1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

Lesson 49,  Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures, The Period of the Judges the Philistines and the Kingdom of Saul


Judges 3:5-11, The Mesopotamian Oppression

Judges 3:12-30, The Moabite Oppression

Judges 3:31, The Early Philistine Oppression

Judges 4 and 5, The Canaanite Oppression 

Judges 6-8, The Midianite Oppression -  The nomadic Midianites joined with Amalekite Bedouins in a series of invasions which devastated central Palestine.   

Raids were made at harvest time, when the invaders would steal and destroy crops, forcing the Israelites to seek refuge in mountain caves.   

The man endowed by God to deliver Israel from Midianite oppression came from Ophrah of the Abi-Ezrites thought to have been a town fifteen miles northwest of Beth-shan.   

Judges 6:11,12,  And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. 12And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. 

Gideon summoned his countrymen to Mount Gilboa while the enemy was encamped at the foot of the Hill of Moreh, six miles to the north, across the Valley of Jezreel.   

Staging a night attack, Gideon, with three hundred chosen men, defeated the Midianite host.   

Judges 10 and 11, The Ammonite Oppression – The tribes east of the Jordan were oppressed by their Ammonite neighbors for a period of eighteen years.   

The Israelites rallied at Mizpeh of Gilead, the place where Jacob and Laban had made their covenant many years before.   

Needing leadership they turned to Jephthah, the son of a prostitute, who had fled from his father’s house amidst the taunts of his half brothers.   

The Gileadites sent to Tob, on the fringes of civilization, where Jephthah had become leader of a band of outlaws.   

On condition that he be acknowledged leader of his people, Jephthah agreed to lead the Gileadites against Ammon.   

The Gilealites had no choice, and Jephthah became their leader.   

He fought the Ammonites at Aroer, on the north bank of the Arnon, and drove them northward devastating their territory as far as Minnith, most likely four miles northeast of Heshbon.   

Following his victory over the Ammonites, Jephthah was involved in a civil war with the Ephraimites who resented the fact that they had not been called to participate in the battle, and of course in the spoils.   

The Ephraimites were defeated.   

Thereupon they fled toward the fords of the Jordan, where many were slain while attempting to cross.   

To distinguish Ephraimites from Gileadites they were asked to pronounce the password, “Shibboleth.”  Chimney vs chimley 

Because of dialectical differences, the Ephraimites said, Sibboleth and thus betrayed the fact that they were not Gileadites. 

Judges 13-16, The Philistine Oppression –  



An aggressive sea people whose mass invasion of the eastern Mediterranean coast resulted in the settlement of coastal Palestine by 1200 b.c. The Philistines were Israel’s principal enemy from the time of Samson until their devastating defeats at the hands of David around 980 b.c. The Philistine best known from Scripture is the giant Goliath, who was killed by David.

Archaeology and Scripture agree that the Philistines originated in Caphtor, ancient Crete (Genesis 10:14; Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 9:7). Apparently, a large trading colony of the Minoans (whose culture flourished on Crete from about 2800 to 1400 b.c.) was established at Gerar in the time of Abraham (Genesis 21:22-34).

Some centuries later, when both the Hittites to the north and Egyptians to the south were relatively weak, a major invasion of the eastern Mediterranean was launched. Inscriptions of Pharaoh Merne-ptah (1236-1223 b.c.) tell of an attempted invasion by Sea Peoples launched from Libya. A hieroglyphic account of a later invasion in the eighth year of Rameses III (1198-1166 b.c.) tells of a massive land and sea invasion of the Nile Delta. Rameses threw the invaders back but permitted them to settle on Palestine’s coastal plain. There the Philistines established five major cities: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza. From these cities, the Philistines penetrated deep into Israelite territory. Remains of Philistine outposts have been found as far north as Hazor and Tel Dan, and as far west as Beth Shan in Galilee, and Bethel and Jerusalem in Judea.

Politically, the Philistines were led by the rulers or lords of their five major cities. Each Philistine lord ruled his own city and its surrounding villages. But together, these five functioned as a ruling council (Judges 16:5-8; 1 Samuel 29:1-7). They also served as military leaders (1 Samuel 7:7; 1 Samuel 29:1-7) in time of war. This ability to coordinate the efforts of their people gave the Philistines a significant advantage over the basically leaderless Israelites in the era of the judges.

The warlike Philistines dominated the Israelites in the time of Samson. Samuel and Saul led Israel to notable victories that held the Philistines back, but not until David’s time was the Philistines’ military dominance ended. One reason for their dominance was their ability to work iron (1 Samuel 13:19; 1 Samuel 17:7), a secret they withheld from Israel until forced by David to surrender it. Archaeologists have discovered that iron tools or weapons in Israel dating from before 1000 b.c. are invariably at sites occupied or controlled by the Philistines.

The crushing defeats administered by David did not destroy the Philistines as a people. They remained in their coastal cities and continued to harass the Israelites when able. The Bible portrays the Philistines offering tribute to Jehoshaphat of Judah (872-848 b.c.; 2 Chronicles 17:11), but later invading the country in the time of Jehoram (853-841 b.c.; 2 Chronicles 21:16). Uzziah (780-741 b.c.; 2 Chronicles 26:6) and Hezekiah (715-687 b.c.; 2 Kings 18:8) fought the Philistines, and both Amos and Isaiah predicted God would judge these persistent enemies of his people (Amos 1:6-8; compare Isaiah 9:12).

Philistine cities are mentioned in Assyrian annals. The Assyrians dominated the area from about 715 b.c. to their collapse around 609 b.c. The Philistines then joined Egypt in an unwise anti-Babylonian alliance. Acting decisively, Nebuchadnezzar invaded and deported the rulers and the population of Philistia (Jeremiah 25:20; 47; Zechariah 9:5-6).

The Philistines had a high level of material culture, as illustrated in their distinctive and colorful pottery, their temple architecture, and the many figurines recovered despite the relatively few archaeological digs at Philistine sites. The religion of the Philistines is closer to that of the other Canaanites than to the original Minoan faith, which was dominated by the “Great Mother.” While early examples of cult objects found in Ashdod reflect worship of the Mycenaean female goddess, soon the Canaanite deity Dagon headed the Philistine pantheon (1 Chronicles 10:10)—thus showing the assimilation of the Philistines into Canaanite culture. The only Philistine religious practice reflected in the Bible is the giving of a “guilt offering” to the Lord when the Philistines, terrified by the plagues that struck them after capturing the ark of the Lord, returned the ark to Israel (1 Samuel 6:4). 

With the exception of the Philistines, the nations which threatened Israel during the time of the Judges were effectively subdued.   

There were sporadic attacks upon Israel over a period of years but only the Philistines posed a continual challenge to Israelite sovereignty.   

As late as the time of Saul we read of Philistine garrisons at Bethel.  (1 Sam 10:3-5) 

Samson was the major figure in the history of Israel when it comes to the Philistines. 

The exploits of Samson were of a personal nature.   

He led no armies and performed his deeds of valor without help.  His foes, the Philistines, occupied the coastal plain from Gaza northward toward Mount Carmel.   

They kept strong garrison posts, and by their monopoly of iron prevented the Israelites from making weapons. 

I Samuel 13:19,  Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: 

Much of Samson’s life was lived in the valley of Sorek, the most direct route from the hill country near Jerusalem to the Philistine Plain.   

Zorah, where Samson was born, was situated on a hillside overlooking the Sorek.   

Here also was Timnah, or Timnath, where Samson first sought a wife and where he preformed deeds of strength and Eshtaol near which he was buried. 

The Kingdom of Saul 

The period of the Judges had been a theocracy in theory, but often anarchy in practice.   

Theoretically God was King; actually “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.  Sounds like the visible church! 

During the wise judgeship of Samuel, Israel had no cause for complaint.   

With his advancing years, however, fear of the future became a paramount concern.   

Samuel’s sons were not following the godly paths of their father, and the Philistines continued to threaten the tribes of Israel.   

The debacle at Ebenezer concerning the Arc of the Covenant whereby the Philistines had captured it in battle and then had returned it when it became to “hot” to handle had taken place. 

Israel’s army had been cut to pieces, Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas, who had borne the arc, in superstition, were killed. 

Under such circumstances the Israelites clamored for a king comparable to the rulers of neighboring lands. 

Samuel was disheartened when his people requested a king.   

It seemed to be a rejection of the theocracy, and of Samuel himself.  

I Samuel 8:4,  Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 

Assured, however, that it was God’s permissive will that he anoint a king of Israel, Samuel sought the one whom God would designate as the first king.   

I Samuel 11:14,15,  Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. 15And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.


Benjamin, Saul's’ tribe, was very small. 


The choice of a Benjamite for Israel’s first king may be regarded as a conciliatory gesture toward the rival tribes of Ephraim, to the north, and Judah to the south. 


Tribal rivalries were thus held in abeyance while Israel passed from a loose federation of tribes to a centralized monarchy.


Saul's life centers around four places. 



At Ramathaim, or Ramathaim-zophim (raw-maw-thah'-yim tso-feem') (“double height of the watchers”),  sometimes shortened to Ramah, Saul was privately anointed in Samuel’s home. 

The New Testament form of this name, Arimathaea, is used to designate the home of Joseph who provided his sepulcher for the burial of Jesus. 




At Mizpeh (“watchtower”), northwest of Jerusalem, Saul was presented to the people as king.  This Mizpeh, in the tribe of Benjamin, was a religious center with a sanctuary in the time of the Judges.  It is located seven miles north of Jerusalem on the main highway to Samaria and Galilee.


I Samuel 10:17-19,  And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh; 18And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: 19And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands. 



Gibeah (“hill”) of Benjamin, or Gibeah of Saul, was the first home and capital of Israel’s first king.  Gibeah is four miles north of Jerusalem by the side of the main road leading to Samaria, on a summit with an elevation of about 2750 feet above sea level. 



Gilgal “(circle of stones“) is probably identical with the place of Joshua’s first military encampment west of the Jordan.  At Gilgal, Saul was formally received as king by the united tribes of Israel.  It was while seeking the lost asses of his father that Saul first met Samuel.   God had told the asses to get lost so this important meeting could take place


I Samuel 9:3-6, 11-17,  And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses. 4And he passed through mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not. 5And when they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us. 6And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can show us our way that we should go. ……..11And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here? 12And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came to day to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people to day in the high place: 13As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden. Now therefore get you up; for about this time ye shall find him. 14And they went up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place. 15Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, 16To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. 17And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.  

The Wars of Saul

Saul was anointed as king by Samuel, but it was his prowess on the battlefield which brought him the enthusiastic support of the people. 

Israel had requested a king who would lead his people in battle, and Saul was not a disappointment in that respect.