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A Brief Overview Of The Judges Over Israel

by Rik Charbonneaux  
7/30/2017 / Christian Living


"Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them." Judges 2:16 KJV

If you have heard of and wondered about the God of the Jews and Christians, you might really enjoy hearing about the Judges over Israel, people that God chose and empowered to save the children of Israel from their enemies and from their own idolatry. If you are just not very likely to read the Bible at all, please take the time to read the following brief topic about the Judges over Israel and of their service to God and the people. If you might be interested in reading more these exceptional people inspired of God in the Books of Judges of the Holy Bible.

The Book of Judges

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim" Judges 2:11 KJV

The Book of Judges is probably one of the best book ever written about where a people's disregard for God can lead them immediately, and over time. There will always be people who will choose not to believe God, but for these particular Israelites to either forget or to never to have been told by their parents or grandparents about the great things God did for them just a generation or two ago is absolutely incredible! Much like today, it just was not in them to loyal to their God for very long and it took devastating consequences delivered by God to bring them back in to a more loyal and worshiping relationship with God. Their relationship with God based on doing what was best in their own eyes and not exclusively in accordance with the Covenant Laws would be best compared to a roller coaster ride of extreme ups and downs with the general direction going further and further down until a king was placed over them.

When Joshua had lead the people into Canaan and into the many battles the God would help them to win, the whole of Canaan was taken, but there were small pockets of the enemies of Israel that were either bypassed or ignored. As time went on, these small enemy populations grew in number and power, with result being what God had told them would happen if they did not completely destroy all the people of Canaan: their downfall! So many had went ahead and married non-Hebrew women that lead them into idolatry and the immorality that comes from doing so. The Lord would give certain tribes into the hands of the enemy and when the Israelites had personally suffered enough that they would once again cried out to God for deliverence. Through His goodness and love, He would inspire a capable person to deliver the people once again from their enemies. These divinely inspired agents of God were called Judges, hence the name of Book of Judges, both men and women, starting with Othniel, and over a period of 300 years, ending with Samuel and his sons. All of those selected were people who had great love and loyalty for the Lord's sovereignty and His Laws, even Sampson. They would be involved in decisions and advisements to all levels of government.

The Israelites had fell so far into idolatry after two or three generations into the occupation of the promised land that God saw fit to deliver them into the hand of King of Mesopotamia. The brutal treatment received by the Israelites made them cry out to the Lord like they had done in Egypt and like Egypt, the Lord raised up an Israelite Champion [Judge] named Othniel to defeat this King. The Lord gave Othniel the victory over this king and would give the Israelites 40 years of peace. With the next major relapse by the Israelites into idolatry, the Lord gave them into the hand of the King of Moab. Again the Israelites called upon their Lord to deliver them from this king and God raised up a Judge named Ehud, who under the pretense of giving the King a gift in private, Othniel stabes the King with a double-edged dagger, killing him. Ehud then rallied the Israelites the next day to successfully defeat the enemy with the Lord's help and He gave the children of Israel peace for another forty years. The next Judge mentioned in the Book of Judges is Shamgar, who killed six hundred Philistines with an ox goad.

The story of the next Judges, Deborah and Barak, is a favorite, clear and wonderful example from the Bible of how a people greatly outnumbered and far less equipped can defeat their foe with the guidance and support of their loving God. Once again the children of Israel were worshiping other gods and fairly well forgetting their One and Only God, who gave them over to the Jabin, the king of Canaan. After twenty years of oppression, they asked God to deliver them once again, and the Lord provided two Judges: Deborah and Barak. Deborah was who people came to for judgments and she had also been inspired by the Lord to be a Prophetess. She contacted Barak and told him of how the Lord said Barak was to take ten thousand men from two of the tribes and go up against Jabin at the river Kishon, where the Lord would deliver the General named Sisera into his hand and allow the Israelites to defeat the enemy fighting forces who were coming with nine hundred chariots as well. Barak told Deborah that he would not do this unless she was coming with him and Deborah's splendid ability as a leader for God encouraged Bark to prepare and engage the enemy. Deborah told Barak that a woman and not Barak would slay Sisera, which did happen at the hand of a woman named Jael, who drove a tent stake through the head of Sisera. With the command and control of the army disrupted, the Lord gave the huge army into the hand of much smaller army of the Israelite, who then killed all of the enemy forces. The Lord gave the Israelites the victory and another forty years of peace in central and northern Canaan.

The next Judge in the order is also a favorite example of a man with doubts like you or I being empowered to do what the Lord desired him to do. Gideon was just another Israelite under the rod of the Midianites trying to hide a little of the grain he was thrashing from being seized by the Midianites. While doing this at a winepress, an angle of the Lord came to him and told him "..the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor" Judges 6:12 KJV. Like many of us today, Gideon responded by saying that if God is with us, how are we in the dire straights that we are in? The Lord God answered him by telling Gideon that He was sending Gideon to bring an end to the Midianite rule over the Israelites. Gideon wanted some kind of proof the it was God speaking to him and he asked for a sign. When Gideon was told to prepare a present to the Lord of goat meat and unleavened cakes, upon placing this present before the angle of the Lord, the present was totally consumed by fire and served as the sign Gideon had requested. Gideon called this site "The Lord Is Peace". The Lord now told Gideon to cut down a grove of trees used for the immoral purposes of idolatry, to stack up the logs and then offer a meat sacrifice upon the logs. Out of fear of his father's household and men of the city, Gideon did this at night and when the people had seen what happened, they wanted to kill Gideon. Gideon's father told the men to let their god Baal kill him, which of course did not happen. The Lord sent His Spirit upon Gideon to strengthen him for the battle ahead, but Gideon still a desire for a further sign to know for sure that God was the source of all of this that was happening so quickly. He asked for and received two supernatural signs involving a sheep fleece and the moisture of the morning dew, which God graciously and patiently provided. Having the Lord's support and ready for anything, Gideon went forth with those he summoned to do battle. When they were encamped five miles from the camp of Midinite forces, the Lord told Gideon to reduce the number of his forces to be sent into battle from twenty thousand to three hundred by a series of selection processes eliminated all but the best warriors. The Lord's battle strategy was revealed to Gideon through another's dream and Gideon proceeded to execute the plan of having his forces divided into three companies, all of which were equipped as well with trumpets and shielded lamps. Surrounding the entire enemy, the Israelites blew the trumpets and reveled the lamps to make them selves look impressive enough to startle the enemy who began fighting one another in the confusion that ensued as they bolted in all directions. Gideon sent out messengers to gather all available forces to find, engage and kill all the Midianites who had escaped. Some responding were not happy with being turned away by Gideon earlier when he had reduced his forces by the God's Wisdom. Gideon's leadership qualities grouped all into one fighting spirit and they devastated the Midienaite forces wherever they engaged them. With the death of the Midianite kings, Gideon's men wanted to make him king over the Israelites. He said he would not because the Lord God was the King of the Israelites. He then made an unfortunate decision to ask his men to gather the gold earrings of the Midianites and bring them to him to be made into an "ephod" to be displayed in his city of Ophrah. That "ephod" would later be the cause of more idolatry on the part of the Israelites. Following the victory against the Midieanite kings, the lord gave the Israelites more years of peace. Gideon died and was buried with his father Joash at Ophrah.

One of Gideons's sons would strive to make himself king and have a millstone dropped on his head by a woman, and then other people would judge the Israelites, each for a period of time, but none were on the level of the unforgettable and admirable Deborah, who is among the most famous women of the Bible. Samson would be remembered for his great strength and warrior achievements, but his life's brightest moment came at the close of his life when he asked the Lord to grant him the opportunity to take revenge upon the Philistines who were displaying him for their entertainment at a high level social function celebrating their gods. Chained close enough to the major columns supporting the main roof, Samson leaned forward with God's help and pulled the columns together, collapsing the roof upon the Philistines, killing more in the last moment of his life than he had during his entire life.

It becomes apparent when reading the Book of Judges that after every time Israel would again turn to and honor the Lord, the next time they fell away, it would be deeper into the abyss of unfaithfulness, as it is anywhere God is not honored. So much so that the Israelites began fighting one another such as the children of Dan and the children of Benjamin. This tide of self-destruction on the part of an increasingly unfaithful people even caused our Lord God who had created, guided, protected and provided for them all those years to respond to their idolatry with another captivity by enemies, and to say to their appeal to be delivered: "Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation." Judges 10: 13,14 KJV Our great and loving God would still preserve them again more throughout the rest of the Book of Judges.

Rik Charbonneaux is a retired NE Iowan who loves all of God's creatures.

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