Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook
Judges 21:1-25

Judges 21:1-25

January 8, 2021

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Israel grieved over the depleted condition of Benjamin, but then acted with a human solution that harmed innocent persons.

     The eleven tribes of Israel had made a self-induced vow that none of their daughters should be given to the tribe of Benjamin (Judg. 21:1, 5, 7, 18); subsequently, the eleven tribes grieved the near-destruction of Benjamin (Judg. 21:2, 6), and sought to resolve the problem of how to restore them.  Though they offered sacrifice to God (Judg. 21:3-4), they did not consult Him concerning Benjamin’s restoration (Judg. 21:5-7).  The human solution was to attack Israelites from Jabesh-gilead—who had not participated in the battle—and to destroy all its inhabitants (men, women, and children), and then take the remaining 400 virgin girls and give them as wives to the Benjamites (Judg. 21:8-12), thus reconciling and restoring the tribe (Judg. 21:13-15).  The elders of Israel then considered how to provide wives for the remaining 200 Benjamites who had not been given a wife, while not violating their self-induced vow that they should not give them wives from their children (Judg. 21:16-18).  The human solution was that the Benjamites should kidnap wives for themselves during the time of the annual feast at Shiloh (Judg. 21:19-22), and so they did (Judg. 21:23-24).  The conclusion to the account, as well as the book as a whole, is that “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). 

     Sin will always rise—personally and nationally—when God’s word is ignored and His will disobeyed.  The divine solution is always to fear God (Prov. 1:7; 8:13), and this means learning His word and obeying it (Ps. 34:11-14; 119:9-11).  To fear God also means seeking God’s will in every aspect of our lives and not compartmentalizing (Prov. 3:5-7).  The life of faith is often challenging, but the good choices bring stability and blessing. 

Judges 20:1-48

Judges 20:1-48

January 5, 2021

     The Central Idea of the Text is that eleven tribes of Israel go to war against the tribe of Benjamin in order to exact justice for the Levite’s concubine who was raped and murdered in Gibeah.

     The tribes of Israel—minus Benjamin—gathered to hear the Levite’s account of the rape and killing of his concubine (Judg. 20:1-7), and then decided to take action (Judg. 20:8-11), giving Benjamin the opportunity  give up the offenders, which they refused to do (Judg. 20:12-13).  The result was civil war between eleven tribes of Israel and the Benjamites.  Three times God directed the eleven tribes to fight against Benjamin (Judg. 20:18, 23, 26-28); however, He permitted the Israelites to taste defeat on the first two occasions (40,000 men died), perhaps to discipline them for their pride—because they had excluded God from their lives for many years—and to prompt them to look to Him alone for victory.  Each defeat led the tribes to seek God more humbly and earnestly, to know His will and to have His blessing.  God finally defeated Benjamin for the wickedness of the men they were defending (Judg. 20:35).  25,100 Benjamites were killed (Judg. 20:35), and their city was destroyed (Judg. 20:48).  600 Benjamites survived the battle and hid themselves in the wilderness of Rimmon (Judg. 20:47).

     Sometimes God lets us experience defeat in order to break down our pride and to condition us to look to Him in all things and to cast ourselves upon His sustaining grace (Ps. 55:22; 2 Cor. 12:7-10).  Whatever the defeat, we must look to the Lord (Prov. 3:5-6) and accept that He is in sovereign control (Ps. 135:6; Dan. 4:35) and that He is working all things for our benefit (Rom. 8:28; cf. Gen. 50:20).

Judges 19:1-30 Part 2

Judges 19:1-30 Part 2

December 29, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that a Levite—in order to save himself—sacrificed his concubine to worthless men who gang raped and killed her.

     A Levite left Ephraim to persuade his runaway concubine to return home (Judg. 19:1-3).  His father-in-law was glad to see him and entertained him for three days (Judg. 19:4-7).  The Levite eventually left and traveled homeward with his wife, servant, and two donkeys (Judg. 19:8-10).  They could have stayed in Jebus, but traveled on to Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin (Judg. 19:11-14).  The only display of hospitality in Gibeah was by an old man who brought them into his home and cared for them (Judg. 19:15-21).  Like the story of Sodom, several wicked men came searching for the visitor to sexually assault him, and the old man sought to protect his visitor (Judg. 19:22-23).  However, the old man was willing to throw his daughter and the concubine out to the attackers to save himself and the Levite (Judg. 19:24; cf. Gen. 19:4-8).  The wicked men refused, so the cowardly Levite forced his wife out of the house and into their hands to be raped and abused all night (Judg. 19:25-26).  The next morning the callous Levite gathered his concubine’s body and took her home, then cut her into twelve pieces and sent a portion to the twelve tribes of Israel (Judg. 19:27-29).  “Clearly he did not really love this woman or he would have defended her and even offered himself in her place. His actions speak volumes about his views of women, himself, and God’s will.”[1]  The final verse is a question posed by the Israelites concerning how they would respond to this evil act (Judg. 19:30).

     A husband’s love is to be based on the character of God.  For the Christian, he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:23-29).  The husband is to provide for his wife physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  He is to protect her at all costs, even with his own life if necessary.  The husband is to build his wife up in the Lord, seeking her best at all times.  He is to make his wife feel safe so that she can love him without fear (1 John 4:18).  These values and actions do not guarantee the wife will respond positively.  However, there can be no healthy marital relationship if the husband is not leading with these values and actions. 

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Jdg 19:22.

Judges 19:1-30 Part 1

Judges 19:1-30 Part 1

December 29, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that a Levite—in order to save himself—sacrificed his concubine to worthless men who gang raped and killed her.

     A Levite left Ephraim to persuade his runaway concubine to return home (Judg. 19:1-3).  His father-in-law was glad to see him and entertained him for three days (Judg. 19:4-7).  The Levite eventually left and traveled homeward with his wife, servant, and two donkeys (Judg. 19:8-10).  They could have stayed in Jebus, but traveled on to Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin (Judg. 19:11-14).  The only display of hospitality in Gibeah was by an old man who brought them into his home and cared for them (Judg. 19:15-21).  Like the story of Sodom, several wicked men came searching for the visitor to sexually assault him, and the old man sought to protect his visitor (Judg. 19:22-23).  However, the old man was willing to throw his daughter and the concubine out to the attackers to save himself and the Levite (Judg. 19:24; cf. Gen. 19:4-8).  The wicked men refused, so the cowardly Levite forced his wife out of the house and into their hands to be raped and abused all night (Judg. 19:25-26).  The next morning the callous Levite gathered his concubine’s body and took her home, then cut her into twelve pieces and sent a portion to the twelve tribes of Israel (Judg. 19:27-29).  “Clearly he did not really love this woman or he would have defended her and even offered himself in her place. His actions speak volumes about his views of women, himself, and God’s will.”[1]  The final verse is a question posed by the Israelites concerning how they would respond to this evil act (Judg. 19:30).

     A husband’s love is to be based on the character of God.  For the Christian, he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:23-29).  The husband is to provide for his wife physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  He is to protect her at all costs, even with his own life if necessary.  The husband is to build his wife up in the Lord, seeking her best at all times.  He is to make his wife feel safe so that she can love him without fear (1 John 4:18).  These values and actions do not guarantee the wife will respond positively.  However, there can be no healthy marital relationship if the husband is not leading with these values and actions. 

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Jdg 19:22.

Judges 18:1-31 Part 2

Judges 18:1-31 Part 2

December 26, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that the tribe of Dan desired land beyond what God had allotted to them, and by force stole Micah’s idols and priest, and violently attacked the people of Laish and renamed their city Dan. 

     The tribe of Dan sent five spies to search for new territory (Judg. 18:1-2) beyond the choice land allotted to them (Josh. 19:40-48) because they had failed to drive out the Amorites who lived there (Judg. 1:34).  The spies encountered Micah’s Levite-priest and asked for divine guidance and received a false blessing (Judg. 18:3-6).  The five men came to the peaceful town of Laish and saw they were ungoverned and unprotected (Judg. 8:7).  After returning home they informed their brethren about their findings and counseled them to attack the city and take possession of the land (Judg. 18:8-12).  Six hundred Danites marched toward Laish, stopping at Micah’s house along the way and stealing his idols (Judg. 18:13-18), and convincing his priest to serve the tribe of Dan (Judg. 18:19-21).  Micah pursued them in protest, but abandoned his efforts when they threatened his life (Judg. 18:22-26).  The six hundred Danite warriors killed the people of Laish and renamed the city Dan (Judg. 18:27-29).  The Danites then set up Micah’s idol and appointed Jonathan as their priest; and so the Danites continued in idolatry until the time of their captivity (Judg. 18:30-31).

     Moses had led Israel into a covenant relationship with God which included promised blessing for obedience.  However, Moses’ grandson—Jonathan—led many away from God and into empty idolatry.  Idolatry is the sin of substitution in which we devote ourselves to something or someone in place of God.  Biblically, there is only one God, and He demands that His people worship Him (Ex. 20:3-4).  The exclusive worship of God is for His glory and our benefit.  A physical idol is merely the work of a craftsman (see Isa. 44:9-20).  There is no life in it (Ps. 115:1-8; Jer. 51:17; Hab. 2:18-20), nor can it deliver in times of trouble (Isa. 46:5-7).  From the human perspective, ancient people did not necessarily see the idol as the god itself, but rather as a representation of the god who might reside in, or become attached to the idol.  Micah’s gods were vulnerable to attack and could not protect him (Judg. 18:17-26); later, those same gods would fail the Danites (Judg. 18:30).  From the divine perspective, the worship of idols is the worship of demons (Deut. 32:17), and Israelites who led others into idolatry were to be stoned because they promoted spiritual rebellion among God’s people (Deut. 13:6-11).  “The Danites were the first tribe to establish idolatry publicly in Israel. Perhaps this is why their tribe does not appear in the list of 12 tribes that will each produce 12,000 godly Israelite witnesses during the tribulation period (Rev. 7:5–8).”[1]

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jdg 18:27.

Judges 18:1-31 Part 1

Judges 18:1-31 Part 1

December 26, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that the tribe of Dan desired land beyond what God had allotted to them, and by force stole Micah’s idols and priest, and violently attacked the people of Laish and renamed their city Dan. 

     The tribe of Dan sent five spies to search for new territory (Judg. 18:1-2) beyond the choice land allotted to them (Josh. 19:40-48) because they had failed to drive out the Amorites who lived there (Judg. 1:34).  The spies encountered Micah’s Levite-priest and asked for divine guidance and received a false blessing (Judg. 18:3-6).  The five men came to the peaceful town of Laish and saw they were ungoverned and unprotected (Judg. 8:7).  After returning home they informed their brethren about their findings and counseled them to attack the city and take possession of the land (Judg. 18:8-12).  Six hundred Danites marched toward Laish, stopping at Micah’s house along the way and stealing his idols (Judg. 18:13-18), and convincing his priest to serve the tribe of Dan (Judg. 18:19-21).  Micah pursued them in protest, but abandoned his efforts when they threatened his life (Judg. 18:22-26).  The six hundred Danite warriors killed the people of Laish and renamed the city Dan (Judg. 18:27-29).  The Danites then set up Micah’s idol and appointed Jonathan as their priest; and so the Danites continued in idolatry until the time of their captivity (Judg. 18:30-31).

     Moses had led Israel into a covenant relationship with God which included promised blessing for obedience.  However, Moses’ grandson—Jonathan—led many away from God and into empty idolatry.  Idolatry is the sin of substitution in which we devote ourselves to something or someone in place of God.  Biblically, there is only one God, and He demands that His people worship Him (Ex. 20:3-4).  The exclusive worship of God is for His glory and our benefit.  A physical idol is merely the work of a craftsman (see Isa. 44:9-20).  There is no life in it (Ps. 115:1-8; Jer. 51:17; Hab. 2:18-20), nor can it deliver in times of trouble (Isa. 46:5-7).  From the human perspective, ancient people did not necessarily see the idol as the god itself, but rather as a representation of the god who might reside in, or become attached to the idol.  Micah’s gods were vulnerable to attack and could not protect him (Judg. 18:17-26); later, those same gods would fail the Danites (Judg. 18:30).  From the divine perspective, the worship of idols is the worship of demons (Deut. 32:17), and Israelites who led others into idolatry were to be stoned because they promoted spiritual rebellion among God’s people (Deut. 13:6-11).  “The Danites were the first tribe to establish idolatry publicly in Israel. Perhaps this is why their tribe does not appear in the list of 12 tribes that will each produce 12,000 godly Israelite witnesses during the tribulation period (Rev. 7:5–8).”[1]

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jdg 18:27.

Judges 17:1-13

Judges 17:1-13

December 22, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that an Israelite named Micah engaged in religious syncretism by blending the worship of Yahweh with the religious cultic practices of the Canaanites. 

     Micah is introduced as a son who stole a great amount of wealth from his mother.  He returned the wealth fearing the curse she’d uttered on the thief, and was subsequently blessed in the name of Yahweh (Judg. 17:1-2).  Micah’s mother then—in the name of Yahweh—used some of the silver to create a molten image and graven image, which she gave to her son (Judg. 17:3-4).  Micah took the images from his mother and put them in his shrine and made an ephod (perhaps to worship; see Judg. 8:24-27) and more household idols and then ordained his son to be the family priest (Judg. 17:5).  Micah’s house was a type of Israel in his day, in which “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6), and all of this was contrary to God’s commands (Exodus 20:4-5; Deut. 27:15).  Micah then welcomed a wandering Levite (Judg. 17:7-10), whom he consecrated to serve as his family priest (Judg. 17:11-12).  This was contrary to Scripture, for only descendants of Aaron could serve as priests, whereas Levites were to serve as priestly assistants (Num. 8:19; 18:1-7).  Micah falsely believed he would have God’s blessing by having a Levitical priest as the leader of his new religion (Judg. 17:13).  This would later prove untrue (see Judg. 18). 

     Religious syncretism is the blending of the doctrines and practices of two or more religions in order to come up with something new.  In Judges 17 we have the record of a man named Micah who blended the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites with the worship of Yahweh and the end result was a monstrous self-serving religion that promoted spiritual anarchy among God’s people (see Judg. 18).  Under the Mosaic Covenant, the priests and Levites were to instruct and guide God’s people to walk with and serve Him at the tabernacle/temple (Lev. 10:8-11; Deut. 17:9-10; 33:8-10; 2 Chron. 17:7-9; 35:3; Mal. 2:1-7).  Under the New Covenant, pastors & teachers are to instruct and guide Christians to spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), that believers may walk with and serve God in the home (Eph. 5:22-6:9), the local church (Gal. 6:10; Heb. 10:23-25), and to behave godly toward outsiders (Col. 4:5-6; 1 Thess. 4:9-12).  God’s revelation in the Bible makes it clear that there is no room for religious syncretism (Exodus 20:4-5; Deut. 27:15; Matt. 7:13-14; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  There will always be false teachers among God’s people, and only those who know and live God’s Word will find protection against their false teachings and practices (Deut. 13:1-4; 18:18-22; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 2:2).

Judges 16:1-31

Judges 16:1-31

December 18, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Samson fell into sin that ultimately led to divine discipline—defeat by the Philistines, gouging out of his eyes, public humiliation, and death—but God used Samson one last time to attack the Philistines, and so God’s will was accomplished through His servant. 

     It’s not clear why Samson went to Gaza; but once there, he fell into sin and slept with a prostitute.  It was there that the Philistines tried to capture him; but Samson supernaturally tore the gates from the city wall and transported them to an adjacent hill, showing that neither guards nor gates could restrain him (Judg. 16:2-3).  Samson then fell in love with Delilah, but it was a selfish relationship for both of them, born out of lust.  Samson loved games and being promiscuous, and Delilah loved money.  Biblical love is consistent with God and is born out of a virtuous relationship with Him (reflecting His loyalty, goodness, and grace).  Samson was defeated by the woman he loved and was betrayed by her to his enemies.  His spiritual blindness and slavery to immorality preceded his physical blindness and slavery to the Philistines.  Though it was Samson’s failures that resulted in divine discipline (his loss of strength, eyesight, capture and humiliation), it was his turning back to God and crying out to Him that resulted in one final heroic act.  In the end, Samson wanted to die, and God enabled him to end his life while also giving him one last opportunity to serve as a judge and defeat Israel’s enemy.

     Samson is a complex character who simultaneously displays the characteristics of a righteous person (in judging Israel) as well as a sinner (pursuing fleshly desires).  However, God sovereignly worked through Samson’s strengths and weaknesses to accomplish His will.  Samson served the Lord and did His will (Heb. 11:32), but his poor choices of worldly companions and lifestyle (1 Cor. 15:33) led to divine discipline and eventual death (Heb. 12:5-11).  Throughout his life Samson appears to be a type of Israel in that he had a special calling from God (Judg. 13:7; Deut. 7:6-8), was blessed by God (Judg. 13:24; Deut. 2:7), had godly supervision (Judg. 14:3; Deut. 6:1-2), and was led by the Lord to defeat the enemy (Judg. 13:25; 14:6, 19; Deut. 20:3-4), yet he squandered his calling by following his sinful passions and turning away from God (Judg. 14:3; 16:1, 4; cf. Judg. 2:11; 3:12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1). 

     God uses us, even with all our imperfections and failings, and should we fail terribly and suffer divine discipline, there is still hope for ministry if we’ll humble ourselves and seek the Lord (Judg. 16:26-30; cf. Ps. 51:6-13).  Christian ministry is always hindered to the degree we choose to operate by fleshly desires and worldly values.  God is very gracious and tolerant, but does not leave unpunished those who repeatedly defy Him (Heb. 12:5-11).  Effective Christians are those who learn God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:2), live God’s will (Jam. 1:22), and advance to spiritual maturity (2 Tim. 3:16-17). 

Judges 15:1-20

Judges 15:1-20

December 15, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God continued to work through Samson to cause disruption between the Philistines and Israelites. 

     After the conflict with the Philistines during the wedding feast (Judg. 14:12-20), Samson returned to claim his wife, only to find her father had given her to another man (Judg. 15:1-2).  Samson was so outraged that he felt revenge was justified (Judg. 15:3), so he burned the crops of the Philistines (Judg. 15:4-5).  The Philistines then killed Samson’s wife and her father, perhaps because they were easier targets (Judg. 15:6).  Samson retaliated again and killed an untold number (Judg. 15:7-8).  The Philistines prepared for war and camped in Judah, and this caused great alarm among the Israelites (Judg. 15:9-10).  3000 Judahites came to Samson upset that he had caused disruption between them and the Philistines and sought to deliver him over to death (Judg. 15:11-13).  When the Philistines saw Samson bound, they shouted a victory cry over him, but the Spirit of the Lord empowered Samson, and with a fresh jawbone of a donkey he killed a thousand men (Judg. 15:14-16).  Afterward he named the battlefield Jawbone Hill (Judg. 15:17).  God then provided Samson with the natural resources he needed to restore his physical and mental health (Judg. 15:18-19).

     God had originally called the Israelites to take the land by force (Deut. 7:1-6), yet the Israelites in Samson’s day had disobeyed the Lord and turned to idols, so God was punishing them for forty years (Judg. 13:1).  The Lord brought about Samson’s birth to begin Israel’s deliverance (Judg. 13:5), but the task would later be completed by Samuel and David (1 Sam. 7:10-14; 2 Sam. 5:17-25).  The sinful state of the Israelites kept them from seeing Samson as God’s deliverer, and their spiritual darkness produced in them a misplaced anger at Samson for upsetting the Philistines.  They sided with the enemy rather than God’s judge, preferring wrong-slavery to freedom. 

     Christians should strive for peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14), but never when it means forfeiting God’s will (Dan. 3:16-18; 6:1-10; Acts 5:27-29; 1 Pet. 4:14-16).  The believer with spiritual integrity will stand with God, even when other believers choose friendship with the world.  Having spiritual integrity means being consistent with God; it means knowing and choosing His will above self-interest, and calling wayward believers to do the same.  We need Christians with integrity.

Judges 14:1-20

Judges 14:1-20

December 11, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God used Samson’s fleshly desires as an occasion to provoke the Philistines. 

     Samson appears as one who desires to satisfy his flesh with women (Judg. 14:1-4; cf. 16:1, 4), food (vss. 14:8-9), games (vs. 14:12), and clothing (vs. 14:13).  He sought to marry an unbelieving Philistine woman (Judg. 14:3), and this was contrary to Scripture (Deut. 7:1-4; cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-16).  Samson was a strong-willed child who pushed to get his way, little did he know his new Philistine wife would prove pushy too (Judg. 14:16-17).  God used Samson’s strong will and sinful choices as an occasion to cause disruption between the Philistines and Israelites (Judg. 13:4-5; 14:6, 19).  Samson probably felt emboldened when the Spirit of God gave him superhuman strength to kill a lion that attacked him at a vineyard (Judg. 14:5-6).  It is possible Samson broke two parts of his Nazarite vow by touching a dead carcass and drinking wine (Judg. 14:8-10).  Scripture reveals it was the cutting his hair that caused the Spirit of the Lord to depart from him (Judg. 16:17-20; cf. 13:5).  At the wedding feast Samson gave a riddle and promised a payment of clothes to thirty of his wedding guests (Judg. 14:12-14).  When the guests could not answer the riddle, they threatened Samson’s wife and family (Judg. 14:15).  Rather than go to her new husband about the problem, she sought to handle it herself, believing the threat of her countrymen was greater than Samson’s ability to protect.  Samson’s wife wore him down through repeated weeping and accusations of hating her (Judg. 14:16-17).  Samson broke and gave her the answer to his riddle, which she then revealed to her people, who demanded payment (Judg. 14:18).  Samson—in anger—killed thirty Philistines in the city of Ashkelon in order to pay his debt (Judg. 14:19).  Samson lost his wife when he left Timnah and returned home to his family (Judg. 14:20). 

     God desires we walk with Him and obey His will (Prov. 3:5-6); however, His sovereign plans are never threatened or defeated by human failures, as He can providentially include sinful actions to accomplish His plans (see Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28).  Human desires are not wrong, as long as we don’t become like beasts which live only by their desires (Ps. 32:8-9; 73:21-22).

Judges 13:1-25

Judges 13:1-25

December 8, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God revealed to Manoah and his wife that they would have a son who would help to begin the defeat the Philistines (Judg. 13:5).

     Manoah’s wife was barren and could not have children (like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth).  God intervened to provide a son—Samson—that He would use to accomplish His will among His people.  Samson had a divine calling from birth (Judg. 13:2-25), as did Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5), John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17), and the apostle Paul (Gal. 1:15-16).  Samson fought against the Philistines, who were later defeated by Samuel (1 Sam. 7:10-14), and David (2 Sam. 5:17-25).  Samson was a contemporary with Jephthah and Samuel.

     Samson was called to be a Nazarite from birth until death (Judg. 13:7).  The Nazarite vow was normally a voluntary consecration to God which required abstaining from wine, cutting one’s hair, and not touching a dead body (Num. 6:2-6).  Abstaining from wine would have cleared the mind for biblical thinking, leaving the hair uncut was a public declaration that one had taken the Nazarite vow, and not touching a corpse would have kept one ceremonially clean for worship. 

     Manoah requested to know his son’s future vocation, perhaps to prepare Samson for his future work (Judg. 13:12).  God refused Manoah’s request, but restated the original instruction concerning his wife’s diet during her time of pregnancy (Judg. 13:4, 7, 13-14).  Manoah and his wife both came to realize they’d had a personal encounter with God (Judg. 13:20-21); however, their responses were different.  Manoah responded with irrational fear, believing they would die (Judg. 13:22), but his wife corrected his thinking with a biblical-rational response in order to allay his fears (Judg. 13:23). 

     Though much of Samson’s life is marked by carnality, he also obeyed God, and this resulted in his being recorded among God’s faithful (Heb. 11:32).  We learn from Scripture that God often calls the weak to accomplish His will in the world (1 Cor. 1:26-29); however, a divine call does not guarantee spiritual success (Jam. 4:17), as each believer must choose to walk with God (Gal. 5:16-17), and to obey His will (Rom. 6:11-13).  Spiritual success depends on biblical obedience.

Judges 12:1-15

Judges 12:1-15

December 2, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Jephthah and the Gileadites fought against the Ephraimites and killed 42,000 men.  Subsequent to Jephthah, God raised Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon as judges in Israel.  

     The Ephraimites possessed a strange jealousy that influenced them to quarrel with others.  They had previously argued with Gideon after he had defeated the Midianites (Judg. 8:1-2), and now they contended with Jephthah after he had defeated the Ammonites (Judg. 11:32-33), claiming they had not been called to help fight in the battle and threatening to destroy Jephthah’s home (Judg. 12:1).  Jephthah reports he had called them for help, but they refused (Judg. 12:2-3).  The Ephraimites then spoke condescendingly to the Gileadites, accusing them of being fugitives from the tribe of Ephraim (Judg. 12:4).  Jephthah could have overlooked the personal insults hurled at him by the Ephraimites (Prov. 19:11), but the threat of attack against his family necessitated self-defense.  The jealous and hostile Ephraimites picked a fight with Jephthah and the Gileadites and the conflict cost Ephraim 42,000 lives (Judg. 12:4-6).  Arrogant people often refuse to recognize their faults and will resort to violence—either physical or verbal—rather than admit their failings.

     After the death of Jephthah, three minor judges are listed: Ibzan (Judg. 12:8-10), Elon (Judg. 12:11-12), and Abdon (Judg. 12:13-15).  These are classified as minor judges because we know so little about them.  The other minor judges listed in the book of Judges are Tola (10:1-2), Jair (10:3-5), and Shamgar (3:31). 

     The judges were successful in many ways because they were obedient to the task that the Lord assigned to them.  Though the judges were successful and worthy of praise (see Heb. 11:32-34), they were also sinful men who were susceptible to the pagan values and lifestyles promoted by their surrounding culture (i.e. idolatry, polygamy, dynastic ambitions, etc.). 

     Among God’s people we observe both righteous and sinful behavior.  This is because we have two natures that simultaneously pull us in antithetical directions (Rom. 7:15-21; Rom. 13:14; Gal. 5:16-17; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:8-10).  We are born with a sinful nature which has a natural affinity for Satan’s values and world-system and which is never eradicated during our time on earth (Prov. 20:9; Jer. 17:9; Ps. 130:3; 1 John 1:8).  All believers sin (1 Ki. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20; Isa. 53:6; Jam. 3:2; 1 John 1:10).  However, as born-again believers (John 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23), we also have a new nature that desires to serve God and to walk with Him (Ps. 1:2; 40:8; Rom. 7:21-23; 2 Cor. 4:16; 1 John 2:29; 3:9).  Walking with God means He is regularly in our thoughts (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:16-17), that His Word saturates our thinking (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), that we apply His Word (Matt. 7:24-27; Jam. 1:22; 4:17), that we are open and honest with Him (1 Jo. 1:5-7), and that we make every effort to please Him through a life of faith (2 Cor. 5:9; Heb. 11:6).  Over time, His qualities become our qualities, and the fruit of the Spirit is manifest in us (Gal. 5:22-23).

Judges 11:29-40

Judges 11:29-40

November 28, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God empowered Jephthah to defeat the Ammonites; however, before the battle, Jephthah made an unnecessary and thoughtless vow which his daughter had to fulfill.

     Jephthah may have felt he had to barter with God as an act of diplomacy in order to secure his victory over the Ammonites, and he did this by making a vow (Judg. 11:30-31).  Making a vow was a serious matter that required forethought and commitment (Deut. 23:21-23).  There are two major views about Jephthah’s vow to sacrifice:

  1. Jephthah actually offered his daughter as a human sacrifice, and the statement “a burnt offering” should be taken at face value.  If this is the case, then Jephthah probably derived this strange understanding and commitment from the Canaanite culture, for human sacrifice was forbidden under the Mosaic Law (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5).  This would also explain Jephthah’s grief when he said his daughter, “You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back” (Judg. 11:35).
  2. Jephthah only dedicated his daughter for service to the Lord and did not kill her (cf. 1 Sam. 1:9-11; 26-28). This understanding is derived from an alternate reading of Judges 11:31 in which the word “and” might also be rendered “or”, so that Jephthah’s vow was to dedicate for service whoever came through the door of his home, “or” to sacrifice an animal if it appeared.  This view is favorable also because of other clues in the text, namely, Jephthah knew Scripture well enough not to make such a blunder (Judg. 11:15-27), previous Scripture views him as a thoughtful man, the text seems to emphasizes dedication when it reads that his daughter “had no relations with a man” (Judg. 11:39), and future generations honored her faithfulness (Judg. 11:40).

Whatever the view, the overall lesson is that we should never make hasty vows to God.

     The work of the Holy Spirit in the OT is different than in the NT.  In the OT, the Holy Spirit empowered only a few believers such as Artisans (Ex. 31:1-5), Judges (Num. 11:25-29; Judg. 3:9-10), Prophets (Ezek. 2:2), and Kings (1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13).  In the NT, the Holy Spirit baptizes each believer into union with Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), indwells us (John 14:16-17; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19), seals us (Eph. 1:13; 4:30), gives us spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11), glorifies Jesus (John 16:13-15), fills us (Eph. 5:18), and sustains our spiritual walk (Gal. 5:16-18, 25).  The spiritual walk is what God expects of His children.  Walking with God means we are rightly related to Him by faith (John 3:16), and that we continue in faith (2 Cor. 5:7), trusting Him in all things (Prov. 3:5-6).  Walking with God does not mean a life of sinless perfection; rather, it means we handle our sin in a biblical manner with humility and confession (e.g. 2 Sam. 12:1-23; cf. 1 Kings 11:4; 1 John 1:8-10).  Walking with God means we go in the same direction He is going, and like a friend, we are glad to share in His fellowship (1 John 1:1-10).  It means God is regularly in our thoughts, and we live every day conscious of Him and His will for our lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:16-17).  It means we are open and honest with Him about everything, and agree to let His light shine in our lives, not fearing what it exposes (1 John 1:5-7).  It means being sensitive to what may offend Him, and making every effort to please Him through a life of faith (2 Cor. 5:9; Heb. 11:6). 

Judges 11:1-28

Judges 11:1-28

November 22, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God elected Jephthah—a man of unjust suffering—to lead as Israel’s judge during a time of conflict with the Ammonites.

     Jephthah was a great warrior, but he was born the son of a prostitute (Judg. 11:1), and was rejected by his brothers for something he could not control (Judg. 11:2).  Jephthah’s destiny as a leader in Israel was partly shaped by the abuse of his brothers.  Like David (1 Sam. 22:2), Jephthah became the leader of social outcasts like himself (Judg. 11:3). When Israel was attacked by the Ammonites, they needed a great warrior, so they called for Jephthah (Judg. 11:4-6).  Jephthah accepted the offer to be leader in Gilead and to fight and save the people who originally rejected him (Judg. 11:7-11), displaying himself as more righteous than those who called him.  After accepting Israel’s offer to be the leader in Gilead, Jephthah sought a peaceful solution to the problem through diplomacy (Judg. 11:12, 14).  Jephthah was a man of faith (Heb. 11:32), and the moral authority of his diplomacy rested upon the acts of God as revealed in Scripture (Judg. 11: 9, 21, 23–24).  However, the Ammonites rejected Jephthah’s diplomacy (Judg. 11:28), and the biblical basis for his authority, and chose war (Judg. 11:32-33).  The king of Ammon did not care about truth or justice, because it did not serve his agenda.

     God is aware of the abuse and suffering of all people, and He uses hardships to humble and exalt those whom He elects for greater purposes (1 Sam. 2:6-8; 2 Sam. 7:8; Ps. 75:6-7; Dan. 2:21; 4:37; cf. Rom. 5:3-5).  Many who are rejected by worldly standards are the very ones the Lord elevates to be His servants (1 Sam. 16:1-13; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Jam. 2:5).  It is our connection with God and His purposes that elevates us to a place of divine service and gives value to our daily walk.

Judges 10:1-18

Judges 10:1-18

November 18, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God delivered Israel through Tola and Jair, but after they died, Israel again chose idolatry rather than service to God, and the Lord punished them according to His covenant promises, and delivered them according to His mercy.

     Both Tola and Jair were judges in Israel, and it appears their leadership produced stability and blessing for 45 years (Judg. 10:1-5).  During the time of peace, Israel failed to grow spiritually, and eventually turned away from the Lord and served the Baals and Ashtaroth, which were the pagan deities of Aram, Sidon, Moab, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines (Judg. 10:6).  God punished Israel for their idolatry (Judg. 10:7-9).  But Israel cried out to the Lord for deliverance (Judg. 10:10; 15), and though He initially answered them with a rebuke, citing many past deliverances (Judg. 10:11-14), eventually their misery moved Him to act (Judg. 10:16).  “It was not their repentance that he found impossible to ignore, but their misery. Only the Lord’s pity stood between the Israelites and utter ruin. They deserved to be abandoned, but (such is his mercy) he could not give them up (cf. 2:18; Ho. 11:8–9).”[1]

     After Israel repented and God relented concerning His anger, Israel then gathered their military forces to battle the Ammonites (Judg. 10:17-18).  In the next chapter Jephthah is chosen to fight against the Ammonites (Judg. 11:1-11), and he judged Israel six years until his death (Judg. 12:7).  It seems Samson was a contemporaneous judge with Jephthah and was used by God to fight against the Philistines (see Judges Chapters 13-16). 

     We learn from Scripture that God is very patient with people, both unbelievers and believers (Ex 34:6; Num. 14:18; Ps. 86:15; Neh. 9:17; Jonah 4:2).  God is patient with the unbeliever that he/she might come to know Him through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1-2; Col. 1:19-20; 1 Tim. 1:15-16).  God is also patient with us as believers and gives us time and opportunity to advance to spiritual maturity, which can be hastened by trials (Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Jam. 1:2-4).  We tend to desire a life of comfort, but such a life often produces weak character.  God desires that we have a godly character, and this occurs when we have biblical values and consistently make good choices that are pleasing to Him (Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 1:9-10; Heb. 11:6).

 

[1] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 277.

Judges 9:26-57

Judges 9:26-57

November 14, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God exacted justice upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem for unjustly killing the seventy sons of Gideon.

     God caused division between Abimelech and the Shechemites (see Judg. 9:23) so that they warred against and killed each other.  God is not the author of evil, but He does use evil spirits and wicked men to accomplish His divine purposes.  Abimelech killed his brothers on a stone (Judg. 9:5), and God used a stone to crush his head (Judg. 9:53; cf. 2 Sam. 11:21).  God controls the affairs of mankind and brings justice in the time and manner He determines best. 

     According to Scripture, God sovereignly creates and controls all life (Gen. 2:17; Job. 1:21; Ps. 104:29–30; Eccl. 12:7; Dan. 5:23), our birth and calling (Ps. 139:13-16; Jer. 1:4-5; Gal. 1:15), nature (Ps. 147:8; Jonah 1:4; Mark 4:39-41), small circumstances (Prov. 16:33; cf. Ps. 22:18; Matt. 27:35), sickness and health (Ex. 4:11; 2 Chron. 21:12-20; Matt. 4:24), prosperity and adversity (1 Sam. 2:7; Job 2:10; Isa. 45:5-7), suffering (Ps. 119:71; Heb. 12:5-11), and the development of godly character (Rom. 5:2-5; Phil. 1:6; Jam. 1:2-4). 

Judges 9:23 - The Question of Evil

Judges 9:23 - The Question of Evil

November 11, 2020

     Evil cannot exist by itself, as though it were something to be captured and put in a container. Evil exists only in connection with the willful creatures who manufacture it—which includes both fallen angels and people.  Evil sometimes refers to the mental attitude of a person that leads to sinful actions (Matt. 15:19), but when used by God, it refers to the calamity or destruction He brings upon men for His own purposes (Job 2:10; Isa. 45:5-7; Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6).  God uses evil men to accomplish His plans (Jer. 25:8-11; 27:6-7; Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28), and evil spirits to chastise the wicked (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 1 Kings 22:19-23), and to reveal the good character of godly men (Job 1:12; 2:6; 2 Cor. 12:7).  God will eventually banish all the wicked (Rev. 20:11-15).

Judges 9:1-25

Judges 9:1-25

November 7, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Abimelech rose to power in Israel by evil means; but the true King of Israel caused trouble for Abimelech.

     Abimelech was not eligible to be king in Israel since he was the son of a Canaanite concubine.  However, his ambition to be king led him to murder his half-brothers in order to remove any rivalry.  Abimelech’s evil plan was funded by the Shechemites who used pagan temple resources.  After killing his brothers (with the exception of Jotham), the Shechemites then rewarded Abimelech as their king.

     Jotham was a believer who introduced divine viewpoint and pronounced judgment upon both Abimelech and the men of Shechem.  The trees in Jotham’s parable (perhaps Gideon’s legitimate sons) preferred a place of productivity over a lesser place of leadership.  By doing God’s will, Gideon had brought blessing upon Israel, but Abimelech and the men of Shechem returned his goodness with evil by murdering his sons.  God, in turn, brought justice for the sons of Gideon by sending an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem, so that they would destroy each other.  The mountain robbers probably deprived Abimelech of resources he needed to rule.  

     Evil cannot exist by itself, as though it were something to be captured and put in a container. Evil exists only in connection with the willful creatures who manufacture it—which includes both fallen angels and people.  Evil sometimes refers to the mental attitude of a person that leads to sinful actions (Matt. 15:19), but when used by God, it refers to the calamity or destruction He brings upon men for His own purposes (Job 2:10; Isa. 45:5-7; Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6).  God uses evil men to accomplish His plans (Jer. 25:8-11; 27:6-7; Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28), and evil spirits to chastise the wicked (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 1 Kings 22:19-23), and to reveal the good character of godly men (Job 1:12; 2:6; 2 Cor. 12:7).  God will eventually banish all the wicked (Rev. 20:11-15).

Judges 8:22-35

Judges 8:22-35

November 5, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Israel tried to make Gideon king (Judg. 8:22-23), then they worshipped the ephod he’d created (Judg. 8:27), and they eventually returned to idolatry after his death (Judg. 8:33-34). 

     Gideon took some of the gold he’d acquired from the Midianites and created an ephod (Judg. 8:25-27). The ephod was originally part of the clothing worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:1-6).  It is possible Gideon made the ephod for himself, and like the priests of Israel, sought to consult the Lord directly, as did others in Israel (see Judg. 17:5; 18:14-20).  Or, it could be that Gideon made the ephod as a memorial to remind Israel that it was the Lord who delivered them (Judg. 8:34).  The end result was that the ephod became an object of worship as the men of his city followed the natural inclinations of their depraved heart. 

     It was valid for Gideon to be recognized and rewarded for his obedience to the Lord.  However, Gideon seems to have desired and requested more than was due him when he multiplied wives and sons (Judg. 8:30), even naming one Abimelech, which means “my father the king” (Judg. 8:31).  Gideon’s success over the Midianites was followed by spiritual failure when he succumbed to the cultural landmines that plagued his culture.

     Israel had a pattern of crying out to the Lord when faced with a crisis (Judg. 3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6-7; 10:10), but then did as they pleased and worshipped false gods when everything was going well (Judg. 2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1).  However weak, it seems Gideon had a restraining influence upon Israel, which restraint was removed after his death, as Israel quickly turned to Baal worship (Judg. 8:33-35).  

     Israel’s return to idolatry exposes the depravity of the human condition which is naturally bent toward sin, the exclusion of God, and the substitution of a manufactured god.  We are all born with a sin nature that leads us to sin and evil (Ps. 51:5; Jer. 17:9; Matt. 7:11; 15:19; John 3:19; Rom. 3:10-20; 7:18; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19; 1 John 1:8-10).  Individuals may be denoted as given over to evil (Matt. 5:39), and so may a generation (Matt. 16:4), as well as an age (Gal. 1:4; 5:15-16).  Satan’s world system seeks to silence the Christian either through temptation and absorption, or through oppression and exclusion.  The Christian is victorious over the world when his mind (the control center for his thoughts, feelings, and actions) is saturated with God’s Word (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17), and he continues in prayer (Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2), and godly Christian fellowship (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:23-25), under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16).

Judges 8:1-21

Judges 8:1-21

November 3, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Gideon defeats Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of the Midianite army, and exacts justice on those Israelites who refused to stand with him. 

     When called to battle, the tribe of Ephraim fought with Gideon and captured and killed two chief Midianite commanders (Judg. 7:24-25).  Afterward, they spoke harshly to Gideon, asking why they’d not been considered among those originally called (Judg. 8:1).  Gideon spoke graciously to the tribe of Ephraim, acknowledging their efforts to help defeat the Midianites, stating that God had used them to capture and defeat two Midianite commanders.  Gideon’s selfless response preserved unity with the tribe of Ephraim. 

     In contrast to the tribe of Ephraim, the Israelite men of Succoth and Penuel refused to help Gideon in his battle against the Midianites and were therefore regarded as traitors.  It’s possible the men of Succoth and Penuel were afraid of Midianite retaliation if Gideon failed to defeat his enemies.  However, their refusal to help was actually a display of unbelief.  “Theirs was the sin of hardness of heart toward their brethren and treason against the God of heaven.”[1]  Gideon could tolerate the personal insults of Ephraim who had helped him fight God’s enemies, but he could not tolerate the rebellion of the men of Succoth and Penuel.  The protection that the men of Succoth and Penuel tried to secure was ultimately forfeited because of their choice to side with Israel’s enemies. 

     There are times when God’s obedient people will face opposition, both from believers and unbelievers.  There is a time to speak softly and graciously in order to preserve peace (Ps. 34:14; Prov. 15:1, 18; 16:32; 17:14; Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14); however, there is also a time for strong language to correct those who need it (Matt. 16:21-23; 23:13-39; Acts 13:9-11; 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Gal. 2:11-14; Heb. 5:11-14).  It becomes characteristic of a maturing believer to discern how to respond to others according to God’s will.

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Available, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994), 72.

Judges 7:1-25

Judges 7:1-25

November 1, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God defeated the Midianite army of 135,000 using Gideon and 300 Israelite men. 

     God greatly reduced Gideon’s army so that Gideon would trust in Him and Israel would not become boastful.  Gideon and his 300 men were a brave group, warriors who looked to God for victory.  God controlled the minds of the Midianites and made them fearful by means of a troubling dream, which dream strengthened Gideon’s faith and increased his courage.  God’s promise of victory included Gideon’s wise tactics on the battlefield.  It was common for Israelite commanders to lead their troops into battle with a torch and horn, so when the Midianites saw the hundreds of torch bearers blowing their horns and shouting, they imagined a great Israelite army was upon them, and in a state of panic attacked each other and fled. 

     God often uses unlikely persons to accomplish His will (1 Cor. 1:26-29), and sometimes brings us to a place of helplessness so that His salvation is more pronounced (2 Cor. 12:7-10), with the result that His people will boast in God and not themselves (Jer. 9:23-24).  For the Christian, the lesson of trust is more valuable than the victory itself. 

Judges 6:25-40

Judges 6:25-40

October 30, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Gideon obeyed God and tore down the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole that stood beside it.

     Israel was suffering oppression from the Midianites because of their spiritual infidelity (Judg. 6:1).  God’s deliverance necessitated that Israel obey Him by destroying their idols and return to worshipping Him.  God called Gideon to judge and lead Israel back to Him, and this meant that Gideon had to deal with the idolatry within his own family.  By destroying the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole, Gideon was committing himself to God and preparing himself to do His will.  Gideon was obedient to God, but he was also fearful of the reaction of his father and the men of the city.  In many cases fear is neither unreasonable nor sinful, unless it impedes us from doing God’s will.  Courage is not the absence of fear, but the overcoming of fear to do the right thing.

     Gideon’s actions were met with hostility by the men of the city who sought his death.  Those who pronounced death upon Gideon for tearing down the altar of Baal, were in fact guilty of death because they supported idolatry in Israel and led others away from God (Deut. 13:6-10).  Gideon’s father was encouraged by Gideon’s act of faith and supported his son against his detractors who sought to kill him.  Sometimes it takes the faith of only one person to bring a family and others back to a walk with God.  Once Gideon had committed himself to the Lord, the Spirit of Yahweh empowered him to do His will. 

     The fleece-test reveals a lack of faith on the part of Gideon who already knew God’s will for Him (Judg. 6:14, 16), and had already received a sign from the Lord (Judg. 6:17, 21).  Operation “fleece” revealed Gideon’s internal struggle to accept God’s call upon His life as a judge and leader in Israel.  Gideon felt he needed God’s assurance that He was with him.  Gideon had weak faith, but he was open about it before the Lord, and God graciously accommodated him.  At times, God graciously responds to our weaknesses as well. 

     Our walk with God should be our highest priority and all else should support that endeavor.  Walking with God means we learn His word and seek to live His will (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).  It sometimes means we make choices contrary to family values (when they are worldly), as well as choices that go against cultural values and practices.  We live in a world that is heavily influenced by demonic forces which are hostile to God (Acts 26:17-18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2-3; 6:12; Col. 1:13) and our daily actions either help or hinder the spiritual lives of others.  All we think, say and do (i.e. a move, new job, financial pursuit, etc.) should be weighed against the impact it will have upon the spiritual lives of others with whom we interact.  God sustains those who walk with Him. 

Judges 6:1-24

Judges 6:1-24

October 28, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God punishes Israel for their disobedience, but when they cried to the Lord, He called Gideon to be their deliverer. 

     Israel cried to the Lord, but rather than immediately sending a deliverer as before, God rebuked Israel through an unnamed prophet who cited God’s historical deliverance and His covenant agreement with them.  God states plainly that Israel is being punished for their disobedience (Judg. 6:8-10; cf. Judg. 2:1-2).

     After His rebuke, God called Gideon to deliver Israel.  Like Moses and Jeremiah, Gideon hesitated at God’s call, seeing himself as inadequate to do God’s will (see Ex. 3-4; Jer. 1:4-8).  God’s call and presence would make Gideon into the warrior He needed.  It was probably Gideon’s insecurity that prompted him to ask the angel of the Lord for a sign; the Lord agreed.  To Gideon’s credit, he demonstrated hospitality to the angel of the Lord, and when the Lord accepted it as a worship offering, Gideon then knew he’d been visited by God.  The Lord’s acceptance of Gideon’s offering was an acceptance of Gideon himself.  Gideon became frightened after realizing he’d been visited by the angel of the Lord, but the Lord reassured him with comforting words.  Afterward, Gideon built an altar of worship and named it, “The LORD is peace” (Judg. 6:24).

     God graciously involves us in His plans, and He equips those whom He calls.   God sees us not for what we are or possess, but for what He can accomplish through us by means of His guidance and enablement (Phil. 1:6; 2:13).  The believer is automatically crippled when he tries to understand how to accomplish God’s will by means of human resources.  To succeed, the believer must learn to rise above human viewpoint and live within the divine perspective, for God’s estimation is always correct.  This requires faith.  It is a truth of Scripture that God often chooses the weak of this world to achieve His will (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

Judges 5:1-31

Judges 5:1-31

October 21, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Deborah and Barak sing a victory song of praise to the Lord for His righteous acts of deliverance.  

     The use of personal pronouns implies the song was written by Deborah (Judg. 5:7, 9, 13).  Deborah and Barak praised God for His victory over the Canaanites, and praised those tribes who voluntarily answered the Lord’s call.  The praise song was supernaturally inspired and sung on the day of victory.  Praise is a response to the good actions of another.  Victory songs served to remind later generations of God’s faithfulness to care for His own during difficult times.  The Lord proved to be Israel’s victor in this battle.  Deborah praises Ephraim, Benjamin, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun and Naphtali who came to battle, but Reuben, Gilead, Dan and Asher stayed home and did not come to help fight. 

      Sisera’s mother waited long and feared her son’s late return.  Her mother’s dread is contrasted with Deborah’s rejoicing as a mother over Israel.  Deborah answered God’s call as a leader in Israel, but she did not abandon her identity as a mother; rather she incorporated it into her caring role for Israel.  For Israel, the battle was both physical and spiritual, as God’s people prepared themselves and went to war, knowing their victory was determined by heaven. 

     In the Church age, our battle is spiritual and not physical (Eph. 6:12).  As Christians, our responsibility is to keep ourselves unstained by the world (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Jam. 1:27; 1 John 2:15-17), to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), and share the gospel that others might believe in Christ and be saved (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:18-20).  The Bible is our sword by which we destroy spiritual and intellectual strongholds, within ourselves and others (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Heb. 4:12).  The victory always belongs to God.

Judges 4:1-24

Judges 4:1-24

October 14, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Israel disobeyed God and worshipped idols, God punished them, they cried out to the Lord, and He raised up Deborah and Barak to save them. 

     Ehud had a positive spiritual impact on the nation of Israel.  After Ehud’s death, the nation forfeited their walk with God and turned back to idolatry, substituting the Lord’s blessing for cursing.  After a period of suffering, Israel cried to the Lord and He raised up Deborah, who served as a prophetess and judge in Israel, but the role of warrior/deliverer was given to Barak.  Deborah was one of three prophetesses mentioned in the Old Testament; the other two are Miriam (Exod. 15:20) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14).  As a prophetess, Deborah communicated God’s Word, which produced faith among those who were positive to the Lord. 

     It was God who called Barak to battle and guaranteed him victory (Judg. 4:6-7).  Barak had enough faith to obey God’s call to battle and to defeat the armies of Canaan (see Heb. 11:32-33), but is also appears he had weak faith and requested Deborah accompany him (Moses, Gideon and Jeremiah also hesitated at God’s call; see Ex. 3-4; Judg. 6:11-40; Jer. 1:4-8).  Barak’s lack of faith resulted in the loss of glory from defeating Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army.  Sisera was defeated by Jael, and Deborah honored Jael in her victory song (Judg. 5:24-27).  Scripture reveals that it was God who drew Sisera into battle, to the place he naturally desired to go, and then created the situation that determined his defeat.  From Deborah’s victory song we learn God sent rain to help Barak defeat Sisera, bogging his chariots in mud (see Judg. 5:4–5, 20–22). 

     Battles challenge the believer to live by faith and to trust God and His Word more than human resources and experience.  The weakening instinct of self-preservation motivates us to run from trouble, but God calls us to live by faith and to trust Him above all else.  Those who live by faith and gain life’s victories have joy the unfaithful will never know. Wiersbe comment on Jael:

  • "Should we bless or blame Jael for what she did? She invited Sisera into her tent, treated him kindly, and told him not to be afraid; so she was deceitful. The Kenites were at peace with Jabin, so she violated a treaty. She gave Sisera the impression that she would guard the door, so she broke a promise. She killed a defenseless man who was under her protection, so she was a murderess. Yet Deborah sang, “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent” (5:24). To begin with, let’s not read back into the era of the Judges the spiritual standards taught by Jesus and the apostles. Also, let’s keep in mind that the Jews had been under terrible bondage because of Jabin and Sisera; and it was God’s will that the nation be delivered. Both Jabin and Sisera had been guilty of mistreating the Jews for years; and if the Canaanite army had won the battle, hundreds of Jewish girls would have been captured and raped (v. 30). Jael not only helped deliver the nation of Israel from bondage, but also she helped to protect the women from the most vicious brutality. She wasn’t a Semitic “Lady Macbeth” who murdered her guest for her own personal gain. There was a war on, and this courageous woman finally stopped being neutral and took her stand with the people of God."[1]

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Available, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994), 39–40.

Judges 3:12-31

Judges 3:12-31

October 7, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Israel disobeyed God and worshipped idols, God punished them, they cried out to Him and He raised up Ehud to save them.

     Israel forfeited their rest from the Lord when they chose to disobey Him.  The Lord was the primary cause of Israel’s suffering as He employed a pagan king to afflict His people.  After eighteen years of oppression, God’s people cried out to Him and He raised up Ehud to rescue them and give them rest.  Suffering makes men cry to God who, otherwise, during peaceful times, would never seek Him.  Ehud may have been crippled in his right arm, but God’s victory depended on His power and not Ehud’s abilities.  God called Ehud to be Israel’s deliverer, but this does not mean He approved of all Ehud’s actions, particularly his deception.  After Ehud killed Eglon, The Lord used him to lead Israel in a military campaign against the Moabites and to defeat them. “God used a man whom others would have regarded as unusual, because he was left-handed, to affect a great victory. Ehud did not excuse himself from doing God’s will because he was different, as many Christians do. He stepped out in faith in spite of his physical peculiarity.”[1]

     Shamgar is a Canaanite name, perhaps implying he was half Jewish and half Canaanite, or perhaps a converted Canaanite.  The oxgoad was an unorthodox weapon, but used in the hand of God’s servant, it proved most effective.  Unlike Ehud who led an army into battle, God used Shamgar as a solitary deliverer to rescue His people.  Like Ehud, Shamgar was not a likely figure to serve as Israel’s deliverer (humanly speaking), but God often chooses the weak things of this world that His wisdom and power and glory will shine through (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

     God calls all sorts of men and women to serve Him.  None are perfect.  Yet, God uses imperfect people to accomplish His will.  If we desire His will above all else, then God can use us to effect real change and be a blessing to others.   The success of God’s plans ultimately rest upon the divine author who devised them, and it is part of His plan to include us, as weak and unworthy as we are, to share in His program for mankind. 

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jdg 3:12.

Judges 3:1-11

Judges 3:1-11

September 30, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God punished Israel for disobedience (Judg. 3:1-6), and when His people cried out to Him, He raised up a deliverer to rescue them and give them rest (Judg. 3:7-11).  

     God left the pagan nations in the land to punish Israel for their disobedience (Judg. 2:3), to teach them warfare (Judg. 3:2), and to test them (Judg. 3:4). The Lord’s tests were designed to expose the hearts of His people as to whether they would obey Him or not (see Ex. 16:4; 20:20). Israel failed God by:

  1. Living among the Canaanites (Judg. 3:5).
  2. Intermarrying with the Canaanites (Judg. 3:6).
  3. Serving the gods of the Canaanites (Judg. 3:7).  

     In Judges, God is the primary cause of Israel’s blessing and cursing, victory or defeat.  God is always pictured as sovereign ruler, and the people were to submit their lives to Him if they were to know success. We observe that God allows His people (and fallen angels) to produce sin and evil, but never beyond or against His sovereign will (Job 1:1-21; Ps. 105:12-15; 1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Cor. 12:7-10). “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). And, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan 4:35).  Throughout Judges:

  1. Israel repeatedly did evil in the sight of the Lord, each generation progressively getting worse (Judg. 2:19; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1).
  2. God repeatedly gave them into the hands of their enemies to punish them (Judg. 3:8, 12; 4:2; 6:1; 10:6-7; 13:1).
  3. When His people cried out to the Lord, He repeatedly delivered them (Judg. 3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6; 10:12; 18:23).

     Othniel was the first of Israel’s judges whom the Lord raised up as a deliverer to the give them rest from their enemies. Othniel would have been somewhere between 75 and 95 years of age. Othniel was obedient to the Lord. The obedience of this one man changed the course of history and proved a blessing to the nation of Israel. 

     Idolatry is the selfish sin of substitution in which we dedicate ourselves to something or someone lesser than God to meet our wants and needs.  Biblically, there is only one God, and He demands that His people worship Him.  God states, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth” (Ex. 20:3-4). The exclusive worship of God is for His glory and our benefit. An idol can be either a physical object that symbolizes a deity, or it can be an abstract concept such as greed or justice.  A physical idol is merely the work of a craftsman (see Isa. 44:9-20). There is no life in it (Ps. 115:1-8; Jer. 51:17; Hab. 2:18-20), nor can it deliver in times of trouble (Isa. 46:5-7). A mental idol is created in one’s mind and becomes the object of one’s devotion. The record of Israel’s history—with the exception of a few generations that were faithful to God—is a record of their worship of pagan idols (Ex. 32:1-6), which at times included human sacrifice (Deut. 12:31; 18:10-11; 2 Ki. 21:6; Ezek. 16:20-21). The books of Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all reveal Israel regularly committed idolatry, and this caused them to suffer greatly under God’s discipline as He faithfully executed the cursing aspects of the Mosaic Covenant (Deut. 28). Devotion to God guards our hearts from the sin of idolatry. 

Judges 2:1-23

Judges 2:1-23

September 23, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that God judged Israel for their failure to take the land after Joshua’s death; and Israel then began a progressive cycle of downward decline as they served pagan gods.

     Judges 2:1-5 presents the angel of the Lord (theophany – bodily appearance of God the Son), who renders judgment upon Israel for their failure to perform His will.  The angel of the Lord speaks as God (Judg. 2:1-3; cf. Gen. 22:15-18), and is recognized as God (Ex. 3:2-6; Judg. 13:21-22). 

     Judges 2:6-10 is a retelling of Joshua’s death in order to show a spiritual contrast between the generation of Joshua and that which followed.  The generation that came after Joshua collectively ignored (passive rejection) God’s commands and promises and turned to spiritual idolatry.  Idolatry is the worship of an imaginary substitute in place of the Creator.  Pagan gods do not really exist, except in the minds of their worshippers.  Though a generation may work to provide a spiritual heritage, there are no guarantees the following generation will accept it.  Once people choose sin and turn to that which is worthless and self-serving, it eventually darkens any memory of God’s promises and works. 

     Israel served the Baals when life was going well, but turned to the Lord when He brought discipline.  This suggests a form of syncretism in which the Israelites served both God and pagan idols.  Today we see Christians who go to church on Sunday, pray and worship God, and then read their astrological horoscopes on Monday, believing their life is dictated by impersonal stars.

     Under the Mosaic Covenant, Israel was obligated to engage in military campaigns to defeat their enemies and claim the physical land promised to Abraham.  There was to be no tolerance.  In the Church age, the battle is not physical, but spiritual (Eph. 6:12).  The Christian has no authority to bear the sword, to put dissenters to death, as that is given to governments (Rom. 13:1-4).  Our responsibility is to keep ourselves unstained by the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18; Jam. 1:27), to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), and witness for Christ that others might believe the gospel and be saved (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:18-20).  The Bible is our sword by which we destroy spiritual and intellectual strongholds, within ourselves and others (2 Cor. 10:3-6).  The Christian is to get along with others, showing tolerance (Rom. 12:17-18), except when it comes to something that harms our walk with God, and then we are to be intolerant (Rom. 13:13-14; 1 John 2:15-17). 

Judges 1:20-36

Judges 1:20-36

September 18, 2020

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Israel—as a nation—failed to obey God and drive out the inhabitants of the land.

     Caleb initially obeyed the Lord and drove out the sons of Anak, who had previously intimidated the sons of Israel (Num. 13:30-33).  He did by faith what all Israel should have done.  Israel—for the most part—operated from fear rather than faith, and this led to policies of appeasement with those who should have been driven out.  Their decisions of toleration sowed the seeds of their future destruction because they allowed themselves to be exposed to the religious and ethical values of people who were opposed to the Lord. 

     The Canaanite culture was marked by a pantheon of deities—El, Baal (son of El), Dagon, Anath, Astarte, and Ashera—to whom the Canaanites offered human sacrifice and engaged in sexual fertility rights with temple prostitutes.  Israel became influenced and corrupted by the depraved Canaanite culture for centuries to come (see Deut. 18:10; 2 Kings 17:16-17; 21:1-7). 

     God’s policy was that Israel was to destroy all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (Deut. 7:1-5), offering negotiations of peace only with cities outside the land (Deut. 20:10-18).  God was in no way cruel by demanding the destruction of the Canaanites.  In fact, the Lord had been very patient with their extreme wickedness (Gen. 15:16; 2 Pet. 3:9), and the time had come for justice to prevail.  Israel failed to execute God’s will, and let the inhabitants of the land remain.  God rebukes them for their disobedience (Judg. 2:1-5).  “This series of tribal defeats was the first indication that Israel was no longer walking by faith and trusting God to give them victory”[1]

     God’s policy for the Christian today is to be a light in the world (Acts 13:47; Eph. 5:6-10) and to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-45; Rom. 12:20; 1 Pet. 3:9).  The Christian today is defeated to the degree that he is friendly toward the world and allows himself to be influenced by the surrounding pagan culture.  The fact is, “bad associations corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).  The Christian is to be in the world, but not of the world.  We are to love those who are lost, but never be accepting of worldly values (1 John 2:15-17).  Faith sees things in their proper place, from the divine perspective, from the light of eternity (2 Cor. 4:17; Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 1:3-7; 4:13).  Fear often magnifies situations and makes them appear larger than they really are.  May we all grow and learn to please God with a life of faith (Prov. 3:5-6; Heb. 11:16).

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Available, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994), 13.

Judges 1:1-19

Judges 1:1-19

November 8, 2019

     The Central Idea of the Text is that Israel failed to follow in the pattern of faith and obedience to God. After the death of Joshua, Judah and Simeon led the first military campaign against the Canaanites. Their obedience to God resulted in the defeat of the Canaanites and the Perizzites at the city of Bezek. They captured Adoni-bezek and disabled him from being a threat. Adoni-bezek recognized his defeat and punishment as divine retribution for the evil he did to seventy other kings. He does not complain, but recognizes the justice of what happens to him because of his cruelty to others. He was transported to the city of Jerusalem and died there. 

  • "Their first victory was over the inhabitants of Bezek. After slaying ten thousand men, they cut off the thumbs and big toes of the king, as he had done to his foes. He should have been put to death, as the Lord had commanded (Deut. 7:24), but instead he was only maimed. Then he was taken to Jerusalem, where he later died. This foreshadowed Israel’s disobedience in dealing with the heathen in their land. Rather than completely crushing them, the Israelites only crippled them. Such partial obedience was disobedience and would cost the Jews dearly in the days ahead."[1]

     Caleb offered his daughter in marriage to the man who defeated Kiriath-sepher, thus demonstrating himself as faithful, obedient to God, and having courage in battle. Such a man would make a suitable husband to provide and care for Achsah. In this way, Caleb was thinking about Achsah’s future safety and provision. Othniel rose to the challenge and proved himself worthy. 

     The success of Judah and Simeon suddenly came to a stop when they came against the enemy on iron chariots. It was a lack of faith that resulted in their defeat, and God later rebuked them for failing to take the land (Judg. 2:1-3).

     Success or failure among God’s people is predicated on faithful obedience to His Word. This requires learning God’s Word before living His will. God’s people will always face enemies in the world and we must be willing to pursue His commands over our personal fears. Like the days of the judges, God is now working in His church, not through one leader, but through men and women He’s raised up for our spiritual growth. These men and women have their shortcomings, but God works through them to guide and bring spiritual victory, both personally, and in the world.

 

[1] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 265.

Introduction to Judges

Introduction to Judges

November 6, 2019

     The judges of Israel were God’s chosen representatives to arbitrate legal matters among His people. They were also given the responsibility to administer social affairs and to lead in military campaigns against Israel’s enemies. God Himself was the supreme Judge of the judges over Israel. 

Authorship and Date

     It’s likely the book of Judges was written during the reign of Saul, Israel’s first king.  There are several references in the book of Judges which state “in those days there was no king in Israel” (Jud. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).  This seems to imply that at the time of the writing there was a king in Israel. 

     Though he is never named within the book, Samuel the prophet is regarded as the author of the book of Judges.  If Samuel is accepted as the author, this would place the writing sometime around 1040 B.C.

Chronology of Judges

     The book of Judges records the period of time between the end of the leadership of Joshua (Judg. 1:1; 2:6-9) and the appointment of Saul as Israel’s first king (ca. 1350 to 1050 B.C.).  Some judges served consecutively and others ruled concurrently. 

     The people of Israel rejected God as their king and the judges He’d appointed over them and they requested a human king (1 Sam. 8:7; 12:12).  The period of the Judges ends when Samuel anoints Saul as the first king in Israel (1 Sam. 10:1).

The Function of the Judges

     The term Judge (שָׁפַט shaphat – judge or deliverer) refers to God’s judicial and military leader who protected Israel from enemies.  “It was a general term for leadership combining the executive (including military) and judicial aspects of governing. Thus the judges of Israel were primarily military and civil leaders, with strictly judicial functions included as appropriate (cf. 4:5).”[1]  The judges themselves were sinful men, who had their own failings, yet their faith in God makes them usable to the Lord to accomplish His will. 

The Theme of Judges

     Judges demonstrates Israel’s repeated failure to follow God as king.  The nation repeatedly allowed itself to be influenced by the surrounding culture and turned away from God and worshipped idols (see pattern in Judges 2:1-23).  The pattern throughout the book is:

  1. Israel turns away from the Lord and worships idols (sin)
  2. God sends discipline that results in their slavery (slavery)
  3. Israel cries out to the Lord from their oppression (supplication)
  4. God raises up a judge to rescue them (salvation)

Cycle_of_Behavior_in_Judges.jpg

     The above pattern is repeated six times throughout the book of Judges.  Israel’s spiritual condition—either in obedience or disobedience—determined their political and physical success or failure (Deut. 28).  Not only did Israel fail to obey God and drive out the Canaanites, but they even befriended them, intermarrying, adopting their culture, and eventually worshipping their gods.  When Israel was faithful to the Lord, God strengthened them to defeat their enemies, but when Israel was disobedient, God strengthened their enemies.  The faith of one generation did not guarantee the faith of the next, so a legacy could not be guaranteed.  The period was marked by general rebellion, in which “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 17:6; 21:25).  Israel’s failure to take the land of Canaan resulted in long term problems for many years.

Outline

     The events of the judges are preceded by an introductory section (1:1–3:6) which reveals Israel’s disobedience to God and subsequent military failure to take the land of Canaan.  In Judges 2:6-10 the writer briefly recounts the death of Joshua which had already been reported in the book of Joshua (Josh. 24:29-30; Judg. 1:1).  Judges 3:7-16:31 is the repeated cycle of disobedience toward God.  And Judges 17:1-21:25 reveals the continuation of Israel’s disobedience. 

  1. Israel’s disobedience subsequent to the death of Joshua (1:1-3:6)
  2. Israel’s repeated cycle of disobedience (3:7-16:31)
  3. Israel’s disobedience – religious and moral apostasy (17:1-21:25)

[1] F. Duane Lindsey, “Judges,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 374.

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