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Judges 1 deals with the decay of the Israelites with regard to the peoples around them, the world. They have been unfaithful in taking possession of the land and have not driven out the enemies.
Judges 2 is about decay with regard to God. They turned their back on God and began to serve the idols. This chapter provides a summary of the entire book. This summary shows that we are dealing with a kind of vicious circle, a cycle that keeps recurring in the following chapters. This cycle consists of the following steps:
1. The people leave God.
2. God uses enemies to awaken their conscience.
3. The people call to the LORD.
4. The LORD gives them in His mercy a judge to deliver them.
Then the cycle starts again:
1. The people leave God.
2. God uses and so on.
In Psalm 107 we find something similar. We read first about need, then the call to the LORD, after which their salvation follows, after which He is praised. The chorus in that psalm is formed by the words “then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble” (Psa 107:6; 13; 19; 28).
The LORD Goes From Gilgal to Bochim
In general, the Old Testament uses the name “Angel of the LORD” to denote the appearance of God in a visible form. Only in the New Testament is God “revealed in the flesh” (1Tim 3:16). He has become visible in the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus is born, God is visible to men. Those who believe in Him see God in Him (1Jn 1:1). The Lord Jesus is the incarnate Word (Jn 1:14). The Eternal Son has become Man (1Jn 5:20).
Also in the Old Testament, God appeared to people in Christ. There He takes the form of an Angel. There are some Scriptures which make clear that ‘the angel of the LORD’ means God (Gen 16:7-14; Gen 22:11; 15; 16). From what the Angel of the LORD says in those parts, it appears that He is none but God Himself.
If we compare the first verses of Isaiah 6 with the quote of these verses in John 12, we see something else special (Isa 6:1-5; Jn 12:37-41). Then we see that Yahweh, the LORD of the Old Testament, is the same as the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. If the context shows that “the Angel of the LORD” is an appearance of God, then this is in reality the Lord Jesus.
The town of Gilgal is of great strategic importance in the book of Joshua. It forms the base camp, the place from which the Israelites always go out to conquer the land. They always return to that place. Shortly after they entered the land of Canaan through the Jordan, circumcision takes place in Gilgal. By this deed the reproach of Egypt has been rolled away (Jos 5:2-9).
The significance of circumcision for us is found in Colossians 2 (Col 2:11). In this verse we clearly see that for the Christian, circumcision is not a literal matter, but that it has a spiritual significance. We were not circumcised with a circumcision made with “hands” – that would have meant a literal circumcision – but we were circumcised “by the circumcision of Christ”. The latter does not speak of what happened to Christ when He is eight days old (Lk 2:21), but of what happened to Him on the cross when He received God’s judgment of sin. On the cross in Him is the flesh judged with the judgment of death.
Just as Israel has always returned to Gilgal to be remembered, as it were, to God’s judgment of the ‘I’, the nature of man, so we have to go back to the cross again and again to realize who we are by natural. There is no strength in us to conquer the land. The power for this can only be found in a dead and raised Christ. This means that the death of Christ must be applied every time, that is to say that we must condemn all kinds of manifestations of the flesh that may arise in us (Col 3:5).
Gilgal represents the spiritual circumcision of the heart that precedes victory and gives the heart new strength to overcome in battle. Gilgal speaks of a constant self-judgment. We are called up to this self- judgment. If we do not, we will be judged by the Lord, that is, disciplined by Him. “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world” (1Cor 11:31-32).
The Angel of the LORD leaves Gilgal and goes to Bochim. Bochim means ‘weeping’. It is a place of tears. They are tears for lost blessings. Doesn’t it make us feel sad to see how the people have deviated from God and have left Him? Those who do not know this grief do not know where the Spirit of God dwells. Bochim reflects the character of the church in decay. It is presumptuous to assume that one possesses great power in our time. The days of Joshua and Gilgal have been days of power and joy, but they are over now forever. The spirit of Laodicea comes to light when we cry out that we are rich and enriched, while in reality we are blind, naked and poor (Rev 3:17).
But a place of crying can become a place of blessing. Then we must take that place of sorrow, of humiliation because of our unfaithfulness. Then the valley of Baca can be made “a spring”, as it is so beautifully said in Psalm 84 (Psa 84:6). The word baca is related to Bochim and also means ‘tears’.
The Lord Jesus is as it were in ‘Bochim’ when He stands at the tomb of Lazarus. We read of Him that He “wept” there (Jn 11:35). Paul also knows this place (Phil 3:18; cf. 2Cor 2:4). The LORD points out to Ezekiel people who live in ‘Bochim’. He says of them that they are people “the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst [that is in Jerusalem]” (Eze 9:4).
The Angel of the LORD makes a solemn declaration for the reason of His departure from Gilgal. This declaration makes a deep impression on the people. He begins by reminding them that He has freed them from Egypt. That the angel of the LORD says that He did this, underlines that the angel is God Himself. He goes back to the origin of their existence as a people. They are a slave people in Egypt, but God has delivered them from the power of the Pharaoh. That shows His great love for them.
If we know deviations in our personal lives, God will also always remember us in our salvation from the power of sin. The main cause of any deviation is that we forget what salvation God has worked for us in the surrender of His Son on the cross.
The remembrance of the redemption from Egypt is mentioned more often in this book (Jdg 2:12; Jdg 6:8). God does this to awaken His people. The Angel of the LORD also speaks about the land in which they now live. He brought them there because of the oath which He sworn to their fathers (Gen 17:7-8). What He has promised, He has done.
This is also a great certainty for us. God will live up to what He has said. He does this not because of our faithfulness, but because of what the Lord Jesus did. We are blessed with all spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3).
What Is This You Have Done?
God has done what He promised, but the people have disobeyed. The conditions for enjoying God’s blessings have not been fulfilled by Israel. They did not keep themselves separated from the people of Canaan, but mixed with them by marrying the inhabitants of the land. They did not destroy the altars of the nations, with the result that they have sacrificed to the gods of those nations, which means that they have sacrificed to the evil spirits (Deu 32:17; 1Cor 10:20).
Pressingly the question comes to them: “What is this you have done? This question must go through their marrow and bone. It should lead them to reflection, repentance and acknowledgement of debt. God asks such questions more often in the Bible. He says to Adam: “Where are you? (Gen 3:9) and Adam must come out. God asks Hagar: “Where have you come from and where are you going? (Gen 16:8).
God also has His questions for us when we have deviated. By doing so, He wants to bring us back on topic, to see the senselessness or sinfulness of our activities or of the way we go. We can then confess it and refocus on what God wants to give us. With this we honor Him and He fills our lives with joy and peace.
God has a double reason for the total destruction of Israel’s enemies. The first reason is the punishment for their sins. The second reason is to protect His people from the inevitable influence of the idols of Canaan. The latter is also the reason why we should not engage with the world and its thinking. We too are easily influenced by all the contacts we have (1Cor 15:33). If we become less aware of God’s presence in our lives, it is because the world and its spirit have influenced us.
Who Does Not Want to Hear ...
When the people have made themselves one with the nations around them, God gives them over to those nations. They will have to learn through experience what the consequences are of leaving Him. The people must also gain this experience under King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. Because he has forsaken the law of the LORD and all Israel with him, the LORD sends Shishak, king of Egypt, to discipline them (2Chr 12:1-5; 8). By experiencing the power of the enemy, we experience how cruel that enemy is and we long for the relationship with God again.
It is as with the youngest son from the parable that the Lord Jesus tells in Luke 15. That boy thinks he will be better off somewhere else than with his father. He leaves his father, but in the faraway land he discovers that the world is hard. Then he longs for his father again (Lk 15:12-20). There we see how it goes when God can no longer reach us in another way to repent. He will let us experience in His love the difference between serving Him and doing His will on the one hand and serving the world and doing our own will on the other hand.
The Reaction of the People
The LORD hath spoken, and the people react with weeping. They see that they have acted the other way around. The admonition has been understood clearly and they acknowledge their unfaithfulness. Yet there is not much to be seen of real repentance. What they express is more the grief over the lost blessings.
Someone who has forsaken the Lord may acknowledge that he sinned without truly repenting of his deeds. Several times we read in the Bible about people who say “I have sinned”. This sounds for example from the mouth of Pharaoh and from that of Judas (Exo 10:16; Mt 27:4). It appears, however, that they only regret the consequences that their actions have for them. They do not repent of what they have done to God. In this context, the Bible speaks of the difference between “the sorrow that is according to [the will of] God” and “the sorrow of the world” (2Cor 7:10).
About Bochim something is said in the discussion of Jdg 2:1. Now it is mentioned that they call this place Bochim because the people there have wept. This makes it clear once again that the names in the Bible have a meaning. It is also mentioned here that they sacrifice the LORD at that place. Despite the little depth in their sorrow about the wrong, there is a need in their hearts to sacrifice to Him.
That is something to be pleased about. Unlike with Pharaoh and Judas, the Israelites have a bond with the LORD. It is not clear how much gratitude is expressed by these sacrifices. Given the decay, it may not be much. Yet they did it. They have made the place of tears a place of sacrifice.
This combination of tears and sacrifice is also beautifully expressed by the “woman in the city who was a sinner” (Lk 7:37). With her tears she wets the feet of the Lord Jesus and then anoints them with perfume. In the tears we see the grief over her sins and in the perfume we see a sacrifice to the Lord, because she understands Who He is. What the Lord Jesus says of her shows how much He appreciates what she has done. His words also clearly show her sense of sin. Precisely because of this she has conceived a great love for the Savior (Lk 7:38-50).
The Lord connects to her conduct a lesson for the Pharisee Simon and over his head for all of us. He tells about two debtors, one of whom has a small debt and the other a large debt. This debt is waived to both of them. If the question comes up as to who will be most thankful, the answer is not difficult: of course the one of whom the biggest debt has been remitted. The lesson is that out of our love for the Lord and our devotion to Him is seen how great the awareness is of the guilt of sin that has been forgiven us.
Paul knows like no other the grace God has given him. He calls himself “the foremost” of all sinners (1Tim 1:15). That has made him the most dedicated servant who has ever lived. We will follow in his footsteps if we always realize all that has been forgiven us. Our whole life will then become a sacrifice to the Lord (Rom 12:1).
Each His Inheritance
The writer of Judges then tells a part of the history of Israel. That story runs from here, Jdg 2:6, to Judges 3:6. He begins with the happy situation that exists, when each tribe has received its inheritance and started to live in it (Jos 21:43-45). It is wonderful to read there how the LORD has given them rest on all sides. He has fulfilled all the good promises He has promised. At the time, the people really lack nothing.
Every Christian is also fully placed in the blessing God has wanted to give him. Nothing is withheld from him. We can read it in Ephesians 1 (Eph 1:3-14). If we only shortly know the Lord Jesus, we will fully enjoy it. Just like with Israel, everything is fresh and alive in the beginning. The same applies to Christianity as a whole.
In Acts we read how the first Christians live, of which they are full, what they do for the Lord Jesus and for each other. Then they do not know much about the blessings that the church has received in Christ. This was only later made known by Paul. But through their way of life, they are spiritually able to understand and enjoy the teaching of these blessings. They are happy about it and show it in their lives. It is in keeping with their focus on God and His Word.
The First Time in the Land
After this brilliant start, the shine of the blessings remains visible for some time. The people serve the LORD in the days of Joshua and in the days of the elders who survived Joshua (Jos 24:31). However, there are already idols in the days of Joshua, so the germ for later aberration is present (Jos 24:14). About such a germ Paul speaks in relation to the church when he writes that in his days “the mystery of lawlessness” is already at work (2Thes 2:7). In the days of John we see how this germ has already developed into “many antichrists” (1Jn 2:18), a development that continues to this day.
Yet that radiant beginning also still has an effect in the next generation of Israel. The deeds done by the LORD are passed on to the next generation, even though this generation itself did not participate in the conquest of the land. It is important to notice the Lord’s actions in the lives of the elderly and to see from them how He works. This will help us to see God’s actions in our own lives. We remain in connection with Him and thereby build up our own relationship with Him.
The Decay Becomes Visible
Decay in Israel begins when Joshua and the elders have died, although signs of decay are already visible in their days. That is also how it went with the church. In the days of the apostles, decay is still stopped, but soon after that it becomes more and more visible. Paul and Peter have warned that after their passing away the evil consequences of unfaithfulness and rebellion will become manifest in the church (Acts 20:29-30; 2Pet 1:12-14; 2Pet 2:1-3). Mixing with unbelievers is the means by which evil can develop in the midst of the church and later overwhelm them, as was the case with Israel.
If we compare the name that the people here give to the burial place of Joshua with the name that his burial place in Joshua 24 has (Jos 24:30), it turns out that the first impressions of the blessing are fading. The name change shows that other things have become more important than the blessing of the land. This shows the germ of decay.
The meaning of Timnath-heres is ‘a part of earth’. In Joshua 24 this place is called Timnath-serah, which is ‘an abundant part’ (Jos 24:30). Thus our appreciation for our abundant, heavenly part can become no more than a piece of earth. The earthly things are sought and the heavenly inheritance is considered small. This shift in interest will be discussed in detail in the following chapters.
After Joshua and the elders after him died, the good influence ceases. By their personal faithfulness and faith they have had an influence on the people. Inasmuch as that influence has vanished, a generation is emerging who appears to serve the LORD only externally. The people of this generation do not have a bond with Him themselves. Their ancestors have fought for the land. They have told their children of the work that the LORD has done. But it is too long ago for the grandchildren to become really enthusiastic about what God has given His people and what their grandparents have acquired under much struggle. They suffer from what has been called the disease of the third generation: the grandfather acquires, the son inherits, the grandson corrupts.
To truly enjoy the blessings God has given His people, we must be in a personal and living relationship with God. We can hear from our parents and grandparents about great things God has done, but if we don’t have our own relationship with the Lord Jesus, those stories will ultimately have no meaning for us. Our interest is superficial and evaporates like a vapor.
We too will have to fight to take the blessings God has given us. It is not necessary that we corrupt the inheritance because our parents and/or grandparents have fought for it and that we don’t fight for it or to a lesser extent. It is so, that every generation has to fight that battle again. There is a huge challenge ahead of us.
It is a remarkable phenomenon that, when man leaves God, he exchanges God for other gods. It is not the case that a man gives up God to continue his own way. Man must have an object of worship. Someone once said: “If there was no God, it would be necessary to find out or invent one.” Man seems to have a religious instinct that demands a higher power or powers. Every human being has that ‘instinct’ within him, even the atheist who denies the existence of God. When you talk to such a person, it often turns out that he believes in himself, and thus that he is his own god.
The poignant thing in the book of Judges, however, is that it is a people who God has made to be His people and to which He has done so much good things. The cause is that they forget the LORD, the God of their fathers, Who led them out of the land of Egypt. For us it means that the door is open to evil when the personal knowledge of Christ and His work and the Word of God disappear into the background. Satan sees his chance and fills the resulting void with his means.
Two idols are mentioned by name, one male, Baal, and one female, Astarte. Baal means ‘man’ or ‘lord’ with the thought of owner. Astarte, the female idol, speaks of fertility in a natural sense. Both idols are perversely connected and show something of the verbal mystery of lawlessness. Lawlessness means that there is no authority being acknowledged. It is doing one’s own will, satisfying one’s own lusts. That is the result when God and His Word disappear from the field of view.
In the Hand of Enemies
God loves His people too much to let them go on the wrong way. The remedy He uses may seem strange, but it is effective. It says strongly: “He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them.” If you are plundered, it means that you have nothing left. Everything has been taken away from you, you have lost it. We must always remember that it is about the people of God who live in the promised land and are allowed to enjoy everything God has given them. All these blessings are robbed from the people, they are lost because of their unfaithfulness and leaving the LORD.
It’s the same with us. If we become unfaithful and leave the Lord, no longer taking Him into account, we will no longer be able to enjoy the heavenly blessings. Other things have become more important to us such as earning money, making a career, luxury holidays. It can all become so important to us that we are totally seized by it. It is going to dominate us in such a way that it will eventually predominate us.
It gives no peace to the soul, no real happiness to the heart. It is fake happiness that is a yoke. Only when we understand its slavery and notice that we have lost our heavenly blessings a change can take place. Until then, they have disappeared from our lives, robbed by the enemy. This enemy does not leave us alone, he is chasing us to more and higher happiness in the world.
God has allowed this, yes, He has even worked it. He has withdrawn from our lives to give the enemy a free hand so that he can do with us what he wants. He wants us that we start to long again for Him and what He gives. We can learn this from the way in which He deals with Israel here.
The LORD Raises up Judges
Further on in this book is a beautiful word about the feelings of God towards His people when He had to surrender them to their enemies because of their unfaithfulness: “He could bear the misery of Israel no longer” (Jdg 10:16). What a God full of mercy and compassion! We read something like this in Jdg 2:18 of our chapter. He starts to work for the liberation of His people and for that He uses people who serve Him and judge evil.
The name ‘judge’ says it already. A judge is someone who points the finger at evil and administers justice. He pronounces his judgment and verdict on it. The judge is not someone who only judges between people, but he is also on behalf of the people the leader in confessing guilt to God. By doing so he restores the bond between God and His people. He is the new connection between the LORD and His people.
For us, who live in the time of the church, a judge is not primarily a person, but a principle. This means that God wants to bring us to self-judgment if we have become a slave of desire again through our unfaithfulness. He wants us to judge the wrong thing in ourselves. He awakens in us the longing to deal with sin, which has once again become boss over us.
This is the same as with the enemy. This is not a literal enemy for us either, but a spiritual power that wants to assert itself again, as we have read before: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]” (Eph 6:12).
The fact that God gives judges speaks of a revival based on judgment. In other words, the self-judgement that a person comes to after a correct judgment of the true state of things. Self-judgment is to give the wrong thing in oneself the right place by condemning it. This will enable the Lord to regain His proper place in life. The Lord is with that humble mind, that mind of self-judgment, and He frees the person. The same goes for a local community of believers.
A Downward Spiral
Reading these verses may give us a feeling of despondency and depression. Is this people’s aberration then incurable? God wants to hold up a mirror to us with the recurring unfaithfulness of the people, for we are no better. For the people salvation lies in listening to the judge. As long as he lives, that is as long as he is in charge, it goes well. If he dies, that is, if evil is no longer judged, things go wrong.
For us this means that we can only go the way of the Lord and enjoy the blessing if we keep the flesh within us judged. Romans 6 tells us how we can live in self-judgment: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11).
We have a powerful weapon in our hands, namely the Word of God. We read in it that we may see ourselves as dead in relation to sin. Sin no longer has a right to us because we have found our end in the death of Christ. “Our old self”, which we are by nature, is “crucified with [Him]” as we read in the same Romans 6 (Rom 6:6). Living in that consciousness guarantees enjoying the blessing in fellowship with God. The secret of the judge in our life or in the life of a local community is that we look at the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross.
The history of Israel teaches us that after the death of a judge, an increase in evil is always found. As a result, also the liberations become smaller and less complete. The characters of the deliverers also become less strong. This downward spiral finds its lowest point in Samson, the last judge mentioned in this book. He dies as a prisoner of the enemy he has to chase away and the people are still in captivity after his death.
The Anger of the LORD
If the people deviate from the LORD, it justifiably arouses his anger. That the anger of the LORD burns against Israel is also said in Jdg 2:14. God is not only sad, but He is also angry. He is holy and cannot bear sin in His people. The book of Leviticus regularly speaks of the holiness of God. He desires to see this holiness also among his people (Lev 11:44-45; Lev 19:2; Lev 20:7; 26). He cannot be connected with sin. Therefore, everything in Israel must be in accordance with His holy presence. What is infringing this must be removed from among the people.
God is not indifferent to sin in our lives. He wants us to remove everything in our lives that He cannot have fellowship with, that He cannot be involved in. To let something of sin exist in our lives or allow it again is unfaithfulness toward Him.
Israel violated the covenant God has made with their fathers. The fathers committed themselves to serve the LORD. They have said it, three times: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Exo 19:8; Exo 24:3; 7), once before God gives the law and twice after that.
But they have transgressed His covenant again and again. They have not fulfilled their obligations. They have not listened to the voice of God. Therefore God could not continue to bless them and had to discipline them. The surrounding peoples who remained after Joshua’s death will no longer be expelled before them by God. They shall be His rod of discipline.
If the Israelites leave the LORD to serve the idols, they will be surrendered by the LORD to serve the idolaters. These idolaters are a means in His hand to discipline His people, that they may return to Him.
God does not leave the nations alone in the land to discipline His people. The wonderful thing is that God also uses these peoples to test His people. God can have several goals in mind in a particular act. One of the reasons for not completely eradicating the enemies is to check with His people whether they will follow the way of the LORD or not.
It is not difficult to be permanently in the Lord’s way if everyone around us is also in the Lord’s way. Then there is no danger that anyone will lead us astray. The situation becomes different when we live among people who do not take God into account. To keep our course straight before God requires a lot more effort. We have to go against the tide. Just then we can show that we seriously want to live according to God’s Word and to His honor.
The same goes for our lives among people who say they are Christians, but fill in their being a Christian in their own way. How they justify their lifestyle can sometimes sound very plausible. Taking over their way of thinking will mean that the enemy has hit the target. It can be a trial of our faith if we discover what the Bible says about it. If we come to the conclusion that God’s Word says something other than they do and we obey the Bible, we have defeated the enemy. That is to the glory of God.
In local churches there are also situations where faith is put to the test and those who really want to live according to God’s Word are revealed. We have an example in the church in Corinth. The believers do come together in one building, but do not form a real unity; there is division among them. There are many causes for division. Such situations sometimes are allowed by God to see who is faithful to Him and His Word. The proven ones become visible in this way (1Cor 11:17-19).
Paul writes to Timothy about such a situation. He compares Christianity to a large house with all kinds of vessels. There are vessels of different materials and there is a distinction between vessels to honor and vessels to dishonor. Everything is mixed up. God uses the mixing of the honorable vessels with the vessels to dishonor to reveal the former (2Tim 2:21). The vessels to honor are the faithful believers who separate themselves from evil and go the way God indicates in His Word.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Judges 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27