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THE BOOK OF JUDGES

A SURVEY OF THE BIBLE'S SEVENTH BOOK

 

 A Preacher in his Study

 

LESSON 1, INTRODUCTION:

This month we're going to study the Book of Judges. It's twenty-one chapters are wonderfully interesting. Plus, they're inspired of God, absolutely inerrant Scripture. History at a trying time for the Nation of Israel.

Our English word "Judges" is taken from the Latin Vulgate. There it is written, the name of the Book, as "Liber Iudicum." Translated, "The book of Judges." This is the source of our King James Version's spelling of the Book's title.

The Greek word for "Judges" is "kritai," That's the name the old Septuagint Bible uses for the Book. It's also the root word for the whole New Testament idea of "judging."

But yet again the Hebrew word for "Judges" is "sopetim," simply meaning "to govern or vindicate or rule," even "to punish" at times.

These men, including a women too, were leaders to Israel during a time of her history before the monarchy was instituted. Before Saul Son of Kish ever ruled on the throne.

Well, some of the Judges may have been rulers over parts of Israel rather than the entire nation, tribal leaders in other words.

Also these Judges might be categorized as more significant and less significant. Some of their administrations were fully described ... others barely mentioned. One author, two really, believe that the Judges can best be labeled as "Major Judges" and "Minor Judges." Or "Primary Judges" and "Secondary Judges."

In the most influential group we place men like Gideon and Jephthah and Samson of course. Guess we had better add Deborah too.

In the briefly described group are Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon.

So it's at least evident that we're going to meet and learn some new Bible characters in the next few weeks, Lord willing.

It should be an exciting trip, a tour of the seventh Book of the Bible.

Anyone planning to join us?

                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2:

In a way the Old Testament Book of Judges is a sad commentary on conditions in Israel in her pre-monarchial days. Between the death of Joshua and the beginning of Saul's reign.

Seven times its author catalogs the backsliding pattern the Nation had adopted. A record of apostasy, and its results.

Here are those times as recorded by the holy Spirit of God:

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim. And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger." Judges 2:11-12

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves." Judges 3:7-8

"And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD." Judges 3:12

"And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan ...." Judges 4:1-2

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel." Judges 6:1-2

"And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him." Judges 10:6

"And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years." Judges 13:1

Obviously our journey ahead is one that will illustrate the propensity of mankind to sin.

But it will also illustrate the Grace and Mercy and Love and Forgiveness of an Almighty God!

The summary of Judges can perhaps best be verbalized this, using the words of its own inspired author:

"In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Judges 17:6

And again, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:25

Sounds like much of the world today!

Sure the Lord has packed tons of godly information and warning and encouragement in the twenty-one chapters that lie ahead.

Let's study together.

                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3:

The writer, whose name I  no longer remember, said that the theme of the Book of Judges was "The Canaanization of the Israelite Society." In other words, God's People becoming more and more like the heathen nations around them!

Judges, in fact nearly all the Books of Scripture, warn against this sin.

Paul gives us a classic New Testament example. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Second Corinthians 6:17-18

Becoming, in today's spiritual terminology, "like the world."

If the author I mentioned is correct, and he is at least partly so, there must be examples galore in the Book of Judges, illustrations of Israel's syncretism.

Judges 3:5-6 provides us with a good starting place. Let's read it together, paying attention to the loose ways of God's people here.

"And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods."

Three things need to be noticed here.

They "dwelt" with the wicked people of the land, land God had given the Jews! The verb is "yashab," meaning "to remain, to permanently settle, to abide, to inhabit." Too comfortable in the environment of sin!

Next they allowed intermarriage with the gentiles of the area. Allowing their sons to marry heathen girls and their daughters to marry sinful boys. God disallowed this practice early in the Old Testament record.

Then, almost automatically it seems, the Israelites were soon worshipping the idols, the gods and goddesses, of the Hittites and Amorites and others. This is an affront to Almighty God, a slap in His Face! This little word "served" here translates the Hebrew root "abad," being a "slave" to someone or something! And at least five times in the Bible it is rendered as "worshippers!"

And the lessons here for us?

1. Be careful where you live, spiritually!

2. Pray godly mates into the lives of your children and grandchildren.

3. Under no circumstances ever follow or even develop affection for any god but the One True God. Our sweet Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ His Son!

Wow!

The book of Judges ... already much more practical than is usually thought! Because it is God's Word!

                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4:

The first five Books of the Bible are often referred to collectively as the Pentateuch. That's Greek for "five scrolls," the five Books of Scripture Moses wrote.

Recently as we've been studying the Book of Judges I noticed something. The similarity between the Book's opening verse with the initial words of the Book of Joshua is striking.

Here's Judges 1:1. "Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?"

Now here's Joshua 1:1. "Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister."

Chronologically ... after the death of Moses.

Then ... after the death of Joshua.

Hence we have proof that these Books are pure history! Catalogues of the happenings in Israel in those ancient days.

But here's a new word we've discovered.

The author of one of the commentaries we use employed the word "Hexateuch." The dictionary helps again. The noun means "six scrolls." And the old rabbis used it to describe the first half-dozen Books of the Old Testament.

Wow!

It's wonderful that we have an accurate, inspired, inerrant record of God's dealings with mankind through the centuries.

He, our Lord, is Faithful.

He is kind and gracious and loving.

And He is also Holy and Righteous.

He too is consistent.

Praise His Name today!

                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5, THUMBS AND TOES:

The Lesson today encompasses four verses from Judges chapter one. This is the first recorded skirmish in the Book, one of many to follow.

"And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died." Judges 1:4-7

The Lord wanted the Tribe of Judah to lead the charge, to be the first Israelites to attack the enemy. As you may remember, the name "Judah" means "praise." Likely we are indirectly being told that an attitude of thanks and worship and joy will augment our strength in battle! We Christians can literally praise our way to victory!

In fighting the Canaanites the Jews killed ten thousand wicked, heathen soldiers. But for some reason, against an earlier command of God really, they spared the life of the chief leader of those doomed people. Adonibezek was allowed to live! His name, or maybe it's a title, means "Lord of the Lightning!" He is named for a foreign idol, a false god.

Already Israel is gradually slipping from strict obedience to God's commands. Saul their first King will later be severely chastened for sparing a similar King, named Agag, and not putting him to death.

Having finally captured Adonibezek the men of Judah did an unusual thing. They "cut off his thumbs and great toes." How painful that must have been. In fact, it's downright torture. With no anesthesia at all, mind you!

Here again Israel is slipping! Death, as God had required, would have been instantaneous and relatively painless when compared to this kind of mutilation and bleeding and agony. The people of God have downgraded themselves to acting like their ungodly neighbors, living like the polytheistic Perrizites and others.

But then, when Israel applies no laws of God to herself, Adonibezek become a preacher himself! "Judah pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me."

God raised up a heathen man ... to declare a spiritual principle! "I've reaped what I've earlier sown," laments the conquered King!

Paul put it this way: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:7

What a collection! Seventy Kings, "threescore and ten," had been captured by Adonibezek, only to have their thumbs and big toes amputated. Two hundred eighty thumbs and big toes! He treated these men like dogs, daily feeding them under his table.

But what happened to him, to the perpetrator?

His own thumbs and toes were removed, butchered! "As I have done, so God hath requited me." The verb "requited" is "shalam," meaning "rewarded, performed, to be at peace." God had made things right!

What a lesson!

Even if from a wicked King.

By the way, to this day God's principle here still stands. We do reap what we sow! Let's then live wisely.

               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6, ACHSAH:

The Scripture today is taken from Judges 1:12-15. It's the story of a little girl who has now grown up ... and her daddy! And it relates some precious truths from God's Word.

"And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou? And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs."

The account is here in Judges largely because it explains the conquering of another area of Canaan, Kirjath-sepher. The name means "City of the Book!" It is a town located in the mountains west of Hebron in the tribal area of Judah.

Caleb,  a hero in Israel from earlier days, promises his daughter in marriage to any young man who can "take" Kirjath-sepher.

The name "Caleb" means "dog." Maybe a picture of an old sinner, dirty and vile, who has been saved by God's Grace, put into the Heavenly Family!

Caleb's Daughter is called "Achsah," meaning "ankel chain" or just "anklet." Girls even in those olden days still wore a sensible amount of jewelry it seems!

The young warrior is named "Othniel." We will hear about him again, soon in Judges in fact. His name suggests "lion," really in this combined form, "lion of God." If he is named according to his character he's a fierce soldier, and an able conqueror as depicted in our Text.

Well, Caleb kept his word. A wedding was held, Achsah is now a married young lady. And no doubt very safe and secure in her husband's care.

But after a while, the young lady asked for a thing.

She wanted a piece of land. In fact a second piece of land it appears. Caleb had apparently given the newly married couple a piece of real estate when they were first united.

But that land had no well, no springs or fountains of water.

No problem.

Achsah will move her husband to solve the problem. He will ask Daddy for more territory. "She moved him, Othniel, to ask of her father a field."

But the man did nothing! He, by noticing what our Verses say and do not say, was non-responsive to his wife's wishes, to her needs. No telling what the lady had to do each day to get water, water for cooking and washing and drinking and meeting the needs of her household.

So look what she does!

She asks by herself.

If hubby won't help .... she will go straight to her father.

Mounting the stubborn little donkey she rode that day, Scripture tells us: "And she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou? And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water."

A daughter and her Dad!

And guess what?

She got what she wanted, what she needed!

In fact, Caleb was eager to give to his child grown up!

"What wilt thou?" translates into "What do you want, Sweetheart?"

Now here is boldness. A request buttressed by reason and love and kindness and wisdom.

"Give me a blessing!" Wonder if we children of God can ask our Heavenly father such a thing?

Yes!

The south land which had already been given to them was "negev" land, dry and powdery and waterless. The word is normally translated "desert!"

So she defines the "blessing" she wants! This noun "blessing" is spelled "berakah" in Hebrew, meaning "gift" with the idea of "prosperity" dormant in its background.

Give me land with "springs of water" on it.

Wow!

This is the spirit of "asking and seeking and knocking" Jesus later outlined for us to follow as we pray!

But what was the result of her supplication?

Better than expected!

More than she asked!

Perhaps because she was a daughter, perhaps because she was so persistent, perhaps because she was unaided by her husband, perhaps because she was simply asking in the first place!

"And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs."

The adjective "nether" just means "lower. If one water source languishes, another remains!

Double blessing from her father!

Lessons here abound.

We too have a father Who cares!

Let's bring our needs to him!

He will answer and provide.

                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7, OTHNIEL:

Yesterday we met the Jewish hero Othniel. He had forced an enemy city out of the hands of its owners, Kirjathsephir by name. It was also called the village of Debir, meaning "sanctuary."

But in today's Text Othniel reappears. This time as Israel's first Judge! He indeed is a hero, empowered by the Spirit of God.

Here's our Paragraph from the Word of God for this Lesson: "And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves. Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years. And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim. And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died."

This is much more Scripture than we normally consider in one day. But if we're going to survey the whole Book of Judges in any timely manor, we must do this. Larger Bites of the Bible, at least on occasion. And when we get to Deborah and Barak or Samson and his exploits ... we will certainly have to switch into "survey" mode.

Today's pericope of Scripture gives us the perfect pattern for the way God's Word presents the Judges, all twelve of them.

Which paradigm is as follows: The people sin. God punishes them. They cry out to the Lord for relief. And God sends a leader, a judge, to deliver them. Then most often comes a period of rest for the land.

This is a cyclic account. More specifically seen at times, but consistently occurring throughout the Book of Judges.

Watch as the Text develops along the aforementioned lines.

The people sin. "And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves."

God's Holy Anger is aroused and He punishes, though out of a Heart of pure Love. "Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years."

The people cry out to God for relief, though not necessarily in a spirit of true repentance. Else they would not fall into sin again so quickly, as they repeatedly do throughout the Book of Judges. "And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim."

The land and its people are at rest, at least for a while. Often they do right as long as that current judge is still alive. That is, until they again fall into their old sinful ways. "And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died."

Thank God for Othniel then!

Remember, his name means "Lion of God!"

We do not know how spiritual he was, not really. Not much indication here of devotion to God. But he was a capable fighter! And he was used of God to aid his people.

And, bottom line, Israel was spared another generation to live and ultimately produce for us, the inhabitants of earth, the Saviour of the world, the Darling Son of God.

Yes, Jesus was a Jew!

He is God as well.

                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8, EHUD:

Today we plan to study the Old Testament Judge named Ehud. The Text that describes this unusual man is in the great Book of Judges, Judges 3:12-30 precisely.

The Ehud story presents us one of the most interesting cycles in the whole Book. The Holy Spirit here really belittles the wicked enemies of Israel, and certainly brings Glory of the Lord God Almighty.

Initially in the Passage we see how God can strengthen or weaken one's enemies, based on how that individual is living for God. "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD."

Sin costs, too! "So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years." Eighteen years of slavery, servitude. Long enough for a baby to grow into young adulthood!

But the Nation prayed to her God, and the Lord heard and answered! "But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite." It's true. God's Grace is indeed amazing!

The name "Ehud" means something like "united" or "undivided union." Note too that the man is of the Tribe of Benjamin, which means "son of my right hand." But this Benjamite, Ehud, is of all things ... "lefthanded!"

Wow!

A left handed man from the Right Handed Tribe!

The Lord says some interesting things at times.

Ehud will be the man God uses to defeat, to slay, the King of Moab. But the Bible further informs us of Ehud. Even to the point of describing the weapon he plans to use. "Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh."

A Man of God with a two-edged sword! The word for dagger here can mean anything from a knife to an axe. A cubit is about eighteen inches long, too. Some Bible commentators say that Ehud's being left-handed likely indicates that he is ambidextrous, fully capable of using both hands in nearly any task assigned!

Ehud is going to visit the enemy King, bringing a present no less! The noun used here can mean an offering, a gift, or even a food item, meat. "And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present."

Now we learn that Eglon the "bull" is round and fat like one too, like that domesticated, soon-to-be-slain-and-eaten animal! What pictorial writing is here, in the Old Testament.

Ehud empties the room where Eglon is reigning ... and then kills the man with his knife, his sword. Here's how it happens, word for word. "And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out." By the way, that noun "message" can either mean a "word" from the Lord ... or a "thing" from the Lord! Ehud's "gift" to the gentile King might just have been that thing, the "dagger!"

And the noun for "dirt" used here is too graphic to print!

A dead, wicked, fat King!

God wanted to give His people the victory! He longed for them to love Him and live for Him! "And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries. And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mount, and he before them. And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over. And they slew of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, all lusty, and all men of valour; and there escaped not a man."

Israel trounced the Moabites, with God's Help!

And the victory brought liberty to the Jews for nearly a century! "So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years."

One Judge, one of twelve.

Ehud.

A man in this case "used of God."

Surely this is the heart's desire of every Christian!

                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9, SHAMGAR:

The Judge we meet today, one of the twelve in the Old Testament Book of Judges, is the most briefly described of all.

A simple verse, relatively short too! "And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel." Judges 3:31

His name is "Shamgar."

It's spelled "shamgar" in Hebrew, so our King James Version's reading is just a letter-for-letter transliteration from Hebrew into English.

The name means "sword," according to the experts.

When our verse tells us that "after him came Shamgar," the "him" is Ehud. He was Shamgar's immediate predecessor.

The Father of this third Judge of Israel is named "Anath," meaning "answer." It is derived from a key Hebrew verb "anah," translated "hear" 42 times in the Bible. Shamgar had an attentive Father!

The verb "slew" is "nakah," most literally meaning "killed, slaughtered." Mortally wounded.

The fact that his victims are numbered so evenly, "six hundred," makes some Bible scholars, the liberal ones, question the accuracy of this paragraph of Scripture. They say the number is so "rounded off," so "symbolic."

Well, they are wrong!

The man slew 600 enemy soldiers.

Exactly.

Some enemies of Biblical inerrancy claim this Shamgar incident is a foreshadowing and adaptation of an event in Samson's life, a later Judge. He is said to have killed a thousand men, Philistines apparently, with the jawbone of an ass. See Judges 15:15-16 for the exact words.

What weapon did Shamgar use?

An "ox goad," in Hebrew "baqar malmad." This expression is derived from the Hebrew noun "lamad," meaning "to teach."

But perhaps the best thing said about Shamgar is this: "He also delivered Israel." The verb for "delivered" is "yasha," became their "saviour," defended them and rescued them and avenged their wrongs.

Yes, from many-chaptered Gideon to one-verse Shamgar ... God uses men to serve his Name.

Famed and well-known ones ... to insignificant and rather obscure ones!

God needs people to love Him and follow him and obey Him!

Anyone today willing?

                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10, JUDGES 4 AND 5, PROSE AND POETRY:

The story, or maybe I should say stories, of Deborah and Barak intertwine closely. It takes two chapters of God's Word to relate these events.

Some Bible teachers say Deborah is the Judge here. Others claim that role for Barak. Dr. Scofield clearly believes the title belongs to both people. His heading at Judges 4:4 says; "Deborah and Barak, the fourth and fifth Judges."

Very interesting.

This much is for sure. In the dual chapter record of their exploits, chapter 4 is prose. And chapter five is beautifully poetic.

A historian is at work in the first, an artist in the second. The Holy Spirit is of course the Author of it all, all the Scripture.

But still, a few differences in emphasis exist in the two rehearsals of the great battle against Jabin the King of Canaan and against Sisera his commanding general.

The prose version (chapter 4) does not mention Israel's victory celebration. Or the stars fighting against the enemy. Or the curse placed on the people of Meroz for their non-involvement in the conflict!

Correspondingly the poetic version does not mention the Canaanite King Jabin. Or Deborah's life prior to the war. Or Barak's hesitancy to enter the fray! Or Sisera's flight to Jael and her heroic deed.

In keeping with the genres of literature we call narrative (chapter 4) and poetry (chapter 5) one can easily say that if the historical account were not in our possession (Judges chapter 4) we would not be able to reconstruct the events that led to Israel's victory, not based solely on the poet's words of praise (Judges chapter 5) anyway.

Also this, if it interests anyone. Chapter 4 belittles Barak, placing him subservient to the woman. While chapter 5 gives the man an egalitarian position, right beside the lady busy as a "bee." The meaning of Deborah's name, "bee!"

Tomorrow we will analyze chapter four, then chapter 5 the day following. There's lots to learn!

Another man used of God to deliver His people, but this time definitely with the help of a woman.

God is no Respecter of persons!

Let's all go to Church this Lord's Day ... and seek to be used of Him, to bring honor and glory to his name!

                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 11, DEBORAH AND BARAK, THE PROSE ACCOUNT:

The fourth chapter of Judges, the Scriptural account of Israel's defeating the enemy King Jabin of Canaan, contains twenty-four verses. Yet we today need to at least survey this battle.

I will do so in summary form, trying to bring glory to the God of Israel Who gave her the victory.

Here's the problem, due to the sins of God's people. "And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel." Judges 4:1-3

Here's God's solution to the problem. Revealed through a judge in Israel named Deborah. "And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand." Judges 4:4-7, a direct promise from God!

But there was still a small issue. Barak would not go alone. "And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh." Judges 4:8-9, with Deborah beside the leader Barak.

So now the warriors can be called. "And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him." Judges 1:10, thousands of troops.

Now here's the inspired account of the war, victory for Israel! "And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor. And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon. And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him. And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left." Judges 4:12-16

But yet one man did escape, in fact, the "key" man! Wicked Sisera the General of Jabin's army! "Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite." Judges 4:17

Safe, Sisera believes. He has reached a home where a peace treaty exists, between Heber and the Canaanites! "And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died." Judges 4:18-21, brutally slain!

Finally a pursuing Barak, Israel's Commander, arrives. He thinks he is about to capture Sisera! "And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples." Judges 4:22, was Barak disappointed?

Now look Who properly is acknowledged as the Giver of such a great victory! "So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel." Judges 4:23, Amen!

That's the story! And in a real way that's the repetitive narrative of the Book of Judges, told over and over again.

Sin got God's people into trouble.

They cried out to Jehovah for relief.

God raised up a deliverer.

And victory came via divine power!

And in this case the land had peace for forty years!

That's our great Lord.

                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Tomorrow we plan to look at the next chapter in Judges where this battle is celebrated in song, Judges 5:1-31.

 

 

LESSON 12, DEBORAH AND BARAK, THE POETIC ACCOUNT:

The Biblical account of Deborah and Barak spills over into Judges chapter 5. There, after a fairly detailed recitation of the events that transpired on that memorable battle day, the Holy Spirit has the victors burst into song! Yes, chapter 5 is a poem, a hymn, an anthem of praise!

Here's verse 1 of our chapter: "Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying ..." This information alone makes one believe that humanly speaking Deborah and Barak are the writers the Holy Spirit inspired to create this chapter. The verb "sang" implies joyfulness everywhere one goes!

Here are some of the movements in this great  peon of praise. "Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel." Judges 5:2-3, where the "people" are the Jewish fighters who confronted and decimated the enemy. And note the proper response to victory ... singing and praising the Lord! Our Commander In Chief!

Next God is pictured poetically as coming to help His people, the Israeli army! "LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel." Verses 4-5, called a theophany, is a pre-incarnate appearance of Almighty God. The Lord is coming up from Sinai, and as He does so, as He marches, the clouds pour forth their rain and the mountains shake at His Glory! Nature "performing" for its creator!

Now conditions in Israel, a depressed nation because of her stubborn sins, are verbalized. "In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?" Judges 5:6-8, where streets and roads are bare because of the danger of the ever-present enemy marauders. Travelers used by-passes and back roads to avoid detection and robbery! Then new "gods" where chosen, a Hebrew word that can mean "leaders" also. I think Barak is in view, though he's veiled. Once the commander is in place and the soldiers mobilized ... war begins! But there's one drawback at least, Israel has no weapons, not even a single shield or spear! Backslidden and unarmed, what a precarious situation!

Next, some helped with the battle and some did not! They are catalogued here. "Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." Those who came: "Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer. And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley." Now those who reneged: "For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart. Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches." Back to the brave again: "Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field." One preacher said, "God keeps a record of the workers and the shirkers!" So did Deborah and Barak!

Now here's the battle expressed in song: "The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo." But God miraculously intervened: "They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength. Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones." Weather, which God controls anyway, now enters the fray, storms and floods apparently crippling the nine hundred iron chariots Sisera possessed!

Now back to a city that did not help at all. And a curse upon them! "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty." On the Website here we have a series of Lessons about Meroz. See the site map for details. God indeed takes a dim view of laziness it seems.

Now we go from public warfare to a private encounter. And a woman, a lady, is the heroine too. "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. He, Sisera, asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish. She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer; and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead." Judges 5:24-27, where Jael is never condemned once. She was a devious little thing too!

Note: Jael is a gentile who does not have to fight, yet she does! Meroz is a Jewish city which should have fought, but didn't! God gives us a surprising account of both! Divine priorities here are revealed.

Now one more verse to our song of praise. A little sketch about the enemy general's mother. She's still waiting for her little boy to come home! "The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots? Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself. Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?" A sad Mom to be. Watch how she rationalizes all the evils her son regularly commits! "Women and money," the two major rewards of battle, so she thinks. Such was the moral level of that bygone day, yet about the same now.

Then the chapter ends. "So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." Verse 31, the finale! That God's people, it is prayed, may be as the "sun," bright and faithful and strong and life-imparting! Also most of these heathen tribes, these now conquered enemies, worshipped the sun. God just reversed their thinking. Their sun-gods failed! The Jews are now like the "sun," similar to what Psalm 19 says of the Lord God Himself. God's children are like Him in many ways. 

Then the epilogue. "And the land had rest forty years." God is good to a people who really do not deserve His kindness.

And that same story continues to this day.

Thank the Lord for His amazing Grace!

                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Yet this same God also is Holy. He condemns and punishes sin in our lives too. in fact, that's the essence of the whole Book we're studying, the Book of Judges.

 

 

LESSON 13, THE CALL OF GIDEON:

The next Judge to study as we work our way through the Old Testament Book of Judges is Gideon. We have now essentially treated the Deborah/Barak account as being just one administration. That approach will yield a total of twelve judgeships that God has described for us.

Now the sixth chapter of Judges opens with the "call" of Gideon. That's what we will study today. We learned yesterday that scholars have found enough "call" episodes in Scripture to catalogue them as a "genre" of Holy Writ!

Think of that! Focusing on the many times in the Bible that God called His men to some task! Isaiah and Jeremiah and Amos and the Disciples, among others, come to mind.

Well, here's Gideon's experience: "And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house. And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man. And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again. And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it. And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites." Judges 6:11-24, inerrantly inspired Scripture.

These "call" events, when God summons a man to some a special task (from preaching the Word to leading an army), follow a loosely organized pattern. Each element of that pattern is present in the Gideon account too.

1. A direct meeting with God or His Messenger. Sometimes known as "The Angel of the Lord."

2. The name of the candidate being called. Sort of an "introductory address" according to one scholar.

3. A divine commission, a description of the task at hand, often given in detail. Paul to Timothy, "Preach the Word."

4. The raising of objections by the person being "called." This is the case from Moses to Jeremiah to Isaiah, among many others.

5. Keeping with God's Nature, His Character and Essence, words of reassurance are often inserted next. "I will be with thee," or something like that. "I will go with thee."

6. Quite often a "sign" authenticating the call is given. With Gideon such signs are abundantly emphasized. Maybe Gideon needed too many!

7. Then that individual, called of God, is expected to obey the Voice of the Lord, dutifully and faithfully so.

One more thing today as well. It appears that several "traits" of the call of Gideon parallel the call of Moses! In fact, the Moses/Exodus pattern is repeated dozens of times throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

For example: Moses was at "work" when God called him. So was Gideon. So was Amos. So were Peter and James and John. So was Paul. So was Elisha! Maybe God "calls" working people to serve Him, not lazy folks!

In Moses' situation "fire" from God appeared, in that burning bush you will remember. And here with Gideon "fire" is present as well.

Communion is established between Moses and God, back in Exodus chapter three. So is it between Gideon and this Angel of the Lord, likely a pre-incarnate Appearance of the Second Person Of The Trinity, of our Lord Jesus.

Honesty is easily observed between both Moses and the Lord and Gideon and the Angel. Both are allowed freedom of speech, free will it looks like to me.

More "points" of similarity exist. Clearly Gideon the fearful, unsure potential leader is being likened to the ultimately bold, dynamic Moses!

Wow!

Maybe this could be said. It is true beyond doubt. God looks at us for what we can become through His Grace ... not for what we are! He, once our sins are forgiven, also never looks at us for what we have been either.

That's how Abram became Abraham. And how Simon became Peter. And how Jacob became Israel! And how Saul became Paul.

The transforming Grace of God!

                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 14, GIDEON'S FIRST TEST:

Just as soon as God "called" Gideon as a "Judge" in Israel, the new Jewish leader was asked to do something for his nation. Something big, dangerous even.

Here are the words of Scripture: "And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it. And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar. Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar." Judges 6:25-32

It seems that much of Israel was contaminated with idol worship during those days! And Gideon's Father was one of the participants.

And one of the first things this newly commissioned man of God must do is ... of course ... get rid of all false gods.

Some act of separation may often follow, immediately follow, upon the heels of a call to serve God, a call to preach!

Gideon is to "throw down" this bogus altar, dedicated to the Canaanite darling, their little god Baal.

Then God asked, commanded, him to build a true altar on the rock foundation that was by then exposed.

Next the grove of trees nearby was to be leveled. That would have included a pole carved in the name of another of their gods, well a goddess in this case.

And once the directions had been given, obediently, Gideon followed the commands of the Lord.

Gideon is a man, or at least belonged to a family, of some means. He is taking "ten men of his servants" to help him hew the trees and destroy the altar! Not every Israeli family had ten servants!

But there's one negative point. Honestly, we are told that Gideon did this task at night, because he was fearful of doing so in the daytime. He is still battling some apprehension, still somewhat fearful.

Of course a commotion ensued when the city dwellers found that their system of worship had been destroyed!

Gideon was discovered to be the culprit and his immediate death was demanded. He had tampered with their gods and goddesses!

Now Gideon's Father comes to the rescue. His name is Joash and it means "Jehovah's Fire," or something close to that. But yet the man had allowed a false religious shrine to be constructed in his backyard!

All this of course is documented in the Scripture printed at the beginning of today's lesson.

Joash stands up for Gideon, using a brilliant piece of logic in doing so. "Can't Baal defend himself? Does that god need someone to 'save' him? Leave my son Gideon alone. If Baal wishes to harm him, then so be it. If not, let God be God!"

Apparently Gideon passes his test. He is still supposed to lead the Jewish army forces into combat against the dreaded Midianites.

Yet he is still worried!

His faith must be stronger.

And God in Heaven, tenderly and patiently, will allow for Gideon's weakness here ... until he can grow into more maturity.

What a magnificent God we serve!

                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Probably what was really happening here, at least on the side of Gideon's family, is something called "syncretism." Worshipping in one religious tradition, by one set of convictions, then mixing in aspects of other religious beliefs into that main belief system one has adopted. Like a Baptist wearing or praying rosary beads! May God deliver us form such careless living.

 

 

LESSON 15, GIDEON ENCOURAGED:

The Lord sure knows how to encourage a person! One of the very Names Scripture ascribes to our Triune God is "Comforter." Yes, the Holy Spirit, God the Third Person.

In the life of the Old Testament Judge we call Gideon, God's ability to encourage is seen quite clearly. Gideon was a man of weak faith, needing proof after proof or sign after sign that God was really going to give Israel's modest army victory over the teeming forces of Midian.

After a series of persuasive nudges and the very night before the war was to commence, God did the following for his man. "And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude. And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. And ...." Judges 7:9-16

Gideon was, God's idea mind you, to sneak near the encampment of the enemy. Not going alone, either. Then do some eavesdropping!

God had it so arranged that two nervous Midianite soldiers were talking ... so that they could be easily overheard. And Gideon was all "ears!"

One soldier had dreamed a little story, a parable. About a round loaf of bread that rolled into a Midianite army tent, knocking the thing over and rendering it absolutely useless.

The other soldier interpreted the dream, a big thing in those superstitious days. Why, that overcoming loaf of bread, destroying everything in its path, was nothing other than the Israelite army! And its leader Gideon!

Well, that did it!

Gideon is a changed man! "And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian."

Then Gideon, with a small band of troops selected by the Lord Himself, charged into the fray! And they won the victory.

Largely because the Lord God encouraged the heart of His Judge for that hour. And amazingly it looks like God condescended to the level of pre-monarchial Israel to deliver His message of hope!

A dream!

A cake of barley!

A flattened tent!

And the whole thing symbolizing Gideon smashing the wicked Midianites!

Gideon needed this kind of help and support to do the job God needed him to complete.

David did not need so much help. He could, according to First Samuel 30:6, "encouage himself in the Lord!"

But not Gideon!

Here's the good news. God can, and will, uplift and strengthen and encourage His people!

And He still does so today.

The Psalmist once called God "the Lifter Up of my head!" That's found in Psalm 3:3, I'm pretty sure. All this means is that God is our Great Supporter, Helper, One Who helps us rise out of the ashes or dust of despondency!

Again, He's the Encourager!

Praise His good Name!

                  --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

Someone write us today and tell us about a time God recently encouraged you! We would love to hear your story as you glorify our great Lord.

 

 

LESSON 16, GIDEON'S END:

The Old Testament Judge we call Gideon was successful, at least as far as defeating the Midianite army was concerned. His victory in fact earned him great popularity within Israel.

Here's an example, and the Text for today as well. Read with us the whole paragraph in order to better understand the Lesson.

"Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you. And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites. And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house. Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon." Judges 8:22-28

The people wanted to make Gideon a King, their King! More than a one man term too, Israel wanted to institute a Gideonite Dynasty! "Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian."

But Gideon, wisely it appears, declines their offer. "Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you." He sure uses the right words! The man knows how to "talk" the right way!

But though he has refused the monarchy, he is tempted by the lure of wealth! The conquering general or judge or leader "smells" money! "And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites. And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks." Bounty seized from the prisoners of war!

One commentary says this is the equivalent of forty-three pounds of gold. Figure this at today's prices! Gideon asks for millions of dollars!

But that's not the worst of it! Next: "Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house." The man who "knows better" created an ephod, probably a vest like garment that really represented a whole system of idolatry, and his entire family began to worship the thing! Truthfully the whole nation fell into the demonic trap.

So Gideon the hero really became Gideon the backslider! Maybe even Gideon the apostate!

Still, God's Grace is evident for His people. "Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon."

Gideon did not finish strong. He became weaker as the years progressed. Paul the Apostle, on the other hand, had the goal of finishing his course or life valiantly! Ending his earthly journey or race still being faithful to the Lord Jesus Who saved him.

Let us adopt the same mindset!

Unlike Gideon, like Paul. Better yet, like Jesus who was the Supreme Example of Faithfulness! Jesus, the Son of God.

                        --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 17, TOLA:

The next Judge after Gideon is named Tola. He is barely mentioned in one way, but has vast significance in another. Let us tell you about him. First using Scripture, of course.

"And there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir." Judges 10:1-2

The Text actually says "And after Abimelech" Tola arose. But we have not in this survey studied Gideon's son, who is technically not a Judge anyway. He was a renegade. Probably his story is given in Judges to illustrate how far downhill the leadership quality had devolved. Conditions are worsening as God's people become more and more like the heathen nations around them.

Anyway, Back to Tola. The first point of interest is the name itself, the meaning of his name. "Tola" is spelled in Hebrew, transliterated, "tola." It is pronounced "to-lah," accenting the last syllable. The name is used in Scripture six times, all as proper names. It's also the name of Issachar's firstborn son.

But more than that, "Tola" is actually and precisely identical to another Hebrew noun. That "tola" means "worm!" This man, the Judge, has a name that indicates "lowliness, humility, poverty of spirit."

Now comes a bit of typology.

We have here a man who "saved" Israel, whose name means "worm." But then again that's true of Jesus Who saved sinners! Psalm 22, word for word expressing Jesus' thoughts as he offered Himself on Calvary, uses "tola" or "worm" as a name for our Saviour. Yes, Psalm 22:6 has our Lord saying "I am a worm."

Tola the Judge is a picture of Jesus the Saviour!

This noun when used as an adjective gives us the words "crimson" and "scarlet" too. Colors Biblically associated with Jesus' Blood as he shed it on the Cross.

Our man Tola here is the son of "Puah," a name meaning "splendid" according to Strong's concordance. But then again this word is derived from a verb that means "shattered, broken in pieces, cleaved." I see Glory after Suffering here!

But Tola's Grandfather's name was "Dodo," a relative to the Hebrew word for "love!" Red-hot passionate love, "boiling" by definition, that fervent!

These are among the generations of "Issachar," one of Jacob's sons whose name means "payment, reward, remuneration." The composite is suggesting there is great wealth and blessing at the heart of this Tola story. At the foot of the Cross where God's Worm died for you and me!

And I'll declare. "Shamir," the Judge's hometown, means "thorns!" Furthermore, needing little if any explanation, "Ephraim" means "double" as in "double blessing" or "doubly fruitful!"

This Tola had a twenty-three year reign, victory over the enemies for over two decades! A man of peace. The True Tola, the Lord Jesus, has provided us victory eternally!

Our Tola, the man Judges 10 sets before us, "died" after a useful life of service. Our Lord died too, but rose again the third day! Rose for evermore, to function as our great High Priest in Heaven at the Right Hand of God!

Some will say I've read too  much into today's Text. Really there's a lot more I'd like to say.

But Jesus is here for sure.

In one of the most obscure Rulers Israel ever had.

Really we think Jesus is the Center of all Scripture!

Praise His Name.

                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 18, JAIR:

The portion of the Book of Judges which we are now studying lists two of the most unknown Judges. Tola we noticed yesterday. Today it's "Jair."

Here's the Scripture: "And after Tola arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years. And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died, and was buried in Camon. And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord ...." Judges 10:3-6

The Judge named "Jair" was apparently a relatively successful leader of Israel. His name significantly means "enlightens!" And he was certainly a better governor that the man who followed him, that being Jephthah.

Jair's being a "Gildeadite" identifies him as a descendant of the sons of Joseph. He's of the tribe of Manasseh. "Gilead" literally means a "rocky" region. Our hero here leads Israel, protects them and guides them for twenty-two years. No American President has ever held office that long.

Not only that, Jair was a family man. Though perhaps not completely monogamous, he fathered thirty sons! No mention of the girls, if any! This was certainly a patriarchal age, maybe too much so. To own a little colt in those days, one a person could ride at will, was a sign of some degree of prosperity.

Then for each of Jair's boys to control a city, and for us to be told so, is significant. He raised his family to be responsible in the affairs of life. Even after Jair's death quality leadership for Israel, it's possibility, existed. But somehow the Nation missed this fact.

The compound term "Havothjair" just means "the cities of Jair." His dynasty had virtually provided stable government for Israel those two decades!

But then, as with every human leader, Jair died. The city in which he was buried, "Camon," means "raised!" The root verb inherent here is "qum," that is "to arise" but also "to be established." Even "to continue, to abide."

I'm wondering something. With the city of Jair's burial being specifically mentioned here, immediately following the story of Tola yesterday ... could these two Minor Judges be picturing for us the Real Deliverer of Israel?

He is the Lord Jesus Christ!

Tola, that red blood, symbolized the Cross!

And Jair, buried in a place that means "arise," symbolizing the Resurrection of our dear Lord!

If so, we've come across a precious little treasure trove here in the early verses of Judges chapter ten!

Wow!

                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 19, JEPHTHAH:

The Judge who becomes today's focus is Jephthah. And it looks to me like each new leader during this time in Israel's history is a little less capable that the one who preceded him. At least that's the case with the major Judges. Especially so with Jephthah.

Israel as a nation is deteriorating spiritually and politically and practically every other way too. As I told you earlier, one writer calls this spiritual decay "the Canaanization of Israel." Becoming more and more like the world!

The name Jephthah means "He opens." Or one source says "Breaker-Through." Another, "Whom God sets free."

Jephthah is the child of a harlot. And his brethren, all full-blooded Jews, drove him away as a mere half-breed! He had to leave town!

Thus the man lived in the wild. For sure arid and rocky and hard was his environment. Yet Judges 11 tells us that he was a "mighty man of valor," a great soldier, a real fighter! A war machine!

And a gang of "vain" men gathered around him as he "raided" the countryside, an ancient Robin Hood type character it seems.

Then one day an enemy came to attack the area of Israel where Jephthah's family lived, the land of Gilead. Those predators were the people of fairly nearby and very wicked Ammon.

They wanted to rule over Israel, to tax them strenuously. Maybe even confiscate their possessions.

Looks like war might be the only solution here. Defend that property! Protect those wives and children and grandchildren! Keep that farmland!

But the people of Gilead had no one to lead their army!

In fact, they had no army!

So they came to Jephthah and asked for help! Yes, they approached this now-turned-outlaw folk hero and asked him to lead an attack against the Ammonites! They man they had once run out of their country!

Then Jephthah, after some shrewd bargaining, got himself declared the head of all Gilead, really a commander-in-chief!

Notice he's really not a Judge over all Israel, just part of the people, part of the land. But we can study this later. Back to our Text.

A deal is struck and war is declared!

"Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands." Judges 11:29 and 32, this is what got Jephthah mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven!

War over, that quickly!

And remember, Jephthah certainly knew how to fight!

But he did one thing that was exceedingly unwise. More than that it was down-right heathen!

In trying to bargain with God, he promised to sacrifice whatever first came out of his house when he returned from the war. "And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." Judges 11:30-31

Well, Jephthah and the forces of Israel won the war! Relatively easily, with God's help, no doubt.

But when he came home, of all things, his daughter was the first thing out the door! "And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter." Judges 11:34

And now, to make a long story short, after a brief time Jephthah did sacrifice his daughter on an altar to God.

God of course is not pleased. God would not allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac if you remember. God does not require or even desire human sacrifice. The Bible strictly forbids it.

Yes, Judges 11:39 plainly says "He carried out his vow to her."

She's now dead. At her Father's own hand. What dark days those were.

That's how ignorant Jephthah was spiritually.

He had the spirituality and mentality of a Baal worshipper. Of a follower of Chemosh, the goddess to whom the ancients gave their children in sacrifice. The mindset of a Canaanite.

Is there a moral here? A point to this sad story? What does God want us to learn from these traumatic events?

Surely.

That's the kind of leadership a Nation gets when she forsakes her God, the true and living God. When, as was the case in the days of the Judges, "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Judges 17:6 and 21:25

A strange mixture of proper Old Testament Practice and improper heathen behaviour blended into the same mind and heart, that of Jephthah's.

All I can think to say right now is this. God help America! God help the West! God help anyone who has turned away from Him and now lives only according to man's standards!

We Americans are likely on the same downhill slope on which Israel found herself all those long years ago. And the only answer is Revival.

Repentance and Revival!

And just like He was again and again through the Book of Judges ... God is still gracious and forgiving and willing to accept His heartbroken people's cries for mercy.

Amen.

              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 20, IBZAN:

The Judges name is "Ibzan." All we know of him is found in three short verses. "And after Jephthah Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Bethlehem." Judges 12:8-10

The name means "whiteness." Then again, quite typically, another teacher says it means "swift." Either way he comes and goes as Israel's ninth Judge. He lives in Bethlehem, "house of bread" in Hebrew. And that definition is not contested.

The verb "judged" translates "shaphat" as it has done many times now. It means "to govern," but also "to vindicate" or defend or fight for a people.

But watch this. Ibzan is placed in the narrative, chronologically too no doubt, just after Jephthah. That's Jephthah who had no children! Who sacrificed, who murdered, his only heir, a pure young daughter.

So the Holy Spirit reminds us that Ibzan had "thirty" sons! Often in Scripture the number "thirty" is associated with "dedication."  The man is, no matter what else, committed to raising a family! Perhaps, though it did not merge with God's Will, he was thinking of building a dynasty. God blessed the man with children!

But there's more, thirty daughters are his also. Of course one might wonder about the wife, or would it be the wives? Sixty children, five dozen offspring! When considering Psalm 127:3-5, "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." Ibzan then was unusually happy.

Then notice too that Ibzan, even with his older children, had control of them. They were not rebels! "And he had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons." As adults, they are still honoring and obeying their Father. Surely this says something about the man's ability as a parent, as a leader too.

And his "seven" year judgeship surely represents a complete and successful administration, being a blessing to his nation, the people of God, Israel.

But as it is with all human beings, he "died." And was buried in his hometown, another mark of integrity. He lived his whole life in virtually the same place, never blotting his or his family's name!

Little known, maybe even unknown to most, but a man of God who served faithfully in his time. In fact he could be among those the Lord had in mind when He inspired Paul to write these famous Hebrews chapter 11 words: "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, escaped the edge of the sword, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of aliens."

May we have many more like him.

                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 21, ELON:

In our trek through the Book of Judges we have arrived at another one of the lesser known heroes, "Elon."

And here's what Judges tells us about our subject for today. "And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years. And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun." Judges 12:11-12

His name means "oak," like the tree. Reminds me of what David wrote in Psalm number One about the godly person who meditates in the Scriptures all the time. "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Like an oak tree maybe!

We have some reason to believe that Elon was such a man. Not a single thing is recorded against his character or his judicial administration! Thank God for such a sterling testimony!

Elon is of the Tribe of Zebulun. That's one of twelve groups of Jews, each named after one of the sons of Jacob. Notice the variety of people God used in the Book of Judges. Multiple tribes are represented in that number, indicating that the Lord uses men and women to do his work from every background and every walk of life.

His calling is impartial.

And multifaceted.

Elon led and counseled his Country for a decade, ten peaceful years. Long enough to establish a record of faithfulness. In fact, he presided up until the time of his death. "Faithful unto death," what a testimony!

He was buried in a strange sounding place, to us anyway. "Aijalon" means "field of deer!" You can see the word atop Psalm 22, that great classic about Jesus' crucifixion on Calvary. Jesus is the Perfect little "deer" of God, clean and graceful and sure-footed and serpent-fighting ...  just like that little God-created animal.

Maybe Elon is resting still, his body, in that place. Symbolically looking forward to the day when the true Deer will return to earth, God's Darling Son!

The once-dead, three-day buried, literally-resurrected Saviour of all the world! Yes, Jesus died for everybody.

Elon, historically vague but spiritually bright!

                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 22, ABDON:

Scripturally speaking, five of the twelve Judges are barely mentioned, while others are given chapter after chapter of descriptive analysis. Samson consumes four chapters, for example.

The last of these "unknowns" is "Abdon. He was governor only eight years. But apparently he was at least somewhat successful as a leader of Israel. And that's a good thing.

Here is most all the information we possess about the man. "And after Elon ... Abdon the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, judged Israel. And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years. And Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died, and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites." Judges 12:13-15

The names are significant here. "Abdon" means "servile." The root Hebrew noun "abad" means "slave." Perhaps we can legitimately wonder if Abdon truly had a "servant spirit." God loves that!

And his Dad was named "Hillel," a beautiful word meaning "praising!" And "Pirathonite" is a term meaning "princely!" What a combination of words! They tell a spiritual story, record a godly life journey!

If one is humble ... having been reared in an atmosphere of praise and joy ... he or she will likely live a princely, majestic life! To the Glory of God!

The noun "nephews" really looks to me like "sons of sons" in Hebrew. Seventy descendants, just like Gideon had!

This heroic man is being portrayed here as a conqueror too. He's buried in the hill of the "Amalekites." These people, descendents of Esau, were really enemies of Israel, again and again. But at least for now they have been subdued. Abdon the fighter, he must have been! Remember though that the Amalekites rise up again later and harass Israel, in the reign of King Saul for example.

Furthermore, surprisingly too, it's likely that Abdon is named in First Samuel 12:11 along with Gideon or Jerubbaal and Jephthah and Samuel as great deliverers of God's people. But there he is called "Bedan," a name related to "Abdon" but really meaning "judging."

Abdon is like so many of God's workers in the past, present too for that matter. He works in the background. Quietly doing what he was called to do. Letting God take care of the records!

The God Who is so very faithful. The God Whom the Book of Hebrews categorizes: "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." Hebrews 6:10

Willing servant today, no matter who you are or where you are, God will reward your diligence too!

                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 23, SAMSON:

Samson, the last Judge to rule Israel, was "called" of God to his specific work. The task of delivering his people from the yoke of the wicked Philistines.

This "call" of God is apparent throughout the whole Samson narrative, Judges chapters 13-16.

Here are some examples. The first of which was before Samson's birth. The angel of the Lord to the child's future Mother: "Lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines." Called, like Jeremiah the Prophet, while still in the womb!

Did Samson experience that call? Did he ever had a "relationship" with the Spirit of God? Apparently, yes! "And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol." Judges 13:25, where "began" suggests a series of encounters with the Lord's Spirit.

But, and here's the point of today's whole lesson, Samson never did seem to take his "call" from God seriously.

I have learned studying this Judges material, that whole Old Testament Book, that there exists an entire field of theological study labeled "The Call Narratives of Scripture." Analyses of the numerous times God "calls" one of his children into some specific kind of service.

We have a full account of Moses' Call! And several of the Judges make the list, Gideon perhaps being foremost in  that department. But so were Elisha and Amos and Isaiah and Ezekiel specifically "called" of God. And the New Testament examples can be added to this list, the Disciples and Paul the Apostle among several others.

Paul once wrote a young Preacher named Timothy to "Make full proof of thy ministry." This quote is from Second Timothy 4:5. And to a Pastor named Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." Colossians 4:17

Of course Samson did not have the benefit of the New Testament. Nonetheless he "knew" God and could have been a powerfully successful leader of Israel.

His exploits against the enemy, the Philistines, were numerous and quite impressive. But most of his forays were because of selfish and sinful situations into which he had implicated himself!

And Samson never even seems to have lived the strict, separated life that God demanded of him. "The no razor and no wine and no touching dead bodies" rule by which the Nazarites lived.

He handles a dead carcass in Judges chapter fourteen, apparently sinning willfully. Yet again Judges 14:19 again tells us: "And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them." God's Grace is amazing!

Still Samson always seemed to live with himself as number one on the priority list. Instead of existing to please the Lord God of Israel, he lived to please himself. In every view, every movement, of the four-chapter Samson narrative in the Book of Judges there is a woman who is close to Samson. From the beautiful woman at Timnath whom he married, a heathen by the way ... to the prostitute in Gaza with whom Samson spent some time ... to the lady named Delilah, all women he should not have been seeing!

I say it again, Samson did not properly value his "call" from God.

He became so calloused at sensing God's Presence that, when his hair was finally shaved off his head, rendering him powerless, Scripture records: "And he knew not that the Lord was departed from him." One of the saddest sentences in the Bible, Judges 16:20.

Once our giant of a man, considering his potential for serving God anyway, once he had been overcome by the Philistines and imprisoned and mocked ... he ended everything by finally calling on God, through still perhaps selfishly so. "And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life." Judges 16:28-31

He sadly died, a suicide, not being faithful to God. Not fully completing the "Call" God had so sweetly given him.

All this should make every Christian reading here today determined! Determined to do what God has given us to do, serving Him!

And Preachers, be sure to make much of your Calling from the Lord!

Let's let Paul speak once more. We can all adopt this great attitude. "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." First Timothy 1:12

Amen.

                   --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 24, MICAH AND HIS HIRED PRIEST:

The Book of Judges ends with two extended illustrations, actual events from history, that portray life in Israel during her pre-monarchy days. Things were bad, with every man doing what was right in his own eyes. The nation had rejected God as her King, that's for sure.

Chapters 17 and 18 of Judges reveal to us the absolute disintegration of Bible-approved religious life. Compromise at its apex, worship itself being changed into a "customized" affair!

Here's the way the Holy Spirit unfolds this event. Though I am going to put it into my own words. If you want the exact Text, read it verbatim in a King James Bible. The language is beautiful.

A young Jew named Micah (meaning "Who is like God") stole a fortune from his Mother. She cursed the then unknown thief. The impending doom scares Micah and he confesses his wrongdoing.

His Mom blesses him (with no punishment or correction at all) and gives him some of the silver to make an idol! These are supposed to be God-fearing folks! This newly created idol, a false god indeed, was quite convenient for Micah ... since he already had a shrine in his back yard. A self-made little "church" building where he could worship any way he desired! Micah even appointed his son to be "priest" to the whole little man-made "religion" he had devised.

Then one day something better happened. A real Levite came by, wandering the countryside. And Micah offered him a job, a genuine "man of God," a "hired" preacher, one born into the right family, to the descendents of Levi!

Look how far from God's Will and God's Word the people have drifted! Things are growing spiritually darker by the day.

Next in the story. The tribe of Dan, who had failed to drive the wicked heathen out from the land God had given them, began looking for a weak city or defenseless plot of territory even they could commandeer.

As Israel had done earlier in her history, spies were dispatched to survey the land. These men happened by Micah's house. They asked his fake Levite priest for "counsel." He told them to "go in peace" and God would "give" them a place to live. So they did.

Sure enough, they found a secluded, defenseless city named Laish. The spies promptly reported their findings to the whole tribe, to all Dan. Thus a war is about to be fought!

Yet one more trip to Micah's house is necessary. This time to "steal" his idol and chapel and priest! All this for sale ... eventually going to the highest bidder, I guess! Talk about reaping what one sows!

Yes, the priest goes with the biggest crowd, forsaking Micah and opting for the Danites. More prestige, more money no doubt, more popularity!

Afterwards, the Danites do conquer Laish and change its name to, guess what, "Dan!" And it becomes a center for idolatrous worship, leading the Jews further away from Jehovah God.

Then the story ends.

Nowhere in Scripture that I know describes any further or any more wide-spread apostasy.

Religion, personal relationship with God, is virtually non-existent. Everyone is doing things their own way. God's Word is not the standard.

And a nation is about to crumble.

And what happened to Israel back then, could happen again today to any country who forgets and forsakes the God of her youth!

Beware America.

                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 25, ONE MORE EVENT:

The last three chapters of the Old Testament Book of Judges form a unit of composition. A full narrative within itself. Yet it also ends the downward spiral of Israel, which had been going from bad to worse for many years.

They had rejected God as their Lord, as their King. And every person had begun to do what was "right" in his or her own eyes. That most often means what was "wrong" in the eyes of God!

The life of the Nation is now about as wicked as it can become. We saw yesterday her acceptance of idolatry. Now today she sinks as low as even Sodom and Gomorrah had been.

Here's the story, sad as it is. It's divinely recorded in Judges chapters 19-21, but today's Lesson only begins the tragedy. Yet it's self-contained and delivers quite a sermon to the people of God. The deceptiveness of sin is about to become even more evident.

All this begins with a family dispute. "And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim, who took to him a concubine out of Bethlehemjudah. And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father's house to Bethlehemjudah, and was there four whole months." Judges 19:1-2, another preacher and another concubine!

The Levite went to his wife's hometown and tried to bring her back home, maybe an honest attempt at reconciliation. But things did not turn out so well. On the way back to the Mount Ephraim area they needed to stop for the night. They thought about staying in Jebus, the ancient name for what later becomes Jerusalem. But back then that city was inhabited by wicked heathen, ungodly people who might not treat a family of Jews hospitably. They travel on a few miles to Gibeah, a city belonging to the tribe of Benjamin.

Then, after finally being invited into a home to spend the night, an example of Bible-taught love and kindness, the unthinkable happens. As they ate supper a knock came at the door. "Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly." Judges 19:22-23

These men, Jews, Benjamites, are demanding a sexual relationship with ... not the concubine ... but the Levite himself!

Look! Israel, or at least part of her, has backslidden so far from God that she now wants to commit sins once unheard of, always condemned by Scripture, and a capital crime as well.

The host offers an alternative. "Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing." Sounds just like the account in Genesis 19 of the Sodom affair!

 What next? "But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go." Brutality!

What about the girl?

"Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place." The girl is dead! Maybe raped to death! Maybe still alive at daybreak, dying on the threshold! Maybe ultimately slain by her wicked preacher husband! Judges 19:26-28

That's life in Israel, how degenerate it has become!

God's people now are no different at all from the reprobate people of Canaan. What a terrible state of affairs!

May God help us all to live clean and holy lives. Staying away from sin and its consequences.

              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 26, CUT TO PIECES:

We just studied a murder. Of a young lady, either raped to death or left abandoned due to her injuries or outright killed by her husband who was a Levite. Judges chapter 19 tells the story.

Once the Levite's concubine, her body, was brought home. Then, in perfect accordance with those days of anarchy and apostasy, the Levite did something unthinkable to his lover. And something "unthinkable" in the Book of Judges would by now be truly astounding!

Here's what the narrator, the writer of judges tells us: "And when he (the woman's husband, the Levite) was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds." Judges 19:29-30

The man cut the dead body into twelve pieces!

He then posted a piece of her to each of the twelve divisions of Israel, to each of their tribes.

As we shall learn tomorrow, he did this apparently to provoke the Nation to war! To attack the city, Gibeah, that was harboring the perverted murderers of the girl. Better said, to punish the men who raped her repeatedly, all night long, her last night on earth.

In today's Lesson I simply want to emphasize, or at least notice, how low moral and cultural and social life had fallen.

Human life now means virtually nothing.

No respect at all is here shown to a dead body.

Mutilate it.

That's what always happens to our treatment of each other ... when we forget God. When other men and women become only to us "animals" who have evolved from some lower life form!

When the community of humanity no longer considers each other "created" in the Image of Almighty God!

Just results of fate, luck, a roll of the dice.

Truth be told, all the way through the dark Book of Judges women are basically mistreated. Ignored, used, belittled, killed ... made subservient to the wishes of someone in power.

And this event caps them all.

What's the answer to this dilemma?

Here's one. Wait 'til Jesus comes! He, our precious Saviour, elevates womanhood as no one before had ever done. He shares with Moms and Sisters and Grandmothers and friends time and consideration and kindness and power and best of all, eternal life!

Let's all respect one another. Especially as Christians. The New Testament gives us well over a dozen commands about how we should treat "one another." And Paul is replete with such information and encouragement too.

Let's not cut our brother or sister to pieces. "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." Paul in Galatians 5:15, reflecting the condition in some of the Churches of his day.

Let's love and honor them, fellow children of the Lord.

                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 27, HUMAN INVENTIONS:

Concerning that Levite, Judges chapters 19-21, when his concubine was murdered ... he cut her bones and body into twelve pieces and dispatched its members to the uttermost parts of Israel. A piece of her to each tribe.

This caused an emotionally charged gathering of all the Nation. Those cruel perpetrators, the rapists and murderers, must be brought to justice. An impromptu army was formed and after three attempts the guilty party, the Tribe of Benjamin, was decimated. Really, a whole Tribal Family in Israel was reduced to barely 600 men! Yes, men only. All the others, including women and children, having been killed by their own Jewish relatives!

This dire situation leads the elders of Israel to pose a question. The Tribe of Dan was literally on the verge of extinction, the Tribe that was later to produce Saul the first King of the Monarchy and Paul the preaching Apostle of Jesus Christ!

Six hundred men, hiding in a cave for fear ... must become fathers of children! Many children, as many as possible!

But the bulk of Israel, the "eleven" Tribes not counting Benjamin, had made a vow, a fearful promise to each other and to God. They would not under any circumstances give any of their daughters to the Benjamites! Not after the horrendous sin they had committed or allowed to be committed.

Now we have the only surviving men of a whole Division of Israel, Jacob's delightful son Benjamin, and no possibility of their marrying Jewish girls!

This is practically genocide!

So the elders, the leaders, came up with a solution, quite a humanistic one too. God is silent through all of this, strangely silent!

One city, Jabesh Gildead, did not help in the war. So the Israelites mobilized their fighting forces and killed every person in that city! Except their marriage-age virgins! That way, foolish as it was, they gleaned 400 potential wives for the Benjamites! Talk about doing things "right" in one's own eyes, and "wrong" in the eyes of God!

Four hundred women, but still two hundred to go!

Where can they be found, that many more Jewish virgins?

This Nation "on its own" devises another brilliant idea! There's a "feast," the word being used possibly indicating a party rather than a worship observance dedicated to God, happening up at Shiloh, the Jewish City where the Tabernacle then rested, the Ark of the Covenant anyway.

The Israelite leaders, their "supreme court" at the time, advised the remaining two hundred sons of Benjamin to go "kidnap" they a wife from the host of dancing girls who would be enjoying the frivolity at the "feast!"

The Benjamite boys grown into men were glad to oblige! Thus each man could marry and have a family!

Thus ends the Book of Judges! With heathen intellectualism reigning supremely! Man is on the throne, each man a law unto himself!

And God is ignored.

Yet national life continues.

And everyone lives a Canaanized lifestyle.

No wonder God is about to raise up Samuel. Revival was the great need of that age.

And folks, America is living right now in the spirit of the Book of Judges.

Especially in chapters 19-21 I think. And the last verse Judges? Appropriately, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

God help us.

               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

We trust you have learned much from this journey through Judges. We certainly have. Let's thank God today for his precious Word.

 

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