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.
Part 7.2 | Judges 6-12 – As the book of Judges continues, we see a constant pattern of faithfulness, unfaithfulness, salvation by a Judge, and faithfulness. We are introduced to many new Judges who come from various backgrounds that bring peace upon Israel: Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. Unfortunately we also learn of Abimelech, the son of Gideon, who attempts to seize the title of “Judge” on his own! When the chapters in this section come to an end, there is no sign that this exhausting habit of the Israelites would be stopping anytime soon.
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 13 : Manoah and his barren wife are promised a son that will serve the Lord, Samson is born: Unfortunately this section of Judges begins with the phrase “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. This time, the Lord gives them over into the hand of the Philistines for 40 years. In chapter 13, we read of the call of Samson before his birth. A man comes to Manoah’s barren wife and tells her that she will have a son who will be a Nazarite (who we learned about in Numbers 6) from the womb. The man warned Manoah’s wife not to drink wine or any strong drink, not to eat anything unclean, and not to let a razor cut her son’s hair. When they invited this man for a meal, he rejected the offer and suggested sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord instead. The couple prepares the offering, and as the flame from the offering went up to heaven, the man went up in the flame. Manoah and his wife quickly realize that it was not just a man, but the angel of the Lord himself!
- Judges 14-16 | Samson is enticed by a Philistine woman, Samson battles the Philistines, Samson is seduced by Delilah, and Samson dies serving the Lord: After Samson was born, we immediately see the spirit of the Lord work through him. Although his story is not perfect, like many of ours, the Lord still uses him, imperfections and all, to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines for 20 years! There are many stories of Samson from killing a lion with his bare hands to killing 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, but the most important of the stories describe his weakness when it comes to women. There are two accounts of this nature. First, in Chapter 14 Samson was drawn to a Philistine woman, which “was from the Lord”, but she entices him to reveal a secret that she immediately tells to her people. Second, in Chapter 16 Samson was enticed by another Philistine woman named Delilah. She also forced a secret out of him, but it was much worse than before.
And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” | Judges 16:16-17
Delilah told the Philistines, and they shaved his head in the night, gouged out his eyes, and captured him! However, after working in captivity, Samson’s hair grew back, and we see redemption in the final moments of his life. Samson was called to come before the Philistine lords, about 3000 people, so that they could mock him as they celebrated. While in chains, he called upon the Lord one last time, and the Lord strengthened him to pull down the entire building killing all of the men and women there. This final account of Samson’s life regarding his interaction with Delilah is an extremely important one. It directly reflects the struggle of the Israelites in general, our own struggles in life, and the hope that we have in the Lord. In particular, the verses above clearly depicts Samson simultaneously opening up his heart to foreign people and threatening his relationship with God. The Lord makes it clear to us in His Word that it is vitally important to guard our hearts:
Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life. | Proverbs 4:23
Our hearts belong to the Lord, and when we offer it to others, we become lost. We waver like the Israelites, and we are seduced by others like Samson. However, as we clearly see with Samson, the Lord can still use us for great things, if we return to Him.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. | Joel 2:12-13
- Judges 17-18 | Micah (not the prophet) and the Levite, his idolatry and false theology, and the consequences for generations to come: The story of Micah is a clear example of the destructive power of idolatry. It is unfortunate that the Israelites lived under the authority of such a wonderful and faithful Lord and King with a tainted mindset such as this:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. | Judges 17:6
Micah is a prime example of that mindset. He creates an idol out of silver and places it in a shrine in his home appointing his own son as a priest. As Micah’s idolatry grows, he draws more people into his destructive ways by enlisting a journeying Levite to be a priest for him. He offers to pay him, clothe him, and shelter him, and the Levite, enticed by such a generous offer, agrees to the terms. Micah’s is foolish enough to think that having a real Levite as priest of his idols is a way for him to gain prosperity from the Lord. The account continues into chapter 18, and Micah’s idolatry grows to entice even more! The Danites were so enthralled by Micah, the Levite, and their idols that they came ready to go to war for it all. They took the “carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image”, and they even offered the Levite the chance to be the priest to an entire clan rather than just a family. Filled with pride, the Levite gladly accepts and follows the Danites. Finally, as the wild chapter comes to an end, we learn that Micah’s personal idolatry ultimately proved to be an entrapment for the entire people of Dan for generations to come.
And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh. | Judges 18:30-31
- Judges 19-21 | The Levite, his concubine, the wicked people of Gibeah, and civil war: The most important thing to realize for this section of Judges is that it begins and ends with phrase: “In those days there was no king in Israel”. Chapters 19-21 are a continuation of the foolish events of a wayward nation that began taking place in chapter 17 with the idolatry of Micah. I am unclear as to the actual timeline of the events in Judges within the scope of the old testament books, but it is important to note the struggle of the Israelites nonetheless. These chapters describe the story of a Levite (a man set apart for God) and his concubine (red flag), who was unfaithful to him and left him. After many months without his concubine, the Levite retrieved her from her fathers house and began a journey back home. Ironically (I’ll explain later), this happens along the way:
When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” | Judges 19:11-12
So they decided to rest in Gibeah which was a city located in the land of Benjamin, and while there they encountered an old man that offered them a place to stay. While at the old mans house, men of the city surrounded the house and demanded that the Levite be given to them so that they may “know him”. Wow! How ironic that going to the city that belonged to the Israelites, that belonged to the Lord, had no guarantee of righteousness! The old man refused to let the men of Gibeah have the Levite, but the Levite threw out his concubine to them! The men abused her throughout the night and returned her to doorstep dead. Now at this point…this story is already a little bizarre for a nation so blessed by the Lord, but it doesn’t stop. The Levite proceeded to cut his concubine into 12 pieces and send her to all the territories in Israel. How depraved are we??? If we had no king, is this who we would be??? The story continues, and the actions of the Levite caused a civil war between the Benjamites and the rest of Israel that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Israelites. The Israelites sought the Lord, but it seemed that He takes an uninterested role in this by giving them over into their own foolishness. Eventually the Benjamites were wiped out except for a few hundred men, and the Israelites swore to never give them their women to marry. However, as time passed, they felt compassion for the lost tribe of Israel, and they reconciled with them. But since they swore not to give their women, they had to find another way to provide wives for them. So, logically (not logically)…they destroyed the city of Jabesh-gilead for their virgins and snatched women from Shiloh, which I believe were both cities of the Israelites. All of these crazy events round out the book of judges, and the final verse in the book sums it up!
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. | Judges 21:25
The first 17 chapters of Judges describes a tedious cyclical pattern of the Israelites as they fell from the Lord, who would then empower judges to save them from their oppressors. We learned of many people who were called by the Lord to rise up and deliver the Israelites, and we saw that there were no boundaries as to who was chosen. The Lord used Shamgar and his ox goad as well as the wealthy Jair who had 30 sons and 30 cities! Unfortunately as Judges comes to an end, we slowly see the depravity of the Israelites revealed.
Although they wavered and fell many times before, we see a particularly wicked mindset in chapters 17-21. It is made clear that many people in the nation of Israel did not live under the authority of their Lord and King! The final chapters constantly reiterate the fact that “In those days there was no king in Israel”, which was a mindset that resulted in a horrible internal struggle! Judges paints a picture of a nation that faces both a struggle with the world around them as well as a battle within, which is all because they do not truly recognize the authority of the Lord over their lives. Sure they have practices in place, laws to follow, and even times of worship for the Lord, but do they love the Lord enough to follow all that He asks? It seems not, and it is this fault that has been allowed into our own lives. It has been granted the permission to become our own struggle as we live in this world.
We seem to be constantly facing a battle against this world and against ourselves, but all it takes is for us to recognize the Lord as the Lord of our lives. So maybe it is time to stop pretending it and to start living it! Who is King of your life?