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, Part 6.2 | Joshua 13-19, Part 6.3 | Joshua 20-24
Part 7.1 | Judges 1-5 – After the death of Joshua and a generation of leaders, we learn that there was a new generation that came forth who did not know the Lord. This generation abandoned the Lord and served idols and absorbed the culture of strange peoples that were not “utterly” driven out from their lands. The Lord gave them into the hands of oppressors because of their unfaithfulness, which caused them to eventually turn back to the Lord. It was then that the Lord empowered a Judge to deliver them from oppression. The first Judges that we encounter include: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Barak, and Jael.
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 6-8 | Gideon called by the Lord to judge, Gideon named Jerubbaal, Gideon (the Lord) conquers the Midianites with 300 men, Gideon’s death, and Israel’s return to unfaithfulness: After the Israelites are delivered by Deborah, Barak and Jael, we see them fall into a cycle of unfaithfulness again! Their unfaithfulness led them directly into the hand of the Midianites who had plagued the children of Israel before under the influence of Balaam in our review of Numbers 20-27. Later in Numbers, we saw the Midianites conquered and the false prophet, Balaam killed. However, based on the circumstances in Judges, it seems as though the Midianites were not “utterly destroyed” as required by the Lord. As a result, the Israelites fell under Midianite control again and required deliverance, and the Lord graciously provides that deliverance through Gideon. Much like many of the other Judges, Gideon is portrayed as a simple man, threshing wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites, but he received an unexpected guest who looked past his present circumstances to see his potential:
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” | Judges 6:12
Although he is in the weakest clan and is the least in his fathers house, Gideon is called to action by the “guest”, and as their conversation progresses, the true status of the guest is revealed. After Gideon lays down a prepared meal for the Him, the angel stretches forth his rod and the meal is consumed by by fire. By that sign, Gideon learns that it was the Lord before him and that the Lord would be with him as he stands against the Midianites. The reign of Gideon as Judge was a tumultuous one. He tore down the Midianites altar of Baal; he required additional “proof” from the Lord of his appointment (by way of dew on a fleece surrounded by completely dry ground); he again required proof from the Lord (by way of a completely dry fleece surrounded by dew covered ground); and the Lord proves his power by defeating the Midianites using only 300 of Gideon’s 10,000 men! Unfortunately all that the Lord did through Gideon proved to only temporarily save the Israelites because we soon see the Israelites fall back into idolatry:
Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” | Judges 8:22-23
Gideon himself built an “ephod” out of gold as a memento of his conquest, and the ephod proved to be a snare to Israel, Gideon, and his family. At the end of chapter 8 we read of Gideon’s death, and we see the Israelites return to idolizing other gods forgetting the Lord and all that He had done through Gideon.
- Judges 9 | Abimelech, the wannabe Judge: The story of Abimelech is a very sad one. Gideon had many wives and as a result, he had many sons (70 in al)l. Abimelech was one of Gideon’s sons born by his concubine in Shechem. Abimelech was a man filled with evil intentions. In Judges we read that he went to his mother’s relatives in Schechem and planted the seed of conspiracy into their minds – he aimed to have one ruler over Israel, who happened to be…himself. He hires “worthless and reckless” men, and together they murder all 70 of his brothers so that he could be king. Although the leaders of Schechem quickly appoint him king, one of his brothers, Jotham, survived the the mass murder. Jotham issues a curse on Abimelech and all those that supported and/or assisted him. Surprisingly, Abimelech ends up reigning for 3 years over Israel, but the Lord moves into action after that short time:
Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Schechem, and the leaders of Schechem death treacherously with Abimelech | Judges 9:22-23
Abimelech’s reign resulted in civil war with his own people of Schechem, and the war was completely filled with deceit. Eventually Abimelech rises up against a city named Thebez, and as he attacks the city, he is mortally wounded by a woman with a stone (How embarrassing!). Despite all of his pride and ambitions, this is how Abimelech’s life ended:
And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.'” And his young man thrust him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. | Judges 9:53-56
- Judges 10 | Tola and Jair judge and deliver, and Israel returns to unfaithfulness : At the beginning of Judges chapter 10, we learn of two more judges, Tola and Jair who delivered Israel 23 and 22 years respectively. Although there isn’t much information regarding these two judges, it is important to note that Jair is described as having 30 sons, who rode on 30 donkeys, and had 30 cities. This large amount of wealth is a clear sign that the Lord does not discriminate at all! He uses the poor and the wealthy alike. He uses the weak and the strong. No matter what walk of life we are from, the Lord will still call, but we must be ready to answer! After these two judges, we read of the evil way of the Israelites again! Once again, the Lord’s anger is kindled against them, and he delivers them into the hands of their enemies. But this time, He refuses to help:
“The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whome you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. | Judges 10:12-16
- Judges 11 – 12 | Jephthah is called to judge?, Jephthah makes a wild promise, Jephthah fights Ephraim, and Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon are called to judge Israel: Jephthah, the son of Gilead, is described as a mighty warrior. But since his mother was a prostitute, he was not accepted and he was driven out of his homeland by his brothers. However, after the Israelites faced oppression from the Ammonites, the elders of Gilead turned to Jephthah to lead. This story is quite different than the typical calling of the Lord. It seems as though the Lord caused circumstances that did not required his direct intervention in Jephthah’s life. Unfortunately, not having a sign from the Lord as Gideon and others did may have also caused Jephthah to make a promise to the Lord for the assurance of victory. Jephthah promised that if he was granted victory, he would sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever came out from the doors of his house to meet him when he returned. Unfortunately, it was his daughter, his one and only child, that came out of the door. Jephthah’s over-ambitious vow seemed to cause tragic results. The Lord guaranteed to empower all Judges, and I am not sure why Jephtah did not have faith in the Lord to do the same for him! Additionally, after his victory over the Ammonites and the unfortunate circumstances with his daughter, Jephthah is confronted by the men of Ephraim who question why they were not called to fight against the Ammonites. Their pride lead to a quarrel with Jephthah and the Gileadites, which unfortunately lead to 42,000 Ephraimites falling! Finally we see three more judges, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, who judged Israel for 7, 10, and 8 years, respectively.
As the book of Judges progresses, we see a clear pattern in the mindset of the Israelites. It seemed to be a never-ending cycle of Israel’s unfaithfulness, the Lord delivering them into the hand of the enemy, Israel’s repentance, and the Lord empowering Judges to save them. This cycle happens over and over again in the first 12 chapters of Judges, and it starts to get tedious. It causes me to wonder why the Israelites did not take a step back and realize their destructive way. How foolish could they be???
But then I realized that I chose the same destructive path. I forgot Jesus Christ as King and Lord of my life, and I chose this world over Him. I lived the same cycle of unfaithfulness as the Israelites lived so many years ago, and I was delivered into the hand of my enemies. But that was because I did not realize the victory that I have in Christ. I did not realize that, through Him, we are more than conquerors. I was not filled with the power that He infuses me with by His Holy Spirit. I did not submit all of my burdens to Him, and I did not let Him lead.
We continue to see the book of Judges reflect the struggles in our very own lives. We will continue to see the unfaithfulness of the Israelites and the continued faithfulness of the Lord by the empowering of Judges, but above it all, we must realize that there is “no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus“. We must look to eternity because we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ“. We must look to the cross because it has already given us victory over anything we face!