[b-hebrew] Judges was collecting myrrh and honey

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Thu Oct 25 02:13:11 EDT 2007

Dear Yitzhak and Yaakov,

I would recommend the following book, Leon Wood, _Distressing Days of the
Judges_, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Corporation, 1975.

Dr. Wood begins the book with the identification of a Judge. Chapter One,
"Identification," pp. 1-21, discusses the use of "shaphat," in the following
passages, Judges 2:16-19; Ruth 1:1; II Samuel 7:11; I Chronicles 17:10; and II
Kings 23:22. In each case, the use of "shaphat" is for a particular period of
time (pp. 2-3).

The second use of "shaphat" is referring to a distinct meaning to these people
who are "judges," that is "to judge." In fact, when used of the "judges" it adds
to the normal meaning of "to make a decision between two or more alternative
possibilities" with "to serve as a leader" (p. 4). This service could be
military (6 judges) or civil or both. Several judges did both. In fact,
"shaphat" and cognates are used over 30 times in Judges.

Of particular instance, Dr. Wood refers to Akkadian "shapitu" (officer),
Phoenician "shephutim" (regents), Carthaginian "shuphetes" (chief magistrates)
and states, "...that these appear to have been similar in status to Roman
consuls" (pp. 4-5). He goes on to state,
    "Perhaps the nearest parallel, however,  comes from texts of the eighteenth
century found at Mari on the Euphrates River. There a functionary, called by
the West Semitic term "shapitum," was, as A. Malamat states, 'A person of
prominent rank with the tribal organization, whose authority exceeded that of a
mere justice.' E. A. Speiser writes more at length of this person and includes a
helpful contrast between his work and that of another called the "dayyanum," who
clearly was the judge of the society as term is commonly understood. In view of
the contrast he draws,  and after commenting that the term "shapitum" 'is an
exact linguistic analogue of Heb. 'shofet' [the particial form of 'shaphat'],'
he concludes, 'The 'shofet' was originally someone with authority to decide what
administrative action was needed and, when necessary, to issue warnings and mete
out punishment. He was arbiter or punitve officer, as the case might be, one
whoe duties involved both judgment and devotion ot justice.'  (p. 5)

    "A further comparative statement of Speiser is noteworthy as well: 'If the
analogy of Mari society is valid, the 'shofet' [of Israel} was subject to a
higher authority as much as the 'shapitum' [of Mari]. In biblical instances,
however, that authority was divine rather than human.' Speiser is quite right,
of course, that the "shophet" of Israel was under the direction of God and was
expected to recognize this fact fully." (p. 5)

It appears that were similarities between judges and kings. Both gave decisions,
in military and civil cases. Both were to judge with "justice" not fairness
(fairness does not necessarily mean "justice") and without partiality. Both had
to answer to a higher authority, GOD! (YHWH; Elohim; HaShem; Adonai, etc.) as
revealed in the Law of Moses, i.e. NO ONE was above the Law! Finally, there were
some who were appointed judges by their fathers (Eli and Samuel), but some did
not want to be king and did not give that hereditary right to their sons
(Gideon/Jerubbaal as example, but Ahimelech took the mantle as king). The were
also differences between judges and kings. Samuel enumerated these in I Samuel
8:10-22, i.e. military draft and taxation. Although the Judge would request for
men to fight, it was not a draft; it was more voluntary service. Finally, the
judges judged over a certain area, while the king would rule over the entire
nation. Furthermore, the priests and Levites were to be the spiritual advisers
for the people. Unfortunately, that did not work out to well either in period of
the judges.

Thus, there were sufficient differences that made the "Period of the Judges"
different from that of the United Monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon and
under the Divided Kingdoms of Israel/Samaria and Judah.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

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