Judges 2-3 Chapter Study
Critics of the Bible like to point at the difference between Joshua & Judges & claim there’s a contradiction.
Joshua narrates about a 5 year long military campaign that broke the back of Canaanite domination of The Promise Land.
We’re told Joshua conquered the native inhabitants, then divided the land among the tribes.
But when we get to Judges it seems like we’re reading a different story –the Canaanites were still alive and well in the land.
While Joshua tells of great victories, Judges is a book of defeats.
And the critics like to point to this as an example of contradiction.
Their solution is to say that Judges tells the true story.
That there never was an Exodus from
What there was, was a slow, steady
migration of Semitic people into
Small at first, they were dominated by the native Canaanites.
But over time their numbers grew and they eventually took over.
Really, not much differently than
This is all a lot of hog-wash!
And it proves the critics don’t really read the Bible.
Joshua is quite clear –
He broke the back of Canaanite dominance in the land by conquering the main cities & kings.
But the minor cities & villages were left alone.
Having divided the land among the tribes it was their individual duty to clean out the last Canaanite hold-outs.
In Deut. 7:22 Moses had told them
The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.
The population of
If the entire Conquest had been completed in just the 5 years of Joshua’s leadership, the land would reverted to wilderness instead of the cultivated fields and warm homes God wanted to give them.
The occupation had to be gradual – to provide them the fullness of blessing wanted to give, as well as to keep them dependent on God.
So, the critics are wrong; Joshua & Judges do not
present contrasting views of the conquest of
They present the true narrative of
Last week in Ch. 1 we began with
They were able to take everything except the region occupied by those Canaanites who possessed iron chariots.
Then were read about Ephraim & Manasseh’s partial conquest of their territories.
As the list of tribes goes on, the record of failure becomes more pronounced.
At first it says the tribe allowed the Canaanites to live among them.
Then a few of the tribes lived among the Canaanites.
The record ends in ch. 1 with the tribe of Dan running to the hills because they can’t even settle among the Canaanites in their region.
1 Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up
This “angel of the Lord” must be the Lord Himself because He speaks in the first person as the one who led them out of bondage & into the Promised Land.
In Ch. 1, we read that 3 of the tribes of
Putting them under tribute was a kind of protection-scheme.
You know how protection rackets work, right?
Some tough goes into a small business & roughs up the owner, maybe busts some of his equipment.
Then he says, “If you don’t want this to happen again, you gotta’ pay me $100 a week. I’ll be by every Friday afternoon around 2 to pick it up. Pay me, or the damage will be worse next time.”
3 of the tribes of
They couldn’t totally conquer them, but they could make life hard on them.
So instead of going to the trouble to eradicating them, they put them under tribute, saying, “Look, we’ll leave you alone if you’ll just pay up.”
There’s a lesson in this for us . . .
The people of God decided to make a profit off the Canaanites instead of dealing with them as God commanded, which was to either expel them or wipe them out.
Either way, there was to be no Canaanite left in the land.
But the Israelites saw a way to enrich themselves off the Canaanites.
Oh, they tried at first to expel them, but when it proved harder than they wanted to put put the effort for, they settled down to a more accommodating arrangement – tribute.
We can do the same thing with the “Canaanites” in our lives – the sins that resist our efforts at overcoming.
While we get a quick victory over some things, there are others that defy us.
Like the ancient Canaanites who lived in fortified cities, those sins retreat behind thick walls of habits & hurts.
Our efforts at overcoming them have done some good, they’ve been driven into their little forts where they don’t bother nearly as much as they used to, but more often than we’d like.
And after a while, we learn to live
with them, & begin to think like ancient
We turn it into a secret sin we draw comfort from now & then.
When we’re feeling stressed, we buy a six-pack.
When we’re feeling neglected, we log on and visit websites that offer some comfort.
When we’re angry, we light up and take a hit.
And being the good little Canaanite it is, it renders it’s tribute to our flesh.
What we don’t realize is that our inner Canaanites know something we don’t – that sin is progressive, and what is today’s tribute is tomorrow’s torment.
Let me describe what happened at these pagan altars mentioned in v. 2 here.
Baal, the chief deity of the Canaanites, was the God of the weather.
He was responsible for the rains that brought life to the fields.
His consort was Asherah, the goddess of fertility.
The Canaanites believed that it was Baal & Asherah’s sexual union that brought about the rain & fertility of their crops & herds.
So they would attempt to excite Baal & Asherah into having celestial sex by staging orgies in front of their altars.
When the Israelites witnessed these rites, they were seduced & began to attend these ceremonies themselves, eventually importing the practice back to their own cities & homes.
The same thing happens to those who strike a compromise with sin.
Though they may be able to keep it hidden at first, thinking they can draw comfort from it just every now and then, it will grow and eventually take over if it isn’t defeated & expelled.
3 Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them
out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods
shall be a snare to you.’ ” 4 So it was, when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the
This all takes place before Joshua’s death.
He’d sent the tribes to possess their territories but they hadn’t.
So he called the leaders of the tribe together to troubleshoot and find out why they’d not followed through on the Conquest.
It was at this gathering at Bochim that the Lord came to rebuke them.
God gives them an important warning in v. 3 – if they will not whole-heartedly follow Him & make no compromise with the enemy, then He will not give them victory.
Here’s the point –
The parallel to our lives is so obvious I don’t need to spell it out.
7 So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.
Note this – that entire generation loved & served God & so experienced His blessing as they moved to take possession of the land.
8 Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one
hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him within the border
of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north
When the conquest was complete & Joshua finally settled
down, he made his home in Timnath Heres, which was close to
Unlike Moses, when Joshua died, he didn’t appoint a successor.
The tribes had been dispersed to their regions & civil leadership would now fall to the tribal elders.
The religious leadership was
resident in the high priest who served at the tabernacle in
Any time the nation needed to hear from God on what they ought to do, they would go to the high priest who had the Urim & Thummim, which was the device God had given for them to discover His will.
The renewal of the covenant with God and one another would be accomplished 3 times a year when they went to the required feasts at the Tabernacle.
At least, this is what was supposed to happen. The problem is, it didn’t.
For the most part, the people didn’t attend the feasts, and the nation fragmented into regional disputes.
10 When all that generation had been gathered to
their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for
When Joshua’s generation died off, another generation arose to maturity without a commitment to the God of Israel.
Why? Whose fault was this? The parents! They had embraced the blessing of the land God gave them but weren’t diligent with their calling as parents to pass on their faith to their kids.
They hadn’t taken them to
So God became unimportant to the new generation.
But there were plenty of
Canaanites around who were willing to share their religious ways with the
Some Christian parents wring their hands because their children show no interest in God.
Rather, they are fascinated with the fashions and ways of the world.
Their clothes, makeup, music, & styles all scream of worldliness, and parents are heart-broken over their kids choices.
But a look at the parents often shows a flaky commitment to church, no family devotional time, & a compromised lifestyle the kids have grown up in.
There’s a very real disparity between what they hear at church and the lifestyle of their parents and they draw the conclusion that God is really not all that important to mom & dad, so why should it be to them?
Their parents let them watch MTV & listen to KROQ – then wonder why they want to wear their pant-waist half-way down their bumm or their spaghetti-strap tops at mid-belly.
This Summer, Pastor Jeff has taken a dozen & a half teens on an intense discipleship course called “Summer Servants.”
They’ve been immersed in the Word, service, fellowship, worship, and the Lord.
The effect on their lives as been remarkable.
Jeff has modeled the life & person of Jesus to those young adults, & they’ve been trained in the basics of true discipleship.
Let’s read v. 10 again –
10 When all that generation had been gathered to
their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for
They didn’t know it because they weren’t taught it.
Are we teaching our children?
Now we get into the story of the Judges.
Before we launch into this, let’s do a brief overview of
· Abraham & Patriarchs: Genesis
· Egyptian Sojourn: Genesis – Exodus
· Exodus & Conquest: Exodus – Joshua
· Judges: Judges – Ruth
· Monarchy & Divided Nation: 1 Samuel – 2 Chronicles
· Captivity & Return: Ezra – Esther
11 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
In v. 11, Baal is spoken of in the plural because each region had its own version of Baal.
· Baal Peor, Num. 25:3
· Baal Gad, Josh. 11:17
· Baal-Berith, Jud. 9:4
The word “baal” was Canaanite for “lord” & “husband.”
It’s fitting that the word is a synonym for both because God likens idolatry to spiritual adultery.
Ashtoreth, or Asherah as she is sometimes called, was the Canaanite version of the Babylonian goddess, Ishtar, the deity of fertility & sexuality
In v. 13, it’s said that
The distinction is that the worship of Baal was centered at a specific altar located on a high place.
Often there would be only one altar for Baal for a large region.
Asherah didn’t really have altars.
She had standing stones that were phallic symbols.
They did not stand as symbols for her, but rather were supposed to draw her attention & interest so that she would deliver her power by bringing fertility to the crops & fields.
So, while Baal had just one altar in a region, Asherah had lots of standing stones.
People would bring sacrifices to Baal’s altar while they would go have sex with a ritual prostitute priestess next to one of the standing stones.
This is what it meant to “serve” Baal & the Ashtoreths.
14 And the anger of the Lord was hot against
When the people would turn away from God, He would discipline them by sending trouble.
16 Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.
Once the people had known a season of trouble, they would cry out for help & God would send a deliverer.
As we mentioned last week, when you see the word “judge” don’t think of some guy in a black robe swinging a gavel.
These judges were military leaders who brought political and economic liberty from oppression.
Then, once the peace was secured, they settled into their role as civil rulers.
17 Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so.
After a judge had brought relief from oppression, the people quickly returned to the errors that had led to their oppression and trouble – proving the well-worn adage –
Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
18 And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. 19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.
So, as long as a judge lived, the people followed his/her legacy of faith.
But as soon as the judge passed, they reverted to form and fell away.
There’s something to be said here about the importance of a godly leader.
It seems that even one person is capable of bringing God’s will & blessing to bear for an entire nation or enterprise.
How important it is that we pray
for our leaders.
20 Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, 22 so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” 23 Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.
God left these nations because really,
They got a little taste of the Canaanites sensual practices & were enticed.
God said, “Okay, you don’t want to expel them as I commanded, then I’ll give you what you want.”
The presence of the Canaanites proved
where the heart of
They ended up staying in
Right now, in each & every one of our lives there’s spiritual territory God has given us but we’ve allowed to remain unclaimed & under the feet of the enemy.
As we saw just a few minutes ago, instead of pressing in to appropriate the blessing God intends to give us through victory over sin, we’ve struck a deal with it, trying to bargain a little covert profit from sin while it stays.
If our hearts were wholly the Lord’s, then no sin could endure because He’d give us victory over it.
Now, I know it sounds like I am getting dangerously close to the error of perfectionism; that we can come to a place of sinless perfection in our daily lives.
That is not what I’m saying.
As long as we are in these bodies we will stumble and fail.
We will not attain to sinless perfection until the day the Lord takes us home.
But there’s a vast difference between imperfection & immorality.
Imperfection cause sins of omission & ignorance.
Immorality are sins committed with full awareness they’re wrong.
It’s those sins were; talking about here.
Things we know displease the Lord but we do not move to end.
It is possible to be a person who lives without such stuff.
When our hearts are totally sold out to God, He will give us the strength to overcome such sins.
1 Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan 2 (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it),
God wanted the succeeding generations of
In the same way, every Christian has to learn the same truths as every other Christian.
We learn those common truths by dealing with our own unique stuff we have to surrender to the Lord.
Now we get a list of the groups left in the land to test
3 namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the
Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from
There you go – they began to enter into covenant with pagans, the very things God told them not to do.
7 So the children of
We read about Othniel in ch. 1; he led the conquest of Debir & was rewarded by Caleb with the gift of his daughter Achsah, as wife.
He was the first Judge.
Since he lived in the very next
generation after Joshua & Caleb, that meant the children of
It says it took 8 years of oppression before the children of
8 years!?!? Why so long?
The answer is found in
Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Salvation comes only to the repentant, not the regretful.
Godly sorrow is a sadness over having sinned against God.
Worldly sorrow is nothing more than regret for getting the consequences of sin.
All sin ultimately ends up paying off in death & destruction.
While the short term result of sin is often pleasure, the long term result is always pain.
That produces regret, but by then it’s too late.
Obedience to God may begin with a bit of pain, but the ultimate end is always guilt-free pleasure.
The initial pain of obedience to God comes from rejection by the world, or it’s simply the pain of discipline, of saying no to immediate pleasure.
Think of it this way –
Johnny gets a dollar a week allowance. He gets it every Saturday at 2 PM.
At 3 PM every Saturday, the ice cream truck comes down the street with its nasty little song playing.
And every Saturday Johnny runs out & blows his dollar on candy.
One Tuesday afternoon he’s walking with his mother through the store when he sees a brand new toy he really wants and asks he to buy it.
She tells him that if he wants it, he needs to save his allowance.
The toy costs $15.
Johnny is bummed and starts thinking . . .
What’s he got to show for the last year’s worth of allowance - $52?
Nothing! Every penny was spent on candy, which lasted as long as it took to eat it.
He does a quick calculation and realize that if he’d just saved a little over 3 months, he’d have been able to buy that toy and take it home to enjoy it any time he wanted to.
When the next Saturday comes and he gets his dollar, he takes it to his room and puts it into the new piggy bank his mom bought him.
But an hour later when the ice cream truck comes, he gets all excited, and takes a hammer to the piggy bank to get the dollar out so he can buy more candy.
Across the street from Johnny is Sally.
She gets a dollar allowance every week too.
And while she likes candy, she puts her money to a much better use.
She puts it into savings where at first it doesn’t earn much interest because it’s such a small amount.
It wasn’t until she admitted her real error, turning away from God, that the Lord sent deliverance.
10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged
12 And the children of
The Ammonites & Amalekites were
nomadic peoples of the
Eglon planned on using his forces
to attack the main centers of Israelite occupation along the
The Ammonites & Amalekite raiders would keep the outlying villages busy defending themselves & so not able to reinforce the main fortresses, making Eglon’s conquest easier.
One of the cities Eglon conquered
It’s likely Eglon set up his headquarters there.
14 So the children of
It was a common practice in the ancient world to conquer neighboring territories, then put them under tribute, again, in much the same mode as modern protection schemes.
Ehud was the guy who was charged with taking the Moabite king the tribute.
16 Now Ehud made himself a dagger (it was
double-edged and a cubit in length – [about 18 inches]) and fastened it under
his clothes on his right thigh. 17 So he brought the tribute to
Eglon king of
For the Word to make mention of that meant he was ginormous.
18 And when he had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who had carried the tribute.
The tribute was probably in the form of gold, silver, & bronze boxed in chests, as well as certain precious trade goods.
Ehud would have led an entire armed caravan to the Moabite palace to deliver this tribute.
But now that the tribute is paid, he releases them & sends them home.
19 But he himself turned back from the stone images that were at Gilgal, and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” He said, “Keep silence!” And all who attended him went out from him.
Ehud returned alone to Eglon a short time later saying that he had a confidential word for him.
As a king, Eglon would always be on the look out for conspiracies against his house & throne.
It was not at all uncommon for a snitch to warn a king about an impending conspiracy, hoping such a warning would get him appointed to a special position.
Ehud had earlier given the appropriate forms of reverence & honor for Eglon, so the king had no reason to suspect Ehud was being anything other than sincere and helpful.
So he sent all his attendants out to hear Ehud’s message in private.
20 So Ehud came to him (now he was sitting upstairs in his cool private chamber). Then Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” So he arose from his seat. 21 Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 Even the hilt went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the dagger out of his belly; and his entrails came out.
Talk about spilling your guts . . .
23 Then Ehud went out through the porch and shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
He locked the doors from the inside and went out the back way.
24 When he had gone out, Eglon’s servants came to look, and to their surprise, the doors of the upper room were locked. So they said, “He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber.”
They think he’s taking a potty break.
25 So they waited till they were embarrassed, and
still he had not opened the doors of the upper room. Therefore they took the
key and opened them. And there was their master, fallen dead on the
floor. 26 But Ehud had escaped while they delayed, and passed beyond
the stone images and escaped to Seirah. 27 And it happened, when he
arrived, that he blew the trumpet in the mountains of Ephraim, and the children
With Eglon’s death, there was no
one to lead the Moabites and they fell before the Israelites who cut off the
route of their retreat back to
31 After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who
killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also
We’re not told much about this guy other than he pushed back
a Philistine incursion into the
An ox goad is a tool used in plowing.
It’s a stout stick, about 8’ long with a point on one end & a chisel shaped head on the other.
Made of hardwood, it’s usually several inches around.
The pointy end is used to poke the back flank of an ox and goad it to move along
The chisel end is used to scrape mud off the plow blade.
The setting for Shamgar’s killing of 600 Philistines isn’t given.
We don’t know if this was one
battle or if he was something of a guerilla fighter who attacked raiders who
were troubling the villages of
The lesson of Shamgar is his use of a humble tool to bring such a resounding defeat to the enemy.
One man – 600 dead; with an ox goad.
The key for discerning the lesson
God has for us from this is found by remembering the problem
They weren’t able to drive out the Philistines of the lowland because they had chariots of iron.
In other words, they had the latest & greatest of military technology.
An iron chariot was equivalent to an M1A1 Abrams battle tank.
We’ll Shamgar proves that 1 man who’s sold out to God doesn’t even need a pea shoot, a pea is enough!
Dependence on God turns an ox goad into an invincible sword, a sling into grenade launcher, & a shepherd’s staff into a whole army.
One, with God will always be the majority & victor, no matter how many troops the enemy may field, and no matter what weapons they may deploy.
Some trust in chariots & horses, our hope is in the Lord.
Shamgar used what came to hand to do a mighty work for God & His people.
What’s in your hand? What has God called you to?
Are you being faithful with it?
He’s called you to your place because there’s a special mission for you to accomplish there no one else can. Be faithful there.