The amazing Book of Judges

June 9, 2011

In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Barbara Tuchman mentions in passing one of the “cautionary tales for his daughters” written in 1371 by Geoffroy de la Tour Landry, in which a man whose wife has died as the result of a gang rape cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends them out with letters to her friends to incite them to vengeance.

Why 12? Because in the original version of the story, Judges 19, which Tuchman didn’t mention and perhaps was not aware of, the pieces were meant for all the 12 Tribes of Israel!

I love Judges, it’s got so many quirky things in it. Everyone knows the story of Samson and Delilah, and people have at least heard of Deborah and Barak; but the rest of the book is, I believe, not very well known. It’s largely or wholly unrepresented in the Sunday lectionaries of most Christian churches – as is Leviticus; but Leviticus is in the Torah so at least the Jews read it, as do the more theonomian Christians (and others wishing for material to mock them with). No one makes much liturgical use of Judges, as far as I know. Jephthah was the subject of an oratorio by Handel, but it’s rarely performed. The name “Gideon” is known, but not for anything specific; the anti-monarchical slant to his story and that of his son Abimelech is certainly of historical interest. And I’m sure there’s something to be inferred from the odd travels of the Tribe of Dan.

But what are we to make of Shamgar son of Anath, of whom all we are told is that he killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad?


2 Responses to “The amazing Book of Judges”

  1. Claude Tusk Says:

    Shibboleth! Sibboleth! Synthema!

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