Monday, 28 April 2014

Monday quote

On the two sides of this question you find people waving their flags saying either, “submission is terrible,” or “submission is wonderful.” But submit is a a word like love. Is love good or bad? Well of course that all depends. What do you love? Whom do you love? Do you love God, or do you love the world? Do you love your children, or do you love your best friend’s husband? Obviously those details make all the difference in the world.

Rebekah Merkle

Monday, 21 April 2014

Monday quote

Many times a piece of writing is judged on a very superficial level, and the depths that are there are ignored by readers who resent being challenged.

Douglas Wilson, A Serrated Edge.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Unravelling the period of the Judges

The time of the Judges is perhaps the most difficult chronological period to unravel. We are helped in that there is a summary statement in Kings that gives us the duration from the Exodus to the first temple.
In the 480th year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD. (1 Kings 6)
Identifying the time of the specific judges however proves more difficult.

We have times where Israel is under self rule and times where they are subjugated due to God's judgment for their disobedience. While a continuous sequence seems reasonable at first, fitting all the events in the allotted period is somewhat difficult. Here are the periods during the times of Moses, the Judges and the early kings.

Time of the Judges

Israelite leader Duration Duration Oppressor
Moses 40

Joshua ?, 7+

8 Cushan-Rishathaim, Aram Naharaim
Othniel 40

18 Eglon, Moab
Ehud 80


20 Jabin, Canaan
Deborah/ Barak     40

7 Midianites and Amalekites
Gideon 40

Abimelech 3

Tola 23

Jair 22

18 Philistines and Ammonites
Jephthar     6

Ibzan 7

Elon 10

Abdon 8

40 Philistines
Samson 20

Eli 40

Samuel 20

Saul 40

David 40

Solomon till the temple 4

Total 601+

There is a known duration of 480 years from the time of the Exodus until the building of the temple commences (440 according to the Septuagint) and 600+ years if we consider duration of each ruler separately. And this is without taking into account the full duration of Joshua's leadership which is not specified.

Now there are several caveats to my table. It is known that
  1. Samson judged during the 40 year Philistine oppression.
  2. Samuel judged for an unknown length of time. The 20 years is based on the comment,
  3. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some 20 years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. (1 Samuel 7)
  4. The duration of Saul's kingship is specified in Acts
  5. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for 40 years. (Acts 13)
What the passage in #2 actually means and how it relates to Samuel and David is difficult to ascertain.

Taylor has suggested #3 is a summary statement including the judgeship of Samuel. Though Saul's son Ishbosheth is 40 when he becomes king so ascribing the full 40 years to Saul seems reasonable.

But even with these considerations it is still hard to see how all the events can occur in 480 years. Several approaches to this problem have been proposed.

Hall suggests that the Philistine oppression and Saul's kingship are contemporary with Samson judging for 20 years within that timeframe. I do not think this is viable because Samuel is generally regarded as the last judge and the advent of Israelite kings seems to be the end of the judges.
But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8)
A common suggestion is that the judges overlapped in time. Various different proposals for which judgeships overlapped and how long for have been made. There is some merit to this view. We know that at least Samson judged during the Philistine oppression. Shamgur judged during the peace of Ehud. Eli likely acted as a judge during the time of other judges; he was a priest but it is also commented that he judged, but he was not necessarily the only one at that time. Judges were also from different regions and perhaps they may have led within those regions with various overlap.

What makes this proposal difficult, however, is that the early judges are said to judge "Israel" (cf. Othniel, Judges 3) and "Israel" serves the oppressors (cf. Cushan-rishathaim, Judges 3) and the land has rest during the time following deliverance. So for the early judges we have what appears to be a judgeship over all Israel with sequential not overlapping judges.

Another option is to consider a manuscript error. Of all the things that get corrupted in manuscripts, Haley tells us that numbers frequently do. This was probably more likely in the early manuscripts when letters were also used for numerical values. I believe the Masoretic text spells out numbers thus this latter method is less prone to error. Different manuscripts frequently have different numbers in chronological references (although the antediluvian and postdiluvian discrepancies seem deliberate). A candidate for a numerical transcriptional error would be Ehud as the duration of peace for 80 years seems long compared to the other judges. Nevertheless, proposing errors where there is no manuscript evidence of divergence seems a dangerous precedent and I am not really willing to go there. It seems to me that this would led to a multiplication of proposals to fit preconceived ideas. We must submit ourselves to Scripture, not it to us.

The current option I favour is interpreting the duration to include the period of oppression and rest. Note that the period (of rest) given is always longer than the oppression. The phrase,
So the land had rest 40 years.
Is usually interpreted (or translated as),
So the land had rest for 40 years.
However I am informed that the Hebrew allows,
So the land had rest—40 years.
That is, the time period given is a summary period of the preceding events, oppression and deliverance.

With this proposal and the documented overlapping events, a reasonable chronology can be elucidated for this chaotic time in Israel's history.

There is a further statement that can help us anchor dates. Jephthah rebukes the Ammonites who sought to reclaim ancient territory. They had not originally owned the specific territory as Israel was commanded not to take land from the Edomites, Moabites, or Ammonites. Jephthah's response was why did Ammon not try and reclaim the land in the last 300 years. This being the time of the Israelite occupation. The time from the conquest equals the time of Joshua and the Elders plus 319 years if the oppression is counted separately, or plus 266 years if the oppression is included in a summary duration. Jephthah's 300 years is probably a round number; even so, the time of Joshua and the Elders would be several years and this may favour the shorter duration.

Time of the Judges

Israelite leader Duration Duration Oppressor
Joshua ?, 7+

8 Cushan-Rishathaim, Aram Naharaim
Othniel deliverance and rest32
Total 40

18 Eglon, Moab
Ehud deliverance and rest62
Total 80


20 Jabin, Canaan
Deborah/ Barak deliverance and rest20
Total 40

7 Midianites and Amalekites
Gideon deliverance and rest33
Total 40


Monday, 14 April 2014

Monday quote

It is only because [they] do not consider theological beliefs as belonging to a knowledge-tradition that they can dismiss, a priori, theologically informed policy proposals as de facto epistemologically inferior to so-called secular ones, even when secular ones answer precisely the same questions as do the so-called “articles of faith.”

Francis J. Beckwith, “Taking Theology Seriously,” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, 20:1 (2006): 459-461.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Monday quote

Nothing which implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God.

Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). Summa Theologica. Question 25. Article 3.


Whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence.



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