As It Is Written . . .
The Age of Samson
Much of biblical narrative is structured on a fourfold sequence of sin, punishment, repentance, and deliverance. We find a succinct example of this structure in Psalm 107 (LXX 106); indeed, this psalm gives four examples of this fourfold structure. In each of these situations (desert wandering, prison, sickness, and peril at sea), we learn, those who “were afflicted because of their iniquities,” “cried to the Lord in their distress,” and then “he delivered them.” The Lord “led them forth on the right way,” “brought them out of darkness,” “sent his word and healed them,” and “guided them to the haven they sought.”
The first twelve chapters of the Book of Judges provides a longer and more elaborate example of this same pattern. As each of Israel’s charismatic leaders is introduced, the reader discerns a fairly consistent historical outline: First, the Israelites are unfaithful to the covenant. Next, the Lord, by way of turning their hearts to repentance, hands them over to one-or-another of their oppressing neighbors. Then the people, tiring of the oppression, repent and cry out to God, and he, in response, raises up a new “Judge” to lead and deliver them.
This is the outline we find in the accounts of Othniel, Ehud, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, and Jephthah. In all these accounts there is a clear, coherent, and causal “logic” in the narrative structure: infidelity, punishment, repentance, deliverance.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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