This article is part of a series of Bible passages, which together are mainly about how the Bible says the Jewish race developed and were given laws, how they settled in ancient Israel, and how it says God sometimes punished them for disobeying his commands, which led to them changing their ways.
This is Part 1 (of 8) in Section 7: "The First Centuries In The Promised Land".
Some parts of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation are very unpleasant. If you become offended by anything, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.
The purpose of the Old Testament seems to have been mainly to try to scare lawless societies into behaving decently, giving up the cruel ways the Bible says they were guilty of. Hence much of the gruesomeness, which is at least in part meant to warn people committing cruel and hurtful actions to change.
Judges chapter 3 (GWT)
1 These are the nations the LORD left behind to test all the Israelites who had not experienced any war in Canaan. 2 The LORD left them to teach Israel's descendants about war, at least those who had known nothing about it in the past. 3 He left the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon from Mount Baal Hermon to the border of Hamath. 4 These nations were left to test the Israelites, to find out if they would obey the commands the LORD had given their ancestors through Moses. 5 So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.
6 The Israelites allowed their sons and daughters to marry these people. Israel also served their gods. 7 The people of Israel did what the LORD considered evil. They forgot the LORD their God and served other gods and goddesses--the Baals and the Asherahs.
8 The LORD became angry with the people of Israel. He used King Cushan Rishathaim of Aram Naharaim to defeat them. So Israel served Cushan Rishathaim for eight years.
9 Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help. The LORD sent a savior to rescue them. It was Othniel, son of Caleb's younger brother Kenaz. 10 When the LORD's Spirit came over him, he became the judge of Israel. He went out to war. The LORD handed King Cushan Rishathaim of Aram Naharaim over to him, and Othniel overpowered him. 11 So there was finally peace in the land for 40 years. Then Othniel, son of Kenaz, died.
Modern Western Paganism is devoid of such gruesome practices as child sacrifice and the dedication of girls to the gods as prostitutes. Some Pagans have been slandered by people who imagine that they must be involved in gruesome activities, perhaps because of widespread reports of generational Satanic ritual abuse in which girls are made to breed babies for the purposes of human sacrifice. To find out more about the reports, read the views of a policeman who says there is no physical evidence for such things having happened, and believes the stories to have been invented during harmful therapies: 'Occult Cop' (IPT Journal).
Judges chapter 6 (TEV)
1 Once again the people of Israel sinned against the Lord, so he let the people of Midian rule them for seven years. 2 The Midianites were stronger than Israel, and the people of Israel hid from them in caves and other safe places in the hills. 3 Whenever the Israelites would plant their crops, the Midianites would come with the Amalekites and the desert tribes and attack them. 4 They would camp on the land and destroy the crops as far south as the area around Gaza. They would take all the sheep, cattle, and donkeys, and leave nothing for the Israelites to live on. 5 They would come with their livestock and tents, as thick as locusts. They and their camels were too many to count. They came and devastated the land, 6 and Israel was helpless against them.
7 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help against the Midianites, 8 and he sent them a prophet who brought them this message from the Lord, the God of Israel:
"I brought you out of slavery in Egypt. 9 I rescued you from the Egyptians and from the people who fought you here in this land. I drove them out as you advanced, and I gave you their land. 10 I told you that I am the Lord your God and that you should not worship the gods of the Amorites, whose land you are now living in. But you have not listened to me."
11 Then the Lord's angel came to the village of Ophrah and sat under the oak tree that belonged to Joash, a man of the clan of Abiezer. His son Gideon was threshing some wheat secretly in a wine press, so that the Midianites would not see him. 12 The Lord's angel appeared to him there and said, "The Lord is with you, brave and mighty man!"
13 Gideon said to him, "If I may ask, sir, why has all this happened to us if the Lord is with us? What happened to all the wonderful things that our fathers told us the Lord used to do-how he brought them out of Egypt? The Lord has abandoned us and left us to the mercy of the Midianites."
14 Then the Lord ordered him, "Go with all your great strength and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I myself am sending you."
15 Gideon replied, "But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least important member of my family."
16 The Lord answered, "You can do it because I will help you. You will crush the Midianites as easily as if they were only one man."
17 Gideon replied, "If you are pleased with me, give me some proof that you are really the Lord. 18 Please do not leave until I bring you an offering of food."
He said, "I will stay until you come back."
19 So Gideon went into his house and cooked a young goat and used a bushel of flour to make bread without any yeast. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, brought them to the Lord's angel under the oak tree, and gave them to him. 20 The angel told him, "Put the meat and the bread on this rock, and pour the broth over them." Gideon did so. 21 Then the Lord's angel reached out and touched the meat and the bread with the end of the stick he was holding. Fire came out of the rock and burned up the meat and the bread. Then the angel disappeared.
22 Gideon then realized that it was the Lord's angel he had seen, and he said in terror, "Sovereign Lord! I have seen your angel face-to-face!"
23 But the Lord told him, "Peace. Don't be afraid. You will not die."
24 Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it "The Lord is Peace." (It is still standing at Ophrah, which belongs to the clan of Abiezer.)
25 That night the Lord told Gideon, "Take your father's bull and another bull seven years old, tear down your father's altar to Baal, and cut down the symbol of the goddess Asherah, which is beside it. 26 Build a well-constructed altar to the Lord your God on top of this mound. Then take the second bull and burn it whole as an offering, using for firewood the symbol of Asherah you have cut down."
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did what the Lord had told him. He was too afraid of his family and the people in town to do it by day, so he did it at night. 28 When the people in town got up early the next morning, they found that the altar to Baal and the symbol of Asherah had been cut down, and that the second bull had been burned on the altar that had been built there. 29 They asked each other, "Who did this?" They investigated and found out that Gideon son of Joash had done it. 30 Then they said to Joash, "Bring your son out here, so that we can kill him! He tore down the altar to Baal and cut down the symbol of Asherah beside it." 31 But Joash said to all those who confronted him, "Are you arguing for Baal? Are you defending him? Anyone who argues for him will be killed before morning. If Baal is a god, let him defend himself. It is his altar that was torn down." 32 From then on Gideon was known as Jerubbaal, because Joash said, "Let Baal defend himself; it is his altar that was torn down."
33 Then all the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the desert tribes assembled, crossed the Jordan River, and camped in Jezreel Valley. 34 The spirit of the Lord took control of Gideon, and he blew a trumpet to call the men of the clan of Abiezer to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout the territory of both parts of Manasseh to call them to follow him. He sent messengers to the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they also came to join him.
36 Then Gideon said to God, "You say that you have decided to use me to rescue Israel. 37 Well, I am putting some wool on the ground where we thresh the wheat. If in the morning there is dew only on the wool but not on the ground, then I will know that you are going to use me to rescue Israel."
38 That is exactly what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the wool and wrung enough dew out of it to fill a bowl with water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, "Don't be angry with me; let me speak just once more. Please let me make one more test with the wool. This time let the wool be dry, and the ground be wet."
40 That night God did that very thing. The next morning the wool was dry, but the ground was wet with dew.
Judges chapter 7 (NLT)
1 So Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. 3 Therefore, tell the people, 'Whoever is timid or afraid may leave and go home.'" Twenty-two thousand of them went home, leaving only ten thousand who were willing to fight. 4 But the LORD told Gideon, "There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will sort out who will go with you and who will not."
5 When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the LORD told him, "Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream." 6 Only three hundred of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. 7 The LORD told Gideon, "With these three hundred men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home." 8 So Gideon collected the provisions and rams' horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the three hundred men with him.
Now the Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon.
Judges chapter 7 (GWT)
9 That night the LORD said to Gideon, "Attack! Go into the camp! I will hand it over to you. 10 But if you're afraid to go, take your servant Purah to the camp with you. 11 Listen to what people are saying. After that, you will have the courage to go into the camp and attack it."
So Gideon and his servant Purah went to the edge of the camp. 12 Midian, Amalek, and all of Kedem were spread out in the valley like a swarm of locusts. There were so many camels that they could not be counted. They were as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. 13 When Gideon got there, he heard a man telling his friend a dream. The man said, "I had a strange dream. There was a loaf of barley bread rolling around in the camp of Midian. When it got to the command post, the loaf of bread hit that tent so hard that the tent collapsed, turned upside down, and fell flat." 14 His friend replied, "That can only be the sword of Gideon, son of Joash, from Israel. God is going to hand Midian and the whole camp over to him."
15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped the LORD. Then he went back to the camp of Israel and said, "Attack! The LORD will hand Midian's camp over to you."
16 Gideon divided the 300 men into three companies. He gave them each rams' horns and jars with torches inside. 17 He said to them, "Watch me, and do what I do. When I come to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. 18 When I and those with me blow our rams' horns, then the rest of you around the camp do the same and shout, 'For the LORD and for Gideon!'" 19 Gideon and his 100 men came to the edge of the camp. It was the beginning of the midnight watch just at the change of the guards. They blew their rams' horns and smashed the jars they were holding in their hands. 20 The three companies also blew their rams' horns and broke their jars. They held the torches in their left hands and the rams' horns in their right hands so that they could blow them. They shouted, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" 21 While each man kept his position around the camp, everyone in the Midianite camp began to run away, screaming as they fled. 22 The 300 men kept on blowing their rams' horns, and the LORD caused the whole camp of Midian to fight among themselves. They fled as far as Beth Shittah, toward Zererah, and as far as the bank of the stream at Abel Meholah near Tabbath.
23 The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh to help pursue the troops of Midian. 24 Gideon also sent messengers to the whole mountain region of Ephraim with this message, "Go into battle against Midian. Capture the watering holes as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan River." All the men of Ephraim were also summoned to help. They captured the watering holes as far as Beth Barah and the Jordan River. 25 They also captured Oreb and Zeeb, the two Midianite commanders. They killed Oreb at the Rock of Oreb and Zeeb at the Winepress of Zeeb and kept on pursuing Midian. Then they brought the severed heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan River.
Judges chapter 8 (TEV)
1 Then the people of Ephraim said to Gideon, "Why didn't you call us when you went to fight the Midianites? Why did you treat us like this?" They complained bitterly about it. 2 But he told them, "What I was able to do is nothing compared with what you have done. Even the little that you people of Ephraim did is worth more than what my whole clan has done. 3 After all, through the power of God you killed the two Midianite chiefs, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I done to compare with that?" When he said this, they were no longer so angry.
Judges chapter 8 (NLT)
4 Gideon then crossed the Jordan River with his three hundred men, and though they were exhausted, they continued to chase the enemy. 5 When they reached Succoth, Gideon asked the leaders of the town, "Will you please give my warriors some food? They are very tired. I am chasing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian."
6 But the leaders of Succoth replied, "You haven't caught Zebah and Zalmunna yet. Catch them first, and then we will feed your warriors."
7 So Gideon said, "After the LORD gives me victory over Zebah and Zalmunna, I will return and tear your flesh with the thorns and briers of the wilderness."
From there Gideon went up to Peniel and asked for food, but he got the same answer. 9 So he said to the people of Peniel, "After I return in victory, I will tear down this tower."
10 By this time Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with a remnant of 15,000 warriors - all that remained of the allied armies of the east - for 120,000 had already been killed. 11 Gideon circled around by the caravan route east of Nobah and Jogbehah, taking the Midianite army by surprise. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two Midianite kings, fled, but Gideon chased them down and captured all their warriors.
13 After this, Gideon returned by way of Heres Pass. 14 There he captured a young man from Succoth and demanded that he write down the names of all the seventy-seven rulers and leaders in the town. 15 Gideon then returned to Succoth and said to the leaders, "Here are Zebah and Zalmunna. When we were here before, you taunted me, saying, 'You haven't caught Zebah and Zalmunna yet. Catch them first, and then we will feed your exhausted warriors.'"
16 Then Gideon took the leaders of the town and taught them a lesson, punishing them with thorns and briers from the wilderness. 17 He also knocked down the tower of Peniel and killed all the men in the town.
Judges chapter 8 (TEV)
22 After that, the Israelites said to Gideon, "Be our ruler-you and your descendants after you. You have saved us from the Midianites." 23 Gideon answered, "I will not be your ruler, nor will my son. The Lord will be your ruler."
24 But he went on to say, "Let me ask one thing of you. Every one of you give me the earrings you took." (The Midianites, like other desert people, wore gold earrings.) 25 The people answered, "We'll be glad to give them to you." They spread out a cloth, and everyone put on it the earrings that he had taken. 26 The gold earrings that Gideon got weighed over forty pounds, and this did not include the ornaments, necklaces, and purple clothes that the kings of Midian wore, nor the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 Gideon made an idol from the gold and put it in his hometown, Ophrah. All the Israelites abandoned God and went there to worship the idol. It was a trap for Gideon and his family.
28 So Midian was defeated by the Israelites and was no longer a threat. The land was at peace for forty years, until Gideon died.
29 Gideon went back to his own home and lived there. 30 He had seventy sons, because he had many wives. 31 He also had a concubine in Shechem; she bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.
32 Gideon son of Joash died at a ripe old age and was buried in the tomb of his father Joash, at Ophrah, the town of the clan of Abiezer.
33 After Gideon's death the people of Israel were unfaithful to God again and worshiped the Baals. They made Baal-of-the-Covenant their god, 34 and no longer served the Lord their God, who had saved them from all their enemies around them. 35 They were not grateful to the family of Gideon for all the good that he had done for Israel.
Judges chapter 9 (NLT)
1 One day Gideon's son Abimelech went to Shechem to visit his mother's brothers. He said to them and to the rest of his mother's family, 2 "Ask the people of Shechem whether they want to be ruled by all seventy of Gideon's sons or by one man. And remember, I am your own flesh and blood!"
3 So Abimelech's uncles spoke to all the people of Shechem on his behalf. And after listening to their proposal, they decided in favor of Abimelech because he was their relative. 4 They gave him seventy silver coins from the temple of Baal-berith, which he used to hire some soldiers who agreed to follow him. 5 He took the soldiers to his father's home at Ophrah, and there, on one stone, they killed all seventy of his half brothers.
But the youngest brother, Jotham, escaped and hid.
Judges chapter 9 (NIV)
6 Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king. 7 When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, "Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.
8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, 'Be our king.'
9 "But the olive tree answered, 'Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?'
10 "Next, the trees said to the fig tree, 'Come and be our king.'
11 "But the fig tree replied, 'Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?'
12 "Then the trees said to the vine, 'Come and be our king.'
13 "But the vine answered, 'Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?'
14 "Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, 'Come and be our king.'
15 "The thornbush said to the trees, 'If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!'
16 "Now if you have acted honorably and in good faith when you made Abimelech king, and if you have been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family, and if you have treated him as he deserves- 17 and to think that my father fought for you, risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian 18 (but today you have revolted against my father's family, murdered his seventy sons on a single stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave girl, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is your brother)- 19 if then you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today, may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20 But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!"
21 Then Jotham fled, escaping to Beer, and he lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.
22 After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, 23 God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech. 24 God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal's seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelech and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers. 25 In opposition to him these citizens of Shechem set men on the hilltops to ambush and rob everyone who passed by, and this was reported to Abimelech.
26 Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his brothers into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him. 27 After they had gone out into the fields and gathered the grapes and trodden them, they held a festival in the temple of their god. While they were eating and drinking, they cursed Abimelech. 28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? Isn't he Jerub-Baal's son, and isn't Zebul his deputy? Serve the men of Hamor, Shechem's father! Why should we serve Abimelech? 29 If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelech, 'Call out your whole army!' "
30 When Zebul the governor of the city heard what Gaal son of Ebed said, he was very angry. 31 Under cover he sent messengers to Abimelech, saying, "Gaal son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem and are stirring up the city against you. 32 Now then, during the night you and your men should come and lie in wait in the fields. 33 In the morning at sunrise, advance against the city. When Gaal and his men come out against you, do whatever your hand finds to do."
34 So Abimelech and all his troops set out by night and took up concealed positions near Shechem in four companies. 35 Now Gaal son of Ebed had gone out and was standing at the entrance to the city gate just as Abimelech and his soldiers came out from their hiding place. 36 When Gaal saw them, he said to Zebul, "Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!"
Zebul replied, "You mistake the shadows of the mountains for men."
37 But Gaal spoke up again: "Look, people are coming down from the center of the land, and a company is coming from the direction of the soothsayers' tree."
38 Then Zebul said to him, "Where is your big talk now, you who said, 'Who is Abimelech that we should be subject to him?' Aren't these the men you ridiculed? Go out and fight them!"
39 So Gaal led out the citizens of Shechem and fought Abimelech. 40 Abimelech chased him, and many fell wounded in the flight-all the way to the entrance to the gate. 41 Abimelech stayed in Arumah, and Zebul drove Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem. 42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields, and this was reported to Abimelech. 43 So he took his men, divided them into three companies and set an ambush in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he rose to attack them. 44 Abimelech and the companies with him rushed forward to a position at the entrance to the city gate. Then two companies rushed upon those in the fields and struck them down.
45 All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it. 46 On hearing this, the citizens in the tower of Shechem went into the stronghold of the temple of El-Berith. 47 When Abimelech heard that they had assembled there, 48 he and all his men went up Mount Zalmon. He took an ax and cut off some branches, which he lifted to his shoulders. He ordered the men with him, "Quick! Do what you have seen me do!" 49 So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire over the people inside. So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.
50 Next Abimelech went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. 51 Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women-all the people of the city-fled. They locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. 52 Abimelech went to the tower and stormed it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. 54 Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can't say, 'A woman killed him.' " So his servant ran him through, and he died. 55 When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they went home.
56 Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.
Judges chapter 10 (NLT)
1 After Abimelech's death, Tola, the son of Puah ... came to rescue Israel. He was from the tribe of Issachar but lived in the town of Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 He was Israel's judge for twenty-three years. ... 3 After Tola died, a man from Gilead named Jair judged Israel for twenty-two years. 5 When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.
6 Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD's sight. They worshiped images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. Not only this, but they abandoned the LORD and no longer served him at all. 7 So the LORD burned with anger against Israel, and he handed them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites, 8 who began to oppress them that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites east of the Jordan River in the land of the Amorites (that is, in Gilead). 9 The Ammonites also crossed to the west side of the Jordan and attacked Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. The Israelites were in great distress.
10 Finally, they cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal."
11 The LORD replied, "Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me, and I rescued you. 13 Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!" 15 But the Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, "We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies."
16 Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And he was grieved by their misery.
Judges chapter 11 (NLT)
... 32 So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory. 33 He thoroughly defeated the Ammonites from Aroer to an area near Minnith - twenty towns - and as far away as Abel-keramim. Thus Israel subdued the Ammonites.
The next file in this section (Part 2), is entitled: "The Early Years of the Respected Prophet Samuel; and the Defeat of Israel by the Philistines".
If you have found parts of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation offensive, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.
The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.
Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).Other initials: