Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Book of Morons

If asked, "What's your favorite book in the bible?" Judges probably wouldn't make it on very many people's lists.  But believe it or not, the book of Judges is one of my favorites.  For me, it's like stepping back in time, into another culture.  Now that's not to say it's a nostalgic, overly romanticized, "oh..things were better back then" stepping back in time.  In fact, the book of Judges is about warfare and oppression and murder.  It's a bloody, brutal book where foreign generals are nailed to the ground with tent pegs through their heads.  I realized that this makes me sound very violent, so Judges is a rather odd book for a pacifist to like, but there you have it.

One of the things I find most intriguing about the book of Judges is the type of person God repeatedly works through to free his people from neighboring powers.  The list isn't exactly a list that makes you say, "Wow," in a good way.  For a long time, I have fondly referred to the book of Judges as the Book of Morons.  Here's just a sampling of Israel's judges:

Ehud: a left handed man who kills the king of Moab on the toilet.  (In the ancient world, left handed people were considered odd.  There was something wrong with them.  The idea that God might use a left handed man...well, the scandal of it all!)

Barak: a man so courageous that he refuses to go to battle unless Deborah, a prophetess, goes with him.  (Think Bronze Age here.  Hiding behind a woman would have been a huge insult to Barak's leadership skills.)

Gideon: again, a man so courageous that when he first appears in the book of Judges he's hiding in a wine press.  And then as if seeing an angel isn't proof enough, Gideon demands multiple signs from God before he decides that God really is serious about using him to lead an army.  His great act of revolt against foreign gods, tearing down the altar and idols of Baal and Asherah in his home town, was done at night because he didn't want his dad to catch him.  And then, after pushing the army of Midian out of Israel, Gideon makes an idol of his own.  Moron....

Jephthah: the rejected son of a prostitute, an outlaw and brigand.  He was approached by the very half-brothers who threw him out in order to see if he might lead their armies and defeat the Ammonites that had invaded their territory.  He agreed, with the condition that if he defeated the Ammonites he would become their leader, which suited them just fine.  Before going to battle, he vowed to the Lord that if he should win he would offer as a burned sacrifice the first thing that walked out of his house.  It just so happened that he did win, and as he returned home his only child, his daughter, came out to welcome him home (In Jephthah's defense, the first floor of Israelite houses was used for keeping livestock at this stage in Israel's history.).  The story doesn't say he backed down from his vow....

That's just a sampling of the judges in the book of Judges, not exactly what I would call heroes or role models for virtuous character.  These people are messed up!  Maybe that's why I like the book of Judges so much.  Hey, if God can use those people, I might not be so bad after all.  I'm even right handed!

Stopping point: Judges 12


  1. I've noticed this odd trend in myself as well. It's very ironic that two pacifists would be drawn to such a violent book. I mean I've heard people talk about the role of conscience in these sorts of things - the whole "I won't fight on conscience" claim - but maybe subconscious entails sub-conscience, as implied by the claim itself. - Austin

  2. Thanks for posting, Austin. I was thinking about how two pacifists enjoy this book so much, and my brain made a giant leap to the argument of how violent video games make violent kids. If the idea that we automatically reflect what we see/read was true de facto, you and I would be trouble.