The chapter continues the “it was all planned!” line of thought from the previous chapter, but now suddenly instead of “testing” their loyalty to God, these nations now exist so “that successive generations of Israelites might know war, to teach those who had no experience of it before” (v 2). So basically the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hibites are like the mooks you take out on low-levels of video games, just there to help you get the XP you might need later. Lovely. Look, Deuteronomist, just admit that your “ideal” never happened and stop trying to justify why the Israelites weren’t the only people in Israel.
Three Judges are introduced in this chapter. The first is Othniel, who we met back in Joshua when he married Caleb’s daughter. I love the name of the king he defeats: Cushan-rishathaim. I know it’s horribly ethnocentric to say this, but that sounds like the kind of fake names fantasy RPGs come up with for their characters. The third Judge is Shamgar, who gets all of one verse noting that he killed six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. Technically he’s not called a “Judge,” but it’s implied.
On the Philistines: while not everybody agrees, it’s generally believed by archeologists and Egyptologists that the Philistines and the Pelesets (mentioned in Egyptian texts) are the same thing. They, in turn, are linked to the Minoans, who came from Crete, called Caphtor in the Bible, where the Bible also says they initially came from. The Philistines haven’t appeared much in the Bible so far (not at all since Exodus), but they’re the Big Bad in a lot of upcoming stories.
The second Judge, Ehud, gets a much longer passage that actually details how he killed a Moabite king named Eglon. It involved him being left-handed, which made me think of how people in Japan think of left-handedness. Up until very recently, it was discouraged, and people were forced to write with their right hands, a practice which used to happen in America but ended like 50+ years ago. Some of my older students refused to believe that 10% of the population is naturally left-handed. One of the little boys in my class turned out to be left-handed, which explained why he would hold his utensils perfectly in his right but still eat with his left. Once we determined that, his parents bought him left-handed scissors and training chopsticks, and we started encouraging him to write and draw with his left. So things can change over time, even in a place as conservative as Japan.
What was I talking about? Oh, right, Ehud. Setting aside any moral questions about whether assassination is a good thing, a bad thing, or a bad thing that sometimes has to be done anyway, this is just a well-told story, with a large dab of toilet humor right in the middle. It was a fun read.
The Japanese: kokoromiru “to try, to attempt” (v 1; kind of sad that I forgot that), osaeru “to squash, to suppress, to contain” (v 10), heion “calm, tranquil” (v 11), obiyakasu “to threaten, to menace” (v 12), hidarikiki “left-handed person,” mitsugimono “tribute” (v 15), hawatari “length of a blade,” moroha “double-edged” (v 16), naimitsu “confidential,” juushin “chief retainer” (the kanji used here are irregular), seki wo hazusu “to withdraw from someone’s presence, to leave the room” (v 19), okujou “roof,” shitsuraeru “to place, to set up” (v 20), tsuka “hilt,” obutsu “dirt, filth” (v 22), rouka “corridor, hallway” (didn’t know the kanji for this one), jou “lock” (v 23), shukun “one’s lord” (v 25), temadoru “to delay, to linger” (v 26), shuchuu ni osameru “to gain control of” (v 28), takumashii “strong, tough, sturdy” (v 29), kuppuku suru “to submit, to yield” (v 30), ushioi “cattle droving” (v 31).