JUDGES ~ Book #7
In Judges, God reveals the stark reality that there’s no depth of evil to which mankind won’t sink unless God’s hand restrains us. It’s only because of His inexplicable love, grace, and mercy that we can receive salvation through Jesus.
The book of Judges is exactly that: a book about the 12 judges of Israel and several despicable guys.
Judges opens with a dash of fleeting hope as Israel looked to God for guidance.
“Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1).
God chose Judah – the tribe through which Jesus would come – to lead them into battle.
Like Jesus conquering sin and death, Israel defeated their enemy. But not all of them.
They failed to complete the conquest. (Jesus didn’t fail His conquest.)
They failed because they refused to obey God.
“But you have not obeyed Me … Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you” (Judges 2:2-3).
Israel’s unfaithfulness thrust them into a vicious cycle that ramped up to a horrifying crescendo of pure evil.
There’s a reason most of the stories from the book of Judges doesn’t show up in children’s books. Not even Samson’s full story makes it past the cutting room.
Thankfully, God’s promises and power stand strong regardless of mankind’s worst moral failures and outright rebellion.
The Gospel in Judges
God used 12 judges to save Israel and give us a picture of Jesus as our Deliverer.
Unlike Christ, however, these judges weren’t perfect.
Judges shows Israel’s desperate need for a godly king to rule them and points to the perfect King, Jesus Christ.
Ring Around the Rosie, We All Fall Down
Early in Judges, Israel displays the vicious cycle they repeated – their ring around the wretched rosie until they all fell down:
2. God lets them fall into the hands of their enemy (Judges 3:8).
3. Israel cries out to God (Judges 3:9).
4. God raises up a deliverer – a judge (Judges 3:9-10).
5. Israel enjoys peace (Judges 3:11).
What God reveals about the nature of man through Judges is downright depressing:
We are so much worse than we imagine, and we can’t save ourselves.
What He reveals about Himself and Jesus is straight up encouraging:
God is more forgiving than we can imagine. He sent His Son Jesus to be our perfect Rescuer and our Salvation.
A Glimpse of the 12 Judges:
(Click on the red names below to jump to a more detailed summary of each judge.)
Israel ran after other gods. After life turned hard at the hands of their enemy, they cried out to God.
Enter Othniel, the first judge God appointed to rescue Israel.
The left-handed judge Ehud delivered Israel from the rotund king of Moab using a sleight-of-hand trick with a dagger, a sneaky escape, and some embarrassed guards.
Shamgar saved Israel and killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (a long stick with a metal tip used to control oxen).
(Judges 4 – 5)
Deborah (and a brave woman named Jael with a tent peg – yikes) saved Israel when Barak refused to fight the Canaanites without her.
(Judges 6 – 8)
God used the meek fleece-laying Gideon to save Israel from Midian (after whittling his army of 32,000 men down to 300) and give us a picture of the humanity of Jesus.
Between Gideon and the next judge came three years of trouble that included the death of 70 of his sons. (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around having 70 sons.)
Tola judged Israel for 23 years. And then he died.
Jair was a wealthy man who judged Israel 22 years. And then he died.
Foolish Jephthah. He freed Israel from the Ammonites but made a vow that broke his father-heart.
Ibzan judged Israel seven years. And then he died.
Elon judged Israel ten years. And then he died.
Abdon judged Israel eight years. And then – surprise, surprise – he died.
Samson, the most famous of the 12 judges, was also Israel’s final judge.
He delivered Israel from their enemies and suffered great personal loss because of his ungodly choices.
Nevertheless, he gave us some poignant pictures of Jesus.
Israel Descended into Unspeakable Evil
The book of Judges ends with two stories that exposed how mankind can sink to the lowest of lows when we turn our backs on God, and He leaves us to ourselves.
This first of the final two stories reveals that, apart from Christ, every man has a price. That price can be brutal because people can be.
The final and most barbaric story reveals there’s no depth of evil to which man will not sink unless the Lord intervenes and restrains. (Warning: This story includes rape and body parts in the mail.)
Final Words For Today
The book of Judges closes with somber words and a final reminder of Israel’s (and our) deep need a godly king. (You’d almost think Judge’s final sentence was written about us today.)
By your grace, Lord, open our eyes to see our need for You. Give us faith to believe and to follow you as our perfect King.
More Detailed Summaries of The Judges:
Judge #1 ~ Othniel
Israel ran after false gods so God showed His righteous anger over sin and got their attention by letting the king of Mesopotamia defeat them.
Israel cried out to God, and He raised up Othniel to set them free and to serve as their judge.
They enjoyed rest for 40 years.
And then Othniel died.
Judge #2 ~ Ehud
Israel ran back to evil, so God allowed the King Moab to defeat Israel.
God then raised up the left-handed judge Ehud to deliver Israel from the rotund king of Moab.
Ehud used a sleight-of-hand trick with a dagger and a sneaky escape.
When the king’s guards checked on him and found his door locked, they assumed he was unavailable because he was attending to “nature’s call.”
They were wrong. He was dead.
Ehud then led Israel against Moab and defeated them.
They enjoyed peace for 80 years. And then he died.
Judge #3 ~ Shamgar
Shamgar saved Israel and killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (a long stick with a metal tip used to control oxen).
That’s all I have on Shamgar. God only gave us one sentence on him.
Judge #4 ~ Deborah
(Judges 4 & 5)
Israel leaped back into evil so God sold them into the hand of the king of Canaan.
Then God raised up Deborah, who led Barak (and Israel) in battle because he refused to go without her. Perhaps he wasn’t willing to take the calling for himself since she was God’s chosen judge.
Whatever compelled him to follow Deborah rather than take the lead, we know he did it by faith since he made it into the Hebrews Hall of Faith: Hebrews 11:32-34.
After Israel routed Canaan’s army, their commander hopped off his iron chariot and ran away. But he got stuck in a tent (yes, literally) by Jael, a brave Israelite woman holding a tent peg and a hammer.
Israel enjoyed rest for 40 years under this godliest of judges. She continually pointed Israel to God.
But then she died.
Judge #5 ~ Gideon
(Judges 6 – 8)
Israel nosedived back into evil and worshipped idols, so God let them fall into the king of Midian’s hands.
The angel of the Lord visited fearful Gideon – the least of the least of Israel – and called him to lead Israel in battle. Through God’s power, Gideon was to deliver Israel.
Gideon gives us a beautiful picture of Jesus’s humanity. He came in the meek form of man. In weakness, Jesus delivered us through the cross. In divine power, He gives life (2 Corinthians 13:4).
Jesus was meek, but He wasn’t timid like Gideon. Analogies are rarely, if ever, perfect.
Gideon faced obstacles bigger than himself as an array of armies converged on Israel.
Gideon called Israelites to battle, but then he ran to talk to God. He wanted to confirm that God really was going to give them into Israel’s hands.
Gideon used a wool fleece to determine God’s will. Twice. (Judges 6:36-40)
God confirmed His promise to give Israel’s enemies into Gideon’s hands.
God whittled Gideon’s army of 32,00 men down to a meager 300 to ensure Israel understood that they couldn’t save themselves. He was giving them the victory.
Likewise, we can’t earn our salvation or make our own way to heaven. Christ alone is our salvation and the one way to the Father.
Gideon and his army enjoyed a rousing victory.
Sadly, Gideon let it inflate his ego.
Nevertheless, Israel enjoyed peace for 40 years.
And then he died. But not before he had 70+ sons.
Three Years of Trouble
Abimelech, one of Gideon’s sons attempted to slaughter the rest of the 70 sons to become king.
One managed to escape, which then led to Abimelech’s downfall but not before he tramped over the people with much evil and treachery.
In the midst of his last heinous crime, a woman dropped a stone on his head, and his self-proclaimed rule of three years ended.
In the meantime, Israel had deepened their bent toward evil.
Judges #6 & #7 ~ Tola & Jair
Unfortunately, there’s no more info on these two judges.
Judge #8 ~ Jephthah
Jephthah was a mighty warrior from Gilead and the son of a prostitute. His half-brothers hated him. So he ran away.
As soon as the Ammonites rose up against Israel, Gilead called their warrior back home to save them.
God gave Jephthah the victory, but Jephthah made a stupid vow to sacrifice the first thing that walked out the door of his home upon his return from victory.
His daughter walked out to congratulate him.
Jephthah judged Israel only six years, and then he died.
Judges #9, #10, and #11 ~ Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon
Ibzan had 30 sons and 30 daughters. He judged Israel seven years, and then he died.
Elon judged Israel ten years, and then he died.
Abdon had 40 sons and 30 grandsons who rode on 70 donkeys. Wealthy. He judged Israel eight years, and then – surprise, surprise – he died.
That’s all I have on them.
Samson ~ Judge #12
The most famous of the 12 judges was also Israel’s final judge.
The popular children’s story paints the picture that evil Delilah tricked God’s innocent Samson into giving her the secret to his supernatural strength, but his hair grew back and allowed him one final display of his strength.
There’s truth in the children’s account. (Delilah was evil and God did give Samson a final victory.)
But there’s also plenty of missing pieces to the story, and at times the truth appears foggy.
Samson’s Lovely Locks
For instance, Samson’s lovely locks of hair weren’t really the secret to his strength. God was.
His luscious locks never held magical power. God was always the one in control.
Before Samson was born, God told his parents Samson was to be a Nazarite, dedicated to God from the womb. (https://www.gotquestions.org/Nazirite-vow.html)
Being a Nazarite vow came with many rules. One rule was that his hair should never be cut.
Jesus Sighting: The angel of the Lord visited Samson’s parents to prepare them for Samson’s birth (Judges 13:8-25). This was an appearance of Jesus before He came down in flesh as a baby born in a manger.
After Samson’s last girlfriend, Delilah, cut his hair, God removed the super-strength He’d given Samson.
And fortunately, the young children’s books also leave out the part where the Philistines then gouged out Samson’s eyes (Judges 16:20). Yikes.
Godly Samson? Not!
Also, contrary to the godly man we see in picture books, Samson wasn’t innocent.
Not only did he let himself be seduced by Delilah so that she cut his hair, but he broke at least two other Nazarite rules: no drinking wine, and no touching the dead.
John the Baptist was also a Nazarite from birth (Luke 1:13-17). He was faithful.
While Samson did great things for Israel, he was far from godly. He broke many of God’s rules through his wild, women-chasing years. And yet God still used him.
God isn’t limited in who or what He can use for His purposes. Sometimes He chooses to use even ungodly men like Samson. (That’s good news for us far-from-perfect ones.)
Samson judged Israel 20 years. And then he died a brutal death, but not before he saved Israel by stretching out his arms and dying.
When Samson stretched out his arms, he pushed down the two pillars that held up the building and killed more of his enemy than he had in all his previous escapades.
And although Samson was by no means a perfect model of Jesus, Samson’s death gave us a picture of Christ stretching out His arms on the cross and dying to save us from our enemies – sin, Satan, and death.
Micah, the Levite, and Some Evil Men from Dan
The first of the final stories (Judges 17-18) reveals that, apart from Christ, every man has a price. The price can be brutal. It this story, brutal is an understatement.
Judges 17 opens with a man named Micah, who stole silver from his mom. After he returned the silver, his mom paid a silversmith to fashion an idol out of it so they could worship it.
Meanwhile, a Levite – one of God’s chosen priests – had gone out in search of a better life. Apparently being chosen by God to serve in His tabernacle and cared for by God wasn’t enough.
Micah offered the Levite ten shekels and a shirt to become his personal priest.
But then the tribe of Dan came along and increased his pay. They stole Micah’s silver idol and his priest. But at least they left him his life and his mom, which is more than they did for the quiet town of Laish.
The men of Dan slaughtered the unsuspecting people of Laish and set their city on fire.
Afterward, they set up Micah’s silver idol, and the Levite and his sons “served God” alongside it.
In the New Testament, we see Jesus’ disciple Judas had a price, too: 30 pieces of silver for the Son of God (Matthew 26:15).
But Jesus’ apostle Paul considered his life of no value for the opportunity to testify of Christ (Acts 20:24).
Praise God that Jesus was willing to pay the price for our sins so we don’t have to. He offered up His own life to God for the salvation of all who will believe (John 3:16, Philippians 2:8).
A Levite, His Concubine, and the Horror in Gibeah
The most barbaric story of Judges involves a wretched Levite, his concubine, and some evil men in the city of Gibeah.
It’s so hideous I can’t bring myself to write the details. But you can read the story for yourself: Judges 19.
The horror reveals there’s no depth of evil to which man will not sink unless the Lord intervenes and restrains them.
After the men of Gibeah committed their heinous crime, which the evil Levite and his host allowed, Israel finally looked to God again.
God sent Israel out against Gibeah, but Gibeah destroyed 22,000 men of Israel.
Israel wept before God and sought His help again.
This time Gibeah destroyed 18,000 Israelites.
Israel finally understood how far they had turned away from God.
This time they wept before God, fasted and prayed, and offered burnt sacrifices to Him for their sin as well as peace offerings of thankfulness to Him.
God said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand” (Judges 20:28).
With Israel finally humbled before God and depending on His power alone, God gave them the victory.
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