Bible References: Judges 12:13-15
Heart of Story: The 11th judge over Israelites in the Promised Land, Abdon is identified as a minor judge because so little information was given about him in the Bible.
Back Story: Abdon was the judge after Elon. He was the son of Hillel and from the town of Pirathon, which was part of the hill country of Ephraim. In the Bible judge Abdon is associated with two other minor judges, Ibzan and Elon. The timeline when Abdon acted as judge in Ephraim is not known exactly. It is postulated as approximately 1030 BC, 1063-1058 BC, and approximately 1167 BC in three different online sources.
Story Line: Abdon was a judge eight years. Together Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon judged Israel twenty-five years, a relatively short time period. The Bible didn’t record national enemies of any one of these three judges.
Abdon’s name meant “service” and indeed he exemplified his name by providing service to Israelites by settling legal disputes.
Abdon had 40 sons and 30 grandsons. These offspring rode donkeys. Having a donkey available for personal use suggested that Abdon, his sons, and grandsons were well to do. Perhaps, Abdon used his personal donkey as he traveled from village to village to render judicial decisions. Settling judicial disputes which was one of the responsibilities of the judges causes us to question the source or basis for Abdon’s decisions. Most likely, Abdon used the laws from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. To apply these laws, Abdon and other judges were well versed in these Levitical laws. At the same time, perhaps some of the legal perspectives were from Mesopotamia and Egypt which most likely influenced the cultural beliefs of Israelites.
Pondering Relationships: Various writers provided information about Abdon that may or may not be true. The great Jewish historian, Josephus claimed that Abdon’s funeral at Pirathon was an elaborate event and in Abdon’s time as a judge, there was peace in the land. Another writer asserted that Abdon attempted to smooth over the conflict between Ephraim and Gilead which occurred in the time of Jephthah. This writer’s perspective makes sense because Israelite traditional thought was that brothers would live together in peace.
To have 40 sons, Abdon would have had more than one wife. Very likely because Abdon was wealth, he had more than one wife at the same time. Abdon having fewer grandsons than sons is unusual. Generally, each of the 40 sons would have had one or more sons. Perhaps, some sons were too young to sire children.
Perhaps Abdon began his tenure as a judge by being one of the elders who sit at the gate of his town. There, men of surrounding towns and villages brought disputes to the town elders to settle. he along with other city men
Later in the history of the Judges, the author wrote that Israelites what they saw as fit, or what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25). It is tempting to contemplate the source for each father or clan leader determined what was “fit.” And, the fit would have been a moving target depending on who was applying it. It might even depend on the amount of knowledge held by the clan leaders.
Reflection: How is the rendering of a judicial verdict in the time of the judges the same or different than court verdicts in 21st century the United States.
Copyright December 14, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth
Please visit my website at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com