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, son of Kenaz, 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 law and 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 they 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).

It is worth noting that some see evil in Ehud’s deception, but the word itself gives no indication of this, in fact Ehud is commended. Again, it is needful to make the point, that Ehud was a Benjamite, and that in fact not a single Judahite is numbered among the godly judges. Again, the LORD chooses the weak to shame the strong. In a way, Simeon shamed Judah by executing hormah in his territory, when Judah did not in his. Also again, under Ehud the Benjaminte, the nation enjoyed 80 years of peace, and although no mention is made of hormah, they seem to have achieved the same defeat upon Moab, as enjoyed under Simeon, for not a man among Moab escaped (3:29). It is also worth noting that Shamgar wasn’t even an Israelite, so again God used a foreigner!

Judges 2:7-3:6 The Second Intro: The Death Of Joshua, Godliness, And Testing.

Judges 2:7-3:6 The Second Intro: The Death Of Joshua, Godliness, And Testing.

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 servant 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 lose a great deal when they forget 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.

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. This was in fact the judge’s primary function. 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)

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 1-2:6 The First Intro: The Conquest Was Incomplete.

 

Judges 1-2:6 The First Intro: 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).

There is a popular evangelical perspective, based largely on an undue fixation on a supposed literary structure, that the authors (whom they do not know) favoured Judah over Benjamin, supposedly because Judah executed a complete victory. They ignore the statement at 1:19 that Judah “could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland,” but they do emphasize the comment at verse 21 that “Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites.” Men like Bruce Waltke claim a total bias against Benjamin, ignoring again that it was Ehud who gave the nation 80 years of peace, more than any other. They claim Caleb for Judah, when in fact the book emphasizes the fact that he was a Kenazite, as was Othniel. Unbelievably, Younger in his commentary actually sees sin in Judah seeking help from Simeon, instead of seeing it as a sign of covenant fidelity and loyalty, which indeed deteriorates as their history proceeds.

Joshua’s partner Caleb put out a challenge that whoever took Kirjath Sepher would be given his daughter Achsah as wife. Othneil, the son of his younger brother Kenaz, 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). Judah, on the other hand could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots covered with iron (v. 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). The point that should be made however, is that even though God commanded them to completely defeat the inhabitants, he also said that it would in some cases take time (Ex. 23:29-30; Dt. 7:22-23).

It is shocking to me that men like Waltke (in his course on Judges and Ruth), would miss this qualification, given his bias for Judah. At least then he would not have had to ignore verses like 1:19. The fact of the matter is, the main motif of the book is that God chooses the lowly and insignificant to accomplish his purposes, seen most graphically in the reduction of men with Gideon down to 300, all to show that the victories were all of God’s mercy, grace, and power. It was the LORD who sent the rain that bogged down the chariots wheels of the enemy which would ultimately give Barak his victory. In fact, the only tribe of whom it is said they achieved a complete destruction or Hormah was Simeon, arguably the most insignificant of the tribes (1:17), the one who came to Judah’s aid! One should exercise caution in being fixated on a supposed structure which ignores the actual content of a passage or book.

So 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 no doubt 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 Amalekites, 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, this may not have been under the same conditions, since he expressed no covenant faith in the LORD, and journeyed on to build another city among the Hittites also named Luz. He may have just betrayed his own people, for nothing more than to save his own skin. 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.). What ought to exercise caution however, given the words which introduce this episode – that “the LORD was with them.” (v. 22)

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). There is in fact a shift to where it says that their enemies dwelt in their midst, to where it states that they dwelt in their enemies midst. So there enemies gradually regain the upper hand.

This was done because of the covenant He had made with them, a covenant he promised to never break (2:1). 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).