The Book of Judges

Once again my daily Bible-reading program has brought me around to Judges, and through it. I don’t know how many times I’ll have to revisit it before I can truly say I understand it.

There are a lot of stories in Judges that really aren’t very nice: the book is a history, so that’s what we should expect. Ehud smuggles a weapon in to a private audience with the king of Moab, and assassinates him. Sisera takes refuge in Jael‘s tent, and after she lulls him to sleep, she drives a tent-spike through his head. The tyrant Abimelech murders his brothers, puts down a rebellion, and comes to a shameful and violent end. We read of the tragedies of Samson and Jephthah.

And then at the end come two truly awful stories. A man named Micah steals his mother’s silver, then restores it to her–so, naturally, they melt it down and make it into an idol! And of course a wandering Levite agrees to become their personal household priest, ministering to the idol. And sure enough, a big gang of Danites, seeking a new homeland, steal Micah’s graven and molten images, threaten to kill him if he tries to get them back, and the Levite is more than happy to go along with then and be their priest–complete with idols.

The last incident in the book tells the story of a gang-rape committed by the inhabitants of a town belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, and how all Israel went up against Benjamin. And Benjamin refused to surrender the guilty parties, and fought against all the 11 other tribes of Israel at once, and was almost made extinct.

Is any of this any way for God’s people to behave?

They must have known better. They had the Ten Commandments. The Ark of the Covenant was among them. Note: the actions of Ehud and Jael, although they may seem to us unsavory, are presented as righteous actions to deliver Israel from oppression. And Samson and Jephthah, while they had their faults, fought mightily against God’s enemies.

But what are we to make of these last two stories in the book?

Pray, ponder, and meditate…

5 comments on “The Book of Judges

  1. Lee, I have read through these accounts time and time again. I can not say I understand it any better, but I keep trying. There are many things I cannot understand with my little pea brain; such as David’s many wives, yet being a man after God’s own heart. To me, many wives is adultery, pure and simple, but in God’s eyes, there has to be another explanation. Nevertheless, Scripture is my most beloved earthly possession, and with all the questions, I do receive amazing new insights each time I read through. I have seen the meaning of some pretty confusing words simply by asking the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and understanding.

    1. David’s polygamy, I think, is comparable to slavery: something that the Bible recognizes as existing in this fallen world, but in the end does not endorse. We can see that no good came of it: viz. the stories of David and Absalom, and Solomon and his brother, Adonijah. Also, Jacob, another man blessed by God, had two wives, plus their two handmaids, got at least 13 children by them–and the results included the crime of Joseph’s brothers, and the rape of Dinah and the destruction of Shechem by her brothers. And yet out of all these evil doings, God at length brought good (“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”), as the Lord forces even sin into His service.

    2. Exactly true. The reports are there for our learning. Some things the patriarchs did were wonderful, some were horrible, and we can see recorded there what the outcome was. This shows we are able to be forgiven, but it does not erase the price we will pay for our mistakes.

  2. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:10) Of course, only God. Men ALWAYS think there is no evil in them. Someone may say, “I don’t do anything wrong!” But let YOU do something to the THEM and see who doesn’t know about sin!

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