THE BOOK OF JUDGES – INTRODUCTION
How many books are there in the Bible?
How many of them are inspired?
Have you read the book of Judges?
Why is it called the book of Judges? That sounds very interesting. We love to read stories about people.
Who’s idea was it to put this book in the Bible?
Listen to what Moses said just before he died a lonely death on Mount Nebo:
Deuteronomy 16:18 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
After the death of Moses and Aaron judges were appointed, who constituted the highest civil authority in the land.
The book of Judges is the history of the period that immediately followed the death of Joshua. In that period the governing authority in Israel was vested in judges.
How were they appointed to this high position?
In most cases by God. Theocracy.
Judges 3:15 But when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them: Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. By him the children of Israel sent tribute to Eglon king of Moab.
From what had they to be delivered? From enemies who wanted to destroy them and from their own sins. Typology?
How long were they to rule?
The book of Judges was possibly written during the first seven years of David’s reign prior to his capture of Jerusalem.
Historical Setting. The book covers the period from about 1400 to 1050 Before Christ BC. How do we know?
The discovery of the Amarna tablets from ancient Akhetaten proves that heathen nations occupied Palestine for centuries before Israel arrived there.
Art and architecture show an immediate and marked decline after the invasion of the Hebrews.
When you compare the religious clay tablets from Ugarit the Hebrews showed a vast religious superiority over the native inhabitants.
DID ISRAEL DRIVE OUT THESE DEGRADED CANANITES?
Lacking faith in God. My dear friend here is a lesson for us. It is only by trusting God and obeying His laws that we are able to gain the victory over our enemies.
And who is our biggest enemy?
SYMPATHETIC LOOK AT ISRAEL
What kind of life did they experience in Egypt?
What was it like to spend 40 years in the wilderness?
How many enemies were waiting for them when they entered the Promised Land?
What their occupation before coming to Canaan?
Was it easy to make a transition from a migratory nation to an agricultural one?
Who taught them to farm? What role did the Canaanites deities play in farming?
THE CONTENTS OF JUDGES
When you start reading the book of Judges it is all about war.
When the noise of battle fades away the Canaanites are still in possession of a strong chain of fortified cities.
Cut off as they were from one another by these unconquered cities, the Hebrew tribes were exposed to attack and could only with difficulty form partial confederations against their enemies in order to hold onto the centers they had won in the midst of a hostile population.
Because apostasy and idolatry the Hebrews were unable to resist these onslaughts. When we cherish sin, we are overrun by enemies.
However, the sufferings of bondage produced repentance, causing the people to return to the worship of the Lord once more. And what happened then?
In pity and love for His disobedient children, God would raise up a deliverer or “judge,” who would break the yoke of bondage and judge the people until his death. This is the subject material of the book.
THE MAIN THEME
The main theme that the author of Judges expounds is that sin and apostasy from true religion bring upon a people the displeasure of God.
Is that still the case? Let us not displease God by willful sin and rebellion.
How did God go about to bring them back to His saving love?
He permitted suffering and disaster, which can only be averted by genuine repentance and a return to God.
Can we learn something from their experience and the way God operates to bring us back to Him?
When true repentance occurs, God raises up persons or circumstances that bring deliverance and relief.
The history of the period of the Judges is recorded on a framework that sets forth these broad propositions:
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is the reproach of any people;
Evil companions ruin good intentions and training;
Moral degeneracy always brings with it national weakness.
The affairs of the chosen people, Israel, were under the immediate care of divine Providence.
National sin brings divine punishment but the punishment which sin involves is intended by the Lord to be educational, not vindictive.
The retribution is withdrawn when it has produced sincere repentance.
Deliverance never comes from unaided human efforts, but from the strength and enthusiasm inspired by the Spirit of God.
These propositions, so admirably illustrated by the author in the stories he recounted, elevate the book of Judges from the realm of historical narratives to the position of a sacred philosophy of history.
The inspired author of the book was more concerned about pointing out the lessons to be learned from the history he recorded than about the history itself.
Even a cursory reading of the book of Judges reveals that the author intended to demonstrate that the hand of God was manifest in the events that befell the Israelites in their new homeland.
Is God also interested in what is happening in our lives?
God controlled the eventual outcome in their history. He guided them in such a way that they should learn by experience that their only happiness and safety lay in serving Him.
My dear friend God is aware of what is happening to you and me at this moment. Please allow Him to lead you closer to Him and enjoy His company and His peace.
A minor theme in the book is that the troubles of Israel were due in a large measure to the evil influence of their heathen neighbors.
Someone might ask why, if the idolatrous inhabitants of the land were agents leading the Hebrews into temptation, God did not drive out the Canaanites and Amorites, and thus prevent the apostasy of His people.
The author evidently offers an answer to this objection in chapter 3:1-4.
Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan
2 (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it),
3 namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath.
4 And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
Here he states that the Lord recognizes the value of difficulties in the formation of character. For this reason God left the Canaanites in the land to prove whether Israel would serve Him.
A further purpose of the author was to describe how, under the leadership and blessing of God, a number of small tribes were able to achieve a permanent settlement in a strange and hostile land; how their heroes acquired fame; and how, in the midst of diverse interests and molding influences, loyalty to their one God prevented their absorption by other peoples.
What can we learn from these actions?
The book of Judges falls into five well-marked sections.
It begins with a survey (chs. 1:1 to 2:5) of the partial conquest of the land after it had been allotted to the different tribes by Joshua.
The tribes attacked their particular inheritance alone, or sometimes several of them banded together when confronted by strong resistance.
Despite their efforts, the Israelites were only partially successful in taking possession of the portions of the land allotted to them.
The author presents the narrative in a way to show that the failure of the people was due to their lack of trust and faithfulness to the Lord.
What about my failures?
The relations of Israel with the remaining Canaanites form the background of the history of the ensuing chapters and explain why the judges were necessary.
God knows why we need strong spiritual leaders.
This historical sketch is followed with a second introduction (chs. 2:6 to 3:6), the object of which is to show how the religious apostasy that followed the death of Joshua continued unabated.
The people sank into idolatry and provoked divine retribution. When the people repented, the Lord sent deliverance by means of successive judges.
Having stated his theme, the author then proceeds to recount the history of the tribes under 12 judges (chs. 3:7 to 16:31).
It is a history of sin, ever repeating itself, and of divine grace, constantly devising new means of deliverance.
The heroic deeds of six of these deliverers are related fully, and those of six are merely mentioned with brief detail.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE PEOPLE CHOSE THEIR OWN JUDGE?
The episode of Abimelech’s usurpations is given at length to warn the people of the peril of choosing a monarch who does not meet the divine specifications (see Deut. 17:15).
TWO SHOCKING EPILOGUES
The book ends with two appendixes, both of which describe events that happened in the early part of the judges period.
The first (chs. 17 and 18) gives the narrative of Micah’s idolatry and of the northern sanctuary that housed his images in the tribe of Dan until the death of Eli.
The second appendix (chs. 19 to 21) records the vile AND SHOCKING deed of the Benjamites at Gibeah, and the unreasonable vengeance inflicted on that tribe by the other tribes. Can one calls this a xenophobic attack? What about Lex Talianos?
It ends with an account of the means taken to save the tribe of Benjamin from extinction after they were virtually extirpated for their support of the guilty Gibeonites.
May God come close to us to warn us against the perilous results of disobedience. May He discipline us in love in order to save us.
And when He comes in the clouds of heaven to take us to the eternal Promised Land, may we be among that happy, sinless and immortal beings to take up residence in that better deathless, painless country.