Key Verse: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6; 21:25
Narrative of the Judges-3:7-Chapter 16
Description of the Disastrous Social and Spiritual Condition-Chapters 17-18
The period of the Judges was post-Joshua and pre-monarchy. The Judges were often military leaders who provided deliverance to Israel from their enemies. They obviously also had social and religious impact as well. Many Bible scholars believe that some, if not all, the Judges were often regional and did not necessarily lead all of Israel. Some of them may have led in one part of the country while another judge was leading in another region. It is likely that Samuel, the last judge, wrote this book. It is estimated that this period covered about 350 years.
Othniel (Caleb’s son-in-law)
Ehud “a man left-handed” (crippled in his right hand)
Deborah (the only female judge)
Barak (simultaneous with Deborah; Hebrews 11 mention)
Gideon (Heb. 11 mention)
Abimelech (Some do not include him as a legitimate judge because of his usurpation and murder.)
Jephthah (Heb. 11 mention)
Samson (Heb. 11 mention)
Judges is raw and ugly. This is unavoidable because it tells Israel’s story during some of its worst days. These were days of turning away from God and towards whatever seemed right in one’s own eyes. The corrupt fruits of this way of thinking and living are evident in the accounts found throughout this book. It is a warning to us of the great evil of living life according to our own thoughts and desires, rather than according to God’s good will.
Thankfully, Judges is also a book that gives us glimpses of a God who saves His people from their sins. God’s mercy and faithfulness shine brightly against the backdrop of Israel’s foolish sin and rebellion. We are taught here that He is willing to save people who don’t deserve His help in the least. It also records God’s kindness to use unlikely instruments to manifest His own glory.
The Prelude-Judges 2:11-3:6 serves as kind of a prelude to the contents of the book to follow.
Generally speaking, Israel continued faithfully as long as Joshua and his generation lived. Their lives had a sanctifying influence. But, the next generation didn’t know God (2:10). How this should move us to pray and work toward the end that God would continually be raising up a generation that knows Him, His word and gospel.
Israel was negligent in not driving out all the nations from the land. Numerous tribes, as recorded in chapter 2, were derelict in their duty to subdue their inheritance and thus shared it with pagan nations. In God’s judgment, He didn’t allow Israel to have victory over all the nations. We also see God’s using these other nations as a sanctifying tool in the lives of Israel (2:20-3:4). The pagan nations’ presence would be used by God to test the hearts of Israel and give an opportunity for the young to learn warfare by experience. There are obvious parallels here to the Christian life. God uses even evil around and in us to teach us spiritual warfare and to test the spiritual temperature of our hearts.
The Ugliness of Sin-Chapters 17 and 18 give us a glimpse of the sin and foolishness that prevailed during this time. A man named Micah made a house of worship. There were gods, an ephod and a teraphim (these were used to try to seek God’s mind on a matter), and he even made one of his sons the priest. Later, a Levite from another area was passing that way looking for a place to live. Micah hired the Levite to be his priest, thinking that surely this would mean the blessing of Jehovah upon him (17:13). Later, the tribe of Dan stole all the religious paraphenalia and took the Levite with them as they went into battle. These strange events are told under the heading of Israel doing that which seemed right in their own eyes (17:6). When people turn away from God, they will construct their own ideas of religion, the nature of God, salvation, and morality. It is foolishness, confusion and darkness. This highlights how essential the Scriptures are to point us to light and truth. God will bring to nothing the foolish wisdom of this world, but proclaims His wisdom in the gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 1:18-31).
The state of things in Gideon’s time also reveals the depths of darkness in Israel. After God called Gideon to His service, the Lord instructed him to throw down the altar of Baal that his father kept. When the men of the city knew what he had done, they demanded Gideon’s death for destroying Baal, rahter than repenting of ever worshipping Baal. To them, Baal’s demise was worse than Almighty God being dishonored and despised! This should call us to awaken to potential and actual idols in our lives, and move us to desire, trust, obey, rejoice and rest in the one, true and Living God alone.
The consequences of sin are also made evident as the nation suffered cruel bondage and oppression from other nations and the deep poverty that resulted. Sin has a price to pay. When human beings forsake God and rebel against Him, the consequences are real and significant. The ultimate consequence is eternal judgment and punishment. Only through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is there deliverance and salvation.
God’s Great Mercy-We see God’s merciful salvation displayed in the stories recorded in this book. He quietly worked behind the scenes in raising up mighty deliverers like Gideon and Samson. He used people who could be seen by many as having strikes against them: Gideon (a man from a poor tribe who was fearful), Ehud (a man who apparently was crippled and could only use his left hand), Deborah and Jael (it was significant that God used these women in a way of leadership and prominence when that was not the norm). In the case of Gideon, God made sure that his army was whittled down to almost nothing. This was purposefully done so that Israel could not boast in the victory, but that all glory would go to God (7:2).
We also see the honesty of Scritpure in revealing the flaws of the “good guys”. This comforts us that God uses imperfect people to accomplish His purposes. But, it also warns and sobers us that though we have grown in grace and been used in God’s service, we are still vulnerable to foolishness and sin. Samson notoriously did not put his sinful lusts to death and suffered greatly for it. Gideon was foolish in that after his great victory, he made an ephod that was a source of sin to him and the nation (8:27).
We see then how that the book of Judges points us to our God and Savior. Our sins bring us low. Only Christ can raise us up. When we fail and make a mess of things, our only recourse is to cry to God for mercy and turn to His word. And even if we have made great progress in Christ, we must continually look to Him for strength, lest we fall. Finally, Judges shows us the ultimate hero of God’s people is not the faithful men and women who follow God (though we appropriately learn from and honor them), but the Righteous One, Jesus Christ. Let us then seek to live life doing that which is right in God’s eyes!
- True or False: The Judges and the Kings worked together at the same time.
- True or False: We should always pray and labor in hopes of God continually raising up generations that know the Lord.
- God used the pagan nations to _________ the hearts of Israel and to teach the young people ________________ by experience.
- When people try to form their own ideas of God, truth, salvation and morality, the result is foolishness, ________________, and _______________.
- True or False: God only uses people to do great things who are super-talented, outwardly successful and have little or no social or physical defects.
- Who were two women in Judges who God worked through in mighty ways?
- When we fail, what is our only recourse?