This Bible Study is part of the "Survey of the Former Prophets" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
The opening part of Judges summarizes the events recorded in the later verses of the Book of Joshua. In Judges 1, we read of an event that occurred just after the death of Joshua. We had read in the Book of Joshua that Israel served the Eternal their God all the days of Joshua and the elders that outlived Joshua.
This is John Ogwyn. In our continuing survey of the Former Prophets, we now begin to focus our attention on the Book of Judges. The Book of Judges picks up the story of the children of Israel at the time of Joshua's death and covers the history of the nation through a period that spans several hundred years.
The opening part of Judges summarizes the events recorded in the later verses of the Book of Joshua. In Judges 1, we read of an event that occurred just after the death of Joshua. We had read in the Book of Joshua that Israel served the Eternal their God all the days of Joshua and the elders that outlived Joshua. So there were some of Joshua's contemporaries, some of the leaders under Joshua, who continued for a few years beyond him. However, it did not last long as we are going to see. The story begins with the tribe of Judah soliciting the help of the tribe of Simeon to join with them to drive out some of the Canaanites that were in the area of their inheritance. Chapter 1 describes some of the battles and other events.
Verse 13 introduces us to a man by the name of Othniel. Othniel was a very courageous man and a warrior. He was the nephew of Caleb, whom we read about in the Book of Joshua. As a result of attacking and capturing Kirjath Sepher, Othniel took possession of it. Othniel married his cousin, Achash, as part of his reward.
Reading through this first chapter of the Book of Judges 1, it is obvious that Israel did not successfully finish the tasks God had given them to do. God had instructed them that they were to drive out the Canaanites; they were to get rid of these peoples and send them from the Promised Land. God knew that if Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, they would be tempted to do things the way the Canaanites did.
Satan has always used two basic tactics against the people of God, enticement and intimidation. In other words, he tries to entice people, to attract them. He says, "Come on over, compromise a little bit. Come over a little closer to where I am." The other tactic, that of intimidation, employs threats and pressures hoping that they will cause God's people to back off and yield to their real or imagined fears.
The Canaanite tribes were in the land He had given to Israel, and God had given Israel instruction on what they were to do. But Israel did not want to do what God told them to do.
And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out.
You see, greed and selfishness enticed them and they reasoned among themselves, "Why should we drive them out? Why don't we make servants of them? Why don't we enslave them? Why don't we make them pay us money?" That is exactly what they did when they were strong. However, when you read through the story you realize that the failure of specific tribes to drive out the Canaanites from their God-given territory, produced profoundly disastrous results.
Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: "I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you. 'And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?"
Through His angel, God instructed the people and said, "You have not done what I asked you to do."
"Therefore I also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.'"
The death of Joshua is recorded in Judges 2:8-9.
Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger.
So, God delivered them into the hands of the spoilers. The remainder of chapter 2, and continuing on into chapter 3, is a summary of the Book of Judges. It is a summary of a great deal of human experience as well. You see, Judges is in many ways the bloodiest book in the whole Bible. We are told the reason for that at the very end of the book of Judges. "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
The people wanted to do what they wanted to do. The lesson of human experience is that when human beings follow the way that seems right unto them, and they do what they want to do without regard to God's instructions, EVERY TIME, inevitably, there are problems and difficulties that arise, consequences that come.
They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.
In verse 16 we are told that God "raised up judges." God had mercy and He sent a deliverer, yet they did not listen to their judges (verse 17). They went after other gods, and so they went into calamity once again.
Judges 2:18-19, 21-22
And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way... "I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, "so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not."
God left those nations for a purpose.
Now these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan Verse 3 lists the nations that were left for the purpose of teaching Israel.
And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
God allows us to be tested. What do you and I really want to do? In the very beginning of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, there were two trees, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. God allowed both trees to be in the garden. He told Adam and Eve they should not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He said, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat," except one. "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17) He warned them, "If you eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you will DIE." But, you know, that tree (of the knowledge of good and evil) was still there! God gave them an alternative. He told them which one to take and which one not to take. However, they were proven, tested, by the fact that there was a wrong alternative. God always makes sure we understand what the alternatives are and what the consequences will be. He speaks very plainly. He told ancient Israel through Moses, "I set before you LIFE and DEATH, GOOD and EVIL--CHOOSE LIFE that you and your seed may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
God allowed Israel to be tried and tested. Enticement, one of Satan's favorite tools, was still there. The nations were left there to prove Israel, to test them. DID THEY REALLY LOVE God AND WOULD THEY SERVE HIM, or would they cast a covetous eye and look at these Canaanites and decide they wanted to copy them?
And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs. Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years. When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
Othniel was Caleb's nephew. God's Spirit stirred him up and he led the nation and defeated the king of Mesopotamia.
So the land had rest for forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
Over and over we see there were times when Israel had rest. Rest and obedience go together. After Othniel died...
And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. Then he gathered to himself the people of Ammon and Amalek, went and defeated Israel, and took possession of the City of Palms. So the children of Israel served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years.
At this point in time God again raised up a deliverer, a man by the name of Ehud. Ehud was a Benjamite. He was a left-handed man and a very courageous individual. He hid a dagger on his person and went to visit Eglon, the king of Moab, the ruler over the Israelites. Ehud told the guards that he had a present for King Eglon. He was allowed into the throne room and he approached the king to deliver his present.
"I have a secret message for you, O king." He said, "Keep silence!" And all who attended him went out from him. And Ehud came to him (now he was sitting upstairs in his cool private chamber). Then Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you." So he arose from his seat.
Ehud was carrying a message from God. To deliver the message, Ehud pulled out his dagger and he stabbed Eglon, he thrust his dagger into his belly and assassinated him. We are told that Eglon was a pretty fat fellow. In fact he was so fat that when Ehud stabbed him, he could not get the dagger out so he just left, locking the porch door behind him. The servants, in the mean time, are standing outside the door to the king's throne room. They are waiting and waiting and they cannot understand why it is taking so long. Finally they decided, as it mentions in verse 24, that, well, maybe he is using the bathroom. "He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber." (Judges 3:24) The guards still tarried until, as it says in verse 25, they were ashamed (embarrassed). They finally acknowledged they had to check on him. They opened the door and found him dead. While they had waited to enter the throne room, Ehud had made his escape. Ehud gathered the Israelites and led them to overthrow their Moabite overlords. Moab was subdued that day, and we read in verse 30 that, "the land had rest for eighty years."
However after Ehud died, Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. The Canaanites began to oppress them. Our story now turns to a woman by the name of Deborah. She was the wife of Lapidoth and she was a prophetess. She was judging Israel at this time and God gave her special miraculous revelations. She sent for Barak, a leader of Israel. Deborah had been given a message by God and she told Barak that he was to lead an army and overthrow the Canaanites. Barak was not a particularly bold character.
And Barak said to her, "If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!"
As Deborah explains a little later in the Song of Deborah (recorded in Judges 5:7) she had to be like a mother in Israel. In essence she says, "They were acting like a bunch of little kids. Momma had to come and take them by the hand and lead them out to battle." Essentially, that is what happened. Deborah joined the battle with Barak. (Judges 4:10) The Canaanite general, Sisera, fled and he was later killed by a woman by the name of Jael. She was the wife of Heber the Kenite. It is a rather gruesome story. Sisera went to her tent, wanting something to drink, so she gave him some buttermilk. He drank it and lay down to go to sleep. As he slept, she took a hammer and a tent peg and drove the peg into his temple, killing him while he lay there. It's a bloody, gruesome story, but the Book of Judges is a bloody, gruesome book. It is the story of a people who followed the way that seemed right unto them.
Next time we will continue our study of the book of Judges.