Judges 3: The First Three Judges

There are two things the people of Israel need to teach their children:

  1. The story of God delivering them from Egypt, the commandments he gave, and how to follow them.
  2. According to Judges 3, the Art of War

There are also two things Judges are supposed to do (according to Judges 2):

  1. Deliver Israel from their enemies
  2. Teach, instruct, and lead the people.

So when trouble arose in Israel, which of the first two things do you think the Judges tended to teach Israel?

Moral Dilemma

I feel torn. I’m trying to construct an argument that the Judges didn’t invest enough in the spiritual life and health of Israel; opting instead to take the easy and violent way out.

But you can’t argue with the results.

By the end of chapter 3, Israel’s disobedience has led them into a total of 26 years of oppression by foreign Kings. Following Othniel’s and Ehud’s rescues, they have a total of 120 years of peace.

That’s not a bad ratio.

From a strictly objective point of view, the use of military force to drive out enemies during this period of Israel’s history was a good use of time and resources. Even if the peace was temporary, the oppression was even shorter.

Granted, we don’t know what else these Judges did in their lifetime, but the text only tells us they were warriors. We never hear of them teaching and correcting.

Whatever renewed faithfulness results only lasts a generation or two.

It seems to work in the short term, but is it a good long term strategy?

A Different Angle

Maybe we should look at this differently.

When his people are oppressed, God acts. And he acts decisively. He is establishing a pattern, hoping they will catch on.

They disobey. He allows foreign peoples to oppress them. They cry out to him. He hears and raises up a Judge who rescues.

Here is the important part: He will always hear them. And his rescue will always be bigger and stronger than the power of the oppressors.

What’s that, King Cushan-rishathaim? You oppressed Israel for 8 years? I’ll liberate them for forty.

I’m sorry, King Eglon? Were you wanting to point out that you ruled over Israel for 18 years? I’ll give them peace for eighty.

Hey Philistines, you think you are so tough? I have a guy here who could take 600 of you with an oxgoad.

(Does anyone else think that “Oxgoad” would be a great name for a metal band?)

In Conclusion

This really depends on the angle you take.

Is God setting up a needlessly inefficient system? Is God setting up a helpful pattern to teach his people a valuable lesson? Are violent solutions ultimately worth it? Are we supposed to think there is something wrong with the way things are in Judges?

The reality is, those are all great questions (thanks! I asked them myself!). I don’t know the answers. But they sure will make for a great conversation!


3 responses

  1. Hi, first comment here, I enjoy reading your blog, I only found it recently.
    I see judges as a small parable of our lives. We sin, suffer, repent and then are saved. God is merciful and hears us when we cry and you would think that we would learn our lesson and not repeat the same mistakes, but we do and the cycle continues. Gods mercy is from everlasting to everlasting.

    I wish we had more comment in the bible as to what the judges taught the people, but I assume we would just be rereading Deuteronomy.


    • Welcome! And thanks for the comment. I only just recently started working on this again.

      I would hope that the judges are teaching deuteronomy! Given how many times IN Deuteronomy they are told to teach it!

  2. I find it interesting that the theme of war undergirds the entirety of Scripture. Only now, unlike the judges, our battles are more of the spiritual kind. Makes sense, we live in enemy-occupied territory, and we don’t yet see everything under Jesus’ feet. So fight to lay claim to all that God has promised us.

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