God helps people to return to him


This is the story of Israel after Joshua died. Someone wrote it when the Israelites lived among the Canaanites. They had not killed all the Canaanites as God had told them to do. Many Canaanites still lived in cities in the good low land. Most of the Israelites lived in the hills. Because some Israelites had Canaanite wives, they did not obey God. Some obeyed the gods of the Canaanites. God punished his people when they served other gods. When they were sorry, they asked for his help. Then God sent a judge to save them and help them to serve him. The Israelites obeyed God for a short time. Then they stopped obeying God again. God punished them again. They told God that they were sorry. So he sent another judge to save them. This happened again and again. Judges usually decide whether someone has kept the law. In this book a judge is much more than that. These judges are people that God chooses. They lead his people, the Israelites, into fighting and in worship. But God sent his Holy Spirit to make his judges strong. Then they could do the work that he wanted them to do. Judges did not rule the whole of Israel. They ruled in their own tribes. After the death of Joshua, different judges ruled until Saul was made king. This was between the years 1300 to 1000 B.C. (1300 to 1000 years before the Lord Jesus Christ was born).

The word ‘Canaanites’ includes all the peoples who lived in the land of Canaan. This was the land that God had chosen for the people of Israel. Jebusites, Amorites, Hittites, Hivites and many other tribes were all Canaanites.

Genesis 32:22-32 tell us about the tribes of Israel.

The Israelites had 12 tribes. Each tribe was from one of Jacob's sons. God gave Jacob a new name. He called him Israel. The names of the sons of Jacob and his first wife, Leah were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun. Jacob and his second wife Rachel had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob also had sons with his servants. Their names were Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. Each of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh became a separate tribe, so no one tribe has the name Joseph. Each tribe, except Levi, lived in its own part of Canaan. The tribe of Levi lived on land that was given to them by their brothers. They had a special job. They were servants of God and their brothers. They kept God's house safe and beautiful. They sang and prayed to him. They offered him gifts from the tribes. This was to show that all the tribes belonged to God.

Chapter 1

1 After Joshua had died, the Israelites asked God for a new leader. They were fighting the Canaanites. They wanted to know who should fight the enemy. 2 God told them to send the people of Judah first. 3 The men of Judah asked their cousins, the men of Simeon, to help them. They agreed to go together. They would fight for lands for the tribes of Judah and of Simeon. 4 At Bezek, the Lord helped them to kill 10 000 Canaanites and Perrizites. 5 They found Adoni-Bezek there (the king of Bezek). 6 He ran away. They followed him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

7 Adoni-Bezek said, ‘God punished me because I did this to 70 other kings’. The Israelites took him back to Jerusalem. Adoni-Bezek died there. 8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem. They took and burnt the city and killed the people.

9 After this the men of Judah fought the Canaanites in the hills and in the Negev.

10 They attacked the people of Hebron, that used to be called Kiriath Arba, and beat Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.

11 Then they fought the people who lived in Debir. It was called Kiriath Sepher at that time. 12 Caleb asked his big family to attack Kiriath Sepher. He promised to give his daughter to the one who took the city. His daughter was called Achsah. 13 Othniel, the son of Caleb's brother Kenaz, beat Kiriath Sepher. So Caleb gave Achsah to him as a wife. 14 Othniel told Achsah to ask her father for a field. She got off her donkey. Caleb saw her, and asked what she wanted.

15 She replied, ‘Father, please give me water for the land that you gave me’. So Caleb gave her more land. This contained two pools of water.

16 The Kenites were the brothers of Moses' wife. They left Jericho to live with the men of Judah in the desert called Negev, near Arad. 17 Then the men of Judah went with the people of Simeon to attack Zephath. They destroyed the city. They called it Hormah (this means destroyed).

18 The men of Judah also won Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron in the fight. They won the cities and all their land. 19 The Lord helped the men of Judah. They won all the hill country. They could not take the flat country. The people there had iron chariots to help them. 20 Caleb received Hebron as Moses had promised. He sent away the 3 sons of Anak. 21 The people of Benjamin could not send away the Jebusites. The Jebusites lived in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem had been called Jebus.) The Jebusites and Benjamites now live there together.

God chose Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, and into a land that he would give them. But Moses died before they arrived, because God would not let him go in (Deuteronomy 34:5). Caleb and Joshua were the two men who had told the truth about the land that God had given to the Israelites. They said that it was a good country. And they said that God could help them to get into it. They were the only two men of their age who were still alive. They left Egypt when they were old enough to fight. The grown men who had left Egypt died in the desert because they did not believe God (Genesis 13:5-14:24).

22 God helped the people of Joseph (tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) to attack Bethel. (Bethel was called Luz at first.) 23 Some Israelite men went to look at the city. They wanted to discover its secrets. 24 They found a man who was leaving the city. They told him that he would be safe. But they said, ‘You must tell us how to get into the city’. 25 So he showed them. The two tribes killed all the people there, but saved that man's family. 26 Then the man went to the land of the Hittites. He built a city there, and called it Luz. It is still there. 27 But the men of Mannaseh could not send away the peoples of 5 cities. These were Beth Shan, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam and Megiddo. The Canaanites who lived there fought bravely. They wanted to continue to live there. 28 When Israel became strong, they made the Canaanites their servants. They never sent all the people out of the land. 29 The people of Ephraim did not send the Canaanites out of Gezer. These Canaanites continued to live between the people of Ephraim. 30 Nor did Zebulun send the Canaanites from Kitron or Nahalol. But they did make them become their servants.

31 Nor did Asher send away the people of Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Aczib, Helbah, Aphek or Rehob. 32 Because of this, the people of Asher lived in the land with the Canaanites.

33 The people of Naphthali did not send away the Canaanites who lived in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath. They too lived with the Canaanites in the land. The Canaanites of Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became their servants. 34 The Amorites did not let the people of Dan take the cities and valleys for themselves. The people of Dan stayed in the hill country.

35 The Amorites also owned Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim. But when the people of Joseph became strong, they made the Amorites their servants. 36 The land of the Amorites was between the Scorpion Pass and Sela, and other places.

Chapter 2

1 The Lord God sent an angel from Gilgal to Bokim. The angel said, ‘I have brought you from Egypt. You are in the land that I promised to give you. I said that I would always do what I promised in my Covenant.

2 You must not have a covenant with the Canaanites. You must destroy the places where the Canaanites serve these false gods. You have not done as I told you. But you have done what I told you not to do! 3 This is what I will do. I will not send the Canaanites out of the land. They will be your enemies. Their false gods will pull you away from me. They will cause you much pain’.

4 When the angel had said this, the Israelites began to cry aloud. 5 They called the place Bokim (people who cry). They offered gifts there to the Lord.

This book tells us how the people of Israel failed. God told them to kill all the Canaanites and to send them out of the land. They did not do any of these things. The first part of this book tells us how God helped the Israelites when Joshua was alive. But after Joshua died, they forgot to keep their promises. They had failed because they did not ask God for his help. They did not want to obey God. God was angry with Israel.

6 Joshua sent the people to go to their land. Each tribe went to take the part of the land chosen for them. 7 The Israelites obeyed the Lord God for a time. Joshua and the old men had seen how the Lord had done great things for Israel. Whilst some of them were alive, the people obeyed the Lord. 8 Joshua the son of Nun (the servant of the Lord) died at 110 years old. 9 They buried him in the land that was his family's land, at Timnath Heres. This is in the hills near Mount Gaash. It is in Ephraim's part of the land.

10 When all the older men had died, younger men became leaders. They forgot the Lord and all that he had done for Israel. They did not obey him. 11 Then Israel did many bad things. They served the Baals, (gods of some Canaanites). 12 They did not obey the Lord God of their fathers. Yet, he had brought them out of Egypt. They obeyed the many false gods of the people who lived near them. They made the Lord angry, 13 because they served the Baals and Ashtoreths (false male and female gods) and did not obey the Lord. 14 So God punished Israel. He sent enemies to take their animals and food. He let their enemies make the Israelites their servants. 15 Israel went to fight their enemies. But God helped the enemies to win. He had said that he would do this. Israel was very, very sad.

16 Then God made some of the people judges. These judges helped to save Israel from their enemies. 17 But the people would not listen to the judges. They went on following other gods. They were not like their fathers. They soon forgot the Lord. They would not obey him. 18 When the Lord gave them a judge, the Lord helped the judge to save them from their enemies. They obeyed the Lord while the judge was alive. The Lord listened to their cries when other people made their lives difficult.

19 But when the judge died, the people stopped serving the Lord. They became worse than their fathers. They served many false gods. They refused to stop doing all these bad things.

20 Because of this, the Lord God became very angry with Israel. He said to them, ‘You have not done what your fathers promised. You have not listened to me. Because of this, I will not help you. 21 I will not send the Canaanites out of the land. They stayed in the land when Joshua died. 22 I will use them to see if you will try to obey me. Your fathers obeyed me’. 23 Some of the Canaanites lived in the land. God did not send them all away. Also, he did not give their lands to Israel soon after Joshua had died.

Chapter 3

1 The Lord let some tribes stay in the land. These tribes were enemies of Israel. They would test the Israelites who had not fought before. 2 He did this to teach the Israelites how to fight their enemies, because they had not fought many battles. 3 These tribes were the Philistines, who had 5 kings, the Canaanites and the Sidonians (who lived in Sidon). There were also Hivites (who lived in the mountains of Lebanon from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath). 4 They were to test the Israelites. God wanted to see if the Israelites would obey his rules. Earlier, he had told Moses to write down these rules for the people of Israel. 5 The Israelites lived among other peoples in the land. The Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites all lived in the land of Canaan. 6 Some Israelites let their sons marry women from these tribes. Some of their own daughters married men of these peoples. Then they served their false gods.

7 The Israelites forgot the Lord and did many bad things. They served the Baals and Asherahs. 8 God was very angry with them. He let King Cushan-Rishathaim of Aram Naharaim fight against them. This king won the fight and the Israelites became his servants for 8 years. 9 When they cried to the Lord for help, he sent them a leader. This was Othniel, son of Kenaz. He came to save them. Kenaz was Caleb's younger brother. 10 God's Holy Spirit took hold of Othniel. Then he became the judge. He led Israel when they fought other tribes. God helped him to win the fight with Cushan-Rishathaim, King of Aram. 11 So the land of Israel was quiet for 40 years. Then Othniel died.

12 Once again the Israelites did many bad things against the Lord. Because of this, God made Eglon strong. He was the King of Moab. He came and fought with Israel and he won the fight. 13 The Ammonites and Amalekites joined Eglon, and they took the ‘City of Palms’ (Jericho). 14 Israel served Eglon for 18 years.

15 Again the Israelites cried to the Lord, and he sent a man called Ehud to save them. Ehud’s stronger hand was his left hand. He was a son of Gera, of the tribe of Benjamin. He took taxes from Israel to Eglon, King of Moab.

16 He hid a knife that was sharp on both sides, under his clothes. It was about as long as his arm. He carried the knife against the top of his right leg. 17 First, he gave the money to king Eglon, who was a very fat man. 18 Ehud sent back the men who had carried the money. 19 At Gilgal, Ehud turned back to see the king. He said, ‘I have a secret message for you, O King!’ The king sent away all his servants. 20 Then Ehud went near to the king, who was sitting in his big room. There was nobody with him. Ehud said, ‘I have a message from God for you’. The king started to get up. 21 Then Ehud took the knife in his left hand and pushed it into the king's stomach. The whole knife went in. 22 The king's fat covered the handle. The point came out behind the king. Ehud did not pull out the knife, and the fat covered it. 23 Ehud left the room and locked the doors. 24 The servants came and found the doors locked. They thought that the king was at his toilet. 25 They waited for a long time. But the king did not open the doors. So they opened them with a key. They saw that their king was dead on the floor. 26 While they were waiting, Ehud went past the stones that people worshipped, and ran to Seirah. 27 When he arrived, he made a loud noise with a trumpet. He led the Israelites down from the hills of Ephraim. 28 He told them to follow him. He said that the Lord God would save them from the people of Moab. Israel followed him to the river Jordan. They stopped anyone from crossing the river. 29 They killed 10 000 strong Moabites. They killed every one of them. 30 The rest of the Moabites became Israel's servants. And the land was quiet for 80 years. 31 After this, Shamgar, son of Anath, ruled Israel. He killed 600 Philistines with an ox-goad (sharp piece of wood, used to move animals). He too saved Israel.

Many tribes lived in the land of Canaan before God gave it to Israel. The tribes often had the same name as the place where they lived. The Sidonians lived in Sidon. The Jebusites lived in Jebus (Jerusalem). Other tribes came from outside Canaan. The Hittites came from the land that we call Syria. The Philistines were sailors. They came in boats from a land in the west. They lived near the sea and had 5 cities. The Moabites and Ammonites were cousins of the Israelites (see Genesis 19:36-38). They lived east of the Dead Sea. The Ammonites lived north and east of the Moabites. The Midianites lived south of Edom, which was south of Canaan. The Amalekites lived south of Judah. All these tribes served the false gods of Canaan.

Chapter 4

1 The Israelites went back to their bad ways again after Ehud died. 2 So God punished them. King Jabin, a Canaanite from Hazor, made them his servants. The captain of his army was called Sisera. He lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 He had 900 chariots of iron. He made the lives of the Israelites very painful for 20 years. They cried to the Lord for help.

4 Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was then leading Israel. She was a lady prophet. 5 She sat under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel. This was in the hill country of Ephraim. Here she judged the people. When the Israelites argued with each other, they came to her. Deborah decided who was right. 6 Deborah told Barak, son of Abinoam to come to her. He came from Kedesh in Naphtali. She gave him a message from the Lord God. The Lord told Barak, ‘Go to Mount Tabor. Take with you 10 000 men of the tribes of Naphtali and Benjamin. 7 I will make Sisera (captain of Jabin's army) go to the Kishon river. He will bring the army and their chariots with him. You will beat them all’. 8 Barak said to Deborah, ‘I will go if you will come with me. I will not go unless you come with me’. 9 Deborah said, ‘Yes, I will go with you. But God will give power to kill Sisera to a woman. This is because you have been slow to obey him. You will not look very big’. So Deborah went with Barak to Kadesh. 10 Barak told the men from Zebulun and Naphtali to come to him. He led 10 000 men. And Deborah went with him.

11 Heber, the Kenite, did not live with the other Kenites. They were cousins of Moses' family. Heber lived in a tent by a big tree in Zaanannim in Kedesh.

12 They told Sisera that Barak (the son of Abinoam) had gone up to Mount Tabor. 13 Sisera and all his soldiers were at Harosheth Haggoyim. They went with 900 iron chariots to the Kishon river. 14 Then Deborah told Barak, ‘Go! This day God has given you power over Sisera. God has gone before you!’ So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with his soldiers. 15 When they came near to Sisera, the Lord fought for IsraelIsrael beat Sisera and all his army. Sisera left his chariot and ran away. All his soldiers ran away. 16 Barak and his men ran after Sisera, his soldiers and his chariots. They followed them to Harosheth Haggoyim. They killed all Sisera's soldiers. They did not leave one.

Hazor was in the north of Canaan. Jabin was an important king. The tribes of Zebulun and Naphthali and Issachar had their land there. Hazor was a big city. Joshua had burnt it. But the Canaanites had built it again. Mount Tabor was where the lands of Zebulun, Naphtali and Issachar joined each other.

The Kishon valley was wet in winter and spring. The soft ground held the iron chariots. The Israelite soldiers could not fight iron chariots. But the Lord God stopped the chariots. Even Sisera had to get out and run.

‘Kadesh’ was a common name. It means ‘safe place’.

17 Sisera ran to Jael's tent. She was the wife of Heber, the Kenite. King Jabin and Heber's family were friends. 18 Jael came out. She asked Sisera to come into the tent. She said, ‘Do not be afraid’. So he went in, and she covered him up. 19 Sisera asked her for some water. She gave him a drink of milk, and covered him again. 20 Sisera said, ‘Stand in front of the door. If someone asks if anyone is here, say, “No” ’. 21 But Jael took a sharp stick and a hammer. She hit the stick right through Sisera’s head while he was asleep. It went into the ground and he died. 22 Barak came running after Sisera. Jael went out to meet him. She said, ‘Come and I will show you the man you are looking for’. He went with her and there was Sisera - dead. The stick was through his head. 23 On that day God made Jabin (the Canaanite king) weak. 24 The Israelites became stronger and stronger. Then they ruled Jabin’s people.

We do not know if Jael was a bad woman, who killed a visitor to her tent. Perhaps Sisera was a bad man who should not have gone into a woman's tent. But we do know that God was helping the Israelites to kill their enemies. Deborah called Jael ‘blessed’ because God had used her to kill his people’s enemy.

Chapter 5

The Song of Deborah

1 On that day Deborah and Barak, son of Abinoam, sang this song. 2 “When the leaders of Israel rule. When the people are happy to obey. Tell them that God is good.

3 Hear this, you kings! Listen you rulers! I will sing to the Lord. I will sing. I will sing a song to the Lord God of Israel.

4 Lord, you went out from Seir, you marched from the land of Edom. Then the earth shook. You sent rain from the sky. The clouds rained water. 5 The mountains (even Sinai) shook in front of the Lord, the God of Israel.

6 The roads were empty in the days of Shamgar, son of Anath. There was no one on them in the days of Jael. People walked on secret paths. 7 Nobody lived in the little towns. No one lived there until I came. I, Deborah, became a mother to Israel.

8 When they chose new gods, there was fighting near the city. No one in Israel was ready to fight, not one of the 40 000 in Israel. 9 I will make strong the leaders of Israel. With the people of Israel who want to fight. Tell all of them that God is good.

10 Listen, you rich people as you ride on white horses. Listen while you sit on your animals. And listen you that walk along the road. 11 Hear the singing voices, where you stop for water. They speak about all the Lord has done. They tell of the good things that his soldiers did. Then the people of the Lord went down to the city gates. 12 Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up and sing. Get up Barak! Lock up your enemies, son of Abinoam.

13 The men who remained went back to their leaders. The people of the Lord came to me with their lords. 14 Some came from Ephraim, where Amalek lived. Benjamin followed you. Makir (Manasseh) came too. The leaders of Zebulun came. 15 The leaders of Issachar were with Deborah. Yes, Issachar joined Barak. They ran after him into the valley. Many in Reuben were afraid and did nothing. 16 The men of Reuben stayed with the sheep. Many in Reuben were troubled. 17 Gilead stayed in his land. Dan stayed by the sea. Asher remained near the sea. They hid near its edge. 18 But the people of Zebulun were not afraid to fight. And Naphtali came from the mountains.

19 Kings came and fought. The kings of Canaan fought. They fought at Tannach near the water at Megiddo. But they took no gold or rich gifts. 20 The stars from the sky fought. They fought against Sisera. 21 The very old river Kishon carried away Sisera's soldiers. River Kishon, be strong and do not stop fighting. 22 The horses’ feet made a loud noise. They ran fast, their strong legs ran and ran.

23 The Lord's angel said, ‘Punish Meroz. Punish its people, because they did not come to fight for the Lord. They did not help the Lord fight his strong enemy’.

24 Jael is blessed. The wife of Heber the Kenite will be the happiest woman who lives in a tent. 25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk. She brought him milk in a lovely dish. 26 Her hand found the pointed stick. Her right hand took the hammer. She hit Sisera, she hit his head. Her stick went through his head. 27 He fell at her feet. He stayed there and died.

28 Sisera's mother looked out of the window. She cried out as she looked. ‘His chariot is so slow to come. There is no noise’. 29 Her clever ladies replied, and she herself thought, 30 ‘They are finding riches to bring home and women to please the men. They are finding rich clothes for Sisera. They will find clothes of many colours and win all these riches for him’. 31 May all your enemies die like Sisera, O Lord! But may those who love you be like the sun, which shines in the day”.

There was no more fighting for 40 years.

Chapter 6


1 The Israelites did things which made the Lord angry again. So he sent the Midianites to fight them. The Midianites won the fight. They ruled Israel for 7 years. 2 They were very cruel to the Israelites. The Israelites made holes in the hills to hide themselves. 3 They planted seeds to grow food. But then the Midianites and Amalekites and the other tribes came and put their tents there. 4 They took all their food, and animals too. They left nothing for Israel. They took sheep, cows and animals to carry heavy things. 5 Many enemies came with all their animals. They came like a cloud of insects. They were too many to count. They took everything from the land. 6 The Israelites became so poor that they cried to the Lord for help. 7 The Lord sent a prophet to Israel when they called to him. 8 The prophet said, ‘This is what the Lord says. “I brought you out of the land of Egypt. 9 I saved you from being slaves to the Egyptians. I also saved you from all your enemies here. I sent them away and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not worship the gods of the Amorites who live in your land’. But you have not listened to me” ’.

11 Joash, the Abiezrite, had a farm in Ophrah. The angel from the Lord came and sat there, under a tree. Gideon was taking the seeds out of their hard skins. He was the son of Joash and was hiding from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord said to Gideon, ‘The Lord is with you, powerful soldier’. 13 Gideon replied, ‘But sir, if the Lord is with us why has all this happened? The Lord helped our fathers to win fights with their enemies. They told us how he brought them out of Egypt. But now he has left us alone. He has let Midianites make us their slaves’. 14 The angel of the Lord turned and said to Gideon, ‘Go with the power you have. Save Israel from Midian. I am sending you’.

15 ‘But sir’, Gideon asked, ‘How can I save Israel? My family is the smallest in the tribe of Manasseh. And I am the smallest in my family’.

16 The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you. Together we will win the fight with Midian’.

17 Gideon replied, ‘If I am special to you, please make me sure that you really are the Lord. 18 Please stay here and I will bring you an offering’. The Lord answered, ‘I will wait for you’.

19 Gideon cooked a young goat and made many flat cakes of bread. He used an ephah (34-45 pounds weight) of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the soup in a pot. He gave them to the angel under the tree.

20 The Lord's angel said, ‘Put the meat and the bread on this rock. Pour the soup over them’. And Gideon did so. 21 The angel touched the meat and bread with the end of his stick. Fire came from the rock and burnt up the bread and meat. Then Gideon could not see the angel. 22 Gideon knew then that he had been an angel from the Lord. He cried out, ‘Great Lord, I have seen your angel, face to face’.

23 But the Lord said to him, ‘Do not be afraid. You are not going to die’.

24 So Gideon built an altar there. He called it ‘The Lord is Peace’. The altar is still there, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

25 That same night, the Lord spoke again to Gideon. He said, ‘Take your father's second bull, the one which is 7 years old. Break into pieces your father's altar to Baal. Cut into pieces the tree where people give gifts to Asherah. 26 Build a proper altar to the Lord your God in their place. There, on top of the hill, use the broken wood to offer the second bull to me. Offer it to me by burning it with fire’.

27 So Gideon took 10 of his servants, and did as the Lord had said. He was afraid of the men of his family, and of the men of the town. So he worked at night, not in the day.

28 The next day, the men of the town saw that Baal's altar and Asherah’s tree were broken. They saw the new altar. They saw that someone had burned the second bull on it.

29 They asked each other, ‘Who has done this?’ Then they found that Gideon, son of Joash, had done it.

30 The men of the town told Joash to bring Gideon out to them. They said that Gideon must die because he had destroyed Baal's altar. He had destroyed the place where they offered gifts to Asherah.

31 Joash replied to the angry men. He said, ‘Are you trying to save Baal? You do not need to save him. If you fight for him, you will die today. If Baal really is a god, he can fight for himself. He will punish anyone who breaks down his altar’. 32 Then they called Gideon ‘Jerub-Baal’ (Baal must fight for himself). This was because Gideon had broken down Baal's altar.

33 The Midianites, Amalekites and other tribes who lived east of Jordan joined together. They crossed the river Jordan and put their tents in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 The Spirit of the Lord took hold of Gideon. He blew a trumpet. He called the men of his city to follow him. 35 He sent men to the tribe of Manasseh to tell them to fight. He told Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to fight too. They all met together.

36 Gideon said to God, ‘I want to save Israel. You promised to use me. 37 Look, I will put the hair of a sheep out on a dry, stone floor. Please make it wet by the morning, but let the ground stay dry. Then I will know that you will use me’. 38 That is what happened. The next morning the hair contained enough water to fill a large cup.

39 Then Gideon said to God. ‘Please do not be angry. Let me ask one more thing. This time could you please make the ground wet, but keep the hair dry’. 40 That night the Lord did so. The ground was wet, but the sheep's hair stayed dry.

Gideon was afraid and hid from the Midianites. But God's angel called him a ‘strong soldier’. The angel said that the Lord God was with Gideon. This made Gideon strong. The Lord helped Gideon to believe him.

Gideon thought that he would die because he had seen God. The angel told Gideon that he must not be afraid. He accepted the gift that Gideon gave him. Gideon would not die. Then he told Gideon what he had to do. And Gideon did it, at night.

The men of Ophrah were angry. They wanted to kill Gideon. But Joash, Gideon's father, saved Gideon from them. He had let people worship false gods on his farm. He said that true gods would punish Gideon themselves. Baal could not kill Gideon. Gideon had done as God had told him. So God could use him again. His Holy Spirit made Gideon call many Israelites to fight against their enemies.

God was not angry because Gideon was afraid. Twice he did things to show Gideon that he was with him. God chose Gideon to be the leader. He really wanted Gideon to believe this.

Gideon was afraid, but God gave power to Gideon to fight, and to win. Gideon knew that by himself, he was weak. But God made him strong.

Chapter 7

1 Gideon and his men were in tents near Harod, where water came up out of the ground. It was early in the morning. The Midianite army was in tents, north of the Israelite army. They were in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord told Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I do not want Israel to say that they won the fight. They must not think that they are strong. I cannot use all your army. 3 Tell the men that they may go back if they are afraid. They may leave Mount Gilead’. So 22 000 men left. But 10 000 remained.

4 The Lord said to Gideon, ‘There are still too many men. Take them to the water to drink. I will choose them for you. If I say that one should go with you, then take him. If I say that one should not go with you, then do not take him’. 5 So Gideon took the men to the water. The Lord said, ‘Put the men who stand and drink from their hands here. And put the men who go on their knees to drink there’. 6 300 men stood and drank from their hands. The other soldiers all went on their knees. 7 The Lord said to Gideon, ‘I will use the 300 men to save you. I will use them to give you power over the Midianites. Let all the other men return to their tents’. 8 Gideon took the food and trumpets from these men. Then he sent them to their tents. He gave the trumpets and food to the 300 men.

The tents of Midian were in the valley below Gideon. 9 That night the Lord said to Gideon, ‘Get up. Go down to the tents of the Midianites. I am going to give them to you. You will win the fight. 10 Perhaps you are afraid to fight. Then go down to their camp (tents). Take Purah your servant with you. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying. You will hear something to make you strong to fight’. So Gideon and Purah went near to the edge of the camp. 12 The valley was full of Midianites and the other tribes. There were too many men to count. They had as many camels as there are bits of sand by the sea.

13 When Gideon arrived, he heard a man tell his friend about a dream. The man said, ‘I saw a loaf of bread rolling into the Midianite army. It hit a tent hard. The tent fell down’.

14 The friend replied, ‘This must be the work of Gideon, the son of Joash. The Lord has given him power to rule us. He will make us all his slaves’.

15 When Gideon heard this, he thanked God. He returned to the Israelite tents. He shouted, ‘Get up! The Lord will fight Midian for us’. 16 He put the 300 men into 3 groups. He gave each man a trumpet and an empty pot. Into the pot, each man put a burning branch.

17 ‘Watch me’, he said. ‘Follow me. When we get near to their tents, do as I do. You will be all round their tents. 18 I and my men will blow our trumpets. Then you must blow yours. Shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon” ’.

19 They reached the Midianite tents in the middle of the night. A new group of Midianite soldiers had just started to watch for the Israelites. Gideon's men blew their trumpets and broke their pots. 20 All three groups of Israelites blew their trumpets and broke their pots. They took their burning branches and their trumpets. Then they shouted, ‘Fight for the Lord and for Gideon’. Each man stood still. They were all round the camp. 21 Then all the Midianites ran about, screaming.

22 When Gideon’s men blew the 300 trumpets, it confused the Midianites. The Lord made them turn and fight each other. Their army ran to Beth Shittar. This was towards Zererah. They ran as far as Abel Meholah, near Tabbath. 23 Gideon called Israelite men from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh to run after the Midianites. 24 He sent men into the hills of Ephraim. He told them not to let the Midianites cross the River Jordan. He said, ‘Hold it as far as Beth Barah’. So all the men of Ephraim kept their enemies away from the waters of the River Jordan as far as Beth Barah. 25 They caught 2 of the Midianite leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb. They killed Zeeb at the winepress of Zeeb. (A winepress is a very big basket to make wine from grapes.) They ran after the Midianites and took the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon. Gideon was by the river Jordan.

God chose only 300 Israelites to fight. He wanted them to see that he was strong. He would win the fight for them. Gideon may have been afraid, but he did as the Lord told him. He used a clever idea to surprise the Midianite army. Gideon used the gifts that God had given him. And he did as God told him. Then God could fight for Gideon and for Israel. People must do as he tells them. Then God will fight for them.

Chapter 8

1 The Ephraimites asked Gideon, ‘Why did you not ask us to come with you to fight Midian?’ They thought that he did not want their help. They were very angry with Gideon. 2 Gideon said that they had done much more than he had. His part was only small. 3 God had given them Oreb and Zeeb. Ephraim's part was much bigger than Gideon's. When Gideon said this, the Ephraimites stopped being angry.

4 Gideon and his 300 men were very tired. But they crossed the Jordan and ran after the Midianites. 5 He asked the men of Succoth for bread to feed his soldiers. He said that they were tired. But they wanted to catch Zebah and Zalmunna. These were the two Kings of Midian. 6 The leaders of Succoth said, ‘You have not yet caught Zebah and Zalmunna. We will not give you bread’. 7 Gideon replied, ‘I will return when I have taken Zebah and Zalmunna. Then I will punish you with sharp branches. They will tear your skin’.

8 Gideon went on to Peniel. He asked their people for bread. But they gave the same answer as the men of Succoth. 9 Gideon said to the men of Peniel, ‘When I have won the fight with my enemies, I will return. Then I will destroy your strongest building’.

10 Zebah and Zalmunna had 15 000 men with them in Karkor. They were the only men left of their great army from the east. 120 000 of their soldiers had died. 11 Gideon followed a quiet, country path to Karkor. He went east of Nobah and Jogbehah. He made a surprise attack on the army there. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna ran away. Gideon ran after the two kings and caught them. The whole Midianite army ran away.

13 Then Gideon, son of Joash returned towards Israel. He went through the Pass of Heres.

14 He caught a young man from Succoth. He made the young man write the names of 77 leaders. 15 Gideon showed Zebah and Zalmunna to the men of Succoth. He said, ‘You refused to give us bread because we had not already caught Zebah and Zalmunna’. 16 He took the leaders of Succoth and beat them with sharp branches. He taught them to do as he told them. 17 He also destroyed the building at Peniel, and killed the men of the town.

18 Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna what kind of men they had killed at Tabor. The kings answered, ‘Men like you, men who stood like kings’. 19 Gideon replied, ‘These were my brothers. They were my mother's sons. As sure as the Lord lives, if you had let my brothers live, then I would have let you live’. 20 He turned to his oldest son, Jether. ‘Kill them’, he said. But Jether stood still. He was afraid because he was only a boy. 21 Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, ‘Kill us yourself. You are strong’. So Gideon went to them and killed them. He took the valuable ornaments from their camels’ necks.

22 The Israelites asked Gideon to be their king. They said, ‘Rule over us, you and your sons. You have saved us from the rule of Midian’. 23 But Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you. Nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you’. 24 He said, ‘I will ask for one thing. Will each of you give me one ear-ring from the riches you have taken? (The Ishmaelites wore gold ear-rings.) 25 They answered, ‘We are happy to give them to you’. So they put a coat on the ground. Every man threw a ring on to it. 26 The weight of all the rings was 1700 shekels (about 40 pounds or 19 kilos in weight). They also had many other valuable things. They had ornaments and rich clothes from the Kings of Midian. And they took the rich ornaments from the necks of the camels. 27 Gideon made the gold into a beautiful ephod. He put this in Ophrah, his own town. All the Israelites came and worshipped the ephod. They made it into a false god. It pulled Gideon and his family away from the true God.

28 Midian could not fight Israel again. While Gideon was alive, Israel kept Midian down. The land had peace for 40 years. 29 Gideon, son of Joash, went back home to live. 30 He had many wives and 70 sons. 31 Gideon visited a woman who lived in Shechem. They had a son called Abimelech.

32 Gideon, son of Joash, lived for a long time. Then he died and they put his body into the ground with that of his father, Joash. This was in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 As soon as Gideon had died, the Israelites started to worship the Baals again, They made Baal-Berith their god. 34 They forgot the Lord their God. They did not remember that he had saved them from their enemies. These enemies had been all round them. 35 Nor were Israel kind to the family of Gideon. They did not remember all the good things that he had done for them.

Gideon told the Israelites that he did not want to rule over them. He said that the Lord was their King. But he did live like a king. He had many wives. He was rich. The ephod he made became a false god. This pulled the Israelites away from the true God. It pulled his own family away from God. We are not sure how people used an ephod. We know that the High priest wore one. He may have used it when he tried to find out what God wanted. Israel had no High priest in the days of the judges. The people of Israel forgot that they must worship only the true God. They must obey his rules. They must not worship other gods. When they did this, God always punished them.

Chapter 9

1 Abimelech, the son of Gideon in Shechem, spoke to his mother's brothers and all her family.

2 He told them to ask the men of Shechem who they wanted as a ruler. He asked if they wanted Gideon's 70 sons or just one man to rule them. He said, ‘Remember that I belong to your family’.

3 Abimelech's brothers told all this to the men of Shechem. They decided that they wanted Abimelech as their ruler. They said, ‘He is our brother’. 4 They gave him 70 shekels (about 1.75 pounds or 0.8 kilos in weight) of silver from the house of Baal-Berith. Abimelech used this money to pay bad men. Then they became his soldiers.

5 He went to his father's house in Ophrah. There he killed Gideon’s 70 sons on one rock. They were his brothers. But Jotham, the youngest son hid himself. He did not die.

6 The men of Shechem and Beth Millo met together. They met at the tree by the tall rock in Shechem. There they made Abimelech king.

7 When he heard this, Jotham climbed up Mount Gerizim. He shouted to the men of Shechem, ‘Listen to me, so that God may listen to you. 8 One day, the trees decided to make a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king”. 9 But the olive tree answered, “My oil pleases men and the gods. I will not stop making oil to be your king”. 10 Next, the trees said to the fig tree, “Come and be our king”. 11 The fig tree replied, “I will not stop making my sweet fruit to rule over you”. 12 Then the trees said to the vine, “Come and be our king”. 13 But the vine answered, “Wine from my fruit makes men and gods happy. I will not stop making fruit to rule over you”. 14 At last, the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come and be our king”. 15 The thorn bush said to the trees, “If you really want me to be your king, come and hide under my branches. If not, fire will come from the thorn bush and burn up all the big cedar trees!”

16 You have made Abimelech king. You have not been good to Gideon's family. You have hurt them. 17 But Gideon fought for you. He did not think about his own life. He saved you from being slaves to the Midianites. 18 Today you threw out my father's family. You have killed his 70 sons. You have made Abimelech king because he is your brother. He is the son of my father's slave-girl. 19 If you have been good to Gideon, I hope that Abimelech will make you happy! I hope that you will make him happy, too! 20 If you have not, I hope that Abimelech will destroy you. And I hope that you men of Shechem and Beth Millo will burn Abimelech!’

21 Jotham ran away to Beer because he was frightened of his brother, Abimelech.

All the trees in Jotham's story, except the thorn bush, were valuable. People kept them to enjoy their oil, wine and fruit. The thorn bush lay on the ground. It gave no shade. It was only good to burn. It is very clear that Jotham believed that Abimelech was worth nothing. Later, God punished Abimelech, as Jotham hoped.

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for 3 years. 23 Then God caused the people of Shechem to argue with Abimelech. 24 God was punishing Abimelech for killing Gideon’s 70 sons. God was punishing Abimelech and the people of Shechem for their murder.

25 The people of Shechem did not obey Abimelech. They put men on the top of the hills near Shechem. They took money and valuable things from everyone who went past. Abimelech heard about this.

26 Gaal son of Ebed went to live in Shechem with his brothers. The people of Shechem began to want Gaal as their leader. 27 They picked the fruit of the vine and made wine. Then they had a party. This was in the house (temple) where they worshipped their god. As they ate and drank, they said bad things about Abimelech. They wanted Gaal to give Abimelech a lot of trouble. 28 Gaal, son of Ebed, said, ‘We should not let Abimelech lead us. He is Gideon's son and Zebul is his officer. We should let men of Hamor (Shechem's father) lead us. 29 If I led this people I would not let Abimelech be king. I would say to him, “Call out your whole army!” ’

30 They told Zebul what Gaal, son of Ebed, had said. Zebul ruled the city, and he was very angry.

31 Zebul sent men to Abimelech by hidden paths. They told him, ‘Gaal and his brothers are making the men of Shechem want to fight us. They are causing trouble. 32 Come in the night with your men. Hide in the fields until sunrise. 33 Then, in the morning, attack the city. When Gaal and his men come out, fight your best’.

34 So Abimelech and all his army came at night. They hid near Shechem in four groups.

35 Gaal was standing outside the city gates. Abimelech and his men came out from where they were hiding. 36 Gaal saw them. He said to Zebul, ‘Look, there are men coming from the tops of the mountains’. Zebul replied, ‘You are wrong. You are looking at shadows’. 37 Gaal said again, ‘Look, there are two groups of people. Some are coming from the centre of the land. Other men are coming from the prophet’s tree’. 38 Then Zebul spoke to Gaal, ‘Where are your big words now? You said that Abimelech should not rule us. These are the men that you said were no use. Now go out and fight them!’

39 Gaal led the people of Shechem out to fight Abimelech. 40 Abimelech ran after him. Many men were hurt. They fell all along the way to the city gate. 41 Abimelech stayed in Arumah. Zebul made Gaal and his brothers leave Shechem.

42 The next day, the people of Shechem went out into the fields. Men told Abimelech about this. 43 He took his men and put them into three groups. When the people came out of the city, he attacked them. 44 Abimelech and his soldiers ran to stand at the city gate. The other two groups ran and killed the people in the fields.

45 Abimelech fought hard all day. He won the fight and killed the people. Then he destroyed the city. He put salt all over it.

46 The people in the strong building of Shechem heard the news. The strong place was in the house (temple) of El-Berith. 47 Men told Abimlelech about the people in the strong building.

48 He took his men up to Mount Zalmon. He cut branches off a tree with an axe. He put the branches on his shoulders. He shouted to his men, ‘Be quick! Do as you have seen me do!’ 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They put the branches round the strong building. Then they put fire to them. There were about 1000 men and women of Shechem in the building. They all died.

50 Abimelech went to Thebez next. He and his men attacked it. They won the fight for the city. 51 All the people of the city hid in a strong building. The building was inside the city. They locked the door. They went on to the roof. 52 Abimelech and his men attacked the strong building. He went near to the door, to burn it. 53 A woman dropped a very heavy stone on his head and broke his bones. 54 Abimelech said to his army servant, ‘Be quick. Kill me. I do not want people to say that a woman killed me!’ So his servant killed him with a sharp knife. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.

56 This was how God punished Abimelech for murdering his 70 brothers. He had made his father's name look bad. 57 God was also punishing the people of Shechem for all the bad things that they had done. Jotham, son of Gideon had said that these things should happen.

Abimelech was not a good man. God did not choose him to be a judge of Israel. But sometimes God uses bad men to do his work. Shechem was a Canaanite city. God had told Israel to kill all the Canaanites. Abimelech killed all the people in Shechem. He even killed his own family. This was because they did not obey him. He put salt on the city to show that he had completely destroyed it. They could not have put enough salt on the land to stop plants from growing.

Chapter 10

1 After the time of Abimelech, another man came to save Israel. He was Tola, son of Puah, son of Dodo of the tribe of Issachar. He lived in Shamir, in the hills of Ephraim.

2 He led Israel for 23 years. Then he died and they buried him in Shamir.

3 After Tola, Jair of Gilead became leader of Israel. He ruled Israel for 22 years. 4 He had 30 sons, who rode on 30 donkeys. The sons ruled 30 towns in Gilead. These towns are still called Havvoth Jair (Jair's villages). 5 When Jair died, they buried him in Kamon.

6 Again the Israelites did many bad things. The Lord saw this. Israel served the false gods Baal and Ashtoreth. And they served the gods of Aram, Sidon and Moab. They also served the gods of the Ammonites and the Philistines. They did not serve the Lord any more.

7 He became angry with them, because they had turned away from him. 8 The Lord let the Philistines and the Ammonites attack the people of Israel. He let them win the fight. They destroyed the Israelite armies in that year. The people of Israel served their enemies for 18 years. The enemies ruled the land on the east side of the river Jordan in Gilead. This was the land of the Amorites. 9 The Ammonites also crossed the river Jordan. They fought against Judah, Benjamin and the house of Ephraim. Israel was in bad trouble. 10 Then the Israelites called out to the Lord. They said, ‘We have left you and have served other gods. This was wrong’.

11 The Lord replied, ‘I have saved you many times when you called to me for help. I saved you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites and the Philistines. 12 I saved you from the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites (Midianites). They ruled you. You called to me for help and I saved you. 13 But you have left me to serve other gods. I will not save you again. 14 Call to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you from your trouble!’

15 The Israelites said to the Lord, ‘We have done very bad things. Do as you will with us, but please save us now’. 16 Then they destroyed all the foreign gods of wood and stone. They began to serve the Lord again. The Lord saw how sorry they were. He did not want them to be hurt any more.

17 The Ammonite army came to Gilead. They were there in their tents. The Israelite men came to Mizpah and put their tents there. 18 The leaders of the people of Gilead made a promise. They said, ‘The man who will lead the fight against the Ammonites will become our ruler. He will be the leader of all those living in Gilead’.

The earlier fights of the people of Israel were in the north of the land. Now enemies were attacking the Israelites in the south.

Chapter 11

1 Jephthah of Gilead was a brave soldier. His father was Gilead, but his mother was not Gilead's wife. 2 The sons of Gilead's wife became men and sent Jephthah away. They said, ‘You will not get any of Gilead's things, because you are the son of another woman’. 3 So Jephthah ran away from his brothers. He went to live in the land of Tob. Other men joined him there. They were a small group of fighting men. Jephthah was their leader.

4 The Ammonite soldiers came to fight Israel some time later. 5 Then the leaders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 ‘Come and lead our army’, they said. ‘Then we can fight the Ammonites’.

7 Jephthah answered, ‘You made me leave my father's house. You did not like me. Why do you come to me now that you are in trouble?’

8 The men of Gilead replied, ‘But we are asking you to come back to us. Please fight the Ammonites with us. Then we will make you leader over all who live in Gilead’.

9 Jephthah said, ‘What if you take me back to fight for you, against the Ammonites. The Lord may help me to win the fight. Then will you really make me your leader?’

10 The leaders of Gilead said, ‘God is looking at us. We promise to do as we have said’. 11 So Jephthah went back with them to Gilead. The people made him their ruler and leader. He repeated all that he had said, at Mizpah, in front of the Lord.

12 Jephthah sent men to the Ammonite king. He asked, ‘Why have you come to fight our people? What have we done to hurt you?’

13 The King of the Ammonites answered Jephthah's people, ‘Israel came up out of Egypt. They took all my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok. They took all the land up to the Jordan. Now give it back to us, without fighting’.

14 Jephthah sent the men back to the King of the Ammonites. 15 They said, ‘This is what Jephthah says, “Israel did not take the land of Moab, or the land of the Ammonites. 16 When Israel came up out of Egypt, they went through the desert to the Red Sea and to Kadesh. They went through land where no people live. 17 Then Israel sent men to the King of Edom. They asked him to let Israel go through his kingdom. But the King of Edom would not listen. Israel also sent men to the King of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.

18 Next Israel went round the kingdoms of Edom and Moab. They walked to the east of Moab through desert lands (where no people live). They put their tents on the other side of the Arnon. This was outside the land of Moab.

19 Sihon, King of the Amorites, ruled in Heshbon. Israel sent men to him. They said, ‘Let us go through your country to our own place’. 20 But Sihon was afraid. He sent men to get his army. They met together at Jahaz. Then he fought with Israel.

21 The Lord, the God of Israel helped the Israelites to win the fight. Israel beat Sihon and his men. 22 They won all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country. This land was between the Arnon and the Jabbok, and to the Jordan from the desert.

23 The Lord, the God of Israel has made the Amorites run away from the people of Israel. He did not give the land to you. 24 You should take what your god, Chemosh gives to you. We will keep what the Lord, our God, has given to us. 25 You are not better than Balak son of Zippor, King of Moab. He has never argued or fought with Israel. 26 Israel has ruled Heshbon and Aroer and the villages round them for 300 years. Israel has lived in all the towns along the Arnon too. You did not take them back in all that time. 27 I have not done anything wrong to you. You will be doing a wrong thing if you fight me. Let the Lord, the judge, decide whether the Israelites or the Ammonites are doing what is right” ’.

28 The king of Ammon refused to listen to the message sent to him by Jephthah.

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord took hold of Jephthah. He crossed the lands of Gilead and of Manasseh. He went through Mizpah in Gilead, and moved towards the Ammonites. 30 Jephthah made a promise to the Lord. He said, ‘If you let us win the battle with the Ammonites, I will give you a gift. 31 Whatever comes first out through the door of my house when I return, I will kill and give to you. I will burn it as an offering to you, after we have won the fight’.

32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites. The Lord gave him the power to win the battle. 33 He destroyed 20 towns from Aroer to Minnith, as far as Abel Karamim. This is how Israel came to rule Ammon.

34 Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah. His only daughter came out to meet him, dancing to music. He had no other son or daughter. 35 He cried out when he saw her, and tore his clothes. He said, ‘My daughter, you have made me very very sad. I have made a promise to the Lord and I must keep it’.

36 ‘Father’, she said, ‘You have made your promise to the Lord. You must do to me what you have promised. The Lord has given you the power to punish your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But give me this one thing. Give me two months to walk in the hills and to cry with my friends. I am sad that I will never marry’.

38 ‘You may go’, he said. And he let her go away for two months. She and the girls went to the hills. They cried because she would never marry. 39 She returned after two months, and Jephthah kept his promise. The girl had never had sex with a man. This is why 40 the young women of Israel go out for 4 days every year. They are remembering the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite.

This story shows that we must be very careful when we make promises. God would not have wanted Jephthah to kill his daughter. It was good that Jephthah kept his promise to the Lord. But it would have been better if he had asked God what he wanted. God won Jephthah’s battles. Jephthah did not understand that God gave Israel his rules because he loved them. When they did not obey his rules, God sent enemies to punish them, Then Israel showed that they were sorry for the wrong things that they had done. They stopped giving gifts to other gods. Then God showed them his love and saved them. They won the battle against their enemies with his help. God did not need an offering from Jephthah to make him do this.

Chapter 12

1 The men of Ephraim joined together. They crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, ‘Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without us? You should have asked us to go with you. We are going to burn down your house’.

2 Jephthah answered, ‘When my people and I were fighting against the Ammonites, I asked for your help. But you did not come to save us. 3 When I saw this, I crossed over to fight the Ammonites without you. I was afraid that I would die. But the Lord helped me to win. Why have you now come to fight me?’

4 Jephthah asked the men of Gilead to come to him. They fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites won the fight. They were angry because the men of Ephraim had said, ‘You are bad men. We sent you away from Ephraim and Manasseh’. 5 The Gileadites guarded the places where the men of Ephraim would cross the river Jordan. They asked a man who returned from the fight, ‘Are you an Ephraimite, (man of Ephraim)?’ 6 If he replied, ‘No’, they said, ‘Then, say “Shibboleth” ’. He might say, “Sibboleth”, because Ephraimites could not say, “Shibboleth”. Then they would kill him, by the river. 42 000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.

7 Jephthah led Israel for 6 years. Then he died and they buried him in a town in Gilead.

8 After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. 9 He had 30 sons and 30 daughters. He let his daughters marry men of other big families. He brought 30 young women from other families to be wives for his sons. He led Israel for 7 years.

10 Then Ibzan died and they buried him in Bethlehem.

11 After him, Elon from Zebulun led Israel for 10 years. 12 Then Elon died, and they buried him in Aijalon. This was in the land of Zebulun.

13 After him, Abdon, son of Hillel, led Israel. He came from Pirathon. 14 He had 40 sons and 30 grandsons. They rode on 70 donkeys. He led Israel for 8 years. 15 Then Abdon, son of Hillel, died. They buried him at Pirathon in Ephraim. This is the hill country of the Amalekites.

We do not know where all the towns were. But we know that this chapter is about the Israelites who lived east of the Jordan. Ephraim was a strong tribe. They lived west of the Jordan. We do not know why they wanted to fight with Gilead. They should have been happy that Gilead had fought the Ammonites and won.

Chapter 13

1 Again the Israelites did many wrong things. The Lord was angry. So he let the Philistines fight them, and win. The Philistines ruled Israel for 40 years.

2 Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, lived in Zorah. His wife could not have children. 3 The Lord sent an angel to her. He said, ‘You have no children. You thought that you could not have children. But you will have a son. 4 You must drink no wine or other strong drink. You must eat nothing that is not clean. 5 You must not cut the boy's hair. He is to be a Nazirite. He will belong to God from the time that he is born. He will begin to save Israel from the Philistines’.

6 The woman went and told her husband. She said, ‘A man of God came to me. He looked like someone sent by God. He was very powerful. I did not ask where he came from. He did not tell me his name. 7 He said to me, “You will give birth to a son. You must not drink any wine or strong drink. You must not eat any food that is not clean. The boy is to be a Nazirite from the day he is born until he dies!” ’

8 Manoah asked the Lord God, ‘Please, Lord send your angel again. Let him tell us how to teach the boy that is to be born’.

9 God heard Manoah. The angel came again to the woman. She was working in the field. Her husband was not with her. 10 She ran to tell her husband, ‘He is here! The man that I saw the other day has come!’ 11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, ‘Are you the person who talked to my wife?’ ‘I am’, he said.

12 So Manoah asked, ‘When your words come true, how is the boy to live? What rules must he obey?’

13 The angel answered, ‘Your wife must do everything that I told her. 14 She must not eat anything from the vine. She must not drink wine or other strong drink. She must obey all the rules that I have taught her’.

15 Manoah said to him, ‘Please stay here. We would like to make a meal for you. We will kill and cook a young goat’.

16 The Lord's angel replied, ‘I will not eat any of your food, even if you keep me here. If you make a gift, give it to the Lord’. (Manoah did not know that he was an angel from God.)

17 Then Manoah asked the angel, ‘What is your name? I want to thank you for being so kind. I will do this when your word comes true’.

18 He replied, ‘Why do your ask my name? You could not understand it’. 19 Then Manoah took a young goat and some grain. He burnt them on a rock as a gift to the Lord God. The Lord surprised them. 20 As the fire burnt up, the angel rose up over the light of the fire. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell to the ground. 21 They did not see the angel again. Then Manoah understood that it was the angel of the Lord.

22 ‘We are sure to die!’ Manoah said to his wife. ‘We have seen God’.

23 But his wife answered, ‘The Lord accepted our gift of meat and bread. He would not have shown us these things if he had wanted to kill us. He would not have said anything’.

24 The woman had a baby. She called him Samson. He became a man, and the Lord was good to him. 25 The Lord's Holy Spirit began to work in him. Samson lived in Mahaneh Dan. This is between Zorah and Eshtaol.

People often thought that angels were men. Sometimes people thought that they were gods. But God sends them to do his work and to carry his messages.

Nazirites were men who had made a promise to God. They could not drink wine or cut their hair. Nor must they touch dead bodies. Samson's parents promised that he would be a Nazirite.

The Holy Spirit is God. We cannot see him. Before the Lord Jesus Christ was born. He gave some men special power. This might be power to fight very well. This might give a person special power to understand. Or it might give them something to tell God's people.

After Jesus Christ came to earth, the Holy Spirit came to live in every Christian. The Holy Spirit lives in everyone who trusts and obeys Jesus, the Son of God.

Chapter 14

1 In Timnah, Samson saw a young Philistine woman. 2 When he got home, he spoke to his father and mother, ‘I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah. Please get her for me as my wife’.

3 His parents replied, ‘Why go to the Philistines for a wife? There are many nice girls in our own family and in Israel. Why go to the Philistines for a wife? They do not obey the Lord’.

But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me. She is the right girl for me’. 4 His parents did not know that this was what the Lord wanted. God wanted a reason to attack the Philistines. They were ruling Israel at that time. 5 Samson went down to Timnah, with his mother and father. Near the fields of Timnah, an angry young lion ran towards them. 6 The Lord's Spirit gave Samson great power. He tore the lion into pieces with his hands. The lion seemed as weak as a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went to talk with the young woman. He liked her very much.

8 Later, Samson returned to marry the girl. He turned off the path to look at the lion's body. There was a big group of bees and some honey inside it. 9 He took the honey out with his hands and ate it as he walked. When he returned to his parents he gave some to them. They ate the honey. But he did not tell them where it came from.

10 Samson's father went to see the young woman. Samson prepared a party meal there. All the men did this when they married. 11 30 young men came to him when he was ready.

12 Samson said to them, ‘Let me ask you a difficult question. Give me an answer in the 7 days of my party. Then I will give you 30 valuable coats and 30 sets of clothes. 13 If you cannot tell me the answer, you will give me 30 good coats and 30 sets of clothes’. The young men said, ‘Let us hear your question. Do tell us’.

14 Samson replied, ‘Out of the eater, something to eat. Out of the strong, something sweet’. They could not find the answer in 3 days.

15 On the fourth day they spoke to Samson's wife. ‘Get your husband to tell you the answer for us. If you do not, we will burn you and all in your father's house. You will die. Did you want to take our money when you asked us to your marriage?’

16 Then Samson's wife started to cry. She threw herself at Samson. She shouted, ‘You hate me. You do not really love me. You have asked my people a difficult question. But you have not told me the answer’.

‘I have not told even my father or mother’, he replied. ‘So why should I tell you?’

17 His wife cried all the 7 days of the party. So Samson told her the answer on the seventh day. She had made him very tired. Then she told her people the answer to his question.

18 Then the people of the town went to Samson. It was before sunset of the seventh day. They said, ‘What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger that a lion?’

Samson said, ‘You would not have found the answer on your own. You made my wife ask me’.

19 The Lord's Spirit took hold of Samson. It sent him to Ashkelon. The Spirit gave him great power. He killed 30 Philistines there, and took all their things. He gave their clothes to the men who had answered his question. He was so angry that he seemed to burn inside. He returned to his father's house. 20 And his wife’s father gave her to the friend who had stood by him at his marriage.

People often asked questions with a hidden answer at a marriage. It was a party game. But, at Samson's marriage, the cost was very big. A good set of clothes cost a lot of money. Perhaps Samson was trying to show that he was clever. The writer of this story had another idea. He believed that God was using Samson. God wanted to help the Israelites to push the Philistines out of their land. He was making the Philistines hate Samson. God's Spirit gave Samson the power to kill many Philistines.

Chapter 15

1 Later, Samson went to visit his wife. The grain was ready to eat. No one had brought it in from the fields. Samson took a young goat with him. He said, ‘I am going into my wife's room’. But the girl's father stopped him.

2 He said, ‘I was so sure that you hated her. I have given her to your friend. Her young sister is more beautiful. Take her instead’.

3 Samson said, ‘This time you have given me a powerful reason to hurt the Philistines. I will punish them for their bad work’. 4 So he went out and caught 300 foxes. He tied the foxes in pairs by their tails. He tied a dry branch to each pair of tails. 5 He lit the branches. He made the foxes run through the fields of the Philistines. The grain was standing there. Some was ready to take away. He burnt all the grain, the vines and the olive trees.

6 The Philistines asked, ‘Who did this?’ People told them that it was Samson, who had married the Timnite's daughter. They said, ‘He did it because he gave Samson’s wife to his friend’.

So the Philistines went and burned the man and his daughter to death. 7 Samson said to them, ‘Because you have done this, I will punish you. I will not stop until your punishment is finished’. 8 He fought them with great power. He killed many Philistines. Then he went to live in a hole in the rock of Etam.

9 The Philistines went and put their tents in Judah near Lehi. 10 The men of Judah asked, ‘Why have you come to fight us?’ ‘We have come to take Samson away’, they replied. ‘We want him because he has hurt us’.

11 3000 men of Judah went to the place where Samson was. They said, ‘You must know that the Philistines are our rulers. You are causing us trouble’.

He answered, ‘I only did to them as they did to me’.

12 They said to him, ‘We have come to tie you up. We must give you to the Philistines’.

Samson said, ‘Promise that you will not kill me’.

13 ‘We agree’, they said, ‘We will only tie you up and give you to them. We will not kill you’. So they tied him up with two new ropes and led him away.

14 When they came near to Lehi, all the Philistines shouted. They came towards Samson. Then the Spirit of the Lord gave great power to him. The ropes on his arms seemed as weak as grass. The material tied round his hands fell off. 15 He found a new bone from a donkey's face. He took it and killed 1000 men.

16 Then Samson said, ‘I have made donkeys of them with a donkey's bone. With a bone I have killed 1000 men’.

17 After this he threw away the bone. The place was called ‘Ramath Lehi’ (the hill of a donkey's face bone).

18 Samson was very thirsty. He cried out to the Lord, ‘You have helped me to win a big fight. Do I have to die of thirst? Your enemies would come and take me’.

19 The Lord made a hole in the ground near Lehi. Water came out of it. Samson drank from it and he became strong again. The name of this water was En Hakkore (water of the one who shouted); it is still in Lehi.

20 Samson led Israel for 20 years in the days of the Philistines.

Chapter 16

1 One day, Samson went to Gaza. He went to have sex with a woman there. 2 The people of Gaza heard that Samson was there. The men waited for him all night at the gate of the city. They said, ‘We will stay here. We will kill him at dawn’.

3 But Samson only stayed with the woman until the middle of the night. Then he got up. He took the doors from the gate of the city. He tore them from the walls, with the wood at their edges. He carried them to the top of the hill towards Hebron.

4 Some time later Samson began to love a woman called Delilah. She lived in the valley of Sorek. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her. They said, ‘See if you can discover what makes Samson so strong. See if you can find a way to get power over him. We want to tie him up and to make him do what we want. We will each give you 1100 shekels of silver (about 28 pounds or 13 kilos)’.

6 Delilah said to Samson, ‘Tell me the secret. What makes you so strong? How can you be tied up and kept quiet?’

7 Samson replied, ‘You must tie me with 7 new leather ropes. They must not be dried. I will become weak, like other men’.

8 The rulers of the Philistines gave Delilah the 7 new leather ropes. She tied Samson with them. 9 She hid Philistine men in the room. Then she shouted, ‘Samson the Philistines are here’. But he broke the 7 ropes as easy as fire breaks a thin line. So they did not discover why he was so strong.

10 Delilah said to Samson, ‘You have made me look like a fool. Your words were not true. Come on, tell me how someone can really tie you’.

11 He said, ‘If someone ties me with new ropes that have never been used, I will become weak. I will be as other men’.

12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Men were hiding in the room. Then she shouted, ‘Samson the Philistines are here’. But he broke the ropes as if they had been very thin.

13 Delilah then said to Samson, ‘Your words were not true. You have made me look silly. Tell me how someone can really tie you’. He replied, ‘If you work the 7 tails of my hair into the cloth you are making I will become weak. You must tie it well and I will be like other men’. Delilah did this while he was asleep. She took the 7 tails of his hair and tied them in with the cloth she was making. 14 She fixed them with a piece of wood. Again she shouted to him, ‘Samson, the Philistines are here’. He woke up. She had fixed the cloth to a heavy table. Samson tore the cloth and the piece of wood away from it.

15 Delilah said to him, ‘You cannot really love me, when you will not tell me your secret. This is the third time that you have made me look like a fool. You have not told me why you are so strong’. 16 She kept on saying the same thing again and again. Her questions made Samson very tired.

17 So Samson told her everything. ‘I have never cut my hair’, he said. ‘When I was born, God chose me to be a Nazirite. If someone cuts my hair off, I will not be strong any more. I will be as weak as any other man’.

18 Delilah saw that he had told her everything. So she sent a message to the rulers of the Philistines. ‘Come back once more. Samson has told me everything’. The rulers of the Philistines came back. They brought silver with them. 19 Delilah made Samson sleep with his head on her knees. She asked a man to cut off the 7 tails of his hair. This was to make him weak. He was not strong any more.

20 Then she shouted, ‘Samson, the Philistines are here!’ He woke up. He thought that he could become free. But he did not know that God's power had left him.

21 The Philistines took Samson. They pulled out his eyes. They tied him with metal ropes. They made him work in prison. He had to make grain into flour. 22 But the hair on his head began to grow again.

23 The rulers of the Philistines met together to worship their god, Dagon. They said, ‘Our God has put Samson, our enemy, into our power’.

24 When the people saw Samson, they praised their god. They said, ‘Our god has given our enemy to us. This enemy destroyed our land. He killed many of us’.

25 The people were all very happy. They shouted, ‘Bring out Samson. He can dance for us’. So they brought Samson out of the prison. He had to do as they asked.

They took Samson among the pillars of the temple.

26 A servant held Samson's hand. Samson said, ‘Put me against the pillars which hold up the roof. I want to put my weight on them’. 27 The temple was full of men and women. All the leaders of the Philistines were there. About 3000 people were on the roof watching Samson dance. 28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord. ‘Remember me, God, powerful Lord and ruler. Please make me strong again, for one more time. I want to punish the Philistines for pulling out my eyes’. 29 Then Samson put his hands on the two pillars in the centre of the building. He got ready to push. He pushed one with his right hand, the other with his left hand. 30 Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines’. Then he pushed with the power of his whole body. The building fell down on all the rulers and people in it. So, Samson killed more people when he died than while he lived.

31 Then his brothers and his father's whole family came to get him. They took him back and buried him with his father Manoah's body. This was in the ground between Eshtael and Zorah. Samson had ruled Israel for 20 years.

It was women's work to make grain into flour. The Philistines were making the blind Samson look weak and silly.

God made Samson very very strong. He used Samson to kill some of Israel's enemies. But Samson was a man who was weak with women. He did not always obey God's rules. But God used even his weakness to make the Philistines fight. In the end, Samson's love of a bad woman caused his death. But God used this to kill many more Philistines.

Chapter 17

1 A man called Micah came from the hill country of Ephraim. 2 He told his mother that he had taken 1100 shekels of silver (about 28 pounds or 13 kilos) from her. She had asked the gods to punish the person who had done this. His mother then asked the Lord to make her son happy.

3 Micah returned the 1100 shekels of silver to his mother. She said, ‘You must make this silver into an image and an idol. I am giving it back to you’.

4 Micah's mother took 200 shekels of the silver. She gave them to a man who made things with silver. He made an image and an idol. They were in Micah's house.

5 Now Micah had a special place to worship his gods. He made an ephod and more idols for it. He chose one of his sons to be a priest. 6 There was no king in Israel in those days. Every man did what he thought was right.

7 A young Levite was living in Bethlehem of Judah. 8 He left that town. He was looking for another place to stay. As he travelled, he came to Micah's house in the hills of Ephraim.

9 Micah asked him, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah’, he said. ‘And I am looking for a place to stay’.

10 Micah said, ‘Live with me and be my father and my priest. I will give you 10 shekels (110 grams or 4 ounces) of silver a year. And I will give you your food and clothes’. 11 So the Levite agreed to live with Micah. He became like a son to Micah. 12 Micah made the young man a priest at his place of worship. The young man became his priest and lived in his house. 13 Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, because I have made this Levite my priest’.

Chapter 18

1 In those days Israel had no king. The tribe of Dan (the Danites) were looking for a place to live. They wanted their own land to live in. They had not taken the land that Joshua promised to their tribe (Joshua 19:40-48). 2 The Danites sent 5 soldiers from Zorah to Eshtaol to explore the land. These men came from all the families of Dan. They told them, ‘Go and explore the land’.

The men went into the hill country of Ephraim. They came to Micah's house and stayed there for a night. 3 As they came near to Micah's house, they recognised the voice of the young Levite. They went in and asked him, ‘Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?’

4 He told them what Micah had done for him. He said, ‘He pays me to be his priest’.

5 They said to him, ‘Please ask God if our journey will have a good result’.

6 The priest answered, ‘Go in peace. The Lord will be with you on your journey’.

7 So the 5 men left and went to Laish. They saw that it was a safe, quiet place. The people of Laish thought that they would never have to fight. The people of Sidon (the Sidonians) thought the same. Their land was good, so they were rich. They lived a long way from the Sidonians. They had no other friends.

8 The men returned to Zorah and Eshtaol. Their brothers asked them, ‘What did you find?’

9 They answered, ‘Let us go and attack them. The land is very good. You must do something. Do not be afraid to go there. We can win it. 10 The people there think that they are safe. You will find a large land. It has everything. God has given it to you’.

11 600 Danite men prepared for the fight. They took their arms. They left Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 On their way they put up their tents near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place to the west of Kiriath Jearim is still called Mahaneh Dan. (Dan's camp.) 13 From there they went to the hill country of Ephraim. They came to Micah's house. 14 The 5 men who had explored the land said to their brothers, ‘Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, an image and an idol? Now you know what to do’. 15 So they went to meet the young Levite in Micah’s house. 16 The 600 Danites stood at the gate. They were ready for battle. 17 The 5 men who had explored the land went in. They took all the silver idols and other things. The priest and the Danite soldiers stood outside the gate.

18 So the 5 men went into Micah's house and took his ephod and idols and other gods. Then the priest (the Levite) asked them, ‘What are you doing?’

19 They answered him, ‘Be quiet! Do not say a word. Come with us, and be our father and our priest. It will be better for you to serve a whole tribe of Israel. It will be better than now, when you are serving only one man's family’. 20 Then the priest was happy. He took the ephod, the other gods and idols, and went with the Danites. 21 The people put their little children and animals in front of them. They took all their own things. Then they left.

22 The men who lived near Micah came together. They ran after the Danites and met them as they travelled. 23 They shouted after the Danites. The Danites turned and spoke to Micah, ‘What is the matter? Why are you coming to fight with us?’

24 Micah replied, ‘You have taken the gods that I made. You have taken my priest. I have nothing left. How can you ask me what is wrong?’

25 The Danites answered, ‘Do not argue with us. Some of us are very quick to get angry. We might attack you and your family and kill you all’. 26 The Danites went on their journey, and Micah went home. He saw that they were too strong for him.

27 They took what Micah had made. They took his priest. Then they went on to Laish. They attacked the people there and destroyed their city by fire. The people of Laish had thought that they were safe. 28 No one came to save them. They lived a long way from Sidon. They had no other friends. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.

The Danites built the city again and lived there. 29 They called it Dan, after their father Dan. He had been one of Israel's (Jacob's) 12 sons. The city had been called Laish.

30 The Danites put the idols there. Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses, became their priest. He and his sons served there as priests for Dan. They served until other people started to rule the land of Israel. 31 They continued to use the idols which Micah had made at the time when the House of God was in Shiloh.

The tribe of Dan started to serve false gods. They left the God of Israel. It tells us that there was no king in Israel at that time. But every man did what he thought to be right. People had forgotten God's rules. Perhaps the Danites lived too far from Shiloh to learn about God. The gods that Micah had made could not stop the Danites from taking them away. The Levite went with them. No one remembered God's rules.

Chapter 19

1 There was no king in Israel in those days. A Levite lived in the hills of Ephraim. He took a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to live with him. 2 But she left him and she returned to her father's house in Bethlehem. She stayed there for 4 months. 3 Then her husband went to visit her. He asked her to return to him. He took his servant and two donkeys with him. She took him into her father's house. Her father was happy to see him. 4 The girl's father asked him to stay there. So he stayed for 3 days. He ate and drank there and slept there also.

5 On the fourth day they got up early and were ready to leave. The girl's father said, ‘Have something to eat, and then you may go’. 6 So the two men sat down. They ate and drank together. Then the girl's father asked him to stay that night. He wanted him to enjoy himself. 7 The man got up to go. But the girl's father made him stay. 8 On the morning of the fifth day the girl's father said, ‘Have something to eat and drink. Wait until this afternoon and you can go’. So the two of them ate together.

9 The man and woman were ready to go, with the servant. Then her father said, ‘It is nearly evening. Sleep here tonight. The day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. You can leave early tomorrow and go home’. 10 But the man did not want to stay for another night. So he left with his two donkeys and his woman. They went towards Jebus (Jerusalem).

11 When they came near to Jebus, the day was nearly over. The servant said, ‘Let us stay in this city of the Jebusites. Let us stop here for the night’.

12 His master replied, ‘No, we will not go into a foreign city. These people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah’. 13 He said, ‘Let us try to reach Gibeah or Ramah. Then we can stay in one of those cities for the night’. 14 It was sunset when they came near to Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 They stayed there for the night. They sat in the centre of the city. But no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening, an old man from the hill country of Ephraim (but who was living in Gibeah) returned from his work. 17 When he saw the traveller in the square, he asked, ‘Where are you going? Where did you come from?’

18 The Levite answered, ‘We are going from Bethlehem in Judah to the far hills of Ephraim. I live there. I have been to Bethlehem and now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me into his house. 19 We have food and material for our animal's beds. We have bread and wine for ourselves. We (this woman, my servant and I) do not need anything’.

20 The old man said, ‘Please come into my house. I can give you whatever you need. But do not stay in the open city’. 21 So he took him into his house, and fed the donkeys. When they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 They were enjoying themselves. Then some bad men came from the city and stood all round the house. They hit the door hard and shouted to the old man. They said, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house. We want to have sex with him’.

23 The old man went outside to them. He said, ‘Friends, do not be so very, very bad. This man is in my house. You would be doing a very bad thing.

24 Here is my daughter, who has never had sex with a man, and this man’s woman. I will bring them to you and you can use them as you want. But do not do such a bad thing to this man’.

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the traveller took his woman, and sent her out to them. They made her have sex with them and hurt her all night long. At dawn, they let her go. 26 She went back to the house where the man was staying. She fell at the door. She lay there until it was light.

27 Her master got up and opened the door in the morning. He was ready to continue his journey. He saw the woman lying there. Her hands were reaching towards the door.

28 He said to her, ‘Get up. Let us go!’ But she did not answer. Then he put her on his donkey and started off for home.

29 When he reached home, he cut the woman's body into 12 parts. He sent these to all the tribes of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, ‘Nothing as bad as this has ever happened before. Never since the Israelites came out of Egypt. Think about it. Think with care. Tell us what we must do!’

Chapter 20

1 Then all the Israelites from the north to the south of Israel came together. They met at Mizpah, to find out what God wanted. 2 The leaders of all the tribes of Israel stood with the people of God. There were 400 000 men ready to fight. 3 (The Benjamites had heard that the Israelites had gone to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said, ‘Tell us how this bad thing happened’.

4 So the Levite, the husband of the dead woman, spoke to them. He said, ‘My woman and I came to Gibeah of Benjamin, to stay the night. 5 The men of Gibeah came and stood round the house. They wanted to kill me. They made my woman have sex with them, and she died. 6 I took her body and cut it into pieces. I sent one piece to each part of Israel. I did this because of the bad thing that they had done. 7 Now, people of Israel, tell us what you think’.

8 All the people of Israel stood together. They said, ‘None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house. 9 But this is what we will do to Gibeah. We will use “the lot” to decide how we should go. 10 We will take 10 men of each 100 from each of the tribes of Israel. We will take 100 from each 1000, and 1000 from each 10 000. They will get everything that the army needs. Then, when the army reaches Gibeah, they will punish the men there. The men of Gibeah have done a great wrong. This is the right thing to do to them’. 11 So all the men of Israel met and stood together outside the city.

12 The tribes of Israel sent men to all the places in Benjamin. They said, ‘This murder was done by some of your tribe. 13 Send out to us the bad men of Gibeah. Then we can kill them. This will make our people clean from the wrong that the men of Gibeah have done’.

But the Benjamites would not listen to the other Israelites. 14 They came from their towns and met at Gibeah to fight them. 15 They had 26 000 fighting men from their towns. And they had 700 chosen men from Gibeah. 16 Among all these soldiers were 700 men who used their left hands. They could use a leather rope to throw a stone. They could use it to hit a chosen place. They hit it every time.

17 Israel, without Benjamin, had an army of 400 000 fighting men.

18 The Israelites went to Bethel. They asked God which tribe should lead the soldiers against Benjamin. The Lord replied, ‘Judah must go first’.

Bethel was then the place where Israel met with God. The ephod was a beautiful bag that the most important priest wore. It held things to help him decide what God wanted. When he did this, it was sometimes called ‘throwing the lot’.

19 The next morning, the Israelites got up and put their tents near to Gibeah. 20 The Israelites prepared to fight the Benjamites at Gibeah. 21 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah. They killed 22 000 Israelites that day, in the fight. 22 The men of Israel decided to stand where they had stood the day before. 23 They went and cried to the Lord until the evening. They asked him, ‘Must we go out again to fight the Benjamites, our brothers?’

The Lord answered, ‘Go and fight them’.

24 The Israelites went near to Benjamin on the second day. 25 This time, when the Benjamites came out to fight, they killed another 18 000 Israelites.

26 Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel. They sat there, crying to the Lord. They ate no food that day. They offered gifts to the Lord, peace offerings and burnt offerings.

27 They wanted to ask the Lord what to do. (The Ark of the Covenant was there then. Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron was the priest who served there.) 28 They asked, ‘Should we go up again to fight Benjamin, our brother, or not?’ The Lord said, ‘Go, for tomorrow you will win the fight’.

29 Then Israel had a good idea. 30 On the third day they went out to fight Benjamin as before. 31 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah to meet them. But the Israelites led them away from the city. The Benjamites began to kill the Israelites again. They killed about 30 men in the fields and on the roads. These were the roads to Bethel and to Gibeah.

32 The Benjamites were saying, ‘We are winning the fight again’. But the Israelites were saying, ‘We will run away so that the Benjamites will follow us away from the city’.

33 The men of Israel all moved to Baal Tamar. Men hid to the west of Gibeah and attacked Benjamin. 34 Then 10 000 of Israel's best soldiers attacked the front of Gibeah. The fighting was very strong. Benjamin did not know that the end of the fight was so near. 35 The Lord helped Israel to win the fight with Benjamin. That day Israel killed 25 000 Benjamite fighting men. 36 Then Benjamin saw that Israel had won.

Now the men of Israel had run away from Benjamin. They were waiting for their men to take Gibeah. 37 The men who were hiding ran into Gibeah and went through the whole city. They killed all the people. 38 The leaders had told them to make a big cloud of smoke in the city. 39 Then the other Israelites would turn back to the city.

The Benjamites had begun to kill the Israelites, about 30 (thirty) of them. They said, ‘We are winning, as we did in the first fight’. 40 Then they turned and saw the smoke rising from their city to the sky. 41 The men of Israel turned towards them. Then the men of Benjamin were very afraid. They knew that they would soon die. 42 So they ran towards the desert. But they could not get away from the fighting. The men of Israel came from their town and killed them. 43 They were all round the Benjamites and they caught them east of Gibeah. 44 18 000 strong Benjamite fighting men died there. 45 Other men ran through the desert to the rock of Rimmon. The Israelites killed 5000 men along the roads. They continued to run after the Benjamites as far as Gidom. And they killed 2000 more.

46 On that day, 25 000 Benjamite soldiers died. They were all strong fighting men. 47 But 600 men turned and ran to the rock of Rimmon. They stayed there for 4 months. 48 The Israelites went back to Benjamin. They killed the people and animals in all the towns. They burnt all the towns that they could find.

The men of Gibeah had done the worst thing that any Israelite could remember. Israel had to punish them, or the Lord God would punish all Israel. The Benjamites would not let Israel kill their brothers in Gibeah. So Israel punished all the Benjamites. Only 600 Benjamite men did not die.

This must have happened soon after Joshua died. We know that Phinehas was priest when Joshua was alive. And in the early days of the judges, all the tribes of Israel met together. They did this to fight their enemies. Later, all the tribes did not fight together. The Ark of the Covenant was at Bethel at that time. (This was the box in which they kept God's rules. The rules were on two big stones.)

Chapter 21

1 The men of Israel made a promise to the Lord at Mizpah. They agreed that they would not give their daughters to a Benjamite to marry.

2 The people went to Bethel. They sat there until evening, weeping. They cried to the Lord God, and called out to him. 3 ‘Why has this happened to Israel? Why have we lost one tribe of Israel?’

4 Early next day, the people built an altar. They offered gifts to the Lord there. They burnt some of the gifts, as God had told them.

5 Then the Israelites asked, ‘Which people from the tribes did not join us at Mizpah?’ For they had decided that everyone should meet there. They would kill anyone who did not meet them.

6 Now the Israelites were very sad. They said, ‘Israel has lost one of its tribes. The Benjamites were our brothers. 7 How can we get wives for those who are left? We have promised the Lord that we would not let them marry our daughters’. 8 Then they asked, ‘Which Israelites did not come with us to Mizpah?’ They found that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come with them. 9 When they counted the people, there were no men from Jabesh Gilead among them.

10 So the Israelite army sent 12 000 fighting men to Jabesh Gilead. They told them to kill everyone there, including the women and children. 11 ‘This is what you are to do’, they said. ‘Kill every male, and every married woman’. 12 They found 400 young women in Jabesh Gilead. These girls had not had sex with anyone. The Israelites took them to their camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

13 Then all the Israelites sent a message of peace to the Benjamites. They were still at the rock of Rimmon. 14 So the Benjamites returned at that time. The Israelites gave them the women of Jabesh Gilead who had not been killed. But there were not enough women for all the Benjamites.

15 The people were very sad for Benjamin. This was because the Lord had taken one of the tribes of Israel. 16 The elders of Israel asked, ‘How can we get wives for all the other men of Benjamin? All their women are dead. 17 The men of Benjamin that are alive must have children. If they do not, their tribe will die out. 18 We cannot give them our daughters as wives. We promised that we would not do this. We said, “God will punish anyone who gives a girl as wife to a Benjamite. 19 But there will soon be a big party at Shiloh. They worship God there every year in this way. The party is north of Bethel and south of Lebonah. And it is also east of the road from Bethel to Shechem” ’.

20 The Israelites told the Benjamites to hide in the fields, 21 and watch. They said, ‘When the girls of Shiloh come out to dance, run out and catch one each. Take them to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers get angry, they will come to us. Then we will say, “Please help the Benjamites. We did not get wives for them in the war. You will not be punished, because you did not give your daughters to them” ’.

23 So that is what the Benjamites did. Each man caught a girl as she was dancing. Then he carried her off to be his wife. Then they went back to their own land and built their towns again. Then they lived there.

24 Then the Israelites left that place. They went home to their tribes and families in their own lands.

25 In those days, Israel had no king. Everyone did what he thought was right.

The books of Samuel continue the story of Israel. Samuel was their last judge. God used Samuel to make Saul, and then David, kings of Israel.

Word List

table of stone or metal on which they burnt gifts to God (sacrifices).
angels live with God and bring messages from God.
a box with things important to the Israelites in it.
false gods.
female god of the Canaanites.
male god of the Canaanites.
big fight between soldiers.
insects which make sweet sugar, called honey.
ask for good things for a person.
cannot see with the eyes.
male cow.
animal to carry people or things. It can walk for a long time without needing a drink.
place to stay in tents.
People living in Canaan. This was the land given by God to Israel.
a big tree.
a box pulled by horses to carry men into a battle.
a promise that must be obeyed.
a wild place where no people live, because it is very dry.
an animal like a small horse. It carries things or people.
an animal or person who eats.
a beautiful bag worn by the chief priest.
important men.
fig tree
a tree with small fruits (figs).
an animal like a dog, with a big tail.
a hard seed which can be eaten, or made into bread.
a fruit of the vine.
to keep safe.
having no love, wanting to hurt people.
High priest
the most important priest.
Holy Spirit
One person of the 3 persons who are God. He comes to give people the power to do what God wants.
sweet sugar made by bees.
animal as big as a cow. People can ride on its back.
anything made by man, or alive, which is worshipped as a god.
something made to look like a living thing. It may be made from wood, stone, metal or other material.
name of the land given by God to Jacob (Israel) and his sons.
people living in Israel, sons of Jacob.
a person who decides what is right or wrong.
a place ruled by a king.
rules made to stop people from hurting each other.
A person from the tribe of Levi. God chose them to serve him in his temple.
a big animal (like a cat) that can kill a man.
someone with authority.
the name for God in the Bible, it means that he is above all other things.
A short word for mountain.
man who had made a promise to God. He could not drink wine or cut his hair. And he must not touch dead bodies.
a fruit which can be used to make oil.
a gift made to please God.
a thing to make a person or thing look pretty.
a tree with big leaves.
a time of rest with no war or fighting. When people do not argue.
a large long piece of wood or stone which stands on its end.
still water on the ground.
saying good things about someone or something.
son of Aaron, son of Levi. God chose these men to make sacrifices and offerings to God for the Israelites.
hears God's words and tells them to other people.
to hurt someone for doing wrong things.
strong material used to tie things together.
giving something valuable, or dying for someone, or for God.
a person who serves.
helping and working for another person.
a shining white metal that has much value.
a building where people praise and worship their god.
place to live in made of cloth.
trying to see if something works, or if a person is good.
wanting a drink.
thorn bush
small bush with no fruit, but many sharp points.
part of the hand which moves against the fingers.
the whole family of one of Jacob's 12 sons. A family from the same father.
men blow through this metal thing to make loud music.
believing that someone is good, and speaks good words.
a plant which climbs. Its fruit is called a grape.
a drink made from grapes. It contains alcohol.
to love and praise someone more than anyone else.

Book List

A E Cundall and L Morris ~ Judges and Ruth ~ Tyndale OT Commentaries, IVP

J N Schofield ~ Judges ~ Peake’s Commentary

Joseph Rhymer ~ New Illustrated Bible Atlas ~ Magna Books

Bibles ~ NIV Study Bible ~ Hodder and Stoughton & GNB


© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 2001-2002

This version published February 2002

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.