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Judges 1 – 5
You could not ask for a more blunt beginning than the start of the book of Judges. It tells you the scene, the characters, their roles, and the purpose of the book all in the first two chapters.
It tells us again that Israel went to war with its enemies and God drove them out before the Israelite army. But, in some places, the Israelites did not drive out their enemies and instead subjected them to forced labor. Because the Israelites did not obey God and drive out their enemies completely leaving no survivors, God told them He would no longer drive their enemies out from the land totally instead He would use those nations to test Israel’s faith. Israel fails the test again and again and again.
Judges is an in-depth look at how Israel fails, God fulfills His promise of justice on them, and then has compassion so sending His judge aka leader to deliver them. Today we study the first four of those judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah.
Othniel was the brother of Caleb the spy who inherited Hebron. In his day the Israelites had disobeyed God and were sold into slavery to the king of a country in Northwestern Mesopotamia called, Aram Naharaim. Therefore, the Spirit of the LORD came upon him so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The LORD gave the foreign oppressors into the hands of Othniel and the land had peace again for forty years.
Again Israel disobeyed, this time they were slaves to the King of Moab. But, God raised up Ehud to deliver Israel. He made a double edged sword and hid is beneath his clothing. Then he went to the house of the King of Moab with gifts. He managed to get a moment alone with te king to “tell him a secret”, then drove the sword through him to the hilt. Because this king was so very fat the rolls sucked up over the hilt of the sword! He escaped the palace by locking up the king’s chamber so his attendants didn’t go in for a while. In the meantime, he gathered up Israel’s army and that day God subjected Moab to Israel killing 10,000 fighting men in their prime. Then the land had peace for eighty years.
There is only one sentence about this judge: “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.”
Yes! God calls women to be leaders too. This one sits as a judge beneath her very own tree and the people bring their problems to her for her to decide between them. In her day the people have also disobeyed and are then slaves to a king of Canaan. The Israelites were cruelly oppressed by him for twenty years until one day Deborah sends for Barak, the head of Israel’s army. She tells him to lead the way to Mount Tabor and there God will deliver the Canaanite king and his army into Barak’s hands. Barak tells here he will only go if she goes. She agrees but tells him that because he would not go without her the glory of the victory will go to a woman. The Israelites do indeed defeat Canaan but the leader of their armies flees to the tent of a Kenite woman named Jael, with whose tribe he has an understanding. She drives a tent peg through his temple as soon as he falls asleep. The men who were pursuing the runaway leader are called into the tent and there they see the man lying dead. A song of victory is written here originally by Deborah and Barak singing praise to the LORD for HIs deliverance and praising Him for the obedience of those who love Him, like Jael. Then the land has peace for forty years.
Have you figured out the pattern yet? Israel disobeys and an obedient servant is raised up to lead and rescue them. As long as the leader lives the land has peace because the people are being taught and applying how to follow God.