Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Judges - "Designer Religion"|
Chapter: Jud 9
Passage: Jud 9:1-21
A. Find Out:
1. Who did Abimelech go to and what did he suggest? v.1,2
2. How did they respond and what happened? v.3-5
3. What did the people go to do but what did Jotham do? v.6,7
4. As what bush did he picture Abimelech? v.8-15
5. What conditions did he put on their blessing? v.16-19
6. If they failed that test, what curse did he lay on them? v.20
1. How did Abimelech act unrighteously?
2. How did Jotham act well?
3. How was Abimelech different from all the judges before him?
Israel are in a bad way. They have turned from the Lord and they have turned from Gideon. He appears to have been unwise in terms of the number of wives and concubine that he had and the present story is part of the fruit of that! Abimelech is the son of Gideon's concubine and as such,. he feels separate from the rest of the sons. He goes to his uncles in Shechem and suggests a rebellion, the end result of which is that all the other brothers, except one, are murdered. Now observe even more Israel's folly they go to make Abimelech king! King? Who said there should be kings in Israel? So far God had raised up judges for them, but there is no mention of the Lord in all this. This is simply an unrighteous and ungodly act by these people. One sin on another!
But the one survivor of the sons, Jotham, doesn't take this lying down. He goes to a high place and denounces the folly of these people. He pictures the trees going to ask one of them to be king over them. He pictures three fruitful trees declining this offer because they see it is a foolish offer that would stop them being what they were called to be. The only one left was an unfruitful, harsh thorn bush. That's Abimelech. If you can say you've acted righteously, he says, then may he bless you. But if you haven't then may he destroy you and be destroyed. He thus invokes a curse upon them and they deserve it!
1. God gifts us and calls us. We are foolish to go beyond that.
2. Unrighteousness means merely create an unrighteous end. Beware.
Chapter: Jud 9
Passage: Jud 9:22-57
A. Find Out:
1. What did God do and why, that explains what follows? v.22-24
2. What was the first sign of this? v.25
3. Who then came and did what? v.26-29
4. What did this result in? v.30-41
5. What then followed? v.42-49
6. Where did Abimelech next go, and with what consequence? v.50-55
7. How does the summary clearly show what had happened? v.56,57
1. What was the ultimate end of God's act of judgement here?
2. How spiritually did He achieve that?
3. How was that worked out in human lives?
Abimelech and the people of Shechem have sinned and God is going to do something about that. Understanding what took place means we come to understand a completely new dimension to the spiritual world and how it impinges on the material world.
We're told that the Lord sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the people of Shechem. The Bible shows us that the Lord uses Satan as a tool of judgement or an instrument in bringing discipline (1 Cor 5:5) and similarly He allows evil spirits to have access to unbelievers (see also 1 Kings 22:19-23) to bring about the same thing. Now the two parties concerned already have sinful attitudes and so the Lord simply releases an evil spirit to stir up their already bad attitudes.
The first sign of this happening is the people of Shechem abusing the rule of law under Abimelech (v.25). This is then followed by a troublesome outsider coming into Shechem who appears to have been welcomed by most of the people there. News of this comes to Abimelech and he attacks and destroys the city. Judgement, phase one complete! He then goes on to the next town to do the same thing, exerting his rule and is killed. Judgment, phase two complete! The Lord thus allows ungodly attitudes to be stirred so that ungodly people kill ungodly people. Problem over!
1. We tend to be casual about sin. God isn't!
2. We excuse sin. God judges it!
Chapter: Jud 10
Passage: Jud 10:1-18
A. Find Out:
1. What are we told about Tola and Jair? v.1-5
2. What happened after them? v.6
3. What did the Lord do? v.7-9
4. What did Israel do after how long? v.10
5. What was the Lord's response? v.11-14
6. But what did Israel reply and what did they do, and why? v.15-18
1. How is the cycle' seen again here?
2. How is the Lord's response different this time?
3. Why do you think that was? What result did it produce?
Large periods of time are covered by these accounts. The whole of this passage covers a period of sixty three years. Forty five years of that seem to have been uneventful under two leaders. After them the cycle starts all over again. Israel fall away from the Lord and so the Lord, either purposefully, or simply by lifting away His hand of protection, brings Israel under the oppression of their neighbours again. This lasts for eighteen years, until eventually they cry out to the Lord again for help. Help from God isn't automatic; it is conditional upon repentance. Yes there are times when the Lord sees that simply His loving grace will bring about change of lifestyle, but mostly He calls for repentance first. His word to them in this case seems somewhat harsh at first sight, for He seems to refuse help and simply says go and get help from the gods you've been worshipping. But this is His way of further confronting His people with their need to repent of their wrongs.
This they do. They come with a right attitude: we have sinned. They came with right actions: they got rid of their foreign gods. Attitude change is proved to be true by the actions that follow. The Lord then responds and (implied) stirs up Israel to rise up against the enemy. Whoever leads this revolt, they see, will be our next leader. We'll have to see how that works out to see if that is wise.
1. Repentance means heart AND deeds.
2. Being sorry is not enough. God requires life change.
Chapter: Jud 11
Passage: Jud 11:1-40
A. Find Out:
1. What was Jephthah's background? v.1-3
2. What agreement did he come to with the elders? v.4-11
3. What did he say to the Ammonite king? v.12-28
4. What then happened to him? v.29
5. What vow did he subsequently make? v.30-31
6. What was the outcome? v.32-40
1. How was Jephthah chosen as leader?
2. What was God's part in it?
3. How did Jephthah show his foolishness?
This is a strange story. The leaders have decided to rebel against the invader and look for a leader. The man who stands out most is a man who has been previously ostracised because of his family background. This probably means he is also a man with a grudge.
Anyway, he accept the leadership conditions and so communicates with the Ammonite king who was oppressing Israel and, when the king speaks about their history, he reminds him what had happened when Israel had come to the land, but the king is not responsive. It looks like force is the only answer to oppose these invaders and it is at this point that the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jephthah to energise him to rise up determinedly against the enemy.
In this state of strength, Jephthah reveals his true nature: he bargains with God. He doesn't need to because it is God's will to triumph over the enemy; that's why He sent His Spirit upon Jephthah, but Jephthah, although knowing their history has an insecure background and feels he needs to bribe God to give victory. His daughter becomes the object of his stupid vow and what makes it worse, he sacrifices her eventually to fulfil the vow. Making foolish vows is foolish, but honouring foolish vows is even more foolish. God doesn't want this girl's life! Breaking the vow may be sin, but that's what sacrifices covered!
1. We never need to bribe God. It doesn't work!
2. We simply need to bring our understanding in line with God's will.
Chapter: Jud 12
Passage: Jud 12:1-15
A. Find Out:
1. Who objected to Jephthah's actions? v.1
2. What was his response? v.2,3
3. What then ensued? v.4
4. How did they check people at the river crossing? v.5,6
5. How much longer did Jephthah lead Israel ? v.7
6. Who followed him? v.8,11,13
There had been a half hearted turning back to the Lord in this period (10:15,16) and the people (rather than God) had raised up a leader to deliver them. They had chosen well and badly. Well, in that he did the job, but badly in that he had a bad background a robber-bandit. He did triumph over the Ammonites (11:31,32) and the Lord had been in it (11:29,32), yet he had been foolish in trying to buy God's approval (11:30,31) with tragic consequences. Peace had always been a sign of God's blessing on Israel and the absence of it now, is an indication that that blessing is missing. Sacrificing his daughter did not bless God.
The dissent that now arises comes from a familiar quarter. Gilead was to the east of the Jordan abutting the land of the Ammonites and Ephraim was the large tribe to the west of the Jordan in central Israel . Perhaps because of their centrality they felt superior and criticised Jephthah for not having involved them in the defence. Jephthah is not a diplomat like Gideon had been and rebuts their arguments and the result is a war between the two. Taking control of the river crossing at the Jordan , they use the different dialect of the Ephraimites to reveal who was trying to cross and killed and stopped access. Thus Jephthah prevailed and continued to rule. Not a happy time though! Three more judges of little consequence follow him. An uneventful time!
RECAP - "Downturn" - Judges 9-12
In this fourth group of 5 studies we have seen:
- Abimelech's bid for leadership (9:1-4)
- He kills his brothers, but Jotham escapes (9:5)
- The people of Shechem crown him as king (9:6)
- Jotham's parable against Abimelech (9:7-15)
- Jotham challenges them to face the truth (9:16-21)
- God causes upset between Shechem & Abimelech (9:22-33)
- Abimelech attacks & destroys Shechem (9:34-49)
- He attacks Thebez but is killed (9:50-57)
- Tola leads for 23 years (10:1,2)
- Jair leads for 22 years
Jephthah 10:6 12:7
- Israel turns to idols and are oppressed by Ammon (10:6-9)
- Israel cry out to the Lord ( 10:10 )
- The Lord refuses their repentance as unreal (10:11-14)
- They cry further & get rid of the idols (10:15,16)
- The Ammonites come & Israel 's leaders worry (10:17,18)
- Jephthah's history (11:1-3)
- Israel 's leaders call Jephthah to be leader (11:4-11)
- Jephthah questions the Ammonite king (11:12-13)
- Jephthah reminds him of Israel 's history (11:14-27)
- The king rejects him (11:28)
- The Spirit empowers him and he advances (11.29)
- He makes a foolish vow (11:30,31)
- After victory he sacrifices his daughter (11:32-40)
- Civil war (12:1-7)
Ibzan Elon & Abdon 12:8-15
- Rules of 7,10 & 8 years respectively
After Gideon's largely glorious story, Abimelech comes as a complete contrast. It is a story of unrighteousness and ungodliness and God's activities in it are not to bless but to judge. Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon & Abdon are virtual nonentities according to the recorder who hardly gives them a mention. Jephthah on the other hand, is completely different. His story starts with Israel 's idolatry again! They eventually cry to the Lord but it is clearly half-hearted because they have not yet got rid of the idols. The Lord, presumably through a prophet, chides them and refuses to respond to such half-hearted repentance. This produces further, deeper response from them.
When the enemy come against them, Israel look around for a commander and Jephthah is the best. Note, unlike some of the earlier judges, he is not raised up by God; he the choice of the desperate leaders of Israel. He opposes the Ammonite king and reminds him of who he is dealing with. This cuts little ice with the pagan. Once Jephthah has testified to the Lord, the Lord steps in and empowers him so that he rises up to fight Ammon. However, sadly he is insecure and really has no relationship with the Lord and so tries bribing Him! When he has success he foolishly sacrifices his daughter. In his mind God is more like one of the pagan gods who accept human sacrifice. We're not given a reason for it, but immediately after civil war breaks out. Is it coincidence? Not likely.
This has been a highly unstable time of unrighteous behaviour from all sides. Israel 's repentance has been half-hearted and the Lord seems loathe to intervene. Not a good time!
1. An unrighteous life brings an unrighteous end.
2. It's people who achieve things who are remembered in history.
3. Sin brings God's judgement. Only true repentance changes that.
4. A testimony to God's goodness needs a righteous life to go with it.
5. Reliance on the Lord is the only way to true success.
Ask the Lord to bring you into a true place of complete security with Him whereby you never feel you have to bribe Him for His love.
PART 5 : "Samson"
In this next Part we move on to the second detailed section of the book. The previous one showed God's acts through a man who thought himself small. In this part see the Lord's activity with a man who is simply concerned to satisfy his sensual desires. Note in passing, WHY the Lord uses him, i.e. the state of Israel at that time.