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  • The book of Judges.

  • So remember after Joshua led the tribe of Israel into the Promised Land

  • he called them to be faithful to their covenant with God

  • by obeying the commands of the Torah.

  • And if they do this, they will show all the other nations what God is like.

  • So Judges begins with the death of Joshua

  • basically tells the story of Israel's total failure.

  • The book's name comes from the type of leaders Israel had in this period.

  • Before they had any Kings, the tribes were all governed by these "judges".

  • Now don't think of a courtroom.

  • These were regional, political, military leaders

  • more like a tribal chieftain.

  • And you need to be warned the book of Judges is very disturbing

  • and violent. It tells the tragic tale of Israel's moral corruption,

  • of its bad leadership,

  • and basically how they become no different than the Canaanites.

  • But this sad story is also meant to generate hope for the future,

  • and you can see this in how the book is designed.

  • There's a large introduction that sets the stage for Israel's failure

  • as they don't drive out the remaining Canaanites.

  • Then, the large main section of the book has stories about the growing corruption of Israel's judges.

  • And the progression here shows how Israel's leaders go from pretty good, to

  • ok, to bad,

  • to worse.

  • The concluding section is really disturbing

  • and shows the corruption of the people of Israel as a whole.

  • So let's dive in and we can explore each part a bit more.

  • The opening section begins with the tribes of Israel in their territories in the Promised Land,

  • and while Joshua defeated some key Canaanite towns,

  • there is still a lot of land to be taken,

  • and lots of Canaanites living in those areas.

  • And so chapter one gives a long list of Canaanite groups and towns

  • that Israel just failed to drive out from the land.

  • Now remember, the whole point of driving out the Canaanites

  • was to avoid their moral corruption and their way of worshiping the gods

  • through child sacrifice.

  • God had called Israel to be a holy people

  • and that does not happen.

  • Chapter 2 describes how Israel just moved in alongside the Canaanites

  • adopted all their cultural and religious practices.

  • and it's right here that the story stops.

  • For nearly a whole chapter, the narrator gives us an overview of everything that's about to happen

  • in the body of the book.

  • This part of Israel's history, the narrator says,

  • was a series of cycles moving in a downward spiral.

  • Israel became like the Canaanites,

  • and so they would sin against God.

  • So, God would allow them to be conquered and oppressed by the Canaanites,

  • and eventually the Israelites would see the error of their ways

  • and repent.

  • So God would raise up a deliverer of a judge from among Israel, who would defeat the enemy

  • and bring about an era of peace.

  • but eventually Israel would sin again and it will all start over.

  • This cycle provides the literary design and flow for the next main section of the book.

  • It gets repeated for each of the six main judges

  • whose stories are told here.

  • Now the stories of the first three judges

  • Othniel, Ehud and Deborah

  • theyre epic adventures - they're also extremely bloody stories.

  • Either the judge themselves or people who helped the judge -

  • they defeat their enemies and deliver the people of Israel.

  • The stories about the next three judges are longer

  • and they focus in on the character flaws of the judges

  • which get increasingly worse.

  • So Gideon, he begins pretty well, he's a coward of a man

  • but he eventually comes to trust that God CAN SAVE Israel through him

  • and so he defeats a HUGE army of Midianites with only three hundred men

  • carrying torches and clay pots.

  • But Gideon has a nasty temper and he murders a bunch of fellow Israelitas

  • for not helping him in his battle

  • and then it all goes downhill from there.

  • He makes an idol from the gold that he won in his battles

  • and then after he dies all Israel worships the idol as a god

  • and the cycle begins again.

  • The next main judge is Jephthah who's something of a mafia thug living up in the hills

  • and when things get really bad for Israel the elders come to him begging for his help.

  • And Jephthah was a very effective leader,

  • he won lots of battles against the Ammonites.

  • but he was so unfamiliar with the God of Israel he treats him like a Canaanite god -

  • he vows to sacrifice his daughter if he wins the battle.

  • This tragic story it shows just how far Israel has fallen,

  • they no longer know the character of their own God,

  • which leads to murder and to false worship.

  • The last judge Samson is by far the worst.

  • his life began full of promise, but he has no regard for the God of Israel.

  • He was promiscuous, violent and arrogant.

  • He did win brutally strategic victories over the Philistines

  • but only at the expense of his own integrity

  • and his life ends in a violent rush of mass murder.

  • Now a quick note here,

  • you´ll notice a repeated theme in the main section of the book

  • that at key moments God´s Spirit will empower each of these judges

  • to accomplish these great acts of deliverance.

  • Now the fact that God uses these really screwed up people

  • doesn´t mean he endorses all or even any of their decisions.

  • God is committed first and foremost to saving His people

  • but all he has to work with is these corrupt leaders

  • and so work with them he does.

  • This whole section is designed just to show how bad things have gotten -

  • you can´t even tell the Israelites and the Caananites apart anymore,

  • and that´s just the leaders.

  • The final section shows Israel as a whole hitting bottom.

  • There are two tragic stories here and they are not for the faint of heart.

  • They´re structured by this key line that gets repeated four times at the close of the book

  • In those days Israel had no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

  • The first story is about an Israelite named Micah who built a private temple to an idol.

  • And that gets plundered by a private army sent by the tribe of Dan.

  • So they come and they steal everything and then they go and burn down the peaceful city of Laish

  • and murder all of its inhabitants, its a horrifying story.

  • When Israel forgets its God might makes right.

  • The final story of the book is even worse,

  • it's a shocking tale of sexual abuse and violence which all leads to Israel´s first civil war.

  • It's very disturbing and that´s the point.

  • These stories are meant to serve as a warning,

  • Israel´s descent into self destruction is a result of turning away

  • from the God who loves them and saved them out of slavery

  • in Egypt, and now Israel needs to be delivered again from themselves.

  • The only glimmer of hope in this story is found in this repeated line in the last part of the book.

  • It actually forms the last sentence of this story.

  • Israel has no king and so the stage is set for the following books to tell the origins of King David´s family,

  • the book of Ruth, and also the origins of kingship itself in Israel,

  • the book of 1 Samuel. But the story of Judges has value as a tragedy -

  • it's a sobering explanation of the human condition, and ultimately it points out the need for God´s grace

  • to send a king who will rescue His people.

  • And that´s the book of judges.

The book of Judges.

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Read Scripture: Judges

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    sophia posted on 2017/04/10
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