The Book of JUDGES
James J. Barker
THE FIRST THREE JUDGES
- I mentioned last week that in the book of Judges we go round and round in circles – rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration.
- The key verse is 17:6 (cf. 21:25).
- Last week we saw that Israel’s prevailing sin was apostasy. The children of Israel had failed to completely drive out the heathen Canaanites (cf. 1:19, 21, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33).
- In fact, they mingled with the pagans, intermarried with them, and started worshipping their idols (2:2, 3, 11-19).
- Because of Israel’s disobedience (and partial obedience is really disobedience), God allowed these heathen nations to vex them and prove them (2:20—3:4).
- Four times in the book of Judges we are told that God “delivered” or “sold” Israel into the hands of their enemies (2:14; 3:8; 4:2; 10:7). We also see this in other places throughout the OT (cf. I Sam. 12:9)
- Had the Israelites been faithful to the Lord, it would have been the other way around.
- God repeatedly allowed Israel’s heathen neighbors to oppress them (3:8, 12). This servitude then brought the Israelites to the place of repentance and contrition.
- Then when they cried out to the Lord to deliver them, He raised up deliverers, called judges (3:9, 15). It is from these leaders that the book of Judges gets its name.
- These judges were military leaders rather than simply jurists.
- Tonight we will look at the first three judges, found here in chapter 3.
- OTHNIEL, THE SPIRIT-FILLED JUDGE (3:9-11)
- EHUD, THE LEFTHANDED JUDGE (3:15)
- SHAMGAR, THE COURAGEOUS JUDGE (3:31)
OTHNIEL, THE SPIRIT-FILLED JUDGE
- I mentioned last week that the Scofield Study Bible refers to “seven apostasies, seven servitudes to seven heathen nations, seven deliverances.” Here in Judges 3:5-7 we see the first apostasy in the book of Judges.
- And here we see that the first apostasy was followed by the first servitude (3:8). Bible scholars, such as Merrill Unger says that the king of Mesopotamia’s name means, “Doubly wicked Cushan” (3:8). Mesopotamia is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates River, ancient Babylon and modern day Iraq.
- After eight years of servitude, “the children of Israel cried unto the LORD” and “the LORD raised up a deliverer named Othniel, the first judge (3:9).
- Othniel was a nephew of Caleb (3:9; cf. 1:12, 13). Caleb and Joshua were the only Israelites allowed to enter into the Promised Land (cf. Numbers 26:65).
- Othniel was empowered by the Spirit of the LORD (3:10).
- Othniel was an ordinary man. There was nothing spectacular or unusual about him. In other words, God through His Holy Spirit, worked through this ordinary human instrument to deliver His people from oppression, illustrating for us deliverance from the bondage of sin. This is a recurring theme in the book of Judges.
- Othniel may not have been great by the world’s standards. And the Bible does not have a whole lot to say about him. But God used him and God can use you and me if we let Him.
EHUD, THE LEFT-HANDED JUDGE (3:12-15).
- Now the wheel turns once again. Remember, the book of Judges is about: rebellion, retribution, repentance and restoration (3:12-15).
- Judges 3:11 says, “And the land had rest (no wars) forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.” As soon as Othniel died the people of Israel went back to their wicked ways (3:12).
- Throughout history the Lord has used different heathen rulers to chasten His wayward people. After the death of Othniel, “the LORD strengthened Eglon, the king of Moab against Israel” (3:12).
- Moab was east of the Dead Sea. Since the Moabites were descended from Lot (Genesis 19:37), they were distant relatives of the Israelites.
- Because the Moabites came as a result of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughter, they represent the flesh. You may recall that Lot had two daughters and both daughters got him drunk. Lot’s younger daughter bore him Benammi, the father of the Ammonites (Gen. 19:38).
- Not surprisingly we see the Ammonites joining forces with Eglon against Israel (Judges 3:13). And there is a third heathen nation in this alliance against Israel – the Amalekites (Judges 3:13).
- Amalek was the grandson of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother (Genesis 36:12). The Amalekites were a constant problem for the Israelites (cf. Deut. 25:17-19).
- Exodus 17:16 says, “The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” This reminds us that the battle is the LORD’s, not ours. And He will give us the victory if we do things His way.
- But the Israelites had forgotten all of this. Judges 3:12 says, “They had done evil in the sight of the LORD.”
- So the wheel turned again – rebellion was followed by retribution – “and the LORD strengthened Eglon” (Judges 3:12). Moab, Ammon, and Amalek represent the world, the flesh, and the devil, which enslave God’s people when they backslide.
- After their first apostasy, God allowed the Israelites to be oppressed for eight years (3:8). But they did not learn their lesson, so this time God allowed them to be oppressed for eighteen years (3:14).
- Now let us consider Ehud, the left-handed judge (3:15).
- Being left-handed is unusual (most people are right-handed), but in Ehud’s case he used it to his advantage (3:15-22).
- The dagger (3:21) represents the Word of God, which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12).
- When Ehud thrust his dagger into Eglon’s fat belly, the Bible says, “the dirt came out” (3:21, 22). And so it is when we preach the Word of God, “the dirt comes out.”
- I believe the reason there are so many dirty church members is preachers aren’t preaching the Word of God. Keeping your sword sheathed will not get the job done.
- Why do you suppose the Bible emphasizes that Eglon was “a very fat man” (3:17, 22)? Because Ammon, Moab, and Amalek are types of the flesh. That is why we are told Eglon was very fat. This whole scene pictures victory over the flesh.
- Ehud then locked the door and escaped (3:23). Eglon’s servants thought the king was going to the bathroom (3:24). This gave Ehud plenty of time to escape.
- By the time King Eglon’s servants discovered that Eglon was dead, Ehud was long gone (3:25, 26).
- Ehud then blew a trumpet and rallied his troops. Ten thousand Moabites were killed and Israel had rest for 80 years (3:27-30).
SHAMGAR, THE COURAGEOUS JUDGE (3:31)
- By referring to Shamgar as “the courageous judge” I am not suggesting the other judges weren’t. Certainly it was courageous of Ehud to kill King Eglon right in his summer parlour.
- What I mean is that Shamgar single-handedly slew 600 Philistines with an ox goad (3:31). That is courageous!
- An ox goad was a farm tool, anywhere from six to eight feet in length. It was a sharp, pointed instrument used to prod oxen.
- This is another of instances in the book of Judges where God used the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (cf. I Cor. 1:25-29).
- There are many examples of this in the book of Judges. In the next chapter Jael, a woman, took out a nail and nailed Sisera’s head to the floor of her tent.
- In chapter 7, God told Gideon and his men to use empty pitchers, torches, and trumpets.
- In chapter 9, a woman (we are not told her name) dropped a piece of millstone upon Abimelech’s head (9:53).
- In Judges 15:15, Samson slew 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.
- Why does all of this signify? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
- If God can use these ordinary people like these judges, He can use you and me.