What is the Meaning of Judges 3

DELIVERANCE FROM DISCIPLINE DESPITE DEFECTION GOD’S DISCIPLINE OF SILENCE

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INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Judges 3

Judges 4. Thank you for attention last time. Info overload. Next time, I should have handout from today and from last time. This time just one chapter, chapter 3 (except Shamgar).  

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Last time established theme. Anyone remember (Faithlessness of Man and the faithfulness of God)? Ps. 37:3 and 2 Ti. 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” Comfort (you can’t sin your way outside of the covenant) and a warning (God disciplines His people).

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Dealt with chapters 1-3:6 last time. Our theme was “Generation Degeneration: Unchecked Partial Obedience Leads to Total Apostasy and Divine Discipline.” Chapter 1 recounts the background of Israel’s failure and we learned that “Even Though Israel Failed in the Holy War, the LORD is Sufficient. Chapter 2 contained 3 Theological Commentaries on that Failure (2:1–23) –AOY, the author of the book, and the LORD. Then, 3:1-6 we read that the LORD was going to use the nations to discipline Israel.

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Now, we’ve already entered section two of the book…

DIVINE RESPONSES TO MAN’S FAITHLESSNESS: THE CYCLES OF APOSTASY AND DELIVERANCE (3:7–16:31) –where all the judges occur.

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Deal with 2 stories: Othniel vs. the Mesopotamians (3:7-11) and Ehud vs. the Moabites (3:12-30). The main application and thrust of the message will come from the story of Ehud.

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1.Notice, that Israel did evil (3:7) and the Lord sells them to Cushan-rishathaim to discipline them.
2.Next, Israel “cries.” Does not imply repentance. Cry due to pain. So even though Israel did not necessarily repent, the LORD still provided a deliverer, Othniel.
3.Again, they do evil (v.12). And they get sold to Eglon, the king of Moab.
4.And again, they cry (v.15 –not repentance). This is very clear b/c…
5.V. 19After escorting the tribute carriers out of town, Ehud is leaving Gilgal in which were idols. As a whole, did Israel repent? No, still idols. Notice it again in v.26, when Ehud is escaping, he passes by idols on his way to Seirah. (the details in narrative often give the key to unlocking a (if not the) message of a passage.
6.Despite the continued idol worship, God provides a deliverer. They were to tear down idol altars. You say, “Well, that’s just a tiny detail…how’s that a focus?”
a.Theologically: In light of the theme we’ve established, the mention of a faithless act of Israel contributes to the story. The two themes don’t occur very much in this story.
b.Literarily: The mentioning of these 2 details about idols sandwiches where the story begins to climax (v. 19 –when he is traveling to slay the king) and the anticlimax (v. 26 –when his escape ends).
7.So, despite the fact that they are defected spiritually, God has pity and he delivers Israel from the discipline he put them under. Thus the theme of the message (and the message of the passage) is “Deliverance from Discipline Despite Defection (subtitle will wait till the end). This theme will show ingeniously mix the compassion and condemnation of God concerning seriousness of our spiritual condition.

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Before getting into the story, picture yourself as an Israelite. Oppressed severely: beaten, slavery, sick, lack appropriate food, children taken from you, etc. Always downcast in spirit. Then, you, a laymen in Israel, hear of a deliverer and that he, along with a group of men perhaps, has already delivered Israel. Yes, victory! You would want to know every single detail! And you would be chuckling with glee and delight over how that deliverer routed the enemy.

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That’s the attitude of these stories of deliverance. Rejoicing and victory –and, let me highlight, humor! There is humor in the Bible. Imagine being a truly pious Jew in Jesus day. You know what true heart religion is and you can see right through hypocrisy. Jesus probably didn’t occupy the corner of truth on these people. You’d walk around, sometimes thinking, “I saw Pharisee so and so do such and such today…that’s so hypocritical!” And then you hear Jesus condemn the Pharisees saying, “You hypocrites…you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” HA! You would gleefully concur and chuckle with delight over such an analysis. Same what’s going on in the judges deliverances. Put yourself in Israel’s shoes and you’ll see the humor involved.

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3:7-11: Othniel vs. Cushan-rishathaim

Summarize 3:7-11

3:7, Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served Baal. The Lord, angered, sells them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia for 8 eight years (v8).

3:9, Israel cries to the Lord and the Lord raises up Othniel who prevails over Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia, which ushers in 40 years of rest.

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This is short, easily serves as an example of the cycle (did evil, Lord disciplines them, Israel cries, Lord raises up judge to deliver, ushering in rest.)

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Notice nothing bad said about Othniel, the first judge. Now, think of Samson, the last judge. Lots of wickedness described about this judge. And he receives the most literary attention. So we seem to progress in 2 ways through this main section of the book:

 Both with literary space (shorter to longer) and in wickedness (better to worse).
 Why, what effect does this have? To snowball the purpose for why this book was written. Anyone remember? (Justification for and anticipation of Israel’s Monarchy in light of the Canaanization (or increasing worldliness) of Israel.
 The snowball effect creates an increasing longing for a righteous king. You don’t get to dwell very long on the righteous judge (5 verses) –but with Samson, 4 whole chapters.

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In the story of Othniel, this man named Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia.

 First and Last Name
 First: Cushan
 Last : (lit.) “Double wickedness.”
 Where From:
 Mesopotamia, (lit.) “double rivers.”
 Derogatory (and humorous): Here is “Cushan, Double wickedness from double rivers.
 Observe, God keeps humorous and/or derogatory statements about others’ godless character in the Scripture if they are true
 Anybody think of another (NT, epistles, Pastoral epistles, Titus, about Cretans)? cf. Tit. 1:12-13, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. This testimony is true.”).
 Accurately and publically condemning someone else’s godless character is appropriate and is not gossip if it is done in the right spirit and for the right reasons. Careful with that one!

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Principles found here (and throughout the life of the Judges)

 The LORD is the one who raises up nations to conquer others b/c of sin (3:8).
 Different historians have observed that the rise and fall of nations is due to their relationship to God’s moral law.
 “The world’s great civilizations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back again into bondage.”
 Unknown source ( it may be from 1770), but the point still stands: It’s the Lord who raises up one nation and casts down another. the LORD raised up the deliverer (v. 9) and the LORD’s Spirit empowered Othniel (v. 10), the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim into Othniel’s hand (v. 10) and the LORD gives rest to the land (v. 11). The LORD is the ruler of all nations.
 God Sometimes Delivers from Discipline Despite Defection (and no repentance) (v.9).
 No indication of repentance.
 Repentance cannot be implied by (v. 9): “cry.”
 So even though Israel did not necessarily repent, the LORD provides a deliverer.
 How compassionate…yet condemning. Same point in the next story, which is…

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The Cycle of Ehud vs. Eglon and the Moabites (3:12-30)

This is the story of Ehud butchering the obese king, Eglon (Don’t know about you, but I’m picturing a 800-900 pound man here.

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 Idolatry: Notice “idol” in v. 19 and 26. Again, while telling the story of deliverance, the narrator does not let you forget that the people are still idolatrous. But God gives them rest anyway! Amazing compassion when God delivers us from His discipline despite our spiritual defection! Is there also a hint of condemnation, too?
 Focus on the details: Again, in order to understand this story the way God intended, put on your Israelite goggles and your Israelite thinking cap. You have been oppressed for 18 years. How would you view Ehud and this gory story? With rejoicing and a sense of triumph! Finally, we are delivered! This story is also humorous if you have Israelite eyes to see it!

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 Notice that the story unfolds through the presentation of a tribute.
· 3:15, sons of Israel send tribute.
· Clear from 3:18 that Ehud is the head of a group of people who are carrying a tribute to the king.
· The king required this to make sure that Israel would continue to swear allegiance to him.
 So, the story begins this way (v16): Ehud makes and straps on a dagger about 18 inches long on his right thigh, just as a lefty would
· Btw, what tribe is he from? (Benjamin) What mean? son of my right hand).
· Make a sword, not advanced militarily.
 They present the tribute to the king. Then the drama builds as the narrator says (v17), “Eglon was a very fat man.” So what do you think is going to happen? Let’s see here, we’ve got a daggar and a very fat man, hmm…The narrator is leading the reader’s thoughts…
 After presenting the tribute, Ehud escorts the tribute carriers out of the area (v18), and the narrator notes Ehud came back from Gilgal (v.19, a place of idol worship –was a place of orthodoxy and miraculous victory, the crossing of the Jordan).
 Still in v. 19, Eglon the king, in a stupid move, dismisses all present when Ehud says he has a secret “thing” literally (as Israelites retold this story, you could imagine them calling Eglon a fool and snickering).
 When Ehud announces he has a “thing” from God (v. 20), Eglon reverently rises to his feet. Imagine such a HUGE man trying to do that. Probably took him a little while. The reverent rising of this wretched and obese man, now appearing foolish b/c he sent away the attendants in the room… how humorous for God’s people after such oppression!
 Then, as if in slow motion, the narrator describes the action in minute details (READ v. 21-23).
 Notice the sarcasm and antithetical actions taking place next (v. 24-25 –the servants waitin) and also v. 26 (escaped while the servants were delaying.). It’s almost like two scenes going on at once. Ehud is escaping….Servants whistling as they wait…
 So, here’s how the rest of the story unfolds. Before we look at it, notice there are 3 “beholds” (v. 24-25) –translating the word that way may lose its emphasis for us. It seems like the text is saying something like this…
 The servants come back and “Huh!” the door was locked and thought “he’s only going to the bathroom [covering his feet] –I’m no fan of bathroom jokes, but this obviously supposed to be funny” (whistle…Ehud running). So they wait until he surely should have been done by now, but “Boy!” he still wasn’t coming out (more whistling, Ehud running and then past the idols [ v.26, picture him looking at them as running]).
 Finally, the servants get a key and unlock the door and “Oh no!” here’s the 900 pound bloody corpse, dead smack dab right there on the floor!!
 Then he summons Israel and they get the victory over the Moabites.

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Israelites would have gotten a kick out of this. “Stupid Eglon” and “Boy, Ehud really fooled him.”

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Focus on the Application:

1.Oppress God’s people and you very well may end up being the butt of some divinely-intended jokes.
2.God often provides deliverance from the sorrows of life in a humorous way. Israelites were oppressed and now they have this humorous story to tell of their deliverance. You’ve probably told someone, “You’ll look back on this and laugh?”
3.Studying God’s ways of deliverance is exciting for God’s people. Relating to the LORD and studying how He has worked is not boring.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Judges 3

But the central message of this story is that despite spiritual defection (and lack of repentance), God still delivers his people from His own disciplining of them. Remember we got that from the detail about the remaining idols in v. 19, 26. This indicates God is delivering his people despite their continued spiritual defection. Then notice Israel had 80 years of “rest” (or perhaps “silence”) while they remained in idolatry (no indication of repentance). It would be scary if God were silent while you were still in your sin.

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In one sense, God’s people deserve continual discipline for their sins against him, but he is long-suffering and patient. And in another sense, we don’t deserve discipline for our sin, since God’s discipline shows His love for us.

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Hebrews 12:5-6 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

If God delivers you from his own disciplining of you that doesn’t mean you are now right with him. The lifting of his hand of discipline while you are still in your sins should be considered more intense discipline. It is a scary thing to fall into the hands of the living God but perhaps it is an even scarier thing for a supposed “Christian to be relieved from discipline while still in his sins.

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This is why the subtitle of the lesson isGod’s Discipline of Silence.” DELIVERANCE FROM DISCIPLINE DESPITE DEFECTION: GOD’S DISCIPLINE OF SILENCE. During this discipline of silence from God, you may begin to wonder if you are a child of God. Someone might say to himself during this time, “I can’t really tell if I’m relating to God, my heart’s affections aren’t drawn out toward the Lord or his purposes, I don’t find the Bible enjoyable, nothing spiritual actually warms up my spirit and I can keep on enjoying my sin and it seems that everything in my life is going just fine….”what’s going on here?”

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God is silent, that’s what’s wrong. This is perhaps God’s discipline of silence.

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Go to Judges Main Page

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