I just finished reviewing the Book of Judges in the OT and as always, I was struck by the discord and sadness that the Word of God presents. This was not a good time for Israel and yet we can plainly see the faithfulness of God.
I only work part time now, yet when working, my job presents me with a unique situation wherein I can study God’s Word for 15 minutes and then ponder it in my mind for the next 15 minutes while I am working, if I am not busy. This sequence repeats itself for 9 hours so basically I can study for close to 4.5 hours and then ponder or think about God’s Word, when I am not busy. And yes, I am grateful for the unique opportunity I have.
First impressions of the Book of Judges, if you read it right through, to the casual reader, are not overly impressive from an inspirational perspective. There is a lot of killing (large numbers), disorder and failing miserably. But like all of the Bible, you have to pay attention and note what is being said and put it in line with what has been said previously and what has been said thereafter. That’s where the 15 minutes of pondering comes in. It gives me time to think about what I have read.
To the casual reader, the Book of Judges might seem to be, not really that important, but to make that judgement would be wrong.
For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.
There are “key” passages that set the tone or the stage for what the Book of Judges tells us.
Judges 17:6 “ In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” This statement is repeated in three other verses within the Book of Judges. Kind of reminds us of how the Christian church is fragmented today, which is what happens when we don’t focus on our King.
Judges 2:16-18 “The Lord raised up leaders who delivered them from these robbers. But they did not obey their leaders. Instead they prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned aside from the path their ancestors had walked. Their ancestors had obeyed the Lord’s commands, but they did not. When the Lord raised up leaders [judges] for them, the Lord was with each leader and delivered the people from their enemies while the leader remained alive. The Lord felt sorry for them when they cried out in agony because of what their harsh oppressors did to them.” These Judges where more like military leaders than the traditional Judges we find in Deuteronomy 1:12-17; or Exodus 18:13-23.
While Joshua dealt with Israel as a nation acting in unity, Judges tends to deal with Israel’s tribes independently. Chapter 1, as an example, dwells mainly with the tribe of Judah, which teams up with that of Simeon.
The unique contribution of Judges is that it describes that period in Israel’s history when it had no strong central leader (like Moses or Joshua), before it came to be led by kings (1 Samuel).
Certain nations were to be utterly destroyed (Deuteronomy 7:1-5) while other more distant nations were given the choice of surrendering. (Deuteronomy 20:10-18)
Deuteronomy 7:1-5 “When the Lord your God brings you to the land that you are going to occupy and forces out many nations before you – Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you – and he delivers them over to you and you attack them, you must utterly annihilate them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy! You must not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will erupt against you and he will quickly destroy you. Instead, this is what you must do to them: You must tear down their altars, shatter their sacred pillars, cut down their sacred Asherah poles, and burn up their idols. ” The same judgement was forewarned to those of the nation of Israel that fell away (Leviticus 18:6-30).
The Canaanites were much like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah in that they were ripe for judgment, not only because of their moral depravity, but also because of their rejection of God. Note the similarity of what transpired with the tribe of Benjamin in chapter 19 of Judges.
There is a lot more that could be commented on but the primary lessons that the Old Testament Book of Judges gives to me is that we as Christians cannot live in peaceful coexistence with sin, God is always faithful to his promises and always to keep my eyes focused on my King Jesus.