Samson was a little like a loose cannon, don’t you think? He had gone home to cool down after the wedding fiasco, but it appears he thought he was still married. Imagine his surprise when he found out his wife was no longer his wife. That surprise sparked more destruction of Philistine property. Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.”
Samson truly believed that he had proper justification to sacrifice those foxes and burn down the grain fields, the vineyards, and olive groves. All over a woman! His pride had been damaged after all. He needed to show who was in control. That did not end well for his wife or her father.
What a negotiator! Despite the fact Jephthah was known as a brilliant warrior, he used his words first. He was not trying to avoid action but to begin the action. You might think of it as setting the stage. If you can avoid unnecessary bloodshed that is still a victory. We can tell early on in the negotiations that the Ammonites were set on getting their revenge on the Israelites.
Jephthah was not afraid to use other means when the verbal attempt failed. He had done his best to recount the history of the Israelites travels to put them in the best light possible. In fact, it was actually God who had orchestrated the events that had the Ammonites so upset.
And I thought Deborah was going to be the hero of the story! In our last reading, you’ll recall a conversation between our current judge, Deborah, and her military leader recruit, Barak. When she said that God’s victory would be at the hands of a woman, didn’t you imagine she was talking about herself? Or was it just me?
Actually, I had been waiting for the story of Jael. I had forgotten where it fell in the timeline of God’s story. There is a lot we can learn from Jael. She turned fear into triumph! But she didn’t do it on her own. God had already planned it, and whether or not Deborah knew “who” the woman would be, God had shared with her ahead of time that victory would involve a woman.
What an event! This story sticks with me because as a child I learned a song in Sunday School about it. “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down.” Is that familiar to you, too? I remember we’d all dance around in a circle, and then fall down like the walls. I think that’s why I love teaching the Bible using songs. Here’s a cute version to watch.
This would be the first battle in the new land the Israelites were poised to conquer. I’m sure there were plenty of people who wondered if Joshua had lost his mind having them march around the city for six days in a row. But on the seventh day, that’s when the miracle would happen.
Moses plays a very big role in the Old Testament and in the history of the Israelite people. I remember thinking when I was a kid going through Confirmation classes that it was such a shame Moses died before entering the promised land. I hadn’t really understood the whole story. Even this time through the story, I dug a little deeper to understand what Moses did, if anything, to end his life before reaching the other side of the Jordan.
In today’s reading, God is predicting Moses’ death. He is allowing Moses to see the promised land from a distance. Bittersweet. But God had told Moses and Aaron that their mistake was going to cost them. The LORD said, “For both of you betrayed me with the Israelites at the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. You failed to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel there.” God is speaking of Moses and Aaron. The story in question is recalled in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20.