Introduction to the Book of Judges, Part 2

In Part 1, I gave an overview of the Book of Judges, and I pointed out that Samuel is usually credited with compiling it, Ruth and 1 Samuel.  I pointed out that it is “historical” in that it is a narrative of events that occurred in Israel in the early days.  However, the ancients did not always write things in chronological order, and so there are debates about the timing of many of these events.  I also point out there are two major sections, and the second half is the one that contains the phrase “in those days there was no king in Israel”.
However, when Israel begged for a human king, it “displeased Samuel” (1Sa 8:6).  So, how to reconcile the reason being given for some horrendous events as “there was no king in Israel” with asking for a human king being a thing that “displeased Samuel”?

What Samuel Understood

It is apparent that Samuel understood something that the people did not.  God is in charge.  However, I don’t mean how we sometimes today talk about God being in charge, sitting up in Heaven and distantly observing events.  No, God was King over Israel!

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
~ 1Sa 8:7

God was their King.  However, did the people really understand what that means?

How Does God Reign?

If God was king though, then why did He permit all the wicked behavior we see in the Book of Judges?  I mean, that’s a valid question, is it not?  If God is supreme, then why allow all the sin, chaos and confusion?
To answer that, we also need to ask, “Has God changed, or has He always ruled this way?”  Let’s rewind back to the beginning to find the answer.

15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
~ Ge 2:15-17

We know this story, don’t we?  God instructed Adam and Eve to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but they disobeyed, didn’t they?  God gave them free will, and He allowed them to make their own choices and experience the consequences.
God didn’t create puppets.  He gave mankind a mind to think and reason with and a heart to feel with.  It has been said that in order to allow mankind to love, God had to give Adam and Eve free will.  Love is a choice, after all.  While computers might be very interesting and can take on human appearances, they are really just appearances.  Likewise, God didn’t program Adam and Eve for canned responses.  For them to love even as He loves (being made in the image of God), He had to allow them the choice to reject God.
And, reject God they did.  And, so did Israel by demanding a human king.
However, up until that time, God was their King.  We know this to be a time period greater than 300 years (S, Jdg 11:26).  How did God reign during that time?
He reigned as He always has!  He hasn’t removed free will from humanity then or now.  You either choose to obey Him or not.  God gave His Law so that things would go well with Israel.  He wanted them to choose what would have been best for them.

19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
~ Dt 30:19

However, God has set things up so that consequences naturally occur in most cases.  Obviously, people find a way to delay consequences often – for a while, that is.  Sooner or later, though, those consequences do occur.  When you break the Law, it breaks you!
That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t step in from time to time.  However, the way He deals with most people most of the time is to allow them to suffer the consequences of their own sins or enjoy the rewards of their righteous behavior.


The problem becomes when people are deceived into believing evil is good and good is evil, no matter what the evidence suggests or the Bible commands.  That’s why true knowledge must be revealed.  It isn’t something we are born with.  It isn’t something we are taught in school.  Even when confronted with it, the average person is too blind to see it.  That is why so few can find the way.

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
~ Mt 7:13-14

Jesus Himself said no one can come to Him unless that person has been called out.

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
~ Jn 6:44

In Part 1, I pointed to how some view this period as “a terrible demonstration of the moral depravity of man”.  This is summed up in the refrain “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”  We are told that twice in the Book of Judges.

Deception About Freedom

Most view “freedom” in a very different way than the Bible does.  Some do view it as doing “that which is right in his own eyes”.  However, that’s picking the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  That is living by experimentation and finding out what works and what doesn’t instead of revealed knowledge from God.
On the whole, I doubt people can handle freedom.  God gave Israel freedom.  They rebelled and wanted to return to Egypt.  God reigned over them with a free hand.  They wanted a king.  I’d dare say that many in the Churches of God today are given freedom as well, but they want a king as well.
Paul talks a lot about freedom, though.  Usually, he is talking about being “freed from sin” (Ro 6:7).  Egypt was a type for the world of sin, and Pharaoh was a type for the world’s ruler, Satan.  However, there are two kingdoms, each opposing the other.  To be free from one is to be a slave to the other.  Paul said to be free from sin and “become servants to God” (Ro 6:22).
Simply put, God gives us His “perfect law of liberty” (Jas 1:25).  We can view this as a narrow and restrictive road, or we can look at the lines on the road and understand how much room we really have and how the lines are put there for our safety and to keep from harming others.  Within those lines, we can maneuver however we wish!

God Wants Willing Obedience

Compare and contrast to make the point even clearer: Sometimes, agnostics will question why God gives us free will and why not take the evil desires away.  In reality, He does, but we must first understand our role in breaking His Law and hurting ourselves and others.  We must then commit ourselves willingly to Him.  Then, He gives us His Holy Spirit, which provides us with the power to learn, grow and resist temptation.  The more we resist, the stronger we become until finally the evil desire is vanquished.
God doesn’t force us to follow Him without our consent.  That is the way of Satan.  It is his way that imprisons people, beats them into submission, lures them in with false promises and on occasion even possessing them.
Again, notice:  The Holy Spirit is given upon request.  Demon possession is forced upon an individual.  The first grants more freedom, as it is used to fight sin and evil.  The latter enslaves even more, to the point where people do what they do not wish to do any longer.

When Self-Control Is Lacking

God’s way requires self-control (a fruit of the Spirit, BTW).  However, most of mankind exercises little in the way of self-control.  In order to deal with that and not allow man’s corruptible nature to descend too fast into chaos, He instituted a way of exerting outside pressure to conform.  That is, God instituted government.

13 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
~ Ro 13:1-4

What Was Samuel’s Message?

So, what did Samuel mean by “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes”?
Putting it all together, there was no king in Israel to exert external control upon the population.  There was no self-control, either.  Chaos was the result.
We can argue about forms of government all we want, but in the end, God wants us to prove we can govern ourselves before He will allow us to govern others.  When we hold ourselves to a strict standard, God does not have to.
Go on to study on the Book of Judges, Chapter 1.

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