Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 68

Judges 16–21

Bible text(s)

Samson at Gaza

1One day Samson went to the Philistine city of Gaza, where he met a prostitute and went to bed with her. 2The people of Gaza found out that Samson was there, so they surrounded the place and waited for him all night long at the city gate. They were quiet all night, thinking to themselves, “We'll wait until daybreak, and then we'll kill him.” 3But Samson stayed in bed only until midnight. Then he got up and took hold of the city gate and pulled it up — doors, posts, lock, and all. He put them on his shoulders and carried them all the way to the top of the hill overlooking Hebron.

Samson and Delilah

4After this, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the Valley of Sorek. 5The five Philistine kings went to her and said, “Trick Samson into telling you why he is so strong and how we can overpower him, tie him up, and make him helpless. Each one of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”

6So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me what makes you so strong. If someone wanted to tie you up and make you helpless, how could he do it?”

7Samson answered, “If they tie me up with seven new bowstrings that are not dried out, I'll be as weak as anybody else.”

8So the Philistine kings brought Delilah seven new bowstrings that were not dried out, and she tied Samson up. 9She had some men waiting in another room, so she shouted, “Samson! The Philistines are coming!” But he snapped the bowstrings just as thread breaks when fire touches it. So they still did not know the secret of his strength.

10Delilah said to Samson, “Look, you've been making a fool of me and not telling me the truth. Please tell me how someone could tie you up.”

11He answered, “If they tie me with new ropes that have never been used, I'll be as weak as anybody else.”

12So Delilah got some new ropes and tied him up. Then she shouted, “Samson! The Philistines are coming!” The men were waiting in another room. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like thread.

13Delilah said to Samson, “You're still making a fool of me and not telling me the truth. Tell me how someone could tie you up.”

He answered, “If you weave my seven locks of hair into a loom, and make it tight with a peg, I'll be as weak as anybody else.”

14Delilah then lulled him to sleep, took his seven locks of hair, and wove them into the loom. She made it tight with a peg and shouted, “Samson! The Philistines are coming!” But he woke up and pulled his hair loose from the loom.

15So she said to him, “How can you say you love me, when you don't mean it? You've made a fool of me three times, and you still haven't told me what makes you so strong.” 16She kept on asking him, day after day. He got so sick and tired of her nagging him about it 17that he finally told her the truth. “My hair has never been cut,” he said. “I have been dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the time I was born. If my hair were cut, I would lose my strength and be as weak as anybody else.”

18When Delilah realized that he had told her the truth, she sent a message to the Philistine kings and said, “Come back just once more. He has told me the truth.” Then they came and brought the money with them. 19Delilah lulled Samson to sleep in her lap and then called a man, who cut off Samson's seven locks of hair. Then she began to torment him, for he had lost his strength. 20Then she shouted, “Samson! The Philistines are coming!” He woke up and thought, “I'll get loose and go free, as always.” He did not know that the LORD had left him. 21The Philistines captured him and put his eyes out. They took him to Gaza, chained him with bronze chains, and put him to work grinding at the mill in the prison. 22But his hair started growing again.

The Death of Samson

23The Philistine kings met together to celebrate and offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They sang, “Our god has given us victory over our enemy Samson!” 24-25They were enjoying themselves, so they said, “Call Samson, and let's make him entertain us!” When they brought Samson out of the prison, they made him entertain them and made him stand between the pillars. When the people saw him, they sang praise to their god: “Our god has given us victory over our enemy, who devastated our land and killed so many of us!” 26Samson said to the boy who was leading him by the hand, “Let me touch the pillars that hold up the building. I want to lean on them.” 27The building was crowded with men and women. All five Philistine kings were there, and there were about 3,000 men and women on the roof, watching Samson entertain them.

28Then Samson prayed, “Sovereign LORD, please remember me; please, God, give me my strength just once more, so that with this one blow I can get even with the Philistines for putting out my two eyes.” 29So Samson took hold of the two middle pillars holding up the building. Putting one hand on each pillar, he pushed against them 30and shouted, “Let me die with the Philistines!” He pushed with all his might, and the building fell down on the five kings and everyone else. Samson killed more people at his death than he had killed during his life.

31His brothers and the rest of his family came down to get his body. They took him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had been Israel's leader for twenty years.

Micah's Idols

1There was once a man named Micah, who lived in the hill country of Ephraim. 2He said to his mother, “When someone stole those 1,100 pieces of silver from you, you put a curse on the thief. I heard you do it. Look, I have the money. I am the one who took it.”

His mother said, “May the LORD bless you, my son!” 3He gave the money back to his mother, and she said, “To stop the curse from falling on my son, I myself am solemnly dedicating the silver to the LORD. It will be used to make a wooden idol covered with silver. So now I will give the pieces of silver back to you.” 4Then he gave them back to his mother. She took 200 of the pieces of silver and gave them to a metalworker, who made an idol, carving it from wood and covering it with the silver. It was placed in Micah's house.

5This man Micah had his own place of worship. He made some idols and an ephod, and appointed one of his sons as his priest. 6There was no king in Israel at that time; all the people did just as they pleased.

7At that same time there was a young Levite who had been living in the town of Bethlehem in Judah. 8He left Bethlehem to find somewhere else to live. While he was travelling, he came to Micah's house in the hill country of Ephraim. 9Micah asked him, “Where do you come from?”

He answered, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah. I am looking for somewhere to live.”

10Micah said, “Stay with me. Be my adviser and priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, some clothes, and your food.” 11The young Levite agreed to stay with Micah and became like a son to him. 12Micah appointed him as his priest, and he lived in Micah's home. 13Micah said, “Now that I have a Levite as my priest, I know that the LORD will make things go well for me.”

Micah and the Tribe of Dan

1There was no king in Israel at that time. In those days the tribe of Dan was looking for territory to claim and occupy because they had not yet received any land of their own among the tribes of Israel. 2So the people of Dan chose five qualified men out of all the families in the tribe and sent them from the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol with instructions to explore the land. When they arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, they stayed at Micah's house. 3While they were there, they recognized the accent of the young Levite, so they went up to him and asked, “What are you doing here? Who brought you here?”

4He answered, “I have an arrangement with Micah, who pays me to serve as his priest.”

5They said to him, “Please ask God if we are going to be successful on our journey.”

6The priest answered, “You have nothing to worry about. The LORD is taking care of you on this journey.”

7So the five men left and went to the town of Laish. They saw how safely the people there were living, like the Sidonians. They were a peaceful, quiet people, with no disputes with anyone; they had all they needed. They lived far away from the Sidonians and had no dealings with any other people. 8When the five men returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their countrymen asked them what they had found out. 9“Come on,” they replied. “Let's attack Laish. We saw the land, and it's very good. Don't stay here doing nothing; hurry! Go on in and take it over! 10When you get there, you will find that the people don't suspect a thing. It is a big country; it has everything a person could want, and God has given it to you.”

11So 600 men from the tribe of Dan left Zorah and Eshtaol, ready for battle. 12They went up and made camp west of Kiriath Jearim in Judah. That is why the place is still called Camp of Dan. 13They went on from there and came to Micah's house in the hill country of Ephraim.

14Then the five men who had gone to explore the country round Laish said to their companions, “Did you know that here in one of these houses there is a wooden idol covered with silver? There are also other idols and an ephod. What do you think we should do?” 15So they went into Micah's house, where the young Levite lived, and asked the Levite how he was getting on. 16Meanwhile the 600 soldiers from Dan, ready for battle, were standing at the gate. 17The five spies went straight on into the house and took the wooden idol covered with silver, the other idols, and the ephod, while the priest stayed at the gate with the 600 armed men.

18When the men went into Micah's house and took the sacred objects, the priest asked them, “What are you doing?”

19They said, “Keep quiet. Don't say a word. Come with us and be our priest and adviser. Wouldn't you rather be a priest for a whole Israelite tribe than for the family of one man?” 20This made the priest very happy, so he took the sacred objects and went along with them.

21They turned round and started off, with their children, their livestock, and their belongings going ahead. 22They had travelled a good distance from the house when Micah called his neighbours out for battle. They caught up with the men from Dan 23and shouted at them. The men from Dan turned round and asked Micah, “What's the matter? Why all this mob?”

24Micah answered, “What do you mean, ‘What's the matter?’ You take my priest and the gods that I made, and walk off! What have I got left?”

25The men from Dan said, “You had better not say anything else unless you want these men to get angry and attack you. Then you and your whole family would die.” 26Then they went on. Micah saw that they were too strong for him, so he turned and went back home.

27-28After the men from Dan had taken the priest and the things that Micah had made, they went and attacked Laish, that town of peaceful, quiet people which was in the same valley as Bethrehob. They killed the inhabitants and burnt the town. There was no one to save them, because Laish was a long way from Sidon, and they had no dealings with any other people. The men from Dan rebuilt the town and settled down there. 29They changed its name from Laish to Dan, after their ancestor Dan, the son of Jacob. 30The men from Dan set up the idol to be worshipped, and Jonathan, the son of Gershom and grandson of Moses, served as a priest for the tribe of Dan, and his descendants served as their priests until the people were taken away into exile. 31Micah's idol remained there all the time that the Tent where God was worshipped remained at Shiloh.

The Levite and his Concubine

1In those days, before Israel had a king, there was a Levite living far back in the hill country of Ephraim. He took a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine, 2but she became angry with him, went back to her father's house in Bethlehem, and stayed there four months. 3Then the man decided to go after her and try to persuade her to return to him. He took his servant and two donkeys with him. The woman showed the Levite into the house, and when her father saw him, he gave him a warm welcome. 4The father insisted that he stay, and so he stayed for three days. The couple had their meals and spent the nights there. 5On the morning of the fourth day they woke up early and got ready to go. But the woman's father said to the Levite, “Have something to eat first. It will do you good. You can go later.”

6So the two men sat down and ate and drank together. Then the woman's father said to him, “Please spend the night here and enjoy yourself.”

7The Levite got up to go, but the father urged him to stay, so he spent another night there. 8Early in the morning of the fifth day he started to leave, but the woman's father said, “Eat something, please. Wait until later in the day.” So the two men ate together.

9When the man, his concubine, and the servant once more started to leave, the father said, “Look, it's almost evening now; you might as well stay all night. It will be dark soon; stay here and have a good time. Tomorrow you can get up early for your journey and go home.”

10-11But the man did not want to spend another night there, so he and his concubine started on their way, with their servant and two donkeys with pack saddles. It was late in the day when they came near Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), so the servant said to his master, “Why don't we stop and spend the night here in this Jebusite city?”

12-13But his master said, “We're not going to stop in a city where the people are not Israelites. We'll pass on and go a little farther and spend the night at Gibeah or Ramah.” 14So they went past Jebus and continued on their way. It was sunset when they came to Gibeah in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. 15They turned off the road to go and spend the night there. They went into the city and sat down in the square, but no one offered to take them home for the night.

16While they were there, an old man came by at the end of a day's work in the fields. He was originally from the hill country of Ephraim, but he was now living in Gibeah. (The other people there were from the tribe of Benjamin.) 17The old man noticed the traveller in the city square and asked him, “Where do you come from? Where are you going?”

18The Levite answered, “We have been to Bethlehem in Judah, and now we are on our way home deep in the hill country of Ephraim. No one will put us up for the night, 19even though we have fodder and straw for our donkeys, as well as bread and wine for my concubine and me and for my servant. We have everything we need.”

20The old man said, “You are welcome in my home! I'll take care of you; you don't have to spend the night in the square.” 21So he took them home with him and fed their donkeys. His guests washed their feet and had a meal.

22They were enjoying themselves when all of a sudden some sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house and started beating on the door. They said to the old man, “Bring out that man that came home with you! We want to have sex with him!”

23But the old man went outside and said to them, “No, my friends! Please! Don't do such an evil, immoral thing! This man is my guest. 24Look! Here is his concubine and my own daughter, who is a virgin. I'll bring them out now, and you can have them. Do with them whatever you want. But don't do such an awful thing to this man!” 25But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took his concubine and put her outside with them. They raped her and abused her all night long and didn't stop until morning.

26At dawn the woman came and fell down at the door of the old man's house, where her husband was. She was still there when daylight came. 27Her husband got up that morning, and when he opened the door to go on his way, he found his concubine lying in front of the house with her hands reaching for the door. 28He said, “Get up. Let's go.” But there was no answer. So he put her body across the donkey and started on his way home. 29When he arrived, he went into the house and got a knife. He took his concubine's body, cut it into twelve pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 30Everyone who saw it said, “We have never heard of such a thing! Nothing like this has ever happened since the Israelites left Egypt! We have to do something about this! What will it be?”

Israel Prepares for War

1All the people of Israel from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, as well as from the land of Gilead in the east, answered the call. They gathered in one body in the LORD's presence at Mizpah. 2The leaders of all the tribes of Israel were present at this gathering of God's people, and there were 400,000 foot soldiers. 3Meanwhile the people of Benjamin heard that all the other Israelites had gathered at Mizpah.

The Israelites asked, “Tell us, how was this crime committed?” 4The Levite whose concubine had been murdered answered, “My concubine and I went to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin to spend the night. 5The men of Gibeah came to attack me and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me; instead they raped my concubine, and she died. 6I took her body, cut it in pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These people have committed an evil and immoral act among us. 7All of you here are Israelites. What are we going to do about this?”

8All the people stood up together and said, “None of us, whether he lives in a tent or in a house, will go home. 9This is what we will do: we will draw lots and choose some men to attack Gibeah. 10One tenth of the men in Israel will provide food for the army, and the others will go and punish Gibeah for this immoral act that they have committed in Israel.” 11So all the men in Israel assembled with one purpose — to attack the town.

12The Israelite tribes sent messengers all through the territory of the tribe of Benjamin to say, “What is this crime that you have committed? 13Now hand over those perverts in Gibeah, so that we can kill them and remove this evil from Israel.” But the people of Benjamin paid no attention to the other Israelites. 14From all the cities of Benjamin they came to Gibeah to fight against the other people of Israel. 15-16They called out 26,000 soldiers from their cities that day. Besides these, the citizens of Gibeah gathered 700 specially chosen men who were left handed. Every one of them could sling a stone at a strand of hair and never miss. 17The rest of the Israelite tribes gathered 400,000 trained soldiers.

The War against the Benjaminites

18The Israelites went to the place of worship at Bethel, and there they asked God, “Which tribe should attack the Benjaminites first?”

The LORD answered, “The tribe of Judah.”

19So the Israelites started out the next morning and made camp near the city of Gibeah. 20They went to attack the army of Benjamin, and placed the soldiers in position facing the city. 21The army of Benjamin came out of the city, and before the day was over they had killed 22,000 Israelite soldiers. 22-23Then the Israelites went to the place of worship and mourned in the presence of the LORD until evening. They asked him, “Should we go again into battle against our brothers the Benjaminites?”

The LORD answered, “Yes.”

So the Israelite army was encouraged, and they placed their soldiers in the same position as they had been the day before. 24They marched against the army of Benjamin a second time. 25And for the second time the Benjaminites came out of Gibeah, and this time they killed 18,000 trained Israelite soldiers. 26Then all the people of Israel went up to Bethel and mourned. They sat there in the LORD's presence and did not eat until evening. They offered fellowship sacrifices and burnt some sacrifices whole — all in the presence of the LORD. 27-28God's Covenant Box was there at Bethel in those days, and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron, was in charge of it. The people asked the LORD, “Should we go out to fight our brothers the Benjaminites again, or should we give up?”

The LORD answered, “Fight. Tomorrow I will give you victory over them.”

29So the Israelites put some soldiers in hiding round Gibeah. 30Then for the third successive day they marched against the army of Benjamin and placed their soldiers in battle position facing Gibeah, as they had done before. 31The Benjaminites came out to fight and were led away from the city. As before, they began killing some Israelites in the open country on the road to Bethel and on the road to Gibeah. They killed about thirty Israelites. 32The Benjaminites said, “We've beaten them just as we did before.”

But the Israelites had planned to retreat and lead them away from the city on to the roads. 33So when the main army of the Israelites pulled back and regrouped at Baaltamar, the men surrounding Gibeah suddenly rushed out of their hiding places in the rocky country round the city. 3410,000 men, specially chosen out of all Israel, attacked Gibeah, and the fighting was hard. The Benjaminites had not realized that they were about to be destroyed. 35The LORD gave Israel victory over the army of Benjamin. The Israelites killed 25,100 of the enemy that day, 36and the Benjaminites realized they were defeated.

How the Israelites Won

The main body of the Israelite army had retreated from the Benjaminites because they were relying on the men that they had put in hiding round Gibeah. 37These men ran quickly towards Gibeah; they spread out in the city and killed everyone there. 38The main Israelite army and the men in hiding had arranged a signal. When they saw a big cloud of smoke going up from the town, 39the Israelites out on the battlefield were to turn round. By this time the Benjaminites had already killed the thirty Israelites. They told themselves, “Yes, we've beaten them just as we did before.” 40Then the signal appeared; a cloud of smoke began to go up from the town. The Benjaminites looked behind them and were amazed to see the whole city going up in flames. 41Then the Israelites turned round, and the Benjaminites were thrown into a panic because they realized that they were about to be destroyed. 42They retreated from the Israelites and ran towards the open country, but they could not escape. They were caught between the main army and the men who were now coming out of the city, and they were destroyed. 43The Israelites had the enemy trapped, and without stopping they pursued them as far as a point east of Gibeah, killing them as they went. 4418,000 of the best Benjaminite soldiers were killed. 45The others turned and ran towards the open country to the Rock of Rimmon. 5,000 of them were killed along the road. The Israelites continued to pursue the rest to Gidom, killing 2,000. 46In all, 25,000 Benjaminites were killed that day — all of them brave soldiers.

47But 600 men were able to escape to the open country to the Rock of Rimmon, and they stayed there four months. 48The Israelites turned back against the rest of the Benjaminites and killed them all — men, women, and children, and animals as well. They burnt every town in the area.

Wives for the Tribe of Benjamin

1When the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, they had made a solemn promise to the LORD: “None of us will allow a Benjaminite to marry a daughter of ours.” 2So now the people of Israel went to Bethel and sat there in the presence of God until evening. Loudly and bitterly they mourned: 3LORD God of Israel, why has this happened? Why is the tribe of Benjamin about to disappear from Israel?”

4Early the next morning the people built an altar there, offered fellowship sacrifices and burnt some sacrifices whole. 5They asked, “Is there any group out of all the tribes of Israel that did not go to the gathering in the LORD's presence at Mizpah?” (They had taken a solemn oath that anyone who had not gone to Mizpah would be put to death.) 6The people of Israel felt sorry for their brothers the Benjaminites and said, “Today Israel has lost one of its tribes. 7What shall we do to provide wives for the men of Benjamin who are left? We have made a solemn promise to the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters.”

8When they asked if there was some group out of the tribes of Israel that had not gone to the gathering at Mizpah, they found out that no one from Jabesh in Gilead had been there; 9at the roll call of the army no one from Jabesh had responded. 10So the assembly sent 12,000 of their bravest men with the orders, “Go and kill everyone in Jabesh, including the women and children. 11Kill all the males, and also every woman who is not a virgin.” 12Among the people in Jabesh they found 400 young virgins, so they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13Then the whole assembly sent word to the Benjaminites who were at the Rock of Rimmon and offered to end the war. 14The Benjaminites came back, and the other Israelites gave them the girls from Jabesh whom they had not killed. But there were not enough of them.

15The people felt sorry for the Benjaminites because the LORD had broken the unity of the tribes of Israel. 16So the leaders of the gathering said, “There are no more women in the tribe of Benjamin. What shall we do to provide wives for the men who are left? 17Israel must not lose one of its twelve tribes. We must find a way for the tribe of Benjamin to survive, 18but we cannot allow them to marry our daughters, because we have put a curse on anyone of us who allows a Benjaminite to marry one of our daughters.”

19Then they thought, “The yearly festival of the LORD at Shiloh is coming soon.” (Shiloh is north of Bethel, south of Lebonah, and east of the road between Bethel and Shechem.) 20They said to the Benjaminites, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to dance during the festival, you come out of the vineyards. Each of you take a wife by force from among them and take her back to the territory of Benjamin with you. 22If their fathers or brothers come to you and protest, you can say, ‘Please let us keep them, because we did not take them from you in battle to be our wives. And since you did not give them to us, you are not guilty of breaking your promise.’ ”

23The Benjaminites did this; each of them chose a wife from the women who were dancing at Shiloh and carried her away. Then they went back to their own territory, rebuilt their towns, and lived there. 24At the same time the rest of the Israelites left, and every man went back to his own tribe and family and to his own property.

25There was no king in Israel at that time. All the people did just as they pleased.

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