Judges 4 Deborah And Barak.

Judges 4 Deborah And Barak.

Again one reads of the practice of evil among the people with the loss of godly leadership, at this stage with the death of Ehud (v. 1 Cf. 2:11, 19). So again, the LORD “sold them” to his and their enemy, in this case Jabin the Canaanite, a descendant of the Jabin of Joshua 11:1-9 (v. 2 NGSB. 337 Cf. Ps. 106:40-43). In saying that he sold them it of course implies that he had bought them, that they were his by redemption (Is. 52:3). What specifically caused them to be sold was their evil deeds (Cf. 2:14; Is. 50:1). Chariots of iron proved to be too formidable for the people to drive out (1:19). This subjugation under Sisera lasted 20 years (v. 3 Cf. I Sam. 12:9; Ps. 83:9). Into this context we find the LORD raising up a prophetess named Deborah, who as a prophetess through whom the word of God came, was also a judge at that time (v. 4). It is important to note that not all judges were prophets, but there is no mention of women as judges except one like Deborah who was also a prophetess. The fact that she was also a prophetess would seem to indicate that this was a prerequisite for her as a woman to also sit as a judge. As a prophetess she was called to remind the people of their covenant obligations, and of their sin in turning their backs on the LORD (v. 5). “The palm tree of Deborah” is likely named after Rebekah’s nurse of Genesis 35:8. (NGSB. 337)

Perhaps because she was a woman, the word of the LORD to Barak was not immediately heeded by him, to deploy his troops  at Mt. Tabor. The LORD said that he in turn would cause Sisera to deploy his troops in opposition (vv. 6-7). Verse 8 would seem to suggest that Barak lacked courage, but the writer to the Hebrews suggests otherwise (11:32). What Barak was asking for in asking for Deborah to accompany them, is that she would back up her words with her own commitment. After all, it was a rare event to have a word from a prophetess to go to war against such odds. Nevertheless, it did speak to a lack of faith on his part, and as a result he would not be credited with any victory, but instead the LORD would “sell Sisera into the hand of a woman,” which would also be humiliating for Sisera (v. 9). So Barak and Deborah went together (v. 10). As the LORD had promised, he through his chose means caused Sisera to deploy for war (vv. 11-13). Then Deborah, as was her calling, told Barak that the LORD was moving and he must move with him (v. 14). Despite having all his men and their chariots, Barak and his men were able to defeat them all (vv. 15-16). Sisera fled, no doubt in hopes of not being defeated personally by a woman, but the woman Jael would later put a spike through his head (vv. 17-22). The people would increase in strength, eventually defeating Jabin himself (vv. 23-24).

Judges 3:7-31 The Fight Continues.

Judges 3:7-31 The Fight Continues.

Israel did evil and forgot the LORD, and as he had promised, the punishment for this covenantal infidelity would include defeat at the hands of their enemies (vv. 7-8). Nevertheless, when the people cried out to the LORD the LORD raised up a godly leader in Othniel, Caleb’s younger brother (v. 9). “The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD delivered. So the land had rest for forty years” (vv. 10-11). Judges is a continuous testimony to the need for godly leadership if the LORD’s people are to remain faithful. Godly leaders are those who are able to judge the right course because they have the Spirit, who also prove the LORD’s favour in victories won. As soon as Othniel died “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD” (v. 12).

So once again they are punished by the defeat at the hands of their enemies (vv. 13-14). One gets the impression that they were not normally a praying people, or at least not with sincerity, for once again we read that when the cried out to the LORD that he again sent them a deliverer in Ehud (v. 15). Under the pretext of offering a tribute, and enticing Eglon the king of Moab with the promise of secret knowledge which resulted in a private meeting, Ehud assassinated the king. His servants waited so long to open the door to his chamber that Ehud was long gone by the time they learned of his death (vv. 16-26). Once again the people enjoy rest, but this time for 80 years instead of forty (vv. 27-30), possibly sharing the leadership of these 80 years with one Shamgar who “also delivered Israel” (v. 31).

Judges 3:1-6 A Test Of Fidelity.

Judges 3:1-6 A Test Of Fidelity.

As noted in the previous passage, the LORD left some of his enemies in the land after the death of Joshua and the elders with him, that the next generation might be tested as to their covenantal fidelity (v. 1 Cf. 2:20-23). They needed to be taught to know war, “at least those who had not formerly known it” (v. 2). The presence of these nations would test whether or not his people were willing to wage war over their fidelity to their covenant LORD in keeping his commandments, “which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses” (vv. 3-4). This, incidentally, is a witness to Mosaic authorship of the law. However, instead of fidelity to his law, the people compromised with these nations, seen especially in their intermarriage with them, which would lead to idolatry or spiritual adultery against their covenant LORD (vv. 5-6). This is very much the condition of the church today. The church, in forsaking the law-word of the covenant, has united with the pagan cultures around it, making it ultimately guilty of idolatry. The church’s idols are the same as that of the pagan cultures in which it dwells, in every area of life. The church must be forced to fight for the truth like our forefathers had to fight.

Judges 2:11-23 Covenantal Apostasy – Failure To Heed The Word.

Judges 2:11-23 Covenantal Apostasy – Failure To Heed The Word.

There is no neutrality when it comes to our basic commitments in life. With the loss of godly leadership, and an ignorance of their past covenantal history (vv. 7-10), the generation that followed after Joshua and the elders with him, “did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals” (v. 11 Cf. 3:12; 4:1; 6:1). A lack of a personal relationship with the covenantal LORD is always accompanied by an ignorance of what the sovereign LORD has done for his people in history. “Another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (v. 10 Cf. 3:7). The saints were always reminded of the LORD acting in history for their deliverance. This is not the case for apostates. “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 all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger” (v. 12). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

There is no neutrality when it comes to our basic commitments in life. If people do not worship the one true God they will worship someone or something else. This is a consequence of forgetting what the sovereign covenantal LORD has done in history. When those who are in covenant with the LORD reject him, they invariably adopt the culture around them. It is this spiritual adultery that provoked the LORD to anger against them. They forsook the LORD to serve another. There is irony in their acceptance of the gods of the pagan culture around them, for far from being their friends, the LORD would use these pagans to exact his punishment on them. They may have wanted to forget their history, but their enemies would not (vv. 13-14). This judgment was neither capricious nor arbitrary, for the LORD had warned them that this would be the punishment for their spiritual adultery and high treason (v. 15). These are the curses that fall upon those who deliberately break the covenantal bond (Lev. 26:14-26; Dt. 28:15-68).

“Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them” (v. 16). This is simply another way of saying that while they were his enemies he loved them, and showed grace to them in his sovereign control of history. “Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them” (v. 17a). Here we see the crux of the matter, the root of all apostasy – the obstinate refusal to heed the word of the LORD. When the LORD’s covenanted people turn away from his law, it is a clear indication that they have turned their backs on him (v. 17b). The LORD pitied the plight of his people, and chose to lead his people through the judges who governed according to his word (v. 18). “When the judge was dead…they did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way” (v. 19a). There is no neutrality – one either follows the LORD through his word, or one’s own way (v. 19b). It is a transgression of the covenant (v. 20a).

Since they rejected the LORD’s word, he would not give them victory over those enemies who remained with the death of Joshua (v. 21). Instead, the LORD would use these nations to test his people, “whether they would keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not” (v. 22). Since they refused to follow the LORD in their prosperity, he would test them with adversity. This is a telling warning not to take the LORD for granted, or worse yet depart from his word, when blessings abound. Our writer seems to suggest that this may have in fact been one of the reasons why the LORD did not deliver all his enemies into Joshua’s hand. A new generation would need their own battles to fight, otherwise they would be prone to drift away (v. 23 Cf. Dt. 7:22-23; Josh. 13:1-7). “This explains why there were still Canaanites during a period when Israel had been faithful (vv. 6-9). Vv. 20-22 and 3:1-4 provide a new reason for God’s leaving the Canaanites, to test the hearts of the people.” (NGSB. 336)

Judges 2:7-10 The Death Of Joshua, And Godliness.

Judges 2:7-10 The Death Of Joshua, And Godliness.

Although the people were not perfect, the writer is able to affirm that “the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua” (v. 7a). Leadership is important for the good of any community, but especially for the covenant community of the church. It is a rare case indeed to have a godly society with godly leadership. One thing stands out in this passage as that which set Joshua and the elders apart – they “had seen all the great works of the LORD which he had done for Israel” (v. 7b). Godly leadership is only provided by those who know the LORD to be the sovereign God of history, who acts in history on behalf of his covenanted people. Those who forget this history forget the God who acts in history. The second thing to note, with respect to Joshua in particular, was that he was a servants of the LORD. The record reveals how he was also a servant for the people, but this was secondary, and based upon his primary duty (v. 8).

Too many have a pagan view of the body, especially as it passes to the grave. The churches loses a great deal when it forgets the importance of where one’s body lays. It was important that Joshua be buried in the land of his inheritance, for Joshua had laboured, however imperfectly, all the days of his life that the LORD’s kingdom would come, that his will would be done on earth as it was in heaven. The Christian hope is not one of a bodiless or earthless future – quite the opposite. The Christian hope is one of a resurrection body dwelling in a new heavens and a new earth. Heaven isn’t our permanent home, the earth is. Joshua wanted to be raised in the land which the LORD had promised to him, the place he laboured as the LORD’s servant, and one day he shall. However, when that generation had all passed, the next generation had forgotten the works which the LORD had done, for they did not know the LORD. It is only the true children of faith who remember their covenantal history.

Judges 2:1-6 Covenantal Adultery.

Judges 2:1-6 Covenantal Adultery.

The issue facing the people was clear. The angel of the LORD testified how he had brought up their forefathers from Egypt and through the wilderness to take possession of the promised land. This was done because of the covenant He had made with them, a covenant he promised to never break (v. 1). They, on the other hand, did break covenant with them when they made a covenant with the inhabitants of the land that they were called upon to dispossess. In this process, and largely the reason for this, was that they were to also tear down their altars, but they did not. This was spiritual adultery on their part. They did not obey his voice, his word (v. 2). They evidently had no answer to the question ‘Why?’. What follows is therefore a judgment upon them, that the foreigners with their gods, that they allowed to live, would become thorns in their sides, and their gods a snare (v. 3). The people wept because of the word spoken, and they offered sacrifices, but we are left wondering if there would be any change in their behaviour (vv. 4-5). They returned each to their given territories, but how would they act going forward? In making a covenant with some of the inhabitants, they committed themselves to not fully obeying the word that was given.

Judges 1 The People Were Lazy And Disobedient, Therefore The Conquest Was Incomplete.


Judges 1 The People Were Lazy And Disobedient, Therefore The Conquest Was Incomplete.

Joshua had passed away, but the taking of the remainder of the promised land was not complete, so the people asked the LORD who should lead them in battle, and the LORD chose Judah (vv. 1-2). Judah joined forces with Simeon, whose inheritance was within Judah, and the two of them committed to help each other take their respective territories (v. 3 Cf. Josh. 19:1). They proceeded to conquer the Canaanites and Perizzites, and they cut off the thumbs and big toes of Adoni-Bezek who said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me.’” (v.7). He died in Jerusalem. Thus the LORD God showed himself sovereign over all kings and kingdoms, and that the conquest of his land for his people was also recompense for men like Adoni-Bezek. They then proceeded to take Jerusalem and Hebron (vv. 8-10).

Joshua’s partner Caleb then put out a challenge that whoever took Kirjath Sepher would be given his daughter Achsah as wife. Othneil his younger brother took it, and so married Achsah who asked her father for a blessing of a field and springs of water (vv. 11-15). Judah and Simeon also continued in their conquests of the Canaanites at Zephath, “and utterly destroyed it” (v. 17). “Also Judah took Gaza with its territory, Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. So the LORD was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron” (vv. 18-19). Near the end of the period of the judges, under Samuel, a similar condition existed. The children of Israel were at a disadvantage because they had no blacksmiths to make for them the weapons of war that they might employ against the Philistines (I Sam. 13:19-22).

Nevertheless, Hebron was given to Caleb, a reward for his valiant faith. “Then he expelled from there the three sons of Anak. But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem” (vv. 20-21). There is a long history to the tribe of Benjamin, with judges ending with the plan to answer the possible extinction of this tribe (Ch. 21). Saul, of this tribe, considered his own tribe as insignificant because it was relatively small compared to the others (I Sa. 9:21). Furthermore, as this tribe spared the Jebusites, even so later Saul would be judged for sparing Agag, king of the Amelekites, and have the kingdom taken from him (I Sa. 15). On the other hand, the LORD was with the house of Joseph, and they took the city of Bethel, the place called the ‘house of God’, dedicated as such when Jacob was met by the LORD there (Cf. Gen. 28:10ff.; 31:10ff.).

As Rahab was spared for showing favour to the Israelite spies at Jericho (Josh. 2; 6), even so a man of Luz (the former name of Bethel) was spared when he helped guide the Israelites to victory over its inhabitants (vv. 22-26). However, Mannaseh, the firstborn of Joseph, also spared the inhabitants of the territory allotted to him, including En Dor, from which Saul would consult a medium (v. 27 Cf. Josh. 17:11-13; I Sam. 28:3ff.). These enemies of the LORD were spared by the people that they might be exempted from hard labour (v. 28). Such is the continual challenge to the church. Rather than doing the hard work of the kingdom, like raising and educating one’s own children in a way honouring to the LORD, this task is given over to pagans to indoctrinate them into their paganism. What follows is a record of the other tribes following suit (vv. 29-33), with the children of Dan even being forced into the mountains by the Amorites (v. 34-36).