Friday, October 19, 2012

LXXV - Judges 3-5 - The Cycle Continues

LXXV  -  Judges 3 - 5  -  The Cycle Continues;  Israel's First Judge:  Othniel

At the end of chapter 2, we see that God says He will no longer drive the nations out of Canaan for Israel, but rather will use those nations to test Israel.  This is a significant passage to what we will be studying for quite a while.

In the first 6 verses of chapter 3 are listed the nations left in the Promised Land that Israel would have to contend with, mostly descendants of Ham.  Remember Esau's descendants are mainly in the territory southeast of Canaan.  {I think it was not in God's plan for Israel to have to war with Esau in order to possess the land that God had promised to them.  Remember, God's memory is absolutely perfect.}  Most significant in this first passage is verse 6.  "Israel took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods."  The words of Moses and Joshua were emphatic about this.  Although these great patriarchs had been dead for quite a while, all of Israel was commissioned to be careful to pass the law onto their offspring throughout future generations.  There was a critical failure there.

Verse 7 tells of Israel's biggest sin:  They served Baal and Ashteroth.  As mentioned in LXXXIII, Baal and Ashteroth were the pagen god and goddess of fertility, and serving them involved acts that God detested.  God was so angry about this as vs 8 says "the anger of the Lord burned against Israel"  and He gave them over to the king of Mesopotamia, who made the Israelites slaves for eight years.  Then God raised up Othniel to lead Israel.  Othniel was Caleb's son, which gave him instant credibility, as Caleb was one of the finest men to have crossed the Jordan with Joshua.  The Lord blessed Othniel with military victories over the Mesopotamians and Israel had rest for forty years until Othniel died (vs 11).

Vss 12-->  After the death of Othniel, the Israelites returned to their evil ways and further assimilated themselves to the pagan Canaanites.  God then delivered them into the hands of Eglon the king of the Moabites.  The Moabites were mainly southeast of the Dead Sea, just south of the Reubenites who were east of the Jordan.  Before King Eglon attacked and subdued Israel, he recruited the Ammonites and the Amalekites to join him.  All of them together had to cross the Jordan to attack and capture Jericho (City of Palms).  This would have engulfed Benjamin and Ephraim into slavery plus probably most of Gad , Manasseh, and Reuben.  Taking Jericho was no small matter.  As mentioned previously, Jericho protected the pass that led to the innermost parts of Canaan, making it especially significant, militarily.  For eighteen years Israel served king Eglon as his slaves.  But they finaly cried out to God with sincerity and God raised up a deliverer:  Ehud, a left-handed man, a Benjamite (vs 15).  God chose a courageous and clever man to lead Israel.  You need to read vss 15-30 with interest.  This is a good story about how Ehud got the big fat king alone, and sunk his double-edged sword (including the handle) into the king.  Ehud was a strong military type of leader that freed Israel from the Moabites and actually made the Moabites subject to Israel, which then gave Israel rest and peace for eight years.

Only one verse is dedicated to the Judge Shamgar.  I'm not yet certain, but I think Shamgar was a Danite.  He slaughtered six hundred Philistines with an ox goad, a long pole with a sharp spike on one end and a blade on the other end used for cleaning the plow.

Chapter 4  -  After Shamgar, Israel again departed from God and drifted back into Canaanite paganism, which would result in one of Israel's longest and most painful oppressions.  Jabin was king of Hazor, but must have commanded a strong Canaanited confederation in the north.  Jabin's military commander, Sisera lived in Harosheth.  These locations lead me to believe that the entire north part of Canaan was united against Israel and would have taken control of Naphtali, Issachar, Asher, and Zebulun.  (see map in LXXXI)  In verse 3 we see that Sisera commanded nine hundred chariots and sorely oppressed Israel for twenty years.  {I've mentioned in recent posts that Israel was originally commissioned to rid Canaan entirely of the other nations.  This commission from God was not honored.  If Naphtali and the other tribes would have taken this commission seriously, how could Jabin and Sisera have possibly built such a military, so superior to anything Israel had seen since the Egyptians?}  Deborah in 5:6-11 described the results of this oppression.  Fear gripped Israel.  Farming ceased.  The people fled from their villages to the fortified cities for protection.  Commerce was at a standstill.  Israel's weapons were confiscated.  Travel was too dangerous to even think about.  Finally, in desperation, Israel cried out to God.

Vs 4 - God responded to Israel's cries for help by raising up Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth and a prophetess (a woman of great spiritual insight and discernment for the Lord's will, and one who spoke as God's messenger).    Vs 5 - Deborah's tribe is unknown, but her headquarters is between Ramah and Bethel, which tells me she is of the tribe of either Manasseh or Ephraim.  Deborah seemed to be more of an administration-type leader than a military-type.  Verse 6 - Deborah felt the deep shame and humiliation of Israel.  And, God made known to her that it was time to strike Israel's oppressors.  She sent word that she wanted Barak to come meet with her (she must have commanded respect to exercise such authority).  Barak was from Kedesh which would have made him from the tribe of Naphtali, a northern tribe which was in the middle of the worst of the oppression.  She instructs Barak to gather ten thousand men from Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mr. Tabor.  Vs 7 - Barak was to launch his attack against the forces of Sisera along the Kishon River in the north.  {These were mostly level valleys, hardly an obvious choice for foot soldiers to engage chariots.  Agree?}  Vs 8 - Barak agreed to this undertaking only if Deborah went with him.  Deborah agreed to go but emphasized that the glory would be to God.  (Deborah was a fine leader.)  Barak gathered the army of ten thousand as directed.  They proceeded to attack Sisera's forces and defeated them.  The Scripture goes on to tell of Israel defeating Sisera's mighty army of chariots and even tells of Sisera's fate.  Sisera got off his chariot and ran.  He came upon the tent of Heber the Kenite (descedants of Hobab, brother-in-law of Moses.  Heber's wife Jael lured Sisera into her tent, pretending to give him a place to hide.  She then created an opportunity to kill him by driving a tent stake through his temple.

After their vicoty against Jabin and Sisera, Deborah and Barak celebrated which included writing and singing a song, giving God the glory for their victory.  As we've seen often thus far and will more so later, the Isralites wrote many songs describing events.  The most prolific song writer was King David.  Take a moment and read this song recorded in chapter 5.

Next post  -  Gideon and the Midianites

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