JUDGES 1: DISOBEDIENCE HAS CONSEQUENCES
The Book of Judges is a book of paradoxes. On one hand, it contains some of the best-known stories in the Bible—the kind of stories Hollywood loves to make moves about. But it also contains some of the least known characters in the Bible. There are things about the main characters that are attractive to us, but, the weaknesses and failures of some of the primary characters are disappointing and even repulsive.
The Book of Judges tells stories that are so earthy, so puzzling, so primitive, so violent (more about the violence later), and sometimes so strange, that we wonder what they are doing in the Bible. Yet, the stories are so honest, so real, and so interesting we can’t help reading them.
The daring actions of the judges keep us captivated. But, that’s one of the dangers of Judges. These characters are so colorful and dramatic that we may easily end up missing the primary message of the book. The truth is these characters are deeply flawed and sinful people. Their amazing feats of deliverance tempt us to turn them into heroes. But they are not the heroes of these stories. Who really is the hero? God is the hero.
The period of the judges was a difficult time for the Israelites because there were no strong leaders like Moses and Joshua. At that time, the Israelites were loosely connected tribes or family clans who did not yet see themselves as one united nation. Moses had led the their ancestors out of Egyptian bondage, and after Moses died, Joshua led the people into the land which God had promised Abraham centuries earlier. Under Joshua’s strong leadership, the Israelites conquered much of the “Promised Land,” but not all of it before Joshua died.
And this is where the book of Judges begins. The first words are, “After the death of Joshua…” What follows those words in chapter one is a quick overview of the cities and territories God enabled the Israelites to conquer and possess. It’s one victory after another until we get to verse 19, which says, “They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains….” At least eight times in the last half of chapter one, we read similar words. Verse 28 says “they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.”
Israel's failure to completely drive out the Canaanites is a forecast in chapter one of the horrible consequences the Israelites were to face for the next 300-350 years until Israel finally anointed their first king, Saul. As we explore the 21 chapters of Judges there is one overarching theme that runs like a thread through each chapter: the book of Judges warns us about the dangers and the consequences of turning away from God. But, another theme also runs throughout Judges: when God’s people repent of sin and cry out to Him, God delivers in mighty ways.
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.