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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Story.

The narrative frame of the book as it now stands largely parallels its theological message. Israel is unable to defeat its foes because of lack of faithfulness to YHWH, patron deity who rescued Israel from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. At intervals, however, YHWH raises up leaders who inspire Israel to renewed faith in him, assuring their capacity to succeed in battle. The tales of Israel's insurgency feature various heroes including Ehud the left-handed man; Deborah, the prophet, and her aide Barak; Jael the female assassin of the Canaanite general Sisera; Gideon, destroyer of the altar of the deity Baal, competing god of the Canaanite enemy; Jephthah whose only daughter becomes a war-vowed sacrifice to YHWH; and Samson the superhero of ancient Israelite tradition. Additional tales include the story of Abimelech, a would-be Israelite king, a Danite founding myth, and a fascinating tale of civil war that describes the ways in which the ideal of pan-Israelite unity conflicts with strong local tribal or clan-related loyalties. Interwoven with the unifying theme concerning Israel's relationship to God are a host of other fascinating issues in Israelite world-view dealing with attitudes to gender, to centralized authority—in particular in the form of monarchy—attitudes to war, and other essential aspects of Israelite self-definition.

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