Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Judges - "Designer Religion"|
Judges, in many ways, is a difficult book in that things are constantly going wrong and Israel go away from the Lord! In this respect it is quite dark. To help you get an overview and make sense of what happens we show an overview of these studies here:
Because, as we've said, this is a dark book, to catch a full sense of just what is taking place, and because some of the studies cover a large portion of Scripture, in the Recaps we will give very detailed breakdowns of the areas covered. In this way we hope you will be able to see much more clearly the history covered by this book and the spiritual lessons to be learnt from it.
Note : Chronology
The following are the periods mentioned in the book:
Taking the figures shown, we see that
Note: GEOGRAPHY of Judges 1-3
Because of the nature of the book, it is important that we note known places that are mentioned as follows (omitting places of unknown location):
From these references we can see that most of the activity recorded in the first chapter covers the Southern part of the country. References to places in the north and west simply indicate prime areas where the occupants managed to remain unchallenged.
Note: Introduction to Judges
The Context of Judges
In the back half of the previous book, the book of Joshua, Israel have entered the Promised Land but large amounts of the land had remained untaken (Josh 13:1) and the Israelites seemed unable to dislodge the inhabitants (e.g. Josh 15:63, 16:10, 17:13). At the end of that book, Joshua dies with the land still largely unsettled. Yet up to his generation the people mostly followed the Lord. This will change and forms much of the reason for what happens in Judges.
Following Judges comes 1 Samuel, and Samuel, of course, was the last of the judges before Saul is made king. There is a direct link in this respect at least between Judges and 1 Samuel.
Overlap with Joshua
There are parallels in chapter one which should be noted and which you may wish to look up:
As seen from the overview above, 1:1 – 3:6 have a different style to the rest of the book and appears more as an prologue setting the framework for what then follows.
The Regular Cycle
What we'll see is this cycle of Israel turning away from the Lord, coming under oppression from the enemy, calling on the Lord, and being delivered. Although this did happen many times later in Israel 's history, this is seen more clearly in this book than anywhere else in Scripture.
In this first part we will see the conquest of southern Canaan, together with an acknowledgement of the areas they were unable to take (chapter 1), followed by the chastising of the nation by the angel of the Lord, the death of Joshua and then the falling away of the next generation, with a description of the decline and fall cycle (chapter 2) and the testing of Israel by the inhabitants (2:20-3:6), These chapters provide the setting for the rest of the book
Chapter: Jud 1
Passage: Jud 1:1-15
A. Find Out :
1. Which tribe was to lead the fighting? v.1,2
2. Who take they take as partners in battle? v.3
3. Against who was their first battle and how did they fare? v.4-7
4. Where did they also take and what did they do to it? v.8
5. Which areas did they next clear? v.9-11
6. What happened with Caleb? v.12-15
1. How is this largely a story of wide sweeping history?
2. Yet how are there small detail stories also included?
Moses and Joshua have died and the people are in the Land. It is now a time to go through the land cleaning it up and removing the old inhabitants still there. Israel ask the Lord (a good sign of their spiritual health at that moment) who should deal with the Canaanites. The Lord calls Judah to do it and they ask Simeon to go along with them (v.3). Fellowship in battle is a good thing! Thus the cleaning up process starts.
Their first clearing up operation was at Bezek, a place of present unknown location, where they inflicted a large number of casualties. The leader's name of the Canaanites, Adoni-Bezek means ‘lord of Bezek' which would lead us to assume Bezek was a town or area over which he ruled. Cutting off thumbs and big toes was a common practice to humiliate and disable the person, to render their movement very difficult and make them subservient. They then proceed to clear the south and south west. The strategy is clear.
In the midst of this is a small incident recorded of Caleb (Joshua's old partner) who offers his daughter in marriage to the most valiant of the warriors. It turns out to be one of her cousins, Othniel. He prompts her (see NIV page note) to also ask for a tract of land to farm and then further for land that has water. It's a nice little example of young people who look to the future and take the present opportunities to get established in acts of faith (this is now our land!).
1. Our fight today is against spiritual forces (see (Eph 6).
2. Do we look to extend and establish God's kingdom today?
Chapter: Jud 1/2
Passage: Jud 1:16 - 2:5
A. Find Out:
1. Make a chart and identify how each tribe succeeded in clearing the land as follows:
2. What did the Lord say Israel had done? v.2
3. So what did He say would happen? v.3
4. How did Israel respond? v.4,5
The history of Israel within the book of Judges is not always glorious – in fact it rarely is, and this is the starting point of this inglorious period in their history (and it doesn't get much better later on!) At the outset they were told by the Lord to sweep the land clean, yet, by this time, this had still not happened.
When they first entered the land the fear of the Lord had been with them and if they had wholeheartedly cleaned out the inhabitants that would have been done then. But they hadn't and so now there is a mopping-up operation under way and it doesn't go well. As a result, various groups of the inhabitants are well and truly lodged in position and no longer fear Israel and resist. As a result of this the Lord warns that they will be a perpetual thorn in the side of Israel.
What is the significance of this for us to day? Well we have a spiritual enemy, Sin, and we're told to put it to death (Rom 6:11 ,12, Col 3:5-8). When we came to Christ we moved into a completely different kingdom, one free from sin ( Col 1:13 , 1 Jn 1:5, 2:1). However if we permit old sinful habits to remain in our lives we have not obeyed the Lord and those things will be a thorn in our side. We will forever be crying out to the Lord for help. It's all a matter of commitment to obedience – total obedience, not partial.
Chapter: Jud 2
Passage: Jud 2:6-19
A. Find Out:
1. What was Israel 's relationship with the Lord in Joshua's time? v.7
2. What happened after Joshua died? v.8-13
3. What did the Lord do? v.14,15
4. How did the Lord help Israel ? v.16,18
5. Yet what did Israel do? v.17,19
1. How is the sinfulness of mankind exhibited in these verses?
2. Yet how is the grace of God still seen?
3. What was the cycle observed?
These verses are overall summary verses that really put all that happens, as recorded in Judges, in context. To start with, in Joshua's lifetime, Israel still have a relationship with the Lord. Joshua's leadership and, no doubt, the recent activities of coming into the Land after leaving their wilderness wanderings, all help maintain Israel in that relationship. If we thought being a special chosen people would make them automatically holy, then the book of Judges shows us that that is far from the truth. The sinfulness of mankind is as strong in this people as in any. It is shown by their stupidity in turning away from the Lord. He had delivered them, led them, provided for them, made them a nation and blessed them, yet still they forget all of this and turn to the ways of the people of that land, and worship idols. How crazy!
So, because the Lord loves them, He disciplines them (Heb 12:6). In Rom 1:24 ,26,28 we see that the Lord “gave over” the people to their wishes and the sense is that He withdrew His restraining hand. Whether that is what happens here or He specifically puts attack in the minds of Israel 's enemies and makes them feel good, isn't clear. What is clear is that every time Israel turn from God, they suffer. Every time, we will see, they cried out to the Lord, He gave them godly judges to lead them and they were restored. We will see this cycle again and again: godliness – apostasy – defeat – crying out – judges appointed – victory.
1. The Lord is a refuge (Psa 7:1). With Him there is safety.
2. On our own we are vulnerable to the enemy.
Chapter: Jud 2/3
Passage: Jud 2:20 - 3:6
A. Find Out:
1. How did the Lord feel and why? v.20
2. What did He say He would do? v.21
3. Who was He doing this for? v.1,2
4. Who were the inhabitants left? v.3,5
5. What did Israel do with them? v.6
1. How was the Lord going to use Israel 's failure for His purposes?
2. What should that do for them?
3. Yet how did they continue to fail?
We see within this passage the Lord's thinking, faced with Israel 's failure to be wholehearted in clearing the occupants of the land out. Very well, He says, I will make use of the present situation in two quite specific ways!
The first way was that He would use the presence of the existing pagan occupants as a check against the Israelites. In other words the presence of temptation and their response to it would act as a clear and visible sign as to the ongoing state of heart of this ‘people of God'. This is similar to God's telling Adam and Eve not to eat of one particular tree among many in Eden (Gen 2:16 ,17). The sign of their ongoing faithfulness would be their obedience to this one restriction. For Israel , it would be don't go to join themselves to the pagans.
The second way He would use these circumstances, was to train the present Israel in the art of war. The fact was that, because they had left these people in the land, they would find in the days to come that these people would fight against them and oppress them and they would have to learn to fight to survive. We too, today, have to learn to fight against Sin, against the temptations that come before us, against Satan. All of these things come as a threat to our position and we have to learn to stand against them. Christianity is not passive; it is outward going and as such attracts the attacks of the enemy. There is a very real battle.
1. We are called to stand against Sin and Satan.
2. As we stand against the enemy, we are strengthened.
RECAP - "Prologue" - Judges 1 - 3
In this first group of 4 studies we have seen :
Israel seeking to clear the land and failing! 1:1-36
- Judah given the lead & take the Simeonites along (1:1-3)
- Judah 's victory at Bezek (1:4-7)
- Judah take Jerusalem and the south (1:8-11)
- Caleb's daughter (1:12 -15)
- The Kenites settle in the south (1:16)
- Judah & Simeon take the south and east (1:17 -20)
- Benjamin's failure (1:21)
- Joseph take Bethel (1:22 -26)
- Failure of Manasseh (1:27,28), Ephraim (1:29), Zebulun
(1:30), Asher (1:31,32), Naphtali (1:33) & the power of the
Amorites (1:34 -36)
Israel chastised for their failures 2:1-5
- God's angel reminds them of the Covenant (2:1,2a)
As noted previously, we have provided an extended breakdown of the chapters covered by the studies because it shows more clearly than the studies themselves, the overall pattern of life in this period.
Chapter 1 showed the successes and failures of specific tribes in clearing the land. In the beginning of chapter 2 we see the Lord's rebuke of Israel for having failed to clear the inhabitants out of the Land. The remainder of chapter 2 gives a general overview of really what is covered in the rest of the book, the cycle of failure: Israel fall away from the Lord, the Lord gives them over to their enemies to discipline them, until they cry out to Him, when He raises up a ‘judge' to act as their leader and deliverer. For a period they have peace but as soon as the judge dies, Israel fall away again and turn back to idols and the cycle is repeated. In all this the Lord says He will no longer act to drive out the inhabitants but will leave them in the land to act as provokers of Israel, to test Israel, to reveal their hearts, and to teach them to battle against the enemy. The beginning of chapter 3 categorises the kings and nations left in the land that the Lord uses to do this.
1. Our fight is against spiritual forces.
2. Failure to fully deal with the enemy in our lives means that we will remain vulnerable to
the enemy and we will have constant defeat while the Lord teaches us to fight.
3. We either fight and overcome, or we get oppressed.
4. We have to learn to turn to the Lord to be victors.
Ask the Lord to open your spiritual eyes to see the reality of the battle. Ask Him to show you any areas where you are submitting to the enemy and ask for His power and grace to triumph over those areas.
PART 2 : "The First Four Judges"
In this next Part we will see how that which was generally explained in chapter 2 worked out in practice, with the first four judges that the Lord raised up to deliver the fallen people when they cried out to Him.