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Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture reading introduced a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges and not a king? Because the LORD was Israel’s Sovereign and the people were bound by covenant to His Law and Commandments.

Tragically, after Joshua and the generation that followed him had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD. We read that they “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). The LORD, in His mercy, “raised up judges, which delivered [Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [plundered] them” (2:16). However, when a judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Judges to Rule the People

Because Israel had broken the covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and He left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test and prove a generation that did not know the hardships and trials of war as their fathers before them. The LORD longed for Israel to turn to Him and obey His commandments. Therefore, He did not drive out the enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

The Compromise and Wretchedness of the Third Generation

Israel allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, and they “served their gods…and did evil…and forgat the LORD their God” (3:6-7). They “served Baalim and the groves” (places of sexual deviancy, 3:7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9), who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. We read, “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12).

God’s people had strayed far from the law and commandments and found themselves humbled and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they]cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as ambidextrous people and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

Ehud’s skill with his left hand gave him an advantage when he plotted and attacked Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in his bowels when he fled the palace (3:21-22). When he returned to Mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concluded with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

Closing thoughts:

In the chapters ahead, we will observe an emerging spiritual cycle in our study of the Book of Judges. In fact, what was true of Israel has been true of believers through the ages.  What is the cycle? It is that sin leads to servitude[enslavement], which leads to Sorrow, and sorrow moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation(3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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