From Judges 1-2
Judges is named after an interesting collection of individuals who led Israel after Joshua’s death until the rise of the monarchy under Samuel (up to about 1050 b.c.). In this time of national decline, despite their promise to keep the covenant (Josh. 24:16–18) the people turned from the Lord and began to worship other gods. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 21:25). A pattern repeats throughout the book: 1) the people abandoned the Lord; 2) God punished them by raising up a foreign power to oppress them; 3) the people cried out to God for deliverance; and 4) God raised up a deliverer, or judge, for them. The author of the book is unknown, although some Jewish tradition ascribes it to Samuel. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
God’s people have resided in the promised land. But they have not completely driven all the inhabitants out. This is actually a sign that Israel isn’t really as faithful to the Lord as they should be. The following passage really sets the tone for the rest of the book of Judges.
11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. (Jdg 2:11-13)
We see here continued reference to their deliverance from Egypt by the LORD. Yet Israel remained ungrateful and abandoned God. The golden calf was just the beginning. Because now the have returned to their pursuit of other gods. Consequently the LORD gets rightfully jealous and angry.
14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. (Jdg 2:14-15)
God acts. He sends plunderers and this is not the first or only time human movements are seen as the actions of God. Here the plunderers embody God’s righteous wrath and judgment. The author uses a slave market metaphor. God sells his disobedient slave off to another. But Israel is in distress and justice is not the only characteristic of God. So is love.
16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. (Jdg 2:16)
The LORD saves because he has compassion. The judges as we will see are individuals and leaders whom the LORD uses to fight battles. They fight and because the LORD is with them, they win. They they attempt to guide and instruct Israel.
17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. (Jdg 2:17-19)
This is not Israel at its best. What will God do?
20 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not.” 23 So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua. (Jdg 2:20–23)
God responds by not driving out the foreign nations. Thats not so bad is it? Well if you realise it is these nations who will lead Israel into more and more sin, finally abandoning the LORD. Then yes, God is punishing them.
Story of Israel
One of the saddest things about the book of judges is this patterns happens over and over again. The final verse reads ‘’In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’ (Jdg 21.25)
This final verse is interesting. It highlights that there is need of a king and the need for the Kings people to do what is right. Clearly God is the ultimate ruler of Israel and for many years Israel’s king doesn’t show up and Israel keeps on disobeying and abandoning the LORD.
Story of Jesus
Jesus fulfilled both of these roles. God became King in Jesus. This is the gospel. Jesus lived his life doing good, performing miracles and calling Israel to repent. But Israel, caught in the thrall of her sins rejected Jesus as King and crucified him. But God raised him from the dead. This who believe he is the Christ, the promised King of God receive eternal life and are empowered by his Spirit to do righteousness as unfaithful Israel never could. Praise Jesus.