What we can learn from Judges (1)

This is a companion post to yesterday’s, in which I largely gave my ramblings on Judges. Here I’ll share what I’ve learnt from others, though I may also include my own observations. Starting from chapter 3, where I left off…

Othniel

His story in 3:7-11 reveals more about God than about him. The Lord, in His anger against their rebellion and idolatry,  sold the Israelites into the hands of Cushan Rishathaim (C.R.). When His people cried out, His Spirit empowered Othniel and He gave C.R. into Othniel’s hands (emphasis mine).

Ehud

Ehud is a left-handed man from the tribe of Benjamin, a name that means ‘son of my right hand’. The account of his encounter with Eglon (3:15-25) is funny, especially for members of the male gender (we ladies find it gross). But, hey, that’s how God chose to liberate His people.

Deborah, Barak, Jael

What are we to make of Barak’s statement in verse 8? The usual conclusion is that he is a coward. Maybe, maybe not. It could also be that he wanted assurance of God’s sanction, and Deborah’s presence would serve that purpose. Another possibility is that no one would have followed him into battle, but with Deborah at his side they would. Whatever the case, she consents without belittling him.

Verse 11 is a parenthetical statement whose significance soon becomes clear.  Isn’t it interesting that God works in trivial matters such as changes of residence?

In the following verses, we see the Lord at work. The River Kishon floods (5:21), and the enemies’ iron chariots are rendered useless. Barak and his army then annihilate Sisera’s troops.

Enter Jael. She sees Sisera, welcomes him into her tent, treats him kindly and then kills him. And that was another way God delivered his people.

Gideon

The Midianites step into the role of Israel’s oppressors. Incidentally, they were descendants of Abraham by his second wife Keturah. The Israelites cry out and God sends a prophet (Judges 6:7-10). They wanted relief from their misery, He wanted them to understand the root cause behind their situation.

But God also raises up a deliverer—a most unlikely choice—Gideon. He’s fearful, apprehensive and hesitant. Just like many of us today. God repeatedly reassures Gideon (6:19-24, 6:36-40, 7:9-15), like He does with His servants today.

It’s common to berate Gideon for his lack of faith. But he got the deed done. He destroyed Baal’s altar at night, but he got it done. He laid out two fleeces before going to battle with the Midianites, but he went. Let’s not overlook that.

As I did yesterday, I’ll mention something about my Sunday School education. I was taught that the men in chapter 7 who lapped the water were more vigilant that the rest. The text, however doesn’t give any indications that they were more virtuous in any way. Rather, it seems to have been an arbitrary choice on God’s part to reduce the number of men. That is, if it can be said that God makes arbitrary choices.

Gideon then gets more assurance from God courtesy of a couple of Midianites, who unbeknownst to them served as Yahweh’s instruments. Gideon hatches a plan which unlike those in Joshua did not come straight from God. He and his men proceed to the Midianite camp in the middle of the night and… do nothing. Sure, they blow trumpets and break earthenware, but note that the Lord does all the work (again). He worked through Gideon’s ingenuity, while keeping it from becoming idolatry.

Unfortunately, Gideon goes downhill from here on. After his death, one of his sons murders the other seventy of Gideon’s sons, before having his skull cracked when a woman threw a millstone on his head.

Go to part 2.

Sources: Bible.org, Dale Ralph Davis, D. A. Carson

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