Story Eight

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
YOU would suppose that, after all that God had done for the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes, and after their own promises to serve him faithfully, they would never turn to the idols which could not save their own people, the Cā́ năan-ītes. Yet, when Jŏsh́ u-ȧ was no longer living, and the men who knew Jŏsh́ u-ȧ had also died, the people began to forget their own God and to worship images of wood and stone.
Perhaps it was not so strange after all. In all the world, so far as we know, at that time the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes were the only people who did not worship idols. All the nations around them, the Ḗ ġy̆ṕ tians̝, from whose land they had come, the Ḗ dom-ītes on the south, the Mṓ ab-ītes on the east, the Phĭ˗lĭś tĭnes̝ on the west beside the Great Sea,-all these bowed down to images, and many of them offered their own children upon the idol-altars.
Then, too, you remember that the Cā́ năan-ītes had not been driven out of the land. They were there still, in their own cities and villages everywhere, and their idols were standing under the trees on many high places. So the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes saw idols all around them, and people bowing down before them; while they themselves had no God that could be seen. The Tabernacle was far away from some parts of the land; and the people were so busy with their fields and their houses that few of them went up to worship.
And so it came to pass that the people began to neglect their own worship of the Lord, and then to begin the worship of the idols around them. And from idol-worship they sank lower still into wicked deeds. For all this the Lord left them to suffer. Their enemies came upon them from the lands around, and became their masters; for when God left them they were helpless. They were made poor, for these rulers who had conquered them robbed them of all their grain, and grapes, and olive-oil.
After a time of suffering the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes would think of what God had done for them in other times. Then they would turn away from the idols, and would call upon God. And God would hear them, and raise up some great man to lead them to freedom, and to break the power of those who were ruling over them. This great man they called "a judge"; and under him they would serve God, and be happy and successful once more.
As long as the judge lived and ruled, the people worshipped God. But when the judge died they forgot God again, and worshipped idols and fell under the power of their enemies as before, until God sent another judge to deliver them. And this happened over and over again in the three hundred years after Jŏsh́ u-ȧ died. Seven nations in turn ruled over the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes, and after each "oppression," as this rule was called, a "deliverer" arose to set the people free.
The idols which the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes worshipped most of all were those named Bā́ al and Ăsh-ḗ rah. Ba'al was an image looking somewhat like a man; and Ăsh-ḗ rah was the name given to the one that looked like a woman. These images were set up in groves and on hills by the Cā́ năan-īte people, and to these the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes bowed down, falling on their faces before them.
The first nation to come from another land against the Ĭś̝ ra-el˗ītes was the people of Mĕs-o-pō̇-tā́ mĭ-ȧ, between the great rivers Eū-phrā́ tes̝ and Tī́ gris on the north. Their king led his army into the land and made the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes serve him eight years. Then they cried to the Lord, and the Lord sent to them Oth́ nĭ-el, who was a younger brother of Cā́ leb, of whom we read in Story Five in this Part. He set the people free from the Mĕs-o-pō-tā́ mĭ-ȧns, and ruled them as long as he lived, and kept them faithful to the Lord. Ŏth́ nĭ-el was the first of the judges of Ĭś̝ ra-el.
But after Ŏth́ nĭ-el died the people again began to worship images, and again fell under the power of their enemies. This time it was the Mṓ ab-ītes who came against them from the land east of the Dead Sea. Their king at this time was named Eǵ́ lŏn, and he was very hard in his rule over the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes. Again they cried to the Lord, and God called a man named Ḗ hŭd, who belonged to the tribe of Bĕń ja-mĭn, to set the people free.
Ḗ hŭd came one day to visit King Eǵ lŏn, who was ruling over the land. He said:
"I have a present from my people to the king. Let me go into his palace and see him.”
They let Ḗ hŭd into the palace, and he gave to the king a present; then he went out, but soon came back, and said:
"I have a message to the king that no one else can hear. Let me see the king alone.”
As he had just brought a present they supposed that he was a friend to the king. Then, too, he had no sword on the side where men carried their swords. But Ḗ hŭd was left-handed, and he carried on the other side a short, sharp sword which he had made, like a dagger. This sword was out of sight under his garment.
He went into the room where King Eǵ lŏn was sitting alone, and said, "I have a message from the Lord to you, and this is the message.”
And then he drew out his sword and drove it up to the handle into the king's body so suddenly that the king died without giving a sound. Ḗ hŭd left the sword in the dead body of the king, and went out quietly by the rear door. The servants of the king thought he was asleep in his room, and for a while did not go in to see why he was so still; but when they found him dead Ḗ hŭd was far away.
Ḗ hŭd blew a trumpet and called his people together, and led them against the Mṓ ab-ītes. They were so helpless without their king that Ḗ hŭd and his men easily drove them out of Ĭś̝ ra-el and set the people free. Ḗ hŭd became the second judge over the land. And after that it was many years before enemies again held rule over Ĭś̝ ra-el.
The next enemies to Ĭś̝ ra-el were the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝, who lived on the shore of the Great Sea on the west. They came up from the plain against the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes; but Shăḿ gär, the third judge, met them with a company of farmers, who drove the Phĭ-lĭś tines̝ back with their ox-goads, and so kept them from ruling over the land.