Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics


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The Book of Joshua gives the impression that Joshua and his army successfully annihilated the Canaanite kings and took over their cities and lands. The Book of Judges tells a very different story. I gives an account of the conquest, but with this difference: the Canaanites survived in various different areas, living alongside the Israelites, were not driven out of some of the cities, and in other areas the Israelites were unable to drive them out of the valley (1: 19–36). Thereafter Judges provides a sequence of stories following a specific pattern—Israelite apostasy: defeat by their enemies; Israelite return to YHWH: victory over their enemies. The means whereby the negative cycle of apostasy was broken and turned into the positive cycle of triumph was the raising up by YHWH of judges (chieftains) who delivered the people from the power of their enemies; but after the death of each judge the people turned (or, given their probable ancestry, returned) to the local gods (2: 16–20).28 Judges is, therefore, a collection of stories about individual, named judges and their delivery of the Israelites from the folly of apostasy. The better-known judges include the prophet(ess) Deborah, ‘a mother in Israel’ (5: 7), whose wonderful song (5) is one of the great poems in the Bible and whose military prowess crushed the Canaanite commander Sisera; Gideon, who defeated the Midianites (7); Jephthah, a whore's son from Gilead, whose eagerness to gain acceptance among and leadership of the people of Gilead made him swear an oath which resulted in the sacrifice of his daughter (11);29 Samson the Nazarite, whose feats of strength were only matched by his desire for women—his humiliation by Delilah was turned by him into the destruction of the Philistines (13–16). Within these stories is to be found a wealth of significant and memorable detail: for example, the story of Jael's killing of Sisera is a gem of strategic deception, even though it is also a violation of the rules of hospitality (4: 17–22); Jotham's parable of the trees (9: 7–15); the story of the origin of the word ‘shibboleth’ (12: 4–5); and the story of the encounter between the angel and the mother of Samson which led to the birth of Samson (13: 2–25).

Chapter.  874 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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