TODAY’S READING: JUDGES 11-13
A picture is worth a thousand words.
We understand this when we look at a painting. In the literal sense, these pictures are dead. They don’t have any movement. Therefore, they have no life.
However, when we bring our spirit and imagination to the painting, we see beyond the dead image into the life behind the painting. We can see into the artist’s soul, reach into his mind, to see beyond the dead image to the life created it.
We need to approach it in the same way as a painting. The Old Testament is a picture book. Each story is a picture. We can approach a story as a dead image. But, seeing just the dead image fails to convey anything of the mind, the heart, the spirit, of God.
God is life, and a dead image can’t reveal him. This is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3 that “the letter kills.” A literal reading of the Old Testament turns the picture into a dead image. It removes the life, the inspiration of the Spirit, that God filled it with.
To read the letter of the Old Testament, turning it into dead images, is to read it with a carnal mind. In Romans 8:5, 6, 7-8, Paul says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…For to set the mind on the flesh is death…For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those are are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Therefore, instead of reading the Old Testament as literal letters, dead images, we need to let the Spirit of God bring the picture to life. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says that “the Spirit gives life.” Reading the Old Testament with the inspiration of the Spirit conveys the mind, the heart, the spirit, of God to our hearts. Now, the dead image moves, it has life. As the image is inspired, it creates all that God is within us.
In Romans 8:2, 5, 6, 9, 10-11, Paul says, “For the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace…You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you…But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
We need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to raise the dead letters and dead images of the Old Testament into living pictures of Jesus Christ. Raised by the power of the Holy Spirit, each picture of the Old Testament conveys a thousand words.
A picture is worth a thousand words. What a fascinating statement filled with unintended but true meaning. John 1 tells us that Jesus is the word of God. The number 1,000 speaks to the totality, the immensity, the ultimate fullness of something. The Spirit-filled, living pictures of the Old Testament convey the totality and immensity of Jesus Christ.
So, let’s look at four judges – Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon – in Judges 12:7-15 to see the picture that Spirit has raised to life in order to convey the fullness of Jesus.
JEPHTHAH: THE WORK OF JESUS
Judges 12:7 says, “Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite was buried in his city in Gilead.”
Jephthah judged Israel for six years.
The number six symbolizes work. Genesis 1 and 2 show that God completed his work of creation in six days. In Genesis 31:41, Jacob says he worked for Laban for six years for his flock. Genesis 16:26 says that Israel was to gather, work for, the manna for six days.
Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
How does God work in you? How does he equip you?
Hebrews 13:20-21 says, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.”
The name Jephthah means “he will open” or “God opens.”
So, Jephthah is a picture of Jesus whose work opened the way into the holy places for us. Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way, that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”
What did the work of Jesus open us to in the holy places?
Jephthah was Gileadite. He was a son of Gilead. One possible meaning of the name Gilead is perpetual fountain.
Jephthah pictures Jesus as the one worked to open the way into the holy places where God, the perpetual fountain of life, resides.
In John 4:13-14, Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The water that Jesus gives keeps you from ever being thirsty again. And, the water that Jesus is welling up, that is continually, to eternal life. Jesus gives you the perpetual fountain of the life of God.
Judges 12:7 says that when Jephthah’s work was complete he was “buried in his city Gilead.” But, this is not translated correctly. The Hebrew word for city is plural. Therefore, Jephthah was “buried in his cities of Gilead.”
Why is this important?
The church was birthed by the work of Jesus. In the New Testament, churches were identified by their city. Every city in which the church, the body of Christ, was birthed provided access to the perpetual fountain of the life of God for all those that would come to her.
It’s also interesting to note that Gilead was in Manasseh east of the Jordan river. Again, this is a picture of Christ at work. He had not entered the promised land yet. So, he was still under the law, as Jesus was in his earthly life. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of woman, born under the law.”
Further, Jesus came to do his work of giving life because the law was unable to do so. Romans 8:3 says, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
Joseph’s firstborn was Manasseh. His name means to forget, to cause to forget, to be forgotten. When he was born, Joseph said, “For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” (Genesis 41:51)
Jesus was sent by God to Israel, to the place of God’s dwelling, to the place of God’s temple, to God’s house. When Jesus was there, his own did not believe him and killed him. But, in Luke 23:34, Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” At that moment, Jesus forgets all his hardship in his Father’s house. And, by his work, Jesus made it so that all our sins would be forgotten.
The literal Jephthah, a dead image, when brought to life by the Holy Spirit becomes a living picture of the work of Jesus Christ, who opened a way into the holy places where the perpetual fountain of the life God resides.
IBZAN: THE REST OF JESUS
Judges 12:8-10 says, “After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside of his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.”
Ibzan judged Israel for seven years.
The number seven symbolizes rest, perfection, and completion. The number seven is found all over the Bible, but let’s just focus on the creation account. Many of the Hebrew words in the creation account are used in multiples of seven. If I remember correctly, Elohim is used 35 times. Bara, the Hebrew word for create, which only God does, is used seven times. And, Genesis 2:2 says, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work he had done.”
But, there is something different about this seventh day of creation. Have you ever noticed that it has no end? Every other day of creation ended with a statement like “And there was evening and there was the morning, the sixth day.” But, the seventh day has no such statement. In other words, when God was done creating the seventh day of rest never ended.
A king had to work through war and conquering to create his kingdom. But, when his work was done, he rested by taking his throne and ruling. Ibzan judging Israel for seven years is a picture of Jesus’ work to establish the kingdom of God was finished and now he’s resting, reigning, from the throne forever without end.
Revelation 21:15 says, “And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
There are different opinions of the meaning of the name Ibzan. But, I think the most appropriate one is illustrious. The name can also mean white, shining, brilliant, splendid.
Illustrious means notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievements or actions.
What achievement, what action, made Jesus illustrious?
His obedience to death on the cross. The Father exalted Jesus for this.
Philippians 2:8-9 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.”
But, the archaic meaning of illustrious is shining brightly with light, clearly evident, just like the meaning of the name Ibzan.
When did we see Jesus white, shining brightly?
Peter, James, and John saw Jesus this way on the mount of transfiguration as a preview of the glory Jesus would have when he completed his work on the cross. Matthew 17:2 says, “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God.” In Acts 22:11, Paul says he was blinded “because of the brightness of that light,” which was Jesus on his throne.
Ibzan was from Bethlehem, which means house of bread. It was when the work of Jesus was complete that his body, the bread of life, was broken for us. It was at that moment we could truly feed on Jesus, the bread that came down from heaven.
John 6:47-51 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Interestingly, there are two Bethlehems in Israel. One is in Judah and the other is in Zebulun. Judges 12:8-10 does not tell us which Bethlehem Ibzan was from. Perhaps this is the case so that both remain a possibility.
But, I believe Ibzan was from the Bethlehem in Judah. Therefore, this symbolizes the praise that Jesus gave his Father and that he received from him. Speaking of his death on the cross, Jesus said in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”
Verse 9 says that Ibzan had 30 sons and 30 daughters that he gave in marriage. He gave the daughters to marry outside his clan while he brought in women from outside the clan for his sons.
Marriage signifies the two coming together as one. Jesus came to reunite heaven and earth, the spiritual and the natural, into one as they were before the fall. In a sense, this is the marriage that Revelation 21 and 22 pictures. I believe it is what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 5:19 when he says “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.”
But, it wasn’t just Ibzan as a picture of Jesus that was doing the reconciling. Ibzan gave his sons and daughters in marriage, picturing the role each Christ’s disciples play in the reconciliation of all things to God. In 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19-20, Paul says, God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation…entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”
But, what is the significance of 30 sons and 30 daughters?
The number 30 marks the beginning of service for the Lord. In Numbers 4, Moses listed the Levites ready for service starting at the age of 30. Genesis 41:46 says Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh. And, of course, Jesus began his ministry when he was 30. Therefore, the 30 sons and daughters are a picture of all the men and women that are ready to be ministers of reconciliation once Jesus took the throne.
The literal Ibzan, a dead image, when brought to life by the Holy Spirit becomes a living picture of the rest of Jesus Christ, who when his body was broken gave it as bread to us to feed us for our ministry of reconciliation. And, with his work complete, Jesus Christ took the throne, shining in all his glory with the name that is above every other name.
ELON: THE COMPLETENESS OF JESUS
Judges 12:11-12 says, “After him Elon the Zebulunite judges Israel, and judged Israel ten year. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.”
Elon judged Israel for 10 years.
The number represents law, accountability, responsibility, and completeness of order. The law of Moses had 10 commandments. Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city to make a judgment regarding the kinsman redeemer. In Genesis 1, God created heavens and the earth with 10 statements. Therefore, with 10 statements God completed the order of creation.
The name Elon means oak.
Near the beginning of his ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, leaving out a key part of the verse regarding God’s vengeance. The day that Jesus quoted this passage of scripture he told his audience that it was fulfilled.
However, the passage continues in Isaiah 61:3, “To grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they might be called oaks of righteousness.”
Notice that in Isaiah 61:1-2 that the anointed one, Jesus was to bring and to proclaim. That is, Jesus was to usher these things good news and liberty, which he did at the beginning of his ministry. But, in Isaiah 61:3, the anointed one, Jesus, is to grant and give. Now, he’s not just ushering in good news and liberty. Rather, Jesus is bestowing gifts upon those who mourn in Zion.
Could it be that when Jesus, “It is finished,” from the cross in John 19:30 that he meant he had now fulfilled Isaiah 61:3? If so, then Jesus was saying that we could now be called oaks of righteousness. In other words, he brought completeness of order to us by making us righteous.
Romans 3:21-22 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”
Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
In Colossians 2:10, Paul says that we “have been filled [or, made complete] in him.” You are made complete when you “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19)
Elon was from Zebulun. Zebulun means glorious dwelling place of wished-for habitation. So, if Ibzan was from the Bethlehem in Zebulun, then it could symbolize the glorious dwelling place, our wished-for habitation, that Jesus was going to build for us after he died on the cross.
In John 14:2-3, Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
In John 15:4, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you.” We are to live together with Jesus. He lives in our hearts, and we live with him in his Father’s house. Colossians 3:1 tells us that Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Then, verse 3 says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Even now, we can live in the glorious dwelling place with Jesus.
Elon died in Aijalon. Aijalon means place of gazelles or a large stag. In scripture, gazelles are seen in high places and cliffs several. They are able to roam those places because they are sure-footed. Hence, the completeness of order, or righteousness, that Jesus brings to us is in the high place of heaven and is safe and secure because of his sure-footedness.
The literal Elon, a dead image, when brought to life by the Holy Spirit becomes a living picture of the completeness or order of Jesus Christ, when he died on the cross to make us righteous in him by faith. Because he has completed us, Jesus has caused us to live with him in the glorious dwelling place of his Father. In this high and lofty place, we are secured by Jesus’ sure footedness. He will lose none that the Father has given him.
ABDON: NEW CREATIONS IN JESUS
Judges 12:13-15 says, “After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had 40 sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.”
Abdon judged Israel for eight years. The number eight signifies new creation. The first mention of the number eight is in Genesis 17:12 when God tells Abraham that every male of his offspring shall be circumcised when they are eight days old. Then, in Genesis 21:4 we read about the first person that was circumcised at eight days old. The verse says, “And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.”
Isaac was the first man circumcised at eight days old. And, Isaac is very much a shadow or type of Jesus. Jesus was resurrected three days after he was crucified. But, resurrection day also was eight days after Jesus was selected as the passover lamb to bring in the new creation.
The name Abdon means place of work or working one.
But, notice that in Galatians 6:15 Paul says, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
If circumcision doesn’t count for anything, then where does this new creation take place?
In Romans 2:28, Paul says, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”
So, Abdon is a picture of the place of Jesus’ work of new creation is in our hearts. Jesus came to do this work in our hearts that “we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has set the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Galatians 4:5-6) Paul says almost exactly the same thing in Romans 8:15-16, “But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Jesus’ work of new creation creates sons of God. This is why Abdon is mentioned as having sons and grandsons.
But, why does he have 70 total sons and grandsons?
Seventy is the number of all the people that came with Jacob into Egypt. I believe this number represents the true people of God, the people of Jesus, that are part of the new creation. These 70, representing the people of God, were coming back into the world.
Why do I believe this?
I believe this because this is not the first time the number 70 appears in scripture. I wrote about the first occurrence of 70 in my post Jesus Undoes Babel and Gathers the Nations. Genesis 10 records a list of 70 nations that were dispersed after the flood, when God “recreated” the world.
Where did these 70 nations come from?
Genesis 9:18-19 says, “The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.”
The 70 nations came from Noah’s three sons. After the flood, the sons of Noah “went forth from the ark.” How did they leave the ark? From the one door that it had built into its side. Jesus had a hole pierced in his side on the cross from which the church, the people of God, came forth.
Abdon was a Pirathonite. The name Pirathon means leader, prince, chief, head of family.
Jesus is our leader as our brother. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son [a new creation], in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Not only is Jesus the first many brothers, he is the head of of the body. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Jesus has the first place in everything. He truly is a Pirathonite, buried in Pirathon.
Pirathon was in the land of Ephraim. Ephraim means fruitfulness. It is when Jesus makes us a new a creation, when we abide in him and he in us, that we bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit.
Abdon was the son of Hillel. Hillel means “he has praised.”
As new creations, who do we get our praise from?
Recall that in Romans 2:28-29 Paul said that we are Jews inwardly by the Spirit’s circumcision of the heart. The end of verse 29 says about the one whom is circumcised in the heart by the Spirit, “His praise is not from man but from God.”
God has praised the new creations of Jesus Christ.
The literal Abdon, a dead image, when brought to life by the Holy Spirit becomes a living picture of new creation of Jesus Christ, which were made sons of God by the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit. God sees these new creations and praises them.
A FOUR-FOLD PICTURE OF JESUS CHRIST
These four judges represent a four-fold picture of Jesus Christ. Of course, we have four gospels to give us the universal picture of Jesus.
What’s interesting about this is that throughout scripture, when you see a list of four or four things, typically three of them are similar and one of them is different.
For example, consider the four directions – north, south, east, and west. Of the four directions, there is only one that you can enter the tabernacle by – the east.
Consider the four gospels. Three of them picture Jesus as a man – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But, the fourth, John, pictures Jesus as the son of God.
So it is with our four judges that make up a four-fold picture Jesus Christ. The book of judges just over a chapter telling us about the work of Jephthah. But, for the other three judges we get just sparse biographical details. I believe this is because Jephthah represents Jesus’ work on this earth in his physical body.
But, if you look at what the other three judges represent, then you see it is who Jesus is after his resurrection in heaven. Jesus is not directly seen anymore. Therefore, we aren’t told about the events of the other three judges. In fact, we are only told about their children. This pictures how today Jesus can only been seen in his church, his body, his brethren.
Another interesting fact of these judges is that the final three judged for 25 years.
Throughout the Bible, the number five represents God’s grace.
Perhaps the first place we see this is Genesis 43:34, which says, “Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs.” Joseph extended grace to his brother Benjamin by giving a portion of food five times larger to Benjamin than his other brothers.
In Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah prophesies of a child being born, a son being given – Jesus. Depending on your translation, Jesus is given five names here – Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. These five names depict Jesus as full of grace.
In Leviticus 1-6, we read of five offerings – burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt – that symbolize Jesus’ work of grace on the cross.
We find the number five all throughout the tabernacle. The tabernacle was patterned after the heavenly reality of Jesus.
In Exodus 26:36-37, the screen at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the specific place where God dwelt, was attached to five pillars set in five bases. Grace upon grace to enter into the place of God’s presence.
In Exodus 26:1-6, the innermost covering of the tent of meeting was made of 10 linen curtains. But, five curtains were coupled together in one set and five curtains were coupled together in a second set. As the innermost covering, Jesus was full of grace. And the two sets of curtains picture that fullness of grace being received by all of us as grace upon grace.
In Exodus 27:1, the altar was five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar was the first piece of furniture you came to in the tabernacle. You couldn’t go anywhere else in the tabernacle without first going to the altar. The altar, the place of the offering, is symbolic of the cross. The altar was five by five. The cross, where we all begin our relationship with Jesus, is the place where we all receive grace upon grace.
John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have received, grace upon grace.” Grace upon grace. Five times five. I wrote in Why do Levites Serve from 25 to 50 Years Old then Keep Guard over 50 Years Old? that the number 25 was a picture of when we begin our spiritual warfare. This corresponds to the final three judges judging for 25 years as a picture of Jesus in heaven as we wage spiritual warfare on the earth.
But, if you total up all the years of judging then you get 31 years. I wrote about the number 31 in All the Kings of Our Heart Have Been Defeated by Jesus.
So, when inspired by the Spirit, just a few short verses about four judges, three of which are quite obscure, provide a living picture of Jesus instead of a dead image that is worth far more than a thousand words.