The downward spiral, or we might even call it the plunge into sin and depravity, that Israel has been partaking in continues to pick up speed and strength. Like a category five hurricane, Israel’s sin continues to grow, expanding into new spheres. They are inventing new evils and causing catastrophic damage along the way.
The Lord has continued to raise up judges who represent men of exemplary faith and military strength. Gideon was such a man, but his ending was so disheartening. It left a legacy of idolatry and led to the reign of his son, Abimelech, the Anti-Judge.
It leads us to ask: What’s next? Who’s next? If Abimelech is the Anti-Judge, who represents the fact that oppression can come from within the covenant community just as it can come from outside it, where do we go from here?
Read Judges 10:1-16; 12:8-15
The Minor Judges (10:1-5; 12:8-15)
So-called “minors” because of the ink they receive (cf. Minor Prophets). They’re not unimportant, but God’s actions are central!
- Shamgar (3:31) non-Israelite.
- Tola prominent pedigree.
- Jair polygamist with 30 sons/donkeys/cities.
- Ibzan polygamist with 30 sons/daughters (contrasts Jephthah).
- Elon mostly unknown.
- Abdon 40 sons + 30 grandsons + 70 donkeys.
God can bring deliverance through disciples/pagans, unknowns/well knowns, wealthy/poor, singles/polygamists.
Donkeys were symbols of wealth, civil authority, and luxurious modes of travel (1:14; 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; 19:3).
Horses were symbols of military might (5:22). They were used for war. Israelite kings were forbidden to acquire them (Dt. 17:16; cf. Ps. 33:17).
Jesus came in peace the first time riding a donkey (Matt. ?), but he will come again in military might riding a white horse (Rev. ?).
These minor judges remind us there were many cycles of rebellion during this period. Maybe you feel like your own cycles of rebellion will never cease. Every time you experience victory over sin, you experience a fall soon afterwards. Is there any hope?
If there is one characteristic of God that is made crystal clear here, it’s his remarkable patience. After oppression and sorrow, God grants his people mercy and joy!
But God’s patience does wear out…
Further Disobedience and Opression (6-9)
6 The lure of Baal, Ashtaroth, as well as the gods of Syria, Sidon, Moab, Ammonites, and Philistines. The progression of idolatry is becoming noticeably excessive. Israel served seven false gods (probably more), forsaking the One True God! It seems they are no longer keeping any resemblance of their faith in Yahweh.
7-9 Israel is sold into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites for 18 yrs of oppression.
The oppression that followed their idolatry preserved their faith!
THP: Psalm 135 vs.4 Your name, O Lord, forever endures; through every age your fame is sure. The Lord his people will defend, and great compassion shows to them. The gods of gold are made by hand; their mouths can’t breathe, their eyes are blind, their ears are deaf, their mouths are dumb. All trusting them like them become.
It is shocking and heartbreaking that God’s covenant people would so flippantly turn their backs upon him. Jeremiah was utterly appalled by the depravity of Israel (Jer. 2:11-12).
Despite Israel’s downward spiral in sin, the 18 years of affliction God brought upon them through the Philistines and Ammonites proves his steadfast love and covenant faithfulness (Psalm 119:75). In the end, it was for their good.
Because we see a glimmer of hope…
A Question of Repentance (10-16)
True repentance? They cried out, but God provides a history lesson. He’s run out of patience. Why don’t they cry out to the foreign gods who’ve brought nothing but oppression (14; cf 6).
Israel cries out again, but this time they “put away foreign gods” (16)!
However, God doesn’t relent because of the quality of their repentance, but because he could no longer watch them suffer (cf. Isa. 63:9-10).
Dale Ralph Davis brilliantly captures the theology that drove Israel, and much of modern Evangelicalism:
He’s like a great warm vending machine in the sky into which you need only drop a token or two of repentance before he spits out the relief you currently crave. Religion is a great game-you only need to know a few rules. And Yahweh is a great God-if you happen to need him and want to use him.
It’s possible to despise God even as you seek his mercy. That is, it would seem, the trouble with Israel.
Was their repentance any deeper on this occasion? Possibly. But we may miss the point of the text if we linger there too long.
Repentance is a “saving grace” (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25)!
Davis Our hope does not rest in the sincerity of our repentance but in the intensity of Yahweh’s compassion.
- Our compassionate God sent all of the judges, both the major and minor ones, with their diverse backgrounds and failures.
- Despite God’s compassion, his covenant people continued to fumble their worship of Him, with further idolatry which led to widespread opposition and oppression.
- Now, even when we see a hint that their repentance has gone to a level deeper than ever before, we doubt that it will have any lasting impact upon the nation.
But, thankfully, we place our hope in a compassionate God who sent his Son – Jesus Christ – to defeat sin and death, and rose again for our victory!