The Book Of Judges Part 2
Henry Steedman, Birmingham
The first clash of arms in the opening chapter is between Judah and the Canaanites. Israel presents their request to Jehovah, saying, “Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (chap. 1. 1, 2). The answer is given, “Judah shall go up; behold I have delivered the land into his hand” (comp. chap. 20. 18).
Judah accepts this but seems to feel unable to proceed alone. Their faith is simple yet they lean on the help of Simeon—a brother. How few can fight or even stand alone! God gave victory. The defeat and amputation of Adoni-bezek illustrates to all, the governmental principle of Gal. 6. 7, “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” So God requited him.
Judah takes Jerusalem, also fights in mountain and valley and in the south, and that victoriously. Hebron falls to them. The meanings of these names are very suggestive. Judah—“praise.” This should be foremost in all things. David placed the singers in the front (1 Chron. 15. 16). At times this took place in battle.
Hebron means “joined,” or “fellowship.” Here it is fought for and won. The normal Christian life cannot be lived apart from fellowship with God and His saints. So much is said about individuality. Where this pre-dominates and the fellowship of Christians in assembly worship, ministry and service not maintained, great loss ensues.
We see spiritual energy in Othniel, meaning the “Lion of God.” Othniel is closely related to Caleb= “follower” or “a dog.” How much spiritual strength is derived from following closely. This is prominent in the Gospels and it leads to the “Oracle “as is the meaning of “Debir.” When the Bible becomes the living voice of God to the soul.
Then follows Kirjath—sepher= “the city of the Book.” All administration is governed by the Book— the Word. “Affection” and “walk” come out of the name “Achsah,” meaning “anklet.” The “springs” suggest refreshment and testimony to others.
These would remind us of the Spirit in John 4 and 7 chaps. The springs which rise to God in worship and the springs which flow out in testimony to men. We will meet Othniel later in chap. 3. Strength and affection moved this man.
The armed movements of other tribes are attended with limited success. Judah limited God. God limited Judah. The refrain follows the other tribes— they did not drive out, and again, “neither did they drive out.” Even as v. 28 says, “And it came to pass when Israel was strong they did not utterly drive them out.” Their strength was small in the day of adversity and so they fainted. “They turned back in the day of battle.”
Note Benjamin, though pre-eminently warrior in character, did not dispossess the Jebusite. Both Judah and Benjamin came short relative to Jerusalem and the Jebusite. As for the Citadel it remained in the hands of the Jebusite until David’s day.
One thinks of the dislodgement of our spiritual foes in the heavenlies according to Eph. 6, also of such as we read of in Jude 4, who “crept in privily,” and again in Gal. 2. 4 we are told of “false brethren privily brought in, who came in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.” Closer still Acts 20 warns us against “grievous wolves entering in among us not sparing the flock.”
The unwalled flock of God may become, and at times does become the easy prey of the enemy. Let the shepherds watch and guard such as are His Own. Let us as soldiers of Christ Jesus do our work thoroughly and carry the battles of the Lord to the gates and oust these intruders.
Governmentally the Divine design in nations being thus left unconquered and unexpelled was, as chap. 3. 1 explains, that God would use them for the discipline of His people. The day will dawn, according to Zech. 14. 21, when the Canaanite, i.e., the merchantmen, the trafficker, shall be no more in the House of the Lord of hosts (see Deut. 7).
Thus our failures leave alive—very much alive!— the deadly instruments for our own chastisement at the hands of divine government. The battle axe must be laid to the roots of these Cedar foes.
A Divine Rebuke comes from Gilgal to Bochim in chap. 2. Gilgal was the base of conquest and success in the days of Joshua, Bochim marks the Book of Judges. Gilgal was the place of self-judgment, where God had been with His people, now they are in Bochim as “weepers.” They weep and cry, and even there sacrifice unto Jehovah, but there were no signs of real repentance. The warriors had failed in waging war, now they weep in weakness and distress. The better way is to be made strong out of weakness, to wax valiant in fight, and turn to flight the armies of the aliens. This is possible—as others did—through faith (Hebrews 11).
It is encouraging to read the selection given in Heb. 11 even from the Book of defeat and weeping. (See vv. 32- .) May I, in passing, draw your attention to v. 32 of Heb. 11 again, there we find Gideon, Barak (not here Deborah), Samson and Jepthah. The order is not chronological and many are unmentioned. The full record is on high. Still the very order would give us the comparative worth of each. So Gideon has first place over Barak and Samson in precedence of Jephthah. Barak=Weakness, and Jephthah=Rashness, seldom win the priority. Let us take heed to this.
Chap. 2. 11 onward to chap. 3. 8 records the sad forsaking of the Lord, idolatry and inter-marriage with the nations. No wonder that the anger of Jehovah was hot against such degradation. His oath, His hand were against them whithersoever they went, and they were greatly distressed, being now sold by God into servitude.
I am impressed—as many are—seeing the saints made merchandise of by false teachers full of “their own doings and their stubborn ways.” The Lord grant repentance and deliverance as He alone can do so. He does raise up deliverers to deliver out of the hands of the spoilers. God gave them Judges about the space of 450 years (Acts 13).
Surely God has not left the saints bereft of “gifts” and worthy, spiritual and competent guides to-day. Orally and by pen such men are seeking to give a lead and example to the saints and in assemblies.
It is for the Lord’s people to “remember them that had the rule over them, who spoke unto them the Word of God, inviting their faith.” “To obey them that have the rule over us and submit to them, for they watch for our souls” (Heb. 13). The call to separation from evil principles, places and persons is still being sounded, “Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good.” Beware of this present evil world.
How often do we read, “The people did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord.” The daring effrontery and repetition of those evils was met by God chastening and scourging His people until they cried unto the Lord. Consider His unwearied love in faithfulness. He so often heard and raised up men prepared by Him to meet the need.
We too must take heed lest we find ourselves slipping away from the things which we have heard and confessed.
I close this article with the lists of Servitudes, Respites and the Judges given of God:—
Judges 3. 8 for 8 years.
Judges 3. 14 for 18 years.
Judges 4. 3 for 20 years.
Judges 6. 1 for 7 years.
Judges 10. 8 for 18 years.
Judges 13. 1 for 40 years.
Judges 3. 11 for 40 years.
Judges 3. 30 for 80 years.
Judges 5. 31 for 40 years.
Judges 8. 28 for 40 years.
Othniel .. .. Ch. 3.
Ehud .. .. Ch. 3.
Shamgar .. .. Ch. 3.
Abdon 8 years .. Ch. 12.
Samson 40 years .. Chs. 13, 16.
Deborah with Barak Chs. 4, 5.
Gideon (Abimelech) Chs. 6, 8 and 9.
Tola 23 years .. Ch. 10.
Jair 22 years .. Ch. 10.
Jephthah 6 years .. Ch. 11.
Ibzan 7 years .. Ch. 12.
Elon 10 years .. Ch. 12.