Day 88: Judges 4–6, Psalm 74, John 8 – The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb

Judges 4–6, Psalm 74, John 8
Today’s lessons deal with conflict. Judges 4–5 recount the battles between the Israelites
and the Canaanites in the time of the prophet Deborah. Psalm 74 appeals to God for
help after enemies have ravaged the Jerusalem temple at the time of the exile (587 b.c.e.).
John 8 describes a polemical debate between Jesus and “the Jews,” reflecting tensions
between Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews after the destruction of the temple by
the Romans in 70 c.e.
Judges 4 provides an account of the victory of Deborah and Barak over the powerful
Canaanite army and the death of its general, Sisera. Judges 5, the ancient “Song of
Deborah” is a poetic version of the same story. In verses 28-30, we are invited to imagine
Sisera’s mother waiting for her son to return victorious from the battle. We readers know
that he will never return. Even as the desire for revenge is expressed (“so perish all your
enemies, O Lord” says verse 31), the Bible reminds us that for every victor in battle, there
is also a vanquished soldier on the other side, who had a mother, a spouse, children.
Psalm 74 expresses faith in God’s saving power even as it describes atrocities done to the
temple. The same God who created the universe also defends the poor and needy. In
tender love language, Israel is described as God’s pet dove, in danger of being devoured
by wild animals.
John 8 also describes Israel: this time Israel divided over the question of the identity of
Jesus Christ. The bitter debate here reflects severe tensions between two groups of Jews
after 70 c.e.: Jews who believe that God’s Messiah has come in Jesus, and Jews who do
not. The consequences of this argument would be played out for centuries to come with
tragic results. As with every passage in Scripture, this chapter needs to be read carefully
in the context of prayerful study. Only then can we continue in God’s word and know the
truth that will set us all free.
The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb
Professor of New Testament
Virginia Theological Seminary
Alexandria, Virginia
Elsewhere (e.g., Matthew 5:44), Jesus
tells us to love our enemies. How are all
of these Scripture passages to be read
together? Where am I called to be a
peacemaker or to engage in conflict? Can
there ever be justification for violence
performed in the Name of God?
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Help us, as we struggle for truth, to confront
one another without hatred and teach us to
work together for the common good of all.