Last time in the study, we covered the beginning verses of chapter 2. Chapter 1 and the first 5 verses of chapter 2 give the background for the rest of the book. Beginning in 2:6, though, we start to see a summation of the trials and tribulations of ancient Israel during the time of the judges. However, the trials and tribulations were a result of their own actions.
In this summation, we see lack of leadership for the most part, but we also see a lack of zeal for God’s ways and initiative in taking personal responsibility in carrying out His commands. After Joshua died and all that generation died, we see “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD” (v 10). This is similar to a Pharaoh in Egypt arising that did not know Joseph. So, that begs the question of whether it was really “forgetting” or an active desire to be ignorant. This also hearkens to a real failure of what God commanded earlier:
6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
~ Dt 6:6-7
This is particularly brought home when we read they not only “forgot” God, but also “the works which He had done for Israel.” They “forgot” about the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna in the desert and the sun standing still, not to mention the land they were given.
They had lived under two rulers, one at a time, for about 80 years, it would appear. They spent 40 years in the wilderness under Moses. The Talmud states Joshua led Israel for 40 years. Since he died at 110, it actually could have been longer.
After Joshua’s death, then, we start to see a vacuum of control. External and internal constraints become relaxed and then nonexistent.
This presents a problem for those who favor the “one man” in charge theory. Why didn’t Joshua appoint a successor if there was supposed to be one man in charge?
Instead, we see a cycle of apostasy, followed by the people crying out to God, God raising up a judge and then deliverance. After that judge dies, the cycle repeats.
Even at that, the judge didn’t necessarily judge all of Israel. In fact, some of the judges were contemporaries judging in different regions of Israel. If God intended one judge or one man to rule all of Israel, then we wouldn’t see that, either. Pointing to the OT for “one man” rule does not pan out.
Later, we will see that the priesthood is still in existence, which in itself presents a dilemna. If “one man” is to rule, how can you have a judge and a high priest both ruling? Later, how can you have a king and a high priest both in power? The answer is the division of labor. The roles of priest and king were separate, and they aren’t to be united as one role until Christ comes again. He, as Melchisedec (Heb 7:1), alone qualifies for both positions (Cf Zec 6:13). His imputed righteousness extends to us to become kings and priests after the resurrection (Rev 5:10).
When blessing the twelve tribes of Israel, Jacob stated “the sceptre shall not depart from Judah” (Ge 49:10), which indicated eventually the royal line would come from that tribe. When God established the earthly priesthood, however, He chose the tribe of Levi (Ex 28:3-4). This division of labor continued in some fashion until the fall of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians. After that, the royal daughters were taken to Ireland to continue the royal line according to the Davidic covenant. The Levites, however, were taken captive and most would have wound up in Babylon or killed. The civil government was overtaken by empires that rose and fall in the region.
The external pressures that the people eventually asked for, a human king, didn’t work. Change has to come from the inside. God’s government in the human realm starts with the individual submitting him or herself to God the Father and Jesus the Christ.
The people continually went into captivity because “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers” (vv 11-12). God was their king. When they forsook Him they forsook His rule. They were rebelling against their King.
So, why did God allow all the chaos? God doesn’t force compliance with His Laws by making people puppets on a string. However, Israel did suffer for their sins because God repeatedly withdrew His blessings for their continued disobedience. In some cases, He was actively involved in bringing captivity upon them, punishing the nation for their sins. Yet, there were more years of peace than not, showing God’s patience and mercy at work.
However, “the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel” (v 14) on many occasions. Literally, it “burned” against them.
Some people believe that anger is sin. Anger is an emotion. Like other emotions, it is a natural reaction. However, uncontrolled anger can lead to sin. We are admonished to “be ye angry and sin not” (Ep 4:26).
Jesus became so angry that he made a whip and ran livestock and merchants out of the Temple. Yet, Jesus was without sin.
In His anger, He “delivered them into the hands of their spoilers” and even “sold them into the hands of their enemies” (v 14). The first can be somewhat passive, but the latter definitely requires action.
Afterwards, He would raise up judges to deliver them. Yet, after deliverance, they would once again rebel and turn to idolatry. It is written as though the rebellion would start even immediately after deliverance (v 17), yet it wouldn’t become full-blown until after the death of that judge (v 19). It would then repeat with God’s anger being “hot” (v 20).
Chapter 2 ends with this:
20And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;
21I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:
22That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.
23Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.
Chapter 3 starts with:
1Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;
2Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;
3Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
4And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
Some skeptics view these verses as a contradiction. God chose to prove Israel by the nations surrounding them by war. Why? “Only that … Israel might know, to teach them war.” So, some say this contradicts the previous chapter where God says He will prove Israel “whether they will keep the way of the LORD … or not.” So, if it only was to teach them war, then how can it also be to see if they will keep the way of God or not?
This honestly is one of the easiest “difficult Scriptures” out there. The what He was proving was whether they would keep in His ways or not. The how was through war.
Why would God go to all this trouble if later on He was just going to do away with the requirements to keep any of the physical laws anyhow? Stop and ponder how many denominations out there don’t keep the ways of God, as though God doesn’t care at all about a Law He once went to great trouble to teach a people for centuries.