Tola is said to have saved Israel, without war. The so-called minor judges, other than Shamgar who had Deborah with him, saved Israel by judging righteously, without war. So also Jair, although he clearly had more than one wife, with 30 sons, and we are not told how many daughters. Again, after these two judges, Israel’s downfall is their idolatry. Now it is the pagans who are entering the promised land to execute the LORD’s judgment against them yet again. They cry out that they have sinned, but the LORD has heard this before. If they really repented they would destroy the idols and renew the covenant with ‘I AM’. Once again the LORD’s acts of deliverance are brought to their attention, showing what happens to the covenant people when they forget the sovereign LORD of history. However, they say again, with this rebuke, that they have sinned, and thus we have a double witness against themselves, in this matter of life and death. Despite their sinful desire for a king, like later with Saul, they had put away their idols, so the LORD will raise up Jephthah.
I am amazed that I could complete a course with Dr. Waltke of Regent, and read commentaries that purport to understand the covenantal context of Judges, and none of them mention the significance of Jotham delivering his curses from Mt. Gerizim, the place where the law prescribed for the recitation of blessing. However, such is the significance of this whole narrative of Abimelech and Jotham. The nation, when they rebelled, nevertheless thought that they were entitled to blessing, including power and wealth, and the defeat of their enemies. However, the most significant point in their history was the fact that the LORD renewed his covenant with them, as per recorded in Deuteronomy, and as Moses concluded the fifth book of the Pentateuch, there would be blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience. We cannot confuse this with election, some of the elect also suffered in the nation, for the prevailing sin of the nation as a whole. Here, Abimelech massacre’s the 70 sons of Gideon, because he thought that this would solidify for him power and wealth, he would become Israel’s first king, and this is what the majority wanted.
The people desired a king like all the other nations, and as the LORD would reveal to Samuel, this was a rejection of Samuel the last of the judges, to usher in the reign of Saul. That we have OT professors who claim to understand the background of the law, and Deuteronomy in particular, miss this most important point is sad and pathetic. Today’s professors know less than the average protestant reformed layman. Waltke was disappointed with the biblical illiteracy of his students, but I am surprised at his! He should have treated the reformed heritage as more than a train stop in his chaotic academic journey. I guess refusing to state that the God created everything in the span of six days meant he couldn’t stay there. Shechem, where Joshua renewed the covenant (24), is the place where this conspiracy and rebellion finds root, so it was only fitting that Jotham, the only son of Gideon to survive the massacre, would deliver, as a prophet no less, his curses from Mt. Gerizim, for they had turned to warrior LORD of hosts against themselves. Their blood was now on their own heads.
Three years later, Jotham showed himself to be a true prophet when his predictions concerning Abimelech and the people of Shechem were fulfilled in their destroying each other, for the same selfish and rebellious reasons and motives. Applying the same principle of nepotism, one Gaal had the gall to think that one even closer to the people should be their king. It is interesting that the closer the people came to getting a king, the less area and people he would be a king of. However, Abimelech had an ally in Zebul, a man no one should trust. In any case, those who worshipped Baal berith (meaning ‘covenant’) would suffer the curses of the covenant as Jotham had prophesied. Abimelech thought that he could gain a victory over an otherwise innocent neighbour by repeating the plan to burn down their tower, but again a woman comes to the fore with more brains than him, and not a little bit f cunning and strength, for she kills him with a millstone, despite the actions of his armour bearer. The narrator’s opinion of theis narrative should be clear to all (9:56-57).
As with nearly ever great leader of faith in the bible, their lives are not without blemish. Here Gideon sinned in acquiescing in the people’s desire for a king, and leadership by nepotism, instead of the LORD’s calling of faithful judges, as the law prescribed. The ephod represented a seeking out of the LORD’s will by his sovereign revelation, something which in this case Gideon did not do. Instead, like David, he had many wives through whom he had many sons, it would seem to install them as his successors, instead of seeking the LORD’s will in prayer for his successor. Not only this, but worst of all he had a son by an unbelieving concubine. So again, when Gideon passed, Israel again did evil, not only forgetting his past deeds, but also what he had done for them through Gideon.
Here we have the central motif of the book, that God would give his people victory by the few and humble, “lest Israel claim glory for itself” (v. 2), and the LORD chose to so through Gideon. As for signs, this time it is the LORD who initiates the giving of a sign, being the Midianite’s dream and its interpretation (9-14). Gideon responded with worship, and obedience in leading the fight. With 300 the LORD proved that the victory was through him, and Gideon, a man of faith. The proud Ephramites, objected to Gideon not enlisting them, but they served only as a foil, proving the LORD’s words, that Israel was more prone to claim victory in themselves, than to give the glory to the LORD (8:1-3). On the war path the people of Succoth and Penuel refuse them sustenance for the battle and their journey, so they make good on their threat to punish them (vv. 4-21). Some amazingly argue that this was sinful vengeance on their part, rather than what it was, the LORD cursing those who cursed them. It is amazing how so-called exegetes can be oblivious to the wider covenantal scope of scripture!
There is an interesting note in the New Geneva Study Bible (to which Waltke and other contributed) which states the following. “Each major judge except for Othniel verbally acknowledges God’s control in Israel’s victory (4:14; 7:15; 11:21-30; 15:18; 16:28).” (337) This is odd for those who are so called pro-Judah, and hold up Othniel as the best example of a judge we have in the book! Chapter six begins by highlighting Israel’s desperate state, for again departing from the LORD. They planted but their enemies reaped. When they cry out to the LORD, again he sends them a prophet, someone who will deliver what was of first importance – his word. This prophet again reiterated the history of the LORD’s mighty acts of deliverance in their history (vv. 8-9). Their bondage was due to their not obeying his voice (v. 10). Into this context the LORD raised up Gideon (v. 11).
The Angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, which is not something that could be said of the previous judges. Gideon was smart in threshing grain in a winepress, because his enemies would have found him out otherwise. The one that some so-called exegetes call among the worst of the judges is addressed by the Angel of the LORD as a “mighty man of valor!” (v. 12) He appears to be one of the few who actually reflected back upon the nations history, and he immediately also acknowledges that the LORD had indeed forsaken them (v. 13). The LORD, we are told, turned to him, not just an angel. He delivers to Gideon a call, and tells him that he is being sent (v. 14). Then, in what is a central motif in the book, he states that he is the least in his fathers house, and his clan “is the weakest in Manasseh” (v. 15). This is an important admission on his part, for it is the book’s central motif.
Gideon seems to apprehend what those before him gave no direct mention of – God uses the least to shame those who think they are great, achieving victories in their own power. Waltke found it amazing that the Gideons named their organization after Gideon, but I am amazed that Waltke could miss something so central and obvious to this book, and indeed to the whole of salvation history, especially of the godly remnant seed! Through the godly leadership of Gideon they would fight “as one man” (v. 16). Many view Gideon’s desire to bring an “offering” as weak faith, but we are not told this. This could very well be Gideon’s desire to confirm that this was indeed the LORD speaking to him, and calling and sending him, which he rejoices in the confirmation (vv. 22-23). He then built an altar there to the LORD there, because now he knew it would not be idolatrous (v. 24).
Some suggest that Gideon was a coward in following the command of the LORD to tear down the Baal altar at night. However, although he did indeed fear, it is also true that the LORD in fact came to him at night, and the point is he obeyed, despite the fact that it was his father’s idol (vv. 25-27). This forced his father to decide that moment who he would fear the most, and so began those who followed Gideon, the ten servants and his father also. They could let Baal fight for himself, or they could go up against Gideon and the LORD. They chose wrongly! (vv. 28-33). “But the Spirit of the LORd came upon Gideon, and he again seeks confirmation of the word promised, which is given (34-40). Again, it seems odd that if this was a sinful act, that the LORD would indeed confirm the signs (plural)! Gideon indeed is showing himself to be a mighty man of valor, for with him the word confirmed takes precedence.
Deborah as a minister of the word being a prophetess, and Barak as warrior, together occupy the offices which the other judges had in their one person. Here the two however sing together, as God intended (v. 1). Victory was inseparable from instruction and adherence to the law-word of the covenant. Two things were sought of the nation, which are the constant refrain of this book, leaders who would judge by the word, and fight for a complete victory, and a people who would “willingly offer themselves.” (v. 2). Then they would be blessed. Deborah, under inspiration of the Spirit recounts the history of the LORD delivering his people up to her present with the foreigner Shamgar, with her as judge concerning the word. It went all the way back to the covenant at Sinai (vv. 3-6). At the time when Deborah, Barak, and Shamgar came on the scene, the people were vagabonds, afraid to venture out on the highways and byways. It wasn’t until the word came through Deborah that they turned from their idols and then the LORD gave them victory (vv. 7-9).
They celebrated the new day when the LORD’s redemptive acts were again recited and judgment according to the law was to be found at the gates (vv. 10-11). Again, of the tribes extolled in this battle, Benjamin is mentioned but not Judah (vv. 12-15a). An argument could be made that the narrator(s) favoured Benjamin over Judah. The people would seek for a judge to be their king, preferable from Judah, but from him not even a judge would rise. As Jordan pointed out in his commentary on Judges, the descendants of Judah were forbidden from leadership for ten generations because they were bastards, which the law forbade (Dt. 23:2)! On the other hand, Rueben, Gilead, Dan, and Asher carried on with life as usual, refusing to fight with their brothers, but Zebulun “jeopardized their lives,” and “Naphtali also” (vv. 18). Deborah notes that it was the LORD overflowing the river Kishon that ultimately gave them their victory over the iron clad chariots they so much feared (v. 21). They were instruments of The LORD’s curse upon Meroz (vv. 22-23).
“All those whom God has predestined unto life,” immediately points to what is precedent to the issue of a gospel call, namely that before the foundation of the world, God who ‘dwells’ in eternity purposed to save some, the elect, and not others, the reprobate. This was predestined before time. It is a distinction to be made on a general call to all humanity, and that which may be defined by the adjective ‘effectual’. “And those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call (Rom. 8:30, 11:7; Eph. 1:10-11). Then, in the time he created, God chose and continues to choose, that specific moment in time to make the outward call effectual to the elect. To all others who hear but don’t respond in repentance and faith, the fruit of efficacious grace, he leaves to their own inexcusable condition. “By his word (which is heard by many), “and Spirit,” some, namely the elect, receive the regenerating work of the Spirit, which brings about repentance and faith (II Th. 2:13-14; II Cor. 3:3, 6).
These elect, God has taken “out of that state of sin and death in which they were by nature.” This simply affirms that all people are born in a state of sin and death, which we have by our union with Adam in that first covenant at the dawn of creation. Out of the mass of humanity, the elect are transferred to a state of “grace and salvation by Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:2; Eph. 2:2:1-5; II Tim. 1:9-10).” Here we see the Spirit’s ultimate focus, which he makes ours, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does he do this? He does this by “enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God (Acts 26:18; I Cor. 2:10-12; Eph. 1:17-18).” Here we learn that, although the Spirit may work on any “spiritually,” he only works “savingly to understand,” for the elect. “The things of God,” do here specifically pertain to the gospel. As part of regeneration, the Spirit must take “away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).” The Spirit must get to our core as persons, the heart of the matter.
It is only as the elect are given a new heart or core, that they may have a “renewing” of “their wills.” In other words, as noted in the last chapter, the will is not some kind of person within a person that is somehow less affected by sin, and can make a decision to accept the gospel, for which a heart of stone is completely incapable of on its own. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,* and this is no less the case when thinking of the will to act in repentance and faith. This God does, “by his almighty power determining them to that which is good (Dt. 30:6; Ezek. 11:19; 36:27; Phil. 2:13).” Here we have re-emphasized that any good to come from us, especially in the matter of our salvation, is only “by his almighty power.” It is by his power that he “effectually” draws the elect “to Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19); yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” What seems by some to be a unresolvable paradox, is perhaps only viewed as such because we are dull to how it is that God in fact predestines all things.
*(Ps. 14:1; Pr. 4:23; 10:11; 21:2; 24:12; Ezek. 11:21; 16:30; Mt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45).
“To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, he does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same (Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15-16); making intercession for them (Rom. 8:34; I Jn. 2:1-2); and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation (Jn. 15:13, 15; 17:6; Eph. 1:7-9); effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit (Jn. 14:16; 17:17; Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18-19; II Cor. 4:13; Heb. 12:2); overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation (Ps. 110:1; Mal. 4:2-3; I Cor. 15:25-26; Col. 2:15).”
This chapter on the mediatorial work of Christ, and this last section in particular, serve to transition us from the redemption accomplished by Christ, to its application for the elect. As noted with previous sections, this one continues to affirm that Christ died for a particular group of individuals, those whom the Father gave to him. For these and these alone, redemption is certain and effectual. Certainly, God could have saved all people, if that were his intention, but it was not. Rather, the Spirit is given to make his work effectual for his own. Christ also continues to intercede, that is, pray for each one. “Christ, as mediatorial King, seated at the right hand of God, applies the redemption he had effected as Priest.”1
Shaw gives several other Scripture proofs, firstly, that the Christ died for ‘many’, and not for ‘all’ (Cf. Is. 53:12; Mt. 20:28). “2. Those for whom Christ died are distinguished from others by discriminating characters. They are called ‘sheep’ (Jn. 10:15); the ‘church’ (Eph. 5:25); God’s ‘elect’ (Rom. 8:33); the ‘children of God’ (John 11:52). 3. Those whom Christ redeemed by his blood are said to be ‘redeemed from among men’ (rev. 14:4 Cf. 5:9). 4. The redemption obtained by Christ is restricted to those who were ‘chosen in him’, and whom the Father gave to him to redeem by his death (Eph. 1:4, 7; Jn. 17:2). 5. Christ died in the character of a surety, and therefore he laid down his life only for those whom he represented, or for his spiritual seed (Is. 53:10).”2
His redemption is certain, and not just possible or dependant on the recipients (Eph. 5:25-26; Tit. 2:14; I Pet 3:18; I Th. 5:10). 7-10. His intercession and other continuing benefits are for those whom the Father gave to him (Rom. 5:10; 8:32; Jn. 17:9; I Jn. 2:1-2). There were some, even while engaged in his earthly ministry, “to whom he even forbade his gospel to be preached (Mt. 10:5; Rom. 10:14).”3 As to those terms which express a sort of universality, Shaw points to a couple of biblical hermeneutics (or principles of interpretation) which should always be borne in mind. “Reason and common sense demand that ‘general’ phrases be explained and defined by those that are ‘special’, and only admit of one interpretation. The meaning in each case may usually be ascertained from the context.”4
Many such instances, as the context often intimates, seek to teach that redemption is for all classes or races of people throughout the inhabited earth. It is, after all, an election that is not based upon anything in some humans over against others, but is rather of pure unmerited favour. “Christ died with the purpose of executing the decree of election. His design in making atonement was definite, having respect to definite persons.”5 To this end, “he proceeds in the effectual application of redemption in the use of each of the four following methods: (1) By making intercession for the persons concerned. (2) By the revelation of the mysteries of salvation to them in his Word. (3) By the effectual operation of his Spirit on their hearts. (4) By all necessary dispensations of his providence.”6
1. Hodge, (153)
3. Ibid., (159)
4. Ibid., (160)
5. Hodge, (155)
6. Ibid., (153)
“Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself (Heb. 9:14; I Pet. 3:18).” As taught in the first three sections of this chapter, Jesus the Christ was a person made of two natures – the Divine and human. In both natures, that is, his whole person, he fulfilled, and continues to fulfill the work of the Mediator between God and the elect. Only one who was of both natures, could truly represent both parties. As noted by Paul, “Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one” (Gal. 3:20). “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). This is also one of the main reasons why the new covenant administration of the one covenant of grace is ‘better’. “Now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
As noted in the immediately preceding section, He also brought redemption to those saints under the administration of the first covenant. “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:13-15). As noted by Shaw, the second person of the Trinity also acted as Mediator before, under the first covenant. “It is a mediatorial act – the act of a prophet, to reveal the will of God; and it cannot be questioned that Christ was the author of revelation.”1
It was not only in his office as prophet that he also acted as Mediator under the first covenant, but also as priest. “It is a mediatorial act to intercede for the church; but this Christ did long before his incarnation.”2“Thus, also, the human nature of Christ was also necessary in order that his person should be “made under the law;” and it is the subject of his vicarious sufferings, and the organ of his vicarious obedience and intercession as our representative Priest and Intercessor.”3“Yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature (Acts 20:28; Jn. 3:13; I Jn. 3:16).” Shaw also clarifies these points with the following. “The human nature alone could suffer and die; yet it is said, ‘The Lord of glory was crucified’; and, ‘God purchased the church with his own blood’ (I Cor. 2:8; Acts 20:28).”4
Also, as our kinsman-Redeemer (Heb. 2:5-18), he had to take on flesh and blood, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death , that is, the devil, and release those who fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, bring tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” 2:14b-18). He therefore also reigns as King, from the moment he created all things, and in the Triune God’s will, appointed humanity to bear the image of this reign on the earth. So Jesus as our Mediator, fulfilled the role as Prophet, Priest, and King, in both natures and one person.
1. Shaw, (157 Cf. Hodge, )
2. Ibid., (157)
3. Hodge, (152)
4. Shaw, (157)
“Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof, were communicated unto the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed and signified to be the Seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same, and for ever (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 13:8; Rev. 13:8).” The LORD God did not stop the promise of redemption when he clothed Adam and Eve through the substitutionary sacrifice of another. The life taken, the blood shed, and the resulting clothing of Adam and Eve, in place of their own efforts, first spoke to how this relationship would be restored, a type and sacrifice which itself spoke of the promised Seed to come, in that first gospel promise (Gen. 3:15, 21).
Christ came at God’s appointed time (Gal. 4:4), but, as the writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8b). Concerning the fathers inclusion of Revelation 13:8, Van Dixhoorn makes the following point. “Considering the permanent efficacy of Christ’s redemptive work from the earliest times, they thought that one passage of Scripture spoke of a ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev. 13:8). The passage, however, is better rendered as a warning to ‘everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain’.”1Nevertheless, the truth still remains, that along with the saints under the first covenant, the Christ “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (II Tim. 1:9).
It is understandable that human beings, bound as we are to a world of time and history, should fail to keep in mind, that God, who is eternal, created time when he created the heavens and the earth. “Though four thousand years elapsed before he actually appeared in the flesh, and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, yet he was exhibited from the beginning of the world, in promises, predictions, and types; and believers under the old Testament were saved by the merit of his sacrifice, as well as those under the New. Abraham ‘rejoiced to see his day’, and was justified in him.”2The idea that the saints under the first covenant could not be saved, and were thus held in some other suspended state, was in part put forward by a misconception of I Peter 3:18-22. “These verses are supposed to say that Jesus, during the three days (he was dead), descended to Noah and other spirits in prison and brought them to heaven.”3
Clark proceeded to give four reasons why this interpretation was erroneous. “First, verse 10 speaks of preaching the gospel, not of releasing spirits. Second, the spirits mentioned seem to be unsaved, not Noah and the Old Testament saints, because it was the gospel that was preached to them. Third, if it were all the Old Testament saints, the specific mention of Noah to the exclusion of later times is inexplicable.” There being also those before Noah. “And fourth, the passage does not say that Jesus preached to anyone during the three days of his entombment. It is rather the Spirit of Christ dwelling in Noah who preached to those who were disobedient in Noah’s day. If it seems strained to say that the Spirit of Christ preached as he dwelt in Noah, return to I Peter 1:11 where other Old Testament prophets are said to have tried to understand what the Spirit of Christ which was in them meant to teach in their prophecies.”4
There is one covenant of grace throughout all ages (WCF VII. 4-6). However, even under the first covenant the saints were given to understand that “God did not regard the Old Testament sacrifices as efficacious in themselves (Ps. 51:16). The very design of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was partly to show that these “could not make him that did the service perfect” (Heb. 9:9) in order that believers might look forward to that one offering by which Christ “hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). The law” (pertaining to the sacrifices) “was a mere shadow (Heb. 10:1) but it was a shadow “of good things to come” and therefore a means by which believers received the benefits of Christ before the work had actually been done.”5The administration of the one covenant of grace in the first covenant was good, but its fulfillment in the new is better. This is the change which the writer to the Hebrews makes his main point (8:1).
2. Shaw, (156)
3. Clark, (101)
4. Ibid., (101)
5. Williamson, (83)