There are two things the people of Israel need to teach their children:
- The story of God delivering them from Egypt, the commandments he gave, and how to follow them.
- According to Judges 3, the Art of War
There are also two things Judges are supposed to do (according to Judges 2):
- Deliver Israel from their enemies
- 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?
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?)
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!