- The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
- God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
- Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
- Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
- God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
- The glory of God is the centerpiece and goal of all existence.
- God’s glory is maximally realized in the promised, coming Kingdom.
- While it may seem daunting, the best place to start with this lesson is to spend a couple of days reading through the book of Judges. A good place to break in your reading would be with the completion of chapter 10. What makes the book of Judges so interesting is that sin makes it necessary in the canon of Scripture. Let’s explain.
In Deuteronomy, Moses told Israel to “utterly destroy” the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. This is seen most clearly in Deuteronomy 20:16-20. The word used for “utterly destroy” in v.17 is harem which is literally understood “putting these people under a ban.” The word means “ban, devote, exterminate.” This is a difficult teaching for many who come upon it for the first time and it is often used as an argument against YHWH, deeming Him as heartless, reckless, and even evil for bringing such a command against these groups of people. The reason for such a harsh pronouncement is two-fold.
First, if everything that YHWH creates is good and if what He creates is consistent with His character, for Him to make such a pronouncement is to conclude that their sin is so great that this is the only suitable solution to their sin being brought to justice. Being finite human beings, we are not intimately acquainted with the ins and outs of the people of Canaan, their deeds, their worship, their sacrifices, etc. What we do know is that YHWH makes a judgment call against them and that He will only do those things that are consistent with His character. Therefore, it is not wise to presume that He has responded harshly or in injustice for the
people of Canaan, but that their time of grace and their failure to respond to His revelation had run its course.
The second reason for this pronouncement is like the first, but distinct.
Deuteronomy 7:1-6. YHWH warns the children of Israel to abstain from any relationship with the people who inhabited the land of Canaan. The reason for this is given in v.4 being that their culture, beliefs, and practices would lead the Israelites astray, which would cause the anger of YHWH to burn against them, leading to their destruction. Instead, they were to deal decisively with the people (harem is used in v.2), allowing for YHWH to be the warrior God against them while destroying every thing that would constitute their pagan practices (v.5). Sin is like leaven, eventually working its way through an entire batch of dough (1 Cor 5:6; Gal 5:9). The entirety of the leaven must be cleaned out in order for the batch to remain unleavened, so it is with the inhabitants of Canaan. The people of Israel are a “chosen” people, carrying out YHWH’s mission to reach the world. They had been set apart due to the loyal love of YHWH (v.7-8). They were to be holy unto the Lord, undefiled.
When we come to the book of Joshua, the command to go forth in the confidence of the Lord’s provision is clear (Josh 1:1-9). All is well in entering the land as the Israelites began to conquer (Josh 6:1-24) and dealing decisively with any sin that hindered their success (Josh 7). But in chapter 9 of Joshua, a critical mistake is made.
Joshua 9:1-18. With the news of Israel’s victories in Jericho and Ai, the inhabitants of Canaan prepared for battle (v.1-2). The Gibeonites took a different approach, posing as wanderers and foreigners from a distant land. In deceiving Joshua, they were able to secure a covenant with Israel that prevented them from being utterly destroyed. The critical mistake is seen in 9:14 where they did not “ask for the counsel (literally- “mouth”) of YHWH.” Failing to seek the Lord in this matter caused their failure in securing all that YHWH had commanded them to inherit. The result is that the Gibeonites became slaves to the Israelites, leaving their culture, pagan worship, and false gods intact to corrupt Israel. The book of Judges is an extension of this critical moment of disobedience.
When the children of Israel begin settling in the land that is their inheritance, there are inhabitants that are left from the previous people
When the children of Israel begin settling in the land that is their inheritance, there are inhabitants that are left from the previous people groups due to Israel’s failure to follow the Lord fully. This leads to a cyclical pattern in their existence, being simply understood as:
1) a devotion to YHWH while a leader was in place,
2) the death of the leader,
3) the people stray into idolatry,
4) YHWH brings Israel into captivity to another people,
5) the people eventually cry out for rescue,
6) YHWH raises up a judge to deliver them and steer them back to Him.
Judges 2:1-23. The children of Israel failed to obey the Lord in conquering the land. After Joshua’s death (as well as those who were alongside him who witnessed the great works of the Lord) the people went astray (v.11-13). This caused YHWH’s hand to be against them. Due to the constant compounding of their sin with disobedience and idols, v. 21-23 reveals that the nations that were not utterly destroyed would now serve as a means of testing Israel’s faithfulness to YHWH.
With the book of Judges, there are some pertinent points that need to be emphasized for our study in order to give a frame of reference for what we will see in the proceeding books of the New Testament, as well as understanding the attitude of the Jews regarding the Kingdom, and the culmination of the New Testament in pointing to the coming Kingdom, especially as it is lined out in the book of Revelation.
The first interesting point in Judges is the involvement of the Godhead throughout the book. The Holy Spirit is seen in 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; and 15:14. In each of these instances with the exception of 13:25 we are told that the Spirit “came upon” (or “clothed”) the person in question. This is consistent with how the Spirit operated in relation to humans in the Old Testament (See 1 Sam 11:6; 16:14; Psa 51:11). The “angel of the LORD” is mentioned in Judges 19 times, signifying the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ and Him being acknowledged as God by those that He encounters (See Judg 13:1-23; especially v.22).
The second significant theme is the desire of the people of Israel to have a human king. In Judges 8:22-23, the men of Israel call upon Gideon to become their king, and not only this, but in their exuberance due to his victory, they even call upon Gideon to have his son rule after him, calling for a dynasty to take place among the Jews. Gideon refuses, pointing the
people back to YHWH as their king. Sadly, Gideon is corrupted by idols as seen in 8:27.
The third point of significance is the “rest” that was enjoyed each time the people of Israel turned back to YHWH at the deliverance of the judge sent to her. In 3:11, 30; 5:31; and 8:28, we are told that “the land had rest” for a certain period of years, which was usually however long that particular judge lived. It is interesting that the focus is on the land of Canaan and what the disobedience of the Israelites did to the land once they had settled upon it.
A final point that is noteworthy in the book of Judges is the remark of the absence of a king, which led to the foolishness and disobedience of the people. This is not seen until the latter part of the book, in 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; and 21:25. Israel needed to be ruled over. They needed a king. These remarks are what lead us to 1 Samuel 8.
1 Samuel 8:1-22. This chapter is tragic. Samuel the prophet is the last judge. When his sons were found unsuitable to rule the people, they cried out for a king “like all the nations” (v.5). YHWH tells Samuel something profound, “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (v.7). YHWH is Israel’s King, but He was a king that the people did not want. They desired a king “like all the nations.” Clearly this is a request made in unbelief.
Samuel warns the people about how their lifestyles and economy will change due to this request. Note the cost of having a human king:
1) The drafting of soldiers and personnel (v.11-13),
2) The loss of personal property (v.14)),
3) Taxed one-tenth to feed the king’s army (v.15),
4) Confiscation of private help (v.16),
5) Taxed an additional tenth in livestock (v.17a)
6) Personal enslavement to the king’s purposes (v.17b)
This decision would cost Israel in hired servants, family members, finances, personal property, and personal freedom.
What is ironic about this request is that Israel is rejecting a theocratic kingdom in which YHWH reigns over them. All that Israel desired the Lord could do apart from the need of a human king.
Upon reasoning with the people, Samuel’s list of consequences is disregarded, with the people persisting that they desired to be like the other nations around them. This defeats their calling to be a holy people that were to be set apart from the nations (Deut 7:6).
To make matters worse, but also in revealing the disconnect in Israel’s thinking, the people see a human king as one who will “go out before us and fight our battles” (v.20).
The extent of this insanity is unfathomable, seeing that YHWH states that He “will fight for you” (Exod 14:14), that He alone threw the Egyptians into confusion (Exod 14:25), that He alone is their warrior (Exod 15:3), that YHWH would fight on their behalf (Deut 1:30; 3:22; Josh 23:10), that He alone is the One who fights and saves His people (Deut 20:4); that He alone is the One that is with Israel wherever they go (Josh 1:9); that through Israel, YHWH would be known to the world as mighty, that the fear of YHWH would be known in Israel forever (Josh 4:23-24), and that YHWH alone is the one who gives kings into the hands of His people (Josh 8:1). To ask for a human king who is far less, much less than YHWH God the Creator of the world, is nothing short of a remarkable act of treason.
This leaves an important question before us today that needs to be answered:
Is God enough, or do our hearts covet more?
Is His Word given to us sufficient, or do we need something else?
What is keeping us from leaning wholly into our great God and Savior?
BDAG, p. 355.