Bible Study #35: Judges seen through the Great Canon

[Alas there is no recording for this class; the recorder froze after just a couple of minutes!]

Bible Study #35: Judges from the Great Canon
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary’s (Pokrova) in Allentown
15 May 2018

Opening Prayer:
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)

From the Great Canon of St. Andrew
Beatitudes, Tone 6:

In Thy Kingdom remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.

1. Thou didst make the Thief a citizen of paradise when he cried to Thee upon the Cross, O Christ, ‘Remember me.’ Grant that I may be worthy of his repentance, unworthy though I am. (St. Luke 23:42-43)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

2. Thou hast heard, O my soul, how Manoah of old beheld the Lord in a vision, and then received from his barren wife the fruit of God’s promise. Let us then, emulate his piety. (Judges 13)

St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Must you not show respect for Manoah, the Old Testament judge.… Manoah was overwhelmed by the sight of God in a vision. “Wife,” he said, “we are lost, we have seen God”—meaning by this that even a vision of God is too much for human beings, let alone God’s nature.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

3. Emulating Samson’s idleness, O my soul, thou hast been shorn of the glory of thy deeds, and through thy love of pleasure, thou hast surrendered thy chaste and blessed life to the Philistines. (Judges 16:10-17)

St. Ambrose. And so, also, in the Gospel our Lord, pointing out that some hairs are seen and known, says, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered,” implying, indeed, acts of spiritual virtues, for God does not take care for our hair. Though, indeed, it is not absurd to believe that literally, seeing that according to his divine Majesty nothing can be hidden from him.

But what does it profit me, if God himself knows all my hairs? That rather abounds and profits me, if the watchful witness of good works rewards me with the gift of eternal life. And, in fine, Samson himself, declaring that these hairs are not mystical, says: “If I be shorn, my strength will depart from me.”

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

4. He who once overthrew the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, is now imprisoned by passionate desires: but flee from his example, O my soul, flee from his actions and his weakness. (Judges 15:14-16; 16:19-23)

St. Gregory of Nyssa. Now you will by all means understand the meaning of the spiritual curls from the number seven … f these are cut off, as happened in the case of Samson, the destruction of the “eyes” follows, and one becomes a laughing stock to foreigners when they are drunk.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

5. The captains Barak and Jepthah, together with Deborah who had a man’s courage, were chosen as judges of Israel. Learn from their valor, O my soul, and strengthen thyself with courage. (Judges 4-5; 11-12)

St. John Chrysostom. Indeed, nothing—nothing, I repeat—is more potent than a good and prudent woman in molding a man and shaping his soul in whatever way she desires. For he will not bear with friends, or teachers, or magistrates in the same way as with his wife, when she admonishes and advises him. Her admonition, in fact, carries with it a kind of pleasure, because of his very great love of the one who is admonishing him…. Furthermore, Deborah and Judith and innumerable other women directed the success of men who were generals. And that is why Paul said, “For how do you know, woman, whether you will save your husband?” In his day, too, we see Persis and Mary and Priscilla sharing in the apostle’s difficult trials. You also ought to imitate these women and mold the character of your husbands, not only by your words but also by your example.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

6. Thou knowest of the courage of Jael, O my soul, who impaled Sisera with a sharpened stake thereby bringing salvation to Israel. Hear ye this, for thus the image of the Cross is prefigured for thee (Judges 4-5).

St. Ambrose. And so according to this history a woman, that the minds of women might be stirred up, became a judge, a woman set all in order, a woman prophesied, a woman triumphed, and joining in the battle array taught men to war under a woman’s lead. But in a mystery it is the battle of faith and the victory of the church

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

7. Offer a sacrifice worthy of praise, O my soul, offer thine actions as an oblation purer than the daughter of Jepthah, and slay then the passions of thy flesh as an offering to the Lord. (Judges 11:29-40)

St. Ambrose. It is also sometimes contrary to duty to fulfill a promise or to keep an oath. As was the case with Herod, who swore that whatever was asked he would give to the daughter of Herodias, and so allowed the death of John, that he might not break his word. And what shall I say of Jephthah, who offered up his daughter in sacrifice, she having been the first to meet him as he returned home victorious; whereby he fulfilled the vow which he had made that he would offer to God whatever should meet him first. It would have been better to make no promise at all than to fulfill it in the death of his daughter.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.

8. Consider the fleece of Gideon, O my soul, and receive the dew from heaven; bend down thy neck, O soul, and drink of the Letters of the Law that are wrung out for thee like water. (Judges 6-7)

St. Augustine. Dogs are commendable, not abominable. They observe fidelity toward their master, and before his house they bark against enemies. He has not simply said “of dogs” but “of your dog.” Nor are their teeth praised, but their tongue is: for it was not indeed to no purpose, not without a great mystery, that Gideon was bidden to lead those alone who should lap the water of the river like dogs. Of such sort not more than three hundred among so great a multitude were found. In this number is the sign of the cross because of the letter T [tau], which signifies three hundred in the Greek numeral characters.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

9. Thou hast incurred the condemnation of Eli the priest, O my soul, for thoughtlessly hast thou allowed thy passions to act sinfully within thee, as he permitted his children to commit transgressions. (1 Samuel 2:34-36; 3:10-14)

St. Basil the Great. Benevolence to such persons is like that mistaken kindness of Eli which he was accused of showing his sons, contrary to the good pleasure of God. A feigned kindness to the wicked is a betrayal of the truth, an act of treachery to the community and a means of habituating oneself to indifference to evil.

Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.

10. In the Book of Judges, O my soul, the Levite divided his wife limb from limb and sent the parts to the twelve tribes of Israel so that he might reveal the lawless abominations of Benjamin. (Judges 20:4-11)

St. Ambrose. And when at first the people of Israel were defeated, yet unmoved by fear at the reverses of the war, they disregarded the sorrow the avenging of chastity cost them. They rushed into the battle ready to wash out with their own blood the stains of the crime that had been committed.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.

11. The chaste and honorable Hannah moved her lips in prayer to God though her voice was not heard; yet she who was barren bore a son worthy of her prayer. (1 Samuel 1:12-18; 2)

St. John Chrysostom. For I seek those tears which are shed not for display but in compunction; those which trickle down secretly and in closets and in sight of no person, softly and noiselessly; those which arise from a certain depth of mind, those shed in anguish and in sorrow, those which are for God alone. Such were Hannah’s, for “her lips moved,” it is said, “but her voice was not heard.” Her tears alone uttered a cry more clear than any trumpet. And because of this, God also opened her womb and made the hard rock a fruitful field.

Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom.

12. Samuel the Great, the son of Hannah was born in Arimathea, was brought up in the house of the Lord and was numbered among the judges of Israel. Emulate him, O my soul, and judge first thine own works before judging the actions of others. (1 Samuel 3:20)

St. John Chrysostom. For no one of those who are now rich will stand up for me there when I am called to account and accused, as not having thoroughly vindicated the laws of God with all due earnestness. For this is what ruined that admirable old man, though the way he lived his own life provided no reason for blame: yet for all that, because he overlooked the treading under foot of God’s laws he was chastised with his children and paid that grievous penalty. And if, where the absolute authority of nature was so great, he who failed to treat his own children with due firmness endured so grievous a punishment; what indulgence shall we have, freed as we are from that dominion and yet ruining all by flattery?


The Great Canon of St. Andrew
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.