Day 69: Judges 1-3; The Judges Cycle

I don’t want to put anyone off by this post, but I think that the set up for the book of Judges is very important to understanding the narratives (some of them quite graphic) in the book of Judges.  There is a great deal that we can learn from these narratives, but once again I want to encourage you to remember that, in all of them, the main character, the primary mover… is God.  Stories about mighty men and heroes of old are great, but it is first and foremost important to understand that these are stories about God.

So, as we begin our journey into the book of Judges, and really the whole rest of the narratives of the Old Testament, I would like you to once again call to memory the covenant that we have been talking about.  There are different parts of the covenant… and there was a chart that looked like this:

Suzerian/Vassal Covenant Structure


So what we have read here in Judges 1-3 talks about how Israel did not follow the Lord.  A new generation grew up that did not know of Joshua or the Law of the Lord as Judges 2 tells us.  Remember back to Deuteronomy 6?  The Shema?

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

There were very specific instructions to what?  “teach them diligently to your children…”  Clearly this got missed in the previous generation for one reason or another.  So a whole new generation of Israelites grows up not knowing the Law.  And what happens?  Exactly what God said was going to happen.  They would begin to worship other gods.  Judges 2 says,

“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals.  And they abandoned theLord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.”

In Judges 3 we see the writer use the word “whored” or “prostituted” as a way of describing the people of Israel actions against the Lord to other gods.  We talked in the book of Numbersabout the imagery of Israel as the Bride of God and the wedding metaphor that plays in here.  The nation of Israel, that has committed itself to the Lord in a covenant relationship, forsakes that covenant and follows after other gods.  This is a direct violation of the 2nd commandment too, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”

Interestingly, we just talked about this in my Hebrew class.  This second commandment has a very distinct implication that is used throughout the Old Testament to describe the effect that other gods would have on them.  That word “serve” is a word that we would normally use as a way of saying that we subject ourselves to something.  However, the form in the Hebrew text is a causative passive tense.  In other words, the command would read something akin to: “You shall not bow down to them or be made to serve them…”  The implication here is that the people wouldn’t just go after these gods, but that they would be acted on from outside forces… One could even say they would be enticed or seduced by these other gods.  Of course they still have to own the decision, but the warning is clear: Do not have idols because they will draw you away from God.  And this is exactly what see too isn’t it?  The Golden Calf was one example, the sin of Achan is one example, and now we’re into Judges, a book full of examples.  Just wait until we get into the kings…

Finally, I just want to take a moment to talk about the “cycle” of Judges.  Here is a graph from one of my Old Testament classes at Kuyper College with Dr. Kroeze that sums it up pretty nicely:

judges cycle

We’ll see this cycle played out over and over again in the coming days with a variety of judges, some familiar and some not.  What is important to note, as I said in the beginning, is to pay attention to what God is doing here.  Remember the covenant, at the end, where it talks about what will happen if the people disobey?  Yes… this is what is coming through in this.  The people of Israel are in a continual cycle of following God, not following God, receiving the punishment that was told in the covenant, repenting, and starting all over again.  Why does this matter?  It tells us something about God…

In all of this, God remains faithful to both ends of the covenant, upholding the whole thing despite Israel’s repeated failures.  God never leave them in their sin and disobedience, but rather empowers someone to come forward and deliver His people from their enemies.  This is true in our lives as well.  While I don’t necessarily think that God directly punishes us every time we disobey Him, this cycle does some somewhat familiar doesn’t it?

And yet even here the focus is not necessarily on sin… but how God rescues His people time after time from their sin.  Which is true, or should be true, in our lives as well… we turn our focus from the sin the we commit to the savior that washed it all away!


2 Responses to “Day 69: Judges 1-3; The Judges Cycle”

  1. […] Israel and the covenant in the Judges Cycle, Sampson goes through a time of disobedience in which he is weakened and forced into captivity. […]

  2. […] of Israel, we have seen ample examples of what it means when the people disobey God.  We saw it in the Judges Cycle and earlier with Joshua’s leadership in the conquest of Canaan.  In these times we have seen […]

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