Judges 5 Commentary

So the destruction of Sisera was a pretty quick matter. But the destruction of Sisera’s king, Jabin, took a little longer. And yet it happened eventually. The Lord saved his people from their enemy. He used a “weaker vessel” as Peter would say to do it. But isn’t that how God works? He uses the weak to confound the strong.

Judges 5:1-8

Now, all of this calls for a celebration. We’ve heard the facts of the story. We’ve heard the timeline of things. But now we’re going to celebrate the Lord’s victory with a song in the form of Hebrew poetry in chapter 5. Chapter 4 gave us the events. Chapter 5 now gives us some of the emotion behind the events. It also fills in some details we didn’t hear about in chapter 4. Let’s begin by reading verses 1 through 8 of chapter 5.

5:1 ¶ Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,

2 Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. 3 Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel. 4 LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. 5 The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. 6 In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways. 7 The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. 8 They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?

The song starts out with praising the Lord for the people offering themselves willingly for the battle. We’ll see that elaborated below. The song then personifies God as coming from the southeast in Edom to Kedesh where the battle happened. Then we’re given a picture of the desolation that the Canaanite oppressors brought to Israel in the days of the first minor judge Shamgar and Jael. Why the desolation? Why the oppression? Verse 8 – Israel chose new gods. And the true God – their God – then disarmed them and sent the oppressors.

Judges 5:9-13

Let’s read the next section in verses 9 through 13.

9 My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD. 10 Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way. 11 They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates. 12 Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam. 13 Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.

I won’t say much about this section. Only that again Deborah and Barak are giving thanks for the people of Israel who willingly offered themselves.

Judges 5:14-18

And verses 14 through 18 elaborate on this fact.

14 Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer. 15 And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart. 16 Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. 17 Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches. 18 Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.

Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir in Manasseh, Zebulun, Issachar. All of these tribes were those who participated willingly in the battle. And they are heartily commended in this song. But then we have those who didn’t participate. See? You wouldn’t have known this information without this song. In the narrative we didn’t get any idea that some people didn’t participate in this battle. We do here though. Reuben is viewed as hiding away with the sheep and listening to their bleating. Gilead stayed in his land, too. Dan remained in ships, because obviously his original territory was on the sea coast. So was Asher’s. Then finally the song extolls in a special way Zebulun and Naphtali.

Judges 5:19-23

Then we’re told of what happened when these tribes came together willingly. Verses 19 through 23.

19 The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of money. 20 They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. 21 The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength. 22 Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones. 23 Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.

Poetically, we’re told that stars fought against the Canaanites. The Kishon River is also poetically pictured as sweeping away Israel’s enemies. This is what can happen in poetry. Objects in nature can be personified.

Then verse 23 kind of cuts into the song with a curse. Meroz apparently was a city that did not come to help Barak fight against Sisera. This song has extolled again and again the people who fought willingly. And in contrast it issues the strongest rebuke to those among God’s people who won’t offer themselves willingly to his work.

Judges 5:24-27

But the song doesn’t stay focused on curses and this lack of willingness. Verses 24 through 27 focus on our very unlikely hero in this story – Jael.

24 Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. 25 He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. 26 She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen’s hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. 27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.

In contrast to faithless Meroz, Jael willingly offered herself to fight for the Lord’s cause.

Judges 5:28-31

So she’s an example of a woman who was on the right side of this battle. And the song ends with a close-up of another woman. This time it’s Sisera’s mother. Let’s read verses 28 through 31.

28 The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots? 29 Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, 30 Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil? 31 ¶ So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.

And the land had rest forty years.

So Sisera’s mom and her wise women console themselves in vain imaginations. They reassure themselves that Sisera will be home soon. “You now — they’re just picking up some ladies as plunder. They’re just dividing the rest of the spoil. Don’t worry. They’ll be home soon.” You might be tempted to feel sorry for Sisera’s mother. Please don’t. One of the thoughts she consoles herself with is Sisera’s exploitation of captive women. She says in verse 30 that Sisera and his men each get a damsel or two. The word “damsel” is “rechem”. It can mean “girl”. But it’s also often literally translated “womb”. One modern English version sort of supplies the idea that Sisera’s mom was probably expressing when they translate her statement as “a girl or two for each man to rape!” That’s the kind of brutality that comes along with pagans going to war. And it’s the kind of brutality and immorality that Sisera’s mother was encouraging and even hoping for in her son. She was consoling herself with this thought!

But the song ends with comfort and assurance. May all the enemies of the Lord, just like Sisera, perish. But Lord, strengthen the ones who love you. And then the land has rest for 40 years.

What a stirring conclusion. But you know it’s just going to get worse again. In these two chapters we saw a failure of male leadership. But we had a happy ending. But just in the next verse we have the children of Israel doing evil in God’s sight. And then we’ll see the Lord raise up a man named Gideon.

Judges 20 Commentary

The actions of the sexually perverted mob was shocking. But the coldness of this Levite is almost worse. You mean to say he slept comfortably through the night, knowing what was happening to his concubine? And then he just barks at her to get up when he sees her lifeless body?

And dwelling on the process that would have been involved in the dividing of the body of the Levite’s concubine is a little more than I care to meditate upon. So, we’ll move on.

20:1 ¶ Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. 2 And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. 3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness? 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead.

So, the Levite conveniently leaves out the part about how he threw her to the wolves.

6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. 7 Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel. 8 ¶ And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house. 9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; [To fight them.] 10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people,

So, some will feed the troops who attack Gibeah.

that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

Wow, finally, some unity in Israel. Too bad it took a Civil War to accomplish that unity.

12 ¶ And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? 13 Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.

That’s a reasonable request. They committed a crime. Now they pay.

But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: 14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel. 15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. [So 26,700 warriors.] 16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war. [400,000:26,700]

18 ¶ And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first.

Does this sound familiar? It should. This is eerily reminiscent of chapter 1 of this book. Only, back then Israel was fighting external enemies. Now they’re fighting themselves. So, God commands Judah to go first.

19 ¶ And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah. 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.

Oh, but I thought God told them to go. But they lost. That’s concerning.

22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. 23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)

God again gives them the green light.

24 ¶ And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.

40,000 Israelites dead so far. 10% of their forces.

26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. [They’re serious now.] 27 And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) [So, the events recorded here, just like last lesson, happened relatively soon after Joshua died. Again, how far and how fast Israel fell.] saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

Finally, the Lord gives assurance of victory.

29 ¶ And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.

Sounds like Bethel again…

30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways. 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah. 34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them. 35 And the LORD [THE LORD!] smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.

So, Benjamin started with 26,700 men. They just lost 25,100 men. That leaves 1,600 men.

Then verses 36 through 46 retells the events we just heard about, but in greater detail. That’s not uncommon in Hebrew narrative.

Skip to verse 47.

47 But six hundred men [Of Benjamin] turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.

Which is also the same amount of time the Levite’s concubine fled from him.

48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.

Basically, Israel is doing to Benjamin what it should have been doing to the Canaanites – destroy every last one of them. Now, Israel had to do what they just did. But what a sad state of affairs that led to the need to almost completely wipe out an entire tribe in Israel.

Judges 4 Commentary

Let’s open our Bibles to Judges chapter 4.

We’ll cover the 4th and 5th chapters in this book today. It’s the story of another judge – another tribal leader. Remember — we’ve seen three judges so far. The first was Othniel the nephew of Caleb. He comes at the beginning of this long sequence of judges. And they get worse and worse. So it doesn’t get any better than Othniel in terms of the quality of his judging Israel. He fought the dark, doubly-wicked king from Mesopotamia. Then we had Ehud. He assassinated Eglon the rotund king of Moab and led Israel to slay many Moabite soldiers. In each case the land had rest from war for decades after they delivered Israel. Then Shamgar doesn’t have much said of him, but he too judged Israel and delivered them from the Philistines.

And why are these judges needed anyway? Let’s rehearse that. It’s because a new generation arose and did not know the Lord. They didn’t have a personal walk with him. They didn’t care about what he said. They turned from him to serve worthless idols. And because they did, the Lord was angry. He would send oppressors to oppress his people in response to their unfaithfulness. And he did that so that they would turn from their idols and turn to him. And it would work, at least temporarily. I just read this morning in 1st Samuel. And there in chapter 12 Samuel is giving a history of Isarel’s disobedience to the Lord. He says that their fathers would disobey in times past. And when they did God would send oppressors. And when that happened the people would cry out to the Lord and say, “…We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.” So, that sounds like true repentance. But chapter 2 of this book of Judges leads us to believe that this repentance was short-lived or maybe just partial – like maybe some truly repented while the rest of Israel did not. Whatever the case, Israel’s crying out to the Lord for deliverance was at the very least short-lived.

Now, even though their cry may have been completely selfish and for the most part lacking true repentance, the Lord had mercy on his sinful people and sent someone to save them. And that’s where these stories about individual judges come in. These judges are called to save or deliver the Lord’s people. And as I said the judges that we’re presented with go from pretty good… to alright… to bad… to awful. And as we begin our lesson today we transition from good/OK to… well, I’ll let you decide as we go through the text. How does our judge today fare in comparison to Othniel and Ehud?

Judges 4:1-3

So, let’s get acquainted with our judge for today. But first we need to get a picture of why the judge was necessary. Let’s read verses 1 through 3.

KJV Judges 4:1 ¶ And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. 2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. 3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.

Now, this Jabin guy might sound familiar to you if you remember our lessons in Joshua. Jabin was the king of Hazor back in Joshua 11. He led a coalition of the northern Canaanite cities who opposed Joshua. But he was defeated and killed. Further, his city Hazor was totally destroyed and burned. But Canaanites have a way of cropping back up. They’re resilient – especially when they’re being used as a chastisement from God for his disobedient people. So this Jabin is not the same person. Perhaps the name Jabin was used like name Pharaoh was in Egypt – it’s really a title rather than a personal name.

And so we’ve said a little about this Jabin fellow. But really he’s not at all a main character in this story. He’s mentioned once more in the entire book of Judges. So he’s really brought into the story to bring the main adversary into the picture. His name is Sisera. And he’s the captain of Jabin’s army. And it’s a well-equipped army. 900 chariots. What’s interesting is that this group of Canaanites is mentioned back in Joshua 11 as having many horses and chariots. So I guess chariots were something of a specialty for them. But you know, in Joshua the chariots weren’t a problem at all. God delivered Israel from these chariot-riding Canaanites. But he’s not doing that this time. The people’s disobedience calls for God to not only not deliver them from the king of Hazor and his commander. It also calls for God to actively use these Canaanites to oppress his people in order to get their attention.

Judges 4:4-7

So for 20 years Sisera oppresses Israel. We’ll get a better idea of what that oppression may have involved in chapter 5. It’s not pretty. And Israel is miserable and in great pain. So they cry out to the Lord. And God mercifully sends a judge to deliver them. Let’s read about him… or her in verses 4 through 7.

4 ¶ And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. 5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? 7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.

Now, two times in this section “judged” or “judgment” is mentioned in relation to Deborah. So, is she the judge? But then she commissions Barak. And God wants him to do what the typical judge did in this time frame. So… who’s the real judge here? Deborah? Barak? Both of them? Hopefully it’ll become clearer as we continue.

Now, it seems that Deborah is from Ephraim. Barak hails from north of there in Naphtali. Deborah is a prophetess. As we see here she is someone to whom the Israelites go to have some sort of verdict pronounced in their disputes. And that kind of position is needed, surely. But is that how the first three judges in this book have been pictured? As settling disputes? No, we haven’t seen judges do that yet. Well then, maybe she’s not the judge in this story. But here’s another thing she does. She acts as God’s mouthpiece to call Barak to action. Action! Delivering Israel from their enemies! Now, that’s the role of a judge. Maybe Barak then is the judge in this story. Now, we don’t know how the first three judges were called by God. But here we see Barak’s calling to that position. Deborah, speaking for God, tells him that God will surely deliver Sisera into his hand. That’s really exciting. I can’t wait to see him do it!

Judges 4:8

Oh, but… as we look to the next verse we don’t see action. We see… something less encouraging from this potential judge. Let’s read verse 8.

8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.

What?! This man who’s called by God through Deborah, his mouthpiece, to be a judge is accepting it with conditions? When God tells you to do something you don’t put conditions on your obeying him! And his condition honestly makes Barak look pretty weak. He won’t go unless this lady Deborah goes with him. Some think he’s declaring that he refuses to go into battle without God’s guidance – which Deborah represents, since she’s God’s prophetess.

Judges 4:9

But I don’t think this request is noble. How do I know? Look at Deborah’s response in verse 9.

9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.

If this was your first time reading this story who would you think the woman is that Deborah refers to? Herself — right? So again you’re maybe back to thinking that she’s the judge in the story. But I’ll just cut to the chase and inform you that Deborah is not the woman who kills Sisera. But this whole back and forth between who’s the real judge in the story – combined with Barak’s apparent wimpiness — I think it all gives us an idea of what’s happening at this time in Israel’s history. I think what we see in Barak and Deborah’s story is “A Failure of Male Leadership” in Israel at the time of the judges. There’s failure on every hand during this time – but this story points out a failure of male leadership.

Barak balked at God’s promise. He didn’t immediately obey God’s clear call. This is a problem not just for Israel in the days of the judges, is it? Can I encourage us all to be careful to not doubt God’s promises – but to believe them and act accordingly? Let’s not put conditions on our obedience to what we clearly know God wants us to do.

So, I’ve raised the issue of who the judge is in this story. Is it Deborah? Is it Barak? Or both? And honestly it’s confusing. The text says Deborah was judging Israel. But she’s not involved in the delivering of God’s people that’s always associated with a judge. Barak does act to deliver God’s people, but he’s not acting with much confidence in God. So he’s somewhat suspect, too. So, here’s what I come to. I believe the narrator of this story left us intentionally in suspense to tell us about this deficiency in Israel of male leadership. Why was Deborah a judge anyway? Shouldn’t an elder — who would probably always be a man – fill that position? She’s a prophetess. Well, so was Miriam. But Miriam’s prophesying seemed to lie in her musical proclamations, rather than her plain verbal foretelling of events. Why did Deborah need to be God’s mouthpiece? Where are all the men? I think these things are intended by God to be somewhat confusing. And in the confusion we see this major problem in Israel with male leadership. So, who’s the judge? I don’t know. Maybe both. I lean toward Barak being the judge.

Well, Barak eventually did go — with Deborah by his side. And verse 10 tells us that “…Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.”

Judges 4:11

Then we’re given another introductory element of the story in verse 11.

11 ¶ Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.

So, now we have this Heber fellow introduced for us. He’s a Kenite. The Kenites were the group who came to Judah at the beginning of this book from Jericho. But for some reason Heber separated himself from the rest of his clan and moved up north to Naphtali – right next to where Barak and his army now stand. What a coincidence! We’ll hear more about Heber – or more precisely his wife – later in the story.

Judges 4:12-16

Alright, Barak is ready to fight. He was reluctant. But he has the prophetess with him and so he’s good now. He did exercise some faith. That’s why he’s mentioned in Hebrews 11. So, what happens next? Sisera enters the picture in verses 12 through 16.

12 ¶ And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor. 13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon. 14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him. 15 And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. 16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.

So what we’re not seeing is an exceptional amount of courage and manliness from the men in this story thus far. Deborah commands Barak to go and fight Sisera. Then when the Lord starts routing Sisera’s army he flees. Commanders don’t flee! Or they shouldn’t.

Judges 4:17-20

But despite the lackluster show of manliness, did you hear what Deborah said to Barak? The Lord has delivered Sisera into his hand! Maybe God changed his mind. Maybe he’ll let Barak kill Sisera after all. But it doesn’t look like Deborah’s the one to kill Sisera. We don’t hear about her fighting. How is Sisera going to die then? Let’s read verses 17 through 20.

17 ¶ Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. 19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. 20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.

So here’s another mention of Heber the Kenite. But now we discover that this man was on the wrong side of things. Heber supported Jabin – Sisera’s king. Oh no. And now it looks like Sisera’s going to get shelter and protection from Heber’s wife Jael. (Come on, pretend you’ve never heard this story before please!) She even treats him to some good Bedouin hospitality. Covering him with a mantle and giving him some curdled milk. Yes, apparently that was a sign of hospitality. If anyone gave me curdled milk I’d probably immediately detect they were a foe. But Sisera doesn’t interpret this gesture that way. He is completely at ease now in Jael’s home – or tent. I think what’s pretty funny is his statement at the end of verse 20. If anyone comes looking for a man you go ahead and tell them that there’s no man here. It’s ironic for two reasons. One, the men in this story are seeming to have some trouble acting the part. Second, well… pretty soon Sisera won’t be there in a sense. He’ll be dead.

Judges 4:21-22

Let’s read verses 21 and 22.

21 Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died. 22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.

So God did deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman – just like Deborah prophesied. And yet God was merciful to Barak and allowed him to defeat the enemy, overall. Thus the enemy was delivered into the hand of both a woman and Barak.

And what an interesting woman this Jael is. She’s a gentile. Her husband is friendly with Israel’s enemies. And yet somehow she had the bravery to slay the enemy of Israel. Did she hear about Israel’s God and come to fear him? Is that what motivated her bold actions? I don’t know. But I have no other explanation for why she helped God’s people when she didn’t need to, and – in fact – when it was dangerous to do so.

Judges 4:23-24

And as a result of her action and Barak’s reluctant obedience we have the happy report of verses 23 and 24.

23 ¶ So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel. 24 And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

So the destruction of Sisera was a pretty quick matter. But the destruction of Sisera’s king, Jabin, took a little longer. And yet it happened eventually. The Lord saved his people from their enemy. He used a “weaker vessel” as Peter would say to do it. But isn’t that how God works? He uses the weak to confound the strong.

Continue to Judges 5

Now, all of this calls for a celebration. We’ve heard the facts of the story. We’ve heard the timeline of things. But now we’re going to celebrate the Lord’s victory with a song in the form of Hebrew poetry in chapter 5. Chapter 4 gave us the events. Chapter 5 now gives us some of the emotion behind the events. It also fills in some details we didn’t hear about in chapter 4. Let’s begin by reading verses 1 through 8 of chapter 5.

Judges 18 Commentary

So, let’s take a step back. Think of what we’ve read so far. Idols, a Levite leaving his ministry to take on the administration of a house of idols. The owner of that house looking at all that’s transpired and thinking “Wow, the Lord is really blessing me. I even got me a Levite to be my priest!” Disobedience. Superstition. Utter spiritual blindness everywhere. What’s the explanation? What can possibly account for this chaos and disorder? Verse 1 of chapter 18.

18:1 ¶ In those days there was no king in Israel:

Oh yes. I can’t believe you all forgot about that. There’s no king! No one to restrain these people. No one to be physically amongst these people telling them what to do and what not to do. Without that kind of restraint, these people are coming apart at the seems.

Now, we’ve already seen a wandering Levite. Now we’re going to see not just an individual wandering, but an entire tribe. Continue with verse 1.

and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.

We’ll stop here and just ponder what this statement means. It appears to be saying that this tribe hasn’t received any of it’s inheritance yet. But that’s so strange. I mean, after all, Joshua assigned land to each tribe before he died. Has Dan really not taken its land up until now? If you add up all the years mentioned in the book of Judges you’d get over 400 years. However, I think there’s some overlap in times in the book. And so I think the timespan covered in Judges is somewhere around more like 300 years.

And so here’s why I mention the time factor. How long do you think Dan went without having land? Remember – back in Judges chapter 1 we saw Dan driven out of their territory by the Canaanites. Did they wait a full 300 or so years before moving to take land somewhere else? I think that’s unlikely.

So, here’s what I’m getting at. We are in the conclusion to the book of Judges. And yet, I don’t think that the events of this story fall at the very end of the chronological timeline of the book. I think the events we’re witnessing in this story may have happened relatively soon after Joshua passed off the scene. And the thing I find most shocking about that is the testimony it gives to how wicked human kind is. How quickly we can fall. And how far that fall can be. We can have a godly gifted leader. And yet the moment he goes away we’re so prone to evil.

So, I just say, get used to the thought that these events are not hundreds of years after Joshua’s death. And I think we’ll see more confirmation of that both at the end of this story and in our next and final lesson.

Judges 18:2-6

Now, back to the story. We’ve got a wandering tribe who was driven out of its territory by the Canaanites back in chapter 1. Now, verse 2.

2 And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts [Borders], men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, [We heard of these two cities from Samson’s story.] to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there. 3 When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here? 4 And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest. 5 And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. 6 And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.

Isn’t this a sad sign of complete reversal? Israel comes to the land, spies it out, and then conquers it. But now because of their sin, one of their tribes is forced to renew this pattern of going to new land, spying it out, and then conquering it.

And it’s so strange. It was too hard for Dan to possess their land that Joshua gave them. And yet they think nothing of traveling miles and miles on foot to find new land – easier land. Land whose inhabitants they can overcome without the help of Yahweh. In their own strength. They are truly doing what’s right in their own eyes. Yahweh’s way didn’t work. So, they’re going to innovate.

Now, they just happen to come across the idolatrous Levite in Micah’s house of gods. It’s curious to me how these men would have known the voice of this Levite. So, I don’t know how they knew the Levite’s voice, but they did. And so the Levite converses with the 5 Danites. The Danites ask for the Levite to divine whether or not their way will be prosperous. And by now, they know that this Levite is unorthodox. He’s taking care of an idolatrous shrine stocked with images. And so I suppose the Danites are showing their own unorthodoxy by even putting any amount of faith in the ability of this Levite to get ahold of God’s ear. We don’t know if the Leite even seeks God in response to the Danites request. All we know is that this man who’s doing what’s right in his own eyes, rather quickly gives his approval of their journey. Their way is before the Lord. It has his approval. Why, they’ll be just as prosperous as Micah as they continue on disobeying the Lord. You have the idolatrous Levite’s stamp of approval!

Judges 18:7-10

So, away the 5 Danites go. Up north to the northenmost reaches of Israel. Up by Sidon. Verse 7.

7 ¶ Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, [Not in any negative sense. They just didn’t have any cares in the world. They were without care – care-less. They dwelt…] after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man. 8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye? 9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. 10 When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.

I think the rhetoric of the 5 Danite spies is astonishing. They’re talking just like the two faithful spies who went to spy out the land back in Moses’ day. They’re speaking in terms similar to what Moses himself used decades prior to this. And yet their hearts aren’t right with the Lord like Moses’ was and like Caleb’s and Joshua’s were. But the Danites are assuming the same level of leadership by God as did these godly men of old. I’d say that’s a little presumptuous.

Judges 18:11-14

But the Danite spies sell their case. And so it appears that the whole tribe of Dan departs from the allotment of land given them by the Lord. Verse 11.

11 ¶ And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war. 12 And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.

13 And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah. 14 ¶ Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim [Household idols], and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.

I love the subtelty of these spies. “Consider what you should do. There’s all these covetable things in this house. You can guess what action you’re supposed to take.”

Judges 18:15-18

You wish the response of the people would be to destroy the idols and idolators around there. But what does the tribe of Dan actually do? Verse 15.

15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, [They were living in the same place.] and saluted him. 16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. 17 And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. 18 And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image.

So they’re taking the instruments of Micah’s idolatrous worship. But not for the purpose of destroying them, I’m afraid. Let’s see the priest’s reaction to all of this. Middle of verse 18.

Then said the priest unto them, What do ye?

How do you imagine him asking that question? Full of worry and concern for his sponsor, Micah? Full of anger and rage that the Danites are stealing the objects with which he’s been “ministering”? No. I think it’s more of a question of curiosity.

Judges 18:19-20

We’ll see if their response to him and then his reaction to their response confirms that. Verse 19.

19 And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? [That kind of language reminds me of what Abimelech said before carrying out his evil plans. Anyway…] 20 And the priest’s heart was glad [He likes the look of this deal. The priest of a whole tribe? Awesome!], and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.

Judges 18:21-26

Where’s the loyalty? There is none. Not in the days of the judges. Verse 21.

21 ¶ So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them. [Which indicates to me that they’re expecting someone to pursue them, so they’re protecting their most vulnerable.] 22 And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan. 23 And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they [Dan] turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee [lit. “What to you?”], that thou comest with such a company? 24 And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made [A truly pathetic and yet absolutely true admission. He made his gods – the very ones he’s so foolishly worshipping.], and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee? [“What to you?”] 25 And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows [lit. “Men bitter of soul”] run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household. 26 And the children of Dan went their way: [So, they threaten to murder Micah.] and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.

What more can he do? I guess he was wrong about God propsering him on account of him having a Levitical priest. So much for that superstition. And with that, Micah bows out of the story, never to be heard from again.

Judges 18:27-31

But the Danites and their new priest are still in view. Verse 27.

27 ¶ And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. 28 And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. 29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first. 30 And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

The narrator gives us two pretty shocking revelations.

First, he finally reveals the identity of this idolatrous Levite. He’s none other than Jonathan! You’re not shocked by that, though. Ah, but Jonathan is the son of Gershom! Well, that’s interesting, but maybe not quite at the level of shock yet. Here’s the shocking part. Gershom is the son of Mannasseh. Big deal right? It s a big deal. I know it’s hard to believe in English, but in the Hebrew text, Mannasseh actually is very similar to another Hebrew name – Moses. In fact, you get the name Mannaseh by simply adding the English equivalent of an “N”. But in the Hebrew text that “N” – the one letter distinguishing Mannasseh from Moses – it’s floating above the baseline – which is really unusual. And the rabbis who copied the text explained their reasonings for doing this. They acknowledged that Moses was the original name in the text. But they didn’t want to dishonor Moses’ memory by admitting that this man’s grandson was an idolater. And yet, we should’t be surprised to see this kind of thing in this book. The harsh reality is that Moses – that mighty man of faith – his own grandson was an apostate. And that gives you an idea of when this part of the book took place. Within the lifetime of a grandson of Moses. How quickly Israel fell.

The second and last thing I’ll point out is the very last verse. We have a whole tribe involved in idolatry. Well, maybe that was because God’s house got lost somewhere along the line. I mean, we don’t hear too much about it in this book, do we? We don’t – and yet, the last verse tells us it was still there. Right in Shiloh. It was avaiable. But it seems very few if any were tending to it.

What a horrible picture this paints of religion in Israel. Israel started this book out having trouble with foreign idols. Now the idols are home-grown. Israel also had trouble battling foreign armies at the beginning of this book. And next time, we’ll see them experiencing trouble with domestic armies – civil war.

Judges 3 Commentary

In Judges 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.

 3:1 ¶ Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; 2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; 3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath. 4 And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

Well, here’s another reason that God left the Canaanites in the land. God did this first because Israel wasn’t obeying him. Second God wanted to test Israel and see if they would obey him. And now we see that God actually wanted to teach Israel how to fight. So even God’s punishment is instructive and edifying for his people.

Judges 3:5-6

Then the introduction to this book ends with this ominous note – verses 5 and 6.

 5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: 6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

Israel intermarried with the Canaanites. And – no surprise to anyone – that intermarrying led to idolatry, just like God said it would. And this issue of intermarriage with pagans would dog Israel even up until the last events we have recorded in the Old Testament. Do you remember in the book of Nehemiah that one of the big problems that God’s people were still struggling with was marrying unbelievers? So this would turn out to be a perennial problem for Israel.

And so anyway, this is how the introduction to the book ends. We had the first introduction. It told us how Israel slipped by failing to drive out foreign armies. Then we have the second introduction. It tells us about Israel failing to resist idolatry and the pattern of disobedience, judgment, and deliverance they would participate in.

And then what do we see for the next 13 or so chapters? Israel participating in a pattern of disobedience, judgment, and deliverance. So, Lord-willing, next lesson we’ll start seeing that pattern filled-out in detail.

Open your Bible to the 3rd chapter of the book of Judges.

Today’s the day we’ve been waiting for. For the last two weeks we’ve been in the introduction to this book. And you recall that it’s a double introduction. Are you annoyed with me pointing out that the book of Judges has a double introduction? Well, I’m going to keep telling you all that this book has a double introduction until it sticks in your head and forevermore when you read this book you’ll remember why it seems to mention Joshua dying twice. I’ll keep telling you about the double introduction until you remember that the first introduction tells us about Israel’s failures regarding foreign armies and that the second introduction tells us about Israel’s failures regarding foreign idols. And if you don’t remember… I’ll probably tell you again next week.

Alright, now that we all remember the double introduction! We need to remember what the book of Judges chronicles. Throughout this book we will witness the Canaanization of Israel. It’s a progressive thing. It gets worse and worse. And isn’t that the nature of sin? Give it an inch and it will take a mile.

Judges 3 Commentary
Israel Was Sinning

And Israel was sinning. They disobeyed God by not driving out the Canaanites. Instead, they were actually marrying the Canaanites and worshiping their false gods – Baal and Ashteroth and I’m sure many more.

Judges 3 Commentary
God Was Angry

Now, God wasn’t going to take this sitting down. He was very angry with his people for their sin against him. He swore to not drive out the Canaanites. These Canaanites will serve a few of God’s purposes. First, they will prove whether Israel will obey the Lord or not. Those silly rain deities that the Canaanites had were surprisingly attractive for ancient Israel. Would Israel choose Baal? Or would they choose the true God who had rescued them from Egypt and brought them into a covenant with himself? The Canaanites would prove which way Israel’s heart was inclined.

Judges 3 Commentary
Why God Left the Canaanites

The second purpose Yahweh had for leaving the Canaanites in the land was so that the inexperienced Israelites could learn war. The new generation that arose and didn’t know the Lord also didn’t know how to fight. God amazingly even while punishing this nation is letting them derive some benefit during the punishment.

Judges 3 Commentary
Sending Oppressors

Now, not only was the Lord allowing the Canaanites to remain in the land. But when he was sufficiently provoked to anger with Israel he would actually send oppressors to oppress them. He wanted to get their attention. You can imagine the Lord saying something like this through sending oppressors to Israel — “Hey look! The gods whom you’re serving aren’t strong enough to deliver you! Can’t you see that I AM and there is no other? Turn to me and be saved!”

Judges 3 Commentary
Israel Cried Out

And you know what? The Israelites did react. They would cry out. And you might think that sounds really good. Maybe it’s a cry of repentance! We could only wish. I’m afraid their cry was far short of repentance. Israel was like a child who cried when his father declares his intent to discipline the boy. But is he crying because he’s repentant? Or is he crying because he’s being punished? Unfortunately it does seem that when Israel cries out she does so out of pain and misery. But she’s far from repentant. Because once the judge dies, Israel’s right back to her evil ways. And they’re even worse than they were before!

Judges 3 Commentary
The Lord Responded

So, Israel’s cry isn’t one of repentance. You might expect the Lord to not answer such a cry. But actually… he does. The Lord responds in pity and compassion to his evil disobedient nation. It’s like he can’t help his heart from going out to those oppressed individuals. Their oppression is their own fault. And God could cross his arms and turn away from them. But he didn’t. He can’t shut off his mercies to them. He just won’t.

Judges 3 Commentary
Love God

Is this not a God who deserves our love? A God so holy, so just, so upright. And at the same time he’s a God who is so full of pity, of love, of compassion. And this same God is our God. And you are in a covenant with him if you’ve trusted Christ. You’re espoused to Christ. And no one can take you out of his hand. Remember Pastor Fuller’s message last Sunday night? A big point of that message was this – “let love for Christ drive out all idols.” How could you not love such a merciful, forgiving, compassionate God?

Now, God does respond to Israel’s cry of pain and misery. And his chosen response is to send saviors to them – judges or tribal rulers. These men – well, I’ll say individuals – are charged with delivering or saving God’s people. And once these tribal rulers have done their job and delivered God’s people from their oppressors the people are safe for a while… Until… they sacrifice to idols, intermarry with pagans, and provoke the Lord to anger. When this happens we go right back to where we started this discussion.

Judges 3 Commentary
Worsening Conditions

And this cyclical process gets worse and worse as I said. Do you know what that means? It means that the first judge that we’re going to see is really the best judge – the prototypical judge – the model judge after which all other judges will be (pardon the pun) judged. So perhaps we could call this lesson “The Worst is Yet to Come.

Judges 3 Commentary
Verses 7-8

So, who is this first judge? Well, let’s read about him in 3:7-8.

KJV Judges 3:7 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves. 8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.

So, actually we didn’t get to the judge yet. The scene is being set for him still. And this is the scene. Israel sinned and made God very angry. They’re worshipping the Canaanite storm god Baal and some wooden symbols of some other sort of deity. Apparently Israel is very happy to serve these dark doubly-wicked deities. And so you know what? God sells the Israelites into the hands of Chushan-Rishathaim. Do you know what his name means? “Dark, doubly-wicked” – just like their false deities. And by the fact that this guy has a name like this we can imagine that he’s pretty bad. He hails all the way from Mesopotamia. So he’s come from a long way. And he’s a really evil guy. And he crushes Israel under his boot for eight years. It’s interesting to note how the text describes this situation. Verse 7 – Israel served dark wicked deities. Verse 8 – the result – Israel served this dark wicked king. The punishment matches the crime.

Judges 3 Commentary
Verses 9-11

The situation is bleak. Israel is subject to this evil king. The Lord has rightfully abandoned them. They’re seeing how hopeless they are. And they’re in pain. So finally they take a step in the right direction and God’s compassion is kindled. Verses 9 through 11.

9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim. 11 And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

You can’t ask for a better outcome. Israel cries out to the Lord because of their pain and misery. The Lord then takes the initiative to raise up a savior for his wayward people. His name? Othniel. He’s Caleb’s brother. And he’s the son of Kenaz. And here’s something interesting. Apparently Kenaz isn’t a natural born Israelite. He would have been a convert to the religion of Yahweh. Nevertheless, he’s a supremely godly individual. He was somehow grafted into the tribe of Judah. He’s the relative – probably the nephew – of one of the godliest Israelites – Caleb. His wife Achsah is completely in-tune with The Lord’s plans for the land. And these are things we’ve already known.

Beyond those things, we have a few more items to note in this passage. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Caleb. And in that strength and wisdom he went out and waged war and judged Israel. The Lord raised him up. The Lord put his Spirit on him. It’s as if the Lord himself and the man Caleb are one, fighting against the enemy. And together they defeat King Dark, Doubly-Wicked from Mesopotamia. The land has rest for 40 years and then Othniel dies.

Now, why is there so little said about this judge? I mean, if he’s the prototypical example, why does a character like Samson have several chapters devoted to his story while Othniel has not even a whole chapter? What I think we’ll see is that more ink needs to be spilled for the other judges in order to document their idiosyncrasies, flaws, and everything else. Othniel did things by the book. God raised him up and empowered him and he just went and did the work. No abnormalities. No moral failures. He just gets the job of saving the Lord’s people over and done with.

Judges 3 Commentary
Verses 12-14

Alright, now that this first major or cyclical judge finished his task, we move a bit north from Judah to the tribe of Benjamin. Let’s read verses 12 through 14.

12 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. 13 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees. 14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

Let’s note a few things here. First, who’s the enemy? His name is Eglon. Who is he? The king of the land of Moab just south-east of Israel on the other side of the Dead Sea. And what does he do to Israel? He strikes Israel and takes possession of Jericho – the city of palm trees. This is as you recall the very first city that Israel took when they crossed the River under Joshua’s leadership. And now it appears to be the very first city they’ll be giving back to the Canaanites whom they should have destroyed. But how can this evil Moabite king have such an influence over Israel? Such power to defeat them? We’re told in verse 12. The Lord himself strengthens this king to oppress his evil people. Why does the Lord allow them to be oppressed anyway? Because they did evil in the Lord’s sight. And remember that this would certainly include Israel bowing down to idols and marrying lost people from the surrounding nations.

Judges 3 Commentary
Verses 15-17

So this is a hopeless scene. Israel is oppressed. And it’s the Lord himself who is strengthening the oppressor. God’s people have gotten themselves into a big mess. In fact, it’s so hopeless that there’s nothing they can do to save themselves. They need salvation from the Lord. Let’s read about this next “savior” of God’s people, Israel, in verses 15 through 17.

15 ¶ But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. 16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh. 17 And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.

Israel cries out to God because of their pain and misery. And so God raises up a savior, a deliverer, a judge. His name is Ehud. He’s not from Judah, like Othniel was. He’s from Benjamin – and in this book this particular tribe wasn’t cast in the best light. In the first chapter Benjamin follows Judah in trying to drive out the Canaanites. Judah does well, though they fail. Then Benjamin steps up to the plate and… doesn’t even swing. They fail to drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem, which was already weakened by Judah. That’s the first we hear of Benjamin in this book. This tribe is mentioned a few more times, but the majority of the discussion about them centers in the conclusion to the book. Remember the Levite and his concubine? Then all Israel goes to war with Benjamin, leaving that tribe almost wiped out. So Benjamin gains a pretty bad reputation through this book. But here, God raises up a deliverer from this tribe.

Now, this man Ehud is left-handed. Some see this as sort of an insult to him. Apparently ancient cultures were a little suspicious of left-handed individuals – like they were somehow unnatural. But I don’t that’s why the author of Judges mentions this. Why does he mention this fact then? I think it leads up to the statement in verse 16. This fellow made a dagger about a foot long or maybe a bit longer. And where does he put it? On his right thigh. Now, I don’t want to spoil the surprise of what’s to come. So, I’ll just say this. Ehud is being sent with some money to Eglon. Ehud is going to deliver Israel from Eglon. Ehud made a dagger and put it on his right thigh under his clothing. Surely the guards would check Ehud’s left thigh, since most people were right-handed and since that’s apparently where people would keep weapons. But would the guards check the right thigh?

Judges 3 Commentary
Verses 18-23

The end of verse 17 adds suspense to this story. Out of the blue we’re told – now Eglon was a very fat man. The name Eglon comes from a word that means calf. The “on” ending probably makes it mean something like “young calf.” So here we have a young fattened calf. A man who has been fattened by oppressing and extorting from God’s people. And on the other side of the ring is a man carrying a sharp instrument for the purpose of slaughter. It sounds to me like we have a sacrifice coming up – not literally, but in a sense that’s what this kind of situation might recall to the Israelites’ minds. A fattened calf and a knife. Sacrifice time. Let’s see what happens next. Verses 18 through 23.

18 And when he [Ehud] had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. 19 But he himself turned again from the quarries [this could also means “stones” or “idols”, since idols were often made of stones] that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand [or “word” or “matter” or “thing”] unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him. 20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. 21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: 22 And the haft [or “handle”] also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. 23 Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.

Sacrifice accomplished, I’d say. So, Ehud came with a few other Israelites to give tribute to this oppressive king. Once this is finished Ehud and his assistants go back to wherever they came via Gilgal. And on this journey back in Gilgal Ehud sends everyone else back ahead of him. Does he spend some time by these quarries or by these idols – whatever translation it is? If there are idols there then does seeing these idols provokes Ehud to anger and a sense of vengeance for his God? If we’re talking about just plain stones, could these have reminded Ehud of the stones which Joshua had the children of Israel set up when they crossed the River? Whatever the case, something happens to Ehud in Gilgal. And he turns back to face the enemy.

He approaches Eglon and reveals that he has a secret for him. Again, “errand” is the word that can mean “word” or “matter”. Ehud has a secret matter for the king. He keeps it discreet and mysterious. We can imagine Eglon bouncing up and down and jiggling with delight at the prospect of a treat – maybe a tasty bit of food, maybe more money to spend on his appetite. Whatever it is, he hastily sends his guards away. We can assume from this that Ehud probably didn’t look or act sinister in any way. He probably wasn’t a tall foreboding character. Eglon felt perfectly comfortable in his presence without any guards. Besides, I would assume that the guards already checked his person for weapons – at least on his left thigh!

And this scene all happens in Eglon’s cool summer parlor. Again the contrast between Israel and her oppressors is laid before us. Eglon is fat from Israel’s offerings. He has a splendid cool summer palace while the oppressed Israelites languish.

Once the guards leave the room I assume they move a considerable distance away from the king’s personal chamber. Otherwise I imagine they might hear the sound of what happened. So, they leave and go somewhere for a little while. Long enough for Ehud to stab Eglon. And the description of what happened is sort of comical, though of course we’re speaking of the demise of a real human, so let’s not laugh too hard. But we’ve been set up for this. The guy is fat. Really fat. And he oppresses God’s people. He manages to get himself up out of his chair to receive his treat. And then Ehud pulls the weapon from his right thigh and plunges it into Eglon’s belly. Eglon is so fat that the dagger enters his belly sinking all the way into him. The fat – another sacrificial term or concept – covers even the handle of the dagger and cannot be retrieved. And ultimately we have the King James Version telling us that the “dirt” came out. Yuck! This probably means that excrement came out of Eglon’s body as a result of this attack.

Judges 3 Commentary
Verses 24-25

Ehud escapes and locks the door behind him. Then the guards return. Verses 24 and 25.

24 ¶ When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber. 25 And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.

So even this part is intended to be humorous I think. And I’m sorry if this is distasteful – well, there’s no “ifs” about it – it is indeed distasteful. But, seeing as the “dirt” came out earlier on in the story and now that Eglon isn’t coming to the door, the guards put two and two together. Covering one’s feet is an ancient Hebrew euphemism for our modern English euphemism “using the facilities.” He’s not coming to the door. The smell may have been noticeable. Again, I’m sorry for the unpleasantness. And these guards at first wait patiently. Then as the minutes pass they start to wonder. But really who is going to be the first to knock and risk embarrassing their liege? They wait until they are ashamed and can’t wait any longer! So they get the key, open the door, and find their corpulent and godless leader dead on the ground.

Judges 3 Commentary
Verses 26-30

What happens next? Verses 26 through 30.

26 ¶ And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries [or, again, perhaps “idols” or just the “stones” that were in Gilgal], and escaped unto Seirath. 27 And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them. 28 And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over. 29 And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty [or “robust” or “large” or even “fat”], and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man. 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.

What an ending! Ehud escapes. But not one of those fat, large, or robust men of Moab does.

It’s interesting that Ehud escapes to Ephraim. Again, he’s from Benjamin, but I think this shows that judges could be the tribal ruler over several tribes, not just one. So, apparently a number of men from all Israel followed after Ehud down to the fords of Jordan where people would cross over to Moab. And they kill a lot of these fat/large/robust men – apparently they’re this way from their consumption of Israel’s goods just like Eglon. 10,000 of them or thereabouts. But later on in the book there will be an even larger slaughter at this very same place – the fords of Jordan. It’s there at the end of Jephthah’s time that the Gileadites led by Jepthah slaughter not 10,000 but 42,000. But that’s not the number of foreign enemies in chapter 12. It’s the number of Ephraimites that are slain under Jephthah’s rule – these very Ephraimites who are helping Ehud destroy the foreign enemy – Moab.

But for now, Ehud did his job. The foreign enemy is put down. And the land – whether that’s all Israel or just that immediate area – has rest for 80 years – two generations.

So, what do you think about Ehud? I’d say he’s generally a good judge. There really isn’t anything bad said of him – unless you think that being left-handed is a negative quality in a person. He did use deception, whereas we’re not told that Othniel did. But I’m not sure that we should look down on him because of that. Deception is a lawful tactic in war. And Israel certainly was in a war. So I think he’s fine. But even the fact that we’re having to weigh Ehud’s actions and character are an indication that things are on a downward progression in Israel, though the progression is slow at this point.

Judges 3 Commentary
Verse 31

Well, we’ve seen two major or cyclical judges. Then we end the chapter with a minor or non-cyclical judge. Let’s read verse 31.

31 ¶ And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.

We can assume that Shamgar did much more than we have recorded. But we have recorded here all we need to know about this man for the sake of the message of this book. Shamgar is the first minor judge. He’s the son of Anath. Anath could be his father’s name. Or it might indicate that he was a military figure, maybe a mercenary. And he kills not Moabites like Ehud or Mesopotamians like Othniel. Shamgar kills Philistines. And since he’s dealing with Philistines he probably lives around the coast of the Mediterranean Sea where the Philistines lived. The tribes around there include Judah, Simeon, Dan, Ephraim, and Benjamin. So it’s likely that he’s from one of those tribes. But I’ve read that Old Testament scholars think he may not have been a native Israelite – just like Othniel.

Now, Shamgar kills 600 Philistines. And he does it with a pretty unusual instrument – an ox goad. That’s the instrument farmers would use to move their oxen along. 600 dead with a simple ox goad. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment. It is amazing. But just imagine what Israel could have been doing this whole time if only they had been faithful to the Lord instead of serving Baal.

So, now we’ve considered the first three judges in this book. We have nine left. And as I said at the beginning, it doesn’t get any better than this. It’s all downhill from here. Israel gets worse and worse and so do their judges. Next time we’ll hear about a female judge named Deborah and her reluctant sidekick Barak.

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.

Judges Bible Study
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!

Judges Bible Study
Abraham

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.

Judges Bible Study
Moses

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

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.

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
Structure

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.

Judges Bible Study
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?

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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
Regional

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.

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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?

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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?

Judges Bible Study
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.

Judges Bible Study
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
Applications

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.

Joshua 24 KJV Analysis, Verse 15, As For Me and My House

So, we see Joshua’s first final address in Joshua 23. He gives another one in chapter 24…

Joshua 24:1-2

[24:1 ¶ And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges [note this additional mention of Judges], and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.]

What Joshua does from verse 2 to verse 13 is recall Israel’s history up to the present time – Joshua’s time. He starts in verse 2 with Terah and his ancestors. They worshiped idols. Verse 3 talks about Abraham. God took him out of his land and gave him a son. Verse 4 speaks of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau and the land that Esau was given. Jacob, on the other hand, God sent down to Egypt. When they were in the Egypt for a while, God sent Moses and Aaron and plagued Egypt and redeemed Israel out of there. We’re reminded of the peril they faced at the Red Sea when Egypt pursued them in verses 6 and 7. If you look at the end of verse 7 you see something very interesting. “Ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.” We saw this with Moses as well. There just wasn’t much to say about that period of their existence as a nation. It was a big defeat for them because they refused to trust God. Then verse 8 reminds them how God destroyed Sihon and Og. Balak and Balaam in verse 9 tried to trip Israel up, but – verse 10 – God wouldn’t allow it. Verse 11 reminds them of the battle of Jericho and subsequent battles in the land of Canaan. Verse 12 – God sent hornets before them to help them defeat their enemies, just like he did with Sihon and Og. Israel didn’t do this with her “sword and their bow.” She did it with God’s help. And now – verse 13 – they’re living in a land filled with good things. Israel, look at your history. God has been good to you. What should be their reaction to God’s goodness? Verse 14…

Joshua 24:14-15

[14 ¶ Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.]

It’s almost shocking that Joshua needs to admonish these folks to put away their false gods that they served back in Terah’s day and back in Egypt. They were still attracted to these silly idols. But these idols of the Egyptians, for example, God judged with the 10 Plagues. The Lord had overthrown the idols. And yet the Lord’s people were still clinging to them in some ways. Well, how do the people respond to this charge from Joshua? Verse 16…

Joshua 24:16-18

[16 ¶ And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; 17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: 18 And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.]

They get it right! That’s a good response. They speak the truth. Does that satisfy Joshua? Verse 19…

Joshua 24:19-20

[19 ¶ And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.]

But I thought the Lord was full of forgiveness! He is. Verse 19 isn’t intended to say that he won’t forgive sins, even in the Old Testament. Verse 19 needs to be read in light of verse 20. In other words, God won’t overlook anyone’s sin. If Israel turns to strange gods, the Lord will not overlook their sins. But the people are adamant that they’ll serve God. Verse 21…

Joshua 24:21-24

[21 And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD.

22 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him.

And they said, We are witnesses.

23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.

24 And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.]

We’re going to serve the Lord. Alright, Joshua says, you’re witnesses that you made this promise. Yes, we’re witnesses. OK then, put away those gods and follow the Lord. And the people consent. So Joshua tries to make this permanent. Verse 25…

Joshua 24:25-28

[25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us [just like the altar of the 2 ½ tribes was two chapters ago]; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. 28 So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.]

So that’s Joshua’s last word to Israel. Then the chapter and book end with three burials or deaths. Verses 29-30 tell us about Joshua’s death and burial. Verse 32 records the burial of Joseph. And finally in verse 33 we have the death and burial of Eleazar the high priest.

Joshua 24:31

Verse 31 summarizes things this way: “And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.”

Next Up: Judges!

And that’s somewhat of a happy ending, but it’s not the end of the story. Turn a few pages forward to the 2nd chapter of the book of Judges. Judges 2:7. “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.” And now verse 10. “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” And then we have the rest of the book of Judges. We’ll start studying that next week, Lord-willing.

Joshua 23 KJV Commentary, Explained, Lessons, Sermons

For now, we’ll move on the chapter 23. Chapters 23 and 24 consist of Joshua giving two final addresses to Israel. Let’s start reading verse 1…

Joshua 23:1-4

[23:1 ¶ And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. 2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges [We’ll see more about this group in Israel when we start studying Judges.], and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age: 3 And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you. 4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.]

So, Joshua says that he’s about to die. So he isn’t making this address for his own personal benefit. He turns the attention to his audience. YOU ALL have seen what the Lord has done to the nations in Canaan. And their land has been given to the Israelites. There are some Canaanites left, but the Lord will continue working with Israel to drive them out – verse 5…

Joshua 23:5

[5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.]

But in order for the Lord to keep doing this, Israel needs to keep the warning in verse 6…

Joshua 23:6-8

[6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; 7 That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: 8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.]

And why would Israel even think of worshipping the gods of the Canaanites? They didn’t do much good for their own worshippers, whom Israel has destroyed. Joshua reminds them of this fact starting in verse 9…

Joshua 23:9-10

[9 For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. 10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.]

And yet Joshua must warn Israel of what will happen if they turn from loving God. Verse 11…

Joshua 23:11-13

[11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. 12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: 13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.]

If Israel stops loving God, he will stop driving their enemies out of their land. In fact, what will end up happening is that Israel itself will be driven from the land. And Joshua gives them one huge reason to love this God of theirs in verse 14…

Joshua 23:14

[14 ¶ And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.]

God has kept all his promises. He’s so good to his people. But God’s promise-keeping isn’t simply for the benefit of Israel. It can also be to their detriment that God always keeps his promises. Because, after all, God also promised Israel calamity if they turn from him. Verse 15…

Joshua 23:15-16

[15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. [Under what circumstances would God do this to his people Israel?] 16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.]

So, that’s Joshua’s first final address. He gives another one in chapter 24…