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Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 2)

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Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Perhaps some time has passed between his last oracle and the next one. Hosea 2:2 stands out as a very stark picture concerning Gomer:

2Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband—
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.

Ezekiel 16:15 also says quite bluntly to Israel:

But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.

And again in Hosea 4:12,

My people inquire of a piece of wood,
and their walking staff gives them oracles.
For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray,
and they have left their God to play the whore.

How many times did Hosea have to plead with Gomer? How many times did she leave, wander away?

We know that tradition calls Jeremiah the weeping prophet, but I have to wonder how terribly sorrowful Hosea must have been. He didn’t just SPEAK God’s message, He LIVED it. If Israel was going to play the whore, Hosea was to play the husband to the whore. He was becoming very acquainted with God’s heart for His people, and it HURT.

You can hear the note of agony in his voice as he’s ready to do just about anything to bring her back. Strip her naked? Make her like the wilderness? Kill her with thirst? In other words, put her in a place of need so she can learn dependence on the One who loves her.

Bind her wandering heart to him.

God continues His tone of judgement for their sins in v.9-13. Gomer and Israel believed their lovers had given them the grain and wool and drink and gold so God would take it all away. He says in v. 9-11,

Therefore I will take back
my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season,
and I will take away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
10 Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
11 And I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts.

Isaiah also speaks to their feasts in 1:13-14

13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.

Hosea 2:12-13 continues,

12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said,
These are my wages,
which my lovers have given me.’
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers
    and forgot me, declares the Lord.

Micah 1:7 says of the harlot’s wages,

All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste,
for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,
and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.

God says His people, Israel, had gone after her lovers. They forgot God. The word forgot in Hebrew is shakach (shaw-kakh’) and means to forget, ignore, wither, to cease to care.

God had already forewarned them all the way back in Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17-19

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”

Hosea, wanting to put a stop to Gomer’s adulterous lifestyle says in Hosea 2:6-7,

6Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now.’

It’s like he’s resolved to the fact that she is going to wander and continue to pursue those other men, but he still holds out hope that she will return to him. That she would bind her wandering heart to her husband.

He hopes she’ll realize that she really was better off with Hosea than with pursuing her passions. For God, His hope was that His bride would return to Him: Isaiah 54:5-6

5For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the Lord has called you
    like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.

Hear His words with all the anguish dripping from them. You have deserted me. You have forgotten your first love.

One of my favorite images is this one about the Hedge. One of my mentors, Jamy Fisher, wrote a Bible study on Hosea called Chains Falling. In it she writes about the hedge.

In Hosea this hedge is translated in NIV as “thorn bushes”. Its purpose was to keep Gomer from pursuing her sinful desires. It was placed as a boundary.

Elsewhere in Scripture, a hedge is used for protection. In Job 1:10 Satan tells God,

Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.”

It was protection from harm, poverty, etc.  and was a blessing on his work and possessions. However, here’s how Job saw the hedge – as a barrier, keeping something good hidden from him. He didn’t see the purpose of the hedge in Job 3:23

“Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, / whom God has hedged in?”

Sometimes those hedges God builds up for us that look thorny and seem to hide good things from our view, are really meant to protect us and to keep us from stumbling like Gomer.

Jesus Sought Me When a Stranger, Wand’ring from the Fold of God

If you don’t see God as a romantic, just read the next verses in Hosea. Hosea 2:14 says,

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.

The word allure in Hebrew is Pathah (paw-thaw’) and carries with it a note of deception and persuasion. To entice, even seduce.

The phrase “speak tenderly” is that same phrase used in Ruth of Boaz who “spoke kindly” to her (Ruth 2:13) and of David who spoke to Abigail to be his wife (1 Sam 25).

I wonder if Hosea tried to speak tenderly to Gomer, urging her to come home. Did he go out to find her, catch her in a shameful act, and respond with this gentle tenderness? How would her heart respond to him?

Poor Gomer maybe never knew (before Hosea) how a woman was to be treated. Did she know what it meant to be a wife? To be treasured and not abused? To be seen as beautiful and for that to be celebrated and not used for another’s pleasure? Did she know what it meant for a man to treat her with kindness, expecting nothing in return?

Even beyond this, could she have known that as much as Hosea loved her, the God who made her also delighted in her and desired to pour out His love on her? Did she know He had created her for much greater purposes than how she was currently living?

I imagine this picture of God bending down, stooping to whisper in His bride’s ear Come back to Me, My love.

He pursues His bride but in this case it is with romance and tenderness. It’s Your kindness, Lord, that leads us to repentance. (Rom 2:4)

However, recall the kind of bride Israel has been to her Groom. This bride has been unfaithful. Like Gomer, she has forsaken, forgotten, left her husband. And God’s response is KINDNESS?

His kindness makes absolutely no sense! His pursuit of His unfaithful bride is absurd!

Let me ask you this. How many times either in your relationship with a family member or in your relationship to God have you been forgiven or loved even though you didn’t deserve it? In fact, you probably deserved punishment or scorn?

How many times have you expected someone or God to really rip into you about something you did wrong and give you a good tongue lashing only to have just the opposite happen? God certainly brought judgement on His people and gives them plenty of reprimands and corrections. However, He responds in this passage with kindness.

How much more did you love that person or how much more did you love God in that moment when He gives you love and not discipline? In fact maybe you would have preferred the tongue lashing, knowing you deserved it, and felt like you had it coming? Doesn’t your heart melt with the deepest affection, knowing you deserved the punishment and yet He withholds it AND then pours on Love and Mercy?

She who has been forgiven much, loves much. (Luke 7 the Sinful Woman Forgiven)

As Hosea continues this image of hope, he writes in v. 15,

 And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

Hosea speaks of the Valley of Achor in this prophecy. Achor meant “trouble”. God promises to make the Valley of Trouble a Door of Hope. But what’s the Valley of Achor? And why is it trouble?

Gomer valley_of_achor

It comes from Joshua 7 when Achan had kept some of the devoted items for himself which incurred God’s wrath and resulted in Israel’s military defeat against the city of Ai. Verses 24-26 tells us,

24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

God’s promise was to bring Hope out of Trouble. Beauty from Ashes.

Next, (v. 15) God gives us this image of Israel as a young bride “in the days of her youth” when she had loved her God wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 2:2 words it this way:

Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.

He had caused them to wander in the wilderness so they could learn devotion and dependence to/on the One who chose them and provided for them.

But now, He tells them how He wishes they were like that blushing bride again, having a pure devotion and love for their God again.

Poor Hosea maybe never knew this devotion from his wife.

As we read of God’s bride responding to Him, Hosea says in v. 16-17:

16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.

My Baal meant my Master. It was a generic word for “lord”. The people were using this common term for their holy God. The people had mixed up their worship of the One True God with man-made, hand-carved idols.

The worship of Baal had become so common that God speaks of a time when that word will be removed from their mouths. Instead of the people forgetting their God, they would be forgetting the name of Baal.

Was Gomer accustomed to calling Hosea her master instead of her husband? Does this reveal her lack of relationship with her husband?

Do you call Him Lord because you think you have to? Or do you call Him My Love because you value that relationship with Him?

Is He too familiar? Too common to you? This is God in His holy place. He is not your master who lords His power over you. He is your Husband who pours out His love over you. (Rom 5:5 through the Spirit in us)

Hosea (God) goes on to speak of “that day” like He’s in a perfect day dream in v. 18-20:

18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

I am very fascinated by all the marriage language in Hosea. Here, He writes about betrothing Israel to Himself forever. Remember how He had previously said, “You are not My people”? (1:9) And “…she is not my wife, and I am not her husband”? (2:2)

Was Hosea saying, even though you, Gomer, have left me for your lovers, I will betroth you to me forever? And Gomer, you will know the Lord!

Is God saying He will take them as His wife to love them in righteousness, justice, love, mercy, faithfulness. To be all these things to Him? I take you as My wife forever. In sickness and in health. In righteousness and in sinfulness. In justice and in perversion of justice. In love and in rejection. In mercy and in judgment. In faithfulness and unfaithfulness.

OR is He saying I will put a heart in YOU to be righteous, just, loving, merciful, faithful to ME? You’ve forgotten the Lord, but THEN you will know the Lord. You aren’t faithful now, but you will be faithful then.

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.

Hosea 2:21-23 says,

21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord,
I will answer the heavens,
and they shall answer the earth,
22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel,
23     and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

Remember earlier in Hosea 1 Jezreel meant “God scatters”, but the word can also mean “God sows” which is the image we see here in Hosea 2. Whereas He had previously promised to punish them for the sin of Jehu there at Jezreel, He would (in that day) bring Israel back and “sow” her in the land. They would be removed for a time from the promised land (with the exile) and would be planted back in their land “in that day”.

In that day God would make this covenant to show mercy on those who had no mercy. To call those who were not His people, My people. In Jeremiah 31:33 the prophet writes,

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We can look to Jesus, knowing He made it possible for us to know the Father. He writes His law on our hearts. He gives us the Spirit which sanctifies us and transforms us into the image of the Son. And through His Spirit we cry “Abba, Father”! (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6)

In Romans 9, Paul writes about the Gentiles becoming a part of God’s people and he references Hosea! In v. 25-26 he says those who were not My people will be called My people.

There is such hope for us. We look to that ultimate fulfillment where Jesus will come and gather His people together to be with Him forever in peace and in the presence of God. In. That. Day.

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Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 1)

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Gomer. With a name like that, there’s bound to be a story. Her name meant “complete” or “completion”. How tragically ironic for a woman who found her sole purpose in the giving of her body. She was a woman broken to pieces, far from being complete.

Imagine her surprise when the man of God, Hosea, took her by the hand to enter into his life as his wife. Her very private life suddenly became very public. In fact God told Hosea that He would use their marriage to cry out against His own people, the unfaithful wife, Israel.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

But did she love Hosea? Did she even love God?

She was prone to wander. Just like Israel, she would be unfaithful to her husband. Where did she go wrong? Where did Israel go wrong?

Prone to Wander

The northern kingdom, Israel, was in dire straits. God had sent Elijah and Elisha and then Amos after them to prophecy against His people. He was calling them to remember their covenant with Him and to say, if you don’t remember your promise, those curses I swore about will come to pass. I promised.

Hosea then comes on the scene as a prophet around 750 B.C. This is only 180 years after the nation split into two kingdoms. 180 years after Solomon.

If you take a look at the Kings, you’ll find that EVERY king in the northern kingdom was a BAD king.

Gomer kings-prophets timeline

You could say that Hosea had his work cut out for him.

To summarize the Israelite (northern kingdom) kings is rather easy. They were evil!

Jeroboam I – he set up his own worship centers to keep the north from going south to Jerusalem. He made calves to be the likeness of God and set up new priests to serve at the centers. (1 Kings 12) OMG.

Nadab – did evil in God’s sight

Baasha – killed the previous king to be king; caused the people to sin just like Jeroboam

Elah – evil

Zimri – killed the previous king to be king; burned himself in the king’s house to escape Omri

Omri – appointed king by the people at the same time as Zimri; went up against Zimri; did more evil than all before him

Ahab – even more evil than all the others; erected altars to Baal and Asherah; also sacrificed two of his own sons! (1 Kings 16)

Ahaziah – did evil, worshiped the baal

Joram – evil, killed by the next king

Jehu – kills Ahab’s evil son, Joram, also killed Jezebel (evil wife of Ahab) and 70 of Ahab’s family members; killed all the prophets of Baal, burned the pillars and house of Baal; YET he sinned by worshipping the golden calves at Bethel and Dan (which Jeroboam had set up) (2 Kings 10)

Jehoahaz – did evil (13)

Jehoash – did evil

Jeroboam II – though he did great things for Israel (restoring borders), he did evil in God’s sight (14)

All the rest of the kings reigned anywhere from one month to 10 years. Needless to say, their time as a nation was coming to a fast close. The kings were dropping like flies and they were about to be invaded by Assyria. (722 B.C.)

It is under these conditions that God calls Hosea in Hosea 1:1, but it was an unlikely, even appalling kind of call. Hosea 1:2 :

Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.

If I were Hosea, my answer might sound something like: Um, yes Sir. But do I have to?

But Hosea is obedient and in Hosea 1:3 it says,

So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

None of the other prophets ever had this kind of assignment. Wasn’t the man of God supposed to be, well, godly? Wasn’t it considered a major sin to sleep with a prostitute?

God wanted to make a statement to His people. I’d say His message came loud and clear.

Gomer’s first son is said to be by Hosea. His name? Jezreel. It meant “God scatters”. Hosea 1:4-5 says:

…Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.

Where is this Valley of Jezreel?

Gomer Valley jezreel

Here is a map, showing that it is just south of Galilee, actually in the region of Samaria.

Here is an aerial view of the land:

Gomer aeriel view jezreel-valley

Perhaps you have read what happened in the Valley of Jezreel. The evil King Ahab killed a righteous man in cold blood to be able to have that man’s land (which happened to be in the Jezreel Valley). But did you know that God judged Ahab several kings later when he appointed Jehu as king of Israel? Jehu murders MANY people, all of them connected to Ahab’s house. He sounds like a fairly terrible king. HOWEVER, God had appointed him to carry out the task of killing all of Ahab’s house.

The problem for Jehu was that, even though he had gotten rid of the evil Ahab and his family, he didn’t get rid of all the Baals. This judgment comes on him with the birth of Hosea’s son, Jezreel.

God would “break the bow” of Israel, indicating a military defeat in the region of Samaria. This prophecy comes true exactly as God said: Assyria would invade through the north, entering into Samaria and taking the city and the people of Israel. It came in two waves. First we read in 2 Kings 15:29,

In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

Then in 2 Kings 17:6

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

The next verse (17:7, 12) says,

7And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God,…12 and they served idols.

Hosea receives this prophecy around 750 B.C. and the captivity happens in 722, less than 30 years later.

Right in the midst of all of this lies Gomer. A heart prone to wander.

Prone to Leave the One She Loves

Hosea 1:6 says,

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.”

Gomer conceives again but this time it does say not she bore him a daughter. This daughter’s name is Lo-Ruhamah. No mercy. Or Not loved.

Ouch. That girl must have had a complex!

We find out later in Hosea 2:4-5 that this daughter and the next son are both illegitimate children. They don’t belong to Hosea! He writes,

Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
    she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Her mother was out playing the harlot, making love to any man who came by, but she, the daughter, receives no love. Her mother went out after her lovers, acting shamefully, but Lo-Ruhamah would be the one shamed.

A footnote (ESV study bible) for verse 5 says, “The Canaanite people believed that they owed all the products of the soil to the Baals…. All fertilization was a result of the power of the Baals. Having intercourse with sacred prostitutes was thought to contribute to the agricultural prosperity of the land. The harlot’s pay came from the harvest (v. 12).”

Gomer believes her lovers have paid her with the grains, oils, and drinks from the harvest. Israel believed their fruitful crops came from these gods. They played the harlot, going after these idols.

Hosea continues in 2:8,

And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal.

Does your heart break for Hosea? For God? She did not know it was I who gave these gifts to her. I gave her the silver and gold. But what does she do? Uses it for the idols.

Idols! You saw what happened with the kings of Israel. Idolatry. They were believing and worshipping a lie. These were counterfeit gods. Israel was whoring around with other “gods” or lovers.

The Old Testament speaks to the folly of idolatry. It is folly because they worshipped something that was not God, something they created with their own hands and which ultimately cannot do any good for them.

Isaiah 44:9-20 addresses the folly of idolatry. In v. 20 Isaiah writes,

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

As for Israel, how could they even stand if God removes His love from them? If He chooses not to extend His mercy to them any longer?

Perhaps they had taken the words of the Psalmist for granted:

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4)

Their time had run out. He would no longer forgive them. Their sins would now be counted against them. They will not be able to stand up under this judgement. Assyria was coming.

Hosea writes in 1:7

But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.

So even though God would not have mercy on Israel, God indicates that He will save Judah (southern kingdom) because they at least were still following in His ways. In 2 Kings 19:32-36 Isaiah the prophet, speaking to Hezekiah, king over Judah says,

32 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: “He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 35 And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.

God didn’t use bow, sword, war, horse or horsemen. He used His great might and struck down Judah’s enemies.

Now back to Israel (the northern kingdom), the text continues in Hosea 1:8-9

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Gomer conceives a third time, possibly by another man, and this time it’s another son. The Lord tells Hosea to call him Lo-ammi. Was this son NOT Hosea’s? Not God’s people?

Can you reach into Hosea’s heart and take a peek at the agony he must have experienced because of this calling on his life? The man of God with the wayward wife. She was prone to leave the one who loved her.

This can be seen as a reversal of the Mosaic covenant. The I Am is no longer their I Am. God tells His people, you are not My people; I am not your God. He rejects the people He had chosen. I. Am. Not. Yours.

It’s like He’s telling them, you have acted in a way that reveals to Me that you care nothing for Me. You have shown Me that you want nothing to do with Me. If that’s how you want it, you’ve got it.

But then, God says in Hosea 1:10-11 and 2:1

10Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

I love the redemption story we see unfolding in Hosea’s story. This is what Jamy Fisher calls the Godly Yet (Chains Falling). God always gives hope even in the midst of His judgment! He tells them though I’ve called you, Lo-ammi, you will be called Ammi. I’ve called you Lo-ruhamah, you will be called Ruhamah. He redeems their names. Those children received new identities.

You’ve determined in your heart to reject your calling as My people but I call you My people, I call you Loved. You belong to me, the Living God.

What name do you most often live under? Do you live under a lie? Not loved? Not chosen? Not belonging to God? What has God called you? Loved. Chosen. Holy. Belonging to Him.

He then prophecies that even though they will be exiled, both Judah and Israel will be gathered together and become one nation again. He even tells them that Jezreel will no longer be a place of judgement but one of great joy.

Four other prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah) also prophesy about God bringing both Judah and Israel back to their land. In fact Ezekiel 34:23 says

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

Are you tired of hearing those hoof beats yet? I hope not. This is a very clear prophecy about Christ, the descendant of David, the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps Hosea bends down to speak to his wayward wife, I know you’re prone to wander, to leave me, but look what God says to His people. They have left Him, but still He pursues her because they belong to Him, just like you belong to me. Stay…Gomer…

David’s Wives: Hearts Devoted to a King {Part 3}

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“The Battle for the Throne – Trusting God’s Promise”

Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, was still very loyal to Saul and set Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, over Israel. They decided to have a showdown to see who would be the king over all of Israel. If you read 2 Sam 2:12-32 it feels much the same as the earlier Israelite battle against the Philistines involving Goliath. They chose 12 men from each side to fight each other, but they all end up killing each other, so they end up having a war on a much larger scale – the men of Abner/Ish-bosheth against the men of Joab/David (which most scholars believe last about 2 years).

And let’s just say that Abner’s men got a pretty bad whooping. It’s so sad though because these men were brothers fighting brothers! Israelite against Israelite. A small civil war.

For 7 years David remained in Hebron, and in 2 Sam 3:1-5 it says there was:

a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker. And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.”

Even though David was king, he still had to fight for it. There was a long war. But what is repeated over and over is that David never had the bloodguilt of any person on his hands, but that his men fought for him!

During this time, David apparently collected more wives and also started building his legacy. Abigail gave him a son named, Chileab. Or if you’re reading 1 Chron 3:1, his name is Daniel. The name Chileab meant “like his father.” Did she ever wonder if her son would be the one who would reign after David? Did she speak those truths about God over her son just like she spoke truth over David all those years ago? Did she hope that he would be a man after God’s own heart, just like his father, David?

But I can’t help but remember what God had told the Israelites concerning the kings. Deut 17:17a says,

17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away,”

The wife count is now at 7. How many wives is too many? According to the Talmud, the limitation of wives was 18. But um, I think 2 is one too many!

The gathering of wives for kings in ancient times was like the gathering of power. The power of the wives was in the giving of sons. We certainly learned this in the study of the Wives of the Patriarchs. Sons ensured the continuation of the kingdom. But truly, you only needed one son to ensure the reign. Adding to that number would just result in favoritism, jealousy, sibling rivalry, and the lust for the power.

How did Abigail feel about all the extra wives? We’ve talked about how the culture back then is so vastly different from our own, so it is difficult for us to know how she would have felt.

Patriarchal society or not. Human nature is human nature. I can’t imagine there weren’t pangs of envy among the wives. Perhaps even the pitting of their sons against one another. My son is better than your son because

My son looks more like David.

My son is strong like David.

Well, my son can play the harp like David.

Who cares? My son is more kingly than all your sons!

I’d like to think that Abigail was above all of this, because she’s just so loveable! But did her heart ache for more affection from the king? And more importantly did she hope that it would be her son that would be crowned king, even though he was 2nd born?

Abner determines to give his loyalty to David because Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth accuses him of sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines (2 Sam 3:6-11) which would be seen as Abner trying to move in on the throne. In retaliation against Is-bosheth, Abner goes to David and asks him to make a covenant with him and in return he would bring Israel’s heart to David. David’s only term is that he brings his first wife, Michal, back to him. (v. 13) So in v. 15-16 it says,

15 And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.”

Many scholars believe this was a political move on David’s part to ensure his right to the throne. (Berlin, David’s Wives; Kessler, Sexuality and Polititcs; Levenson, The Political Import of David’s Marriages; White, Michal the Misinterpreted) Still others believed this was to gain the favor of the Saulide party (Brueggeman, p. 226).

Regardless of this, Michal’s second husband appears to have loved her very much, but she is taken from him. How is that heart looking now? The darkness begins to filter into that once very red, very much in love, heart.

Abner keeps his promise to persuade Israel to follow David by reminding them that God had promised David that it would be by David’s hand that he would save the people from the Philistines and all their enemies. (v. 18) His bold move to appeal to God’s will proved he wasn’t appointed as a diplomat and commander for nothing! Unfortunately for Abner, he dies at the hand of Joab, the commander of David’s army because he suspected foul play. And David is faultless. Then Ish-bosheth is murdered by two Israelite men from Saul’s own tribe. (2 Sam 4:5-8) Again, David is faultless.

“A King Arose”

The Third Anointing: 2 Sam 5:3-5 tells us,

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over IsraelDavid was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.”

The shepherd boy became the shepherd of Israel. (The sheep language comes back with the parable of Bathsheba. Also note that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. – Idea in Brueggeman p. 238)

Abigail’s words come back in full power (1 Sam 25:30-31):

30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself.”

Just to clarify, the text emphasizes David’s pure rise to the throne by emphasizing that he never murdered anyone to gain the power of the throne. You might say that he trusted that God would make a name for him and that God would build him a house, establishing him a kingdom.

David takes the throne, a blameless man, just as Abigail predicted. And she stands next to him, Abigail the Wise. Behind every great man is a great woman!

It makes me wonder what the relationship between the two of them was like. She came to him, deferring as a servant, but did she find her place of honor as a wife? Did she, like the woman of virtue, continue to speak truth to him, being wise and discerning, doing good to him all the days of her life? Surely she was a priceless gem, one who continued to seek for his good. She was devoted to her King and her husband, the king. Her heart was one full of honor and was truly a heart of gold.

The very first thing the text says he does as king is go out and fight against the enemies (Jebusites) of Israel! Then 2 Sam 5:10 tells us,

10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.” All the land would hear of this great king and would bring gifts to him. And verse 12 tells us, “12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.”

This king David brings a fresh hope to the people of Israel. The time of darkness when the judges ruled is now ancient history. With great anticipation the people watched as God’s kingdom was realized in the man, David.

Brueggeman writes, “In Israel’s theological tradition, the kingdom came to embody the approval and will of God. Whereas the ultimate kingdom hoped for by Christians is that the kingdoms of this age will become ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ’ (Rev. 11:15), in ancient Israel the process is reversed. It is hoped that the kingdom of God will become the kingdom of this age and of his messiah (David). It is the passionate desire of Israel that Yahweh’s powerful rule should take real, effective, concrete form, so real and powerful that the nations will notice and take it into account.” (p. 243)

HOWEVER…v. 13 tells us:

“13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David.”

If we had red flags in our Bibles, I’m certain there would be one at the tail end of this verse. He keeps taking wives and now concubines.

Michal, Saul’s daughter

David had success after success against the Philistines, and he and all of Israel came celebrating before the Lord, with the ark of the covenant.

The ark had been captured during Eli’s time by the Philistines, and when they returned it, the ark ended up at Kiriath-jearim (a small town at the northern-most tip of Judah) where it sat for 20 years, seemingly forgotten.

David ark

“The ark embodies what is unifying among the tribes and clans of Israel. The ark articulates and embodies for old Israel the holy rule of Yahweh. They [had] forgotten the significance of the ark, which referred to the raw presence of Yahweh, the power of Yahweh, and the covenantal implications of Yahweh’s sovereignty.” (Brueggeman p. 248).

“The coming of the ark signified two things for the king. Looking back, it meant a reengagement with the taproot of Israel’s religious vitality. David here gets back in touch with the most elemental dimensions of Israel’s traditional faith; it is no wonder that the movement of the ark evoked such a stupendous celebration. Looking forward, it brought David royal legitimacy.” (Brueggeman, 249).

It meant that God approved of David’s reign as king, that it was God’s will.

2 Sam 6:14-15:

14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.”

This word “dancing” is not used anywhere else in Scripture but seems to describe a whirling dance. I think we can assume he was expressing his joy!

A linen ephod was the robe worn by priests. It was a “sleeveless garment made from gold [with] blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen.” (Dict of Pentateuch) It had a waistband and two shoulder pieces that had onyx stones mounted in gold filigree with the names of the 12 tribes on them. The breastpiece would have been secured onto the ephod and held the Urim and Thummim. “The Urim and Thummim belonged to God (Deut 33:8) and was used for matters of national importance about which Yahweh had not yet made His will clearly known.” (Dict of OT Pentateuch)

It is the same thing David used two of the times he inquired of God. It was the ephod with the Urim and Thummim that one of the priests had brought to David way back when Saul was still chasing him and which he used to seek God’s direction.

  1. When he was with the people of Keilah and wanted to know if they would give David into Saul’s hands. 1 Sam 23:9-13
  2. When he asked if he should pursue the Amalekites who had taken off with his wives. 1 Sam 30:7-8

Here though, David, the king, not a priest, wears the ephod. Maybe the question is why was David wearing a priestly garment?

It is a picture of a truly godly man, one whose desire was to lead the people to worship their God, just as the priests were supposed to do. He doesn’t simply tell them what they ought to do, he shows them what to do – worshipping the Lord with all his might!

In addition, he appears to be in the role of a priest as they are bringing the ark of God to the “city of David” (v. 16). It shows him offering sacrifices to God as they carried the ark along so that God’s anger would not burn against them again after what happened earlier. Then in v. 17 after they arrive, he offered burnt and peace offerings to God.

After he had finished the offerings it says in v. 18b-20a,

he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts 19 and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. 20 And David returned to bless his household.”

David leads the people in gratefulness to their God who has very visibly (in the ark of God) taken up residence in the “city of David” to be among His people once again.

However Miss Michal was none too keen to observe her husband.

2 Sam 6:16 says,

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.”

David Jerusalem Michal tower

This is the tower at the palace in Jerusalem. You can see how she could have easily watched him from any one of these windows!

As we try to understand her response to David, I want you to notice how she is identified in v. 16 – as the daughter of Saul not the wife of David. Sometimes a description like this speaks volumes. Her loyalty was with her father after those long years spent away from David. The text is silent about her psychological condition – whether or not she felt slighted or abandoned by her husband after all those years. What is most likely is that the writer, identifying her as Saul’s daughter, wanted to show the disdain of the old house of Saul in the midst of the celebration. (Brueggeman, 251).

Interestingly, Michal is only referred to as David’s wife 3 times – in 1 Sam 19:11 when she is saving him from her father, in 25:44 when Saul gives her to another man, and in 2 Sam 3:14 when David requests for “his wife” (but after he’s already referred to her as “Saul’s daughter”).

The word despise in the Hebrew is the word “bazah” (baw-zaw) and it meant to despise, hold in contempt, disdain.

  • As in Gen 25:34 of Esau: “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
  • 1 Sam 17:42 of Goliath:  “When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance.”
  • Isaiah 53:3 prophecy fulfilled in Jesus: “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

She who had loved David so early on in her life had now come to despise him. The darkness had completely overtaken her heart, and she spews hateful words out of the darkness of her heart. 2 Sam 6:20-23 says,

How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord.22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

Is she simply irritated that he doesn’t appear to be acting in the way a king should act – regal? Dignified? Honorable? The text already told us he was wearing a linen ephod, so why is she accusing him of uncovering himself?

When you look up the use of this word “uncover” it has at least 20 different meanings – some of which include being banished, betrayed, carried away into captivity, exiled, to be deported, laid bare, opened, removed, revealed, stripped, uncovered. The connotation seems to be in relation to exile, captivity, humiliation.

Why does Michal believe he acted shamefully? No one else seemed bothered by these events or by his behavior. None of the other wives take issue with his actions.

David doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior either. He doesn’t address the “uncovering” and neither does the text. This conversation is set up in the form of a chiasm with the claim about God choosing David as the central feature:

Michal:                    honor

maids

shamelessly

David:                                         before Yahweh

                                                          chose me above….above prince over

                                                    before Yahweh

contemptible

maids

honor

“David refutes her judgment by saying he may be contemptible in her eyes, but in the eyes of the maidens (and therefore of political opinion) he is more honored.” (Brueggeman, 252). So the central feature is that God has chosen David “above and above” to be prince “over and over” Israel. This claim dismisses Michal and the entire Saulide claim to the throne. It is God who legitimizes David’s claim to the throne, not Michal or Saul.

This appears to be a heart issue for Michal alone. And the very last verse may be the most telling: v. 23

23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

She’s again referred to as the “daughter of Saul” but the most poignant message concerns her childlessness. Is the author telling us that she and David essentially had no relationship after this encounter? Or that God did not allow her to have children because of her heart issue? What this meant for Michael is the “she has no future, no claim on Israel, no prospect for life.” (252)

“God’s Covenant with David”

In the next chapter, we learn of God’s covenant with David. 2 Sam 7:8-16 says,

Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people IsraelAnd I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.”

David’s wives likely grew up learning about the covenant God had made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. They would have known that God had set the nation of Israel apart. They would have learned about the dark times of the Judges and how the people did evil in the sight of God. There would have been an anticipation among them of hope for a godly king who would lead the people to serve God wholeheartedly. What must it have been like for them to know that it was their David whom God had chosen as the godly king with whom He would establish His covenant forever?

Michal’s heart revealed that she despised him. But Abigail? Was she as delighted in God’s chosen man as God was? Did she dance with the people at the entrance of the ark of God? The presence of God visible for all to see and know?

As for David, he would know that God had chosen him, not because he was an amazing person but simply because God wanted to express His love to him. David wanted to make a house (temple) for God but God said he would make a house (dynasty) for David. God would make David’s name great. God would establish David’s kingdom. God. God. God.

David didn’t need to do anything to make a name for himself. David didn’t need to do anything to make himself a house. He didn’t need to establish his own kingdom. It would be by God’s hand that these things would take place.

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

And interestingly God tells David that He would also establish the throne of David’s son (yet to be named). God tells David that He would correct David’s son when he sinned but that His love and presence would never depart from David’s sons as He had done with Saul. God knew that David’s son would commit sins and yet He still promised to correct him and to love him.

This is an oracle of unconditional promise, unlike the conditional character of the Mosaic law. (Brueggeman, 259) Even those “sons” who came after him would be loved unconditionally.

What is more, God tells David his kingdom would be forever. He would not take away the kingdom from his house, even if those who came after stopped following God’s ways. God ensured that He would continue His covenant even if His chosen servants were unfaithful to Him. He promised. And God does not lie. God does not forsake His promises.

“Out of this oracle there emerges the hope held by Israel in every season that there is a coming David who will right wrong and establish a good governance. That coming one may be hidden [to them], may experience resistance…, but nevertheless there is one coming who will make things right.” (Brueggeman 257)

God knew exactly what He was getting Himself into. He knew even before He made Adam and Eve. He knew that just like Abraham and just like Moses, David and his sons after him would not be able to keep the covenant. They would fail. But God would remain faithful to His promise.

How could God possibly make this happen? How could sinful men ever hope to be a part of His plan? We read about king after king, who, no matter how godly they were, would not measure up to God’s standard. Even if God managed to keep a Davidic descendant on the throne, the people would continue to sin, fall away, cry out, repent, return, then continue in this cycle of sin. How could their hope ever be in the race of men?

Even as Israel would fall away after having evil king after evil king, still God would place a Davidic descendant on the throne in Judah. But God had a BIGGER plan.

When God made the covenant with Abraham in the days of old, He promised that even if Abraham broke the covenant, He would ensure Abraham’s side of the deal. He would take it upon Himself to hold up the covenant for both He AND Abraham.

Well God knew that none of us could keep the covenant. Not David, not Solomon, not any king of Judah, not anyone. He would send His Son, a descendant of David, who could hold up the covenant for both God AND for man. Jesus, the exact representation of God, came in the form of man, so that He fulfilled the requirements for both God AND man.

Our hope is in this God-man!

Those hoof beats get louder and louder…

If you read Matthew 1 and Luke 3, you can trace David’s descendants all the way to Christ. Luke 1:31-33 says

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

How could God promise David a never-ending kingdom? By sending His Son, the eternal God!

We had no hope of ever overcoming the cycle of sin so Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice once and for all that was able to cancel the power and cycle of sin and death. Jesus OVERCAME. He is worthy! And He became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ! This is His reckless, relentless love.

Bathsheba, the Beautiful

2 Sam 8:14 tells us that “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” He had success on the battlefields and was a king who administered justice and equity to all his people (v. 15). This chapter and the next 2 chapters serve as a summary of David’s reign, so you can assume that many years pass between these chapters and the sin with Bathsheba.

We read of how great David was all those years, and then we get to chapter 11 and would rather just close our Bibles and go on our merry way, leaving our view of godly David still intact. Everyone is aware of the scandal in the palace. It is all too familiar that I fear we have forgotten to read this narrative with eyes to see the woman at the bath and the man on the roof.

Bathsheba was referred to as “the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Sam 11:3). Her name meant “daughter of an oath.” Both Eliam and Uriah were two of David’s “mighty men” (listed in 2 Sam 23:34, 39). She was someone’s daughter, someone’s wife. And David most certainly would have recognized the men to whom she belonged!

Many scholars believe she was also the granddaughter of Ahithophel, who is said to be the father of Eliam. Ahithophel ends up becoming one of David’s counselors who later betrays him when David’s son, Absalom, tries to overthrow him as king (2 Sam 15-17 and 1 Chron. 27:33).

The text does not tell us whether or not her bathing was right or wrong. It also doesn’t tell us whether or not David walking around on his roof was right or wrong. Here is a picture showing the city of Jerusalem and where David’s palace would have been. During Solomon’s reign the Temple would have taken up the entire top portion of the city (shown in this picture as land).

David's city drawing

The main message is that David saw and then he took. He did what was right in his own eyes rather than averting his eyes. He took what was not his rather than being content with what was his.

I mean, how many wives did David have at this point??! He had the 7 wives, then in 2 Sam 5, he added more wives and also concubines. I’m pretty sure he didn’t need to take any other women for his own pleasure.

In v. 4-5 it says,

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” (2 Sam 11)

David’s “taking” would have hearkened back to what Samuel had warned the people about their kings. 1 Sam 8:11-19:

He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons…He will take your daughters…He will take the best of your fields…He will take the tenth of your grain…He will take your male servants and female servants…He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”

Kings are “takers”, and David, who had started out as one who received from God’s hands, has now become a king like the kings of other nations – a taker. He had previously had everything gladly given to him by Yahweh and his followers, but here, we see his decline as he takes what was not his.

This is rather uncomfortable to talk about because it shows a side of David that we’d rather not believe of him. This is the part where we find the skeletons in David’s closet! The man after God’s own heart stumbled greatly in this one moment.

Unfortunately we can only guess what Bathsheba was thinking when one of David’s messengers called for her to come to the palace. Imagine the scene from Bathsheba’s perspective.

Who is at my door? Is Uriah home from battle already? The king? He sends for me? What exactly does he want? Why are you taking me to David?

King David, may you live forever, blessed be your kingdom. Did I just hear right? David wants to do what with me? How can I say no to the king? What am I to do? I’m a married woman! Uriah and my father are his loyal servants. This will not look good if word gets out. What will people think of me?

I cannot believe I’m pregnant! How am I going to tell Uriah? I can’t possibly tell him. What will he think of me? Of the king? I have to tell David. He’ll know what to do.

It’s utterly despicable. Then David definitely “takes care” of the problem. Only now, Bathsheba is pregnant but with no husband. She’d be viewed by all as the city whore. How could she be pregnant if her husband died in battle? She couldn’t tell anyone whose child it was. They wouldn’t believe her! David put her in the worst possible position. She had nowhere to go. She should be put to death according to the law.

In fact she might as well have had a big SCARLET LETTER A written on her heart.

Lev 20:10 states

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

And Deut 22:22 says,

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.”

Have you ever been marked like Bathsheba? Have you felt like your heart had a big scarlet letter A written over it?

David, thinking he had covered his tracks, sends for Bathsheba to be his wife after the period of her mourning was over for her dead husband. Though David had taken her as his wife, she’s still referred to as Uriah’s wife until v. 24. Though it does not excuse his sin, he does not leave Bathsheba to die an adulterer’s death.

“God’s Presence Does Not Depart”

2 Sam 11:27b says,

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

God does not give either David or Bathsheba the punishment they deserve. He shows them mercy and sends Nathan to David with the message from God.

Nathan tells David in 12:7-9

“I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much moreWhy have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?”

Fortunately David immediately repents but it was not without consequences v. 10-12 say,

10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.

The fulfillment of this seems immediate because of how the text is laid out in our bibles, but it’s very possible that much time passed in between the statement and the actual fulfillment.

First fulfillment “The sword shall never depart…” –

  1. First, Amnon, the son of David’s wife Ahinoam, committed rape against his half-sister, Tamar. (2 Sam 13)
  2. In response to this egregious sin, Absalom, the son of David’s wife Maacah, kills Amnon to avenge his sister (2 Sam 13).
  3. Then Absalom tried to overthrow David, and thus David had to fight against Absalom and his forces to defend his kingdom (2 Sam 15-19).
  4. Joab later killed Absalom (2 Sam 19).
  5. Adonijah, (Adonai – jah) the son of David’s wife, Haggith, tried to establish himself as king in David’s place, and Solomon eventually had him executed (1 Kings 1 and 2).

Second fulfillment “He shall lie with your wives…” – Absalom laid with his father’s concubines in broad daylight for all to see as he was trying to usurp his father’s throne. (2 Sam 16:20-22

Third fulfillment “The child shall die…” 2 Sam 12:13-14 says,

13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”

The text relates how distraught David is but is silent concerning Bathsheba. This in no way means she was not distraught.  We know she was obviously upset (who wouldn’t be with the loss of a child?), because it says in v. 24-25,

24 “Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him 25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.”

Here is where Bathsheba is called David’s wife – after the death of this first child, conceived in sin. Perhaps we can assume God also wipes her heart clean. He put away the Big Scarlet Letter A. She had a heart restored to honor.

And the second son is indeed the son of Promise – Solomon (derived from salom or shalom). And he is loved and treasured by Yahweh. (Brueggeman, 284)

A little known fact about Bathsheba is that she actually had 4 sons with David: 1 Chron. 3:5 says,

5 “These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel”

(Don’t be alarmed with the different spelling of her name and her father’s name. This is a very common occurrence between the historical books.)

“Solomon, Heir to the Throne – A Promise Fulfilled”

Please note that a long time has elapsed before Solomon is anointed as king.

So far, David’s firstborn and third born sons are dead, thus leaving room for Abigail’s son, Chileab/Daniel, to take the throne. The text is silent, however, about any attempts on his part or Abigail’s part to secure the throne. He either didn’t try to do this or another theory suggests he is no longer alive. That leaves the fourth born, Adonijah (pronounced Adonai-jah)!

However, we already learned that Adonijah, the son of David’s wife, Haggith, tried to take over the throne as well. He is David’s 4th son, born to him at Hebron. He would have been one of the “older” sons based on this information. Bathsheba’s 4 sons and the other 9 sons born at Jerusalem will be classified as “younger” sons.

Adonijah believed he had the right to the throne since his other brothers were dead or otherwise gone/indifferent. Because of his actions, Nathan goes to Bathsheba who then goes to David with this plea in 1 Kings 1:17-21:

17  “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. 20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”

Bathsheba had every right to be afraid! We have read about what these men do when someone is in the way of their precious plans. But it’s interesting that she said David had sworn to her that Solomon would be king. The text does not reveal this conversation anywhere. We can learn more information if we go to:

1 Chron 22:9-10 where David tells Solomon what God had told him in a previous conversation,

Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’

Now, David responds immediately, first reassuring Bathsheba that he will do this and has Zadok the priest anoint Solomon as king in 1 Kings 1:39-40

39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.”

The text does not specify how old he was when he began to reign nor how old he was when he died. Based on other events, scholars surmise he was between 12-25 years of age.

At the sound of the celebration, Adonijah and his cohorts are terrified. Adonijah tries to beg for mercy by taking hold of the horns on the altar. But he is still not an honorable man and later goes to Bathsheba to request to have David’s nurse as his wife in 1 Kings 2. Because this was seen as an attempt to take the throne from Solomon, Solomon sends Benaiah to execute his brother, Adonijah (v. 22-25).

God often chooses people who are the most unlikely candidates for the position. God chose Solomon to reign in his father’s place, but Solomon was one of the youngest sons born to David. He ousted his older brother Adonijah.

God chooses the foolish things in the world to shame the wise. He chose the son of Bathsheba, the woman taken by adultery, as the heir of the Messianic kingdom. He chose Isaac over Ishmael, He chose Jacob over Esau. God chose Joseph and gave him 2 portions for his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. He chose the unlikely Hebrew, Moses, to be his champion. He chose Rahab, the pagan prostitute, to be included in His people. He chose Deborah, a woman, to be a judge. He chose Samson to stir up trouble with the enemies of God. And He chose David, the youngest in his family to succeed the king He had already rejected.

Some finals thoughts about Bathsheba – she was a woman whose HONOR is restored. She becomes the queen mother. She had a royal, purple heart.

Solomon holds her in such high regard in 1 Kings 2:19

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.”

He bows to her and gives her the place of honor, to be seated at his right hand. Then in Song of Solomon 3:11, she is mentioned:

“11 Go out, O daughters of Zion,
and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of the gladness of his heart.”

Many scholars believe she is also the author of Proverbs 31. “the Stone Tanach says that it was “the prophecy with which his mother disciplined him” and states that the author Solomon was also called Lemuel. Strong’s Concordance states that “Lemuel” was the symbolic name for Solomon. New Ungers and Nelson Bible Dictionary says that many of the rabbis agree that Lemuel was Solomon.” (http://www.patriarchywebsite.com/bib-patriarchy/bathsheba-truthful-account.htm)

I kept trying to find a common thread for these women, and that thread was David! There’s also a thread of Honor that runs throughout the narratives in the lives of these women.

What I did see was how Michal had a heart devoted to David until life happened and she allowed a bitter root to creep in to her heart. She lacked a heart devoted to God. Michal speaks to me to guard my heart and be on the lookout for areas of hurt that could give the enemy an opportunity to strike. She was Michal: A Heart that Lost Honor.

For Abigail I saw a woman with a humble strength who knew and spoke truth about God, and though she had plenty of opportunities for bitterness or hate, she chose to trust her God. Her heart was first devoted to God, the King of Heaven. Abigail teaches me to trust my God and speak the truth. She urges me to be brave and wise in how I encounter relationships. She challenges me to be humble and to be a servant. She was Abigail: A Heart Full of Honor.

And Bathsheba is a tough mixture because of the scandal in the palace. But I saw a woman who was loved by the king, and whose child was loved by God. She was given a place of honor not only by her husband and her son, but by God, who places her in the lineage of the Messiah. Bathsheba whispers to me that God is the God who forgives. She encourages me to seek God in the most difficult of circumstances and to know that HE is the one who restores me to places of honor. She was Bathsheba: A Heart Whose Honor is Restored.

More importantly I saw how desperately we need God. That sin cycle would never end. Even the most highly esteemed king in all of Israel’s history fell prey to the allure of sin. It was a slow progression. And the sin with Bathsheba was not the last or only sin he would commit.

We have the joy of knowing there is hope for us because Jesus, the God-man, secured our redemption. He is Risen!

These are David’s wives – Hearts Devoted to a king.

 

You can view the video here:

 

David’s Wives: Hearts Devoted to a King {Part 2}

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Wise Abigail

In the meantime, David enters the wilderness of Paran and goes into the town of Maon (Maw-own) (near the region of Judah), with hopes to refresh himself and his men. 1 Samuel 25

Here’s a map showing Maon at the southern-most tip of Dead Sea.

David ot_israel-flat (Maon)

David and his men come to the home of a man named Nabal. 25:3 says,

Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite.”

Discerning, beautiful Abigail! Her name meant “my father’s joy” or “my father is joy”. And she sure is a joy to read about!! How did she end up with foolish, boorish, Nabal?

A footnote in my ESV said “Sheepshearing was a time of festivity (v. 8) as well as work.” There would have been LOTS of food, and because this man was clearly wealthy, he would have been able to afford the food David and his men needed. In addition, David and his men had helped Nabal’s shepherds, so he was asking for a simple “thank you” for their protection.

This should have been a simple exchange of hospitality.

At this point in the narrative, David had at least 600 men with him (1 Sam 23:13). He started out with 400 men who had come to him at the Cave of Adullam (Ah-doo-lum), the location he escaped to after fleeing from the Philistine lord at Gath.

Cave of Adullam

Cave of Adullam

1 Sam 22:1-2 says,

David departed from there and escaped to the cave of  Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soulgathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.”

I love the image of David with all these people in their desperation flocking to him. God presented him with a ministry to the distressed and bitter because he was a man on the run, distressed and fearing for his life. And God worked through his circumstances, providing David with a group of people who eventually become more-or-less his bodyguard! A mutually beneficial arrangement. More evidence of God’s presence in his life.

Needless to say, feeding 600 men would have been a huge task! But he doesn’t ask for anything but what he has “at hand” (v. 8). You read Nabal’s response, it was littered with disrespect and anything BUT hospitality. It’s no wonder one of the young men go to Abigail:

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them.” (v. 14)

He goes on to affirm that David and his men were good to them and that they were kept safe at their hands (v. 15-16).

Abigail got to work immediately, grabbing as much as she could, most likely from the feast tables. (v. 18) It says in v. 19 “But she did not tell her husband Nabal.”

She acted wisely to save the life of her husband whom everyone, including herself, believed was a “worthless” man (v. 17). He was not deserving of her gracious act, yet she does it anyway. What a loyal and honorable woman she was!

She sends the young men on ahead of her with all the food (a peace offering!) and as she comes to him, we see her get down off of her donkey very quickly to assume that position of humility, falling at his feet, bowing to the ground (v. 23). These are two distinct actions. The falling indicates the prostrating of oneself, but the bowing to the ground indicates that she would have gotten as low as she could, pressing her face into the ground. This would have been the most humble, most vulnerable position one could put herself into. How brave this woman must have been to approach the hopping mad David, surrounded by his 400 fighting men, all with swords strapped on their belts. YIKES!

As I thought about her response, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s the quickest way to dissolve someone’s anger? As you read Abigail’s response, you’re reading about the master of diffusing anger. What is more startling though is her opening dialogue in 1 Sam 25:24-25,

On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”

This seems rather like how a person would approach a king, begging for mercy to even be allowed to speak to him. And SHE takes the blame for what happened!

What she says next is so remarkable to me as she seems to prophesy over him. For she says (1 Sam 25:28-31):

Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause…”

She then asks him to remember her, your servant.

She has predicted his coronation as king, yet the covenant that God makes with David DOES NOT HAPPEN until 2 Samuel 7:8-16!! It appears as though she is foretelling what is to come! And David being anointed as king (after God had rejected Saul) seemed to be a very private matter, something that took place at his home in front of his father, Jesse and his 7 older brothers! (1 Sam 16:1-13). Had David spread the word about his anointing? It doesn’t appear that he ever said anything about that first anointing, and besides he continues to refer to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed”. So how could she have known any of this?

God has surely revealed this privileged information to her. She was a woman with a heart first devoted to the King of Heaven. She had a heart of gold. She tells him that the Lord will make him a “sure house” which we see later that God promised to “make [David] a house.” She mentions that God will do good to him and has appointed him as a “prince of Israel”, and later God tells David he will be “prince over [His] people Israel”.

Not only does she make this prophecy, but she cunningly or rather diplomatically presents David with reasons why he WILL NOT shed blood. I can just imagine David standing there just nodding his head, “yes, you’re right. I’m not going to do that!” like she’d hypnotized him!

She tells him, look, you’re not going to do this thing because God has already promised you the kingship! God is with you, there’s no need to harm anyone. You will have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience because you’re not going to kill anyone today.

Abigail saves not only her worthless husband, but she saves David from bloodguilt that day!

David’s response is, of course, thanksgiving to God for Abigail and for keeping him from doing evil. Then v. 35 “David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, ‘Go up in peace to your house…”

Abigail, after all that hurrying and rushing and making haste, waits until morning to tell her husband and he has a heart attack or a stroke, but v. 38 tells us “the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.”

David hears the news and acknowledges God’s justice over the death of Nabal. Then v. 39 says, “David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife.” It’s like he thought, “man, I’ve got to have this woman!” I love how he goes and speaks to her himself – it’s the same word used in Ruth when she said Boaz “spoke kindly” to her (Ruth 2:13). The tone of voice is gentle!

Her response, though, is classic. She bows to the ground and replies, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of the lord.” (v. 41)

Do you remember what the text said about Nabal? He was a very wealthy man (v. 2 with 3,000 sheep, 1,000 goats), portrayed as a king (v. 36), so Abigail most certainly would have been a prominent woman, not a servant. She carries herself as one with great strength, virtue, and power. She takes FIVE handmaidens with her. This shows she is a woman of high social class or rank. She would have been nothing like a “servant”. But she goes humbly, and THIS is the type of woman David marries! A heart of gold!

Every woman in Israel would have wanted to be the WIFE of the king! What a privilege! And to possibly carry his child, giving him an heir to the throne, would have been seen as the highest honor. Did Abigail have to pinch herself as she mounted her donkey and set off with her new husband, the soon-to-be king?

What humility she has though! Not once in the text do you ever get a sense that she seems like an entitled bridezilla. She’s not whiny, like we’ll see about Michal later on, and she never tries to place herself in higher places of honor. She must have been a major blessing in his life from the moment he met her until the moment she passed.

(*Jews esteem Abigail as one of the most righteous women of Israel, a wise and practical woman, and one of the 4 most beautiful women who ever lived. They also count her among the 7 women prophets of Israel.) http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/abigail-midrash-and-aggadah

Interestingly David picks up another wife while he’s out, named Ahinoam of Jezreel. (1 Sam 25:43) The chapter ends with the information about Michal being given to another man. 1 Sam 25:44

Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti (Paul-tee) the son of Laish (Lay-sh), who was of Gallim (Gal-im).”

She who loved David has been given to another man. I wonder how that sat in her now stormy heart.

But David was still a hunted man! Saul continued to pursue him, and so what does that mean for Abigail? She’s on this dangerous journey with him! It really makes me wonder if it was Abigail’s influence in his life that helps him to restrain himself against Saul.

He had already spared Saul’s life once right before meeting Abigail.

1 Sam 26:10-11 David finds Saul and has the opportunity to strike him again, but he tells his man

Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?…As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die…The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD’s anointed…”

Interesting that he now says with confidence, I don’t need to kill him, the Lord will take care of him. But I can remain guiltless. Those words from Abigail ringing in his ear:

evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause…”

After this, however, David actually flees to be with the Philistines because of his fear of Saul, and it says in 1 Sam 27:3

“David lived with Achish (pronounced Aw-keesh) at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow.”

David, his 600 men, all of their families, and all of David’s family! IN THE LAND OF THE ENEMY! Talk about a test of God’s promise. It’s as crazy as Abram going to sacrifice the Son of Promise! However, God is with David and gives him favor with this king of Gath.

David asks for favor from king Achish who grants his request by giving him the city of Ziklag. He ends up staying here for 1 year and 4 months (v. 7). What does he do to pass his time? He makes raids on the enemies of Israel but tells the Philistine king that he’s been raiding his own people (Judah, Jerahmeelites, and Kenites). He’s secretly getting rid of the enemy even as he’s in the enemy territory!

This Philistine king trusted him so much that he actually asks David and his men to go to war WITH HIM against ISRAEL (1 Sam 28:1-2). HOWEVER, the other kings of the Philistines would have nothing to do with David (1 Sam 29:3-5)! (I wonder if they remembered another Israelite who brought trouble on their people?! *cough* Samson *cough*)

Achish had to tell David he must leave at the urging of the other lords, so he goes.

But while David was away (fighting with Philistines), the Amalekites had made a raid against David’s city, Ziklag, and had burned it with fire, taking captive all the people, including David’s 2 wives! (1 Sam 30:1-5)

What horror this must have been for Abigail! But based on what we know of her, I can just picture her staying level-headed, perhaps working her diplomatic magic on these men too. It says that the Amalekites took everyone captive and didn’t kill anyone. It makes me wonder if Abigail told them, “look, you don’t need to kill anyone today…there’s no need to shed blood…just take us with you.” Perhaps she also knew that because God was with David, that he would come to their rescue. (That heart of gold devoted to the King of Heaven!)

1 Sam 30:6 tells us

David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul…But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

For him to be “greatly distressed” literally meant he was “in a very tight place” (sar). The same language is used of Saul in 28:15 when he went to consult a spiritist. Unlike Saul, David’s response was to “strengthen himself in the LORD.” (Brueggeman, p. 201)

What did it mean for David to strengthen himself in the Lord?

The word is chazaq (khaw-zak) and means to strengthen, prevail, be strong, become strong, be courageous, be firm, grow firm, be resolute. (Strong’s Concordance at biblestudytools.com) The word is used in other places in Scripture: (295 times!)

  • Deut 3:28 ‘But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’
  • Judges 16:28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
  • Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; / be strong, and let your heart take courage; / wait for the Lord!
  • Nehemiah 6:9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

We know exactly how David strengthened himself because verses 7-10 tell us he inquired of the Lord with the ephod. He trusts God, knowing God will tell him what to do, and we can assume he is willing to listen and obey God.

Isn’t he refreshing?? Rather than acting brashly like Samson, he asks God what God would want him to do! Even though probably every fiber in his bones was aching to rescue his brides, he waits patiently to seek God.

When I am weak, then I am strong. How do I strengthen myself? By admitting my utter weakness and asking for God’s strength to take over!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We also have a clue what he was thinking because he writes Psalm 56 in response to what the Philistines did and what happened upon his return. 56:8-11:

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

Again it sounds an awful lot like Abigail had become his inner voice. David, you know that God is for you! He has made you a sure house! If men rise up to pursue you, God will take care of you. He will make you prince of Israel. Do not be afraid.

Do you see why he was a man after God’s own heart? And do you also see how Abigail was the godly wife he needed??! GOLD!

But then we don’t sit around doing nothing, we act, just like David acted! (well not just like David. We aren’t going to kill a band of pagan enemies.) His actions reveal that he is aware God is acting on his behalf and will give him the victory. (Brueggeman, p. 202) This is faith and works working together.

Arnold writes, “The verb translated by the NIV as ‘found strength’ involves a reflexive element – ‘David strengthened himself. This expression emphasizes David’s personal faith…a faith that requires human response, though it is enabled by God (Eph. 2:8). Even though God graciously makes faith possible, it is up to us to respond to His grace.” (p. 389)

God did indeed strengthen David’s hand for it says in 1 Sam 30:17-18,

17 And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives.”

He truly was their knight in shining armor!

This narrative serves to contrast David the kingly hero with Saul, the defeated king, who dies in the battle against the Philistines. It also underscores God’s presence and power displayed in David’s obedient life.

But there is no rest for the weary, because only 3 days pass before David gets news that both Saul and his dear friend Jonathan have been killed by the Philistines (the same band whom he was going to fight with earlier). (2 Sam 1)

Instead of celebrating, David laments the passing of the king and of his friend. The kingship is his for the taking! He could have ridden out in all of his glory, but he doesn’t do that. He could have taken the throne because it certainly belonged to him!

Instead, he inquires of the Lord again in 2 Sam 2:1. And God tells him to go to HEBRON. 2 Sam 2:2-4 says,

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David  king over the house of Judah.”

This is the second anointing of David, this time a public one. I wonder if Abigail watched with tears in her eyes as her prophecy began to unfold!

30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel”

He’s not king over all Israel yet, but it’s a start!

Now anointing in the Hebrew culture was a major cause for celebration. It was a solemn and sacred event. In Exodus 30:22-25 God gave them a specific blend of oils and spices for anointing the priests and tabernacle. The idea was that “the recipe is unique, so that everything and everyone belonging to Yahweh [would] share the same distinctive scent.” When the kings were anointed, the oil they used was a “pungent and durable perfume.” The fragrance would have persisted long after the anointing and would have stained the garments worn. The anointing “marked [the kings] for the divine service [to God].” And it was bound to the idea of holiness. We learn that David was anointed 3 times (first with his family, then here at Judah, and finally when he becomes king over all of Israel). (All from Dict. of the OT Historical Books)

David was the anointed one of God, chosen by God to be the prince over Israel. The term Messiah literally means “anointed one”. David was anointed to signify that he belonged to God. He would be a fragrant aroma to God.

When the people offered appropriate sacrifices, they were said to be a “pleasing aroma” to God. The aroma was pleasing in that it satisfied God’s wrath over their sins.

Likewise, the Messiah was the Anointed One who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, making Himself a pleasing aroma to God. Even now Christ makes us a fragrant aroma of God for others to breathe in and receive the knowledge of God (2 Cor 2:14-16).

 

Now, here’s a map of Hebron’s location, just south of Jerusalem.

David Hebron

This map shows David’s “flight” from Saul:

David flight from Saul

Hebron actually has some history behind it. The city of Hebron is actually associated with Abraham, the patriarch with the promise. In Genesis 13:18 it says,

18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre (pronounced Mam-ray), which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.”

Hebron is also a Levitical city of refuge! Joshua 21:13

13 And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands,”

After the loss of their homes in Ziklag, David moves his wives to the city of refuge where God had promised Abram he would allow him to settle and make his descendants as numerous as the dust! Oh if Abraham could have seen his promise coming true in his great great great great grandson David!

{Stay tuned for Part 2 about Wise Abigail}

David’s Wives – Hearts Devoted to a King

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As I read the narratives for this week, I found that as I dug, I sometimes encountered nice artifacts – a piece of pottery, some coins, maybe even a nice statue. But as I continued to dig, I felt like all I found were BONES. Sometimes you get nice artifacts, and sometimes you find the skeletons in the closet.

David was the “man after God’s own heart” but he was still just a man. He had a few skeletons in his closet, and unfortunately for him, they became public knowledge. After all, his story is in the most read book of all times!

We’ve set the stage for the period of the kings, having heard of Hannah’s son, Samuel, who was the prophet and judge to appoint Israel’s first king, Saul. There is a sense of anticipation and hope as the people of Israel look to their leader.

But leaders sometimes fall short, because as good or morally upright as they are, they are still human and make for poor gods.

Even as Saul was on the decline, God was raising up David, the man after His own heart, whom He would make the most impressive covenant with yet!

Within David’s story are SEVERAL (talk about an understatement) important narratives, each with their own teaching points. God’s Word is alive and active, and through the Spirit, God teaches us countless lessons from the life of David and his wives.

So what’s the big picture? How can we see the beauty of the forest and not get hung up on a low hanging limb?

For today we’re going to focus on the condition of these women’s hearts (if we can even know that) and also God’s promise and presence.

“God’s Presence Turned Away”

David didn’t start out as a king, no, he was a lowly shepherd who served under King Saul.

Over and over we read that God was with David and made him prosper in whatever he did. It was this favor from God that caused Saul to fear David the most. And it was this fear that drove Saul to madness, resulting in his pursuit of David’s life.

Here’s how it all began:

Saul had turned his eyes from the Lord and began to fear man and not God.

After disobeying God in his treatment of king Agag the Amalekite, Samuel confronts him and Saul says this in 1 Sam 15:24-28:

24 “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”

“God’s Presence in David’s Life”

So even before we meet David’s wives, David has been chosen by God to be king of Israel. 1 Samuel 16:12b-13 says:

And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.”13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.

You probably noticed as you read the text this week and in previous weeks that although God chooses a “king” for His people, He is still their King. The human king was to “serve as [God’s] viceroy. Yahweh was the real King, while the human king was his representative or regent, chosen by God to carry out His earthly tasks.” (Arnold, 461)

Saul was rejected by God because He had rejected the Word of God. He had been chosen to carry out God’s tasks, but he disobeyed. God chose a new king who would be obedient.

And David enters into service to Saul, fully knowing that he is the Lord’s anointed, yet still respecting Saul as king whom he often referred to as “God’s anointed”. He is contrasted with Saul who has no more Spirit of God with him but rather has an evil spirit who torments him from time to time.

What happens next is the showdown with Goliath, a major indication that God is with David, (1 Sam 17) and all of Israel goes crazy over this young David! All except Saul, that is. He goes crazy jealous over young David.

It was at this point that Saul, having had the Lord’s presence removed from him, begins to seek ways to kill David.

His first plan involved killing him with a spear. But that plan failed so he moved to Plan B: His daughters.

Adoring Michal

1 Samuel 18:20-21 is where we first meet Michal, Saul’s daughter. Pronounced “Me-kawl” (spelled Miykal). Her name meant “who is like God”.

 Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.”

This is the second time Saul had offered one of his daughters, but David, being the humble man he was, did not believe he was suitable to be the son-in-law to a king since he was a lowly shepherd from an insignificant family. (v. 18) A poor man with no reputation (v. 23).

He was trying to say, I can’t afford the bride price for a daughter of the king. I’m also not worthy to be called the son-in-law to the king.

But Saul’s Plan B backfires on him! Because not only was the LORD with David, but also Michal, his daughter, loved David (v. 28).

Have you ever been there before? In love? A heart blushing (or bursting) with love for someone? She had a very red heart – a heart devoted to young David.

He connects her being a “snare” with “the hand of the Philistines” being against him. Saul has in mind that the bride price he sets for his daughter’s hand in marriage will result in David’s demise. Verse 25 says that Saul hoped that David would “fall by the hand of the Philistines.”

Was Saul using his daughter as a trap/snare to kill her beloved David? You bet he was! Imagine his surprise when David drops a bag of 200 Philistine foreskins at his feet! Double the price that was requested. 200 more enemies dead at David’s hands. All for his daughter. All to be Saul’s son-in-law.

Oh and by the way, Saul’s son, Jonathan, loved David too (18:1, 19:1). God loved him. Israel loved him. Judah loved him. Michal loved him. Saul was NOT feeling the love.

And perhaps David was not feeling the love for Michal either for in verse 26 it says,

26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law.

There is no mention of him being pleased to be “her husband.”

Have you ever been there before? A love not reciprocated? A heart broken? Michal’s heart is starting to look a bit broken.

As the narrative progresses, David continues to have more successes in battle against the Philistines (because of God) which meant Saul continued to try harder and harder to kill David. The text indicates that v. 23 David went from being lightly esteemed to v. 30 being highly esteemed.

But Michal stood in Saul’s way. Adoring Michal saved David’s life.

As much as she loved him, do you think she knew that David might not love her as she loved him? That she may not see him for a very long time since he father was chasing her beloved David?

She lies to save him. He’s sick. Sorry, come back later.

Finally daddy comes in and she lies again. He threatened me with my life!

Like Rahab, she lies to save someone’s life!

It makes me wonder what was at stake for her. Could her father, the king, have put her to death? Saul accuses his daughter of conspiring against him by letting his enemy go (v. 17).

Excuse me, Saul, but David is her husband AND your son-in-law! He’s not your enemy. Don’t put your daughter into such a precarious situation. You’re crazy, Saul!

This part of the narrative serves to express the impossibility of Saul’s attempts to keep David from the throne which God Himself has promised for him. God had also told Saul that He would no longer be with him, and even though Saul would desperately grasp and clamor to hold his power, his efforts would be fruitless. God’s plans always prevail.

After this the text goes silent about Michal until you read the last verse of the Abigail narrative in 1 Samuel 25.

Liz Curtis Higgs in her book Bad Girls of the Bible believed that 14 years passed between the time David escaped and when he saw her again.

1 Sam 21:10-15 says David even sought refuge among his enemy, the Philistine lord at Gath! And then in 22:3-4 with the king of Moab. And he continues to evade Saul’s grasp, even coming so close to cut a corner off of his robe.

The text does not indicate the time frame of David’s exile, but you get the impression that God’s protection is over him and that he learns to trust God during this time. After all, God had made a promise, and He never breaks a promise! So no matter how life-threatening the circumstance was, God would ensure his safety.

Poor adoring Michal. She’s pining away for her beloved David. It sounds like she was with her father, so you have to wonder what influence he had over her heart. Did his “crazy” take root in her heart? Did she believe her father’s lies about David? How’s that heart looking about now?

 

{Stay tuned for Part 2 about Wise Abigail}

Samson’s Wife & Delilah – Part 3

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Judges 16:1-3

Before we meet Delilah, Samson took a HUGE detour. This chapter begins with the story of Samson, going all the way to Gaza, a Philistine town 45 miles from his home base (Word Commentary). This is the same town in which Samson ends up as a prisoner, making the reader wonder if this was a foreshadowing of events to come. Samson visiting a prostitute “casts him in the role of a fool destined for destruction. Wisdom literature teaches that prostitutes reside in the gateway of death (Prov 6:26, 7:10, 23:27).” (Chisholm in Word Commentary)

[He has] neither knowledge nor understanding,
    [he walks] about in darkness….” To spend the NIGHT with a prostitute.

Because he is public enemy number one in Philistia, a group of men wait at the city gate to ambush him. However, it seems that they disappear or give up at some point, and Samson leaves, taking the gate of Gaza with him!

Samson city gate Ashkelon

Here is a picture of the city gate of Ashkelon, the Philistine city where Samson killed the 30 men. It is the oldest arched city gate still standing. Perhaps the gate at Gaza was similar to this one. Block writes that these elaborate gates were often 2-3 stories high with guard rooms flanking the tunnel-like opening….Samson would have had to get past 4-6 groups of guards before taking the gate (loudly) off of its hinges (p. 450 NAC).

What is amazing about this feat of strength is that the text says he took the gate all the way to Hebron, a 40 mile journey, climbing over 3,000 feet in elevation to get there. What I love about this passage is that this prepares the way for the one, David, who WOULD complete the deliverance of Israel from Philistia, because Hebron is David’s first headquarters (2 Sam 2:1-4)!

Now to our text:

Because Delilah was also in the Valley of Sorek (v. 4), like Samson’s Philistine wife, we assume she was a Philistine. However, scholars note that she has a Hebrew name, meaning feeble or weakened and lived on the boundary of Israel and Philistia. Interestingly she is not referred to as a daughter of the Philistines like Samson’s wife.

Beth Shemesh, Sorek Valley Area

Remember this picture of the Sorek Valley? With the Sorek River running east to west? Israel was on one side and Philistia was on the other. But don’t forget that the Philistines at this time had pushed their way further into the region of Dan, into Israelite territory. So Delilah could have been either Hebrew or Philistine. [Some scholars note that just because she had a Hebrew name does not mean she was a Hebrew woman. Sometimes they gave people Hebrew names, particularly ones with meaning as they related to the narrative. In this case, Delilah, meaning “weakened”, was the one who “weakened” Samson.]

If she were a Hebrew, it would make her betrayal all the more reprehensible. (From Samson and Delilah: A Parable of Power by Carol Smith in the Journal for the Study of the OT)

Regardless of these views, how do we characterize our girl?

She was a woman interested in money and with a high tolerance for violence. If a Philistine she’s patriotic, shows initiative, is independent, & self-sufficient. Her actions are very business-like, not tied to emotions. She’s whiny, wheedling, pestering, and uses her sexual allure to entice a man. She has prostitute-like behavior, using her sexuality and a man’s desire for her in order to ensure her own well-being. She’s the sort of dangerous, treacherous woman about whom proverbial wisdom warns and which underscores the impossibility of alliances with godless foreigners. (Word Commentary p. 348-49)

Did you catch how much silver Delilah was promised by the 5 Philistine lords?? (v. 5) 1,100 pieces EACH! So 5,500 pieces of silver! This much silver probably weighed about 700 pounds. (Word Commentary p. 349)

Because the value of a unit of silver fluctuated in biblical times, the significance of this figure can only be appreciated when this reward is compared with other transactions in Scripture:

  • Judges 8:26 This is more than three times the weight of the gold retained by Gideon after the victory over the Midianite kings.
  • Genesis 24:15, 19 We may also compare the 400 shekels of silver paid by Abraham to purchase a burial plot for his wife.
  • 2 Samuel 24:24 Or the 50 shekels David paid Araunah for his oxen and threshing floor.
  • Jeremiah 32:9 The 17 shekels Jeremiah paid to purchase a field.
  • Exodus 21:32 And the 30 shekels set as a price for a slave.

(Block p. 455 in NAC)

The IVP Bible Background Commentary states, “Eleven hundred shekels of silver is an exorbitant sum – a king’s ransom (see 2 Samuel 18:12). The 5500 shekels would equal 550 times the average annual wage. If we took $25,000 as an average annual wage today, that kind of offer would be [just short of $14 million].” [In other words, the sum she received would seem to her like $14 million seems to us today. The amount she received was not equal to $14 million.]

Interestingly, the Philistine lords wanted not only to know where Samson got his strength but also how to overpower him in order to HUMBLE him (v. 5). Many translations use the word “afflict” instead of humble, but the actual Hebrew word (‘anah – aw-naw) holds both meanings [to afflict, oppress, humble, be afflicted, be bowed down].

It’s almost like this whole affair with Samson has become personal for these Philistine lords. We don’t simply want to subdue him; we want to humiliate him. We want to oppress him so he’ll feel utterly shamed. After all he’s killed 30 of our men at Ashkelon, burned our fields and killed several of our men at Timnah, and killed 1,000 of our men at Lehi. Why don’t we use this woman against him! That kind of blow would do just the right amount of damage to his ego.

An interesting view is that since his strength was not apparent, he likely had the stature of an ordinary man, not with giant muscles or incredibly large in size like a Goliath-like behemoth. His strength then was NOT obvious because it came from God. (Word Commentary)

Are you as irritated as I am at how these men used these women for their own advantage? Made to be weapons of revenge? Their bodies used to achieve the purposes of men? And how ironic that these men couldn’t weaken the Great Samson, but the women were able to afflict him in ways no man could.

Nevertheless, there is an inkling that perhaps Samson knew exactly what he was walking into the minute Delilah opened her mouth. How could he not know her angle for she says:

Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound that one could subdue [afflict/NASB] you. (Judges 16:6)

She really couldn’t get any more BLUNT than that!

And if that doesn’t convince you, he gives her an answer (knowing it won’t harm him) and she performs the binding with the bowstrings, calling for the Philistines. But the text is silent on his response to the Philistines. It appears as though he does nothing.

Does that sound like Samson to you? Normally when someone or something came at him, he ripped it apart! Not only that, but he stayed with Delilah! He didn’t storm off in “hot anger”, leaving her to sort out her life, but he stayed for more questions, more pressing.

Next he tells her to try new ropes, but that doesn’t work either. The Philistines come and go and still he stays with Delilah. Then he says to weave his hair into a web, fastened with a pin. This clue is close to the real answer, but again the Philistines come and go and still he stays with Delilah, unharmed.

Ah, but then, Delilah calls on the name of love to manipulate him. What is sweeter than honey? Stronger than a lion? Love. If you love me, you’ll…

The queen of manipulation. She doesn’t need to harm him to weaken him. She simply appeals to love. The thing that first drew him to her when he saw her in the Valley of Sorek.

Verse 16 says she pressed him daily, until “his soul was vexed to death.” (also RSV). Other translations say “annoyed” (NASB), “tired to death” (NIV), “sick to death” (NET, NLT).

Have you ever been that kind of woman? Manipulative? Vexing? A drippy faucet?

“Warnings for the Wives”

  • Proverbs 19:13 (NIV) “…a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.”
  • Proverbs 27:15 (NLT) “A quarrelsome wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.”
  • Proverbs 21:9 “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” (also REPEATED WORD FOR WORD in Prov. 25:24)
  • Proverbs 12:4 “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.”

I know Delilah was not Samson’s wife, but you get the idea. Heaven forbid we act more like the pagan Delilah than the woman of virtue.

It makes me think back to what Laura (in her talk on Eve) said about the enemy being the best psychologist, prowling around, watching, studying, dealing his low blows. Spewing his lies. If we know the truth, it is easier to recognize the lies.

“God didn’t really say, you shall surely be under your husband…” “You will not surely die…” “Don’t you think you deserve to be in control?” “You’re better off without him…”

Do we, like Delilah, buy into the lies?

Clink clink clink. The 5,500 silver pieces fall into her hands.

However, the woman of virtue: does him good and not harm all the days of her life. (Psalm 31:12)

Clink clink clink. But Delilah? She sold Samson’s safety for money.

She began to torment him and his strength left him. “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”

Clink. clink. clink.

And she washes her hands of him, having filled them with enough wages to last a lifetime (and beyond). [550 times a year’s wages. Because she likely didn’t live to be 550 years old, you can see how the sum would have been extravagant, lasting into the afterlife!]

Can you think of anyone else who was betrayed for mere pieces of silver? 30 to be exact. The price for a slave. Not nearly the handsome price that Samson was wanted for, making the betrayal of Judas that much more callous.

Samson reveals his secret to her, also showing us, the reader, for the first time that he is even aware of his Nazirite calling. This man with the high calling had the knowledge of his Nazirite vow, but what good did that knowledge produce in his life?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

One thing that is vitally important for us as we study the Bible is never to become so wrapped up in knowing things about God and gaining knowledge that we lose sight of our calling. He doesn’t give us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding so that our brains become full of delicious facts or so that we can talk circles around people. We can have all the knowledge of the world, but if the Word of God makes no difference in our lives, the pursuit of knowledge is worthless.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  1 Corinthians 13:2, 8

Let His truth sink in deep, being careful to abide in the Vine, working in concert with the Spirit of God who produces in us the character of Christ (John 15:4-5).

 

we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Let the knowledge of who God is stir the affection in your heart for Him rather than allowing it to be a stumbling block of pride. Don’t be “puffed up”.

Do not simply be hearers of the Word, but rather be doers as well (James 1:22).

 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:23-25

(Too many times instead of picking up the mirror, we pick up a magnifying glass. With the one we are to look at ourselves, with the other we try to draw attention to others’ faults.)

Continuing in the text:

Delilah’s betrayal seems even more cruel when you read verse 19:

19 She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 

  • Delilah’s tightening (tāqa‘) of Samson’s hair with a pin (ê) in 16:14 recalls Jael’s striking (tāqa‘) the tent peg (ê) into Sisera’s temple in 4:21
  • Both scenes take place in a woman’s private quarters
  • The sleeping Samson of 16:19 recalls the sleeping Sisera of 4:21

(NIVAC p. 319)

Then we read the saddest verse in our text:

Samson did not know that the LORD had left him. (v. 20)

Let’s make one thing clear, it’s not that his hair had supernatural power or magic, but rather that the Nazirite vow was broken, just like the covenant with Adam and Eve was broken. And the consequences were immediate. No more strength. No more presence of God.

Did Samson realize this is what his actions would cost him? Did he realize that perhaps his captivity was better than his freedom because it would place him in the den of Lions? That perhaps his captivity meant one more opportunity against the enemy of God?

The Philistines had their enemy after all. They gouged out his eyes and took him to Gaza, bound him in chains, and threw him in prison to have him grind at the mill (a task for slaves and women). (Tyndale; NIVAC) Perhaps this is also ironic justice since he burned up their grain fields earlier. (NIVAC)

Here he is humbled by his enemies, losing that source of strength, which never really belonged to him anyway. And this enemy, puffed up in their pride, believes their grain god, Dagon, has triumphed over the “ravager of their country” (v. 24).

Samson’s imprisonment at Gaza, the furthest Philistine city from his home, is very telling for the nation of Israel. Just like Samson, Israel “fritters away her high calling, lives by what is right in her own eyes, and provokes Yahweh to abandon her. According to the covenant of curses in Lev 26 and Deut 28, this is precisely the fate the nation should expect for persistent rebellion against the covenant Lord. Like Samson, the nation will be seized, blinded, exiled, imprisoned, and humiliated with forced labor. (The book of Judges may have been written against the backdrop of the Northern Kingdom’s fall to Assyria in 734-722 B.C.) (Block p. 462 in NAC)

But then we read verse 22, giving hope to the end of the story

But the hair of his head began to grow again… (v. 22)

Judges 16:23-24 says,

23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god.

As if the story wasn’t dripping with enough irony, this last section of the passage stands as the bookend to Samson’s final showdown. The Philistines are seen here worshipping their false god, praising him for giving their enemy into their hands.

But that roaring Lion, Philistia, didn’t stand a chance against the God of Israel. Not even their god, Dagon, stood a chance against YHWH. Dagon wasn’t even powerful enough to keep his people from dying as they worshipped him in his temple. Samson stretched out his arms, pushing over the columns and as Gunn writes, “[Their] praise died coldly on [their] lips. The [writer of Judges] underlines the power of Yahweh and the irrelevance of Dagon. The victory is unquestionably Yahweh’s…” (Word Commentary p. 354)

And so it began…the destruction of Israel’s enemy.

Delilah was devoted to Samson’s destruction when she struck a hefty deal with those Philistine lords. But did she meet her destruction in the Philistine temple that day? Many scholars believe she would have been at this feast. A Heart Devoted to destruction only to be devoted for destruction.

The Lion, Philistia was no match for the Lion of Israel. God is depicted as a Lion…

In Hosea 5:14, He is frightening:

14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
    and like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear and go away;
    I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.

And again in Hosea 13:7-8:

So I am to them like a lion;
    like a leopard I will lurk beside the way.
I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs;
    I will tear open their breast,
and there I will devour them like a lion,
    as a wild beast would rip them open.

And yet we have this picture of hope: (Hosea 11:10-11)

10 They shall go after the Lord;
    he will roar like a lion;
when he roars,
    his children shall come trembling from the west;
11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
    and like doves from the land of Assyria,
    and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.

But do you hear the pounding of the paw prints? Because the Lion of Judah approaches in Rev. 5:2-5, 7, 9-10:

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.  And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

This is OUR God!

Just like the Philistines, the enemy, Satan, thought he had conquered Jesus. He entered Judas who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. But God used the betrayer as an OPPORTUNITY against the enemy.

Jesus was stripped, beaten, thrown into prison, utterly humiliated. But it was by His stripes that we are HEALED.

And the enemy scoffed and leered as they hung Jesus on the cross, thinking Jesus had been given into his hands. Jesus wasn’t humbled by ANY person, but He humbled HIMSELF by becoming obedient to death on a cross.

He stretched out His arms for His final showdown. It was because He hung on that tree that we are REDEEMED from the curse of the law.

Even as the enemy gloated over the death of Jesus, we received redemption for by His blood He ransomed us.

Unlike Samson who lost his strength and perished with the enemy, when Jesus died, He added to His strength, having conquered our enemies – sin and death.

He is both the Lamb who was slain AND the Lion of Judah. The Sacrifice and the Mighty King.

And Satan’s praise of himself died coldly on his lips because God overcame the evil one once and for all by sending the Ultimate Deliverer.

How does the knowledge of all THIS change your life? We cannot simply know it, we must live it.

How are you encouraged to live differently, knowing that His death and resurrection means certain blessings, gifts, fruit, and responsibilities for the believer? You are being transformed into the image of His Son, what does that look like for you today?

THIS is a love that does not let go. This is the divine love. Even when the loved one repeatedly betrays that love and loyalty, still God pursues her. We see God’s amazingly patient and relentless love for Israel throughout the book of Judges! (Word Commentary p. 355)

In case the people of Israel had forgotten that they HAD a King, God reminds them that He is still on His throne and would not share His glory with another.

These women were among the people without knowledge of God. They were idolatrous, sinful pagans. Contrast them with, Samson, who had the knowledge of his high calling but accomplishes less on behalf of his people than any of his predecessors. It is this narrative that shows the utter despair of spiritual growth and political maturity in Israel. And yet God uses Samson just as he is, flaws and all. (Word Commentary 356, 360)

Let that encourage you today.

God pursues you with the same patient, relentless love. His is the relentless pursuit of the human heart for His divine glory!

 

My talk on Samson’s Wife & Delilah

Samson’s Wife & Delilah – Part 2

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The phrase “right in my eyes” (14:3) is significant because that same phrase (more or less) is repeated in Judges revealing that everyone was doing what was right in their eyes and not what was right in GOD’S eyes. Even Samson, who is one of the supposed Israelite leaders (appointed from inside his mother’s womb), had been doing whatever he wanted, seemingly without thought for God’s law, which clearly prohibited foreign marriages.

This foreign marriage, forbidden in the law, should have been a huge red flag for Samson, but the writer says it was of the Lord!! Judges 14:4:

…it was from the LORD, for He was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.

Somehow God had allowed this to happen so that He would have more opportunities to strike the Philistines for the sake of His Covenant People. The same Covenant people who had strayed so far that they didn’t even bother crying out to their God when the oppressors came. Yet God pursued the faithless ones.

The Word Commentary asks, “why would this foreign marriage be ‘of God’? God retains freedom to accomplish His purposes through the people and means He chooses.” (p. 333)

Can you think of any other men of God whom the Lord determined would marry unsavory brides? Hosea! We’ll learn about his wife, Gomer, later on in our study.

It is good to remember that the Scriptures were not being written as the events were happening. The historian/writer has the advantage of hindsight to see how God was present in the situations that unfolded for Israel. Isn’t that how it seems for us sometimes? It feels like we can often see God more clearly after the difficult season is over. We can attribute God’s work in our lives more easily once we’ve passed through the trials. We see His work as protection or see His love in the way He withheld something we thought we wanted/needed. He is ALWAYS at work in our lives even though we may not always know how. And when we don’t understand His hands, we can always trust His heart.

This is one of those topics that is hard to address because it reveals how little we know about God’s sovereignty and our own will. I’m not going to get into free will and God’s sovereignty at this moment, because I don’t think anyone can fully understand how it all works. I am, however, absolutely certain that I need no help from God to commit sins. He is never responsible for my sin because He is perfectly holy. However, God is responsible for any good thing in me. He is the one who works in me, conforming me into the image of His Son.

Scholar R. G. Bowman describes this delicate theological issue: “The writer of Judges portrays God as a [god] who intervenes to punish the people for their sins and works with human leaders to deliver the people from their enemies, but refrains from using divine powers to prevent human failures. Bowman sees a fine balancing act between the divine exercise of power and the exercise of human freedom and will.” (More to the Eye Than Meets the Eye in Biblical Interpretation)

Although I have seen Samson painted as having a dull wit, not being too smart but completely driven by his own passions, I wonder if he didn’t make his choices, fully knowing the consequences. After all, perhaps he really was aware that his choices would cause trouble between Israel and Philistia, and maybe this is why he continues to make one “bad” choice after another. (The text doesn’t give any indication that he was aware at all, but I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because how could anyone be this bad??!)

Word Commentary notes, “Rather than gathering armies to fight the Philistines, Samson gathers girlfriends who create anger and violence between Samson and the [Philistines].” (p. 334)

John Milton writes in his poem about Samson (Samson Angonistes) that he takes personal responsibility for his actions: “Nothing of all these evils hath befall’n me / But justly; I myself have brought them on, / Sole Author I, sole cause. (375-76)

So was Samson an oblivious man of passions or a man in tune with God’s plans?

Then in verses 5-6 we have this weird story about Samson tearing apart a lion and they seem rather awkwardly and inappropriately placed in the middle of a wedding proposal and feast! (Not exactly a bride’s dream) But this story is important for understanding Samson’s riddle later on. It also represents something very important for Israel!

Back in Judges 13:5 it says of Samson,

for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.

I place emphasis on the word BEGIN for Samson did not finish Israel’s business with the Philistines. David is actually credited with ridding Israel of them (2 Sam 8:1).

So this scene with the lion is symbolic of the Philistines, coming out of nowhere, to attack Israel, but God had gifted Samson with great strength and he was able to tear the lion apart. Samson would begin to save Israel from the Lion Philistia. (The Symbolism of the Lion and the Bees by Martin Emmrich in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society)

Then in verse 8 it says

he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey.

Again we have this image of a lion, but now it is a dead, rotten carcass with bees and their honey inside of it.

Samson eats the honey and gives some to his parents. You might have picked up on the fact that this would have broken his Nazirite vow, defiling himself by having contact with the dead. But something more is at play because nothing is mentioned about the broken vow.

This narrative is what I call a “teaching sandwich” in the sense that something happens (Samson rips the lion apart), the scene goes on to a seemingly disconnected point in the story, then something else happens to connect the events all together (carcass). It’s just like what Jesus did in Mark when He cursed the fig tree, then drove out the money changers, only to return to a withered fig tree in order to teach about who His true disciples were (as opposed to the money changers). Mmmm take a huge bite and taste the honey!

First of all, it would have been unheard of for bees to settle into the carcass of a dead lion. This in and of itself would have been as miraculous as the defeat of the lion.

Block writes, “In a world of decay and decomposition Samson discovers a “community” of bees not only existing but producing sweetness to the world around. The [writer’s] choice of [the Hebrew word] cedâ, (ay – daw) “community,” rather than seres, the common word for “swarm”, is deliberate. Except for Ps 68:30 [Hb. 31], ceda always refers to a company of people, usually the Israelites as a faith community, called to be agents of grace and light in the decadent world.” (Martin Emmrich) (Also mentioned in Word Commentary p. 335)

It appears as though the writer of Judges is revealing how God would, starting with Samson, destroy Israel’s enemies, giving Israel back their home where they could again be a community enjoying the fruits (HONEY) of the land.

Martin Emmrich writes, “the divine blessing connected with Israel’s peaceful existence in the land is often described in terms of the sweetness of honey: “For Yahweh your God is bringing you into a good land … a land of olives and honey“(Deut 8:7-8).”

Likewise, just as a lion’s carcass is an unlikely place for bees to settle, so too was Canaan an unlikely land for the Israelites to settle with its idolatrous people riddled with sin’s defilement. Like the bees in the carcass, Israel would settle into the idolatrous land after the death of their enemies.  (Emmrich)

Next we have the wedding feast in verse 10. The word feast (mishteh) can mean drinking feast. (footnote in ESV) Most scholars believe that Samson couldn’t have avoided the drinking that would have taken place at this feast.

All throughout these chapters, we have no sense that Samson is even aware of his Nazirite vow. That is, not until he tells Delilah his secret. So even though we’re jumping ahead a little bit, it helps us understand that Samson had the knowledge of the vow. However, this knowledge didn’t seem to stop him from breaking it twice now, seemingly showing no care or honor for God’s calling on his life.

“Rejection of Knowledge”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk about in darkness…. (Psalm 82:5)

 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [JUDGES] have rejected knowledge… (Hosea 4:6)

The supposed leader of the Israelites had rejected the knowledge of his high calling. So isn’t it ironic that he decides to try his hand at a riddle.

“Riddles in the Ancient World”

The use of riddles at feasts was popular in the ancient world. You may recall the queen of Sheba asking Solomon “hard questions”, very likely riddles (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chron 9:1). Solomon later became the famous author of proverbs and riddles. Ezekiel was instructed to speak a riddle to Israel in 17:2. To know dark sayings was considered a mark of wisdom (Prov. 1:6).

So what does this say about Samson? He had some degree of intelligence about him that he was able to come up with this clever riddle which, by the way, his companions tried and failed to solve! It says in verse 14 that they tried to solve it for 3 days until they asked Samson’s wife to entice him to give her the answer. Their motivation for her? We’ll burn you and your father if you don’t find out.

I almost feel sorry for Samson’s new wife. Verse 17 tells us she cries for the 7 days that the feast lasted, no doubt terrified at the thought of being burned alive with her father if she failed to discover his secret. So much for a fun wedding party! Poor poor Miss Philistine.

The phrase in verse 17 “she pressed him hard” is the same wording in Judges 16:16 when Delilah “pressed him hard day after day”. The word carries a note of distress and oppression, enough to cause Samson to break down and give in to her “pressing”.

Or did he? Did he know all along what was happening, allowing his new wife to badger him for those 7 days, and then gave her the answer at the very last moment, ready for another skilled retort to answer the Philistines?

The men answer Samson in the form of a riddle, and you can almost taste the irony in their answer. “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Who was it that simply ripped a lion in half? Samson. So it appears as though Samson is stronger than the lion. He didn’t keep that part a secret for nothing!

But the true answer may well have been LOVE or a woman’s allure. (NIVAC) Samson may have been referring to the irresistibility of love. J (by Philip Nel The Riddle of Samson in Biblica). Love is sweeter than honey, Love is stronger than a lion.  Perhaps now you can see the irony in his riddle as he is overcome with “love” for these women of Philistia!

Samson gives his retort, another riddle in the Hebrew (v. 18), as if he had already planned how to respond, knowing all along that his wife was going to betray him. And then they get to find out just how strong this man is! The Scripture says he went all the way to Ashkelon to strike down these 30 men. To give you an idea of the distance here is a map showing Timnah and Ashkelon: It was approximately 30 miles southwest of Timnah!

Samson map clear

Verse 19 is the third time the Spirit of the LORD is mentioned in Samson’s life. There are four times in this narrative in which the Spirit plays a part in his exploits.

The first time, I already mentioned, was at the beginning of his “career” in 13:25, with the Spirit “stirring” Samson. Then in 14:6 with the lion, here in 14:19 when he kills 30 men at Ashkelon (Philistine city), and also in 15:14-17 when he killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. In the last three verses, the text says the same phrase: “The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him”.

Here again we can assume that either Samson is aware that God is with him and this is one of those “opportunities against the Philistines” OR God uses this man’s hasty and violent actions to bring trouble on the Philistines.

Although his actions are violent, he makes good on his bargain by giving his 30 companions the promised clothing! There is absolutely no mention of Samson being angry with his new wife about giving him up. But he is definitely angry. Marching out in “hot anger” to be exact. Then verse 20 wraps up the passage with a little tid-bit of information about his wife who now belongs to his companion, or best man. This is beginning to sound like an episode of Jerry Springer.

Poor Miss Philistine gets shuffled around by her father, but perhaps she can look on the bright side, she didn’t die! And she still ended up with a husband! Taste the irony in our teaching sandwich.

Then we get to chapter 15. Here again we find a very strange story, that grabs our attention and leaves us with an empty pit in our stomachs. It’s the classic case of revenge and tragedy, resulting in our sympathy even for the enemy.

I want you to notice the description in verse 1 of the time of year. When you see descriptors like “wheat harvest” or other time references, they are almost always clues for understanding something else in the text. In this case we know that Samson dealt quite the blow to the Philistines when he burned up their ripe-for-harvest fields.

Beth Shemesh, Sorek Valley Area

To give you an idea of the importance of the grain crops in this region, here is an aerial view of the Sorek Valley. The Sorek River winds its way from left to right. The Sorek Valley continues to the left where it runs into Timnah. You can see the Judean Mountains at the top of the picture. The Israelite towns of Zorah and Eshtaol would be in the foothills of the mountains there (among the trees). Beth-Shemesh, which is also part of Israel, is on the right hand side of the valley.

You can see how fertile this area is and why both the Philistines and Israelites harvested their crops in the valley! To this present day the corn-fields in that part of the lowlands (known as the Shephelah) extend continuously for twenty or thirty miles.

Samson arrives to collect his bride but finds out she’s been given away to his best man and is then offered her younger, supposedly more beautiful, sister.

I pause now to ponder what Miss Philistine might have thought when her Israelite suiter came knocking for a second time. Did she have any affection for this man? Was she happy to see that he’d come back for her? Or did she only feel dread because she realized this man was reckless and bent on destroying her people? Was she happy to be with a man of her own people and bothered that Samson came back around? Was she afraid he might do something to put her life in jeopardy again?

Samson obviously refuses the second daughter and in verses 4-5 sets about with the task of trapping 300 foxes, tying torches to their tails, and setting them loose in the valley where their fields of wheat, corn, and olive groves are ready for harvest. Samson’s revenge with the foxes does not involve the Spirit of God this time. It seems to be all Samson. Another opportunity against the Philistines!

Block writes, “All [Samson’s] achievements are personal…Unlike the [other] deliverers, he never seeks to rid Israel of foreign oppressors, and he never calls out the Israelite troops. Samson is a man with a higher calling than any other deliverer in the book, [yet] he spends his whole life ‘doing his own thing.’” (p. 441 in NAC)

There are two interesting background stories at play in this account. First, him burning the fields would have been a violation of the Mosaic law according to Exodus 22:6:

If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.

Secondly, the god of the Philistines was Dagon, and scholars now believe he was the god of grain!!! (NIVAC) So remember how God brought the plagues on Egypt? Each of those plagues was an affront against the Egyptian gods. (A big thanks to my friend Angela for sharing this chart with me!)

Samson plagues on Egypt

This time, God uses Samson’s actions to show that He is sovereign over Dagon, the god of grain. They would watch as the fire licked up the grain, vineyards, and olive groves – the 3 dietary and economic staples of ancient Palestine. (Word Commentary) And their god would be silent. You might even say He outfoxed them!

All joking aside, do you see God’s relentless pursuit of His people? He is unwilling to share His glory with anyone!

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Isaiah 42:8 (also in 48:11)

And He is jealous for His people.

Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. Joel 2:8 (also in Zech 1:14, 8:2)

The LORD our God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deut. 4:24

He pursues the enemy in wrath and judgment and yet will stop at nothing to pursue His beloved with His love and mercy, and yes even judgement. FEAR and LOVE mingled together.

But then one bad turn deserves another? And the Philistines burn Samson’s bride and her father just as Samson burned their fields. An eye for an eye, a bride for a field? (No, Philistines, a bride for a field is not a fair trade.)

I almost hate to say it but she appears as a mere pawn in their game of war. She was an untimely interruption of the heart, having no happy interruptions from God, but only tragic interruptions involving the destruction of her and her people. She was a Heart Devoted for Destruction.

We have one vengeful act stacked on top of another. The phrase “struck them hip and thigh” (v. 8) is meant to intensify the words “with a great blow”. One scholar writes that this could have been a “wrestling idiom [MEANING] total victory.” (Word Commentary p. 341; also in Tyndale “originating in the art of wrestling”).

Samson map large

Then Samson retreats like an animal as he hides in the rock at Etam, in Judah’s territory. The map above shows where scholars believe Etam might be (although they admit they’re not even sure where it really is). It’s almost humorous the way in which Judah handles their fellow countryman, like Samson is their enemy. It seems that they want to avoid confrontation with the Philistines at all costs, and so they send a delegation the size of a small army (3,000 men) to Samson (Block p. 444 NAC). Then they actually talk him into giving himself up the Philistines. What follows is the famous story of Samson killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey!

Unfortunately, our woman of Philistia meets a tragic end much too early in her life. Her people had been marked by God, devoted for destruction, because of their sins against Him and their cruel treatment of His people.

{Stay tuned for Part 3 of the story involving Miss Delilah!}

Samson’s Wife & Delilah (Hearts Devoted to Destruction) Part 1

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The period of the Judges was considered a very dark time for Israel. We learned about Moses and the period of the wanderings, with the Israelites finally reaching their Promised Land with Joshua. We know from reading Exodus and Leviticus that the tribes were a tight-knit group during this period, simply because they had to be! When God’s presence departed, they packed up camp and followed along.

Samson Israel encampment  

Here are 2 images of what the camp of Israel might have looked like as they wandered in the wilderness. The second picture into account the amount of people in each tribe. Also, notice the Pillar of Cloud? Or Smoke?

Samson Pillar of Fire Wilderness

Remember the imagery of God as a consuming fire? A Pillar of Fire? Well here is a depiction of the Pillar.

As they wandered, you get the impression that they were a unified group of people, following their God to the destination He promised them. Then as they reach Canaan, we read of the effort the tribes gave for one another as they took over the land. They went through the trial of the wanderings and then the trial of war. Finally, able to rest in their promised portions of land as individual tribes of Israel.

Trials have a way of bringing people together.

Comfort has a way of coaxing them into apathy.

And distance didn’t make their hearts grow fonder. It only brought disunity.

What I see as I scan the pages of Judges is a group of people who are scattered over a relatively small area, unable to grasp ahold of their identity in their Savior God because they had forgotten God’s Word and God’s Works.

“Setting for Judges”

After the death of Joshua, Judges 2:10 says:

10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

From reading the book of Judges, it can be seen that there was “a lack of political, military, and religious centralization in the tribes.” (Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books) What is more, it seems like the writers were making a case for Israel to have a king. Yes, their leader and King was God, but they were doing a terrible job of following their Leader.

Think about why they’re in this mess. They had the knowledge of God’s law, what He instructed them to do, but during the conquest of Canaan, they failed to remove the inhabitants completely, thus allowing for their enemies to gain strength over the years. They also fell into temptations galore – the two greatest temptations being foreign women and foreign gods.

My husband made a great point concerning Israel’s faithlessness to God. In Jeremiah 3, God indicates that the other nations remain faithful to their gods, who aren’t really gods at all, while Israel, the chosen people of the One True God, are unfaithful to their God and go after the gods of the other nations.

Jael judges cycle

In fact, when you read through Judges, you’ll find that sin cycle, except in the Samson narrative, there is no reference to Israel crying out to God! Judges 13:1 says:

Israel did evil in the sight of God and He delivered them into the hands of the Philistines.

“In this cycle, the Israelites display little discomfort or evidence of even wanting to be delivered.” (Block p. 395 in New American Commentary) They were so apathetic this time around, that they didn’t even bother calling out to the God who had chosen them and who had set them in that Land.

“No Knowledge”

Perhaps Asaph, the psalmist, could have been hearkening back to this time when he wrote:

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness…. (Psalm 82:5)

Their leadership was severely lacking:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [priests] have rejected knowledge… (Hosea 4:6)

Remember what we learned from Zipporah:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The Israelites have lost the fear of God.

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land. (Hosea 4:1)

God desired for them to know Him and to obey Him. But instead they were unfaithful to their God. They were unfaithful by going after those other, worthless gods, and by going after those foreign women. They were a people with the knowledge of God, acting in ways that discarded the knowledge they had.

In our current narrative, we learn about 2 of these FOREIGN women: One of them happens to be Samson’s wife! The other has been bestowed with the honor of being identified with promiscuity and deceit. A Delilah is a treacherous and seductive woman, especially a mistress or wife.

Jael Israel_time_of_Judges

Here is a map of Israel during the time of the Judges. Dan is the location in which Samson specifically served. You can see the arrows where Israel’s enemies came in to oppress them. You will also notice that the trouble for Israel occurred throughout the ENTIRE region, not just in the northern or southern kingdom. Because their enemies came at different times and from different regions, you can understand why there may have been an overlap in the service of the judges. It wasn’t like the Philistines hollered to the enemies of the north, requesting to fight Israel, and asking for them to back off. No, the enemies came when God sent them.

“Wife of Samson”

In Judges 14 we see Samson waltzing right into Philistine territory, as if it were his normal daily stroll to a neighbor’s house. It is as if the writer was pointing out the comfort or resignation Israel felt with the Philistines, even though, as the Judahites remind Samson, these Philistines were their “rulers.” (Judges 15:11). Everything that God had intended for the Israelites in their Promised Land was coming loose at the seams. Their lack of obedience to their King resulted in oppression in their own Promised Land.

Block postulates, “Israel would have been satisfied to co-exist with the Philistines but Yahweh [had other plans] to incite the Philistines and thereby disturb the comfortable status quo that existed between them and Israel.” (p. 424 NAC)

God used Samson to shake the Israelites out of their slumber and apathy.

We first hear of the Spirit of God “stirring” Samson in Judges 13:25. This word is not used anywhere else, but you get the idea after reading the narrative that this is the divine initiation. (Block p. 424 in NAC) Interestingly the stirring results in Samson entering the Philistine territory of Timnah which had originally been allotted to the tribe of Dan. God was getting ready to give the Promised Land back to the rightful owners. (Block p. 424 in NAC)

In verse 1 We meet our girl at Timnah. She doesn’t even get a name. She’s simply the “daughter of the Philistines”. And though her life was far from an example of a godly one, God includes her in His story of judgment on the enemy nation, her nation.

Block writes, “Yahweh was determined to shatter the status quo. Samson was his tool chosen to rile up the Philistines, and this woman offers the opportunity to make it happen. If the Israelites did not have the heart to take action against the Philistines, God would cause the Philistines to take action against them.” (p. 426 NAC)

While we are at least somewhat familiar with Delilah, I wonder how many of you were surprised to learn of Samson’s Philistine wife! She sounds much the same as her counterpart, Miss Delilah! I guess this is why God warned the Israelites to steer clear of the foreign women!

Who were these Philistines anyway? They certainly had no knowledge of the God of Israel. They were also people walking in darkness. But they were pagans, violent and odious to God. The more well-known stories about them involve David and Goliath.

Samson philistine warrior garb                   Samson map clear

The Philistines were considered Sea-Faring people who are believed to come from the Aegean region. An Egyptian source reveals that Pharaoh Ramessess II claimed defeat over them in the 5th year of his reign because they had tried and failed to invade Egypt. It was shortly after this that the Philistines ended up sailing slightly north to settle in the coastal strip of Canaan. From there they began filtering into the foothills of Dan and Judah. They plagued Israel all during the times of the Judges as well as into David’s lifetime. (footnote from Word Study Bible)

You’ll notice in the wall carving that the Philistines are distinguishable with their feathered headdress.

They were organized into a confederation of 5 city-states with coastal cities of Ashdod, Asheklon, and Gaza and 2 inland cities of Ekron and Gath.

Music stand

Music stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excavations done in this coastal region have shown that the Philistines were musicians,

Wine jug with bowl

Wine jug with bowl

liked to drink wine (not beer), prized pork over sheep and goats for food,

Olive Press reconstructed with actual parts from the city of Ekron

Olive Press reconstructed with actual parts from the city of Ekron

Labeled Olive Press

Labeled Olive Press

were one of the largest producers of olive oil in the ancient Near-East,

Samson pottery

and used iron, ivory, and bronze, and of course made pottery.

Samson dagon fish man

Later on we learn of the Philistine god, Dagon (16:23) who makes another appearance in 1 Samuel 4:1-7 in the story about the ark of the covenant. In all the paintings, mosaics, or statues of him, he is usually portrayed as a fish-man god. The Hebrew word for fish is “dag”. So was he Dagon, the fish-man? Or was Dagon the god of grain? Dagan in Hebrew meant grain. Recent scholarship believes he was the god of grain. This is extremely important for understanding the text later on. He was also considered the father of Baal. (Block)

This daughter of the Philistines, a Dagon worshipper, was from Timnah – the land that was supposed to belong to Dan!

Samson Valley of Sorek        

Where was Timnah, you ask? It is in the Valley of Sorek, 20 miles west of Jerusalem, right on the border of Philistia and Israel. Timnah was just 4 miles from Samson’s town, Zorah.

The Valley of Sorek was likely a fertile area, well suited for vineyards. (http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/map_philistine_valley_sorek.html)

The Scripture (Judges 13:25) said that the Spirit of the LORD began to stir Samson at Mahaneh Dan, an area only 6 miles east of Timnah. Also when Samson “went down to Timnah” (v. 1), he literally went down as there is an 800 foot drop in elevation between these two areas.

{Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!}

Zipporah (A Heart of Sacrifice) Part 3

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Exodus 18

Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her homealong with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God.  6 And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,”Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Exodus 18:6-9

Zipporah wilderness journey

Here is a map showing the wilderness journey for Moses and the Israelites. Remember that God had promised to meet Moses at that same Mountain from which He spoke to him all those months ago.

IDENTITY: Israelite? God’s Daughter?

Note Jethro is first named as Priest then every other reference of him is as Father-in-law. (He is identified this way 12 times in this chapter alone!)

Moses goes out to meet Jethro, bowing down and kissing him. Then they have a pow-wow. Moses gets to testify to his father-in-law about all God had done to the Egyptians and how He had delivered His people. This time, Moses leaves out none of the details!

10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” 12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. Exodus 18:10-12

Upon hearing this testimony, Jethro blesses God and states that he knows that the Lord is above all other gods. This passage clearly demonstrates that YHWH is superior over false gods.

I like to think about Zipporah’s reaction upon hearing her father make this proclamation. Her eyebrows raise to her hair line as she recalls that terrifying night when she first encountered the God of Israel and she thinks to herself, “yes, father, He IS greater than all gods…”

Jethro then sacrifices burnt offerings to God, fulfilling his role as priest. Aaron, Moses and the elders of Israel eat bread with Jethro, indicating his acceptance into the Israelite culture.

There is so little mentioned of Zipporah that it is truly hard to know what happened to her. She fades into the background just as soon as she arrives on the scene. Was Zipporah accepted as readily as her father? She had the same right as all the others to be called an Israelite. Could her identity be found among these people?

The final verse that gives us a glimpse into the family of Moses is found in Numbers 12. This is the story of when Miriam and Aaron spoke out against Moses because of his “Cushite wife”.

Numbers 12:1 says, “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for her had married a Cushite woman).”

Some of you might say, what in the world happened to Zipporah??

There are a few beliefs regarding this passage. One is that Zipporah left Moses (the case of the unbelieving wife leaving the believer) which is why we read of another wife, a Cushite woman. These same scholars believe this is why God gives the concession for divorce mentioned in Paul’s letters.

Another view is that Zipporah died and Moses married the Cushite or Ethiopian woman. It is even possible that Moses had 2 wives, Zipporah and this other woman (since polygamy was a common practice).

Still others believe that Zipporah is one in the same as the Cushite woman based on Habbakuk 3:7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; / the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.

FN for verse 16: In Num 12:1 Moses’ wife is said to be an Ethiopian. Since Ethiopia was settled by descendants of Cush whose names are certainly interchangeable. It has been argued from Hab 3:7 that “Cushite” and “Midian” are interchangeable names also, and therefore Zipporah was the Ethiopian wife.

The Midrash holds that the Cushite is Zipporah (Sifrei Bamidbar 99), explaining that “Cushite” is used to connote difference: “In the same way that Cushite is different in skin color, so too did Zipporah’s beauty distinguish her from other women.” (Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Tradition)

I tend to believe that Zipporah and the Cushite woman were one in the same. For two reasons: in the genealogy records, Moses and Zipporah with their two sons are the only listing we have. There is not a second set of sons from a second wife of Moses (as in the case of Abraham and Sarah and Abraham and Keturah). The second reason is what I already mentioned above about Cush being the same area as Midian. (The Habbakuk passage would help to make sense of this view.)

So is this

zipporah-possibly
Zipporah?

If the Cushite/Ethiopian woman was Zipporah, it doesn’t sound like she was really accepted into their culture, does it? Poor little bird still had the word FOREIGNER engraved on her forehead. Could she not escape that identity tag?

But God most assuredly would have seen her as part of His people because of her marriage to Moses. An Israelite by covenantal marriage.

Her identity and ours can only be found in God. What did she do with the God of Israel? Did she obey and listen to His Voice?

I think, yes!

What have you done with the God of Israel?

Have you kept Him on a shelf, taking Him out to dust Him off occasionally when it’s beneficial or convenient for you?

Has He become too common for you? Too familiar?

May we never lose the wonder or the fear of God in our hearts. Because it is this which holds Him in such high regard as the One who commands and deserves our worship Alone.

This is God in His holy place. This is God filled with love and strength. He is the Strong God. (Strong God, by Meredith Andrews)

 

My talk on Zipporah

Zipporah (A Heart of Sacrifice) Part 2

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Exodus 3-4

As we read through the Exodus narrative, we come to the famous burning bush passage found in chapters 3-4.

Zipporah mt sinai

This is an image of a present day map showing where scholars believe Mt. Sinai (or Mt. Horeb) was located. The land of Midian is just to the east of that body of water, so this would mean that Moses would have shepherded Reuel’s flocks even beyond the traditional Midian borders. This is the place where Moses meets God for the first time and where God promises Moses that He will meet him when they leave Egypt.

Here is a picture (from Google maps!) looking out from one of the mountains in this region:

Zipporah Sinai

Remember the issue of polytheism? I believe that as we read these chapters, we can understand Moses’ response to God more accurately when read in light of his polytheistic culture and background.

Moses grew up in Egypt and would have been taught in the Egyptian ways. The Egyptian way was polytheistic (I’m thinking of at least four Egyptian gods as I’m typing this, and there were lots more!). He and Zipporah likely had a similar upbringing due to the polytheistic tendencies of the two nations. It is very possible that Moses knew NOTHING about the God of Israel, just as Zipporah knew nothing of YHWH.

You may have noticed in Ex. 3-4 that when God spoke to Moses, he wanted to know what name he would give to the people to let them know which god was coming to their rescue BECAUSE THERE WERE SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM! I almost sympathize with him being hesitant because this seems to be Moses’ first encounter with the God of Israel.

Fred Blumenthal writes, “To have been so conditioned, and yet to see, hear and accept the revelation at the Burning Bush was an accomplishment probably unequaled in the history of mankind.

God tells Moses, (Exodus 2:23-25) I’ve heard the cries of His people. And I’m sending you, Moses, to deliver them.

Ernest Neufeld writes about the irony of God choosing Moses for this mission:

How ironic that a Hebrew child, the adopted grandson of Pharaoh, brought up in the Egyptian way of life in the royal court, was the one whom the God of Israel chose as His instrument to deliver His people from the hands of the god-king of Egypt!

God could have chosen any other Israelite, including Aaron! He could have found someone who was not so hesitant or who felt more qualified for the job. The irony is in the transformation that takes place in this all-but-assimilated Hebrew into an uncompromising champion and defender of God’s chosen people. Thus did God redeem Moses from his bondage for the redemption of the Israelites from theirs. (From The Redemption of Moses by Ernest Neufeld in Judaism)

Can you imagine how the conversation went when Moses goes home to Zipporah: (after Exodus 3:1-4:17)

“Honey, you’re never going to guess what just happened to me!” with a hint of smoke on his clothing.

“I saw a bush on fire that didn’t burn up!”

“I know, it doesn’t make sense!” “And then the bush spoke to me.”

“I swear! I’m not making this up!”

“But that’s not even the craziest part.”

“So the bush, I mean, God, He wants me to go lead His people out of slavery in Egypt.”

“No, I have no idea how that’s going to work.”

“No, I don’t know why He asked me to do it. I’m telling you, I TRIED to get out of it!”

“So do you feel like going on a trip with me? I really think this is going to be a BIG deal!”

Again, we have no such conversation recorded in the Bible, so it’s hard to know what Zipporah’s reaction would have been.

If we could recap, we’ve gotten a glimpse of who Zipporah is and some of the roles she plays. She’s a Midianite, a shepherdess, a daughter, a sister, wife, and mother. But do you get any sense of her relationship to the God of Israel?

Not really.

We just barely get a sense of Moses’ relationship with God after this encounter.

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” 24 At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. Exodus 4:18-26

IDENTITY: Sojourner

After Moses returns he goes to Jethro in 4:18 (yes, his name has changed. He was called Reuel in Ex. 2) and asks permission to leave so he can complete the mission God Himself has called him to do. And why would he do this?

Moses had been in Midian for FORTY years (Acts 7:29-30). That’s half of a lifetime! He was 80 years old at this point in time! Also note that Moses probably realized that he would be leaving this place of refuge, his father-in-law’s home, for good, never to return. He was still the foreigner, a sojourner in the Midianite land, returning to Egypt, the foreign land in order to bring them out to the Promised Land. It was likely out of gratitude for Jethro’s hospitality in taking him in as his son-in-law that Moses returns to take leave of his father-in-law’s household. He wanted to show him HONOR.

Isn’t it interesting that Moses gives Jethro no details concerning why he was to go back to Egypt. He just had this amazing encounter with God and says absolutely nothing about it to his father-in-law. In fact, he kind of lies about it by saying: “I’m just going to check and see if they’re alive.” !!

What is more startling is the way in which Jethro responds to Moses’ request. “Go in peace.” I’m guessing Moses breathed a sigh of relief that his father-in-law was not like Laban!

Are you surprised to read anew in verse 20 that Moses took his wife and sons with him to Egypt? By the way, he does have 2 sons but we haven’t heard about the other son, Eliezer, yet! He doesn’t show up formally until Gen 18:4 (which I’ll get to in a few paragraphs).

Regardless of how this happened, I had always pictured Moses and Aaron in Egypt, by themselves. But now we must picture Moses heading out with his family.

What kind of thoughts went through Zipporah’s mind as she trudged along beside her husband, the God-appointed champion for the Israelites?

She didn’t have the experience of the burning bush. She couldn’t see herself as an Israelite like her husband. Did she even care about them? Was she angry about leaving her home country? Or feel privilege about having Moses as a husband? Did she wish she could have talked with God like her husband did? Did her religious experiences as a daughter to a priest serve to prepare her heart for what she would encounter on her way to Egypt before the one true God? As far as we know, she had no knowledge of the God of Israel.

Is this perhaps why Moses brings her and their sons along with him, to be able to allow them to see firsthand what the God of Israel was like? How He had chosen the Israelites to be His special possession over all the people of the earth?

The only thing we know is that she went. She followed her husband as an act of submission to his leadership. She became a Sojourner too. I’ll go wherever you go. Your people my people.

Have you ever been there before? Maybe God called you to obedience in some area of life. Or maybe, like Zipporah, God called your husband to obedience and you got to go along for the ride because you are one flesh after all, so his story is your story.

My best example of this my current circumstance! How ironic! About 4 years ago Eric felt God pressing his heart to follow in obedience to seminary and beyond. As his wife, I was not a fan of this decision. I felt like God hadn’t told me anything! It was a difficult and long process for me to come to terms with seminary as a reality for our family. It would mean long hours of my husband studying in an office and not time spent with our family. It would mean fewer opportunities to get out and do outings with friends or family because that precious little time would need to be spent with our family. It would mean I might feel like a single mom at times because he would not be available to help. (I’m really not looking for anyone to feel sorry for me. I’m truly throwing a tantrum.)

To top it all off, getting to go back to school has been a dream of mine for years. I could be a professional student for the rest of my life and be completely happy with that arrangement. But it would not be me sitting in those classrooms and reading those books or writing those papers. (Some of you are thinking, “who would really want to do this anyway?!”) No, it would be my husband, the one who had no desire to sit in classrooms or read books much less write those papers.

But I saw God work in ways that made no sense in order for Eric to be able to go back to school. He showed Himself as the sovereign God over our circumstances and dreams. I became a sojourner on a journey which was communicated not to me but to my husband.

Thank you God, for this story about Zipporah. I can relate.

IDENTITY: Heroine

Then verse 24 completely throws us off our guard. What in the world is going on? First Moses is exiled, then he’s married, before you know it, he’s talking to God who gives him an important mission, and now God wants to kill him? Did I miss something here?

The phrase in v. 24 “sought to put him to death” is the same phrase used of Moses in Ex. 2:14 when he killed the Egyptian and of Pharaoh who “sought to kill Moses” in Ex. 2:15.

Victor Hamilton makes a great point that God left room for mediation, allowing time for Zipporah. We see Zipporah spring to action as if she knew exactly what needed to be done! But how could Zipporah have known what to do or that what she was doing would work? Did she know about the covenant that God had made with Abraham about the circumcision?

Douglas Stuart writes that the many people groups in the ancient world practiced circumcision, including the Midianites. So Zipporah would have grown up understanding how circumcision was done and what its significance was. (NAC on Exodus)

He also writes that when she said “bridegroom of blood” (v. 25) or “relative of blood”, this phrase very well could have been the official phrase used when performing the rite of circumcision. This would have legitimized the deed. (It would be similar to the phrases we use when performing a baptism: “In the name of the Father…, buried with Christ…raised to walk…”)

If we take a step back and look at these THREE verses as a whole (v. 24-26), we find even more questions: The original text does not specify who is being referred to in these verses. The only names in the verses are God and Zipporah. Whatever translation you’re reading has already taken the liberty of deciding these factors. So there’s the confusion about who God sought to kill and who was being circumcised and who was the bridegroom of blood.

It is no wonder that David Penchansky says “Biblical scholars love this passage because it is totally incomprehensible.” (From Hamilton Exodus)

Here are the two major theories of interpretation:

  1. God was seeking to kill Gershom because he was not a part of the covenantal people yet (being uncircumcised). This theory is tied into the dialogue between God and Moses about God planning to kill the first-born son in verses 22-23. God seeking to kill Gershom would be symbolic of God seeking to kill the firstborn of Egypt.

The reason this is important is that, “If Moses [was going to] plead for God’s firstborn, if he [would] represent God at all, then his own first-born must be an Israelite. Otherwise his non-Israelite first-born will perish, as will all first-borns not protected by the blood of the Covenant. Gershom [had to] enter the Covenant in order to escape the coming [Angel of Death].” (Howell)

Also, remember the phrase about the bridegroom of blood? Howell writes that once Gershom is circumcised, he is a bridegroom (relative) by means of blood both to YHWH and to Zipporah. He states, Zipporah’s identity with the covenant community was wrapped up in her marriage to Moses. Moses was a blood relative because of genealogy and circumcision. Because Zipporah obviously could not be circumcised … her identity with Israel existed through her identity with Moses. Zipporah was considered a member of the people of Israel because of her marriage to a circumcised Israelite. Now that Gershom was circumcised, he too was a member of the people of Israel. Therefore, it is reasonable that Zipporah would say, ‘You are a relative by means of blood to me. (From Firstborn Son of Moses by Terry John in The Journal for the Study of the Old Testament in ATLAS)

  1. Another view indicates that God sought to kill Moses because he failed to circumcise his son. John Calvin’s commentary on these verses is in line with this view.

However this view also raises some serious questions. For one, did Moses even know about the covenant God had made with Abraham (since he was raised in Egypt) AND if he didn’t know, how could God punish him in his ignorance? In addition to this, why would God choose to punish him now instead of correcting him in their earlier conversations?

The suddenness of the attack might be explained if it were the case that Zipporah was pregnant with Eliezer as they traveled, then gave birth, and after the 8 days commanded by God for the act of circumcision they chose not to do it, thus incurring God’s wrath.

However, many question whether death was an appropriate punishment for remaining uncircumcised. The covenant made to Abraham is in Genesis 17:14:

14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

Some scholars believe that to be “cut off” meant only to be “excluded from the covenant” or dismissed from the nation.

Robinson explains that, “The omission of the rite of circumcision seems to me to provide an inadequate motive for the attack for the following reasons. The command to circumcise had indeed already been given, to Abraham (Gen. xvii), but the punishment for remaining uncircumcised was stated to be exclusion from the covenant (Gen. xvii 14), not death.” (p. 11 Robinson)

Still other scholars believe that when someone was “cut off” they were killed. If you look up the word “cut off” (occurs 283 times!) and visit all of the cross references, some (but not all) seem to indicate death as in the Ex 31 passage:

Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Exodus 31:14

So your view about what it meant to be “cut off” from the nation will determine whether or not you believe death was an appropriate punishment for remaining uncircumcised.

Other scholars who discard the circumcision argument give other reasons for God seeking to kill Moses but quite frankly, they are a bit of a stretch!

One of these views claims that Moses was the object of the divine wrath due to his lack of enthusiasm and willingness to obey God’s word. And it was by the blood of his son’s circumcision that Moses’ sin is atoned for.

Still another view comes from scholar, William Propp, who explains the reason God sought to kill Moses was because of his sin of murdering the Egyptian. If you take on this view, you must read something into the text that isn’t obviously there, trying to explain a difficult passage with ideas that aren’t directly apparent in the text itself.

Regardless of which view you believe is most plausible, I want to direct your thoughts to Zipporah and her role in this narrative. Zipporah is portrayed here as the heroine (v. 26), and Jewish folklore praises her as a heroine, not just here, but in their traditions concerning her. (In fact, one tradition taught that when Moses fled to Midian, Jethro feared the wrath of pharaoh, and had Moses thrown into a hole. Zipporah tended to him for 10 years after which point Jethro found him still surviving and Zipporah then demanded that he be taken out and given to her as her husband.) (From Encyclopedia of Jewish folklore and traditions by Raphael Patai; Hayah Bar-Yitshak)

Zipporah is the one who saved Moses (or her son) from the divine wrath. In fact Hamilton writes that we might find a parallel between the women in Exodus 1-2 who saved Moses from the wrath of Pharaoh, and Zipporah who saves Moses from the wrath of the Lord. Another parallel could be the shedding of blood via the act of circumcision averted divine wrath just as “touching” the blood to the Hebrews’ houses in Egypt turned away God’s wrath from them in the night of the first Passover (Hamilton).

This is Zipporah’s first “encounter” with the God of Israel (that we know of). So this first encounter would appear to be, well, not so pleasant! What kinds of images must have come to mind as Zipporah tried to wrap her mind around the God of Israel? Did she see Him as a vindictive, scary god, out to destroy her and her family? Did it occur to her that Yahweh was not just some obscure deity that she was accustomed to worshipping? That this God was personal and had created her and loved her? Did she realize that He was the One True God?

In my Dictionary of the Pentateuch, under family relationships, I read that while blood kinship played a key role in determining your personal identity, it was in fact the issue of covenant that truly determined your status or membership in a group of people. Zipporah had no chance of being an Israelite unless she fell under the covenant of her husband (because after all, she couldn’t be circumcised).

As we think about her encounter with God, consider the customs of her time. A woman in the ancient Near East would worship the god of her father, and then, once her marriage contract had been arranged and she officially joined the new household of her husband, she would transfer her allegiance and her worship to the god of her husband.  (Dictionary of Pentateuch)

Up to this point, Zipporah and Moses were still under Jethro’s authority. Now that they have left her father’s household, she had a decision to make concerning her allegiance to God. We can’t really know for certain what truly happened in her heart, but it would make sense that this terrifying encounter could serve as a catalyst for determining her heart’s loyalty. Think about it, if you had every possible god to choose from in your worldview, and then you encountered the God of Israel in this way, wouldn’t you determine then and there that no other god could possibly be the one you would commit to follow? You might believe and know He was and is sovereign over ALL.

Here is where I see the real issue surface for this story. What was Zipporah’s experience with the gods? You perform the sacrifices, you appease the gods. When you make them angry, and they don’t give you any rain for a season or they give you destructive locusts that destroy your crops, you must offer them something to turn away their wrath. OR you offer sacrifices with hopes that you can manipulate your god into doing something for you – fertile crops, fertile wombs, better rains, etc. OR you do all these “religious” things, perform these sacrifices, to be seen as a good daughter, mother, wife, etc. But what does God say?

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. Psalm 51:16

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 1 Sam 15:22

Perhaps this night was God’s way of clarifying any misconceptions about who He, the One True God, was. He was not like those other gods and would not be treated as such. He desired love and obedience and a true knowledge of who He was. He didn’t want His people to simply offer a sacrifice while their hearts were far from Him. He wanted them to obey. To LISTEN to His Voice.

This woman with a heart of sacrifice would learn quickly that a heart of obedience is better.

Before Zipporah could see Him as the God coming to rescue His people, she first needed to see Him as the Almighty God, just in all His ways, and terrifying in His holiness.

God is fierce. He inspires awe and fear.

One of my favorite quotations is from C. S. Lewis, Mr. Beaver speaking of Aslan says, “’Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (ch. 8, The Lion, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).” After Aslan leaves, Mr. Beaver tells the children, “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion. “ (ch. 17, The Lion, Witch, Wardrobe)

Can you imagine Moses meeting with God that first time on the mountain, and God presents Himself as a tame, fluffy bunny? No way! He revealed Himself as a Consuming Fire in a bush!

And how did the Egyptians feel about God when they were the recipients of His judgment? I’m certain they were filled with fear, even terror, at the mention of His name.

How did God appear to the Israelites as they wandered and camped in the wilderness? Not as a golden calf or a bronze snake or any other metallic or wooden object but as a Pillar of Fire and of Cloud (more like Smoke). These were not objects that could be conjured up with human hands, the Fire and the Cloud symbolized His very presence and it was terrifying.

And when God gave the people His Law on the mountain, He spoke and it sounded like THUNDER and that mountain QUAKED and SMOKED and appeared as though it would BURN UP because God. Was. There.

He is not safe, but He is good. The people were terrified of God and begged for Him not to speak to them but to have Moses speak on His behalf.

And just because God took on flesh and revealed Himself through His Son doesn’t make Him tame. The fierceness of His character did not diminish.

Jesus is portrayed in Revelation as having eyes that were like a flame of fire, His voice like the roaring waters, with a sword coming out of His mouth and riding on a horse like a victorious and yet fierce King against His enemies. (Rev. 1, 19)

Do you hear the hoof beats? They thunder and strike fear in the heart of the enemy.

Even as He walked on earth, He was anything but tame. He cut through people’s hearts with His words and confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He drove out the money changers. He calmed the storms. He drove out demons. (And you better believe those demons feared Him!) He expelled sickness. He raised the dead! And He died on the cross, defeating our worst enemies, sin and death.

Who else but our fierce, fearless, terrifying God could do any of that?!

Our God is terrifying and we stand in awe and wonder fully knowing what He can do and yet aware that He stays His hand, showing mercy because of the sacrifice of His Son.

HE is no less terrifying in Moses’ time than He was when He came in flesh than He is now.

And just because we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 10:19-22) does not mean that He is not to be feared. It just means the encounter with Him is that much more awesome because we aren’t consumed.

His mercy that much greater because we aren’t destroyed.

His hand that much more powerful because we know He uses such great restraint.

His love that much more meaningful because of what it cost Him.

So yes, we can approach God with confidence but ONLY because of the sacrifice of the Son for by it alone are we given access to Him. The penalty paid to the only Holy God. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence because He FIRST entered the inner place behind the curtain, going as a forerunner on OUR BEHALF (Heb 6:19). He always goes before us to ensure our way. He is the guarantor of a better covenant (Heb 7:22), our Great High Priest forever (Heb 6:20).

The fear of God truly is the beginning of wisdom. Because it takes a wise person to know where she stands and where HE stands. And who stands in her place.

This God can be feared and yet stir affection in our hearts for He is also perfect in love. He is terrifying and yet full of love and affection for His people. It is next to impossible for us to fathom this balance because we are incapable of being perfectly loving (though I’m sure we can be perfectly terrifying in our anger!).

While God delivered judgment after judgment on Egypt, He also displayed His perfect love for Israel, His first-born Son, by rescuing them from Egypt. At Mt. Sinai He displayed His awesome power, striking fear in their hearts while still showing love to Israel by choosing them as the nation He would bless. Terror and Love mingling together in perfect harmony.

Zipporah learned the fear of God that night. He would not be mistaken as a tame, easily-manipulated god like those she was accustomed to serving. Neither was He reckless or malevolent.

He is not SAFE, but He is GOOD.

The errand, the great mission, which God sent Moses to do was a serious matter, not to be taken lightly. He would show His great power over Egypt and show His saving hand to the Israelites. But neither nation would mistake Him as a man-made god. And Zipporah and Moses needed to know this before they arrived. They needed to know who they were dealing with, and that He wasn’t messing around.

Because what happens next is the terrifying judgment on Egypt. Exodus 5-17 details all that occurred to the Egyptians. We do not know whether or not Zipporah was there to see what God did because the text never mentions her in these chapters. There is no explanation of when Zipporah left to return to Midian, but we know she did based on Exodus 18. Scholars are again divided over her whereabouts. Some believe she was in Egypt for a time until Moses sent her home for safety reasons, while still others believe she was sent home right after their terrifying encounter with God. I’d like to go with the view that she went to Egypt, at least for a time. So following in Exodus 4-17:

Ex 4:27-31 The Lord tells Aaron to go to Moses and they form their plan. Then they go to the elders of Israel and the people believed.

What did Zipporah see as she waited in Egypt?

Ex. 8 God sends frogs

God sends a plague of gnats

Ex. 9 Pestilence on the livestock

God sends a plague of boils/sores

God sends a plague of hail (flashing fire) “Um, Moses, can I go home now?!”

Ex. 10 God sends a plague of locusts

God sends the plague of darkness

Ex. 11 Plague of the death of the firstborn son

Ex. 14 God divides the Red Sea

Ex 16 God gave them manna from heaven and quail to eat.

{Stay tuned for Part 3 – Exodus 18}