and Manasseh, you are deserters from Ephraim!”) 5In order to keep the Ephraimites from escaping, the Gileadites captured the places where the Jordan could be crossed. When any Ephraimite who was trying to escape asked permission to cross, the men of Gilead would ask, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” 6they would tell him to say “Shibboleth”. But he would say “Sibboleth”, because he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they would seize him and kill him there at one of the crossings of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites were killed.

7Jephthah led Israel for six years. Then he died and was buried in his home town in Gilead.

Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon

8After Jephthah, Ibzan from Bethlehem led Israel. 9He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters in marriage outside the clan and brought thirty women from outside the clan for his sons to marry. Ibzan led Israel for seven years, 10then he died and was buried at Bethlehem.

11After Ibzan, Elon from Zebulun led Israel for ten years. 12Then he died and was buried at Aijalon in the territory of Zebulun.

13After Elon, Abdon son of Hillel from Pirathon led Israel. 14He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. Abdon led Israel for eight years, 15then he died and was buried at Pirathon in the territory of Ephraim in the hill country of the Amalekites.

The Birth of Samson

1The Israelites sinned against the LORD again, and he let the Philistines rule them for forty years.

2At that time there was a man named Manoah from the town of Zorah. He was a member of the tribe of Dan. His wife had never been able to have children. 3The LORD's angel appeared to her and said, “You have never been able to have children, but you will soon be pregnant and have a son. 4Take care not to drink any wine or beer, or eat any forbidden food; 5and after your son is born, you must never cut his hair, because from the day of his birth he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite. He will begin the work of rescuing Israel from the Philistines.”

6Then the woman went and said to her husband, “A man of God has come to me, and he looked as frightening as the angel of God. I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name. 7But he did tell me that I would become pregnant and have a son. He told me not to drink any wine or beer, or eat any forbidden food, because the boy is to be dedicated to God as a Nazirite as long as he lives.”

8Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, “Please, LORD, let the man of God that you sent come back to us and tell us what we must do with the boy when he is born.”

9God did what Manoah asked, and his angel came back to the woman while she was sitting in the fields. Her husband Manoah was not with her, 10so she ran at once and said to him, “Look! The man who came to me the other day has appeared to me again.”

11Manoah got up and followed his wife. He went to the man and asked, “Are you the man who was talking to my wife?”

“Yes,” he answered.

12Then Manoah asked, “When your words come true, what must the boy do? What kind of a life must he lead?”

13The LORD's angel answered, “Your wife must be sure to do everything that I have told her. 14She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine; she must not drink any wine or beer, or eat any forbidden food. She must do everything that I have told her.”

15-16Manoah did not know that it was the LORD's angel, so he said to him, “Please do not go yet. Let us cook a young goat for you.”

But the angel said, “If I do stay, I will not eat your food. But if you want to prepare it, burn it as an offering to the LORD.”

17Manoah replied, “Tell us your name, so that we can honour you when your words come true.”

18The angel asked, “Why do you want to know my name? It is a name of wonder.”

19So Manoah took a young goat and some grain, and offered them on the rock altar to the LORD who works wonders. 20-21While the flames were going up from the altar, Manoah and his wife saw the LORD's angel go up towards heaven in the flames. Manoah realized then that the man had been the LORD's angel, and he and his wife threw themselves face downwards on the ground. They never saw the angel again.

22Manoah said to his wife, “We are sure to die, because we have seen God!”

23But his wife answered, “If the LORD had wanted to kill us, he would not have accepted our offerings; he would not have shown us all this or told us such things now.”

24The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The child grew and the LORD blessed him. 25And the LORD's power began to strengthen him while he was between Zorah and Eshtaol in the Camp of Dan.

Samson and the Woman from Timnah

1One day Samson went down to Timnah, where he noticed a certain Philistine woman. 2He went back home and said to his father and mother, “There is a Philistine woman down at Timnah who has caught my attention. Get her for me; I want to marry her.”

3But his father and mother asked him, “Why do you have to go to those heathen Philistines to get a wife? Can't you find a girl in our own clan, among all our people?”

But Samson said to his father, “She is the one I want you to get for me. I like her.”

4His parents did not know that it was the LORD who was leading Samson to do this, for the LORD was looking for a chance to fight the Philistines. At this time the Philistines were ruling Israel.

5So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother. As they were going through the vineyards there, he heard a young lion roaring. 6Suddenly the power of the LORD made Samson strong, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands, as if it were a young goat. But he did not tell his parents what he had done.

7Then he went and talked to the woman, and he liked her. 8A few days later Samson went back to marry her. On the way he left the road to look at the lion he had killed, and he was surprised to find a swarm of bees and some honey inside the dead body. 9He scraped the honey out into his hands and ate it as he walked along. Then he went to his father and mother and gave them some. They ate it, but Samson did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the dead body of a lion.

10His father went to the woman's house, and Samson gave a banquet there. This was a custom among the young men. 11When the Philistines saw him, they sent thirty young men to stay with him. 12-13Samson said to them, “Let me ask you a riddle. I'll bet each one of you a piece of fine linen and a change of fine clothes that you can't tell me its meaning before the seven days of the wedding feast are over.”

“Tell us your riddle,” they said. “Let's hear it.”

14He said,

“Out of the eater came something to eat;

Out of the strong came something sweet.”

Three days later they had still not solved the riddle.

15On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, “Trick your husband into telling us what the riddle means. If you don't, we'll set fire to your father's house and burn you with it. You two invited us so that you could rob us, didn't you?”

16So Samson's wife went to him in tears and said, “You don't love me! You just hate me! You asked my friends a riddle and didn't tell me what it means!”

He said, “Look, I haven't even told my father and mother. Why should I tell you?” 17She cried about it for the whole seven days of the feast. But on the seventh day he told her what the riddle meant, for she nagged him about it so much. Then she told the Philistines. 18So on the seventh day, before Samson went into the bedroom, the men of the city said to him,

“What could be sweeter than honey?

What could be stronger than a lion?”

Samson replied,

“If you hadn't been ploughing with my cow,

You wouldn't know the answer now.”

19Suddenly the power of the LORD made him strong, and he went down to Ashkelon, where he killed thirty men, stripped them, and gave their fine clothes to the men who had solved the riddle. After that, he went back home, furious about what had happened, 20and his wife was given to the man that had been his best man at the wedding.

1Some time later Samson went to visit his wife during the wheat harvest and took her a young goat. He said to her father, “I want to go to my wife's room.”

But he wouldn't let him go in. 2He said to Samson, “I really thought that you hated her, so I gave her to your friend. But her younger sister is prettier, anyway. You can have her, instead.”

3Samson said, “This time I'm not going to be responsible for what I do to the Philistines!” 4So he went and caught 300 foxes. Two by two, he tied their tails together and put torches in the knots. 5Then he set fire to the torches and turned the foxes loose in the Philistine cornfields. In this way he burnt up not only the corn that had been harvested but also the corn that was still in the fields, and the olive orchards as well. 6When the Philistines asked who had done this, they learnt that Samson had done it because his father-in-law, a man from Timnah, had given Samson's wife to a friend of Samson's. So the Philistines went and burnt the woman to death and burnt down her father's house.

7Samson told them, “So this is how you act! I swear that I won't stop until I pay you back!” 8He attacked them fiercely and killed many of them. Then he went and stayed in the cave in the cliff at Etam.

Samson Defeats the Philistines

9The Philistines came and made camp in Judah, and attacked the town of Lehi. 10The men of Judah asked them, “Why are you attacking us?”

They answered, “We came to take Samson prisoner and to treat him as he treated us.” 11So 3,000 men of Judah went to the cave in the cliff at Etam and said to Samson, “Don't you know that the Philistines are our rulers? What have you done to us?”

He answered, “I did to them just what they did to me.”

12They said, “We have come here to tie you up, so that we can hand you over to them.”

Samson said, “Give me your word that you won't kill me yourselves.”

13“All right,” they said, “we are only going to tie you up and hand you over to them. We won't kill you.” So they tied him up with two new ropes and brought him back from the cliff.

14When he got to Lehi, the Philistines came running towards him, shouting at him. Suddenly the power of the LORD made him strong, and he broke the ropes round his arms and hands as if they were burnt thread. 15Then he found the jawbone of a donkey that had recently died. He bent down and picked it up, and killed a thousand men with it. 16So Samson sang,

“With the jawbone of a donkey I killed a thousand men;

With the jawbone of a donkey I piled them up in piles.”

17After that, he threw the jawbone away. The place where this happened was named Ramath Lehi.

18Then Samson became very thirsty, so he called to the LORD and said, “You gave me this great victory; am I now going to die of thirst and be captured by these heathen Philistines?” 19Then God opened a hollow place in the ground there at Lehi, and water came out of it. Samson drank it and began to feel much better. So the spring was named Hakkore; it is still there at Lehi.

20Samson led Israel for twenty years while the Philistines ruled the land.

The Foolishness of Trusting in Riches

1Hear this, everyone!

Listen, all people everywhere,

2great and small alike,

rich and poor together.

3My thoughts will be clear;

I will speak words of wisdom.

4I will turn my attention to proverbs

and explain their meaning as I play the harp.

5I am not afraid in times of danger

when I am surrounded by enemies,

6by evil people who trust in their riches

and boast of their great wealth.

7A person can never redeem himself;

he cannot pay God the price for his life,

8because the payment for a human life is too great.

What he could pay would never be enough

9to keep him from the grave,

to let him live for ever.

10Anyone can see that even the wise die,

as well as the foolish and stupid.

They all leave their riches to their descendants.

11Their graves are their homes for ever;

there they stay for all time,

though they once had lands of their own.

12No one's greatness can save him from death;

he will still die like the animals.

13See what happens to those who trust in themselves,

the fate of those who are satisfied with their wealth —

14they are doomed to die like sheep,

and Death will be their shepherd.

The righteous will triumph over them,

as their bodies quickly decay

in the world of the dead far from their homes.

15But God will rescue me;

he will save me from the power of death.

16Don't be upset when someone becomes rich,

when his wealth grows even greater;

17he cannot take it with him when he dies;

his wealth will not go with him to the grave.

18Even if he is satisfied with this life

and is praised because he is successful,

19he will join all his ancestors in death,

where the darkness lasts for ever.

20His greatness cannot save him from death;

he will still die like the animals.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.16
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