It has been called “The Dark Ages Of The Old Testament.” During the period of the judges, there was moral, economic, social, political and religious decline. We often read that, during this time, the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.
History keeps repeating itself in the book of Judges. The people do evil, God allows and oppressor to persecute them, the people turn back to God and plead for deliverance, and God raises up a deliverer to defeat the oppressor and deliver Israel. Here, we speak of the “cycle” of Judges: sin, servitude, sorrow, supplication, and salvation.
Their enemy invaders came from the East (Mesopotamia), the Southeast (Moab), the North (Canaan), the East (Midian and Ammon), and the Southwest (Philistia). It is interesting that Israel overcame Canaan in the militarily brilliant strategy orchestrated by God (Central Canaan—Josh. 7-8, Southern Canaan—Josh. 9-10, and then Northern Canaan—Josh. 11-12). As a result of Israel’s failure to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan, the six oppressions came from the central, south, and north—each places where God had given them victory. What a reminder that when we don’t defeat the enemy, he will return! The enemy was sin!
Here is my summary of the book of Judges, as seen in Judges 2:16-19:
- The rulers—“Judges”
- The role—“Delivered”
- The rescued—“Them” (Israel)
- The rivals—“Those” (God’s enemies)
- The ruination—“Plundered them” (oppression)
- The refusal—“They did not listen to their judges”
- The reveling—“Played the harlot after other gods”
- The retreat—“Turned said quickly”
- The right road—“In which their fathers had walked”
- The role models—“Father, obeying the commands of the Lord”
- The resolution—“They did not so”
- The raising—“The Lord raised them up judges”
- The relationship—“The Lord was with the judges”
- The restoration—“Delivered them from the hand of their enemies”
- The repentance—“The Lord was moved to pity” (KJV—“It repented the Lord because of their groanings…”)
- The return—“When their judge died, they would turn back”
- The retrogression—“Acted more corruptly than their fathers”
- The resilience—“Didn’t abandon their practice or stubborn ways”
The judge was the savior of the people. Time and time again, the people put themselves in a position to need some serious rescue, and our long-suffering God was willing to soften His heart to their cries. Eventually, His patience ran out and even in this time period there were severe consequences. How often do we need the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of the Father? Often, we need forgiveness for the same sins repeatedly. We wonder how Israel could fall into the same traps, but we do well to identify and avoid them in our own times. We have the benefit of both Old and New Testament Scripture, and they would have only had the writings of Moses and Joshua when they lived. May we learn from these ancient lessons (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11) and stay off that ancient cycle.