The book of Judges has always had a strong attraction to the reader, including me, because of its impressive stories, which are described very realistically. When, in preparation for Bible studies and Bible lectures, I started to occupy myself intensively with this Bible book, I experienced once again the great power and topicality that comes from this part of God’s Word.
In this preparation I have gratefully used what others have already passed on about this book, in word and in writing. This comment does not pretend to be original in everything. I did try to ‘translate’ the events of the book of Judges into our time.
In order to do this in a responsible way, I have tried as much as possible to underpin my comments from the New Testament. Scripture consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot be broken (Jn 10:3535If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),). The interpretation and application of a verse (or section) must be confirmed by another Scripture section (cf. 2Pet 1:2020But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of one’s own interpretation,).
I hope that as you read, you will ask the Lord for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and that you will examine whether things are as they are presented in this comment (Acts 17:1111Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily [to see] whether these things were so.). My prayer is that you open yourselves up to the powerful working of this part of God’s Word and that its effect will be visible in your life. All for the glory of God and for the blessing of His people and yourself.
Ger de Koning
Middelburg, January 1997; revised June 2018; translated October 2019 (1st Draft)
Introduction on Judges
The book of Judges describes the failure of the people of Israel to take possession of the land they received from God, the land of Canaan. But that’s not all. We also read about the intervention of the God of mercies Who stands up for His failing people when they appeal to Him. He does not leave His people with the results of their unfaithfulness.
In short, this Bible book shows us the unfaithfulness of the people of God and the faithfulness of God. The history of Christianity, of which we are a part, shows the same thing. Because man has not changed, nor has God, this book appears to be topical for our time.
The importance of this Bible book for the church
The book of Judges describes the failure of God’s earthly people, the people of Israel. What is the meaning and value of the book of Judges for the believers of the church? The Bible itself indicates that we may learn lessons from the history of the people of God recorded in the Old Testament. The Bible even calls us to do so. It is written that all that has happened to Israel has happened to them “as examples for us” (1Cor 10:66Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.) and that these things have happened to them “as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor 10:1111Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.). In another place it says: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction” (Rom 15:44For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.). “In earlier times” means in the Old Testament.
It is God’s intention that we, believers of the New Testament, apply the events described in this book to the time in which we live. He even made everything happen to Israel for that purpose. By doing so, he wants to warn us so that we do not fall into the same mistakes as Israel.
The lesson for the church
The fact that it went with the church as a whole the same as with Israel is shown by the history of the church. The church has also received many blessings from God. These are not earthly blessings, as is the case with Israel. Israel has received a piece of land full of treasures (Deu 8:7-107For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills;8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;9a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.10When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.). The blessings received by the church are spiritual, heavenly blessings. We can find them especially in the letter to the Ephesians. In it we read that God predestined the believers “to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself” (Eph 1:55He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,), and that all believers of the church together with the Lord Jesus are above all things (Eph 1:1010with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, [that is,] the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him), and much more.
These blessings the church has received on the basis of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross and His glorification in heaven. After He had returned to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to earth. As a result, all believers have become unity, with one another and with the Lord Jesus in heaven. God has given these heavenly blessings to the church from the moment the church came into being through the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.2And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.3And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.; 1Cor 12:1313For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.).
At that time the church did not yet know how rich she was. Especially the apostle Paul was used by God to make these blessings known to her. Paul wrote about this in several letters, but especially in the one to the church in Ephesus. To learn about these blessings it is therefore important that the believer reads the Bible and arranges his life accordingly. That is, he lives on earth in the consciousness that his real life is above, “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:33For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.).
But what has the church done with all these blessings? The church soon forgot that she is connected with the Lord Jesus in heaven and that she has such heavenly blessings. She has become more and more concerned with the things of the world, as if she belongs here on earth and not in heaven. The “first love”, the most important love, the love to the Lord Jesus to Whom she owes everything, is “left” (Rev 2:44But I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.). As a result, she has ended up in a downward spiral and so little now goes out from the church.
Yet it is still possible to enjoy the blessings of God. This is the case when there is a confession of unfaithfulness and an appeal to the grace of God. Then He will give a solution, just as He did with Israel at the time. Not that the church as a whole will be restored. That has not been the case in Judges with regard to Israel either. What we see, however, is that God, through the faithfulness of individuals, still gives blessings to all or part of the people. This also applies to the church today. The faithfulness of a few has positive consequences for many.
A brief review
To indicate in which period of the history of God’s people the events take place in Judges, it is good to look back to the book that precedes it, the book of Joshua. It tells how the people entered the land under leadership of Joshua. In Joshua 1-12 we are told about the progress made in taking possession of the land. Many enemies are defeated and a lot of land is captured.
But after Joshua 12 God says to Joshua: “Very much of the land remains to be possessed” (Jos 13:11Now Joshua was old [and] advanced in years when the LORD said to him, “You are old [and] advanced in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed.). From Joshua 13 onwards, the land is divided and each tribe is assigned its inheritance. It follows from the above that the people have two tasks:
1. what has already been conquered must be defended and
2. what is still in the hands of the enemy must be captured.
This requires battle, because the enemy does not intend to give up his territory without a blow or punch. The book of Joshua shows us the inheritance and blessing of God’s earthly people, Israel. The book of Judges gives us the history of that people, how they deal with the obtained blessing in practice.
Could not God have made the enemy surrender in advance? Certainly God could have done that. In Genesis 35 we read: “And the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob” (Gen 35:55As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. Darby translation). He could have done something similar here. He could have la-ten his scare on the enemies. He could also have simply slain them “with the breath of His mouth” (2Thes 2:88Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;) or by “a sharp sword” coming “from His mouth” (Rev 19:1515From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.).
But God has in every time His specific way of acting with the people in general and with His people in particular. His goal is that He wants to show man that he needs Him. Only by doing everything with and for God can man be truly happy. Thus God has a special intention with it that He allows hostile peoples to live in the land: He does so to test His people.
The test is whether they will rely on their own strength in battle or whether they trust Him. The test will show whether they want to make an effort to own what He has given them or whether they are not interested in what God has given them. In the first case, they show that they appreciate His blessings. In the second case, they will allow the enemy to live in their midst, with the result that the enemy will rob them of their blessing. The test shows where their hearts go out to.
The final blessing
If it turns out that the people, through their unfaithfulness, are wasting all their blessings, how will the faithfulness of God turn out in the end? It will become clear that Israel will only be blessed under the rule of his Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who by His power will introduce the blessing and by that same power will maintain the blessing. The enemy will have no chance of robbing the people of that blessing.
The book of Ruth, which happens in the time of Judges (Rth 1:11Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.), concludes with the name of “David” (Rth 4:2222and to Obed was born Jesse, and to Jesse, David.). When David becomes king, he deals with the enemies and secures the blessing for the people. In David we see a wonderful reference to the Lord Jesus, who will do the same for His people of Israel when He returns to earth.
The decay in which the people of God have ended up and which is written in Judges, is foretold by Joshua. Joshua warned of this in his farewell speech to Israel, to “their elders and their heads and their judges and their officers”, which are the people with responsibility within the people (Jos 23:22that Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders and their heads and their judges and their officers, and said to them, “I am old, advanced in years.). He says to them: “For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you” (Jos 23:12-1312For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,13know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.).
These prophetic words resemble Paul’s words to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:29-3029I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.). He warns them of the deviations that will come after his passing away. Ephesus is the church to which he has explained the special blessings with which God has blessed the individual believer and the church as a whole.
In the last written letter we have of Paul in the New Testament, his second letter to Timothy, he talks about the same things concerning the decay that will occur after his passing away. It is remarkable that Timothy (possibly) is then in the same Ephesus (1Tim 1:33As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,). We see how always a parallel can be drawn between Israel then and the church now.
A prophetic application
After the period described in the book of Judges, the history of the kings Saul, David and Solomon follows. We find them in the books of Samuel and of Kings. For Christianity, the period of the book of Judges can be compared to the period that begins after the apostles’ passing away, the post-apostolic era. This period will end with the rapture of the church.
If we compare the events that take place after the church’s rapture with Saul, David and Solomon we get the following picture. After the church is raptured, the antichrist, of whom Saul is a picture, will reveal himself. The antichrist will ruin the people. But the Lord Jesus, the true David, will appear and bring the long-awaited peace for all who have looked forward to Him. To achieve that, He will judge the enemies. Immediately thereafter He will, as the true Solomon, establish the millennial kingdom of peace. These events, which will therefore take place after the church’s rapture, are described in the book of Revelation from chapter 6 onwards.
The history of the church on earth
A description of the history of the church on earth before she is raptured is given to us in Revelation 2-3. In the seven letter written in it, we find a prophetic sketch of the history of the church on earth. It becomes clear from this that Christianity, God’s people of the New Testament, just like Israel, God’s people of the Old Testament, is also departing further and further from its high calling and deteriorates. Eventually the Lord Jesus spits her out of His mouth as something disgusting (Rev 3:1616So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.).
It is striking how the description of the decay in Revelation 2-3 begins with the letter to Ephesus – to whom Paul had previously been able to communicate God’s full counsel on the heavenly position of the church – and ends with Laodicea and her condition. In all this, it is important to keep in mind that this is about the church in her responsibility on earth and not about the church according to God’s counsel.
Man spoils everything
What happens to the church is not new. It has happened to everything God has entrusted to man’s responsibility. This shows how unfaithful man is by nature. It is useful and necessary to be aware of this. This will reduce our pride and moderation and increase our humility and dependence.
Everything that is made good by God is corrupted by man. A short summary shows this:
1. Look at Adam. Adam is placed in a beautiful garden, a paradise with wonderful blessings. But Adam sins and the curse comes upon creation.
2. Look at Noah. Noah is saved from the flood and enters a cleansed earth. But Noah drinks himself drunk, making himself unworthy of the authority God has given him.
3. Look at Israel. The people have only just been freed from the Egyptian bondage and they make a golden calf and God’s anger must strike them.
4. With the priesthood it is not different. Almost immediately after God has ordained it, two sons of Aaron come with strange fire and God must kill them.
5. The kingship shows the same picture. The first king, Saul, turns out to be a disobedient king who fails to fulfil his mission and finally commits suicide.
Everything that has been entrusted to man decays because of man’s unfaithfulness. This principle makes clear what is in man, what is in each of us. Fortunately, we always see what is in God, what sources of grace are present in Him. These sources are always available to us and we can always tap into them, especially in times of decay. If we do that, God will glorify Himself in such dark times by people who don’t expect anything of themselves anymore, but everything of Him.
That’s why this book contains an enormous stimulus for people who don’t resign themselves because of the decay, but offer themselves to God to be used by Him. They will be a blessing to His people, and will fight the enemy in His strength.
A spiritual struggle
At the beginning and at the end of this book the same question is asked. This question is who will go first to fight (Jdg 1:11Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD, saying, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”; 20:1818Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, “Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?” Then the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.”). Between these two questions, the book takes place. The first time this question is about fighting against the enemies of the people. The second time this question is about going to fight against a brother of the people. They start by fighting together against a common enemy and end up by fighting each other.
It is a variation of what Paul says to the Galatians: “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:33Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?). Applied to Israel we can say that Israel begins in the Spirit, but ends up in the flesh. It must be said that Israel’s fight against their brother Benjamin is necessary because of the sin that took place there and how their brother dealt with it.
That brings us in this introduction to another important point in the application of this book in our time. Our struggle is not against enemies of “blood and flesh”, but against invisible, spiritual enemies. Our struggle is a spiritual struggle “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]” (Eph 6:1212For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].). Although our enemies are not visible and tangible, they are just as real and much more pernicious than visible and tangible enemies.
The different enemies in the book of Judges represent different forms of the evil, sinful flesh and of the carnal lusts in the believer. We see how Satan and his evil angels take advantage of this to persuade the believer to let himself be led by the flesh.
A child of God may know that the Lord Jesus bore the judgment of sin and robbed Satan of his power on the cross. Something else is that the believer must live up to this in his life. In faith he must keep himself dead for sin (Rom 6:1111Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.).
Whenever Satan, the prince of the evil powers in the heavenly places, wants to encourage us to have a sinful way of thinking or living, we must resist him. This can be done by pointing at the Lord Jesus and at the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we do not walk in the Spirit, we will be overcome by these things.
In practice, this works as follows. There may be a desire to enjoy the blessings in Christ. Yet these blessings are not enjoyed when the Christian is held in captivity by sinful desires he has allowed into his life. It is impossible to enjoy the heavenly blessings when worldly or carnal things are pursued. These things make him a prisoner, with the result that he has no eye and time for the things that has to do with God and the Lord Jesus.
What kind of people are the judges, where do they come from, when do they live and how do they become judge? There is a big difference in the personality of the judges we encounter in this book. They come from different tribes: Judah, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan. They all have different social backgrounds: one is a farmer, the other a diplomat, another a vagabond. Some are known, others unknown, some are rich, others poor. One of them is a woman. We will look at her special ministry in Judges 4-5.
These differences make it clear that God in His sovereignty determines who can be judge and He gives each one his or her own place in this. He does so according to the way they deal with Him and not on the basis of whether or not a religious education or diploma. The school of God is guaranteed to be the best education there is.
Who today are judges
As we read this book, we see that all the judges are personally conceived by God, with the exception of Abimelech who proclaims himself to be judge (Jdg 9:1-61And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, saying,2“Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh.”3And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our relative.”4They gave him seventy [pieces] of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him.5Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.6All the men of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.). They are not appointed by Joshua. Nor do they become so because a committee of judges invites them to join them. Family succession is not an issue either.
Judges are a picture of elders and overseers who in our days perform their task in the local church. The fact that a woman has acted as a judge does not mean that women can also be elders or overseers in the church. God has assigned this task in the church exclusively to men. We will take a closer look at that in the history of Deborah.
These elders or overseers have not been appointed by people, just like the judges. In the Bible the appointment of elders is done by an apostle or an authorized representative of an apostle (Acts 14:2323When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.; 20:2828Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.; Tit 1:55For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,). Since there are no apostles anymore and as a result there are no more persons who can act on their behalf, there can be no more appointment of elders. There is no appointment by people and no natural follow-up.
That does not mean, however, that there are no more elders. Paul speaks to Timothy about the characteristics to be met by a person who “aspires to the office of overseer” (1Tim 3:11It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires [to do].). He shows the ‘profile’ that an overseer should fulfil and by which he can be recognized (1Tim 3:1-71It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires [to do].2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.4[He must be] one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),6[and] not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.7And he must have a good reputation with those outside [the church], so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.).
Fortunately, there are still people who respond to the desire that the Lord works in them to function as an elder or overseer. They have a special eye for the dangers of the time in which we live. They will work to ensure that the enemy does not have a chance to deprive the believers of their blessings. Their task is to point out to believers areas in their lives where the enemy has made a profit. They also give indications on how the lost ground can be reclaimed.
Decreasing success of the judges
The victories won by judges are not the result of an offensive battle. They fight enemies who, through the unfaithfulness of the people, have managed to rob the people of the inheritance that God has given them. The judges will do their utmost to maintain the national existence and to let God’s people enjoy once again what they belong to. God wants His people to be a victorious people. But the people turn away from Him again and again and follow the sins and gods of the nations around them, becoming thereby their slaves every time. The result is that all service and witness cease.
Judges is a book in which there is always talk of revolt against God. Every time there is a revolt, the people lose a little more of their blessing. This can be seen in the degree of redemption achieved by a judge. Each following salvation is l less far-reaching than the previous one. After each domination the people get less back than they have lost. The last judge in this book, Samson, even leaves the people in captivity. Because of personal unfaithfulness he, despite his great strength, is not able to drive the enemy away permanently. On the contrary, he himself becomes a prisoner.
But despite the increase in loss, God’s grace is so great that even a time of decay can become a time of special blessing be for the individual or for a remnant.
Every liberation is always partial, until the Lord Jesus comes. When He comes, He will bring about complete liberation.
The period when the judges judge
Between the exodus from Egypt and the construction of the temple by Solomon lies 480 years (1Kgs 6:11Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.).
According to Acts 13 this period covers about 570 years (Acts 13:17-2217The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it.18For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.19When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance—[all of which took] about four hundred and fifty years.20After these things He gave [them] judges until Samuel the prophet.21Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.22After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’). This results in a difference of 90 years. This difference can be explained as follows.
The 570-year period in Acts 13 is the sum of
about 40 years (Acts 13:1818For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.)
+about 450 years (Acts 13:2020After these things He gave [them] judges until Samuel the prophet.)
+40 years (Acts 13:2121Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.)
+40 years reign of David (1Kgs 2:1111The days that David reigned over Israel [were] forty years: seven years he reigned in Hebron and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem.)
=total 570 years.
The difference of about 90 years is the sum of the five periods of slavery in Judges:
8 years (Jdg 3:88Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.)
+18 years (Jdg 3:1414The sons of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.)
+20 years (Jdg 4:33The sons of Israel cried to the LORD; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years.)
+7 years (Jdg 6:11Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.)
+40 years (Jdg 13:11Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.)
=total 93 years.
The spiritual lesson we can learn from this is the following. God does not count the days and hours in which we live in slavery, because this time was not lived for Him. That time has no value to Him. For Christ’s judgment seat this will be revealed.
Nothing in the Bible is meaningless. God has had everything written down with a special purpose. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2Tim 3:16-1716All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.). This also applies to all the names mentioned. These names have a meaning. This does not mean that the meaning of a name is always clear. Sometimes there are also multiple meanings of a name possible. However, the meaning of the name often gives us a clearer insight into the meaning of a certain section.
Many names are mentioned in the book of Judges. I want to try to stay as close as possible to that meaning in my application of the meaning. If there are multiple meanings, I will make an application that appeals to me the most. The danger with such applications is always that fantasy will play a role. It is up to the reader to read critically, in the way of the Jews in Beréa of whom is mentioned: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily [to see] whether these things were so” (Acts 17:1111Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily [to see] whether these things were so.).
An important indication in connection with the meaning of names can be found in the Scriptures themselves. It is in connection with the name ‘Melchizedek’: “For this Melchizedek, …, was first of all, by the translation [of his name], king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace” (Heb 7:1-21For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,2to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all [the spoils], was first of all, by the translation [of his name], king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.). Here the Bible itself gives proof that from the meaning of a person’s name certain conclusions can be drawn that teach us something about that person or about the Person of Whom he is a picture.
There are several books with explanations of the names. I have consulted some of them. I will not go into names of which I do not know the meaning. These names do have a meaning that represents something, but I don’t know what. It is good that we recognize our limitations.
Division of Judges
1. Rebellion of the chosen people – Judges 1:1-3:4.
2. Slavery and liberation – Judges 3:5-16:31.
3. The corrupt heart revealed – Judges 17:1-21:25
The subdivision per main division
1. Judges 1:1-3:4
a. The intermingling with the nations – Judges 1:1-2:5.
b. The open break with the LORD and the fall into idolatry – Judges 2:6-3:4.
About this subdivision can be said that portion b. results from portion a. If the people of God are no longer separated from the world, the automatic consequence is that there will be a break with God and that they will serve the gods of the world. This is a fulfillment of the above quoted warning of the LORD from the mouth of Joshua (Jos 23:12-1312For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you,13know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.). The fulfilment of these words we see in the book that we are going to take a closer look at. We will see that God is justified in His words.
2. Judges 3:5-16:31
This subdivision consists thirteen parts, according to the number of judges that appear in it. In it we read the history of Israel’s sins, which enemies are used by God to bring them to repentance, and which judges God conceives to deliver them from their enemies.
3. Judges 17:1-21:25
As in the first main division, we can distinguish two subdivisions:
a. Judges 17-18 show the religious decay, the abandonment of the bond with God and the filling in of the serving of God according to one’s own ideas.
b. Judges 19-21 show the moral decay, the abandonment of the mutual relationship and acting at one’s own discretion without taking the other into account.
As in the first main part, subdivisions b. also flows from subdivisions a. If the bond with God is abandoned, the bond with each other is abandoned. Where the love for God cools, the brotherly love also cools.
Introduction on Judges 1
God has not yet left Israel. His power is still present. The question only is whether there is faith present to make use of it. The cause of all decay is in the fact that the people of God forget the presence of the living, holy God in their midst. If the awareness of the value of God’s presence decreases, so does dedication to Him. As a result, the people become insensitive to the evil that is in the hearts the enemies.
If they had really experienced the presence of God in their midst, they would not have tolerated the enemy in their midst. They would have been aware that it is sin and a dishonor for God to let the enemies live in the land of God unpunished. God and the enemy can never go together. Forgetting that means losing the blessings of the land. This first chapter increasingly describes this loss.
There are five successive phases to be discovered in the way in which the decay takes place:
1. disobedience to what God hath said (Jdg 1:33Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you.” So Simeon went with him.);
2. lack of trust in God (Jdg 1:1919Now the LORD was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots.);
3. indifference (Jdg 1:21,27,28,29,3021But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.27But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land.28It came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.29Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer; so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.30Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites lived among them and became subject to forced labor.);
4. powerlessness (Jdg 1:31-3331Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob.32So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out.33Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, but lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; and the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became forced labor for them.);
5. be conquered (Jdg 1:3434Then the Amorites forced the sons of Dan into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the valley;).
The origin of all decay is disobedience to what God has said. God has answered the people’s question as to who will go up first. That answer is not open to two interpretations. Judah has to go up first. He has to do that alone. Yet Judah asks Simeon to go with him.
Judah could have given all kinds of acceptable and credible reasoning for this request to Simeon. They could say, for example, that the inheritance of Simeon is closely connected to theirs, or that it is nice to involve others in a work for the LORD. But all these kinds of reasoning, however well intentioned, can do nothing to detract from the simple command of God that Judah must go first. In the course of this chapter, we will automatically come to the phases in the decay that result from this.