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Into a new land

Judges 1 - 5

The spasmodic infiltration brought little joy to anyone.   The lowlanders  (the Canaanites)  had enough troubles of their own.   And the protracted campaigns of the nomadic Israelites faced them with an easier option,  simply to settle down with the local farmers,  turn their back on their austere desert religion,  and learn from the baals,  the gods of the soil.

Whenever a crisis occurred,  however,  conscience stirred and a leader would emerge,  fired with the vision of Yahweh  -  who had brought them here out of slavery in Egypt.   This judge's task was to guide the people and protect the helpless.

At one such time a certain prophetess,  Deborah,  was judging Israel.   She used to sit under the Palm of Deborah,  between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim;  and the Israelites came up to her for judgment.

Deborah summoned Barak and said:  "Yahweh God of Israel commands you.   Bring ten thousand from the tribe of Zebulun.   I will draw out Sisera by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops and I will give him into your hand."   Barak replied:  "If you will go with me I will go,  but if not I will not go."   And she said,  "I will certainly go,  but this will not lead to your glory,  for Yahweh will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman."

Sisera survived the battle only to be struck down with mallet and tent-pin by Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite,  under the guise of hospitality.

In attitude and practice there was little to distinguish between Israelite and Canaanite.   They did not understand that a far deeper conflict was emerging  -  a battle for the soul of a people.   After the victory over Sisera's forces there was peace for a time.   But the disturbing vision of Yahweh would return and never leave them alone.

J.J. Lewis



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