After the death of Joshua, the Israelites, surrounded by
pagans, often forgot God and began to worship idols and indulge in vices. For
this, God more than once deprived them of His help and turned them over to the
power of the neighboring pagan people. This misfortune brought the Israelites
to their senses and forced them to bring their minds back to God again. When
they repented, the Lord sent them deliverers who liberated them from the enemy
and ruled over them. These chosen ones of God were called judges. In all, the
Israelites had fourteen judges.
Amongst the judges Gideon is famous because, with
few troops, but with Godís help, he delivered the Israelites from the enemy
Midianites, who oppressed the Israelites for seven years. The Israelites had to
hide from them in gorges and fortifications. Such a misfortune forced the
Israelites to convert and turn to God. Then the merciful Lord sent them a
deliverer in the person of Gideon.
One day Gideon prepared to flee from the enemy and
threshed the wheat in order to have bread for the road. At that time an angel
of the Lord appeared to him and commanded him to gather his troops against the
enemy. Gideon, fulfilling the command of God, began to gather his forces and
collected thirty-two thousand soldiers. After this Gideon turned to the Lord
with a request to give him a sign that the Lord would in fact use him to serve
the Hebrew people. Gideon prayed thus, "If there is dew on the fleece
alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that Thou wilt
deliver Israel by my hand" (Judges 6:37).
Gideonís prayer was heard. On the next day, having
got up early, Gideon began to press the fleece and pressed out of it a whole
cup of water, as it was covered with dew.
Then again Gideon turned to the Lord with a
prayer: "Lord, let not Thine anger be hot against me, let me speak but
this once: ...let it be dry only on the fleece and upon all the ground let
there be dew" (Judges 6:37-40).
The Lord heard Gideonís second prayer and did so
that night. Only the fleece was dry, and there was dew on all the ground.
Then the Lord said to Gideon, "The
warriors that are with thee are too many. I will not give the Midianites into
their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves before Me, saying, ĎMy own hand hath
saved meí" (Judges 7:2). Then the Lord commanded Gideon to let all
those go home who were fearful. Twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand
remained with Gideon.
The Lord again said to Gideon, "The people
are yet too many," and He commanded Gideon to bring them to the water.
At Godís direction, Gideon separated those who drank the water by drawing it up
with a cupped hand, from those who drank straight with the mouth as they bowed
down to the water. There were 300 men who drank with a cupped hand. The Lord
then said to Gideon, "By the 300 men that drank from the hand will I save
Gideon took with him the 300 soldiers, provisions,
and trumpets and those that remained were sent home.
That night God led Gideon on a visit to the
Midianite camp. The Midianites and the Amalekites had settled in the valley in
numbers like grasshoppers; their camels were innumerable. There were as many as
the sand by the seaside. Gideon, with his servant Phurah, made his way to the
Midianite camp and heard one man tell another his dream, that a cake of barley
bread tumbled into the Midianite camp, rolled up to a tent and hit it so that
the tent fell, toppled over and crumbled.
To this the other soldier answered, "This is
nothing else save the sword of Gideon; for into his hand hath God delivered
Midian and all the host." And Gideon took heart.
Having returned to his camp, Gideon woke up his
troops and gave each man a lamp within a pitcher and a trumpet. He divided them
all into three companies and told them to surround the enemy camp and to do
whatever his company did and to shout, "The sword of the Lord and of
When everyone had taken his place, Gideon ordered
his company to break the pitchers and with their lamps shining, to blow on
their trumpets and cry, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." Both
the other companies did this as well.
Such fear and terror came over the Midianites that
in their great confusion and in the darkness they began to kill each other, and
finally they turned in flight. Gideon completely routed them, and with a huge
plunder returned home victorious.
After this victory the Israelites offered Gideon
and his descendants royal power over them, but he refused it and said, "I
will not rule over you neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule
over you" (Judges 8:23).
The judge Samson was famous for his unusual
and supernatural strength. Even from his birth, at the instruction of an angel
of God, he was consecrated by his parents to God, and as a sign of this he
could not cut his hair. One day in a field a young lion attacked him. Samson
grabbed the lion by the jaws and tore it to pieces, as if it were a baby goat.
Many times, the Philistines, the enemies of the Israelites, attempted to seize
him, but always unsuccessfully. Once he tore off new strong ropes with which he
was bound. Another time, with an assís jaw bone he massacred a thousand
Philistines. A third time he carried away on his shoulders the gates of the
Philistine city, Gaza, in which they wanted to hold him captive. Finally, a
Philistine woman named Delilah, with whom he fell in love, having found out
that his strength and power were contained in the long hair on his head, cut
off his hair while he was asleep and handed him over to the Philistines. They
took him, put out his eyes and imprisoned him in a dungeon. Having fettered him
with two bronze chains, they forced him to work for them. In the meantime, the
hair on Samsonís head began to grow back, and at the same time his strength
began to return, since his soul was cleansed by repentance for his delusions.
One day the Philistines brought Samson out during a festival for general
reviling in their pagan temple, and they made sport of him. Samson asked the
boy who was leading him by the hand, to take him to the two columns on which the
whole building rested, so that he could lean against them. Having prayed to
God, he pushed against the columns with his hands and dislodged them from their
place. The building collapsed. All the Philistines who were there were buried
under the ruins of the building, and Samson himself with them.
The Prophet Samuel, from the tribe of Levi,
was the last judge of the Hebrew people.
For a long time Samuelís parents did not have any
children. One day, Samuelís mother, Anna, during ardent prayer before the
tabernacle, made a vow to God that if she were to bear a son she would
consecrate him to the Lord. Annaís prayer was heard, and in a year she bore a
son. Anna called him Samuel, which means "obtained from God."
When Samuel was a youth, his mother took him to
the tabernacle and gave him over to the high priest Eli for the service of God.
The high priest Eli was also at that time a judge of the Israelite people.
The high priest Eli had two sons, Hophri and
Phineas, who were priests of the tabernacle, but they were depraved people.
They celebrated the service to God without reverence and corrupted the people
with their misbehavior. Eli saw Samuelís piety and appointed him to serve in
Samuel always slept inside the tabernacle, not far
from the place where Eli slept. Once Samuel heard a voice in a dream, which
called to him, "Samuel, Samuel!"
Samuel immediately ran to Eli and said, "Here
I am; you called me."
Eli replied, "I did not call you. Go back to
Samuel went and lay down, and again the voice
called him, "Samuel, Samuel!" A second time Samuel went to Eli, but
Eli again replied that he had not called him.
When this was repeated a third time, Eli
understood that the Lord was calling the boy and said to him, "Go back to
sleep. If the voice again calls you, say, ĎSpeak Lord, for Thy servant
Samuel went to sleep and again heard the voice
calling him. Samuel replied as Eli had taught him. Then the Lord revealed to
Samuel that the whole house of Eli would perish because Eli knew how impiously
his sons acted, and he did not control them.
The next day Samuel passed on to Eli what the Lord
had said to him. Eli obediently accepted the prediction. Soon Samuelís
prediction was fulfilled.
The Philistines attacked the Israelite troops and
killed them. Then Eli, at the request of the Israelite elders, sent the Ark of
the Covenant to the camp with his sons, the priests Hophri and Phineas. But the
ark did not help the Israelites. They again were massacred by the Philistines.
Hophri and Phineas were killed, and the ark was captured. Thus the Lord showed
the people that holy things do not help those who do not respect the holy
commandments of God. When Eli found out that the ark was seized by the
Philistines, he fell over backward from his seat and died.
The Ark of the Covenant, being greatly sacred to
the Lord, did not long remain with the Philistines. God Himself convinced them
by first mashing their idol Dagon, then sending the inhabitants of that town
inful growths on the body. Finally, their fields were destroyed by mice. The
frightened Philistines put the Ark of the Covenant in a new chariot, harnessed
to it two young cows and let it go out of their land. The cows, without being
driven, went by themselves to the Israelite land. The Israelites met the Ark of
the Covenant with great joy.
After the high priest Eli, the Prophet Samuel
was appointed judge of the Israelite people. Samuel governed the people not
only as a judge but also as a prophet of God. He persuaded the Hebrew people to
destroy all pagan idols, such as they had, to pray to God for forgiveness, and
to fast. All the people repented and said, "We have sinned before the
Lord." By Samuelís prayers the Lord saved the Hebrews from the
Philistines. Samuel was strict and just and enjoyed great respect and love from
everyone. He governed the people for forty years. In his old age he transferred
his authority to his two sons, who accepted presents and judged unfairly. The
impatient Hebrews began to ask Samuel to put a king over them, such as other
nations had. Samuel tried to persuade the people to remain with their former
form of government, but he was unsuccessful. Then Samuel prayed to the Lord,
and the Lord said to him, "Listen to the voice of the people in everything
that they say to you, for they did not reject you, but they rejected Me as a
ruler over them." Then the Lord said that He warned the Israelites that a
king would force all the people to serve him, would take the best land for
himself, and they would have to give up everything to the king. The people did
not heed Samuelís warning and said, "No, let a king rule over us, and we
will be like other nations."
At Godís command, Samuel anointed Saul as
king, having poured on his head the consecrated oil, and then the Holy Spirit
came down on Saul, and Saul received from above the power to rule the people.
the Book of Judges and I Samuel, chaps. 1-10:1-16.
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