The LORD Raised Up Judges – Judges 1 & 2

The book of Judges continues the narrative of the book of Joshua, as the Israelites ward off the remaining Canaanites to take the inheritance of their allotted land. Throughout Joshua’s lifetime, the Israelites faithfully served the LORD as they were grateful for the great things He had done in their lives. However, after the death of Joshua and his contemporaries, another generation grew up not knowing about the grace of God that had sustained them throughout their nomadic existence.

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

Judges 2:10 (NIV)

It is strange to see a whole generation grow up not knowing anything about God. The Israelites loved their traditions and festivals and the festival of Passover would have been religiously followed each year. Families would get together over the Passover meal as the elders would recount the adventures of their ancestors in the desert and how the LORD would constantly bring them out of the brink of annihilation. However, for some strange reason, this new generation did not feel connected with their Maker. Not only did they abandon their own relationship with God but they were responsible for the children not knowing God as well. They were easily influenced by the pagan nations around them and descended into a downward spiral of sin and corruption. They replaced God with the traditions and festivals that surrounded them.

They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.

Judges 2:12 (NIV)

Stories and experiences of others around us can only take us so far. We can get motivated by the men and women of faith that we find in the scriptures but their experiences will not help overcome the barriers to our faith. When we witness things with our own eyes, the experience makes a lasting impression on us. The disciples who witnessed Jesus’s appearance had a lasting impression than the ones who only heard about the resurrection (On the Road to Emmaus). Nothing can substitute for the personal experience that we have with God which can help us stay on that straight and narrow path towards His kingdom.

A Vicious Cycle

The Israelites had not learnt their lesson from their captivity and subsequent exodus from Egypt as they kept falling into a vicious cycle of sin and redemption. God would hear the cry of His people and send a Judge to save them. But soon after the death of the Judge, Israel would find themselves in the same situation, prostituting themselves before foreign gods. At this moment, God would take back His hand of protection from the Israelites when they would go out to war resulting in calamitous consequences.

Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

Judges 2:15 (NIV)

This raises an interesting question about our relationships with God. Do we truly believe that God is always for us or only when we obey Him will He come to save us? When it came to the Israelites, God had bought (redeemed) them when He led them out of Egypt and now He is selling them to another foreign group as that is what the Israelites desire, to be one with the world around them. When the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, God did not expect anything from them but after they had crossed the Red Sea, God gave them the law. Only after they were redeemed were they expected to follow the laws.

God wants them to be His children and if they are not growing up to those standards, He will discipline them in the way He sees fit. Many assume that the reason behind the discipline is punishment because of the wrath of God. It is not for destruction that God disciplines us but for correction, correcting our ways so that we may see the light at the end of the tunnel. God does not abandon us when we betray Him and align ourselves with the world around us. He keeps giving us opportunities to come back into His fold. Our God is for us regardless of our attitude towards Him but there will be a day of reckoning where His Grace will be taken back from us.

Dependence on Judges

The Israelites would walk in the ways of the Lord for a while but as the judge appointed by the LORD would pass away, they returned to their ways and became even more corrupt than their ancestors. It seemed like Israel as a nation was always overdependent on its leaders to connect with God. When Moses took too long to come down from Mount Sinai, they crafted their own god to worship.

Perhaps human leaders were easily accessible as compared to God in all His glory. People are not able to relate to the holiness of God and are looking for human representatives to plead their case to Him. The fear of God restricts us from coming close to Him and we are satisfied with a representative figure rather than approaching the throne of God. God is invisible to us and we would prefer someone whom we can see and relate with.

There is this false belief in our minds that we can help each other come close to God through participation in fellowship activities. However, more often than not, these activities are keeping us from experiencing the unfiltered glory of God. If we have the desire to know God, we would look beyond the scriptures and our fellowships, and approach God on our own.

Judah Leads the Way

After the death of Joshua, Caleb became the leader of the army of Israel as God chose the tribe of Judah to lead the way and capture the territory allotted to them. Judah was the first tribe to enter the promised land and the first to receive their allotment. Their area of allotment was closest to the Jordan valley, the place from where they planned all their attacks. God had blessed them and given their enemies into their hands even before they set out for battle. They asked the tribe of Simeon to accompany them in their battles. Apart from this act, we don’t see the Simionites play any significant part in Israel’s formation and later their allotted territories are absorbed by the tribe of Judah. The tribes of Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites and struck multitudes of men and even captured a local king names Adoni-Bezek. Wherever they went, the Lord helped them be victorious in their battles.

The Allotted lands to the tribes of Israel

In one of his last recorded acts, Caleb pledges to marry his daughter Aksah to the man that attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher. This seems a little weird to barter one’s own family member as wages for a warrior. Daughters were, however, a common currency in those days and often used as a bartering tool in negotiations between embattled kings. However, Israel did not practice such customs but now they were being influenced by their neighbours and making similar deals as them. Unfortunately, using his daughter as a bartering tool is not the worst thing that a father does to his daughter in this book.

Othniel, the first Judge of Israel takes up the challenge and in return gets to marry his cousin Aksah, making him the son-in-law of the present leader of Israel. Caleb even shows favouritism to the new couple by allotting them additional land that was in a prime location next to water springs. God gave the Israelites clear lines of divisions of the land that they were to occupy, and Caleb’s modification of that as his daughter’s bequest sees a pattern of ignorance of the covenant of God that only get worse as we proceed in this book.

Ignorance of God’s Covenant

While some of the tribes like Judah and Joseph annihilated the former inhabitants of their territories, the rest of the tribes decided to live in harmony with the current occupants of their land. They not only shared the land with them but started mingling with them both physically and spiritually, thus ignoring the covenant they had made with God to drive out the locals from the land that was promised to them and be faithful to Yahweh alone.

The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars. ’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

Judges 2:1-3 (NIV)

There are times in the Bible when we see God conversing with His people through an object (the burning bush) or in person (meeting Abraham at his tent) or through His presence. But we see angels of God being the frequent messengers in the old testament to bring His word to His people. For us, we have God’s Spirit guiding our paths but in the Old Testament, as the psalmist writes, God’s word was the lamp unto their feet. In the absence of God’s Spirit, Spirit-filled leaders became the conduits between God and mankind but in the absence of these leaders, God sent His angels to deliver His word.

Even after hearing the message that the angel of the Lord brought to them at Bokim, the people continued on the same path to destruction, turning their backs on the One who rescued them when they had no one to help them. They remained in their coexistence with the pagan world around them and adopted their idols as their gods. It would seem too cruel for God to ask them to leave their families but their union was without God’s consent.

If a person betrays their partner and has another secret family when they are caught and want to repent, they either leave their other family or bring their two families together and try to live harmoniously. But when it comes to God, neither do we want to leave our friends and families, nor do we make any effort to introduce them to God, who is our original family. Because our hearts long for human connection, we are ready to abandon our relationship with God to pursue new relationships with the people of this world. What we do not realise is that just like the Israelites, we will fail miserably without His guiding hand leading our ways.

Just like the Israelites, we too cried out to Him to save us from the sinking sand that we find ourselves in and He obliged and sent His Son as an ultimate Judge to fight for us and lead us back to Him. Let us not enter the vicious cycle of sins and redemption but use the help of Jesus to find our way back to our LORD.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Judah have to go first to capture the cities?
  • Why did some tribes drive out the locals while some wanted to co-exist with the natives?
  • When does God converse with His people through angels?
  • After hearing the message that God sent through His angel, did the people truly repent from their ways?
  • How can a whole generation grow up not knowing about the LORD and His grace towards them?
  • Is God always for us or only when we obey Him?
  • Why did the Israelites need a leader to keep them from turning away from God?


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.