I wrote this when the Sunday School lesson covered the Book of Judges. I decided to schedule it for now when I expect to be hiking the PCT (we leave/left June 13).
Traditionally, Judges is reviewed through the following lens.
Israel “does evil in the eyes of Yahweh“,
The people are given into the hands of their enemies and cry out to Yahweh,
Yahweh raises up a leader,
The “spirit of Yahweh” comes upon the leader,
The leader manages to defeat the enemy, and
Peace is regained.
Once peace is regained, Israel does right and receives Yahweh’s blessings for a time, but relapses later into doing evil and repeats the pattern above.
There is another way to look at the cycle.
A judge/prophet leads Israel.
The judge sets up an administration that becomes corrupt. Israel becomes a mess.
A new judge is called. Eli and Samuel are great examples even if they are in the next book(s).
1In his old age Samuel appointed his sons as judges over Israel. 2The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second son was Abijah. They were judges in Beer Sheba. 3But his sons did not follow his ways. Instead, they made money dishonestly, accepted bribes, and perverted justice.
Much of Judges is a cautionary tale of how leaders and their families can lead us astray.
That theme continues through the Old Testament. Jeremiah condemning corruption in the Church
Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.
The theme continues into the New Testament which has Christ warning of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The issue continues today. Wikipedia entry. An abuse of faith.
Studying Judges is a good way to understand the frailties and weaknesses of all human institutions. Just like studying Aaron is a good warning about following leaders blindly, Judges highlights that pattern.
Looking back, what did you take away from studying Judges?
What lesson does it have for us today?
I learned that faithful yet unremarkable leaders like Othniel who do their jobs and don’t crow about their accomplishments are suckers. You need to torture animals in the process of destroying your enemies crops, sleep with prostitutes, use animal bones for weaponry, lie to your scheming wife, and use God’s blessings for personal revenge if you want to get noticed.
I also contrasted the attitude of the author/editor of Judges with the words placed into Samuel’s mouth when the tribal elders assemble in 1 Samuel and demand that Samuel anoint king over them. The Judges author twice points out that since there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was good in his own eyes (and presumably that was a bad thing). Samuel on the other hand, immediately after being told his sons (who are judges) are accepting bribes and “perverting judgment,” totally ignores the fact that he should do something about his sons and goes on a rant about how a king will enlist Israelite sons and daughters in his court and force them to serve and fight for him. Wouldn’t most of the common people already be fighting to take the land from the Canaanites (and all the rest of the -ites)?
Well Stephen I used to enjoy the OT if only for it’s stories and characters. These days I have a similar reading to your own, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps we have all become too literalist. I’ve found it really hard to engage without weekly lessons, which I view as a community event.
I wish I had read this before I taught Judges in Sunday School last month. Great thoughts.