Studying the Historical Books


After completing our 3 1/2-year cycle of readings in the Torah, we’ve decided to continue with the historical books that follow, beginning with Joshua. We’ll read first about the conquest of the Canaanite tribes, then examine the disappointing time of the Judges – punctuated by the exploits of Gideon and Samson – and the turmoil that led up to the anointing of Saul as King.

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April 11, 2021 – Judges 13:1-25 – Samson’s Birth Foretold

The Angel of the Lord visits Samson’s parents, warning his mother that he would be a Nazarite from birth and would ‘begin’ to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Notes on Judges 13:1-25

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April 4, 2021 – Judges 12:1-15 – Jephthah, the Ephraimites and the “Shibboleth” test

Jephthah, challenged by the Ephraimites, defeats them. They reveal who they are by pronouncing the word “shibboeth.”

Notes on Judges 12:1-15

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March 27, 2021 – Book of Esther – Celebrate Purim!

This feast is probably the original “morality play” with audience participation. A mysterious part of the Purim feast is the rabbinical command to drink enough wine so that you can’t distinguish between “Yay Mordechai!” and “Boo Haman!”

Read our memo on Purim

More Notes on Purim

Purim and Yom Kippur

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March 21, 2021 – Judges 11:1-40 – Jephthah’s foolish vow

Jephthah saves Israel from the Ammonites but his foolish vow has consequences for his daughter.

Notes on Judges 11:1-40

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March 14, 2021 – Judges 10:1-18 – A Return to Idolatry

After 45 years of peace under two minor judges, Israel falls again into idolatry and is invaded by the children of Ammon.

Notes on Judges 10:1-18

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