Judges 2 Commentary

We saw from the end of Judges 1 that Israel had not taken all the land that God had promised them. But why? Is God unfaithful? Did he break his promise with the children of Israel to drive out the Canaanites? Let’s read God’s explanation of this series of events in 2:1-3.

2:1 ¶ And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. 2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? 3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.

An angel or messenger or emissary of the Lord goes up – just like Judah did at the beginning of this lesson. But this going up is not hopeful. It’s sorrowful. The messenger comes from Gilgal – the place where Israel camped when they first entered the land under Joshua. It’s where the men of Israel renewed the covenant of circumcision after their fathers failed to implement that rite for them.

And this messenger has a really somber message. God delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. He brought them into their promised land. He swore to never break his covenant with them. And he only asked them to not join hands with the wicked pagans but to destroy them. And Israel didn’t listen. So God refuses to drive out the Canaanites any longer. And as a result things will surely get worse from here on out. The people weep and sacrifice in verses 4 and 5. But they really need to get rid of the pagans and do what God wants them to do. Apparently they don’t do it.

For us, are you struggling with some life-dominating sin? Do you suppose the Lord is allowing you to experience that because you’re disobeying him in some other area? Have you dabbled with the world enough that perhaps the Lord has let you go to some degree? And now you’re able to enjoy unhindered the world and all its passing pleasures. How do you like it? It’s not what you thought it would be, is it? It’s not fun. It’s not fulfilling. It’s burdensome.

What does God call people who claim to be his and yet are friends of the world? Enemies. Adulteresses. It sounds hopeless. No, it’s not. God gives you the solution. Are you a sinner? Cleanse your hands. Are you double-minded? Purify your heart. How does this sound in this day when positive thinking is held in such high esteem? Be miserable and mourn and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Here’s what all this indicates – that you are humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God. And if you do this, what’s his promise? He will exalt you. Draw near to God. What will he do in response? He’ll draw near to you. That’s a promise.

May the Lord help us to get and stay on the path of progressive sanctification – rather than the path that Israel chose of Progressive Canaanization.

Open to the 1st chapter of the book of Judges. Judges, chapter 1.

We’re actually going to be studying Judges 2:6 – 3:6. But we’ll start in verse 1 of chapter 1. The book of Judges opens on this note – “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” And then what we saw in our last lesson was the children of Israel failing again and again in worse and worse ways to drive out the wicked nations around them. That’s a summary of the entire first chapter of this book.

Then we saw the first section end in 2:1-5. If you read the first chapter you might wonder why the Israelites kept failing. Verses 1 through 5 explain it. They explain it to us. But they also explained it to the Israelites of those days. The Israelites couldn’t possess the land and drive out the Canaanites. Why? End of 2:2. “…but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?” Then God says – through his angel or messenger that he sent – that he’s not going to drive the Canaanites out anymore. The people weep. But did they truly repent? I think not.

Judges 2:6-9

And then we get to chapter 2 verse 6 – the beginning of our section for today. Let’s read 2:6-9.

KJV Judges 2:6 ¶ And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land. 7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.

Wait a second. Why are we talking about Joshua again? I thought he died back at the start of chapter 1. If you just kind of read right through the first two chapters of this book and you weren’t thinking straight you might get the idea that Joshua died twice! Of course, that’s not the case. But this is where it’s really helpful to recognize that the author of this book included not one introduction but two of them.

Well, why two and not just one? The first introduction involved all things that the Israelites themselves could experience. They heard about the battles. They saw and listened to the messenger who came to proclaim punishment. They would humanly experience all these things. But here in 2:6 through 3:6 it’s like the narrator pulls us aside away from the scenes of failure and punishment in this book and lets us in on God’s perspective on the situation. So that’s what to expect in this section. God’s perspective on his people’s disobedience.

Judges 2:10

But so far in this section we haven’t heard anything about disobedience, have we? All the people served the Lord throughout the time of Joshua. They even obeyed during the lifetime of the elders who outlived Joshua. Obedience – as we saw in the book of Joshua – was the behavior of the day. I wonder what happens after those elders die. Let’s read verse 10.

10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers [so the elders who survived Joshua are dead – now what?]: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

I’ve heard the following phrase applied to the concept we read about in verse 10 – “generation degeneration”. A degeneration happening between one generation leaving and another rising up. And in this case the degeneration isn’t physical or anything – it’s spiritual. This new generation didn’t know the Lord. What? They didn’t know about Yahweh, the awesome God of Israel? I think they probably knew about him. They had heard about him. They knew their fathers worshipped him. But this new generation by-and-large did not have an experiential knowledge of Yahweh. They certainly wouldn’t have been reflecting the sentiment of the Apostle Paul who counted all things as loss for the exceeding value of knowing Christ. They weren’t pressing on to know this God of their fathers.

And so it’s predictable that this new generation wouldn’t have known the works that Yahweh had done for Israel. Again, did they know their Hebrew History? Yes, of course. The generation that preceded them was commanded to teach their children. They set up stones near the Jordan to prompt them to tell their children about God drying up the river so Israel could cross over. The former generation would have practiced circumcision and celebrated the Passover – both of which communicated volumes about Israel’s God. This new generation knew about God’s acts for his people… But they hadn’t experienced such acts for themselves.

There are a number of young adults here who live under their parents’ roof. Do you know the Lord? Do you know his mighty acts that he’s done for his people? Have you experienced Christ? Have you realized that your sin is so immense and offensive that it is sending you to hell? Have you turned from it and received Christ’s payment for that sin?

If you haven’t, ultimately we’re not going to blame your parents. If they are trying to raise you in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, what more can they do? Ultimately the responsibility for each generation of those who associate themselves with God’s people to experientially know the Lord lies on… that generation – not the previous one. The burden is yours to know the Lord.

And nevertheless, parents… are you telling your kids about the things God has done in your life. God gave the Israelites a pile of rocks to prompt them to remind their kids about spiritual realities. If rocks prompt you to speak to your child about the Lord, I won’t stop you. But you don’t need rocks. Do your children know how God saved you? Are you helping them see how God has led your family along through some wildernesses? Do you know the gospel and the Scriptures well enough to explain some things to them? Tell your family what you know – and keep learning and knowing the Lord yourself so that you’ll be able to teach others also.

Judges 2:11-15

Well, the new generation in Israel didn’t know the Lord. And do you know what happens when an entire generation doesn’t know the Lord? Verses 11 through 15.

11 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. 15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.

The Israelites served foreign gods. Who are these gods anyway? There are two mentioned by name. Baal and Ashtaroth. Baal was a Canaanite god. He was supposed to have been in charge of storms. Storms seem unpleasant to us 21st century westerners, but ask a farmer or a gardener how their business does without the right amount of rain storms. When life depends upon your fields yielding produce, rain is essential and storms are the vehicle by which rain is delivered. It’s like today if you worked in an office and the internet goes down. How much can you really get done? Not too much. So Baal was an attractive god. He brought the rain, supposedly. And rain brought fertility to the land in the form of produce. So apparently Baal was also viewed as a fertility god. Fertility – not only in relation to the ground – but also in relation to bearing children so that you could have workers to work the family farm. And I hardly want to mention this, but to the best of my understanding, the worshippers of Baal would try to assist Baal in bringing fertility. How? You’ve read elsewhere in the Bible of “temple prostitutes”. Well, through participating in immorality with these prostitutes the worshippers of Baal believed they would encourage their perverted false god to bring fertility to their ground and to their family.

OK, what about Ashtaroth? She was a female deity often represented by a wooden pillar of some sort. In the make-believe world of ancient Canaanite false religion, Ashtaroth was the mate of Baal. Apparently their activities together produced rain.

Believe it or not, I’ve tried to be pretty restrained in what I just explained. Because it’s defiling just thinking about what the ancient Canaanites – and this new apostate Israelite generation – believed. But it’s reality. It’s how people thought in those days. It’s the thick darkness in which they were operating. Aren’t you glad things aren’t that way these days?…

No, these days it’s much better. Right? Instead of our society so focused on fertility in every area of life, abortion is the interest of the day. You thought it took a lot of imagination to believe that stuff about Baal and Ashteroth? Well, it takes just as much imagination to pretend that the little baby in the womb being torn to pieces during the so-called “medical procedure” of abortion isn’t a little baby – that somehow this doesn’t constitute murder. This all takes quite a bit of imagination – or, really, blindness.

And maybe that issue hits close to home. It does for various ones of us to different degrees. But maybe for most of us abortion – it’s an issue, but it’s rather distant. It doesn’t affect us immediately. Hey, even some lost people think abortion is wrong. Could there be other delusions that we as God’s people are more likely to buy into?

What is your life about anyway? What’s the goal? Is it comfort and wealth? You know how to find out? Take the comfort and wealth away. You’ll see really quick if that’s what you’ve been serving. Now, we’re all supposed to labor. If we don’t work we don’t eat. But how subtle is the god of money. It, like other things, is a great servant but a horrible master. Jesus warned in very plain terms – you cannot, CANNOT serve God and money. Those two deities battle each other for worshippers. You would probably agree that the whole Baal thing is rather silly. And you’d be right. But do you see the foolishness of deifying money – pretending like it can solve all your problems? It won’t. Only Yahweh, the God of the Scriptures is powerful to save and deliver and provide.

Baal worship was ridiculous. Did the people need water? Did they need children? Who sends the rain? Baal? No, the Lord. Who opens the womb? Baal? No — the Lord. The modern western idol of money is equally ridiculous. Do we need things – clothes, shelter, food, transportation – in this modern world? You better believe it. Does money ultimately give us this stuff? Does money have power in itself to give us what we truly need? No, that’s the Lord’s job. He uses money. But let us be so careful to worship the Creator rather than the creature. Lord, help us to see this idol – and every idol — for what they truly are – false.

So this is what the Israelites were doing – following the false gods of the pagan world around them. And God had to respond. And God’s response isn’t pleasant. He’s provoked to anger. Israel was his. He made a covenant with her. And now she’s going off and — from God’s point of view – acting like a prostitute. He’s been nothing but good to her. And so he reacts with justifiable anger. God delivers Israel to plunderers who plunder them. He sells them to their enemies before whom they can’t stand. […Remember Joshua…?]

And this is all according to the promise God made back in Deuteronomy. Remember? If Israel obeyed – blessing – abundance of every sort. But on the flip side, disobedience brought a curse. And you remember some of what he threatened them with. Their enemies would defeat them. They’d be utterly destroyed. He would exile them from their land. He’d send diseases upon them. And on and on. So, I’m sure that’s what you’re ready for. You’re ready for Yahweh to just annihilate this disobedient people. Send them out of the land!

Judges 2:16

But let’s see what God actually does in reaction to the faithlessness of his people. Verse 16.

16 ¶ Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.

Nevertheless! Despite Israel’s utter unfaithfulness, despite her direct disobedience, despite the ridiculous pagan practices and beliefs they had adopted – God sent salvation to them. That word translated legitimately as “delivered” in other places is translated as “save”. That word is the “shua” in the name Joshua –Yah (the Lord) Shua (Saves). So in the face of direct disobedience and rebellion, the Lord sends “saviors” to his people. And they save Israel from their enemies.

The “saviors” are called judges. That’s where we get the name of the book, of course. But a judge to us in our culture isn’t the same as what we see these individuals doing. These biblical judges aren’t sitting in robes at desks with gavel in hand interpreting the laws and rendering verdicts. No, these judges are really the equivalent of tribal leaders. So, remember that. These judges that we will see starting in our next lesson are tribal leaders – leaders of the tribes of Israel. Sometimes they lead just one tribe. Sometimes several. Sometimes you wonder if they’re leading at all – like Samson. But these individuals – the judges – are simply leaders of tribes.

Judges 2:17-18

So, wonderful! The Lord sent tribal leaders to save his people! That should do it. No need to write any more after this verse, right? No, these tribal leaders weren’t always real effective. And further, it wasn’t always their own fault. Let’s read verse 17.

 17 And yet they [Israel] would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.

Again, we see Israel’s treachery against Yahweh. Surely he would be justified in just annihilating them on the spot. Right? I mean, he’s been so good to them. And he promised to ultimately exile them if they disobey him. He’d be right to carry out his sentence of judgment on them. But here’s where we really learn about the heart of our God. Let’s read verse 18.

 18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.

It repented the Lord. The Lord felt pity and compassion for his people. He felt sorry for their extremity. But it was their own sin that brought the extremity! Let ‘em have it, I say! But that’s not the heart of our God. Isn’t the Lord amazing? He must punish sin. And yet he is moved with pity for his pitiful sinful creatures. And he’s the same way today.

Judges 2:19-23

You would think that all the compassion God shows his people would cause them to turn to him. And sometimes it does. But often it doesn’t change the recipients of that compassion at all. Verse 19.

 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

What’s the ultimate result when God’s sinful people reject his compassion? Verses 20 through 23.

20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; 21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: 22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. 23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.

What reason does God give for leaving the pagan nations in Israel? There are two. The first is because they wouldn’t listen to God’s voice. We heard that already back in the first five verses of chapter 2. But now we’re introduced to another reason God left those nations in Canaan – to test Israel to see if they’ll obey the Lord like their fathers did. Well, of course, this new generation ended up not following the Lord like their fathers did. And those nations that God left did end up revealing whether Israel would obey or not. Of course, most all Israel disobeyed the Lord.

And isn’t it interesting what God says at the end of verse 23? Something that God determined after the death of Joshua affected what happened during Joshua’s life time. How do you explain this? Apparently God knew that this generation degeneration was going to happen and so even back in the days of Joshua he didn’t allow Joshua to conquer all the land. Interesting.

Judges 3:1-4

Next, in chapter 3, verses 1 through 4 we get a list of the nations that God left in Canaan and a few more pieces of information.

Judges 1 Commentary

Open your Bible to the 1st chapter of the book of Judges.

Judges 1 Commentary: Last Time

Last week we got a broad overview of this book. We saw its three main sections – the double introduction, followed by the cycles of judges in the middle of the book, and closed by the double conclusion. And through all of these sections and chapters we see a general downward progression in Israel’s morals, character, and worship. The degeneration evident in this book can get to be offensive and repulsive. In fact, at one point during the message last week I was overcome with a sense of how horrible things had really become in Israel during this time. I saw pained looks on some of your faces. Hopefully that wasn’t just a reaction to my teaching style! I think that was a reaction to the way this book portrays life in the days of the Judges. It was wicked. It was unclean. It was the kind of culture that God himself would have to judge and punish. In fact, if these Israelites didn’t turn from their sins and embrace the God of Israel they would need to be driven from their land…

Wait. You know, that kind of situation sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? A society becoming so wicked that God had to punish it by driving it from its land? And what I’m primarily thinking about is not our nation, though we are well-deserving of God’s punishment. What I see of the Israelites in the book of Judges – from start to finish – looks a lot like what I’ve heard about regarding the Canaanites. Why did God drive the Canaanites out of their land? Was it not for their constant and grave sin against the Lord? Why did God eventually after hundreds of years of patience need to drive the Israelites from their land? Was it not their constant and grave sin against the Lord? Yeah. So, what are we seeing here in the book of Judges, ultimately? If you were trying to summarize the events of this book, what would you say?

Some say the book is an apology for the monarchy. So someone in David’s time wants to write a book defending why Israel needs a king. Now, there surely is a sense in which this book shows us Israel’s need for a king – someone who will rule over them and help them do right in the Lord’s eyes. And yet, a human king didn’t do the trick, as we saw last week.

I think you can summarize the entire book of Judges like this: The Canaanizing of Israel. The double introduction shows how this process of Canaanizing started. The middle section relating the cycle of Judges shows us the increasing influence of the neighboring pagans over Israel. And the distressing double conclusion relates the utter saturation of Israel with the wickedness and godlessness of the surrounding Canaanites. The book of Judges. The Canaanizing of Israel.

Judges 1 Commentary: Progressive Canaanization

So today we’ll take a close look at the first of the two introductions to the book of Judges — 1:1 to 2:5. In our Christian lives we talk about this phenomenon called progressive sanctification. Well, what we see in this first introduction is basically the opposite of that process. So, in this lesson we’ll take a look at Progressive Canaanization. Not progressive sanctification – growing in holiness and Christliskeness. But progressive Canaanization – being conformed to the image of the ungodly pagan world around us.

Let’s read verses 1 through 3.

KJV Judges 1:1 ¶ Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? 2 And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. 3 And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.

So, Joshua is now dead. Israel needs to complete the task that Joshua started that nation on. Joshua had led them to incredible victories. The land was taken. Now it needed to be possessed by Israel. Let’s see how they do.

All of Israel asked the Lord who should go up to fight against the Canaanites. This is noble. It shows that at least at the outset the Israelites cared about God’s priorities. They wanted to drive out the Canaanites initially.

And so the Lord tells them that the tribe of Judah should go up first. He gives the promise that he’s with them and has already delivered the land into their hand.

So, what does Judah do? The tribe actually turns around and asks Simeon to go and help them. That’s a little strange. Why would Judah need Simeon? Yes, Simeon lived within the tribe of Judah. They lived with each other, basically. But God said Judah would go. Why invite Simeon? I won’t make any more of that, but it’s just interesting. One commentary I read wondered if this is a sign of weakness in Judah – that they were too afraid or faithless to go alone? Maybe. But the text doesn’t explicitly say that’s the case, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Can I make a few points of application from this much that we’ve read thus far? Do you see some similarities to the Christian life from this passage? Israel has been handed a major victory. So have we. The Lord has saved us from sin’s penalty. Our flesh has been given a knock-out punch. Israel had to drive out the remaining Canaanites. If they didn’t, the Canaanites would become a major stumbling block to Israel. For you and I, we need to resist the world. It’s actively trying to shape us into its mold. We need to be transformed by renewing our minds.

And we’re not alone in this. Israel all together asked the Lord about who ought to attack the Canaanites first. Judah asked Simeon to help them, and maybe that was a good thing. Certainly in our Christian walk it’s alright and even advisable to not be islands unto ourselves. Iron sharpens iron. We’re not to forsake assembling together, but rather we need to encourage one another – day after day! Why? So that none of us would be hardened. How? By the deceitfulness of sin. We have internal Canaanites, so to speak, and they’re actively trying to shape us into their image. We need the fellowship of one another to keep us from being hardened.

How are you doing with this? When you come to church you can make small talk. You can talk about things that matter to you day in and day out – things like our homes and family and jobs and vehicles and health. In fact, we need to talk about these things. It’s legitimate. But do we forget to check up on one another spiritually? Are we individually walking with the Lord so that when we come to this place we actually have something to say?

Judges 1 Commentary: Judah and Simeon

Well, Israel asks God who should go up and fight the enemy. Judah should go. He takes Simeon. And let’s read verses 4 through 7.

4 And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. 5 And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6 But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. 7 And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.

So, Judah and Simeon go up, elevationally. That’s what the text says. They go up and attack a city named Bezek. Eventually Judah and Simeon capture the Lord of Bezek. And when they find him they cut off his thumbs and big toes. What’s the deal with that? Why would they do that? Let Adoni Bezek tell you. It’s divine retribution. This pagan ruler acknowledges that God’s people are being used in this case to be agents of God’s punishment. The Lord of Bezek tells us that he had 70 kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off picking up scraps under his table. And Adoni Bezek ends his aside with this statement, “as I have done, so God hath requited me.” God is paying me back.

Wow. So, what do we take away from this account? Do you suppose that the Israelites were mindful that they were agents of God’s judgment on the Canaanites? Surely some of them had this in mind. But I wonder if many Israelites didn’t think too much about that. Many were probably happy enough to be getting God’s benefits – free land, free homes, free fields. All for the taking. They just had to kill a few Canaanites to get it.

Did you know that God has a purpose for your life? He wants to bless you. He offers great and eternal reward for serving him. We’re not like Israel in the sense that we’re not killing God’s enemies. We’re actually delivering the news of eternal life to them. We’re not wrestling against flesh and blood as Israel did. We have an unseen enemy that we’re battling. And as we go about engaging in these things let us be mindful that God has divine purposes for the things he brings us through. He has a reason for your sufferings. He has a purpose for your having to deal with that difficult person or situation or temptation.

So, Israel takes Adoni Bezek on to their next destination – Jerusalem. And there he dies. Let’s read verses 8 through 15.

8 Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley. 10 And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai. 11 ¶ And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher: 12 And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. 14 And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her [donkey]; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou? 15 And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.

So Bezek and Jerusalem were “up” in terms of elevation. Starting in verse 9 they start their descent “down”. They attack Hebron and kill Anakim – the giants who scared the 10 spies at Kadesh Barnea.  Then they took what one commentary playfully calls “Bookville” – Kiriath Sepher, which basically means bookville or city of the book. And it’s here that we see this account of Caleb, Othniel, and Achsah. Remember? We saw this in the book of Joshua before. Caleb gave Achsah land in the desert. So she wanted springs of water to kind of balance out her land holdings.

Now, Othniel is the first judge mentioned in this book – here and in the section known as the cycles of the judges. And he gets married to this woman Achsah. I just want to briefly contrast this first judge and his wife to the last judge Samson and his… wives? Othniel marries within Israel to the daughter of one of the most faithful men in the land. Samson? He marries outside of his people to members of Israel’s enemies. Achsah could be considered opportunistic. She’s wanting all the land she can get, seeing as it’s so free and plentiful. What about Samson’s love interests? Think of Delilah. She’s opportunistic. But in a horrible way. She’s ready to sell her man to his enemies for money. Achsah is using her influence to persuade her father to give her – and certainly her husband Othniel – more land. Quite a contrast.

Ladies, can I encourage you to be an Achsah rather than a Delilah? Achsah nobly moved her husband to ask for a field from Caleb. But it actually sounds like she went ahead and did it. Why didn’t Othniel do it? I don’t know. Maybe he was too busy with other things. But it was in Achsah’s husband’s best interest to get this extra field. Sounds sort of like the woman in Proverbs 31, doesn’t she? Delilah on the other hand? She moved her “husband” – though she wasn’t actually married to Samson – she moved Samson to tell her his secret that would lead to his destruction. What was her motivation? The betterment of her husband-figure Samson? No. Money. Her own personal selfish gain. But what do you expect from Delilah? She is a Canaanite, after all.

So, back to the story line here. A while back Moses asked his father-in-law to come with Israel to the promised land. His father-in-law was a Kenite. And we finally see his group entering the promised land. Let’s read verse 16.

16 ¶ And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.

The Kenites go from Jericho – the city of palms – to a place in the Judean desert. Is this alright? I think it is. Apparently the Kenites came to Jericho after Israel had conquered it. So I would suppose they came in with Joshua’s approval at least.

And we’ll see more about the Kenites in the episode about Deborah and Barak later in the book.

OK, now Judah has his territory. So now Judah can go with Simeon to conquer his territory.

17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah. 18 Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof. 19 And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

20 And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.

We need to point out a few things here. First, Judah and Simeon utterly destroyed Zephath. This is exactly what the Lord commanded Moses and Moses commanded Israel. This is exactly what Joshua led Israel to do during the conquest of the land. The word translated “utterly destroy” (cherem) is found 28 times in the book of Joshua. So you’d expect to find it much more in the book of Judges, right? The people need to keep doing what they were charged to do! Here’s a pretty stunning fact. This word cherem is used twice in the book of Judges. The first use is here. Can you guess where the second and final use of it is in this book? Probably not. I don’t blame you. I’ll tell you. It’s actually in chapter 21. That’s where the elders are trying to figure out how to not have Benjamin wiped off the map by finding wives for them. The elders advise that all Israel utterly destroy (cherem) the men of Jabesh-Gilead. What a contrast. Here Simeon and Judah are directing the cherem toward foreign pagan enemies. But by the end of this book they’re directing the cherem toward their own people. By that point they’re pretty thoroughly Canaanized.

And one sign of worldliness in us is quarrels and strifes – petty fighting amongst each other, gossiping, back-biting. I’m not talking about legitimate communications about genuine differences. I’m not talking about biblical discipline and confrontation. But the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians that one evident sign of that church’s carnality was their jealousy and strife amongst themselves. Be careful that you’re not focusing your resources away from doing God’s work of fighting our unseen enemies with your spiritual arsenal that you have in Christ in order to exchange friendly fire with your brethren.

One last thing to note about this section. Judah and Simeon did great. Really, no one did better than these two. But they didn’t drive out the Canaanites from the valley. Their excuse? Iron chariots, which no doubt would have been formidable in the valleys. But don’t you remember the great army that gathered against Joshua in Northern Canaan? More numerous than the sand on the shore. And yet God gave them victory over that army. And those folks had chariots! Curious.

And it’s just downhill from here. Let’s read about Benjamin in verse 21.

21 And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.

So even though Judah and Simeon burned Jerusalem, Benjamin still couldn’t drive out the inhabitants. The Jebusites would likely have been pretty weakened by Judah’s previous attack. Why could Benjamin not drive them out? Well, no time to ponder that further.

Up to this point we’ve heard about three tribes in the south of Israel. Now we turn to the north. Verses 22 through 24.

22 ¶ And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them. 23 And the house of Joseph sent to descry [“catch sight of”] Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.) 24 And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.

Interesting that Joseph had to re-capture Bethel. I wonder how the Canaanites got back into that city. They had been defeated with Ai back in Joshua.

This story of Joshua parallels that of Judah and Simeon. This is another united effort against the Canaanites. But the results aren’t nearly as impressive. For example, why is Joseph showing this Canaanite mercy? They should be showing him cherem! Let’s see what happens to this guy anyway. Verses 25 and 26.

25 And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family. 26 And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.

So they let the Canaanite go and he goes and starts another Canaanite city. Not smart. So, that’s how the united tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh did. Pretty underwhelming. But let’s see what they did separately. Verses 27 through 29.

27 ¶ Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. 28 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.

29 ¶ Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.

I don’t like the pattern I’m seeing develop here. Yes, the Canaanites were pressed into forced labor when Israel was strong, but why didn’t they just drive them out when Israel was strong? Why didn’t they utterly destroy the Canaanites? Not good.

Well, let’s see if any of the other northern tribes fare any better. Verses 30 through 36.

30 ¶ Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.

31 ¶ Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob: 32 But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out.

33 ¶ Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.

34 ¶ And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley: 35 But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.

36 And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.

Asher and Naphtali kind of change the course of things and bring it down to a new low. The Canaanites don’t live among them. Now, these two tribes live among the Canaanites. The situation with the tribe of Dan is even worse. Dan was forced into the hill country because just like Judah they couldn’t handle the Canaanites in the valley. And the end of this sad tale is told in verse 36 where we’re told not of Israel’s boundary, but of the Amorites’.

But why? Is God unfaithful? Did he break his promise with the children of Israel to drive out the Canaanites? Let’s read God’s explanation of this series of events in our Judges 2 Commentary.

Judges Bible Study

Judges Summary: Open your Bible to the book of Judges. Judges, chapter 1.

We’re about to embark on what I trust will be a pretty exciting noteworthy voyage through the book of Judges.

Judges Bible Study
From the Beginning

But before we get to the book itself, let’s remind ourselves of how we got here.

Where should we start?… How about Genesis 1:1 – in the beginning! God created the universe in 6 literal 24-hour days and rested on the 7th. He made man – Adam and Eve. With the serpent’s influence they sinned against God, incurring a curse but also receiving a promise of One who would crush that old serpent’s head.

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Noah & the Flood

Generations go on and the world is so wicked that God needs to destroy it with a flood. But he saves a man named Noah and his three sons in an ark. After the flood, Noah gets drunk from wine and his son mocks him in this state. So when Noah wakes up from his alcohol he curses not the son himself, but the son’s son – whose name was Canaan!

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Generations go on and eventually we meet a man named Abraham. God takes him out of an idolatrous land and family and promises him the land of that cursed grandson of Noah — Canaan. God continues that promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his son, Jacob. Jacob and his children go down to Egypt and stay there for over 400 years.

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Generations go on and finally God raises up Moses to lead his people back to the land of Canaan, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sojourned. But Moses gets angry with the rebellious people on the way and so Joshua is tasked with leading the people into the land. And it was his book that we studied for the past 12 week of adult Sunday School.

Judges Bible Study

Joshua did a great job. He was a faithful man. Further, the people were obedient under his leadership. Yes, there was Achan’s sin. Yes, there was Gibeon’s deceit. Yes, many of the tribes were reluctant to take their land. But overall, the book of Joshua focused on the obedience of the people to their leader, Joshua, and to their God, the Lord.

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After Joshua…

But, like all human leaders, Joshua dies. The tribes have their land. They have no leader. They have enemies within their borders. How will the tribes fare under these circumstances? Will they rise to the occasion? Will they sink like a led balloon? We’ll find out in this book.

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The Plan

This lesson will be an overview of the whole book and maybe even beyond. My plan is then to start next week teaching through the major sections in the book. I imagine this might last for about 10 or 12 lessons. Then we’ll study the book of Ruth, Lord-willing for a few weeks. And then… we’ll see!

The Value of a Judges Bible Study Like This

I think these overview lessons are helpful to give us a lay of the land. And really, in the book of Judges this kind of broad knowledge of the book is indispensable. Really, you and I have to wrestle with a lot of ambiguity and confusion in this book. For example, is Samson someone we should emulate? Is he a good example to put in front of your children? “Junior, be like Samson!” Some even get the idea that Samson is a type of Christ in the Old Testament. So, is he a good guy? Or is Samson a selfish, pleasure-driven, immoral, disobedient, horrible example of a man? People walk away from this book with either set of thoughts about this character. But I hope that what we cover in this lesson will help us understand how to view the various characters and actions in this book.

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So, let’s start with the structure of the book. You mean chapter divisions? Not just that. There are three main sections in the book of Judges.

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Introduction (1:1 – 3:6)

Chapter 1, verse 1 through chapter 3, verse 6 form the introduction to the book. Only, it’s not a typical introduction. It’s actually considered a double-introduction. What does that mean?

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Introduction 1 (1:1 – 2:5)

It’s split up into two sections. The first introduction is in 1:1 to 2:5. The individual tribes are trying to drive out the Canaanites from their territory. Well, at least they were at first. Judah and Simeon start doing this. And they do fairly well. But there are places where even they fail. Benjamin is next and he fails to drive the Canaanites out. The two tribes of Joseph have some measure of success, but ultimately they fail. Zebulun couldn’t drive them out but they put them to forced labor. Asher though? They utterly failed so that it’s not stated that the Canaanites lived among them, but rather they lived among the Canaanites! Same with Naphtali. And lastly, with Dan, that tribe was all but driven out of their territory by the Canaanites, rather than vice versa. Finally, in the first five verses of chapter two God rebukes the people because they didn’t obey his covenant. And that’s the end of the first introduction. To summarize, we see in this first introduction – Israel succumbing to foreign armies.

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Introduction 2 (2:6 – 3:6)

The second section runs from 2:6 to 3:6. The emphasis in this section isn’t failures on the military side of things. The failure in this section is the in the religious side. God condemns the Israelites for intermarrying with the Canaanites and worshiping their gods. This is also the section where we see this cycle with Israel – they disobey, God sends them oppressors, Israel cries out to God, God sends them a judge to deliver them, the land has rest. So we could summarize this section as Israel succumbing to foreign idols.

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Conclusion (17:1 – 21:25)

So that’s the double introduction to this book. Another unique feature we find in the book of Judges is its conclusion. We find the conclusion starting in 17:1, running to the end of the book in 21:25. And wouldn’t you know it? It’s actually a double conclusion! We had a double introduction. And now we have a double conclusion.

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Conclusion 1 (17:1 – 18:31)

The first of the two conclusions runs from 17:1 to 18:31. There’s a man in Ephraim named Micah. He steals his mother’s silver. She issues a curse about it. He apparently feels some guilt over the situation and gives it back to her. She blesses him in the name of the Lord and promptly has an idol made in his honor. Micah sets up a shrine for the idol and makes one of his kids the priest of it. Then 17:6 – “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” No kidding!

OK, A Levite from Bethlehem leaves that city and starts wondering. He finds Micah and is offered a job as his household priest, caring for Micah’s idolatrous sanctuary. The Levite agrees. Chapter 18, verse 1 – “In those days there was no king in Israel…” You don’t say!

The tribe of Dan was basically forced out of its territory by the Canaanites earlier. So they’re looking for somewhere else. They send out five men to spy out the land. These men come to Micah’s house, see the idol and the Levite and continue on. They find a spot where Sidonians live on the north border of Israel in Laish. The five then return to base and report to their brethren. Then 600 men of Dan armed for war go out to conquer their new land in the north. On the way there they steal Micah’s idol and idolatrous Levite. Micah confronts them, but they basically tell him to go home. The 600 men take Laish and settle there. And at the end of this first conclusion it seems like the idolatrous Levite is named. He’s Jonathan the son of Gershom who is the son of… the text says Manasseh. But there’s reason to believe that the Hebrew originally said Moses. We’ll explore that down the road. But assuming it is meant to say “Moses” rather than “Manasseh” what does that mean? It means that two generations after Moses, his own grandson is an idolater. Wow.

So that’s the first conclusion. It corresponds to the second introduction. The second introduction dealt with Israel succumbing to foreign idols. Now in this first conclusion they’re succumbing to idols once more. But this time they’re not foreign, they’re home-grown – domestic idols.

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Conclusion 2 (19:1 – 21:25)

That leads us to the second conclusion. 19:1-21:25. Read 19:1 – “And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel…” With no king to direct Israel we hear of another unfortunate episode in their history. A Levite in Ephraim takes a concubine from Bethlehem. His concubine commits adultery on him and runs away to her home in Bethlehem. The Levite eventually goes after her and wins her back. After celebrating with her father for several days, the Levite and his concubine leave to return to Ephraim. They could pull over into Jerusalem, but the right reverent Levite refuses to stay in the city of foreigners! So they go on to Gibeah in Benjamin, the future birth place of King Saul. The Levite and his concubine are invited into the house of an old man. This house is attacked by Benjamites who want to commit immorality with the Levite. So the Levite throws his concubine out to them, who is then horrifically violated until she dies.

The Levite comes out of the house the next morning, finds the dead concubine, and sends pieces of her body all throughout Israel. Everyone is shocked. Rightfully so. All Israel gathers to battle not foreigners, but now their own brethren. They go up against Benjamin and eventually destroy all but about 1000 men of the whole tribe. The people then lament that they vowed to not give their daughters to Benjamin. Because now Benjamin will cease to be a tribe in Israel! But they have a great idea. Was there any group who didn’t go up with all Israel against Benjamin? Yes, the men of Jabesh-Gilead! OK, kill the men and married women for not helping and then take the virgins and give them to Benjamin. Great idea! Except there aren’t enough virgins. So the elders come up with another great idea! Have the men of Benjamin go steal some virgins from another city to be their wives. If their fathers protest, just tell them it’s OK. Benjamin needs wives. And you fathers won’t be breaking your promise to not give your girls to them because you didn’t voluntarily give them! They’re being stolen!

This second conclusion ends on this familiar note (21:25) – “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

This second conclusion relates to the first introduction. In the first introduction we had Israel succumbing to foreign armies. Now we have Israel succumbing to civil war – not war with the Canaanites, war with fellow Israelites. What a sad state of affairs.

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Cycle of the Judges (3:7 – 16:31)

So we have the introductions and the conclusions, none of which is encouraging. All of it shows a general downward progression. And in the middle of that we have the body of the book. It’s the “cycle of Judges” in 3:7 through 16:31.

Judges Bible Study
12 Judges

We’re told of twelve judges in all. Six are major judges (Othniel, Ehud, Barak/Deborah, Gideon/Abimelech, Jephthah, and Samson) and six are minor judges (Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon). What makes a judge major or minor? Basically, it comes down to the amount of words written about him. The judges that have a verse or two dedicated to describing them get the title “minor judge”. While the judges with several verses or several chapters given to telling their story are known as “major judges”. Both types of judges probably did the same kinds of things. It’s just that the Lord chose to record the activities of the six major judges at greater length than he did with the minor judges.

Judges Bible Study

These judges were regional. They did judge Israel and they were charged with delivering Israel from their enemies. But it’s obvious from an alert reading of the book that they ruled only in certain parts of Israel at one time. Othniel was in Judah in the south of Israel. Just north of that, Ehud is from Benjamin. Deborah and Barak are north of Benjamin in the tribe of Ephraim. North of Ephraim in the tribe of Manasseh is where Gideon judged and his son Abimelech ruled as king. So the progression thus far has been from south to north. For the last two judges it seems like the movement is from east to west. Jephthah was in Gilead east of the Jordan River – around the area of the other half tribe of Manasseh. And lastly, Samson was from the tribe of Dan. Since he’s battling with Philistines I believe he’s in the southern territory of Dan, not in the far north, like we heard about them capturing in the conclusion to this book.

Judges Bible Study
In and Out Groups

Even these six major judges are split into two groups. Othniel, Ehud, and Deborah/Barak are considered by some as the “in-group”. What does that mean? Well, they’re viewed as somewhat noble and well-bred. That’s as opposed to the so-called “out-group” of Gideon/Abimelech, Jephthah, and Samson. Think of this second group – the “out-group”. Gideon’s father constructed an idol of Baal. Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. Samson was ignoble in practically every way.

Meanwhile, Othniel and Ehud are viewed almost completely positively. Yes, Barak received dishonor for needing a woman to go along with him to help him. But otherwise he’s portrayed as being alright.

But things take a decided turn for the worse when Gideon steps onto the scene. He tests God with his fleece. He’s encouraged to obey God only after hearing of the dream of a member of the pagan enemy. He constructs an ephod that Israel worships while Gideon is still alive. His son Abimelech is a whole other story of failure in the chapter of Gideon’s influence over Israel.

Then we have Jephthah. He apparently ends up sacrificing his daughter due to a rash vow he made.

And speaking of vows, the last in the “out-group” – Samson – never met a vow he couldn’t break. He was disobedient to his parents. He was called to judge or deliver Israel and yet the only time he delivered Israel from the Philistines was when he was moved with personal vengeance against the Philistines. He was an immoral man, loving women from the very group which he was charged from the womb by God to destroy. Samson was an utter failure. Yes, the text says he killed more Philistines in death than in life. And you may think that’s God’s commendation. But I think the whole flow of the book and the character and actions of Samson tell otherwise. In other words, the guy hardly killed any Philistines in life. At least he killed some in death.

Judges Bible Study
Their Job

Judges in Israel were intended to protect the nation from its external enemies. They were also charged with protecting and promoting purity in its religion. To the extent that each of these judges did this they were successful. To the extent this didn’t happen they were failures. It’s sad to say that many of the judges, in particular the last three, were failures to greater and greater degrees.

Judges Bible Study
The Cycle Deteriorates

Now remember the pattern for the calling of these judges. God’s people disobey. God sends oppressors to oppress them. They cry out to God. God sends a deliverer – a judge – to deliver them. The land has rest. This pattern is followed fairly well with the in-group of judges. But just before Gideon – the 1st member of the out-group – comes on the scene, the people cry to God. God doesn’t send a judge right away like he did with the first three judges. He sends a prophet to rebuke the Israelites first. Then he sends Gideon. Right before the second member of the out-group of Judges comes on the scene, the people cry to God and how does God respond? He gets sarcastic with the people – “Cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them deliver you!” But God does end up sending Jephthah. And finally with Samson, the people don’t even cry out to God. At least if they did we don’t have it recorded. So we see a degeneration even in the pattern of how the judges come to deliver Israel.

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Downward Spiral

So, do we see a pattern here in the book of Judges? The introductions start off with Israel failing to combat foreign armies and foreign idols. The 12 judges go from commendable to decent to questionable to downright awful. Then the double conclusion shows that Israel is basically imploding. The idols aren’t foreign anymore. They’re home-grown. And the armies they’re fighting now aren’t foreign. They’re domestic. If you were to try to visualize a trend from the start to the end of this book, what would its slope be? Is Israel getting better and better? Is that how our narrator is picturing Israel’s progress? No, I think what we see here is continual degeneration in this nation.

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Purpose of the Book

But why write a book that tells us about this? What’s the purpose? Did the author – ultimately God – have some overarching reason for recording these events in the way he recorded them?

Remember the phrase we kept seeing in the conclusion to Judges. “There was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Do you suppose that the author of Judges was trying to get the reader ready for the coming of a king? Perhaps this king would remedy all the ugliness we see from God’s people in the book of Judges. Perhaps he’d lead God’s people to do right in God’s eyes, not their own. Is such a leader on the horizon?

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Continues in Ruth

You know, I said that the book of Judges has two conclusions. And that’s right. But some argue there’s a third. What would that third conclusion be? The first conclusion mentions Bethlehem. The second mentions Bethlehem. And a lot of bad things are happening in Bethlehem in those two conclusions. But did you know that something good was happening in Bethlehem? It even took place in the time of the Judges. It’s the events recorded in the book of Ruth. Boaz, a righteous man, lived in Bethlehem in the times of the Judges. Did you know it’s possible to be a righteous man when everything around you is deteriorating into chaos and sin? Boaz is a godly man. Ruth, whose husband dies, clings to her mother-in-law, who’s also from Bethlehem, and shows some real godliness herself. These two godly people – Boaz and Ruth – get married. And the product of that marriage is a boy named Obed. He’s the father of Jesse. And Jesse is the father of… David. And David as we know will be a king who’s modeled after God’s own heart. And it’s this man whom I think we’re supposed to be awaiting by the end of the book of Judges. A man who will lead Gods people to do right in the Lord’s eyes. That’s what God’s people need.

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David to the Exile

And I wish I could stop there. But if you’re thoughtful your mind doesn’t stop with David and a utopian Jewish nation. David sinned. He had consequences from that sin. Solomon, David’s son did well at first. But he ended up marrying and then worshiping the gods of his pagan wives. His son had the northern tribes ripped from him. The northern tribes did nothing but evil until God exiled them. And for a few hundred years longer than their northern brothers, the southern two tribes proceeded. Some of their kings were good. Many were bad. And ultimately the kings who were supposed to lead God’s people to do right in God’s eyes – themselves sinned so gravely – along with the people they were leading – that God had to drive them out of the good land he had given them.

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Ezra and Nehemiah

After the exile some of the Jews return to their land. We saw this in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And Nehemiah isn’t a king, but he’s a leader for God’s people. And when he’s around the people do right. But when he leaves what happened? Remember, Nehemiah drove out the enemies from Jerusalem. But when he left for several years and returned he found those enemies right back inside of Jerusalem.

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Hebrew History

So, it’s clear from Hebrew history that God’s people need a leader who will lead and influence them to do right. They need someone to deliver (or “judge”) them from the wickedness of others as well as their own. But it’s equally clear that no human judge, king, or ruler has been able to do this. Human rulers sin. And even if their sin isn’t enough to throw everything into disarray, they still die. And someone else takes his place. And that guy might be good or he might be bad.

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Jesus Christ

We need a king who will be totally righteous and never die. Have you found someone like that? And that’s the very next chapter in biblical history. Nehemiah closes and the very next historical narrative we see in the Scripture is what we call the Gospels. The Gospels tell us about an imperishable impeccable King and Savior. His name is Jesus, because he came to save his people from their sins – their inner-Canaanites, so to speak. And we rejoice at his coming. I know one of you is already counting down the days until Christmas. And you can hardly wait. May I say that the world in a sense was waiting for Christmas for much longer? It’s been waiting since the fall of man and the promise of the woman’s seed in Genesis 3.

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Christian Failures

So, great. We have the king we’ve all been waiting for. Wonderful. But that doesn’t solve all of our problems, does it? In a very real sense the biggest of our problems are solved. For those of us who have received Christ the King, our sins are forgiven for his sake. We have eternal life. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit. And yet, we still have the sin nature present in us. And at any time we can fall by paying attention to and obeying it rather than our king. Just a brief survey of American Christianity will show you there are serious problems with “God’s people”. Some fall away from the faith. They apostatize. Some commit horrible sins while still claiming to be loyal to the king. We’re constantly tempted with false teachings and false practices which go against the king’s character and commands. I thought all we needed was the king! Why are we still having issues?

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The Millennium

I know, we need the king to reign physically on this earth. That’s going to happen for a thousand years after the Great Tribulation. But actually, not even that will be enough. After 1,000 years of externally serving the king, a significant number of people will rebel against him with Satan at the helm of the rebellion. So, not even the king reigning physically on the earth will ultimately work.

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The Eternal State

What needs to happen is for God to take away Satan and to take away our sin natures. Then and only then will we never be tempted anymore with sin. Never tempted to disobey our loving sovereign king. Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight!

Judges Bible Study

Until then, though, we need to seek our king to help us to obey him. And to bring it back to the book of Judges, is there one area where God’s people tend to fall in more than others? Think about it. What does God constantly tell the Israelites to avoid in the Law, in Joshua, and now in Judges? God tells them to avoid making alliances with the pagans around them. That’s how Israel started to get tripped up. They started getting friendly with – can I use a New Testament term? – the world – the system which is opposed to God. Israel adopted the practices of the world around them and it eventuated in chaos and destruction.

You and I have numerous commands in the Scripture to not love the world. We’re to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. We’re to come out from among them and be separate. We’re to love not the world nor its things. We’re to keep ourselves unspotted by the world. As obedient children we’re not to fashion ourselves according to our former lusts which were ours in our ignorance, but we’re rather to be holy in all manner of conversation. If any man loves the world – do you love the world? Do you love the world’s things? Do you love and live for the transitory things that are passing away? Then you’re given this warning. If that kind of love is in you, then the love of the Father cannot be in you. Adulterer. Adulteress. Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity toward God? Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Here’s how – humble yourselves before God. And he will exalt you.

Israel needed a king. You and I have him – the perfect king. And what does this king require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him? God help us to do just this.