SEDER OLAM - Revisited

סדר עולם - חדש



What is new

Index of names


Generations  1-14
(3760 - 2080 BCE)

Generations 15-21
(2080 - 1240 BCE)

Generations 22-28
(1240 - 400 BCE)

Generations 29-35
(400 BCE - 440 CE)

Generations 36-42
(440 - 1280 CE)

Generations 43-49
(1280 - 2120 CE)

Generation 50

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(2642 AM - 1118 BCE)

Judge Yair
(2645 AM - 1115 BCE)

Birth of Samuel
(2648 AM - 1111 BCE)

Samuel the Prophet
(2661 AM - 1099 BCE)

(2668 AM - 1092 BCE)

The Philistines
(2668 AM - 1092 BCE)

The Ammonites
(2668 AM - 1092 BCE)

Judge Samson
(2686 AM - 1074 BCE)

Judge Yiftah
(2686 AM - 1074 BCE)

Sacrifice of Yiftah's daughter
(2687 AM - 1073 BCE)

Death of Eli the High Priest
(2688 AM - 1072 BCE)

(2688 AM - 1072 BCE)

Ark of Covenant
(2688 AM - 1072 BCE)

Three Judges

 Previous <<   Generation 23   >> Next

Hebrew years 2640 to 2760 (1120-1000 BCE)
~~~ Part I ~~~ Part II ~~~ Part III ~~~

Year 2642 – 1118 BCE – Abimelech and the Sichemites

Judge Gideon died 40 years after having liberated his part of the land from the Midianites. He had many legitimate sons and one illegitimate son from a concubine of Sichem, which is in the hill countries of Israel: this son was called Abimelech. The faith, just after Gideon’s death, quickly weakened, mainly because Gideon himself made an ephod from the gold he obtained from the battle he fought:

And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again went astray after the Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god.
--- Judges 8:33

God raised Abimelech to punish Gideon’s inheritors. 
Abimelech gathered a gang of men from his home city and went to kill all his half-brothers, the legitimate sons of Gideon. But the youngest one, Jotham, escaped the slaughter. However Abimelech managed to impose his rule over this part of the land for the next 3 years, with the help of the Sichemites. Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Sichem (Judges 9:23).

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Year 2645 – 1115 BCE – Death of Abimelech

Three years into his rule, Abimelech made a siege against one rebellious city. A woman threw a stone from the top of one tower which struck Abimelech onto the head and broke his skull.

Then he called hastily unto the young man his armour-bearer, and said unto him: “Draw your sword and kill me that men say not of me: A woman slew him.” And his young man thrust him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place. Thus God requited the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren.
--- Judges 9:54-56
The death of Abimelech
The death of Abimelech (Gustave Doré, 1868)

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Year 2645 – 1115 BCE – Judges Tola of Issachar and Yair of Gilead

After the death of Abimelech, God raised Tola son of Puah son of Dodo from Issachar tribe, and Yair from Gilead, a district located east from the Jordan River, in Manasseh territory,[1] to be judges for Israel during 23 and 22 years respectively (Judges 10:1-5). They maintained the hill countries of Israel, on both sides of the Jordan River, quiet during their time.

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Year 2648 – 1111 BCE – Birth of Samuel, of Ephraim, the Nazirite

In the hill part of the land, a son was born to Elkanah, a man from the tribe of Ephraim. His sterile mother, Hannah, had promised to dedicate her son to God, if she could give birth. Later she brought the child to Eli the Priest, in Shiloh, as soon as he was weaned (presumably when he was 5 or 6 years old). Samuel was to become a major prophet for Israel.

Eli had just become High Priest several months before in the same Hebrew year 2648 (but different BCE years), and he will hold this role for the next 40 years. He probably did not have the skin of a spiritual leader and his sons were ultimately corrupted. The tribes were started to move away from their faith under his tenure.

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Year 2661 – 1099 BCE – The first prophecy of Samuel

The High Priest, based in Shiloh with the Ark of Covenant, was Eli. He had taken under his supervision a young child, of Ephraim tribe, who was destined by his mother Hannah to God's service.

Eli and young Samuel 
Priest Eli and young Samuel - by John Singleton Copley, 1780
(Wadsworth Atheneum, USA)

Eli had two sons: Hophni and Phinehas. They were corrupt but Eli did not redress them. Through Samuel, who then acted as a Prophet for the first time when he was just 13 years old (the age of Bar-Mitzvah), God told Eli what will become of his descendance:

"Behold, the days come, that I will cut off your arm, and the arm of your father's house, that there shall not be an old man in your house. And you shall behold a rival in My habitation, in all the good which shall be done to Israel; and there shall not be an old man in your house for ever. Yet will I not cut off every man of yours from My altar, to make your eyes to fail, and your heart to languish; and all the increase of your house shall die young men. And this shall be the sign unto you, that which shall come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise up for Me a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in My heart and in My mind; and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before Mine anointed forever. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in your house shall come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread, and shall say: Put me, I pray you, into one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a morsel of bread."
--- I Samuel 2:31-36

In one sense, we can assume that the morality among the Israelites was so low, and the examples given by the heirs to the priesthood was so bad, that the move to idolatry had become inevitable. When men of importance, in religion or politics, give a bad public example, the morale and the society collapse.

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Year 2668 – 1092 BCE – The Tribes of Israel widely adopt idolatry

At the end of the 23 years period from Judge Tola, the Israelites sinned again, and badly this time as they adopted pagan rites from most of their neighbours. This was major fallout from God’s path, and the consequence of years of mixing up with the Canaanite neighbours, and inter-marriage:

And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baalim, and the Ashtaroth,[2] and the gods of Aram, and the gods of Sidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the Lord, and served Him not. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He gave them over into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the children of Ammon.
--- Judges 10:6-7
Pagan rites
The Israelites adopt pagan rites

The divine wrath fell upon the Israelites from the Philistines and the Ammonites.

Year 2668 – 1092 BCE – The Philistines

From the southern part of Canaan came the Philistines, and they will oppress Israel for 40 years, until King David will reign over all the Israelites in one kingdom. The Philistines' first Israelite neighbours were the Tribe of Dan, and these were the first to be submitted to their rule. This is the year when Samson was born.

Year 2668 – 1092 BCE – The Ammonites

On the eastern part of the Jordan River, after the death of Judge Yair, came the Ammonites and they later reached over to the hill country on the western part:

And they [the Ammonites] oppressed and crushed the children of Israel that year; eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. And the children of Ammon passed over the Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was sore distressed. And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying: "We have sinned against You, in that we have forsaken our God, and have served the Baalim."
--- Judges 10:7-10

Ammonite goddess
Ammonite goddess (Israel Museum)

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Year 2686 – 1074 BCE – Judge Samson, of Dan

In the first year of war with the Philistines in Hebrew year 2668 (1092 BCE), Samson of the Tribe of Dan was born. Since he was selected by God before he was conceived, and his birth having been announced to his parents and his tribe of Dan, his years as of Judge are counted from the moment he was chosen by God. He will thus judge all his life, for 20 years, until his death in Hebrew 2688. This is his story.

When the Philistines’ yoke started, an angel came to visit a barren woman from the tribe of Dan, near the Philistine country, to announce that she will give birth to a boy who will free Israel from its enemy:

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her: "Behold now, you are barren, and have not borne; but you shall conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray you, and drink neither wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing. For, behold, you shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come upon his head; for the child shall be a Nazirite unto God from the womb; and he shall begin to save Israel out of the hand of the Philistines."
--- Judges 13:3-5

In this time, when the Israelites started to sin so badly, God decided not to choose a judge among the living, but to breed one, starting from the womb of a woman. The father, Manoah, was however not an adequate model as he doubted in the faith of God, despite the messenger that was sent to him and the divine signs. The woman however kept faithful: which barren woman would not be willing to believe she would bear a child? A son was born and was called Samson, Shimshon in Hebrew (Judges 13:24). This was not an adequate name as it is rooted in the word sun (shemesh in Hebrew) which referred in these times to the sun-god Shamash, or Ra for the Egyptians. It has been suggested that Samson was born in the city of Ir-Shemesh, maybe today's city of Beth-Shemesh, in Dan territory, hence his name,[3a] but the text mentioned his parents were of another city called Zorah (Judges 13:1). When He could, God moved the child away from such home (Judges 13:25).

Samson was a very strong person, even in his youth, but he was not fully wise despite God’s blessing. He did not reside where God had moved him but moved down to the south of the country and, there, he met with a Philistine woman that he wanted to marry. This greatly distressed his parents, especially because the Philistines were oppressing the Israelites:

Then his father and his mother said unto him: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you go to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" And Samson said unto his father: "Get her for me; for she is dear to me." But his father and his mother knew not that she was [sent] from the Philistines by the Lord – because he [Samson] was seeking their answer. Now at that time the Philistines had rule over Israel.
--- Judges 14:3-4

As Samson sought after this Philistine woman, God wanted to raise his feeling and anger at them, in order to breed him as a judge to free Israel from their yoke. But the task would not prove to be easy because Samson was a man who enjoyed too much the pleasure of the flesh. His Philistine wife deceived him and he took revenge by killing a number of her people. Then his wife was given to his Philistine friend. Samson took his revenge by burning the crops of the Philistines:

Then the Philistines said: "Who has done this?" And they said: "Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite [a Philistine man from the city of Timnah], because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion." And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire.
--- Judges 15:6
In revenge of their killing of his wife, Samson killed a great number of Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

Samson and the jawbone
Samson kills a number of Philistines with a jaw-bone (Gustave Doré, 1868)

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Despite Samson being a Judge for Israel, the yoke of the Philistines was over the Israelites for a total of 40 years, because, concerning Samson, the text states that he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years (Judges 15:20). These 20 years correspond to Samson’s lifetime and then the Philistines continued their oppression over Israel for another 20 years.

Samson brought an end to himself when he coupled with a Philistine prostitute from Gaza called Delilah. She was used by the Philistines as a spy to find the secret of Samson’s supernatural strength and she managed to get it:

And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying: "Come up this once, for he has told me all his heart." Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought the money in their hand. And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and had the seven locks of his head shaved off; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. And she said: "The Philistines are upon you, Samson." And he awoke out of his sleep, and said: "I will go out as at other times, and shake myself." But he knew not that the Lord was departed from him. And the Philistines laid hold on him, and put out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison-house. However the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.
--- Judges 16:18-22

Delilah was evil because, after having sold him for money, she took pleasure in teasing him and oppressing his feelings. Yet he would not do anything to her, so much was he besotted with her. He was taken, blind and prisoner, to Gaza. But when he met his end, his hair had grown enough for God to remember His Judge and to allow him a last strike to the temple of his enemies, dedicated to their main god Dagon:

And Samson said [to the Lord]: "Let me die with the Philistines." And he bent with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead that he slew at his death were more than they that he slew in his life.
--- Judges 16:30

Samson's death
Blind and in chains, Samson destroys the Temple of Dagon (Gustave Doré, 1868)

Samson deviated from his divine path once his eyes met with a first Philistine woman in Gaza, before Delilah. So he was punished by his eyes and in Gaza:

Our Rabbis have taught: Samson rebelled [against God] through his eyes, as it is said: (Judges 14:3) And Samson said unto his father, "Get her for me, because she is pleasing in my eyes;" therefore the Philistines put out his eyes, as it is said: (Judges 16:21) And the Philistines laid hold on him and put out his eyes. But it is not so; for behold it is written: (Judges 14:4) But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord ! — When he went [to choose a wife] he nevertheless followed his own inclinations. It has been taught: Rabbi says: The beginning of his [Samson's] degeneration occurred in Gaza; therefore he received his punishment in Gaza. 'The beginning of his [Samson's] degeneration was in Gaza', as it is written: (Judges 16:1) And Samson went to Gaza, and saw there an harlot etc.; 'therefore he received his punishment in Gaza,' as it is written: (Judges 16:21) And they brought him down to Gaza. But behold it is written: (Judges 14:1) And Samson went down to Timnah ! — Nevertheless the beginning of his degeneration occurred in Gaza.
--- Talmud, Sotah 9b

The character of Judge Samson, depicted as a mythical saviour of Israel, has been echoed over the years in the Jewish world. Samson has been depicted as far as the 5th century CE, some 1500 years after his death, for example in the mosaic recently found in the old synagogue of Huqoq in Lower Galilee. [3c]

Samson on a mosaic in the Huqoq synagogue
Samson carrying away the gates of Gaza, on a mosaic in the Huqoq synagogue
(photo: Jim Haberman)

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Year 2686 – 1074 BCE – Judge Yiftah from Gilead, of Manasseh

On the eastern part of the Jordan River, The Ammonites applied their yoke over the tribes of Israel on the eastern side of the Jordan River for 18 years, and then they crossed over to attack Benjamin and Judah. This is the tome when God raised a judge, Yiftah (or Jephthah), from the eastern side of the river to end their rule. Yiftah is described as a mighty man of valour from Gilead. He was the son of a prostitute who was driven out of the family by his half-brothers, issued from the wife of his father Gilead. He became a chieftain of empty fellows before being called up by his Tribe to help them fight back the Ammonites, in exchange for their recognition of him as their leader.

Yiftah in the Jordan valley
Yiftah and his band in the Jordan valley (source:

He first tried to reason the king of Ammon to make peace, arguing that the Israelites had dwelled 300 years in that side of the Jordan River so ought to own the land by now since there had been no claim about it during that entire period (Judges 11:26). 

How comes this period of 300 years? Yiftah knew that the first Israelites arrived to the region of Gilead many years before the Exodus. The period of 300 years before his time falls some years after the birth of Moses, around Hebrew year 2386 (1374 BCE), when the oppression on the Hebrews was starting to ease towards the end of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Young Moses was already a boy, adopted cousin of Pharaoh's heir the future monotheist Akhenaten. This drove some of the Hebrews to flee Egypt and, being unwelcome in Canaan, as it would happen again at the time of the Exodus, they had followed the same route taken later by Moses and had settled in the eastern side of the Jordan River, in the inhabited land between Amon in the East, Aram in the north and Moab in the south. The Hebrews knew that the land of Canaan had been promised by God to their ancestors and they had waited in this location until the day would come. During all that time, they were not driven out by the Ammonites, as Yiftah claimed on that day.

This mention of 300 years is one of the reason why the author of the original Seder Olam had calculated that the period of the Judges had lasted about 350 years, because he assumed that the 300 years mentioned by Yiftah must have been counted -logically- from the time the Israelites entered Canaan, or at least the eastern side of the Jordan River. But, as explained before, we cannot consider the period of Judges to be extending to such a long time of 350 years otherwise the assumption would conflict with the period of the Kings and with historical evidence. So the only logical interpretation of this mention of 300 years by Yiftah is that some Israelites moved out of Egypt before the Exodus and settled in the eastern side of the Jordan River until the bulk of the Hebrews joined them much later.[5] Alternatively the mention of 300 years may have been allegoric to say a very long time, beyond the period of time for which the king of Amnon would have annals or records.

Rashi, the reknown commentary from Mediecal times, followed the Seder Olam and commented:

Since the land was conquered in the days of Joshua until Yiftah. From here we can derive if the periods of the judges that were mentioned up to this point include the years of oppression by the heathens or not. We have learned in Seder Olam (Ch. 12): Joshua led Israel twenty eight years, but I have no Scripture whence to derive it. Othniel led them forty years including the years of oppression by Cushan- rishathaim (above 3:11); after him was Ehud for eighty years (above 3:30) including the eighteen years of oppression by Eglon. This totals one hundred forty eight years. Deborah led them forty years (above 5:31) including the years of oppression by Jabin. This totals one hundred eighty eight years; afterwards were the seven years of oppression by Midian (above 6:1) and the forty years of Gideon (above 8: 28), then the three of Abimelech (above 9:22), thus totaling two hundred thirty eight years. Afterwards were the twenty three of Tola, and the twenty two of Jair (above 10:2,3), however one same year coincides for both of them; finally, adding the eighteen of Ammon prior to Yiftah's introduction (above 10:8), this amounts to the three hundred years.
--- Rashi, Commentary of the Book of Judges, 11:26

In other words, the Seder Olam seems to have fixed the rule of Joshua to 28 years, without backing from Scriptures, in order to fit the count of 300 years from the time of the conquest of Canaan.

But the Ammonites did not comply with Yiftah’s offer of peace. War ensued and they lost.

Yiftah in Gilead
Yiftah in Gilead

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Year 2687 – 1073 BCE – The sacrifice of Yiftah's daughter

Before going to war, Yiftah had made a fateful vow to God that cost him dearly:

And Yiftah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said: "If You will indeed deliver the children of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be, that whatsoever come forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering." 
So Yiftah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hand. And he smote them from Aroer until you come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto Abel-Cheramim, with a very great slaughter. So the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. 
And Yiftah came to Mizpah unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances; and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 
And it came to pass, when he saw her that he rent his clothes, and said: "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are become my troubler; for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back." And she said unto him: "My father, you have opened your mouth unto the Lord; do unto me according to that which has proceeded out of your mouth; forasmuch as the Lord has taken vengeance for you of your enemies, even of the children of Ammon." And she said unto her father: "Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may depart and go down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my companions." And he said: "Go."
And he sent her away for two months; and she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed; and she had not known man. And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Yiftah the Gileadite four days in a year.
---  Judges 11:30-40

Yiftah's daughter
Yiftah's daughter (source: Bible Revival)

Yiftah had to comply with his vow and maybe he had hoped that an angel would be sent to stop him at the last moment as it happened with their ancestor Abraham. But, in the latter case, it was God who requested Abraham to act so it was God who stopped it. In this case, it was Yiftah who made a foolish vow to sacrifice the first being, animal or person, who will come to his house after the battle. Then why would some person be randomly sacrificed? The Bible forbids human sacrifice, and Yiftah followed one of these abominable pagan customs when he made his fateful vow. God abhors people who swear or make vows in His name, so He wanted to punish Yiftah for this, which would cost a human sacrifice. His daughter had to pay the price of such vow, and nobody else. This Biblical story was echoed in Greek history too, when both Agamemnon, king of the Greeks, and Priam, king of the Trojans, sacrificed their daughters, Polyxena and Iphigenia respectively, in order to secure good omen in the war.

The sacrifice of Yiftah's daughter happened in Hebrew year 2687, two months after the end of the campaign of Yiftah. The reason is that there is a parallel of events 480 years apart: the death of Rachel and of Yiftah's daughters caused by a fateful vow in both cases, the departing of the soul from Rachel's body and of the Ark from the Israelites (see below), and finally the Redemption times with the return of Jacob to Canaan for burial and the building of the First Temple.    

Unlike other judges who brought peace over Israel for lengthy periods of time, Yiftah was judge only for 6 years (Judges 12:7). This probably reflected God’s displeasure at what he had done. Yiftah could not have been a role model for his generation after having sacrificed a human being, his own daughter, as Canaanite peoples he fought against would do themselves.

The last years of the life of Yiftah were also tarnished by the war that the Tribe of Ephraim waged against them. These Israelites  probably wanted to pass to the eastern side of the Jordan River, as fugitives from the oppression they had from the Philistines in their territory around Hebrew year 2688 (1072 BCE). These fugitives from Ephraim probably hoped to dislodge the Israelites from Gilead and take away their inheritance. Despite Yiftah's own sin for which he had paid the dearest price, God would not allow this to happen and His spirit was with His Judge who prevailed against Ephraim. This war caused the death of 42,000 men from Ephraim. Yiftah died 6 years after having liberated his land, so it was in Hebrew year 2692 (1068 BCE).
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Year 2688 – 1072 BCE – The Ark of Covenant is captured – Death of Eli the High Priest

During the war against the Philistines who pitched their army in Aphek (west from present day Tel-Aviv), the Israelites of the hill country assembled for battle and asked for the Ark of Covenant to be brought down from Shiloh in the valley to support their stake against the enemy. It was the first time that the Ark was taken to the battlefield since the fall of Jericho. The sons of Eli took the Ark, without their father’s knowledge, to the Israelite camp. But the battle was lost and both of Eli's sons died. Worse, the Ark was taken away to Ashdod, in the Temple of the Philistines. When he learned about this double catastrophe on the same day, Eli collapsed and died: he was 98 years old (I Samuel 4:15). He was born in Shiloh after the Israelites allowed the Benjamites to take away girls during a holy festival. Eli’s birth and death were marked by events of sad memory in Jewish History.

The death of Eli the Priest
The death of Eli the Priest (illustration from a Bible, source Genebrooks Blog)

The curse that God announced upon Eli was that the priests will no longer enjoy a long life, as he and his fathers had benefited before. Some 1000 years later, the curse was still vivid in Israelite memory:

Rabba and Abaye [two Amoraim of the Talmud] were both descendants of the house of Eli. Rabba who engaged in the study of the Torah lived forty years. Abaye, however, who engaged in the study of the Torah and the practice of lovingkindness, lived sixty years.
Our Rabbis taught: There was a certain family in Jerusalem whose members used to die when they were about the age of eighteen. When they came and acquainted R. Johanan b. Zakkai [the Rabbinical leader before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE] he said to them: ‘perchance you are descendants of the family of Eli concerning whom it is written in Scripture. And all the increase of thy house shall die young men (I Samuel 2:33); go and engage in the study of the Torah, and you will live’. They went and engaged in the study of the Torah and lived [longer lives]. They were consequently called ‘The family of Johanan’, after him.
--- Talmud, Yevamoth, 105a

The person who brought the news that the Ark had been taken away was mentioned in the text:
And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
--- I Samuel 4:12

This person was no ordinary because he didn’t just bring the news of the defeat, or the loss of the Ark, but he actually mourned the situation (as he rent his clothes and put earth on his head, as pious people did in a day of atonement). He was the first Israelite to mourn the loss of the Ark. He will be rewarded by God as being selected to rule over his people, later on, as King Saul, from Benjamin tribe.

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Year 2688 – 1072 BCE – Birth of Ichabod, son of Phinehas, son of Eli

When Eli died, he had judged Israel for 40 years (I Samuel 4:18). The wife of his dead son Phinehas was reaching term of a pregnancy and the shock of the news brought the birth of her child prematuraly, and she also died at his birth:

And his daughter-in-law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered; and when she heard the tidings that the Ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and brought forth; for her pains came suddenly upon her. And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her: "Fear not; for you have brought forth a son." But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the child Ichabod, saying: "The glory is departed from Israel"; because the Ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said: "The glory is departed from Israel; for the Ark of God is taken."
--- I Samuel 4:19-22

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Year 2688 – 1072 BCE – The Ark of Covenant is returned

What happened to the Ark of Covenant? After the defeat of the Israelites at Afek, the Ark was taken from their camp at Eben-Ezer to the Philistine city of Ashdod, and placed in the temple of Dagon, the fish-god of Philistia. But every morning the statue of Dagon was found face on the floor, so the Philistines started to fear from the Ark and sent it to the city of Gath. There God smote the people of Gath with hemorrhoids. So Gath sent the Ark to Ekron, another of the five Philistine cities.[6] But there again, God smote the people of that city and the Philistines finally decided to return the Ark to the Israelites, after seven months (I Samuel 6:1). They loaded it with guilt-offering and took it to the border of the territory withJudah, near the city of Beth-Shemesh, during the harvesting of the wheat.[7]

But the people of Beth-Shemesh were also punished for having gazed upon the Ark: God smote 50,070 of them (I Samuel 6:19). They asked the Ark to be removed from their territory:

And the men of Kiriath-Jearim came, and fetched up the Ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the Ark of the Lord.
--- I Samuel 7:1

Kiriath-Jearim is a city in the Judean hills towards Jerusalem.[8] The Ark remained there until King David will bring it to Jerusalem, 20 years later, when he will become king over all Israel (I Samuel 7:2) in Hebrew year 2708.

Meanwhile, Samuel had become the only spiritual leader, and Prophet. Thanks to his righteousness, God had reduced the oppression from the Philistines to the Israelite borders:

So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more within the border of Israel; and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
--- I Samuel 7:13

The Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel, but it didn't mean that their oppression ended in his days. They continued to wage war against Israel, and will eventually gain success again after the death of Samuel, and until the reign of King David over all Israel.

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Year 2688-2692 – 1072-1068 BCE – Judge Ibzan of Beth-Lehem, Judge Elon of Zebulon, Judge Avdon son of Hillel of Ephraim

To contain the Philistines in the valleys from Hebrew year 2688, and to replace Judge Yiftah who died in 2092, God raised three other judges who kept the remaining Israelite territories at peace.

Ibzan of Beth-Lehem belonged to the tribe of Judah. The Biblical text mentions that he had 30 daughters that he sent out, presumably to marry out of his tribe, and brought 30 girls to marry his own 30 sons. This was not commendable, as the text suggested that these marriages were made out of the community of the Israelites. Ibzan only judged for a short period of 7 years. Some tradition assumes that Ibzan was Boaz who married Ruth the Moabite, maybe because of the detail that both were from Beth-Lehem. But this assumption would not match the chronology of the events because Boaz was the great-grand-father of the future King David, 3 generations away from the current time.

Elon from the tribe of Zebulun, judged for 10 years. He pushed back the Philistines from the northern part of the land.

Abdon, son of Hillel the Pirathonite, a grand-father from the tribe of Ephraim, removed the threat against the rest of the hill countries and judged for 8 years.  

After their time, the Philistines were still dominating in the central and southern part of the land, but not the hill countries.

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[1] According to Numbers 32:40

[2] The Baalim are the idols and the Astaroth are the goddesses, of which Astarte was a major one, also known as Ishtar in Mesopotamia

[3a] Ir-Shemesh was part of Dan's inheritance according to Joshua 19:40-41

[3b] According to Jewish tradition, Dagon was a fish-god, which is not surprising for people like the Philistines who lived by the sea

[3c] To read the article about this discovery of June 2013, click here and also on the personal page of the head of these excavations, Jodi Magness

[5] The Seder Olam does mention the return of some Hebrews (from Ephraim tribe) to Canaan "under the leadership of Gon" (?), but assumes that it happened at the end of the 400 years period that Abraham was told by God during the Covenant; the other assumption made is that "many perished" in their attempt; so the conclusion we can make is that returns from Egypt did happen, although not in mass until the Exodus, and that, if many perished, some must have succeeded to settle down

[6] The five cities of Philistia were Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron (I Samuel 6:17)

[7] Excavations in Beth Shemesh are being led by a team from Tel Aviv University; for more details, click here

[8] Some say that Kiriat-Jearim is today the Arab Israeli city of Abu Gosh, because the old arab name of this city of Qaryat al'Inab, the "Village of the Grapes"

 Go to >> Part II

Copyright © Albert Benhamou 2013 - All rights reserved.