Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so. And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.
Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.
At last, we come to an overview of the book. For this portion of Israeli history, the LORD will use judges to both rescue Israel and to make their sin manifest. They’ll go through a lot of ups and downs amidst a long, slow decline. Here’s a good summary video: https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/judges/
At first glance, this looks like a struggle in the Israelite people’s minds between the LORD and other gods, but that’s not really it. This is a struggle between monotheism and polytheism. The LORD is offended by being thought of in polytheistic terms. He’s not the greatest god; He’s the only God.
The first Commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me,” can be misunderstood. The word “before” can be thought of as meaning first or higher priority. But the Hebrew (עַל־פָּנָֽ֗יַ, al pa-na-ya) literally means “upon my face”. So, “before” means “in front of” visually, not in priority.
“You shall have no other gods before My face.”
The ups and down in the book of Judges are like what Screwtape describes, in letter eight, as undulation.
Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation — the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life — his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.
We undulate just like the Israelites. Learn and grow from it. It’s the long-term trend that matters.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.