In Judges, He's the Law Giver
A Brief Summary
Judges is a collective history of the judges sent to Israel during the time after the allotment of land, after Joshua had died. The judges, or champions or leaders, had direct knowledge of God and were models of wise and faithful behavior that was required of them.
The Israelites became quite unfaithful to God and, as stands to reason by God's own words, they are delivered into the hands of their enemies. Under their oppression, the people would cry out to God for His mercy and forgiveness. God would hear their repentant cries and send judges [champions or leaders] into their midst. These judges would deliver the people from their oppression, and then the Israelites would once again become in tune with God and He would make them prosperous. When any one judge would become deceased, the Israelites would find themselves back at the start of another cycle; they would again become unfaithful to God and be handed over to their enemies.
Judges, chapters 1 and 2, give us a brief look at the cycle of sin, as we read it earlier in this blog. It is the same cycle of sin they relive over and over again during the whole book of Judges.
- Israel does evil in the eyes of the Lord. Judges 2:10-13--"After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baals and the Ashtoreths."
- The people are then delivered into the hands of their enemies. Judges 2:14-15--"In His anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as He had sworn to them. They were in great distress."
- A judge [champion, leader] was raised up from the people of Israel. Judges 2:16-"Then the Lord raised up judges who saved them out of the hands of these raiders."
- The Spirit of God dwells within each judge. Judges 2:18--"Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them."
- The judge that the Lord appointed for the people would defeat the enemy and save them from their oppression. Refer to Judges 2:18 in #4 above.
- Peace would again be over the land that the Israelites inhabited. Refer to Judges 2:18 in #4 above.
This peace would last until the death of the judge given, at which time the Israelites would again fall into their cycle of sin. The pattern was like a never-ending circle. Judges 2:19--"But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways."
The Main Text
The main part of Judges (chapters 3 thru 16) contain the stories about specific judges. There are quite specific judges that are described in detail (some more than others).
- Othniel (Judges 3:7-11). At the time of Othniel, Israel was sold into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim. They were subjects of this king for eight years; but, God sent Othniel to save them. Othniel served Israel for 40 years, and then the Israelites started another cycle of sin.
- Ehud (Judges 3:12-30). This time, the Israelites were made subject to Eglon, the king of Moab, for 18 years. God raised up Ehud to save the Israelites. Ehud killed Eglon in a most horrific way; due to Eglon being a very heavy set man, Ehud snuck a sword past the guards of the king and when Ehud and Eglon were alone, Ehud stuck his sword into the king's stomach, even the handle of the sword sank into the king. Then Ehud escaped to the hill country of Ephraim. Because of Ehud, Israel had peace in their land for 80 years, and then the Israelites started another cycle of sin.
- Deborah [and Barak] (Judges 4-5). Next, the Israelites were given to the rule of Jabin, a king of Canaan, and the commander of his army, Sisera. This Canaanite king oppressed the Israelites for 20 years. The judge at this time was Deborah. She disputed all sorts of arguments for the Israelites in the hill country of Ephraim. Barak approached Deborah in regards to Jabin and Sisera, and Deborah agreed to go with Barak to put an end to Jabin and Sisera. Sisera ended up abandoning his army and fled to the place where a woman by the named of Jael. The husband of Jael had a sort of alliance with Jabin and Jael agreed to let Sisera hide in her tent. While Sisera was sleeping, Jael too a tent spike and a hammer and drove the spike through Sisera's temple and into the ground killing him. That same day, God caused Jabin to be destroyed by the Israelites. Because of Deborah, Israel had peace in their land for 40 years, and then the Israelites started another cycle of sin.
- Gideon (Judges 6-8). When the Midianites took rule over the Israelites, God raised up Gideon as their judge and champion. Most of know how Gideon started out with 32,000 fighting men and ended up with only 300. What an awesome God our God is! When our human minds feel the need to have 32,000 fighting men to fend off a ruling enemy, God takes control and says there is a need for only 300. During Gideon's lifetime, Israel enjoyed peace in their land for 40 years, and then the Israelites started another cycle of sin.
- Abimelech (Judges 9). Gideon has 70 sons in Ophrah, where he lived and died; he also had a son born to a concubine in Shechem named Abimelech. To keep the threat of his other brothers judging the land of Israel, Abimelech went to Ophrah, where his father's sons lived, and killed all of them. Or so Abimelech thought; one brother, Jotham, was able to escape. The citizens of Shechem then hailed Abimelech as their king, not just a judge. After three years of governing Israel, the citizens of Shechem rebelled against Abimelech, and Abimelech, in turn, turned against them. At one point, he murdered close to a thousand men and women by setting a fire to the place where these men and women were hiding. Abimelech then went on to another city to capture it as well. When the people of this city saw Abimelech approaching, they hid themselves in a tower. Abimelech was going to set that tower on fire, like the previous one; but, a woman dropped a millstone on his head from a high window. Abimelech called for his servant to finish killing him because he didn't want to be known as them man who was killed by a woman. And then the Israelites started another cycle of sin.
- Jephthah (Judges 10:6-12:7). The Philistines and the Ammonites come on the scene to oppress Israel next. For 18 years, the Philistines and the Ammonites harassed the nation of Israel. Again, when the people cried to God for help, he sent them another leader, Jephthah. Jephthah was a mighty warrior from Gilead who was driven from his home; but, later was summoned to help lead a fight against the Ammonites. Jephthah, after much debating with the king of Ammon made a vow to God that if God would deliver the Ammonites into the hands of Israel, he [Jephthah] would sacrifice the first person to greet him from his home upon his return. That first person to greet him as he returned home was his young, virgin daughter. Now, please not, this was not an actual sacrifice in the way that he killed his daughter on the altar. His daughter was at that time set in the service of the Lord, never to marry or have children. Since she was his only daughter, his future ended with her. This is a lesson to all of us to pay heed to the promises we make to God because God will call you to fulfill your vow. Jephthah led Israel for six years, and then the Israelites started another cycle of sin.
- Samson (Judges 13-16). For forty years the Philistines ruled in Israel. When Samson was born, he was consecrated as a Nazarite from the day of his birth until the day of his death. His mother was not to drink any wine, or other fermented drinks, or to eat anything unclean during her pregnancy; Samson, himself, was not to ever cut his hair. Samson, as an adult, married a Philistine woman, at which time we learn of his famous riddle; "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet." After much pleading from his wife, Samson told his wife the answer to the riddle and she, in turn, told the Philistines. Samson then killed 30 Philistines to pay the reward to the Philistines to whom he told the riddle. When Samson returned to his father's house, his wife was given to another man. Some time later, Samson wanted to see his wife; but, the woman's father would not allow Samson entrance into his home, so, Samson gathered 300 foxes and tied them in pairs with torches attached to each pair. He let the foxes, with their lit torches, loose on the Philistines fields, and the fields were burned up. To avenge their crops, the Philistines burned Samson's wife and father. And, as you know, revenge will beget revenge; Samson ended up killing a bunch of other Philistines. And then enters Delilah; and we all know how well that turned out (said with a raised eyebrow). When Samson was tied between the two pillars and pulled the walls down on the Philistines during one of their festivals, he ended up killing more Philistines in his death than he had during the 20 years he led Israel. And then the Israelites started another cycle of sin.
There are also several minor judges who are mentioned; but, not at any great length.
- Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. An oxgoad was a long stick used to poke an ox and goad it into moving where and went you wanted it to move. Judges 3:31.
- Tola led Israel for 23 years. Judges 10:1-2.
- Jair led Israel for 22 years. Judges 10:3-5.
- Ibzan led Israel for seven years. Judges 12:8-10.
- Elon led Israel for ten years. Judges 12:11--12.
- Abdon led Israel for eight years. Judges 12:13-15.
For the rest of Judges, chapters 17-21, we read how the tribe of Dan prostituted themselves to false gods and used the idols that Micah had made (Judges 17). There is the story of a certain Levite and what happened to his concubine (Judges 19), and how the tribe of Benjamin waged war with all the other tribes of Israel, their own brothers. After an utter slaughter of the tribe of Benjamin, the other tribes knew the importance of maintaining all the tribes in Israel. It was during an annual festival in Shiloh, the surviving men of the tribe of Benjamin were instructed to carry off the girls when the girls were dancing. In this way, the tribe of Benjamin again multiplied and their towns were rebuilt for settlement.
In Ruth, he's our Kinsmen-Redeemer.
Ruth was a woman of Moab who married a son born to Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem, in Judah. When Elimelech and his sons were dead, Naomi found herself having to return to Bethlehem. Ruth was determined to go with her. Ruth married Boaz, and they had a son named Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who became the second king of Israel.