The book of Judges: The Bible's perfect rock concept album

It is a little bit Stonehenge, a little bit Donnington, a little bit long hair and big flares, and an unmistakable smattering of Spinal Tap. It is iconic rock gods, striking flying-V guitar poses. It is a double album with a gate-fold sleeve and pretentious artwork. It is punk and grunge and a dose of the blues, all sprinkled with a generous handful of black humour. It is the Bible's ultimate rock concept album. What else could we be talking about but the Book of Judges?

With a bit of jiggery-pokery we can condense it into ten tracks - because everybody knows that the perfect album can only have ten tracks - with the obligatory overture and a coda.

Overture - (Judges 1 and 2)
The book of Judges begins with two chapters of ominous head-shaking and finger-wagging. The twelve tribes have entered the land of Canaan, but they have not carried out the genocide that they were instructed to by their God. They will pay.

Track 01 - Othniel (Judges 3:7-11)
A quiet, unassuming opening. Don't let it fool you.

Track 02 - Ehud (Judges 3:15-30)
The fat man and the left-handed fake-out. An absolute blinder with a vicious little hook. The pieces are enticingly set up. Ehud makes himself a two-edged short sword, and girds it on his right thigh. Eglon, king of Moab, "was a very fat man." Sweeet! When the climax comes, there is no holding back. Ehud grabs his weapon with his left hand, plunges it into Eglon's belly, and just keeps on going "until the fat closed over the blade." Then, I'll be damned if he doesn't just leave it in there, deep in the belly with the guts hanging out - and cool as anything, makes his escape, no doubt off the balcony with some kind of primitive hang-glider. Eglon's guards don't find him at first because they think he must be taking a leak. Well, they will find faecal matter, but not in any way they will be prepared for.

Track 03 - Shamgar (Judges 3:31)
"There's nothing like a nice piece of hickory." The economical description of a man "who killed six hundred of the Philistines with an oxgoad," leaves so much to the imagination.

Track 04 - Deborah (Judges 4:1-5:31)
Jael House Rock. The first of several epics, and this one complete with lyrics. It's a duet with Barak (no, not that one, though apparently he is no mean singer.) The words of chapter 5 seem almost so clear you can divide up who is singing which section. Ultimately it is a feminist triumph. Sisters are indeed doing it for themselves, as it relates the story of Sisera the fleeing enemy king who seeks sanctuary in the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite. He asks for water, and she gives him milk. Drowsy from his drink he falls into slumber...

"Jael took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him," and nailed his weary-ass head to the ground. To. The. Ground. In a master-stroke of understatement, the passage concludes, "So he died." Our dueting couple, though, make more of a meal of it in verse 27 of chapter 5. Artistic licence, and all that.

Track 05 - Gideon (Judges 6:1-9:57)
"I am Sparta!" Before the Spartans, there was Gideon and his 300 men, with the rousing refrain - one for the whole audience to join in - "A sword for the Lord and Gideon!" The story is a slow-burning classic as Gideon gradually whittles his formidable army down to a scant 300 because if there were too many men to vanquish the enemy, they might believe they did it off their own backs rather than give credit to their God. Trust, you see. It's all about trust. In the end it is a cautionary tale: Gideon's earlier trust issues with God develop into a serious hindrance when he falls victim to an undisclosed something in chapter 8 and verse 27 - even after turning down the nation's offer of the crown.

Track 06 - Tola (Judges 10:1, 2)
Short and instantly forgettable. Most albums have a weak track, and how could it not be this one when he has a Dodo in his ancestry.

Track 07 - Jair, Ibzan, and Abdon (Judges 10:3-5; 12:8-10; 13-15)
We're amalgamating these three. It won't be the only time we encounter a numerical repetition, but there is something highly suspicious about that recurring use of numero 30: 30 sons, 30 daughters, 30 grandsons, 30 asses, and 30 cities. Still, we do like a catchy number.

Track 08 - Jephthah (Judges 10:6-12:7)
Jephthah sure does sing the blues - there's nothing else for it. Kicked out of his own home by his half-brothers, he gets surrounded by a group of worthless fellows in the land of Tob. He must have made a name for himself, because when the Israelites find themselves at war with the Ammonites, they call upon Jephthah to help them out.

Momentarily, Jephthah must have forgotten he was the Bible's bad-luck bear because he promises the Lord, "If thou wilt give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord's, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering." In my version, everything goes deathly quiet, there is the sound of a whistling wind, and a church bell suddenly clangs. No good can come from a promise like that. Inevitably he smotes them with "a very great slaughter."

Perhaps Jephthah was counting on a household pet. "Every freakin' time I come home I am greeted by some animal or other, but this time...?" When he returns home, behold, his daughter comes out to meet him. Not only that, she comes out to meet him "with timbrels and with dances." Not only that, "she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter." Not only that, his daughter is an absolute gem about the whole deal. All that is left is for Jephthah to rent his clothes, and howl, naked, at the moon.

Track 09 - Elon (Judges 12:11, 12)
Elon, the Breather. We need a short, unassuming palette cleanser before the monumental closer.

Track 10 - Samson (Judges 13:1-16:31)
What else is there to add to the story of Samson that the Pixies didn't already say so succinctly in Gouge Away?

If it was the days of vinyl, Samson would take up the whole of one side. It would be strangely broken up into individual sections, one segueing into another, each with it's own title. It is a bizarre fusion of violence and limerick, with a healthy undercurrent of psychoanalytical melodrama. There has got to be a connection between Samson's nameless giant of a mother, his lily-livered father, and his own highly questionable relationship with women, vacillating as he does between cod-domination and weak-willed subjugation.

It is a fantastic account, told in ten parts: 1. The Barren Gives Birth, 2. The Strong and the Sweet, 3. The Best Man's Wife, 4. The Tale of the 300 Foxes, 5. Smote, Hip and Thigh, 6. In the Cleft of the Rock at Etam, 7. The Jawbone of an Ass, 8. Door, Posts, Bar, and all, 9. Samson and Delilah, 10. God's First Suicide Bomber.

It's hard to think of a more rounded out conclusion.

In a slightly suspicious plagiarism of the Lot saga (Genesis 19: 1-10) a mob besets a house and menacingly demands a visitor be released, "that we may know him." In his stead a concubine is offered who is subsequently subjected to gang rape "all night until the morning." The husband of the murdered woman chops her up into twelve pieces, one piece for each of the twelve tribes. The Benjamites are singled out as the offending tribe, and all but completely wiped out (after two failed attempts). The matter concludes with a panicky scheme to repopulate the tribe because, "O Lord...why has this come to pass...that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?" And the mayhem drags its flailed corpse just that little bit further. It is a hellish tale, with no redeeming features - a monstrosity.

If they were on stage, the band would be kicking over their instruments, setting fire to their guitars, and leaving with nary a farewell - a triumphant collapse into bloody pandemonium and extended feedback. In a word, anarchy - because, as our perfect rock concept album concludes, "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes."