The Book of Judges: A Timely Application
Before Israel Had Kings, They Had Judges
The biblical book called Judges begins after the death of Joshua, the leader of the Israelites who succeeded Moses. Joshua was specifically chosen to complete the work that Moses began when he led Israel out of Egypt.
Moses, because he committed an act which displeased God, was not permitted to enter the land of Canaan.
Joshua, because of his proven faithfulness, was selected to lead the people into their new homeland. When he stepped up and took on the responsibilities of leading, serving and shepherding the twelve tribes, he presented them with their only two options: serve God or break the covenant relationship. As for him, he had already made his decision for life and serving the Lord was the path he had chosen.
The people answered him by stating that they would submit to his commands, just as they had listened to Moses. They believed God would be with Joshua, in the same manner that He had guided His servant Moses.
Thousands of Philistine men died before they figured out they just needed to send in one woman.
Joshua is No Longer With Us | We're On Our Own Now!
The nation of Israel wandered forty years in the wilderness and had to transition from their nomadic lifestyle to a settled permanent community. They had no king, only religious leaders and heads of tribes. The city of Shiloh, where the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were located, served as their religious center. They had hostile enemies on all sides. The kingdoms of Moab, Ammon and Midian threatened them on both sides of the Jordan River. The Canaanites were never fully driven out and had strongholds in the hill country. The Philistines, warlike seafaring invaders from across the Mediterranean Sea, began seizing territory in Canaan's coastal plains, with an eye on taking possession of the area where the Israelites had built their new homes.
This time period in Israel's history lasted for about 330 years (1380 – 1050 B.C.). While Joshua was alive, the people were obedient. But soon after his death, they violated the commandments by becoming idolaters. As punishment for their unfaithfulness to Jehovah, the people were brought under the servitude of the idolatrous nations surrounding them. These nations – who never really said they were their friends or welcomed them with open arms - oppressed them without mercy. The nation of Israel would confess their sins, repent and cry to God for deliverance from their oppressors.
The judges (mentioned in the Book of Judges) were the heroes of faith who were their deliverers: Othniel; Ehud; Shamgar; Deborah; Gideon; Abimelech; Tola; Jair; Jephthah; Ibzan; Elon; Abdon; and Samson.
Othniel is the first “Judge” mentioned. He delivered the people from Cushan-Rishathaim, a king of Mesopotamia who had afflicted them for eight (8) years. He judged Israel for forty (40) years and the nation had peace. (Judges Chapter 3)
Probably the most well-known judge is Samson, the long-haired Nazarite with superhuman strength, who killed more Philistines, the enemies of his people, in his death, than he did in his lifetime. (Judges Chapters 13 through 16)
No doubt the judge who has caused the most controversy is Jephthah who made a very tragic promise. His “victory celebration act” has been a heated topic of debate and argument for years, among both non-believers and true believers. For many the question remains unanswered: When you vow a vow to the one true God, does He really expect you to honor it? (Judges Chapters 11 through 12)
Gideon is likely the judge whose name is known, even if one knows no other details of his life, because of an organization that places Bibles in hotel rooms all across America, even Las Vegas aka “sin city”. (Judges Chapters 6, 7, and 8)
A thorough or brief discussion of the judges of Israel would never omit a mention of Deborah, prophetess, as well as judge, who had a living husband. His name was Lapidoth. Why wasn't he chosen instead? The scriptures do not say. But she was every bit as faithful and fierce as her male counterparts. (Judges Chapters 4 and 5)
A Timely Application
The Book of Judges is not complicated reading. Shocking? Perhaps. But not complicated. Many of the recorded events have gendered extremely lengthy discussions about human affairs, matters of religion and politics, whether or not the God of Israel is just and loving or no better than the other gods, etc., etc. Twelve judges are named. Each time they delivered Israel, it was for the same reason! Israel sinned; broke the covenant relationship with God, and brought the affliction upon themselves. They repented, cried out for help, God delivered them. People often say that records of history should be kept as they are necessary so that we don't make the same mistakes and errors over and repeatedly. So was that it with the people of Israel? They just didn't have a written record? Because they did the same thing over and over and over and over!!
In my understanding, what this book represents is the end result of what happens when “every man does what is right in his own eyes”. If you have read other non-biblical records of history of non-Jewish nations, you can find similar horrific acts of violence, oppression, and war. As far as everybody was concerned, they were all right for doing whatever it was that they did! It is the 21st century and nothing has changed.
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© 2013 Treathyl FOX