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The Postmodern Catholic

Unit V: Conquerors of the Promised Land: The Judges
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Unit V: Conquerors of the Promised Land: The Judges

The Book of Judges

Relates the story of how the Israelites eventually conquered the Canaanites and eventually established the Kingdom of Israel

Set Up: The Book of Numbers

It is here where the stories of wandering in the desert are related

Why 40 years?!

Theological reasons

Moses’ doubt

The people’s unfaithfulness

God’s unwillingness

Practical Reasons

Had to get strong (purified) by desert living

The Canaanites were strong, numerous and well fortified

Scouts/Spies Sent to Canaan

Moses sent scouts from each of the 12 tribes

They found a strong and powerful people with heavily fortified cities

Many of the Israelites sought new leaders to bring them back to Egypt (Symbolic meaning?)

Wanted to go back to the easy life: the life of sin and bondage to one’s vices


So, they wandered in "the desert", the hard life of sin and faithlessness for 40 years (symbolic of a whole lifetime)

Numbers 14:33: with the exception of Joshua and Caleb (the young leaders who scouted the Promised Land and had faith they could take the land: faith in God), Yahweh decreed that no one over the age of 20 would enter into the Promised land,

A New Generation and Nation

Hardened and disciplined by the desert, the young generation of Israelites became a strong nation belonging completely to Yahweh

Even Moses and Aaron were to die outside the promised land

Joshua assumed the leadership of Israel while Eleazar took over as High Priest from Aaron


1st city the Israelites captured

Two scouts received lodging from Rahab. A woman who knew their identity but did not tell the rulers of the city

She was later spared because of her kindness

The Ban: where everything; including all men, women, children, and livestock, were burned as an offering to God

The Judges

When the tribes went to war, they were led by an individual guided by "the spirit of Yahweh"

The Book of Judges names 12 judges: six major, six minor

While temporary military/religious leaders, the judges were not kings

They were remembered for doing "the will of Yahweh"

Key Judges

Othniel: the 1st judge; a son-in-law to Caleb

Was described in a way that was to be common of all the judges"

Raised specifically by God

Led charismatically

Prevails (wins) over Israel’s oppressors

Deborah: the only female judge

She helped deliver Israel from the Canaanites by convincing Barak, a tribal leader, to unify the tribes and defeat the Canaanites

Gideon: a simple man trying to save his father’s wheat

He destroys his father’s alter to the god Baal ( a Canaanite deity), and builds an alter to Yahweh

Even though his army was reduced from 33 thousand to 300, they still prevailed and won over the Canaanite force


A Nazarene famous for his strength, which resided in his hair

Somewhat vain, Sampson is portrayed somewhat as a playboy

He falls in love with a Canaanite woman named Deliliah who eventually betrays him

He is captured and humiliated but while he is being tortured, he destroys the Temple of Dagon and all that were in it

Samuel: The Last Judge

During the time of the Judges, the faith of the Israelis had steadily weakened

While they would temporarily be united with Yahweh through the help of the judges, they soon gave into the temptation of sin, especially idolatry

With the Philistines growing in number and power, Samuel would deliver the Chosen People to their greatest period, and deliver a king to them

Last Judge, 1st Prophet since Moses

2 books: Samuel 1 and 2, describe his life from birth to death

Samuel was greatly admired and respected by all

Not so much a military leader

He led Israel primarily through his spiritual power and his prayer and sacrifice

His mother, Hannah, long barren, promised to dedicate her son to Yahweh

Call for a King

Samuel worked to bring about a religious renewal to Israel

The tribes remained divided and weak, and a call for a king increasingly went out

Problem: the covenant with Yahweh proclaimed God as the only king of Israel

Still, the elders called for Samuel to anoint a king for them


Finally, Samuel picked Saul as king and anointed him with oil and the spirit of Yahweh

His reign of 20 years was marked by both success and failure

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D. “The more I am able to affirm others, to say ‘yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone” Thomas Merton