Gideon #1 – introduction to Judges (Judges 6:1-10)
I love the Book of Judges. So, let’s start with an introduction to the book. It will give us the background we need for the story of Gideon.
In the twenty-one chapters of the book, we discover a pattern that will characterise the people of Israel for generations – even until today. It is a pattern of a cycle that repeats endlessly.
First, the people of Israel forget God and His ways. For example, in Judges 2:10
וְגַם כָּל-הַדּוֹר הַהוּא, נֶאֶסְפוּ אֶל-אֲבוֹתָיו; וַיָּקָם דּוֹר אַחֵר אַחֲרֵיהֶם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדְעוּ אֶת-יְהוָה, וְגַם אֶת-הַמַּעֲשֶׂה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל
And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, that knew not about God, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.
Second, once sin and the wrong ways have been established, God, removes his protection from the people of Israel, letting them experience the hardship of the world without His protection. For instance, in Judges 2:14
וַיִּחַר-אַף יְהוָה, בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיִּתְּנֵם בְּיַד-שֹׁסִים, וַיָּשֹׁסּוּ אוֹתָם; וַיִּמְכְּרֵם בְּיַד אוֹיְבֵיהֶם, מִסָּבִיב, וְלֹא-יָכְלוּ עוֹד, לַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי אוֹיְבֵיהֶם
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and He gave them over into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
Only then, in times of pain and suffering, the people rediscover God and the covenant they made with Him. They repent. And God, eternally patient, true to His word, remains loyal to the covenant, forever, as we can see in the Book of Judges 2:1
וַיֹּאמֶר אַעֲלֶה אֶתְכֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם, וָאָבִיא אֶתְכֶם אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם, וָאֹמַר, לֹא-אָפֵר בְּרִיתִי אִתְּכֶם לְעוֹלָם
And he said: ‘… I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said: I will never break My covenant with you;
Finally, God chooses a seemingly ordinary person and raises him to become a JUDGE, a temporary leader to fight the enemy and save Israel.
For a single generation the people of Israel manage to remember the grace of God and follow His ways. But it never lasts more than one generation. The next generation, raised in times of peace and prosperity, forgets God again. Once more, they need to go through pain and suffering to remember.
This cycle lasts in the book for twelve judges and for over 300 years (~1350-1014 BC), all the way until the first king, King Saul. In this series of blog posts, I will cover the story of the fifth judge, Gideon. (~1191-1151 BC.) which starts Judges 6:5.
Final note about the Book of Judges
Just by looking at the general pattern in the book of Judges, we can learn so much about the people of Israel, who forget the ways of God so often. We learn about God and his eternal patience, and we learn about the relationship between God and the people of Israel, and how despite the infinite number of times that the people of Israel have disappointed God and left His way, God is committed to this relationship forever.
We also learn why suffering is necessary.
We have short memory, and most of us can learn only from our personal experience and never from the experience of others. When we live in a good time, we attribute it to ourselves, our power, and our talent. We become conceited, arrogant. We feel that we are the masters of the world. God has no place in our hearts and takes no part in our decisions. It is only at time of hardship and suffering that we realise we are not in control. Only then can we clearly see that each moment of our lives is a precious gift given to us. It is not created by us.
This is what Judges is repeating over and again, so we can learn from the experience of others and not have to go through suffering ourselves. Just like the story of Abraham negotiating with God, the Book of Judges is a guidebook that teaches us and gives us an opportunity to learn from the experience of others. Yet, we always fail to follow.
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