What is the Meaning of Judges 1-3

Lesson 1: Judges 1-3:6

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INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Judges 1-3

Turn in Bibles to Judges; Thank you for prayers…; How much time (till 10:05 or so?); Truck for moving?

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The book of Judges has fallen on hard times. It’s so full of violence, immorality…Christians seem to want to neglect it today. It seems so strange. In the book there is God-ordained civil war and commands from God to annihilate people (just like Joshua) this doesn’t sit well with Christianity’s detractors so Christians tend to try to forget about those passages and the books that contain them.

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But you have to admit, the book of Judges is riveting! Of all the books in the Bible, you hopefully wouldn’t fall asleep reading this one! It has colorful detail, narrator explanations, intense drama, and fierce warfare. It is also similar to the days we are living in. You pick up a newspaper and think “How could things go so wrong!?!” with great puzzlement and astonishment. It’s the same with Judges. “They were thrust out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand of God….and now, in the book of Judges, “How could things go so wrong!?!” Perhaps you’ll have the answer after this series.

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My desire for these next 8 weeks is that we master this book. Pastor Minnick says a preachers job is to say everything that the text says and elongate it with explanation, argumentation, illustration, application. But b/c we only have 8 weeks to cover 21 chapters, I feel like I have to say only half of what the texts says and shorten it! Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to discuss the whole book. We’ll skip some sections in each chapter and we’ll have to skip certain chapters, I’m sure.

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Main Goal: To teach Christians how to use the book of Judges through:

1.Drawing out specific principles that lead to applications
2.Thematic study
3.Literary and exegetical analysis

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We’re going to try not to lose sight of the trees as we race through the whole forest of the book of Judges. We only have 8 lessons: going move. Can’t do a fully intro to the book. But we will briefly.

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Brief Intro to Judges

1.Title: A “Judge doesn’t refer to “a public officer authorized to hear and decide cases in a court of law” but to someone who is similar to a Mayor/General. Someone who governs politically and leads militarily.
2.Purpose: Justification for and anticipation of Israel’s Monarchy in light of the Canaanization (or increasing worldliness) of Israel. Inherent in that purpose is application for us. In light of the increasing worldliness of the church (and the world) we should be looking for the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.
3.Literary Structure (Book divides up nicely, based on phraseology the indicate Israel’s failure)
 “Did not drive out” (1-3:6, e.g., 1:19, 21, 28-33; 2:3); “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (3:7–16:31; e.g., 2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1); “There was no king in Israel” (17:1-21:25; e.g., 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).
4.Establish the Theme of Judges
 The commands of God in Dt. are vitally important in understanding Judges.
 Judges is written in light of Israel’s covenant responsibilities, their successes and failures. We know to think highly of Israel when they follow the law of Moses and to think lowly of Israel when they fail.
 Dt. 7:1 discusses God’s clearing away of several nations, when the LORD does that then Israel was responsible to:
i.Utter destroy people of the land
ii.Make no covenant with them
iii.Show no favor to them
iv.Not intermarry with them
v.Tear down idols
 7:9 declares the LORD’s faithfulness.
 Dt. 7:11 exhorts them to observe the commandments.
 They are to keep God’s commandments and if they break them God will bring judgment. And He does, swiftly, in the book of Judges.

In light of covenant responsibilities: God will judge faithlessness –Dt. 7:10; God will be faithful –Dt. 7:9.

 We’ve already established one aspect of the theme: Man’s faithlessness: “Did not drive out”; “did evil in the sight of the LORD”; “There was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes”
 But let’s go to Judges 2:11-23 to see 2 themes highlighted. INTRO: 2:11-23 serves as a historical summary of God’s dealing with His people during the Judges (READ)

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11 Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals,

12 and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger.

13 So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.

14 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel (rightly so), and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies (just like He said He would in Dt. 28:25).

15 Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them (in Lev. 26:14-39), so that they were severely distressed.

16 Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges

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So you can see that Man is faithless and God is … (say it with me…faithful). Good theme verse for the year then is one that the leadership has chosen

5.Theme verse(s)
 MCBC verse: Ps. 37:3 “Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” (in Hebrew, no “his” (is in LXX) –go with LXX, “feed on God’s faithfulness” in sense of boost your confidence in the LORD by observing his faithfulness or if you go with Hebrew, “increase faithfulness” be faithful to the LORD.
 My personal verse: 2 Ti. 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” –a warning (God disciplines His NT people) and a comfort (you can’t sin your way outside of the covenant).

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Generation Degeneration: Unchecked Partial Obedience Leads to Total Apostasy and Divine Discipline

Judges 1-3:6

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Judges 1-3

Theme of 1:3-6 is READ TITLE. Show you how I got that.

1.Generation Degeneration (2:10) There arose another generation that did not know the LORD.
2.Partial Obedience: READ 1:19; They took possession of the hill country, but not the valley. Translate “would” not “could.” The construction of the Hebrew grammar only occurs one other time, so it’s difficult to know if this is citing inability, unwillingness or some kind of prohibition. Translated many ways, but I would suggest it’s best to translate “would”; so what we have is a lack of faithfulness to God’s command. Even though the LORD was with them, they were unwilling to drive them out. Here we have partial obedience (they took possession of the hill country, not the valley) and it went unchecked no corrective measure on Israel’s part.
3.Partial Obedience: LORD also with the house of Joseph in 1:22. In v. 25 they conquer Bethel BUT they let the man who should them the entrance into Bethel go free and he goes off to build a city. Partial obedience unchecked (didn’t change mind/repent).
4.Total Apostasy: 1:27-36 recount how one tribe after the other did not drive out the inhabitants. Then eventually, 2:10, READ and 2:12 READ.
 Thus, Unchecked Partial Obedience Leads to Total Apostasy

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Notice first, in chapter one that

I.Even Though Israel Failed in the Holy War, the LORD is Sufficient (ch. 1)

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**Judah’s Successes are Due to the LORD’s Sufficiency

 In His Direction and Assurance (1:1-2) and the LORD’s Power (1:4)

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Verses 1-7:

Israel asks the LORD “Who shall go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”

LORD says, (v2)”Judah and they will win.” (He gave clear direction and assurance of victory)

v. 3 Judah asks Simeon to go with him and (v4) the LORD gives the victory over the Canaanites and Perizites and they slay 10K at Bezek. (a display of the LORD’s Power and Promise to fight for Israel)

v. 6 They cut off his thumbs/big toes of Adoni-Bezek. He‘s quoted as saying that God has JUSTLY repaid him for doing the same to 70 other kings.  

(Fascinating. Probably serves as a preview of God’s repaying Israel for her faithlessness. This principle of retribution is recognized by a pagan! “Look Israel, the LORD faithfully judges sin…then he dies!”)

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A.The LORD‘s Sufficiency is Manifest During Crises (when is all this happening??)
 Death of a Leader (Joshua, 1:1)
i.All of ch. 1 not after his death, some phraseology reflects that of the book of Joshua (e.g., 1:10-15 (Caleb and the springs of water) is found also in Joshua 15:13-19). Chapter 1 seems to give us the idea of what formed the backdrop after the Joshua’s death, not necessarily exact chronological order of events. This is probably the case since Joshua dies in 1:1 and in 2:8 and seems to still be alive in 2:23. Makes the most sense that the author is setting the background to the book with chapters 1-3:6 in a narrative fashion, not chronologically.
 APP The LORD‘s sufficiency continues after the death (or defection) of a leader, either politically or one that is in your family. “Joshua died, but the LORD gives the land to Judah, …died, but the LORD was with Judah and Joseph.” God is sufficient (direction/assurance, power, presence) in your crises, big (death) and small.

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B.The LORD is sufficient when God’s people are unified to obey His commands (vv. 3, 22).

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Judah (one of most important) and Simeon (one of least important; 1:3) and “Joseph” (1:22; Ephraim and Manasseh) –both times they were successful in the work God called them to do when in concert, when unified.

i.God’s people need each other to carry out their callings, the stronger need the weaker and the weaker the stronger. Cf. 1 Co. 12:15 –If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?).
ii.Are you a loner?  Don’t’ be. Not God’s design. I tend to be (why humbling to ask for a truck –I’m practicing what I preach!).

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II.Three Theological Commentaries on Israel’s Failure (2:1–23)

So we had Israel failing in ch.1, now it’s time for some comments on this. What’s going on here and what should the response be? Like a courtroom scene and all the witnesses have been testifying against Israel and now, unexpectedly, they also have a chance to exhort Israel.

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So, the first witness approaches the stand…

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A.The AOY’s Interpretation and Israel’s Response (2:1–5): Get Back on the Track of Faithfulness

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AOY comes to Bochim and declares [1st] (v1) the LORD’s faithfulness in his delivering them from Egypt and in his keeping the covenant and [2nd] (v2) Israel’s faithlessness (they made covenants with people of the land & did not tear down altars). He pronounces that (v3) the inhabitants of the land will not be driven out anymore. The people wept (v4) and sacrificed (v5).

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In order to come away with the message of biblical narrative, it is imperative to understand how biblical narrative works. One of the ways it works is by the author leading you in a direction or into a pattern of thought you wouldn’t normally expect b/c of previous patterns in the narrative –we’ll see this. Other times, as here, the narrator’s slips in a minute detail that gives you the message.

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Notice that AOY went from “Gilgal to Bochim” (Lit: “weepers”): picture that. Why would a divine messenger (or a divinely appointed messenger) of the heavenly court travel from Gilgal to Bochim?  This traveling may indicate he is human, but even still the mentioning of his traveling from these two cities is contrary to expectation. Need to know the significance of these places.  What is the significance of Gilgal? According to Joshua 4–5 Gilgal was:

 The site of Israel’s first camp after the miraculous crossing of the Jordan.
 Where they erected a memorial of twelve stones.
 Where they circumcised all the males and celebrated the Passover.

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Based on many factors, it is reasonable that the author intends for us to associate the “commander of the army of the Lord” whom Joshua encountered while Israel was still camped at Gilgal in Josh 5 with the angel of the LORD here (2:1). If this is so, the LORD may be reminding the people how the campaign started (in obedience) and so the AOY may be reminding them: Get Back to Your Original Purpose, Get Back on Track!  Just like the AOY went from Gilgal (obedience) to Bochim, so Israel has gone from obedience to weeping b/c of disobedience.

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APP Thus, get back on the track of faithfulness. Also, notice Israel’s response (weeping). The text just says Israel cried, no indication of repentance, not even in the word “cry.” Crying over your sin doesn’t = genuine repentance. Weeping could just indicate remorse, just sad that you got caught. A true turning from your sin is: “Tear your heart (or will) not just cause water to fall from your eyeballs.

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Next witness comes up to the stand. It’s the narrator of this book. He says…

B.The Author’s Interpretation (2:6–20a): Repent of Modern Day Baalism

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vv.6-13 says that after the elders that survived Joshua died, their arose a generation that didn’t know the LORD and they served Baal. To understand the import of this, we have to understand Baalism.

Baal worship involved “sacred prostitution” in order to get Baal to produce food from the land.
It involved sensual religious practices that had as its end goal material prosperity. From a pagan standpoint, very attractive religion and obviously tempting to God’s people. Imagine the Canaanites tempting Israel with their religion: “
the LORD was capable of getting you out of Egypt, but here we need to eat food every day.” But the LORD had already promised to provide in this way for his people. So why Israel forsook Yahweh?

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1.Failure to be separate from the world (1:27, etc.). Instead of eradicating them, they lived with them.

APP: So, be in the world, not of the world. Technology is a wonderful way to get all the worldliness your flesh wants. Put limits on it!

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2.Lack of experiential religion (2:10). They did not know the LORD, i.e., they had no experiential relationship with him. They knew about, but did not know the LORD. Notice, it was the next generation. One generation teaches another and seeks not just to tell them about the LORD, but to teach them how to experientially know him.  

APP: Teach your children to pray, and how to pray. And to read the Bible, but also how to read the Bible. Teach your children the Bible.

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Next witness, the LORD himself. What’s his response?

C.The LORD‘s Interpretation of Israel’s Failure (2:20b-22): (total annihilation? No…): [Get Back on the Track of Faithfulness, Repent of Modern Day Baalism] or I, the LORD, will Patiently Test You

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He says He will no longer drive the nations out. Why? To test Israel to see if they will obey. That’s it? Amazing patience, you’d expect total annihilation, but instead God’s faithfulness and patient testing.

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III.The Consequences of Israel’s Performance: The Nations are Used to Test Israel‘s Obedience (3:1–6)

-just like he said in 2:22.

Brings us to the climax of the passage and clarifies what’s been going on. Generation degeneration: How unchecked partial disobedience leads to totally apostasy and Divine Discipline. Notice how the nations were used: (v.1) test Israel, being taught war (v2); test Israel (elaboration) to see if they would obey (v4).

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Israel began in partial obedience with Judah/Simeon and Ephraim and Manessah, but quickly turned aside from driving out the worldliness around them, resulting in divine discipline. Then, if you’ll let me sneak ahead to v. 7: they forgot the Lord. Generation degeneration: they, perhaps carelessly at first, didn’t put the LORD and his works in remembrance, but then later they deliberately left the path of faithfulness and practiced the worldliness around them. They didn’t teach their children or each other of the person and works of the LORD.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Judges 1-3

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Teach your children and encourage and exhort God’s people, or the next generation will spiritually degenerate.

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Go to Judges Main Page

Go To Old Testament Books

Go To BibleTrove Home Page

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