This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap.
The book of Judges records one of the worst periods of history for the Israelite nation. God’s intention in bringing the nation out of Egyptian captivity into Canaan was to rule as their sole king in a theocracy. The people were to worship and serve him faithfully by living out the Covenant Law they had agreed to, both in Exodus (first generation out of Egypt) and in Deuteronomy and Joshua (second generation). Instead, Judges tells the story of a people who repeatedly refused to live up to their end of the covenant.
In reality, this book should never have been written because the story it contains should never have occurred. During the approximately three hundred years of the judges, the nation went through a “spin cycle” where Israel sinned (failure), God judged them with a foreign nation (punishment), Israel repented (repentance), and God delivered them with one or more judges (deliverance), who then ruled in peace for a period of time. This repetition of grace in the face of rebellion is the glimmer of light in a dark theme. Sadly, the two verses that best sum up this book are 2:19 and 21:25.
“When a leader died, the next generation would again act more wickedly than the previous one.” (Judges 2:19)
“In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.” (Judges 21:25)
Chapter two contains a rare public appearance of the “LORD’s angelic messenger” (a Christophany 1) to a large group of people at once. This seems to be a flashback to before Joshua’s death (Judges 2:1-5). The writer said that God moved from Gilgal to Bokim, accusing the people of not tearing down the pagan altars as he had commanded them to do (evidence that this was God himself, not just a messenger). They wept for their sin and repented, promising to worship and serve only Jehovah, which they did during Joshua’s life. However, when Joshua and the leaders of his generation died, the people turned away from God (Judges 2:6-10). This was now the fourth generation out of Egypt. Not only had they not seen the miracles of Egypt, they had also did not have the experiences of the second generation. This generation had only the stories, but no real personal experience with God.
Judges 2:11-19 are essentially the summary of the rest of the book. For approximately three hundred years, the Israelites turned from God to worship the pagan Baals, so God punished them by sending the nations to plunder and defeat the Israelites. Upon their repentance, God raised up men who delivered then ruled them as judges. This restored peace and prosperity until the judge and that generation died. Sadly, each successive “generation would again act more wickedly than the previous one.”
The chapter ends with a difficult passage regarding the continued existence of the nations in Canaan (Judges 2:20-23). The question regards whether God or Joshua left the nations to test the faithfulness of the people. The NET indicates that Joshua left them to test Israel, but the other major translations say that God would test Israel with the nations that Joshua left unconquered. The first verses of the next chapter clarify that God did not give them over to Joshua’s campaign for two reasons.
- “Christophany” refers to the visible appearance of the Son of God, the second member of the Trinity, before he was incarnated as Jesus. ↩