“When God was setting up judges for them, He would be right there with the judge: He would save them from their enemies’ oppression as long as the judge was alive, for God was moved to compassion when He heard their groaning because of those who afflicted and beat them. But when the judge died, the people went right back to their old ways—but even worse than their parents!—running after other gods, serving and worshiping them. Stubborn as mules, they didn’t drop a single evil practice.” Judges 2:18-19 (The Message)
What’s Going On?
Now that the Israelites have conquered the territory that God had reserved for them, the twelve tribes finally settle in the land. In Deuteronomy, God had let them know that there would be blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. As long as the people followed God, lived according to the Law, and kept their focus on the Lord, they were prosperous. When they allowed the other nations around them to have an influence on them, they lost the Lord’s favor. The Lord had told them to rid the land of its inhabitants, knowing they would be a bad influence, but they didn’t and the seed of corruption takes root. As the Israelites began to turn their backs on the Lord, they soon found themselves being invaded by neighboring kingdoms. The Lord would then raise up a leader, or Judge, to rule for a while until Israel was no longer in danger. For the next 350 years Israel will swing like a pendulum between total obedience and trust in the Lord, to rebellion and disobedience leading to oppression by foreign rulers. The cycle would go something like this: The Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord, they cried out for help, God raised up someone to help them, they had peace in the land, and then they would get complacent and begin doing evil again. This cycle would be repeated over and over during the time of the twelve Judges.
A Moabite woman, Ruth, lived during the time of the Judges and chose to stay with her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, when her husband dies. She then finds true love with a man named Boaz who is a relative of Naomi’s and is therefore eligible to be her kinsman-redeemer. They will become the great-grandparents of David and will carry the lineage that leads to Jesus, the ultimate redeemer, about a thousand years later.
When and Where Are We?
1375-1050 BC. The period known as the Judges lasted for about 350 years, from the time of Joshua’s death until the time Israel would finally be led by a king in the period of the United Kingdom. The stories all take place within Israel as it is still functioning under the twelve tribal lands.
The Judges were Othniel (Caleb’s brother), Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson.
- Baals – false gods worshipped by the inhabitants of the land (Dagon, Ashtoreth, Chemosh)
- Cushan-Rishathaim – king of Aram; Eglon – king of Moab; Jabin – king of Canaan
- Sisera – the Canaanite army commander, Jael – the woman who kills him
- Barak – an army commander who joined with Deborah to fight the Canaanites
- Zebah and Zalmunna – the kings of Midian
- Abimelech – son of Gideon, puts himself in position as king but is killed
- Micah – built an idol/image and used a wayward Levite to act as his priest who then went with the tribe of Dan to establish a new home after they couldn’t rid their allotted land of the Amorites
- Naomi – an Israelite living in Moab with her two daughters-in-law: Orpah and Ruth
- Ruth – a Moabite widow who marries Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer
“In those days, Israel had no king” Joshua 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; and 21:25
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Judges 1-5
- Tuesday: Judges 6-8
- Wednesday: Judges 9-12
- Thursday: Judges 13-16
- Friday: Judges 17-21
- Saturday: Ruth 1-4