Book of Judges Summary

Book of Judges Summary: Leads to the Book of Ruth

As we prepare to study the biblical book of Ruth, let’s first make an attempt at a book of Judges summary. As we arrive at such a summary, I think what we encounter in the book of Ruth will be all the more encouraging.

Book of Judges Summary: Moses, Joshua, …?

So, Moses got Israel to the Jordan River. He dies, and Joshua takes over. Both Joshua and Moses lead the people righteously. Then Joshua dies. And who takes over for Joshua?… No one, really. Every tribe had their own leader here and there. They’re known to us as “Judges”.

Book of Judges Summary: Who Were the Judges?

And these Judges ranged in their quality, didn’t they?

Book of Judges Summary: Othniel

You had Othniel. Godly man. Gave a big deliverance to God’s people.

Book of Judges Summary: Ehud

Ehud. He was pretty good, too. But you had to kind of laugh and/or cringe at the details of how he did away with the big fat Eglon, king of Moab.

Book of Judges Summary: Barak

Then Barak was somewhat disappointing. He really didn’t seem to take the lead he should have taken.

Book of Judges Summary: Gideon

Then Gideon is even worse. Father was an idolater. Gideon was a fearful, nearly-faithless man. He showed some real brutal tendencies. And in the end, he made an object that Israel used as an idol. Plus, his boy Abimelech was nothing but brutal and ruthless – “serving” (if you can use that term) as Israel’s first king.

Book of Judges Summary: Jephtah

Jepthtah’s next. Son of a prostitute. Driven out of the land by his siblings. He ends up sacrificing his own daughter due to his rash oath.

Book of Judges Summary: Samson

And the last judge – Samson. Selfish to the core. Delivering Israel from their enemies only when it served his own piddly self-centered purposes. He lives with the enemies. Dies with the enemies. We do see him pray to the Lord. Once he prays for water. The other time he prays for revenge for the enemies poking out his eyes.

Book of Judges Summary: By Faith…

The good things that these guys did manage to do was all done through faith, as Hebrews tells us. How else do you explain any measure of success that these kinds of men had – especially the last four of them?

Book of Judges Summary: National Failures

We also saw the state of the nation as a whole. They start the book by failing to drive out the Canaanites militarily. Then we discover that the people failed because they weren’t listening to God. They were actually intermarrying with these pagans.

Book of Judges Summary: No King!

Then the book of Judges ended with the nation spiraling out of control. Adultery, idolatry, sexual violence, murder, theft – all these and more were found in Israel in the days of the Judges. Why? Well, the narrator wants us to know that all these things were happening because Israel had no king. No one to lead them to do right in the Lord’s eyes. So, without a king, Israel was doing only what was right in their own eyes.

Book of Judges Summary: Bethlehem

Now, much of the ending of the book of Judges took place in or around or involving the city of Bethlehem. The idolatrous Levite who served as a priest to Micah and then to the tribe of Dan was from Bethlehem. The adulterous concubine who cheated on her Levite husband and then died at the hands of perverted men in Gibeah was from Bethlehem. Is there any hope for this tiny city in Judah?

Book of Judges Summary: Next Up — Ruth!

And – more importantly – what about that king that the writer of Judges led us to anticipate?

So, hope for Bethlehem. Anticipation of a king. These two issues are addressed in this book that we’ll be studying for this lesson and the one in two weeks.

Welcome to New Sodom

Open your Bible to Judges chapter 19. We’ll be finishing the book of Judges today.

We’re going to see the climax of Israel’s Canaanization in this lesson. And it’s not pretty. Verse 1 of Judges 19.

KJV Judges 19:1 ¶ And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel,

No one to restrain the people. No one to lead them to do right in God’s eyes. When that was the case…

that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah.

Now, we saw in our last lesson a Levite from Bethlehem. This one is from Ephraim. His concubine is from Bethlehem.

2 And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months.

So, we’re informed of the concubine’s character — she commits adultery against her husband the Levite.

3 And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of [donkeys]:

So he apparently wants her back.

and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. 4 And his father in law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there.

Notice the hospitality of this concubine’s father. What we’re going to see for the next several verses is this father-in-law of the Levite making pretty lavish accommodations for his son-in-law. And we’ll contrast that to the in-hospitality of a certain group later on.

5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he [The Levite] rose up to depart: and the damsel’s father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way. 6 And they sat down, and did eat and drink both of them together: for the damsel’s father had said unto the man, Be content, I pray thee, and tarry all night, and let thine heart be merry. 7 And when the man rose up to depart, his father in law urged him: therefore he lodged there again.

8 And he arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart: and the damsel’s father said, Comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon, and they did eat both of them. 9 And when the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father in law, the damsel’s father, said unto him, Behold, now the day draweth toward evening, I pray you tarry all night: behold, the day groweth to an end, lodge here, that thine heart may be merry; and to morrow get you early on your way, that thou mayest go home.

10 ¶ But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two [donkeys] saddled, his concubine also was with him. 11And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent;

Which wasn’t safe when you’re traveling in ancient Israel.

and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it. 12 And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah.

I’m not sure that the Levites’ concerns are unwarranted. Canaanites were known for their paganism and evil practices. This Levite was not comfortable lodging amongst those kinds of people. So, on they go to find an Israelite city where the people would be doing right.

13 And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah. 14 And they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin. 15 And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.

So, the hospitality of the people of Gibeah left much to be desired. Boy, even in Sodom, the visiting angels found Lot to take them in. This Levite can’t find anyone. At least, anyone from Benjamin.

16 ¶ And, behold, there came an old man from his work out of the field at even, which was also of mount Ephraim; and he sojourned in Gibeah: but the men of the place were Benjamites. 17 And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? 18 And he [The Levite] said unto him, We are passing from Bethlehemjudah toward the side of mount Ephraim; from thence am I: and I went to Bethlehemjudah, but I am now going to the house of the LORD; and there is no man that receiveth me to house. 19 Yet there is both straw and provender [Fodder/food] for our [donkeys]; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for thy handmaid, and for the young man which is with thy servants: there is no want of any thing.

So the Levite wouldn’t have been a burden to whomever might take them in. They had everything they needed. Yet, no one in Gibeah showed them any hospitality.

20 And the old man said, Peace be with thee; howsoever let all thy wants lie upon me; only lodge not in the street. 21 So he brought him into his house, and gave provender unto the [donkeys]: and they washed their feet, and did eat and drink.

So, this emigrant from Ephraim – this old man – is the only one to show kindness to these folks from this whole city. What a testimony to the coldness of the men of Gibeah. And it gets worse.

22 ¶ Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, [Or worthless men] beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.

Now, this is where terror should set in. We’re in Judges chapter 19. But what we’re hearing reminds me more of Genesis chapter 19. The story of Sodom. Gibeah – in this brave new Israel where everyone does whatever he thinks is right – has basically become New Sodom.

23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. 24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you:

Or literally “the thing that’s good in your eyes.” Which is what everyone was doing anyway.

but unto this man do not so vile a thing.

Now, in the story of Sodom it was right at this point where the angels struck the men of the city with blindness. But that doesn’t happen here. God is noticeably absent.

25 But the men would not hearken to him: so the man [The Levite] took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. 26 Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light.

27 ¶ And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered.

The actions of the sexually perverted mob was shocking. But the coldness of this Levite is almost worse. You mean to say he slept comfortably through the night, knowing what was happening to his concubine? And then he just barks at her to get up when he sees her lifeless body?

Then the man took her up upon [a donkey], and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. 29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel.

And dwelling on the process that would have been involved in the diving of this body is a little more than I care to meditate upon. So, we’ll move on.

30 And it was so, that all that saw it [The pieces of the concubine’s body] said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.

20:1 ¶ Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh. 2 And the chief of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword. 3 (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel were gone up to Mizpeh.) Then said the children of Israel, Tell us, how was this wickedness? 4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead.

So, he conveniently leaves out the part about how he threw her to the wolves.

6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel. 7 Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel. 8 ¶ And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house. 9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; [To fight them.] 10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people,

So, some will feed the troops who attack Gibeah.

that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.

Wow, finally, some unity in Israel. Too bad it took a Civil War to accomplish that unity.

12 ¶ And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? 13 Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.

That’s a reasonable request. They committed a crime. Now they pay.

But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: 14 But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel. 15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. [So 26,700 warriors.] 16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war. [400,000:26,700]

18 ¶ And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first.

Does this sound familiar? It should. This is eerily reminiscent of chapter 1 of this book. Only, back then Israel was fighting external enemies. Now they’re fighting themselves. So, God commands Judah to go first.

19 ¶ And the children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah. 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men.

Oh, but I thought God told them to go. But they lost. That’s concerning.

22 And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day. 23 (And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the LORD said, Go up against him.)

God again gives them the green light.

24 ¶ And the children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went forth against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men; all these drew the sword.

40,000 Israelites dead so far. 10% of their forces.

26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came unto the house of God, and wept, and sat there before the LORD, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. [They’re serious now.] 27 And the children of Israel enquired of the LORD, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) [So, the events recorded here, just like last lesson, happened relatively soon after Joshua died. Again, how far and how fast Israel fell.] saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand.

Finally, the Lord gives assurance of victory.

29 ¶ And Israel set liers in wait round about Gibeah.

Sounds like Bethel again…

30 And the children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and put themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goeth up to the house of God, and the other to Gibeah in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways. 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and put themselves in array at Baaltamar: and the liers in wait of Israel came forth out of their places, even out of the meadows of Gibeah. 34 And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them. 35 And the LORD [THE LORD!] smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword.

So, Benjamin started with 26,700 men. They just lost 25,100 men. That leaves 1,600 men.

Then verses 36 through 46 retells the events we just heard about, but in greater detail. That’s not uncommon in Hebrew narrative.

Skip to verse 47.

47 But six hundred men [Of Benjamin] turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months.

Which is also the same amount of time the Levite’s concubine fled from him.

48 And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.

Basically, Israel is doing to Benjamin what it should have been doing to the Canaanites – destroy every last one of them. Now, Israel had to do what they just did. But what a sad state of affairs that led to the need to almost completely wipe out an entire tribe in Israel.

21:1 ¶ Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh,

When they gathered to fight Benjamin – we didn’t hear about this oath at this time.

saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife. 2 And the people came to the house of God, and abode there till even before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept sore; 3 And said, O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?

So, again, Israel did what it had to. But they’re not happy with the results.

4 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people rose early, and built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

So, we need to solve this missing-tribe problem. Benjamin needs wives. Israel killed all the women of Benjamin, apparently in their zeal.

5 And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD [That is, to fight Benjamin]? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh [When Israel gathered together to fight Benjamin.], saying, He shall surely be put to death. 6 And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. 7 How shall we do for wives for them that remain [The 600 at Rock Rimmon], seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives? 8 ¶ And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD? [Which is just repeating what they’ve already said.] And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabeshgilead to the assembly. 9 For the people were numbered, and, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead there.

Jabesh-Gilead was on the east side of the Jordan. For whatever reason they didn’t show up for the battle against Benjamin.

10 And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children. 11 And this is the thing that ye shall do, Ye shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man.

Wow, again, if only Israel could have been so determined with the real enemy – the Canaanites. This is what God wanted them to do with those pagan nations around them. And now because they disobeyed him, they’re having to fight Canaanism from within their own people.

12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 ¶ And the whole congregation sent some to speak to the children of Benjamin that were in the rock Rimmon, and to call peaceably unto them.

Just like the Levite did to his concubine.

14 And Benjamin came again at that time; and they gave them wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabeshgilead: [So, that’s 400 girls for 600 men of Benjamin.] and yet so they sufficed them not. [200 left.] 15 And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 ¶ Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?

By the way, I don’t really think Israel needed to destroy the women in Benjamin. But that’s a moot point by now. What’s done is done.

17 And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. 18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.

So, we can’t have a lost tribe. And we can’t give our daughters voluntarily to Benjamin. What to do…

19 Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.

Wow, there are still some people who are observing some of the feasts that the Lord had ordained? Yeah, apparently.

20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

So, target the ones who are actually worshipping the Lord and take them away to be wives for these rebellious Benjamites. Good idea.

22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain,

And you can imagine that they will!

that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: [So, we messed up. And…] for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.

Again, the idea is that you men of Shiloh aren’t guilty because you’re not voluntarily giving your daughters to the men of Benjamin. Rather, they’re being stolen. Oh, that’s much better. Right? Anyone?

23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. 24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.

You say, I just don’t understand. That was so weird. So confusing. What’s the message the narrator wants us to get from this 3-chapter marathon of perversity, sin, and confusion? Verse 25.

25 ¶ In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

You can be assured that when everyone’s playing by their own rules that perversity, sin, and confusion will abound. The narrator paints this awful messy picture for us, then puts it aside and speaks his message right to you – Israel needs a king. He could have said that and saved us this whole section – or really, this whole book. But God wants you to feel the need – not just know that the need existed, but to feel the need that Israel had for a king.

So, Bethlehem has earned a bad reputation. Chapters 17 and 18 had the idolatrous Levite from Bethlehem. Chapters 19 through 21 today had this unfaithful concubine from Bethlehem. You might start wondering if anything good can come from or happen in Bethlehem.

That’s why when you continue on past the book of Judges, the very next book you come to also occurs in Bethlehem. And it happens in the days when the Judges governed. And so you’re expecting more immorality, more carnality, more confusion. But what you get is the story of two faithful loyal godly individuals – Ruth and Boaz. And they end up getting married and bearing a son. His name is Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse. And Jesse is the father of… David. Oh yes, David. The King. Wait a second, is this the king that Israel needs? The one this book we’ve been studying for the last several months has kept calling to our attention that we need? I think so.

And so, next week, we’ll shed this rather discouraging book and move on to a book of four chapters where the characters aren’t doing right in their own eyes. They’re doing right in the Lord’s eyes.

Micah and the Danites

Open your Bible to Judges chapter 17. The 17th chapter and our second to last lesson in the book of Judges.

Judges 17:1-5

We’ve made it to the conclusion of the book. We’ve seen the progressive Canaanization of Israel throughout the first 16 chapters of this book. And we see more of this process in the chapters to follow. Let’s start reading in chapter 17, verse 1.

KJV Judges 17:1 ¶ And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2 And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursed(st), and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son. 3 And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee. 4 Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah. 5 And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim [A Hebrew word for “household idols”], and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.

So, we’re introduced to a man in the hill country of Ephraim. At some point prior to this story he stole his mother’s money – 1100 shekels or pieces of silver. An upstanding gentleman, apparently. And when he secretly took the silver she uttered a curse against the one who stole it. Apparently that bothered Micah. So that’s why we see him confessing to his mother that he in fact had the money.

Well, the mother is pretty quick to forgive. And she’s so happy that she tries to reverse her curse. And so now she utters a blessing upon her son. And she does this IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. So, you might think this is a godly woman. If that’s what you originally thought, then I’m sure your proverbial jaw dropped when she directed that Micah take a bit of the money he stole and now returned… and make two idols – one graven or cut – probably made of wood. And one molten – or made of metal.

So, blessing in the name of Yahweh? The true God of Israel! And then… having idols made? These two things don’t mix. Yahweh revealed on Mount Sinai that he doesn’t want Israel to worship idols – whether they’re intended to represent him or not. He doesn’t want our worship to him to be filtered through or directed toward idols.

So, something’s definitely not right here. And you’ll be saying that a lot to yourself throughout this lesson. And you ought to. The narrator is taking us on a strange journey through the times of the judges to show us the utterly desperate condition of Israel during this time.

And it gets worse. Micah takes those idols and puts them into his house of gods. Now, God demanded to be worshiped in one central location in Israel. But Micah set up his own place to worship in the hill country of Ephraim. Now, in the centralized house of God, God wanted Levites to take care of the property and worship of that sanctuary. Micah doesn’t have a Levite – yet, at least. And so he just takes his son and makes him a priest.

Judges 17:6

So, things are a spiritual mess here. And if you want confirmation that that’s the case, read verse 6.

6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Think back to Samson – the subject of our lesson last week. He wanted to take a pagan Philistine wife. And his parents questioned him on that point. Remember his response to them? Literally, “she looks right in my eyes.” And apparently Samson wasn’t alone in this kind of practice. The narrator here says that everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Why? One big reason is given – there’s no king. There’s no king to restrain the peoples’ evil. There’s no king to lead the people righteously. Israel needs a king.

But they don’t have one and so they’re doing whatever they think is right. Michah’s mom thought it was right to make idols. Micah thought it was right to have a house of gods and to consecrate his son as priest in that house.

Judges 17:7-10

Now, we move on to the next scene. Verse 7.

7 ¶ And there was a young man out of Bethlehemjudah of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. 8 And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehemjudah to sojourn where he could find a place: and he came to mount Ephraim to the house of Micah, as he journeyed. 9 And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou? And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Bethlehemjudah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. 10 And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year [He did have about 900 left over from what he previously stole from his mom], and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals.

Let’s just take in the scene here. This man comes from Bethlehem just wandering around trying to find a place to live. Why did he leave? Was he forced out by Canaanites? That’s a very good possibility. Was he forced to leave because the people stopped providing for him? After all, the Levites were called to dedicated full-time service for the Lord. As a result they relied on God’s people to provide for them through their offerings and other means. Maybe the Israelites stopped supporting this Levite.

Whatever the case, this Levite is on the move. And he just happens upon Micah’s house of gods in the hills of Ephraim. And so Micah makes a proposition to the Levite. “Be a priest in my house of gods.”

Now, surely, any Levite would know that this was not right. A house of gods? No! Israel was supposed to be worshipping Yahweh at the Tabernacle. Not in a shrine full of idols. So, a Levite – one who was supposed to know the Law and teach others also – he, of all people, would have the sense to rebuke Micah. The Levite would be in the right, even, to lead the people in stoning this idolatrous man. That was God’s punishment for idolatry – stoning. That’s how much it provoked the Lord.

Judges 17:10-12

So… what does the Levite do? End of verse 10.

So the Levite went in. [What??] 11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; [Oh no.] and the young man was unto him [Micah] as one of his sons. 12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.

Wow. So that was not at all what we’d tend to think would happen. The Levite is as bad as the idolatrous Ephraimite, Micah. Well, maybe this Levite is just a bad egg. Maybe he descended from some no-name unspiritual father and grandfather. Just keep telling yourself that. We’ll discover the truth at the end of the story.

Judges 17:13

At any rate, I say, this situation was not at all what should have happened. It’s not in any way what the Lord would want to have happened. And so the irony is sharp when we see Micah’s interpretation of the scene we just witnessed. Verse 13.

13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.

Wow. Isn’t this just mixed up? Just like his mother, as we saw at the beginning of the story, Micah speaks of the Lord in glowing terms. Micah really believes that the Lord is blessing him – even though every action we’ve seen him involved in thus far is totally against the Lord’s stated desires and demands.

Have you run across a Micah before? A man who professes to know the Lord – who even can tell you story after story that “proves” that the Lord is with him and is blessing him. While at the same time, that man obviously has no real knowledge of the Lord. He might be experiencing blessings and good things in this life. And those things do come from the Lord. But he mistakes the Lord’s blessings with the Lord’s commendation. It’s as if some people think that receiving good things from God is proof that their life is pleasing to the Lord. That’s just not the case. “God sends rains on the just only.” Is that what Jesus said? No, God sends rain on the just AND the unjust. He’s good to all. So, his goodness doesn’t signal approval.

But to this day you’ll run into folks who think this way. Modern-day Micahs.

By the way, let’s just talk about Micah’s name for a moment. His Hebrew name is actually Micahyahu. It means “who is like Yah” – “who is like the Lord”. The name causes you to stop and think and answer that question. The answer is…? No one! No one is like the Lord. He’s glorious. Uniquely excellent. In a category by himself. But the idols that Micah made testify to the exact opposite – the Lord is just like the gods of the pagans. He’s like this wood and metal. It seems that Micah would answer the question posed by his own name – “Who is like the Lord” – with this answer – “all my idols! all my idols are like the Lord!”

Judges 18:1

So, let’s take a step back. Think of what we’ve read so far. Idols, a Levite leaving his ministry to take on the administration of a house of idols. The owner of that house looking at all that’s transpired and thinking “Wow, the Lord is really blessing me. I even got me a Levite to be my priest!” Disobedience. Superstition. Utter spiritual blindness everywhere. What’s the explanation? What can possibly account for this chaos and disorder? Verse 1 of chapter 18.

18:1 ¶ In those days there was no king in Israel:

Oh yes. I can’t believe you all forgot about that. There’s no king! No one to restrain these people. No one to be physically amongst these people telling them what to do and what not to do. Without that kind of restraint, these people are coming apart at the seems.

Now, we’ve already seen a wandering Levite. Now we’re going to see not just an individual wandering, but an entire tribe. Continue with verse 1.

and in those days the tribe of the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among the tribes of Israel.

We’ll stop here and just ponder what this statement means. It appears to be saying that this tribe hasn’t received any of it’s inheritance yet. But that’s so strange. I mean, after all, Joshua assigned land to each tribe before he died. Has Dan really not taken its land up until now? If you add up all the years mentioned in the book of Judges you’d get over 400 years. However, I think there’s some overlap in times in the book. And so I think the timespan covered in Judges is somewhere around more like 300 years.

And so here’s why I mention the time factor. How long do you think Dan went without having land? Remember – back in Judges chapter 1 we saw Dan driven out of their territory by the Canaanites. Did they wait a full 300 or so years before moving to take land somewhere else? I think that’s unlikely.

So, here’s what I’m getting at. We are in the conclusion to the book of Judges. And yet, I don’t think that the events of this story fall at the very end of the chronological timeline of the book. I think the events we’re witnessing in this story may have happened relatively soon after Joshua passed off the scene. And the thing I find most shocking about that is the testimony it gives to how wicked human kind is. How quickly we can fall. And how far that fall can be. We can have a godly gifted leader. And yet the moment he goes away we’re so prone to evil.

So, I just say, get used to the thought that these events are not hundreds of years after Joshua’s death. And I think we’ll see more confirmation of that both at the end of this story and in our next and final lesson.

Judges 18:2-6

Now, back to the story. We’ve got a wandering tribe who was driven out of its territory by the Canaanites back in chapter 1. Now, verse 2.

2 And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts [Borders], men of valour, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, [We heard of these two cities from Samson’s story.] to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there. 3 When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither? and what makest thou in this place? and what hast thou here? 4 And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest. 5 And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. 6 And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.

Isn’t this a sad sign of complete reversal? Israel comes to the land, spies it out, and then conquers it. But now because of their sin, one of their tribes is forced to renew this pattern of going to new land, spying it out, and then conquering it.

And it’s so strange. It was too hard for Dan to possess their land that Joshua gave them. And yet they think nothing of traveling miles and miles on foot to find new land – easier land. Land whose inhabitants they can overcome without the help of Yahweh. In their own strength. They are truly doing what’s right in their own eyes. Yahweh’s way didn’t work. So, they’re going to innovate.

Now, they just happen to come across the idolatrous Levite in Micah’s house of gods. It’s curious to me how these men would have known the voice of this Levite. So, I don’t know how they knew the Levite’s voice, but they did. And so the Levite converses with the 5 Danites. The Danites ask for the Levite to divine whether or not their way will be prosperous. And by now, they know that this Levite is unorthodox. He’s taking care of an idolatrous shrine stocked with images. And so I suppose the Danites are showing their own unorthodoxy by even putting any amount of faith in the ability of this Levite to get ahold of God’s ear. We don’t know if the Leite even seeks God in response to the Danites request. All we know is that this man who’s doing what’s right in his own eyes, rather quickly gives his approval of their journey. Their way is before the Lord. It has his approval. Why, they’ll be just as prosperous as Micah as they continue on disobeying the Lord. You have the idolatrous Levite’s stamp of approval!

Judges 18:7-10

So, away the 5 Danites go. Up north to the northenmost reaches of Israel. Up by Sidon. Verse 7.

7 ¶ Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, [Not in any negative sense. They just didn’t have any cares in the world. They were without care – care-less. They dwelt…] after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man. 8 And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye? 9 And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. 10 When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.

I think the rhetoric of the 5 Danite spies is astonishing. They’re talking just like the two faithful spies who went to spy out the land back in Moses’ day. They’re speaking in terms similar to what Moses himself used decades prior to this. And yet their hearts aren’t right with the Lord like Moses’ was and like Caleb’s and Joshua’s were. But the Danites are assuming the same level of leadership by God as did these godly men of old. I’d say that’s a little presumptuous.

Judges 18:11-14

But the Danite spies sell their case. And so it appears that the whole tribe of Dan departs from the allotment of land given them by the Lord. Verse 11.

11 ¶ And there went from thence of the family of the Danites, out of Zorah and out of Eshtaol, six hundred men appointed with weapons of war. 12 And they went up, and pitched in Kirjathjearim, in Judah: wherefore they called that place Mahanehdan unto this day: behold, it is behind Kirjathjearim.

13 And they passed thence unto mount Ephraim, and came unto the house of Micah. 14 ¶ Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said unto their brethren, Do ye know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim [Household idols], and a graven image, and a molten image? now therefore consider what ye have to do.

I love the subtelty of these spies. “Consider what you should do. There’s all these covetable things in this house. You can guess what action you’re supposed to take.”

Judges 18:15-18

You wish the response of the people would be to destroy the idols and idolators around there. But what does the tribe of Dan actually do? Verse 15.

15 And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, [They were living in the same place.] and saluted him. 16 And the six hundred men appointed with their weapons of war, which were of the children of Dan, stood by the entering of the gate. 17 And the five men that went to spy out the land went up, and came in thither, and took the graven image, and the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image: and the priest stood in the entering of the gate with the six hundred men that were appointed with weapons of war. 18 And these went into Micah’s house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image.

So they’re taking the instruments of Micah’s idolatrous worship. But not for the purpose of destroying them, I’m afraid. Let’s see the priest’s reaction to all of this. Middle of verse 18.

Then said the priest unto them, What do ye?

How do you imagine him asking that question? Full of worry and concern for his sponsor, Micah? Full of anger and rage that the Danites are stealing the objects with which he’s been “ministering”? No. I think it’s more of a question of curiosity.

Judges 18:19-20

We’ll see if their response to him and then his reaction to their response confirms that. Verse 19.

19 And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? [That kind of language reminds me of what Abimelech said before carrying out his evil plans. Anyway…] 20 And the priest’s heart was glad [He likes the look of this deal. The priest of a whole tribe? Awesome!], and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people.

Judges 18:21-26

Where’s the loyalty? There is none. Not in the days of the judges. Verse 21.

21 ¶ So they turned and departed, and put the little ones and the cattle and the carriage before them. [Which indicates to me that they’re expecting someone to pursue them, so they’re protecting their most vulnerable.] 22 And when they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men that were in the houses near to Micah’s house were gathered together, and overtook the children of Dan. 23 And they cried unto the children of Dan. And they [Dan] turned their faces, and said unto Micah, What aileth thee [lit. “What to you?”], that thou comest with such a company? 24 And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made [A truly pathetic and yet absolutely true admission. He made his gods – the very ones he’s so foolishly worshipping.], and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more? and what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee? [“What to you?”] 25 And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows [lit. “Men bitter of soul”] run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household. 26 And the children of Dan went their way: [So, they threaten to murder Micah.] and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back unto his house.

What more can he do? I guess he was wrong about God propsering him on account of him having a Levitical priest. So much for that superstition. And with that, Micah bows out of the story, never to be heard from again.

Judges 18:27-31

But the Danites and their new priest are still in view. Verse 27.

27 ¶ And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. 28 And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelt therein. 29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first. 30 And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

The narrator gives us two pretty shocking revelations.

First, he finally reveals the identity of this idolatrous Levite. He’s none other than Jonathan! You’re not shocked by that, though. Ah, but Jonathan is the son of Gershom! Well, that’s interesting, but maybe not quite at the level of shock yet. Here’s the shocking part. Gershom is the son of Mannasseh. Big deal right? It s a big deal. I know it’s hard to believe in English, but in the Hebrew text, Mannasseh actually is very similar to another Hebrew name – Moses. In fact, you get the name Mannaseh by simply adding the English equivalent of an “N”. But in the Hebrew text that “N” – the one letter distinguishing Mannasseh from Moses – it’s floating above the baseline – which is really unusual. And the rabbis who copied the text explained their reasonings for doing this. They acknowledged that Moses was the original name in the text. But they didn’t want to dishonor Moses’ memory by admitting that this man’s grandson was an idolater. And yet, we should’t be surprised to see this kind of thing in this book. The harsh reality is that Moses – that mighty man of faith – his own grandson was an apostate. And that gives you an idea of when this part of the book took place. Within the lifetime of a grandson of Moses. How quickly Israel fell.

The second and last thing I’ll point out is the very last verse. We have a whole tribe involved in idolatry. Well, maybe that was because God’s house got lost somewhere along the line. I mean, we don’t hear too much about it in this book, do we? We don’t – and yet, the last verse tells us it was still there. Right in Shiloh. It was avaiable. But it seems very few if any were tending to it.

What a horrible picture this paints of religion in Israel. Israel started this book out having trouble with foreign idols. Now the idols are home-grown. Israel also had trouble battling foreign armies at the beginning of this book. And next time, we’ll see them experiencing trouble with domestic armies – civil war.

Samson: in Life and Death

Open your Bible to the 14th chapter of the book of Judges. Judges, chapter 14.

This is our 11th lesson in this book. And this week we’re going to be continuing – and actually finishing! – what we started last week. Last week we talked about three minor judges and then the parents of our last major judge. Do you remember the names of the parents?

Well, there was the father whose name was Manoah. We never catch his wife’s name.

And you recall that these parents got some really exciting news. The wife was barren. But she was going to have a son. And he was to be a Nazirite from the womb. No grapes. No alcohol. No unclean things. No cutting his hair. And all this until he died while beginning to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Judges 14:1-4

We were astonished and amazed! What kind of child would this be? What kind of judge, deliverer, savior, was Israel in for? So, let’s get a taste of what this final major judge is like. Chapter 14, verse 1.

KJV Judges 14:1 ¶ And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 ¶ But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Notice the concept of “sight” throughout Samson’s story. He sees a Philistine woman and that causes him to want to marry her. After his parents protest he shoots back a defense of his request – “she pleaseth me well” in the King James. In the Hebrew it’s literally “she’s straight in my eyes” – or “she’s right in my eyes”… Hey… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The concept of something being right in one’s own eyes. Yeah, actually that’s what Israel was doing in the days of the judges – whatever was straight or right in their own eyes. And Samson was no exception.

And, now, I’ll just admit that I’m a bit confused by verse 4. How could marrying a Philistine be “of the Lord”? It seems like that would be totally against the Lord’s will. And it was. So, how is Samson marrying a Philistine in any way “of the Lord”? Well, it has to do with the fact that someone is seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Either Samson or the Lord himself is seeking an occasion against the occupying Philistines. It’s probably referring to the Lord. So the idea is that Samson’s marrying a Philistine is the one way that God can finally get him to start delivering Israel from their enemies. That’s a sad commentary on Samson’s dedication to the Lord’s will for his life.

And, by the way, this is no proof text for justifying marrying a lost person or kind-of evangelistic dating or whatever bizarre ideas someone might come up with. Again, the book of Judges is no place to find justification for engaging in practices that are forbidden elsewhere in Scripture.

Judges 14:5-9

OK, so Samson has feasted his eyes on this Philistine girl and he’s gotten his parents to buy into the idea. Let’s see what happens next. Verse 5.

5 ¶ Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. [Not his parents. Just him. Note that.] 6 And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him [The lion] as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. [So, Samson kept it a secret.] 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. [Or, again literally, “she looked straight or right in his eyes.”] 8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: [So, he comes back to that old dead lion.] and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.

So, Samson is showing a disregard of his Nazarite status. He killed the lion with his hands. And that might be fine, though I believe that the animal would have become unclean once Samson killed it. But the worst part is that Samson comes back later and scrapes some honey out of the rotting carcasse of the lion. That was certainly unclean.

And remember where he met that lion – at the vineyards of Timnath. Now, I’d like to believe that Samson was just walking past the vineyards. But really, I do wonder if maybe he was popping some grapes into his mouth. If he was, he would have again been neglecting his Nazirite status.

So, what we’re seeing so far from this once-promising deliverer isn’t so impressive. A lack of concern for God’s will and a great desire to pursue his own will.

Judges 14:10-14

Alright, well, it’s time for Samson to get married to his pagan bride. Verse 10.

10 ¶ So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do. 11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: 13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it. 14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

As I’ve studied Samson, I’ve been amused at his expressions. He’s pretty creative. We’ll see more of that later. But here he develops this riddle. “Out of the eating one came something to eat. Out of the strong one came something sweet.” That’s pretty clever. And apparently Samson intends to exploit the Philistines through this riddle. But if this is his grand plan to kill Philistines and deliver Israel, it’s pretty far short of what’s needed. I mean, taking clothes from the Philistines isn’t going to accomplish anything – except to earn Samson some extra clothes. And sadly I think he would have been happy if that’s all he got out of the deal. But God wouldn’t have been. And actually, neither would the Philistines.

Judges 14:15-20

15 ¶ And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? 16 And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? 17 And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. 18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion? And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. 19 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house. 20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

We see here a fatal flaw of Samson’s – as if we needed another one. But did you see how he caved to the pressure his new Canaanite wife exerted on him? The man who can kill a roaring lion with his bare hands can’t fend off the nagging of his pagan wife. So we see in Samson a general inability to resist. Perhaps it’s a lack of self-control and resolve. He goes after whatever looks right in his eyes. He’s physically strong. But he just won’t resist when he should.

So that’s one thing we see in this scene. We also see his creativity again. He’s poetic in his language. He uses imagery. Although it’s not very flattering to his new wife with the comment about the heifer.

And it’s in this scene where we finally see Samson delivering Israel. Well, sort of. I mean, he kills 30 Philistines. So that’s good. But he only does it because he lost the riddle contest. And he stops at 30. This man had almost endless physical power from God himself. What potential! Why stop at 30? Get rid of them all – end their oppression of God’s people once for all! But Samson doesn’t deliver Israel any more than his selfish desires lead him to do.

Judges 15:1-8

So, Samson gets angry, kills a few Philistines, and then leaves his wife. His wife is given to another man, without him knowing. Then we enter chapter 15, verse 1.

15:1 ¶ But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. 2 And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she? take her, I pray thee, instead of her. 3 And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure. 4 And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. 5 And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives. 6 Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease. 8 And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam.

So, Samson again here is I suppose delivering Israel. Although, it doesn’t say he killed any Philistines. He simply burns their fields during the dry wheat harvest. And he does it in such a creative – even playful – way. Tie foxes tail-to-tail and put a torch between them? Sounds like something that would amuse a little boy. And in the end, it’s Samson’s former wife and her father that are the only Philistines from which Israel is delivered.

Judges 15:9-13

Now, Samson escapes from that scene and the angry Philistines pursue him. Verse 9.

9 ¶ Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. [Which means “jawbone” by the way.] 10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us. 11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, [And note the element of childish personal vengeance here that matches the Philistines’ words — ] As they did unto me, so have I done unto them. 12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves. 13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.

This is really pitiful. The very nation which Samson is supposed to be judging or delivering is now coming to hand him over to the enemy. It’s sort of understandable. Samson really hasn’t been acting much like a judge. He hasn’t been a man that Israel could stand behind and follow. He’s been too consumed with his own lusts. He isn’t too concerned with serving God. He’s more interested in his own will. Sounds a lot like the nation Samson was sent to judge. The people got what they deserved in their “leader”.

Judges 15:14-17

So Judah binds Samson their judge and is now handing him over to the enemies. Verse 14.

14 ¶ And when he came unto Lehi [a.k.a. Jawbone], the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. 15 And he found a new jawbone [“Lehi”] of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. 16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. 17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi. [Or “Height of the Jawbone”]

Now, that was impressive. Yes, Samson did violate again his Nazirite vow by touching an unclean donkey jawbone. But he killed 1,000 Philistines. He evens sings a little song about it. The phrase “heaps upon heaps” is actually very difficult to translate. Samson literally says, “With the jawbone of the donkey, donkey, donkeys. With the jawbone of the donkey I have slain a thousand men.” And so many translations translate “donkey, donkeys” to “heaps upon heaps” – probably because that’s what would have been laying all around Samson – heaps of bodies. But I do wonder if Samson was just making a little song. You know – we have that song that says “Have you ever seen a lassy, a lassy, a lassy…” and it goes on. In this case, it would be like “With the jawbone of a donkey, donkey, donkeys…”

Judges 15:18-20

Well, whatever Samson is saying here, he killed a lot of Philistines. Finally. Well, what happens next? Verse 18.

18 ¶ And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? 19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw [“Lehi”], and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore [“The Well of the One Who Cried Out”], which is in Lehi unto this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

It’s interesting that all of a sudden when Samson needs deliverance from the Lord that he starts speaking in spiritual language. He calls the Philistines “uncircumcised” – which describes them physically, but also spiritually. Samson is recognizing that they’re pagans who don’t trust Yahweh. But Samson hasn’t been too concerned about all of that until this point. Now he needs God to do something for him. So he’s going to talk the talk.

And despite that, Samson is demonstrating some faith right here, isn’t he? He’s calling out to Yahweh – the true God. He could have called out to Dagon, the Philistine god. He could have called out to any number of the deities that Israel was worshiping. But he cries out to the God of Israel. He exercises a measure of faith.

Judges 16:1-3

So, God responds to Samson’s faith and mercifully revives him. And he goes on to judge Israel for 20 years. The end! No, just kidding. I wish it was the end. But unfortunately we have one more chapter left. And it’s the worst one yet for Samson. Chapter 16, verse 1.

16:1 ¶ Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her. 2 And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. 3 And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.

So in a way we see here again Samson delivering Israel from the Philistines. Only, the circumstances surrounding the deliverance are definitely a bit seedy. He again shows a lack of self-control – going to this nameless Philistine prostitute and spending the night. He seems to thoughtlessly put himself in harm’s way. It’s like he’s flirting with destruction. Maybe he thinks it’s fun.

But he does manage to escape. And he carries away their city gate. This would have been devastating for the people of Gaza. Without a gate, a city was vulnerable to attacks. And Samson takes that gate and travels basically across Israel from the Mediteranean Sea into the hill county on the east and just sets the gate down.

This is the essence of Samson – his incredible feats of strength leave you laughing with joy and amazement… while his excess and recklessness leave you in tears.

Judges 16:4-31

And this last episode in his life that we’re about to read gives us more sorrow than laughter. Finally, after three nameless women in his life, Samson is associated with a woman who’s given a name by the narrator. Her name is Delilah. Verse 4.

4 ¶ And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.

 6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee. [Can you believe she just said that? She gives away her motive for finding out the source of his strength. Samson would never fall for that! Would he?…]

 7 And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs [Or cords] that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire. So his strength was not known.

OK, joke’s over, Samson. Let’s just be done with this game. It’s dangerous. Isn’t that how you feel? But Samson isn’t done playing his dangerous game. Round 2.

 10 ¶ And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound.

 11 And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 12 Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber. And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.

OK, this is no game. There are Philistines in the house. Samson, just get out of there! But he’s goes on to Round 3 of the game.

 13 ¶ And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound.

And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web. 14 And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.

Oh no. He’s getting the hair involved. Don’t talk about your hair, brother! That is where your strength lies! Don’t even let them touch it. Why is this guy flirting with ruin? Well, he does. So on to the last round. Round 4.

 15 ¶ And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.

 16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; [She annoyed him to death. So he caves to the pressure.] 17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.

I can hardly believe what we just witnessed. Samson knows Delilah is trying to hand him over to the Philistines. Why in the world would he stay wih her and reveal the source of his strength? Why would he tell her how he could lose his power?

But he does tell her. And she brings someone to shave his head. And Samson presumptously awakes as if all is well – but it’s not. His strength is gone. He’s played with fire and now he’s getting burned. And so the Philistines put out his two eyes – remember, the ones that got him into so much trouble with all these Philistine women? The Philstines bind him and force this once mighty judge of Israel to grind grain in their prison.

But his hair does begin to grow back. That’s what we’re told in verse 22. I wonder why that’s significant…

23 ¶ Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. [They got that wrong. Actually the Lord did it.] 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us. [Though far fewer than he should have.] 25 And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. [Uh-oh. Apparently the Philistines don’t know that Samson’s strength has returned.] 26 And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. [Can you sense the suspense? Samson’s strong again. He’s holding the pillars – the support – of the building. And the suspense keeps building.]

27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. [The roof, I say – the one supported by the pillars that this supernaturally strong man is holding…] 28 ¶ And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, [That sounds genuine. And I think it is. This is what God wanted to do for Samson throughout his life. He did strenghten Samson. He wanted to deliver Israel through him. So this is a somewhat encouraging prayer. But listen to Samson’s reasoning for asking the Lord for strength.] that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. [So, even now it’s all about personal revenge. They took my eyes so I’m going to kill them. Nevertheless, the Lord hears Samson.] 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. [It’s a love/hate relationship, apparently. He loves them so much that he’s amongst them all the time. But he also hates them and wants to take vengeance on them.] And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. [Again, that’s more of a commentary on Samson’s ineffective judging of Israel during his life than on his bravery in death.]

31 Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the buryingplace of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.

So, we’ve just witnessed probably the most disappointing of the judges. And the disappointment doesn’t end there. Next time we’ll see more hi-jinks from the tribe from which Samson originated – the wandering tribe of Dan.

God’s perspective on his people’s disobedience

Open to the 1st chapter of the book of Judges. Judges, chapter 1.

We’re actually going to be studying Judges 2:6 – 3:6. But we’ll start in verse 1 of chapter 1. The book of Judges opens on this note – “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” And then what we saw in our last lesson was the children of Israel failing again and again in worse and worse ways to drive out the wicked nations around them. That’s a summary of the entire first chapter of this book.

Then we saw the first section end in 2:1-5. If you read the first chapter you might wonder why the Israelites kept failing. Verses 1 through 5 explain it. They explain it to us. But they also explained it to the Israelites of those days. The Israelites couldn’t possess the land and drive out the Canaanites. Why? End of 2:2. “…but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?” Then God says – through his angel or messenger that he sent – that he’s not going to drive the Canaanites out anymore. The people weep. But did they truly repent? I think not.

Judges 2:6-9

And then we get to chapter 2 verse 6 – the beginning of our section for today. Let’s read 2:6-9.

KJV Judges 2:6 ¶ And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land. 7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.

Wait a second. Why are we talking about Joshua again? I thought he died back at the start of chapter 1. If you just kind of read right through the first two chapters of this book and you weren’t thinking straight you might get the idea that Joshua died twice! Of course, that’s not the case. But this is where it’s really helpful to recognize that the author of this book included not one introduction but two of them.

Well, why two and not just one? The first introduction involved all things that the Israelites themselves could experience. They heard about the battles. They saw and listened to the messenger who came to proclaim punishment. They would humanly experience all these things. But here in 2:6 through 3:6 it’s like the narrator pulls us aside away from the scenes of failure and punishment in this book and lets us in on God’s perspective on the situation. So that’s what to expect in this section. God’s perspective on his people’s disobedience.

Judges 2:10

But so far in this section we haven’t heard anything about disobedience, have we? All the people served the Lord throughout the time of Joshua. They even obeyed during the lifetime of the elders who outlived Joshua. Obedience – as we saw in the book of Joshua – was the behavior of the day. I wonder what happens after those elders die. Let’s read verse 10.

10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers [so the elders who survived Joshua are dead – now what?]: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

I’ve heard the following phrase applied to the concept we read about in verse 10 – “generation degeneration”. A degeneration happening between one generation leaving and another rising up. And in this case the degeneration isn’t physical or anything – it’s spiritual. This new generation didn’t know the Lord. What? They didn’t know about Yahweh, the awesome God of Israel? I think they probably knew about him. They had heard about him. They knew their fathers worshipped him. But this new generation by-and-large did not have an experiential knowledge of Yahweh. They certainly wouldn’t have been reflecting the sentiment of the Apostle Paul who counted all things as loss for the exceeding value of knowing Christ. They weren’t pressing on to know this God of their fathers.

And so it’s predictable that this new generation wouldn’t have known the works that Yahweh had done for Israel. Again, did they know their Hebrew History? Yes, of course. The generation that preceded them was commanded to teach their children. They set up stones near the Jordan to prompt them to tell their children about God drying up the river so Israel could cross over. The former generation would have practiced circumcision and celebrated the Passover – both of which communicated volumes about Israel’s God. This new generation knew about God’s acts for his people… But they hadn’t experienced such acts for themselves.

There are a number of young adults here who live under their parents’ roof. Do you know the Lord? Do you know his mighty acts that he’s done for his people? Have you experienced Christ? Have you realized that your sin is so immense and offensive that it is sending you to hell? Have you turned from it and received Christ’s payment for that sin?

If you haven’t, ultimately we’re not going to blame your parents. If they are trying to raise you in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, what more can they do? Ultimately the responsibility for each generation of those who associate themselves with God’s people to experientially know the Lord lies on… that generation – not the previous one. The burden is yours to know the Lord.

And nevertheless, parents… are you telling your kids about the things God has done in your life. God gave the Israelites a pile of rocks to prompt them to remind their kids about spiritual realities. If rocks prompt you to speak to your child about the Lord, I won’t stop you. But you don’t need rocks. Do your children know how God saved you? Are you helping them see how God has led your family along through some wildernesses? Do you know the gospel and the Scriptures well enough to explain some things to them? Tell your family what you know – and keep learning and knowing the Lord yourself so that you’ll be able to teach others also.

Judges 2:11-15

Well, the new generation in Israel didn’t know the Lord. And do you know what happens when an entire generation doesn’t know the Lord? Verses 11 through 15.

11 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. 15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.

The Israelites served foreign gods. Who are these gods anyway? There are two mentioned by name. Baal and Ashtaroth. Baal was a Canaanite god. He was supposed to have been in charge of storms. Storms seem unpleasant to us 21st century westerners, but ask a farmer or a gardener how their business does without the right amount of rain storms. When life depends upon your fields yielding produce, rain is essential and storms are the vehicle by which rain is delivered. It’s like today if you worked in an office and the internet goes down. How much can you really get done? Not too much. So Baal was an attractive god. He brought the rain, supposedly. And rain brought fertility to the land in the form of produce. So apparently Baal was also viewed as a fertility god. Fertility – not only in relation to the ground – but also in relation to bearing children so that you could have workers to work the family farm. And I hardly want to mention this, but to the best of my understanding, the worshippers of Baal would try to assist Baal in bringing fertility. How? You’ve read elsewhere in the Bible of “temple prostitutes”. Well, through participating in immorality with these prostitutes the worshippers of Baal believed they would encourage their perverted false god to bring fertility to their ground and to their family.

OK, what about Ashtaroth? She was a female deity often represented by a wooden pillar of some sort. In the make-believe world of ancient Canaanite false religion, Ashtaroth was the mate of Baal. Apparently their activities together produced rain.

Believe it or not, I’ve tried to be pretty restrained in what I just explained. Because it’s defiling just thinking about what the ancient Canaanites – and this new apostate Israelite generation – believed. But it’s reality. It’s how people thought in those days. It’s the thick darkness in which they were operating. Aren’t you glad things aren’t that way these days?…

No, these days it’s much better. Right? Instead of our society so focused on fertility in every area of life, abortion is the interest of the day. You thought it took a lot of imagination to believe that stuff about Baal and Ashteroth? Well, it takes just as much imagination to pretend that the little baby in the womb being torn to pieces during the so-called “medical procedure” of abortion isn’t a little baby – that somehow this doesn’t constitute murder. This all takes quite a bit of imagination – or, really, blindness.

And maybe that issue hits close to home. It does for various ones of us to different degrees. But maybe for most of us abortion – it’s an issue, but it’s rather distant. It doesn’t affect us immediately. Hey, even some lost people think abortion is wrong. Could there be other delusions that we as God’s people are more likely to buy into?

What is your life about anyway? What’s the goal? Is it comfort and wealth? You know how to find out? Take the comfort and wealth away. You’ll see really quick if that’s what you’ve been serving. Now, we’re all supposed to labor. If we don’t work we don’t eat. But how subtle is the god of money. It, like other things, is a great servant but a horrible master. Jesus warned in very plain terms – you cannot, CANNOT serve God and money. Those two deities battle each other for worshippers. You would probably agree that the whole Baal thing is rather silly. And you’d be right. But do you see the foolishness of deifying money – pretending like it can solve all your problems? It won’t. Only Yahweh, the God of the Scriptures is powerful to save and deliver and provide.

Baal worship was ridiculous. Did the people need water? Did they need children? Who sends the rain? Baal? No, the Lord. Who opens the womb? Baal? No — the Lord. The modern western idol of money is equally ridiculous. Do we need things – clothes, shelter, food, transportation – in this modern world? You better believe it. Does money ultimately give us this stuff? Does money have power in itself to give us what we truly need? No, that’s the Lord’s job. He uses money. But let us be so careful to worship the Creator rather than the creature. Lord, help us to see this idol – and every idol — for what they truly are – false.

So this is what the Israelites were doing – following the false gods of the pagan world around them. And God had to respond. And God’s response isn’t pleasant. He’s provoked to anger. Israel was his. He made a covenant with her. And now she’s going off and — from God’s point of view – acting like a prostitute. He’s been nothing but good to her. And so he reacts with justifiable anger. God delivers Israel to plunderers who plunder them. He sells them to their enemies before whom they can’t stand. […Remember Joshua…?]

And this is all according to the promise God made back in Deuteronomy. Remember? If Israel obeyed – blessing – abundance of every sort. But on the flip side, disobedience brought a curse. And you remember some of what he threatened them with. Their enemies would defeat them. They’d be utterly destroyed. He would exile them from their land. He’d send diseases upon them. And on and on. So, I’m sure that’s what you’re ready for. You’re ready for Yahweh to just annihilate this disobedient people. Send them out of the land!

Judges 2:16

But let’s see what God actually does in reaction to the faithlessness of his people. Verse 16.

16 ¶ Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.

Nevertheless! Despite Israel’s utter unfaithfulness, despite her direct disobedience, despite the ridiculous pagan practices and beliefs they had adopted – God sent salvation to them. That word translated legitimately as “delivered” in other places is translated as “save”. That word is the “shua” in the name Joshua –Yah (the Lord) Shua (Saves). So in the face of direct disobedience and rebellion, the Lord sends “saviors” to his people. And they save Israel from their enemies.

The “saviors” are called judges. That’s where we get the name of the book, of course. But a judge to us in our culture isn’t the same as what we see these individuals doing. These biblical judges aren’t sitting in robes at desks with gavel in hand interpreting the laws and rendering verdicts. No, these judges are really the equivalent of tribal leaders. So, remember that. These judges that we will see starting in our next lesson are tribal leaders – leaders of the tribes of Israel. Sometimes they lead just one tribe. Sometimes several. Sometimes you wonder if they’re leading at all – like Samson. But these individuals – the judges – are simply leaders of tribes.

Judges 2:17-18

So, wonderful! The Lord sent tribal leaders to save his people! That should do it. No need to write any more after this verse, right? No, these tribal leaders weren’t always real effective. And further, it wasn’t always their own fault. Let’s read verse 17.

 17 And yet they [Israel] would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.

Again, we see Israel’s treachery against Yahweh. Surely he would be justified in just annihilating them on the spot. Right? I mean, he’s been so good to them. And he promised to ultimately exile them if they disobey him. He’d be right to carry out his sentence of judgment on them. But here’s where we really learn about the heart of our God. Let’s read verse 18.

 18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.

It repented the Lord. The Lord felt pity and compassion for his people. He felt sorry for their extremity. But it was their own sin that brought the extremity! Let ‘em have it, I say! But that’s not the heart of our God. Isn’t the Lord amazing? He must punish sin. And yet he is moved with pity for his pitiful sinful creatures. And he’s the same way today.

Judges 2:19-23

You would think that all the compassion God shows his people would cause them to turn to him. And sometimes it does. But often it doesn’t change the recipients of that compassion at all. Verse 19.

 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

What’s the ultimate result when God’s sinful people reject his compassion? Verses 20 through 23.

20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; 21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: 22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. 23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.

What reason does God give for leaving the pagan nations in Israel? There are two. The first is because they wouldn’t listen to God’s voice. We heard that already back in the first five verses of chapter 2. But now we’re introduced to another reason God left those nations in Canaan – to test Israel to see if they’ll obey the Lord like their fathers did. Well, of course, this new generation ended up not following the Lord like their fathers did. And those nations that God left did end up revealing whether Israel would obey or not. Of course, most all Israel disobeyed the Lord.

And isn’t it interesting what God says at the end of verse 23? Something that God determined after the death of Joshua affected what happened during Joshua’s life time. How do you explain this? Apparently God knew that this generation degeneration was going to happen and so even back in the days of Joshua he didn’t allow Joshua to conquer all the land. Interesting.

Judges 3:1-4

Next, in chapter 3, verses 1 through 4 we get a list of the nations that God left in Canaan and a few more pieces of information.

 3:1 ¶ Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; 2 Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; 3 Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath. 4 And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

Well, here’s another reason that God left the Canaanites in the land. God did this first because Israel wasn’t obeying him. Second God wanted to test Israel and see if they would obey him. And now we see that God actually wanted to teach Israel how to fight. So even God’s punishment is instructive and edifying for his people.

Judges 3:5-6

Then the introduction to this book ends with this ominous note – verses 5 and 6.

 5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: 6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

Israel intermarried with the Canaanites. And – no surprise to anyone – that intermarrying led to idolatry, just like God said it would. And this issue of intermarriage with pagans would dog Israel even up until the last events we have recorded in the Old Testament. Do you remember in the book of Nehemiah that one of the big problems that God’s people were still struggling with was marrying unbelievers? So this would turn out to be a perennial problem for Israel.

And so anyway, this is how the introduction to the book ends. We had the first introduction. It told us how Israel slipped by failing to drive out foreign armies. Then we have the second introduction. It tells us about Israel failing to resist idolatry and the pattern of disobedience, judgment, and deliverance they would participate in.

And then what do we see for the next 13 or so chapters? Israel participating in a pattern of disobedience, judgment, and deliverance. So, Lord-willing, next lesson we’ll start seeing that pattern filled-out in detail.