The thing with the book of Judges is that it feels repetitive, like the Israelites are in vicious cycle or circle of sin, defeat, repentance, new leadership and blessing. And they are – it’s called the Deuteronomic cycle, because it’s cycle of what is prophecied in the book of Deuteronomy (and Exodus and Joshua!). If you obey God, things will go well, if you don’t they will go badly. (Although the book Job was given to us to show that bad things also happen to good people too)
The people of God under Joshua were to enter and conquer the promised land, dispelling the people around them and not coming under their influence. Those tribes already there were as this article puts it, a mixture of ISIS and Mad Max! They were not turning up to a friendly BBQ, they needed properly conquering and driving out, rather than peaceful co-existence. But when Joshua died, the Israelites entered a dark period of chaos before they had Kings (although the Kings weren’t much better on the whole!)
Judges 2:16-17 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so.
The judges saved and ruled the people – they weren’t really like we have judges in courts today to solve disputes and administer criminal justice. It was more holistic and not just judicial – OT scholar Daniel Block reckons the Hebrew word for judge is best understood as tribal ruler, leader, or governor, so perhaps the Book of Judges should be the Book of Tribal rulers!
Today’s reading sets up the pattern – the Deuteronomic cycle that we would see if we read all 21 chapters. The key to the book is in the last verse “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
The cycle looks like this…
Chapter 2 shows us the first iteration
Everything is fine, the people enjoy peace and serving the Lord while Joshua is alive v7
Joshua dies v8 and…
1) The people rebel v10-12
2) God is angry v12
3) God gives them over to be oppressed by their enemies v14 notice in Rom 1 the wrath of God against sin is “giving them over to what they desire”
4) The people cry out to God – not in chapter 2 but it does normally feature.
5) Salvation comes through a judge v16-17
6) Time of peace v18.
As soon as the judge dies, the cycle is repeated again. The issue is a lack of succession planning and training of new leaders. Moses did this well, training Joshua as his right hand man and giving him tasks to do and then finally handing over to him with clear instructions. But Joshua and the Judges – not so good. There is a complete lack of leadership development in what follows for the next few hundred years.
The Bible does not show God’s people as good guys and everyone else as the bad guys. There is enough sin to go around for all of us and not everything the Bible records said and done by people is good! There is only one sinless person in the Bible – that is Jesus, the incarnate Son of God. The rest are flawed human beings. Tim Keller describes the Judges as despicable human beings doing deplorable things – why are they in the Bible? To shout loud and clear we need Jesus. You may have seen that Deuteronomic cycle in your own life. The Judges only brought partial victory and partial relief, leading to the cycle repeating itself over and over. without Christ we will repeat that cycle endlessly too.
If you were to read on in the Book of Judges you will see the Spirit of the Lord coming on the Judges to empower them (3:10,6:34,11:29,13:25,14:6,14:9 and 15:14). Under the old covenant the Spirit of God only filled a few people for special tasks. Now that we have the better new covenant we can all be filled with the Spirit who is Holy, the Holy Spirit. He empowers us to break free from sin, guilt, confession cycles into lives of holiness and blessing.
If you need to come to Jesus to be rescue from your sin – do so today. Check out this article on how
If you need the power of the Spirit to break free of sinful habits and destructive cycles, ask Him to fill you today, and get someone to pray for you!