20 February 2016

Stone 7 - Judges

In Joshua we learned that the Israelites finally moved across the Jordan and won some battles to take the promised land. There is still some work to do, however, since there were people still out there who had not been wiped out.

Cry Out For Leadership
Up unto this point we have seen very clear leaders that stand out such as Joseph in Genesis, Moses, and Joshua who had done a significant amount for the Israelites. Now that Joshua has passed away, we see right away in the first verse that the people are seeking who is to lead. While the response from the Lord is that Judah will go (Jud 1:2) - Judah is not a person - Judah is a tribe. Remember that the Israelites were divided up into twelve tribes. *Listed in no particular order*

  • Judah

  • Zebulun

  • Simeon

  • Reuben

  • Gad

  • Manassah

  • Ephraim

  • Benjamin

  • Asher

  • Dan

  • Naphtali

  • Issachar

While Judah and Simeon had some successes, they eventually come to an end (Jud 1:19). We also see that several of the other tribes were met with losses as well.
  • Benjamin in verse 21
  • Manasseh in verse 27
  • Ephraim in verse 29
  • Zebulun in verse 30
  • Asher in verse 31
  • Naphtali in verse 33
  • Dan in verse 34
In all of these cases we also see that there were people that continued to live among them. In other words, the Israelites did not completely wipe them out as they were told to do (Josh 10:40). Recall that Joshua was successful in his campaign because he did as he was directed.

God affirms the failure of the Israelites (Jud 2:1-2). Just as it was predicted, the Israelites were negatively affected by the Canaanites who remained in the land (Josh 23:12-13, 16), (Jud 2:12-13, 20-21), (Jud 3:6).

Throughout the book of Judges we find a pattern of a disobedient people crying out to God and putting their trust in the Lord when He provides a judge for them and then falling into sin and disobedience again when that particular judge dies.

...Rinse and Repeat...

Here Come Da Judges
1. Othniel is listed as the first judge. Note how we begin this introduction to Othniel in 3:7 - "The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord's sight..."

2. Ehud then comes on the scene, with a similar introduction (Jud 3:12).

3. Shamgar is next but is only mentioned in all of one verse (Jud 3:31)

4. Deborah is also introduced with the evil of the Israelites (Jud 4:1).

5. Guess what? Yup, Israel does what is evil in the sight of the Lord. As a result, Midian comes in and controls Israel for seven years (Jud 6:1). Now Gideon comes on the scene. You might recognize Gideon as having a bit more name recognition. Gideon is the one who constantly considers himself the weakest and the runt of the litter (Jud 6:15), He also is the one who brings out the fleece as a test. God either wets the fleece with dew or wets everything but the fleece with dew on two separate occasions to confirm to Gideon that He is indeed with him (Jud 6:36-40). The size of the army that Gideon used was only 300 men after God stripped it down from over 30,000 as suggested by Jud 7:3 and He used the very small number to ensure that the people of Israel would know that it was the work of the Lord and not their own doing (Jud 7:2). Interestingly, the people of Israel wanted Gideon to rule them, giving him the credit for the victory anyway (Jud 8:22). Gideon knows better (Jud 8:23), but unfortunately makes an ephod from the spoils that Israel ends up worshipping anyway (Jud 8:27).

6. Tola comes next but before that happens we have quite a bit going on. Judges 8:33 tells us that the Israelites didn't waste much time falling back into their evil ways after Gideon died. The big deal next is the oppression we expect now and where it begins. Abimelech, Gideon's own son conspires to take leadership by killing off his many brothers but missing one - Jotham. OOPS - Jotham gets up and spills the beans as it were on the whole ordeal and within three years (Jud 9:22) things came crashing down for Abimelech. The interesting take away here is that these problems we have been seeing originate both externally and internally.

7. Jair is next.

8. Jephthah arrives to bring peace this time. In Judges 10:6, however, we have another statement of evil Israelites. He makes this odd vow with God about handing over the first thing that comes out of his house to greet him (Jud 11:30-31).

9. Ibzan

10. Elon

11. Abdon

12. Samson is listed as the last of the judges. Judges 13:1 lets us know that Israel was once again evil in the sight of the Lord. Samson and Delilah is probably the most widely recognized account from the book of Judges. Samson helps to deliver them from the Philistines. The downfall of Samson is women and Delilah finally goads him into sharing the secret of his strength (Jud 16:16-17)

I am counting 12 judges and I cannot help but note the connection to the number of tribes of Israel being 12 as well.

Where is the King?
After Samson dies we hear about a fellow named Micah was not really on the right path. He was pretty much just doing his own thing and we are told that there was not king in Israel at that time (Jud 17:6). He even had some idols in the house that he had been worshipping and he later hires a Levite to be his personal priest. Later we have a group of spies show up from the Danites and come across Micah's house where the priest tells them that the Lord is watching over them. The spies find some easy prey and come back later with a larger party for the battle. On their way back through, they swing in to Micah's place and steal his stuff including the priest by sweet talking him to join them. Turns out the priest is the grandson of Moses and they settle in the land they just took and set up the idols for worship.

So Judges 18:1 and 19:1 also remind us that there was no king in Israel at that time. This becomes a key phrase in the book of Judges.

We continue to hear of a horrific event that takes place within Gibeah which is part of the Benjamin tribe. This traveller comes through with his concubine and stays at a man's place for the evening. In a night reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah, men come to the house and ask to have the man brought out so they can have sex with him (Jud 19:22). They refused and the traveller sent his concubine out. The concubine was raped, abused, and left for dead (Jud 19:25-28). The traveller took her back to his home, cut her up into 12 pieces and sent a piece to each of the 12 tribes of Israel (Jud 19:29).

This ends up starting a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of the Israelites and the tribe of Benjamin is almost wiped out. The book finishes with the reminder that there was no king and people did what they wanted (Jud 21:25)

So, to recap, we see this pattern of Israelites doing their own thing rather than following the instructions that God had laid out for them for their own good. They were unsuccesful in becoming settled in the land that was given to them because they continued to disregard the covenant with the Lord and worshipped other false gods instead. They continued to cry out to the Lord for help and He would provide a way to deliver them but they would soon fall back to their own devices.

Is it not interesting that they "had no king" and wanted someone to rule over them all the while God was there - capable and willing to lead them? They simply refused the King that was among them the whole time. Irony, it would seem.

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