Credits: Journey through Nach
Perek 1: Israel asked Hashem who should go to war against Canaan. Yehuda was told to go, Shimon agreed to accompany them; they beat the Canaanites and Perizites. The King Adoni Bezek was captured and his thumbs and big toes were chopped off, like he did to 70 other Kings; he died in Yerushalayim. Yehuda’s previous conquests are reviewed. Calev promised to give the conqueror of Kiryas Sefer his daughter as a wife, Osniel ben Kenaz, Calev’s younger brother fulfilled this, they were given springs as well. The places where the Bnei Yisrael failed to drive out their enemies are listed.
Perek 2: A messenger informed the Jewish nation that they had not observed the promise to remove idolatry from the land. Furthermore, they had not obeyed Hashem’s instruction to expel the enemy; the people wept and brought offerings. A new generation arose who forsook the ways of Hashem and served the Baal. Hashem delivered them to plunderers and then eventually to their enemies. The Bnei Yisrael followed a few of the Shoftim which Hashem sent, but when that Judge died they resumed idolatry. Hashem did not drive out the nations who remained within Israel as a test whether they would be affected by the pagan influences.
Perek 3: The nations which remained in the Land of Israel are listed. As the Bnei Yisrael did evil in the eyes of Hashem, they were delivered into the hands of Aram Neherayim. The Jewish people cried out to Hashem and Osniel ben Kenaz was sent as a Judge. He took them to war and brought about tranquillity for 40 years. When the Bnei Yisrael sinned the Jews were oppressed by Moav. Yet again, the Jews cried out and Ehud ben Gera was sent. He pretended to send a gift to Eglon- King of Moav, but killed him by thrusting a sword into his belly. Peace ensued for 80 years.
Perek 4: The congregation continued to serve idols in the eyes of Hashem who delivered them into the hands of the Canaanites. Sisera their general had 900 iron chariots and the frightened Jewish people beseeched Hashem. Devorah was their Judge; she and Barak moved the troops causing Sisera to attack. Hashem confounded Sisera and his army. Sisera sought refuge with Yael the Kenite who drove a tent peg through his temple and killed him. The Bnei Yisrael destroyed Canaan and their King Yavin.
Perek 5: This is Shiras Devorah- the celebratory song Devorah (and Barak) sang praising Hashem for the military victory. She describes the astonishing miracle how there was no spear in Israel and yet they were still victorious. Devorah criticises some tribes for not assisting in the war effort and praises Yael for her courage. She presents the image of Sisera’s mother’s anguish when Sisera did not arrive. There was tranquillity for a further 40 years.
Perek 6: The Jewish people were given into the hands of Midian for 7 years. They had to go into hiding, as their produce and flock was taken. They cried out to Hashem and an angel appeared to Gidon and told him “Hashem is with you”. He wanted an assurance from Hashem, so three miracles were performed: meat and matzos were consumed by fire whilst broth was not consumed, dew appeared on a fleece of wool but not elsewhere and vice versa. Gidon took 10 men and destroyed his father and neighbours’ altars and built a new one, upon which he offered sacrifices to Hashem. Gidon was found to be the the culprit, his father, Yoash defended him and argued that the Baal can take up his personal grievances. Gidon’s second name is derived from here- Yerubalal.
Perek 7: Gidon gathered an army of 32,000, Hashem reduced this to 300 men in order to increase the miracle of victory. In order to reassure Gidon, Hashem told him to go to the edge of the Midianite Camp and listen. He overheard a dream being interpreted that Hashem has delivered Midian to Gidon. The 300 men ran towards the camp blowing shofars and breaking jugs, the camp fled and were met by Efraim who pursued after Midian captured and kiled the two leaders of Midian- Orev and Z’ev.
Perek 8: Efraim complained to Gidon that they were not chosen to fight against Midian. He replied that Efraim were more useful than the army, as Efraim killed many of the enemy, including Orev and Z’ev. Gidon asked Succos and Penuel for food, they refused; Gidon threatened to repay them. Gidon captured their two Kings- Zevach and Tsalmunah and killed them for murdering his people. He killed the men of Succos with thorns and destroyed the tower of Pennuel with many people inside it. Gidon did not want to be leader, but asked the people to donate one nose ring from the spoils, using this he fashioned an ephod which he kept in his city (as it was used for idolatry) as a reminder of the victory. There was peace for another 40 years. Gidon had 70 children and one (Avimelech) with a concubine. He died and the Jewish people did not follow in the ways of Hashem.
Perek 9: Avimelech persuaded Shechem to allow him to rule. He killed his 70 brothers apart from one- Yosom. The inhabitants of Shechem appointed Avimelech as king. Yosom who gave a parable saying that Avimelech is not a suitable king and is harmful, he then went into hiding, as he feared for his life. Avimelech ruled for 3 years, consequently there was a rift between Avimelech and Shechem. Gaal ben Eved spoke out against Avimelech’s regime. Gaal was pursued out of Shechem by Zevul the leader of the city. Avimelech destroyed Shechem and burnt its’ tower killing thousands. He tried to burn another tower in Tevetz, but one woman threw down a part of the millstone at Avimelech who asked his attendant to kill him, so people will not say a woman killed him.
Perek 10:Tolo and Yair judged Israel for 23 and 22 years respectively. The Jewish people continued to do evil and serve the Baal, therefore Hashem delivered them into the hands of the Pilishtim and Ammon who oppressed them greatly. They cried out, but Hashem told them to plead to their gods- the Baal. They admitted that they sinned and Hashem had compassion. The Ammonites were preparing to wage war and the people of Gilead proclaimed whoever will fight against Ammon will become leader.
Perek 11: Yiftach was banished by his brother, whilst Ammon waged war against Israel. Yiftach was asked by the Elders of Gilead to lead them in war. Yiftach agreed on condition that he was successful in battle against Ammon. Yiftach sent messengers to the King of Ammon inquiring why they insisted on war. The reason given was that the Jewish people had taken their land, Yiftach disagreed with this. Yiftach vowed that “whatever emerged from his house” would be offered up (meaning an animal) if Israel succeeded. Yiftach defeated Ammon, upon his return home he met his only child- a daughter. Consequently, she could not marry any man; Yiftach tore his clothes and for two months she wept in the mountains (this was commemorated annually).
Perek 12: The men of Efraim protested to Yiftach that they were not asked to assist in the war effort. Yiftach claimed he requested their help, but did not receive it. Yiftach initiated a civil war against Efraim, in order to ascertain who the enemy was, the people were asked to pronounce “Shiboless”, Efraim could only pronounce “Siboless”. If the men were from Efraim they were murdered; 42,000 people from Efraim were killed in this manner. Yiftach judged for 6 years. Three more judges of Israel are listed: Ivtson, Elon and Avdon; they judged for a total of 25 years.
Perek 13: Israel behaved badly in Hashem’s eyes and were delivered into the hands of the Pilishtim. An angel appeared to Monoach’s wife who was barren. He promised her a son, but she must abstain from wine and impure substances and her son must become a nazir and a razor should not touch his head. The angel re-appeared this time while Monoach was present and they offered a goat and meal offering. The angel preformed a miracle where the food was consumed by fire directly from the heaven and he disappeared. She gave birth to a boy who was named Shimshon and the blessings were fulfilled.
Perek 14: Shimshon informed his parents that he wanted to marry a girl among the Pilishtim, his intention was to use her as a vehicle to retaliate against the Pilishtim. Shimshon tore a lion apart and ate honey produced from bees in the lion’s carcass. Shimshon made a marriage feast where he posed a riddle to the thirty guests, they could not solve it and managed to extract the answer from his wife. He killed thirty Pilishtim and took their clothing to pay his bet. Shimshon’s wife married someone else.
Perek 15: Shimshon spoke to his father in-law and asked what happened to his wife, in return Shimshon was offered her younger sister. In revenge Shimshon tied lit torches between 150 pairs of foxes and sent them to the fields of the Pilishtim. When the Pilishtim found out the reason of Shimshon’s anguish, they burnt his wife and father in-law. As they only responded once Shimshon had acted, Shimshon killed many of their warriors. The Pilishtim asked Yehuda to arrest Shimshon who agreed to hand himself over. Shimshon broke the ropes and struck down 1000 men with a jawbone. He was thirsty and prayed to Hashem, who gave him water in the jawbone.
Perek 16: Shimshon had improper relations with a Pilishti woman in Azah. He married a Pilishti- Deliloh; she was paid by the Pilishtim to find the source of Shimshon’s strength. Shimshon deceived her three times and gives a false way which he can be overpowered: being bound with seven wet twines or new ropes and weaving his seven locks on a weaving rod. The fourth time, Shimshon cannot resist her persistence and he revealed that if his hair is shaved he would be weak and Shimshon was captured. The Pilishtim celebrated and Shimshon was brought before a gathering, he prayed fervently for vengeance and begged to die with the Pilishtim. Hashem restored Shimshon’s former strength and Shimshon tore down the pillars, killing about 3000 Pilishtim with him. Shimshon was buried by his family, he judged Israel for 20 years.
Perek 17: Michah (from Mount Efraim) admitted that he took 1100 pieces of silver from his mother and returned the money. The money was used to fashion idols; Michah had many of them and appointed one of his sons as a priest. A travelling Levi was offered a job as Michah’s priest for money, clothes and sustenance, which he accepted.
Perek 18: Dan was looking for more land and sent out spies to examine different locations. They spent the night in Michah’s house and asked the Levi if they would be successful. He replied they would, the spies went to Laish and delivered a good report. Dan sent 600 warriors to Laish, on the way they took Michah’s priest and idols, despite Michah’s objection. They conquered Laish and established Michah’s priest and idols.
Perek 19: A Levi from Har Efraim married a concubine who deserted him and stayed in her father’s house. The Levi went to her father’s house, eventually the Levi and his concubine returned home at late-afternoon. They decided to sleep overnight in Giveah in Binyamin’s territory, no one offered them hospitality until one old man did. After they ate, the residents of the city demanded that the owner of the house hand over his guest. He refused, but gave over his daughter and his guest’s concubine; the concubine was molested until she was murdered. The Levi cut her body into 12 pieces and sent her body parts all over Israel and everyone was shocked.
Perek 20: The Levi informed the army chiefs of Israel what occurred and they were abhorred. They selected some soldiers by lot and demanded Binyamin handover the guilty men, but Binyamin refused. Israel waged a civil war (led by tribe Yehuda) against Binyamin. Israel suffered serious defeats- 40,000 dead for the first two days; they cried out, fasted and offered up sacrifices. Pinchos asked Hashem whether to mount a second attack and Hashem answered that they should; Israel set up ambushes. Israel was being massacred and they decided to retreat to enable the ambushes to attack. Binyamin was wiped out with 25,000 dead.
Perek 21: The Bnei Yisrael made an oath in Mitzpa not to marry a Binyaminite, but they felt remorse that one entire tribe should be missing in Israel. Anyone who did not make this oath would be put to death; Yavesh Gilad did not, therefore all males and married women were killed. They gave the remaining 400 unmarried girls to the Binyaminites as wives, however this was insufficient. There was an annual festival in Shiloh; the Zekeinim (Elders) advised the Binyaminites to select wives from the daughter of Shiloh in order to ensure the survival of the remaining Binyaminites and this was successful and the Binyaminites repopulated their cities.