Death or Forced Labor. A Few Steps Back. The Judges Installed. Othniel. Ehud. Shamgar.
Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.
Joshua 2:18 (NIV)
Given any childish request of mine, my mother had only two possible responses: Yes or No. I rarely received any explanation beyond that, because in my toddler years, I trusted unwaveringly in her foresight and ability to protect me. Soon though, I required explanations for answers I did not like, so her responses shifted slightly to Yes or No because… This was a gift, because remember, my mother owed me no answers.
But as I neared adolescence, a third option appeared, one that sounded like a Yes but with an asterisk. At that time, her response was sometimes Go ahead and try that. That is a Yes undoubtedly, but it also sounds like a dare, like You really gonna do it?
I never really understood shampoo. Why have a separate bottle with a separate liquid to wash my hair, when I had soap for my body that smelled exactly the same? And so as a toddler, I asked Mom.
Can I use soap on my hair?
And like a good mother, she replied, No.
Then as I grew older, I asked again:
Can I use the soap on my hair now?
No, she said, because it’s not meant to be used on your hair, and it won’t work.
Finally, when I neared adolescence:
I think I want to try using only soap on my hair.
She put her John Adams biography down, looked at me over her glasses and said: Go ahead and try that. Then she resumed right on with her reading.
And so with that effective yes, I expelled shampoo from my daily regiment and rubbed the bar of soap into my hair. It felt strange initially, like I was wearing my underwear as a t-shirt, but after a few days, I got used to the process. After a week of the experiment, I donned my seventh shower with my seventh round of soap hair and fell asleep. I woke up in the morning to something quite extraordinary.
My hair was stuck straight up, like an anime character – one that runs, dashes, and samurai fights and yet still maintains perfectly stiff hair. I doused my hair with water, and it did little to help. I had perma-bed head and needed to go to school. Nothing to be done.
The Book of Judges settles into its narrative style in the second chapter. At first, the writer regales us with one final battle with the Canaanites to claim their land, which despite an early hiccup, is ultimately captured. Then, an entire generation lives and then passes. And now we have new followers who… well… don’t really follow.
Israel has lost its way yet again, just as Moses predicted moments before his death. Each of the tribes have succumbed to the allure of false idols, most specifically the god Baal, and have subsequently lost the favor of God. But in order to ensure that the selfishness of His people does not completely derail His plan, God appoints judges to save them. But before the judge swoops in to right the ship, he or she lets a little something happen first – something that reminds the Israelites the cost of insolence.
In these early chapters, the author introduces us to three such judges tasked with saving the wayward: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar. They each have a petite tale of downfall and then redemption, and the second one, the story of Ehud, is particularly grotesque and memorable. It recounts a king so fat that when Ehud deals him his death blow, Ehud’s sword gets sucked into his fat, completely enveloped… all while the king starts defecating everywhere. I guess God does have a sense of humor.
So, on that morning of the 8th day, as I left to go to the bus stop sporting a full on Ash Ketchum beehive, I questioned my mother.
Why didn’t you tell me that the soap would make my hair stick?
She glanced at me over her copy of Marcus Aurelius’ Autobiography and shrugged. Because some lessons you just need to learn from experience. Otherwise, they don’t stick.
And now I always use shampoo.