Survey of the Bible - Judges
Text: Judges 2:8-23
I. The book of Judges continues with the history of Israel, starting from the death of Joshua up to a period just a few generations before Israel’s first earthly king.
A. It lasted roughly 380 years (based on I Kings 6:1 which says it was 480 years from the Exodus to the building of the temple).
B. Unlike the time under Moses and Joshua, there was no single leader or government of Israel - Judges 21:25
1. Instead, each tribe managed its own territory and at times aided neighboring tribes
C. It shows the cyclic nature of Israel’s faithfulness
1. They started out strong, but because each generation passed on less to the following generations, they would stray - Judges 2:6-10
2. God would allow a neighboring country to terrorize the worse offending tribes
3. They would suffer under the brutality of the nation for a number of years before they realized they needed to seek God again
4. God would raise up a judge – a leader to represent God to the people. The judge would lead the people to defeat the enemy and would rule over the region for a period of time.
5. Then the cycle would start all over.
D. While it might seem as if these event were national events, they were actually local. Some of these events overlapped as different nations harassed different regions of Israel.
A. Period just after Joshua’s death - Judges 1-2
1. While Joshua took out the key cities of the occupants of Canaan, it was left to each tribe to clear out their territory - Judges 1
a. This was as God commanded - Deuteronomy 7:1-9
b. In part this was done so Israel had time to grow enough to populate the territory.
c. But we learn that despite an initial “gung-ho” attitude, the work fell off and was never fully completed.
2. The overall cycle - Judges 2
a. Judges 2:6-23 forms a summary of this entire period
B. The testing of Israel: Cycles of Apostasy, Servitude, and Deliverance - Judges 3-16
1. Mesopotamia - Othniel - Judges 3:1-11
a. Israel began intermarrying the Canaanite nations and serving their gods - Judges 3:5-7
b. God sent in Mesopotamia who ruled the area for 8 years
c. The Othniel, a nephew of Caleb raised an army to expel the enemy and the peace lasted 40 years.
2. Moab - Ehud - Judges 3:12-30
a. Israel returned to sin and was conquered by Moab, who ruled for 18 years
b. Ehud managed to sneak in a sword in the presence of the king because he was left-handed and no one thought to look for weapons on the wrong side of the body. He claimed he had a secret message for the king and when they were alone, he stabbed Eglon, the king. Though it was an 18-inch blade, Ehud lost his sword because Eglon was so fat that sword went all the way in and could not be pulled out.
c. He then lead the tribe of Ephraim to drive Moab out. The peace lasted 80 years.
3. Philistines - Shamgar - Judges 3:31
a. Not much is stated about Shamgar other than that he killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (a wooden stick).
b. No time periods are given
4. Canaan - Deborah and Barak - Judges 4-5
a. When Israel sinned, this time an internal enemy, one of the nations they had not conquered rose up. Jabin, king of Canaan, ruled for 20 years in northern Israel.
b. This time God raised up a woman judge, Deborah, who ordered Barak to lead the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun into war.
(1) Barak refused to go unless Deborah went with him - Judges 4:8
(2) She agreed, but told him that the decisive blow would come from the hand of a woman - Judges 4:9
(3) It was a complete route, but the Canaanite general, Sisera, escaped. He stopped for rest at a Kenite ally’s tent, but while he slept the wife, Jael, an Israelite, pounded a tent stake through his head and killed him.
(4) The peace lasted 40 years.
5. Midian - Gideon - Judges 6-8
a. Again Israel returned to sin and this time Midian conquered the central region of Israel. They held the territory for seven years.
b. God picked Gideon who took a bit of convincing that this was really what God wanted him to do. He gathered an army from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. But God told him it was too big and had him whittle the men down to only 300. The men outfitted themselves to make it appear they were a vastly larger group, snuck up on the Midianite army in the middle of the night and made it appear that the Midianites were being attacked in a surprise raid.
c. There was so much panic that the Midianites mostly killed themselves. Then the rest of the army was summoned and drove Midian south. Word was sent ahead to Ephraim, who cut off their escape.
d. The people wanted to make Gideon their king, but he refused. The land had peace for 40 years
6. Civil War - Abimelech - Judges 9
a. One of Gideon’s seventy sons, after Gideon’s death, decides to make himself king. He starts by killing all his brothers, though he missed the youngest. He ruled 3 years in Shechem.
b. God stirred up a rebellion against Abimelech and while he was out of town, the city rebelled.
c. Abimelech conquered the city, but some escaped to a tower. Abimelech ordered that it be burnt with the people inside, but while he approached the tower to light the fire, a woman threw a milestone down and crushed his skull.
7. (Unknown) - Tola, and Jair - Judges 10:1-5
a. Little is known about these judges other than they ruled for 23 and 22 years respectively.
8. Philistines and Ammon - Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon - Judges 10:6-12
a. Israel again did evil by worshiping numerous false gods - Judges 10:6
b. This time they were conquered by an alliance of the Philistines and Ammonites for 18 years.
c. Jephthah was selected as God’s judge to drive the Ammonites out. His selection is interesting because he was the illegitimate son of a harlot and was rejected by his own brothers.
d. Jephthah is remembered for his rash vow before he set off to war, the he would offer to God the first who greeted him when he returned home from defeating the Ammonites. The one who greeted him was his only child, his only daughter.
e. Three other men followed after Jephthah to serve as judges, but none served long: Jephthah - 6 years, Ibzan - 7 years, Elon - 10 years, and Abdon - 8 years.
9. Philistines - Samson - Judges 13-16
a. When Israel sinned again, this time God allowed the Philistines to rule over them for 40 years.
b. A boy was selected to be the next judge before he was born. He was to live his life under a Nazarite vow.
c. There isn’t much way to describe Samson, but that he was a spoiled brat of a young man, who was incredibly strong. He kept having disagreements with the Philistines his whole life and he took his arguments out on them, waging what was basically a one man war.
d. The problem was that he didn’t take his Nazarite vow seriously and God left him when he broke the terms.
e. In the end he repented in his death managed to kill about 3,000 of the leading Philistines.
C. Period of Anarchy - Judges 17-21
1. How a false religion was started and is supported by Dan - Judges 17-18
a. The story shows how superstitious the people had become
2. How homosexuality is tolerated by Benjamin - Judges 19-21
a. The events lead to a civil war where Benjamin is almost wiped out. Only 600 men survived the battles.
III. There are so many lessons to be found in Judges
A. It illustrates human nature to go from bad to worse
B. It shows how quickly people forget the lessons of history
C. It shows how God can use both the good and the evil to accomplish His will.