By now, you probably know the drill. If you are new to this, this series, as you may have deciphered, is an outline of the entire Bible, book by good ol’ book. Here are the previous sections: Part 1 | Genesis, Part 2 | Exodus, Part 3 | Leviticus, Part 4.1 | Numbers 1-8, Part 4.2 | Numbers 9-19, Part 4.3 | Numbers 20-27, Part 4.4 | Numbers 28-36, Part 5.1 | Deuteronomy 1-11, Part 5.2 | Deuteronomy 12-20, Part 5.3 | Deuteronomy 21-34
Part 6.1 | Joshua 1-12 – In the first half of Joshua, we clearly see the might, faithfulness, and judgement of the Lord displayed. He, through the nation of Israel, conquers nation after nation with ease. Despite their unfaithfulness at times, the Lord continues to deliver kings into the Israelite’s hands. The Israelites have conquered many nations, and the inheritance is almost theirs. As we continue to read the book of Joshua, we will see the promise finally fulfilled and we will learn of the allotment of the long-awaited land to the respective tribes of Israel after a long and arduous journey.
Part 6.2 | Joshua 13-19 – Chapters 13 to 19 of Joshua completely document in detail the division of the promise land to all 12 tribes of Israel. This land stretched from the east of Jordan to the west, and it was intently divided.
Part 6.3 | Joshua 20-24 – The book of Joshua is finally rounded out, and things begin to settle down. In the final chapters, there are two key moments. First, the nation of Israel is clearly warned that they are set apart and that anything less than full obedience to the law would result in horrible consequences. Second, we learn of the death of Joshua, the great successor to Moses and leader for the Israelites as they conquered the promised land. These two moments effectively set the stage for the book of Judges.
JUDGES – As the time of great leaders like Moses and Joshua comes to an end. We see the Israelites established with the Lord as their King and His commandment as their law. Although they have successful inherited the land promised to them, there are still remnants of the people who formerly inhabited the land. Judges explores the life of the Israelites as they contend with the remaining Canaanites. These circumstances again prove the Israelites utter dependence on the Lord by showcasing their constant unfaithfulness and His complete faithfulness and power. Although at the end of Joshua we saw the end of an era of great leaders, the Lord continues to empower leaders in the form of Judges to save and judge the children of Israel.
- Judges 1 | The leadership of Judah, and the Israelites failure to completely rid the land of Canaanites: In Numbers 33, the Israelites were clearly warned of the consequences for not driving out all of the inhabitants of the promised land.
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. And as I plan to do to them, so I will do to you. | Numbers 33:55-56
As Judges begins, we see the Israelites requesting a leader to continue their conquest, and the Lord appoints Judah as the leader that would go up against the inhabitants. Just as He did for Joshua, the Lord gives the land into Judah’s hand, and as the conquest continues, we are reminded of a familiar story. It turns out that the story of Caleb, his daughter Achsah, and his nephew Othniel that we read in Joshua 15, happened during the leadership of Judah, and it is repeated here in Judges 1 no doubt because as our study of Judges continues, we see more of Othniel. Judges chapter 1 comes to a quick close as it lists many of the tribes that “did not drive out the inhabitants” among them (Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, Dan). Although the instructions given by the Lord were explicit, the Israelites still did not heed the warning.
- Judges 2 | Punished by the Angel of the Lord, a forgetful generation, and the need for Judges: Because of their unfaithfulness, the angel of the Lord reprimands the children of Israel. He refuses to drive out the inhabitants for the Israelites because of their disobedience, and He reiterates that the remaining Canaanites would be as “thorns” in their sides as promised by Numbers 33. The chapter continues by describing the progression of a God-fearing generation during Joshua’s time and shortly after into a generation that “did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel”:
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them | Judges 2:11-12
Because of this, the Lord sells them into the hand of the enemies:
So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. | Judges 2:14-15
Then the Lord shows them mercy by raising up and empowering judges that would save the Israelites from the hand of their enemies. Although the judge would be used to turn them back to the Lord, whenever the judge died, the Israelites would return to their wicked ways by serving other gods. The Lord saw this, and as punishment, He allowed the nations that had not been driven out to live among the Israelites.
- Judges 3 | The nations left to test Israel, Othniel (the first Judge), Ehud, and Shamgar: In chapter 3, we see these circumstances referred to as a “test” for the Israelites. The nations included the Philistines, Canaanites, Sidonians, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Hivites:
They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. | Judges 3:4
These nations dwelt among the Israelites and the Israelites partook of their culture, intermingled with the people, and served their gods. These decisions caused the Lord to introduce Judges, and the first of the lot was Othniel, the nephew of Caleb. The evil of the Israelites caused the Lord to give them into the hand of the king of Mesopotamia for eight years, but the Lord empowered Othniel and delivered the king into his hand. After Othniel’s death, the Israelites, yet again, fell into evil before the Lord, and the Lord, yet again, empowered a judge to save them. This time, Ehud, a left-handed man, killed the king of Moab who had dominated the Israelites for 18 years. After Ehud killed the king, he was able to lead the Israelites in victory over the Moabites. It is important to note the somewhat uncomfortable circumstances that these judges were placed in because the evil of the Israelites required such drastic measures. Ehud was left-handed and he hid a knife on his right thigh (most people are right-handed and would hide their weapon on their left side for easy access). It seems that because of that fact, Ehud was able to elude guards and people in the palace as he came to offer a “gift” to the king of Moab. As Ehud approaches the king he claims to have a secret message, and the king dismisses everyone else from the room. In spy-like fashion, Ehud claims that he has “a message from God”, and he plunges a knife into the fat king. The king is so fat, in fact, that the knife could not be removed, and he dies before anyone finds him. Like Ehud’s story, many of the other judges’ stories are quite intense, which seems to be a product of the radical circumstances. After Ehud, we see yet another judge, Shamgar, who killed 600 Philistines with only an oxgoad. In this chapter we see the power and faithfulness of the Lord clearly juxtaposed with the unfaithfulness of the Israelites. Also, as the first three judges are revealed, we immediately get the sense that the Lord chooses not only the well-known like Othniel, the nephew of Caleb, but also the simple like Shamgar with his oxgoad. No matter your perceived status, He no doubt has the ability to empower you to accomplish great things. So do not sell yourself short!
- Judges 4 – 5 | Deborah, the prophetess, Barak, and Jael deliver Israel from Jabin, king of Canaan, and a song of praise regarding the account is written to the Lord: After the death of Ehud, the Israelites turn to their evil ways again! Now their actions led them to be sold into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, and Jabin ruled cruelly over Israel for twenty years. For the first time, we see the Lord empower a woman to judge Israel and lead them out of their circumstances. Deborah, the prophetess, speaks for the Lord and task Barak with destroying Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. Deborah says that the Lord will deliver the Canaanite army into Baraks hand, but Barak clearly hesitates and requests the presence of Deborah instead of relying on the Lord. Although Deborah agrees, she claims that he will not receive the glory and that Sisera will be delivered into the hand of a woman. Sure enough, Sisera’s army was defeated by Barak, but the general fled to the tent of Heber the Kenite. Just as Deborah prophesied, Jael, the wife of Heber, kills Sisera with a hammer and tent peg while he was asleep. After the army of Canaan was destroyed, the Israelites continued to pursue Jabin and eventually destroyed him as well. Judges chapter 4 describes the entire account of Deborah, Barak, and Jael, and Judges chapter 5 is a song of praise sung by Deborah and Barak for the Lord’s goodness. After defeating Jabin, the Israelites had peace for forty years.
Judges is one of my favorite books of the Bible simply because it so clearly reflects our own lives. The Israelites constantly fell into disobedience to the Lord, although it was the Lord who faithfully saved them and constantly worked for their good – much like our own lives. We have witnessed and we serve a living God who has stepped down from heaven and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross to save us from our sinful way. It is this ever-faithful, loving Lord that we reject when we willingly choose this world over Him. We create and entertain idols that distract us from Him, and it requires direct intervention for us to realize the depravity of our choices. Are you serving the Lord or are you serving idols? Have you been swayed by the way of this world? Must the Lord empower others to judge you and free you from your wicked way or will you repent and return completely to Him before such challenging measures come to pass? Why must we go through the same cycle of unfortunate events when we now have an eternal hope of glory through Jesus Christ that the Israelites never experienced? Look to His faithfulness and eternal character to satisfy your every need, and reject the waning offerings of this world right now!
As we continue to read the book of Judges, we will see great and mighty characters that rise up by the power of the Lord to save the wayward nation of Israel.