A Vicious Cycle

Judges is closely related to the book of Deuteronomy which prophesies the future events reported in Judges. A Bible commentary says:

“…Deuteronomy most clearly expresses [God’s] covenant. Judges is then a sermon on Deuteronomy [with] lessons drawn from history illustrating Deuteronomic principles. This characteristic unites the parts of Judges into a whole. Deuteronomy 7:2 commands Israel to drive out the land’s native inhabitants. But in Judges 1:3-36 the tribes enslave them instead. Deuteronomy 12:3 commands them to destroy Canaanite places of worship…[and] Deuteronomy 6:6-7 commands the Israelites to teach their children about Yahweh. But in Judges 2:7-12, a generation arose who did not know about him. Deuteronomy 7:3-4 commanded them not to intermarry with the Canaanites. Judges 3:5-8 virtually quotes this law and gives it as a reason God was angry – exactly what Deuteronomy says his reaction would be. Consider also Deuteronomy 12:8: “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here this day, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” This is the motto of the last five chapters of Judges, cited three times, and it concludes the whole book…”1

It takes the average reader around two hours to read the entire book of Judges. I would strongly encourage you to do that multiple times or listen to it on your phone through an app like YouVersion. As you do, a pattern will emerge from generation to generation. A Bible dictionary says:

“Judges portrays the geographical and religious situation of the Israelites after Joshua’s death. It is a collection of primarily hero stories that emphasize the weaknesses of Israel’s leaders and God’s patient compassion. The narrative also illustrates God’s punishment of His people when they turn from worshiping Him to worshiping Baal and living immorally. This punishment usually consists of domination by other people. Each story is set within a framework involving five steps, commonly referred to as the “Judges Cycle,” of sin, repentance, and salvation:

  1. Israel does evil and worships the Baals.
  2. God becomes angry and hands Israel over to an enemy nation.
  3. Israel cries for help.
  4. God raises up judges who deliver Israel from the enemy.
  5. Israel returns again to foreign gods.”2

One error in studying Judges is to read with a religious spirit instead of a repentant spirit. A religious spirit wonders why supposed believers continue to fall back into sin, folly, and rebellion over and over from generation to generation. A repentant spirit sees this same pattern in our own churches and Christian ministries. It seems like the trend is always south and to the left, away from faithful obedience to God’s Word in favor of apostasy and idolatry. Furthermore, most honest Christians can see this same pattern in their own lives. If honest, we all say and do some of the same foolish and harmful things as the generations before us, and the dark world around us. To truly benefit from Judges, we have to keep asking how we might be like the same people who are suffering because of their sin.

Take an honest look at your own life, are there any areas where you fall back into sin? Repent and ask God to forgive you, then find a trusted and Godly person to hold you accountable.

  1. George M. Schwab, Right in Their Own Eyes:
    The Gospel according to the Book of Judges, ed. Tremper Longman III, The Gospel according to the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2011), 24- 25
  2. Trent C. Butler and Amy L. Balogh, “Judges, Book of,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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