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not, let fire come out and devour both Abimelech and his followers."

Then Jotham fled, and hid himself for fear of Abimelech. For three years Abimelech ruled, and then God allowed division and ill-will to spring up between him and the people, and the men of Shechem in their turn dealt treacherously with Abimelech ; till after several battles and much warfare he was killed, while seeking to take the strong tower of a city called Thebez. Abimelech was trying to burn the tower-door, when a woman from above cast a piece of millstone upon his head. Then Abimelech called hastily to his armourbearer, and said, “Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him.” And the armourbearer killed him. Thus God punished both Abimelech and the people who followed him in his wickedness, and fulfilled Jotham's curse

upon them.

JEPHTHAH.

AFTER this other judges rose up to defend Israel :-Tola, and Jair. But after Jair's death the people forsook the Lord, and served Him not, and His anger was hot against them, and He allowed the children of Ammon, and other heathen nations, to vex and oppress them. At length the Israelites cried to the Lord in their trouble, saying, “ We have sinned against Thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baal.”

Awful indeed was the answer they received from their offended LORD. He reminded them

. how many times they had cried unto Him, and He had delivered them from the hand of their enemies. Yet ye have forsaken Me," the Lord said, “and served other gods; wherefore I will deliver you no more :-go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen ; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.”

Then the children of Israel humbled themselves; they put away the strange gods, and served the LORD again, and confessed their sin, saying, “We have sinned ; do Thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto Thee; deliver us only, we pray Thee, this day.”

And God, the Ever-Merciful FATHER, Who never turns away from His children, when they really and heartily repent, took pity upon them once more; and raised them up a deliverer called Jephthah.

Jephthah was the son of a man called Gilead :

his family had treated him unkindly, and driven him forth into a strange land. But now when they wanted a chieftain, and heard that Jephthah was a mighty and powerful man, they begged him to return as their captain and lead them against the children of Ammon. Jephthah reminded the people of Gilead how unkindly they had treated him ; but he forgave those past

; wrongs, and went forth at the head of his people, guided by God's Holy Spirit. The LORD delivered the heathen nations into Jephthah's hand, as he went on through the enemy's country. Now Jephthah had made a vow before God before he went out to battle, saying, “If Thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into my hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering."

When the war was over, and Jephthah came home to his own house at Mizpeh, behold, bis daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and dances ; and she was his only child, beside her he had neither son nor daughter. Then Jephthah was very sore grieved when he saw his child, and he rent his clothes, and lamented his vow very bitterly. He told his daughter about it, saying, “I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.” Then his daughter meekly made answer, “My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth, forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon."

The only request she made was to be allowed to go up for two months into the mountains with her maiden companions, to bewail her destiny, and to make ready to meet her father's will. Then she returned, and Jephthah fulfilled

his vow.

SAMSON.

But once

AFTER Jephthah several judges governed Israel, -Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. more the people fell away and displeased the LORD, and He delivered them into the hand of the Philistines. Yet, in His wrath, He remembered mercy, and raised up a deliverer for His people. Now there was a man of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah, who had no child. And God sent His Angel to Manoah's wife, to tell

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her that she should have a son, who should be all his life long dedicated to God. And Manoah prayed unto the Lord, and said, “O my LORD, let the man of God which Thou didst send, come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born."

God heard Manoah's prayer, and the Angel came again. Then his wife ran to fetch Manoah, and the Angel told Manoah all God's will concerning the child that was to be given him. Then Manoah asked, saying, “What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass, we may do thee honour ?” And the Angel said to him, “Why askest thou after my name, seeing it is secret ?”

Manoah asked no more questions; but he offered up a kid as a burnt-offering to the LORD; and while he and his wife looked on, they beheld a very wondrous sight; for when the altar flames rose up toward Heaven, the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Then they knew that he was an Angel indeed who had visited them, and they fell on their faces and worshipped God, who had sent them so gracious a visitor.

In due course of time Manoah and his wife had a son, and they called his name Samson.

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