Understanding the Past Helps Us Understand Today

Now that we’ve discussed the context surrounding the book of Judges, let’s dive in to all this book has to offer. Written or collected into a complete manuscript hundreds of years after the events took place, the book of Judges reports a significant season of transition for God’s people in the Old Testament.

In the book of Genesis, God raised up Abraham and Sarah to cut off their godless family, move in faith to a new nation, and start a new life and legacy in the Promised Land as the nation of Israel was born. At the end of Genesis, a famine takes the family into Egypt, which is reported in Exodus. At the end of roughly four hundred years away from the Promised Land, God’s people were enslaved and abused by a demonic king, or Pharaoh. At that time, God’s people who had not lived faithfully in relationship with the Lord cried out to Him in desperation. God heard and answered their desperate prayers, raising up Moses to lead God’s people into deliverance. Sadly, God’s people returned to rebellion against the Lord, which caused them to wander in the wilderness for some forty years. With the death of Moses, Joshua led the next generation into the Promised Land, setting the stage for Judges.

A Bible commentary says: “The death of Joshua and his generation is the backdrop against which the book of Judges unfolds. More than a sign of the absence of godly leadership, the notice about the emergence of a new generation signals to the reader that Israel now lacks those who remember the exodus and the mighty victories of God during the conquest of Canaan…The generations after Joshua are so far removed from past miracles that they have lost sight of their unique relationship with Yahweh and have fallen into worshiping the gods of the nations. God responds with a series of military conflicts designed to expose their sin and demonstrate his gracious deliverance through the judges. However, the people refuse to acknowledge their waywardness. Therefore, God reiterates that the nations will continue to live among his people “to see whether Israel would obey the commands of Yahweh”. As the rest of the book will demonstrate, the people will fail this test miserably.”1

Judges reports that the nation of Israel was supposed to honor God as their King, obeying His laws found in Scripture. Because of the multiple generations of sinful rebellion, the nation had fallen into complete anarchy, making it unsafe for citizens to travel or conduct basic business. Judges 5:6-8 says, “the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways. The villagers ceased in Israel[.]”

Had the people honored God as King, their nation would have not been devastated by military attacks externally and wicked behavior internally. This set the stage for ungodly leadership, which started with the judges and culminated with earthly kings. The history of sinful rebellion reported in Judges shows the need for a Spirit-filled king who is a worshiper of God and warrior against God’s enemies. God raised up King David to meet that need.

What are some ways that the world at the time of the Judges is like our world today?

  1. Douglas Mangum, ed., Lexham Context Commentary: Old Testament, Lexham Context Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), Jdg 1:1–3:6.

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