Othniel, First Bible Judge


Bible References: Judges 3.7-11;

Heart of Story: Othniel, nephew of Caleb, was the first judge named in the Bible

Back Story: Othniel was from the tribe of Judah. He married Ascah (Caleb’s daughter). Through the marriage, he acquired land that included both an upper and lower spring. In the Negev Desert area, water was a sure way to power. Possibly, Othniel lived in the region of Debir (around Hebron) which he captured from the Anakites shortly after the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

Story Line: At the time that Othniel became a judge, Israel – definitely Judah — was harassed and possibly paid tribute to Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Aram for about eight years. The Israelite cried out to God for help (Judges 3:9). In response, the LORD raised up deliverer– Othniel son of Kenaz. God’s Spirit came on Othniel and the Israelites fought against the Arameans. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.

After Othniel defeated Cushan-Rishathaim, the land was at peace for 40 years until Othniel died.  His leadership was likely 1350-1310 BC.

Pondering Relationships: The Bible is clear why God allowed the Israelites to be overrun by Aram – Israel abandoned God worship and worshiped the Baals and Asheroth. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel (Judges 3.7-8).

The Bible is equally clear why they were able to through off the subjugation of the king of Aram. The Israelites cried out to God and God raised up a deliverer (Othniel) to save them. If the Israelite didn’t repent likely their period of subjugation by a foreign entity would have been longer. A relatively short period of time (8 years) elapsed before Israelites saw the relationship between their abandonment of God and being over-run by a foreign enemy.

The name Chushan-Rishathaim means “twice-evil Kushite.” Most likely this name was a pejorative description given by Israelites the king of Aram conquered. He ruled under a different name in Aram. Use of the name Chushan Rishathaim may indicate that the Hebrews had concrete reasons to bear him a grudge, beyond the meager information given in the surviving Biblical text.

Reflection: Think about pejorative term you have used to describe a person or group of persons. Now ponder that this person or group of persons is as loved by God as you are.

Copyright: May 25, 2019; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please visit my website for books on lesser known Bible characters: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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