Judges 10: God the Abused

When I first started reading Judges, I thought God had set up a system that felt, well, abusive.

He would be with the people as long as they worshiped him and kept his commands. When they turned to idolatry, he would hand them over to their enemies. Then when they realized they were wrong, he would raise up a judge to rescue them. When the judge died, they would usually turn back to idols and the whole thing would start again.

There has to be a better way.

But then I read Judges 10. It was an unexpected chapter that stopped me in my tracks. I had to sit and breathe a bit after reading.

What if God is not the one doing the abuse? What if he is the one bearing it?

Anger and Grief

“So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel”

We’ve heard this phrase five time in Judges so far. At first glance, it certainly makes God seem like an angry god. But right before that we are told that Israel abandoned him.

Abandonment is serious. Especially in a relationship like God’s and Israel’s. This is a marriage. Israel has abandoned their spouse.

Should God be angry? Hell yes!

But even more than that: I don’t think anger is the only thing happening. And maybe I am reading too much into it and getting all psychoanalytical on God, but anger rarely stands on its own. It is usually a manifestation of grief or pain.

And what was the “angriest” thing God has done in the Bible?

Yes, that’s right, flood the world. And he did it because he was grieved.

God’s anger comes out of his grief and pain from what his people, who mean everything to him, have done to him.

“He Could No Longer Bear . . .”

Usually, when Israel cries out, God doesn’t hesitate to rescue them. This time, he has had enough.

“You have abandoned me . . . therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”

Fine! You don’t want me? Go be where you want to be. Go to your other lovers. I won’t keep you somewhere you don’t want to be.

But when they come crawling back . . .

” . . . he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer.”

If God was a friend of ours, we would tell him that he was in an abusive relationship. The person he was with did not love him, respect him, or treat him with any shred of dignity. We would tell him to leave. We would have liked the first thing he did, but not the second.

God’s people are in an abusive relationship, and they are the abusers.

And for some insane reason, God sticks with them. I have no idea what to do with that.

I would never tell someone to stay in a relationship like that, even if they were married. I also tell people to treat others like God treats them; with grace and love. But this throws the whole thing into a giant mess.

It is beautiful, humbling, and terrifying all at the same time.

What about you? What do you think about all this? What would you counsel God to do?

4 responses

  1. Great questions, Ben! Using the language of abuse is enlightening in this context, isn’t it? I wouldn’t presume to counsel God, but… I would never encourage anyone to stay in a marriage where such abandonment and abusive reactivity was constant. I’m glad God is not like us. But I’m also glad that we have the capacity to become more like God when we allow room for the imago dei to surface and flourish. Which, of course, can only happen when we say ‘yes’ to the work the Spirit in us. So maybe that’s part of the point. God’s patience (even when he seems decidedly impatient at times) is productive and hopeful, always believing that we will turn our faces Godward and this time….truly listen, truly open, truly believe.

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