The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JUDGES
- Right away in the book of Judges we see a vivid picture of divine retribution (1:5-7). This is one of the major themes of the book of Judges – retribution.
- The book of Judges takes its name from the thirteen men raised up to deliver Israel in the days of declension and disunion following the days of Joshua.
- This period lasted up to the time of Samuel, a period of approximately 300 years. Hebrew tradition makes Samuel the author, but we cannot know for sure.
- Here the word “judge” has a wider connotation than what we are accustomed; it included military matters in the conquest of enemies (cf. Judges 3:9-11).
- The book of Judges is a sad sequel to the book of Joshua. Joshua rings with the shout of victory, but Judges echoes with the sobs of defeat.
- In fact, five times in the book of Judges we read these words, “The children of Israel cried unto the LORD” (3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:7; 10:10).
- In Judges we go round and round in circles – rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration.
- The key verse is 17:6 (cf. 21:25).
- “The book records seven apostasies, seven servitudes to seven heathen nations, seven deliverances” (Scofield Study Bible introduction to Judges, p. 287).
- Its NT counterpart is the book of Jude. Someone has said that the book of Judges deals with the character of apostasy, whereas the book of Jude deals with the curse of apostasy (Ian Paisley, Divine Intervention in the Days of Declension, p. 9).
- ISRAEL’S PREVAILING SIN
- THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION
- THE MORAL CLIMATE IN THE DAYS OF JUDGES
ISRAEL’S PREVAILING SIN
- Solemnly and repeatedly Israel had been warned by God not to make league with the ungodly Canaanites and other heathen nations (cf. Joshua 23:1-16; Judges 2:2).
- These heathen nations had polluted the land with their abominations. They were vile religiously, morally, and socially.
- They worshipped devils and horrible idols such as Ashteroth. Their religious worship included gross immorality.
- Israel was instructed to remove this moral cancer from the land, and replace it with worship of the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- God did not want the filth of the Canaanite society and religion to contaminate His chosen people Israel. God chose them to fulfill His purposes in this world.
- Israel would give the world the knowledge of the true God, the Holy Scriptures, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- In order to accomplish God’s purposes, the nation had to be separated from all the other nations. If Israel became corrupt and polluted, how could the Messiah come into the world?
- “God is perpetually at war with sin. That is the whole explanation of the extermination of the Canaanites” (G. Campbell Morgan, Living Messages of the Bible).
- But instead of obeying God’s commandments, the children of Israel “forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed down themselves unto them and provoked the LORD to anger” (Judges 2:12, 13).
THE PRINCIPAL OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION
- The book of Judges runs in circles – rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration (Judges 2:12-15).
- Again and again God allowed Israel to taste the bitter fruits of idolatry. Behind the grotesque statues of Baal, Ashteroth, and the other false gods were demon spirits (cf. Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; Psalm 106:37; I Cor. 10:19-22).
- This devil worship invariably leads to immorality, instability, and insanity. Israel’s rebellion was always followed by divine retribution.
- Israel disobeyed God and failed to drive these heathens out of the land so God allowed these heathen nations to grow stronger and stronger. God allowed cruel and evil tyrants to oppress and persecute Israel. Israel was easily subdued and subjugated.
- The Mesopotamians, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Amalekites, the Canaanites, the Midianites, the Ammonites, and the Philistines all vexed Israel for many long years until at last they repented.
- Retribution followed rebellion; and restoration followed repentance. God raised up judges to deliver them from their enemies (Judges 2:16), but soon the cycle would start up again (Judges 2:17-19).
THE MORAL CLIMATE IN THE DAYS OF JUDGES
- The last five chapters of Judges emphasize the prevailing apostasy of those days.
- The story of the religious rascal Micah (Judges 17, 18), and the story of the vicious rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19 are frightening reminders of how deep into sin men can get and all the while still consider themselves religious.
- When evil is not dealt with it properly it spreads like a cancer.
- Apparently Gibeah (in the territory of Benjamin) was one of these progressive towns that tolerated the so-called “gay rights movement.” Maybe they even allowed for sodomites to get married (Judges 19:22).
- We will look at this story in detail as we study the book of Judges. I only mention it now as an example of the moral climate in that day.
- In this introductory message of the book of Judges I have tried to give a brief overview of the book. These were days of darkness and declension.
- The book of Judges is a sober warning of the monotony and misery of sin.
- Yet at the same time the book of Judges is a portrayal of God’s grace working in behalf of His wayward people, rescuing them from their enemies and restoring them to fellowship with God.
- The Holy Spirit is mentioned seven times in the book of Judges – the number of perfection (cf. Judges 3:10; 6:34; etc.).