Three cryptic chapters placed at the end of The Book of Judges by the Prophet Shmuel relate to the earliest of this period which followed Yehoshua leading Israel in the conquest of their land and the establishment of the temporary mishkan (sanctuary) at Shilo. After he and the surviving elders of that generation passed away, the only tribe that had not conquered and settled their allotment was the rear-guard tribe of Dan. It was then that these most gruesome chapters occurred. Strikingly the inter-relationships of each chapter emphasizes the competitive warring culture especially amongst the tribe of Yehuda, Binyamin and Ephraim, with particular emphasis to the location of Beit El.
Simply, Beit El means House of God, but it was more than 400 years after the events of these chapters that they were compiled into a book at around the same time the tribes of Israel finally agreed to a single site for their permanent temple in Jerusalem. These three chapters illustrate the massive political, economic and social ramifications underlying the story to define the temple's penultimate location on Binyamin’s southern border with Yehuda or northern border with Ephraim.
The chapters begin with Micayhu (Micah) a man who lived with his mother in the Mountain of Ephraim close to Ephraims southern boundary with Binyamin (18:2). There Micah developed a unique religion devoted to a significant silver idol, not a copycat of other nation gods, that incorporated the name of God written by Moses and once used to recover the coffin of Joseph. He recruited a Levite boy from the tribe of Yehuda who had lived in Beit Lechem (in the territory of Yehuda) to serve as his priest. The Levite boy Jonathan ben Gershom ben Menashe was the disenfranchised grandson of Moses and was well known to all the tribes. The ‘n’ in Menashe was written as a superscript by Prophet Shmuel to emphasize the evil actions of the Levite expecting that with repentance the ‘n’ would be removed to restore the (Hebrew) letters the name Moshe (Moses).
The second chapter explains how the tribal leaders of Dan were unable to conquer their difficult allotment in the south along the coastal route occupied by Philistine Egyptian allies. Absence of support from the other tribes may have left them embittered, so they traveled through Israel from Ashkelon (south) to conquer and declare Laish in the north (near the Golan) their land. Along the way, they stopped at Micah’s Beit el - house of god and recognized the Levite. They took him and the idol and located it’s religious center further north close to the sanctuary at Shilo (also referred to as Beit El). Most tribes, busy from settling and defending their land, had abandoned their prescribed tri-annual pilgrimage to Shilo as such they were losing touch with the religion prescribed by Moses.
The chapters conclude when a Levite from the mountain of Ephraim went to Beit Lechem to reconcile and recover his unfaithful concubine. On their return toward sunset, they passed Yevus (Jerusalem also known as Beit El - previously Luz) because it was occupied by the heathen. They continued north through Binyamin to Gibeah where they sought overnight accommodation with an old resident. That night some Binyamite residents demanded the concubine, the Levite capitulated, they gang raped her and left her on the doorstep of the old residents home, where she died during the cold night. The incensed Levite took her back to Mountain of Ephraim where he dissected her body in 12 pieces and despatched a piece to each tribal leader demanding they support his request to force the leaders of Binyamin to hand over the perpetrators. When they refused, Israel’s eleven other tribes united in a civil war that killed more than 50,000 including 25,000 members of the tribe of Binyamin, which was almost eradicated.
The juxtaposition of these three locations, Beit El at Shilo, Beit el of Micah and Beit El at Yevus provide further evidence of the cryptic message left by Prophet Shmuel. These tumultuous events underlie the vicious competition for the economic and spiritual benefits brought by locating the nations one and only temple on the southern (Yehuda) or northern (Ephraim) border of Binyamin. The ultimate socio-dominant tribe would prevail in its conquest and Binyamin, wedged between the shoulders of Yehuda to its south and Ephraim to its north, would play a vital role. Competition and lobbying amongst the tribes to establish a permanent temple site plagued Israel, so much so that it took more than 400 years before King David was able to declare its location and after King Solomon built it. The immediate reaction following King Solomon’s reign was a division of the nation, the re-establishment of Beit el in the Mountain of Ephraim and the return of national worship to the alien god.
Impressive and enormously complex on the level of reincarnate souls, is the connection made by Prophet Shmuel at the time of King David through Jonathan the Levite boy from Beit Lechem of Yehuda. This was none other than Moses grandchild and in a nation where bloodline counts, he was construed by the Prophet with the evil root in the soul of Menashe. At the later period, he became the incarnate Jonathan (Shebu’el) who repented at the time of King David and became David’s treasurer and David’s direct descendant the evil King Menashe. Through Jonathan Shmuel connected Judges to the period of Kings, to deliver the key that Jonathan who served David became the false prophet in Shomron (after King Solomon) at the time of King Yerovam ben Nabat. Yerovam led the 10 northern tribes to secede, to worship idolatry at Beit el and plunged Israel into its protracted state of exile. Thousands of years later the tribes are yet to be reunified.
In an article I wrote after Pesach 2012 I identified the later Jonathan element of Shmuel’s cryptic message. Together these time separated Jonathans spanning Judges and Kings, the period in which the Mishkan stood, make it abundantly clear that Shmuel intentionally wrote them as the key to decrypt his code and discover the ultimate location for the permanent Beit El. The repetitive theme of these distinct time periods and the events that relate to Beit El and Beit el amplify the nations great need to decipher the ultimate location.