JUDGES 3: HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN?
DON'T FORGET THE LORD GOD
They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years (Judges 3:6-8).
As Judges 3 opens, we learn that God used the unconquered peoples of the land to test the Israelites to see if they would obey God’s commands. One of God’s commands was that the Israelites were not to intermarry with the people of the land. They failed that test miserably. And what was the consequence? The Israelites began serving Canaanite false gods (v. 6).
Then, verse 7 we reads, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” Before going any further, it is important to understand who Baal and Asherah were. In the book of Judges alone, Baal is mentioned 25 times, and Asherah is mentioned five times.
Baal and Asherah were manmade gods of the Canaanites. Think of Baal and Asherah as husband and wife. Baal was the male god and Asherah was Baal’s female counterpart. Archaeologists have found carved wooden images of Asherah with exaggerated sexual features. The Canaanites believed Baal was the god of fertility. They believed that the fertility of the crops, livestock and one’s own family depended upon the sexual relationship between Baal and Asherah. So, in their minds, when Baal and Asherah had sex, the land and the livestock and the family were fruitful.
But, the Canaanites did not sit back and say, “well, let Baal and Asherah do their thing”—the Canaanites got in on the action for themselves. As part of their worship, they practiced sacred prostitution. A Canaanite man would go to a shrine to Baal and have intercourse with one of the sacred prostitutes serving there. The idea was that by doing this, they would encourage Baal and Asherah to also have intercourse, thus bringing the rain and fertility of crops, livestock and their own families. They believed their crops and livestock and families would not flourish unless Baal and Asherah were properly worshiped in this way. How “convenient,” right?!
You can see why Baal worship was so enticing to the Israelites. This is exactly what God knew would happen if the Israelites allowed the Canaanites to remain in the land, and that is why God commanded Israel to drive the Canaanites out of the land. For generations afterward, Israel frequently fell into Baal worship, and it was the cause of God’s anger and punishment.
A key phrase in Judges 3 comes in verse 7: “they forgot the LORD their God.” This is reminiscent of what we read in Judges 2:7-10. Throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the generation that followed him, the Israelites served the LORD. But when their generation died “another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.”
One of the great lessons we can learn from Judges 3 is the importance of passing on our faith to each generation. The stark reality is that within one generation from Joshua, the people had forgotten God. We cannot assume our children will know and love God unless we teach them.
Holy God, thank you for those who taught me about you and taught me how to love and serve you. I want to teach those around me, especially those who are coming behind me so that they never forget you. Help me, Lord, I pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.
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.