Old Testament Survey - Lesson 13

Joshua and Judges

In this lesson, you will explore the books of Joshua and Judges from the Old Testament. The lesson outlines how these books address biblical themes through their narrative structures and historical contexts. Joshua is presented as a fulfillment of Yahweh's promises, emphasizing the divine gift of land and rest to Israel, marked by the wars Yahweh led against the Canaanites. Joshua focuses on the receiving and dividing of the land among tribes, symbolizing God's faithfulness. Judges, in contrast, illustrates the Israelites' failure to maintain faithfulness after Joshua's death, depicting the cycle of apostasy, oppression, and deliverance as a response to their assimilation with Canaanite culture. 

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 13
Watching Now
Joshua and Judges

I. Introduction to Joshua and Judges

A. Overview

1. Brief treatise due to familiarity and thematic connection between the books

2. Contrastive story presentation in Joshua and Judges

II. Book of Joshua

A. Historical Context

1. Timing and authorship unclear, events post-Moses

2. Central figure: Joshua, the servant and successor of Moses

B. Theme and Purpose

1. Reminder of Yahweh's land gift as fulfillment of patriarchal promises

2. Warning against forgetting the gospel and abandoning Yahweh

C. Structural Analysis

1. Proportional focus on conquest vs. reception of land

2. Detailed breakdown from chapters 1 to 8

3. Key events: Crossing Jordan, battle of Jericho, spiritual renewal

III. Transition to the Book of Judges

A. Overview of Judges

1. Historical context: Post-Joshua, pre-Saul

2. Theme: Yahweh's response to Israel's Canaanization

B. Structural and Thematic Analysis

1. Cycles of apostasy and deliverance

2. Detailed account of key judges and their narratives

3. Reflection on the ongoing relevance to contemporary faith communities

IV. Concluding Observations

A. Significance of Both Books

1. Joshua as a narrative of divine promise fulfillment

2. Judges as a reflection on communal faithfulness and failure

B. Implications for Understanding Biblical History

1. Importance of remembering and adhering to Yahweh's covenants

2. Lessons on leadership and the consequences of moral failures

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Joshua and Judges
Lesson Transcript


My treatise on the books of Joshua and Judges will be briefer than our discussions have been to this point, in part because many of us are familiar with the stories in this book, but in part also because we need to see books together and see how they are dealing with the issues that concern biblical authors in their similar and different ways. Joshua and Judges present a story in contrast. So let's begin with Joshua.

First of all, the historical context of the book and the events in the book. While the book of Joshua does not tell us clearly when and by whom it was written, the events covered occurred within a few years of the death of Moses. Although the primary character in the book is God, the book gets its name in English and in Hebrew and in Greek from the primary human figure, Joshua the servant of Yahweh, as he is called in Judges 2 verse 8. And he is not only the servant of Yahweh, but the successor to Moses as a leader of the people.

The theme and purpose of the book. This book was written to remind people in every age, it is scripture, it's not just a temporary document, but it reminds people in every age that Yahweh's gift of land and rest to the nation of Israel happened in fulfillment of the promises to the patriarchs by means of the wars of Yahweh. That's a summary of the theme, and our basis for that thesis statement comes from Joshua 21:43-45.

So Yahweh gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. And Yahweh gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for Yahweh helped them conquer all their enemies.

Not a single one of all the good promises Yahweh had given to the family of Israel were left unfulfilled. Everything that he had spoken came true. This conclusion is reinforced by a proportional chart of the book of Joshua and its structure, as we will see in a moment.

So the main purpose, first purpose, to remind people in every age that Yahweh's gift of land and rest to the nation was his gift. Second, it's to warn the people in the future not to forget the gospel, or to abandon Yahweh or his covenant. You hear this clearly in Joshua's, one of his concluding addresses in 23:14-16.

Soon I will die, going the way of everything on earth. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of Yahweh your God has come true. Not a single one has failed, but as surely as Yahweh your God has given you the good things he promised, he will also bring disaster on you if you disobey him.

He will completely destroy you from this good land that he has given you. If you break the covenant of Yahweh your God by worshiping and serving other gods, his anger will burn against you and you will quickly vanish from the good land he has given you. Well, that's the theme of the book.

So now let's see how this theme is played out in the structure of the book. Most people think that the book of Joshua is about the wars that the Israelites fought against the Canaanites, but if you do a study of the book itself and its structure and ask yourself what proportion of space is devoted to the conquest of the promised land, you discover it's actually a very small proportion. In this diagram, I have separated the parts and colorized the parts based on content.

The book of Joshua begins with the summons to receive the promised land, Joshua 1:1-18. God is talking to Jonah, Moses, my servant, is dead. You've taken over.

This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, and go lead the people. Be strong and of good courage. What follows then in chapters 2 through 8, what does that mean? Seven chapters of preparation for the wars of Yahweh.

These are often called the holy wars, but that's not actually very helpful. They are Yahweh's wars, and we notice even in the thesis statement and that text I read from Joshua that God is the active participant in all of this. But the preparations for the wars of Yahweh take us from chapter 2 through chapter 8. You have first the reconnaissance of the enemy, 2:1-24.

Then you have the preparation of the troops, what I call their triumphal entry into the land. They cross the Jordan, and then you have their spiritual renewal. They circumcise all the men, and they celebrate the festival of Passover.

It's a moment of spiritual renewal. Then you have the introduction of the commander-in-chief, a very short section, Joshua 5:13-15. The angel of the Lord appears to Joshua and introduces himself as the commander-in-chief.

Then you have Jericho. It's important to notice that Jericho was not part of Israel's conquest of the land. Jericho is to this moment in Israel's history what the crossing of the Red Sea, Reed Sea, and the defeat of the Egyptians was to the previous generation.

The conquest is actually a synergistic enterprise in which God tells the people to fight hard, fight courageously, go take the land that the Lord your God is giving you. But in Jericho, the only active participant in the battle, is it actually a battle? Yahweh does it. Yahweh does everything.

The people march around the city for seven days, and then on the seventh day, seven times, and then they blow their trumpets, and the walls came down. Israel didn't conquer anybody. The Lord, Jericho represents the gate to the promised land.

They have crossed the Jordan River, giving this generation a miniature experience of the earlier generation's crossing of the Red Sea, but having crossed, having entered the land geographically, the gate opened by the river parting. Then we have the symbolic opening up of the population to the Israelites in the defeat of Jericho. This is all preparation for the battles that lie ahead.

God opens the gate. But then we have in chapter 7 and 8 an interesting story which functions as a negative foil for the coming battles. After the defeat of Jericho, they go straight west up to the hill country and attack at Bethel and Ai, and at Ai, turns out to be a total disaster.

Now in the narrative, we discover that it was a disaster. The narrator tells us it was a disaster because when they were mopping up Jericho, Achan had kept some of the treasures there, and that's holy. It's cherim.

You're not to touch anything that belongs to the Canaanites. It is defiled. You become defiled like it if you touch it.

Well, he had kept it, and as his punishment for that, he and his entire family, because they were all contaminated by the germ of stuff in their tent, after they've been dealt with, then they head to Mount Gerizim and Ebel for the important ceremony that is described for us in chapter 8, verses 30 to 35. But there's one thing the author doesn't tell us in this story. If Joshua had actually been doing everything that Moses told him to do, according to Deuteronomy chapter 11, the last three or four verses of that chapter, Moses said, when you have crossed the Jordan River, you are to head up the Jordan Valley and take Sunset Boulevard to the west, and you'll arrive at Mount Gerizim and Ebel.

They're here to perform this ritual, but they hadn't done that. Why hadn't they done? Instead, that was the first item on the agenda when they had crossed the Jordan, and the Lord had opened the gates for them. Head to Gerizim and Ebel for this covenantal moment, this ritual by which they formally received the title to the land they were about to conquer.

But instead of that, on their own, they went up the hill and they started attacking the Canaanites, and there's no reference to the commander-in-chief telling them to do this. I wonder about Joshua. It's obvious that the narrator, the author of the book of Joshua, has a high view of him, but he doesn't tell us that side of the story for some reason or other.

In my interpretation of Deuteronomy 11 and chapter 27, they forgot the first item on the agenda, and that's why it turned out to be such a disaster. But once they get to Gerizim and Ebel, 830 to 835, then the wars can begin, and so in chapters 9 to 11, three chapters, these actually describe the conduct of the wars. But by now, you will notice that out of all of the texts of Deuteronomy, 24 chapters, only three involve the battle.

Well, the conduct of the wars has a couple of phases. There's the Gibeonite compromise in 9:1-27, the conquest of the south in chapter 10, the conquest of the north in chapter 11, and a summary statement of the accomplishments of Joshua 11, 16 to 23, and then a summary statement of the scope of the conquest in chapter 12. Only three chapters on the conduct of the wars of Yahweh.

But where is the center of gravity? When you look at the whole book, what impresses me at least, my eyes, when I colorize the outline like this, it dawns on me this book is not about conquering the promised land. This book is about receiving the land that God has promised, and then dividing this gift of land among the tribes. That's what happens in chapters 14 all the way through 21.

You've got the tribal allotments serially described, and then you've got special allotments of cities of refuge and Levitical towns, and then concluding reflections at the end of chapter 21. This is the center of gravity. When we read the book of Joshua, we need to hear that not one of the good promises of the Lord has failed.

God promised to Abraham more than 400 years ago, this will be given to your descendants. Now the descendants have claimed it, and it's thanks to God. We come then to the end of the book, chapters 22 to 24, looking beyond the wars of Yahweh.

Well in chapter 22, we have this interesting story about the two and a half tribes that Moses allotted land to on the eastern side of the Jordan. They are worried after the conquest, as Joshua has finished the conquest agenda for him. He tells them, you can go back across the Jordan River to your own territory.

Before they cross the Jordan, they set up this massive altar, and when the Israelites see that massive altar, they're all frustrated and furious because they think this is an idolatrous altar. These people are doing what we did at Sinai with a golden calf, that altar to Baal. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and then we learn that these two and a half tribes have nagging feelings about the legitimacy of their part in the future of Israelite history, and they know that in the future, the Jordan River is going to become a very significant boundary, and they are thinking the people will forget the stories up to this point, and they will say, you have no portion in Yahweh because you live on the wrong side of the river.

And so they build this memorial altar, not for sacrifices, but it's a memorial to remind the Israelites of all twelve tribes to the two and a half tribes on the east side, look, that altar is a symbol of our participation in the life of the people of Yahweh over there. And to the nine and a half tribes living on the other side, it's a reminder, it is to be a reminder that the people on the other side of the river are part of your nation. They have equal access to the spiritual heritage that is ours.

So that's chapter 22. In chapter 23 and 24, we have Joshua's farewell address, and then a farewell act where the covenant is renewed at Mount Gerizim and Ebel, and then finally the postscript, the concluding statement. This is, in brief, the story, the narrative of the book of Joshua, but it really should be the book of Yahweh, the book of Yahweh and his fulfillment of the promise of land to the ancestors.

That's what this book is about. But the people are operating in faith, and by the time you get to the end and the territories are all assigned, they are readily available in the maps at the back of your Bibles or in your atlases, and here I have a map in which it summarizes where the allotments of the tribes were. It's important for us to remember this image because it becomes significant in the following book, the book of Judges, to which I now turn.

Again, we'll set the historical context. According to Judges 2:6-10, the period covered by the book begins shortly after the death of Joshua. The events in Joshua happen shortly after the death of Moses.

These happen after the death of Joshua, and by now we know Joshua is an old man, so we don't know how long this period was. According to later events involving the Philistines, the end of the period of Judges covered must have been close to the coronation of King Saul, the Benjamite king, because the name of the Philistine threat precipitated the people's request for a king. By the time we get to the end of the book of Judges, the Philistines are a problem.

When you enter the book of Samuel, the appearance of Saul is directly related to that Philistine problem, 1 Samuel 8:1-2. This period is generally called the period of settlement, when the newly arrived Israelites were trying to put down their roots in the promised land, but the reference to the captivity of the land in Judges 18:30 suggests that the book was written much, much later, after the northern kingdom had gone into exile to Assyria in the 7th century BC. So the book, as we have it, is written much later, but it's drawing on stories and accounts that were preserved in the people's memories, and some of them probably also written in some minor fragments of texts along the way. But what's the theme of this book? If the theme of Joshua is the Lord's fulfillment of his promises to Abraham by giving the Israelites the land of Israel, or the land of Canaan, the theme of Judges is the flip side of the coin.

It's Yahweh's response to the Canaanization of Israelite society during the period of settlement. There are two things to notice here. The first is Yahweh's response.

The whole book is about how God felt about what was happening in this period of settlement, often called the period of the Judges. The word judge shofait is applied to these characters, not because they were legal officials, but because the Hebrew word for judge, shofait, means somebody who exercises governing authority over other people. So they weren't necessarily solving legal cases.

They were simply leading the tribes respectively. But the book is about the Lord's response to Israel's Canaanization. The narrator described the cause of the problem in Judges 2:6-10.

After Joshua sent the people away, each of the tribes left to take possession of the land allotted to them, and the Israelites served Yahweh throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who outlived him, those who had seen all the great things Yahweh had done for Israel. Joshua ben Nun, the servant of Yahweh, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land he had been allocated at Timnath Serach in the hill country of Ephraim north of Mount Gash.

After that generation died, another generation grew up who didn't acknowledge Yahweh or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. The Israelites did the evil in Yahweh's sight and served the images of Baal. And now I must comment on they did the evil.

In our translations, this is typically rendered, they did evil in God's sight, and they leave it open to you to fill in the blank what that evil might have been. Actually, though, whenever we hear this phrase, the Israelites did evil, it is always with an article. They did the evil.

It's not just they were nasty in general. The evil, based on Deuteronomy in Judges, that evil is always abandoning Yahweh and going after other gods. And the narrator will tell us this over and over again.

The narrator formally declared the canonization of the nation as the theme in the preamble, 2:11-3:6, which we've read, and in the refrain, repeated seven times, the sons of Israel did the evil in the sight of Yahweh. Or then the other refrain towards the end, twice we read, in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did the evil in his own eyes, or did the right thing in their own eyes, which is the opposite of the right thing in the eyes of God.

You have this in 17:6 and 21:5. The people, by the time you get to the end of the book, the people demonstrated the depth of this problem by their incomplete conquest of the tribal lands, the repeated references to idolatry, the unethical conduct of individuals, including the judges, and the degeneration of the Danites and the Benjaminites described in the last five chapters. By the time we get to the end of the book, we think we're in Sodom and Gomorrah. The author actually writes the story as an echo of Genesis 18 and 19.

The evil of the Israelites provoked the wrath of God, who responded by sending in foreign enemies to oppress them in accordance with the covenant curses. When they cried out to God, generally without repentance, he graciously raised up a deliverer, and then miraculously he gave them deliverance from the enemy. Given this theme, the message of the book of Judges is one of the most relevant in all the First Testament for the church today.

Like Israel, we are being squeezed into the mold of the world, and it is only by the grace of God that we are not consumed. But as we did with the book of Joshua, let's take a quick hop, skip, and jump look at the structure of the book of Judges to see how this theme of the Lord's response to the canonization of Israel in this period of the Judges, how this happens. The book opens up with the background to the canonization of Israel.

In chapter one, they fail to complete the mandate that the Lord had. Joshua had won the battle, conquered the land in principle, in skeletal form, but then he had left it to all the tribes to be sure that they finish the business in their allotted tribal territories. So in chapters one to three, you have the background to their canonization, their partial performance, the theological significance of their partial performance, and then the consequence of Israel's partial performance.

God left the Canaanites among them to test them. In the bulk of the rest of it, you have God's actual response to the canonization of Israel with six cycles of apostasy and deliverance, and each of these goes round and round in the same order. You have the apostasy of Israel, God sending in enemies to take over the problematic regions.

Then the people crying, and God answers their cry by sending in a deliverer judge, and then at the end, it often says, and they had rest from the enemies for a certain period of time, only until the next cycle happens. So I am identifying in my outline, I'm identifying these cycles on the basis of the external enemy and the judge who functions as the deliverer. So you have in chapter three, seven to eleven, almost paradigmatically, it's a very brief text, the Aram-Nahariyim and the Othniel cycle.

Then in chapter three, twelve to thirty, the Moab and Ehud cycle, the king Eglon of Moab, the fat guy who is brutally murdered. The narrator seems to have taken a page out of the Canaanite textbook on how we deal with leaders we don't like. It's an assassination.

In chapter three, verse twenty-one, we have a very short one-verse parenthesis. It's as if the narrator is embarrassed because the Lord says, the Lord raised up Shamgar who rescued them from the Philistines. Really? Shamgar? He's not even an Israelite.

He's Shamgar ben Anath. That's the name of a pagan deity, and his name, Shamgar, with four hard syllables, is obviously an alien. But the author doesn't give us much information on him at all.

He just announces, oh, by the way, there's another judge in here, but he's an outsider. We can't really give him too much credit. It's as if leadership in Israel is in such good leadership in Israel is in such short supply that we have to go outside the covenant community to get people who will fix the problems on the inside.

I feel a sermon coming on. Then we have the Canaanite and Barak cycle. Notice I don't call this the Deborah cycle.

Barak is the general who leads them in the deliverance. Deborah represents the voice of God. The people come to her for the judgment, which in my estimation means they're coming to her for an answer to the problem created by the Canaanites who are oppressing them at this point, and the answer is given through the prophet Deborah, who goes and conscripts on Yahweh's behalf, Barak, to lead them in the battle.

So that's chapters four. Chapter four has the narrative presentation, and then in chapter five, we have the poetic celebration like Exodus 15 in relation to chapter 14 of Exodus. 14 describes crossing the Reeds Sea.

Chapter 15 is a song in celebration of that moment. That's what we have in Judges chapters four and five. This is the judgeship of Barak with the support of Deborah.

Then in chapters six, seven, and eight, we have the judgeship of Gideon, another schizophrenic character. He has two names, Gideon, which means hacker. I think he gets that name because he hacked down the image of the Asherah and the altar of Baal.

God, that means to hack, but he also is called Jerobail. Joash calls him this, and the name means either let Baal contend for him, that is the person who bears the name, or he will contend against Baal. I think it's actually the former.

Gideon has a pagan name, as does Samson, whom we will encounter in a moment, but Gideon is to be a schizophrenic character, and at one point, I've written an essay on this man. Will the real Gideon please stand up? Which of these names is his true name? It represents his character. Then in chapter nine, we have the story of Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons, who is a monster.

He is a typical Canaanite king. He acts like a typical Canaanite king, and in the end, it is total disaster for the city of Shechem and for the region as a whole because of Abimelech's evils. In 10:1-5, we have another parenthesis, the governorship of Tola and Yair.

We know they govern for so and so long, but there are no stories about these guys. In 10:6-12, verse 7, we have the story of Jephthah and his defeat of the Ammonites. Now we are on the other side of the Jordan River.

Jephthah was over there, and the Ammonites were oppressing him, and the Lord raised up Jephthah to be the deliverer. These characters actually get more and more problematic as we go along. We don't have time to develop that image here, but if you want more information, you'll find them in my commentary on Judges and Ruth put out by Broadman and Holman Press.

There I've got a discussion of all of these matters, but that's the Ammonite cycle. Then you have another parenthesis, Ibzan, Elon, and Avdan. We've never heard of these guys, but there they are.

They each get one or two verses, and that's all the time the narrator has. And finally, we have the Philistine and Samson cycle. Barry Webb, in his commentary on the book of Judges, says that Samson embodied all that was wrong in Israel.

For him, and these are my words now, thy kingdom come has become my kingdom come. Samson is never interested in God's agenda at all. He's never interested in anything but himself, and in the end, on a very tragic note, you know the story how he tears down the pillars of the pagan temple where he has been brought as a blinded prisoner.

He tears down the pillars, and the narrator says he killed more people in his death than in his life, which I think is a tragic statement. Here is a person whose life is a total waste, and in the end, though God uses this to deliver a blow to the Philistines, but none of it is to Samson's credit at all. Actually, Samson, his name means he was born right near a place called Beth Shemesh, the Temple of Shemesh.

That's the sun god, and his parents named him Samson, Shemshon, which means little son. It's a pagan name. What can you expect from this guy? That's how far down we have gone.

Well, he is the last of the judges, because in Barry Webb's, I think, correct interpretation, he's the worst, and by then Israel is at its lowest ebb. What happens then in chapters 17 through 21? You have two illustrations of the depths of the canonization of the population. The leaders aren't the only problems.

Tribes are the problems. In chapters 17 and 18, you have the corruption of an Israelite household, and the corruption of a Levitical priest, and the corruption of an Israelite tribe, the Danites. It's a sad story.

And in chapter 19, you've got the Benjamites, who turn out to be Neo-Sodomites, that is, Sodom has returned. The people here, the author tells the story in chapter 18 and 19 as if it were the story, echoing the story of Sodom and Gomorrah after Abraham's intercession and their utter destruction. It's a sad story, and it ends on a very sad note, and we're wondering by the time we get to the end of the book, where is God in this picture? God is strangely silent.

By the time you get to the end of the book, he leaves the people to their own devices, which makes you wonder, can anything good ever come from this cesspool? Well, for that, we have to turn to the following books. The answer is, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I just have one comment I'd love to hear you respond to, and that is children's Sunday school material.

I mean, Samson is usually told as a story, he's a good guy, and he fought. It's kind of like the flood, you know, arky, arky, arky. The children's stories have seemed to have so totally changed what the text is actually saying.

This didn't strike me until in the course of my writing the commentary on that book, I always diagram the text completely. I create a very detailed syntactical. I've learned since that it's really discourse linguistic.

A very detailed diagram, and I let the text talk to me. Unless I visualize the text that way, I don't get what it's saying. And so, through the repetitions, through the redundancy of themes and things, it dawned on me what I've learned in Sunday school from this text is way off track.

This is not a book of heroes. These characters, these judges, their stories are arranged deliberately, and Barry Webb makes the point really strongly, deliberately so that each one is worse than the previous. So that Othniel, it's a short little thing, two or three verses.

He is the paradigm. This is Caleb's nephew. He's a good guy.

With Ehud, you wonder, is he a good guy or is he a bad guy? Should he have assassinated Eglon? They have those, but on the other hand, Ehud is a left-handed guy, and in that cultural context, they're marginalized, and he turns out to take advantage of his left-handedness. That's why Eglon got sucked into this plot, and he stabbed him, because the bulge of his sword underneath his garment was on the wrong side, and he took advantage of him. So, I sympathize with Ehud a little.

Barak, I mean, yeah, Barak, I mean, what do you think about Barak? On the one hand, he's a hero, but on the other hand, I mean, he is really upset when he doesn't get the glory for what's happened. Gideon is totally schizophrenic. On the one hand, he's this, and on the other hand, he's that.

He builds his own shrine in his backyard, and has his own priests, and Ephod, and whatever else. It's a real problem, and Jephthah, he is the son of a prostitute on the other side, and I have a feeling, actually, she may have been, if she was an Israelite prostitute, that's our one problem, but she may have been a Canaanite prostitute, because Jephthah is totally self-absorbed. When his daughter comes, I mean, in the first place, he makes a bargain with God.

Whatever comes out of my house to greet me when I come back, if you give me the victory, I'll offer that to you. I mean, his words get in his way all the time. He's a man of words, and it becomes a noose around his neck, and when his daughter is the one who shows up, what do you expect? His puppy? His dog? His cat? His pet kid? A goat? I don't know what he expected would greet him, but when it's his daughter, he says, oh no, you've brought such grief to me, to me.

There's no heart for his daughter, but then the narrator just says, and he did with her as he had vowed, which is he offered her as a whole burnt offering, which is totally pagan. Having made a stupid vow, there are ways out of it. I talk about that in my commentary too, and of course, Samson, in my mind, it's all wrong.

It's all twisted. There's nothing right about this man. Read his prayers.

Avenge me for my two eyes. There's nothing right about Samson. He's, in my books, he's not a hero.

God needs to deliver the Israelites from their deliverers, and of course, this sets the stage for the coming of David and for the coming of Boaz, as we'll see in the next lesson. So, is that the lesson that we should learn from judges is how easy it is to disintegrate into a godless society and to look for David or for Samuel who's going to deliver from that? What do we look at for lessons from judges? What the lessons from judges, the most obvious one is that if you tolerate the idols of the world, you become like the world, and you become like your idols. Greg Beal has a book on idolatry.

You become like the idols, and the book of Judges is really about what happens when people forget the one and only true God to whom they owe every aspect of their existence, and when they become like the Canaanites, God, according to the terms of the covenant, must treat them like a Canaanite, and within the book of Judges, that problem is not resolved. I know there's the statement in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone was doing what's right in their own eyes, and people say, the answer to this problem is a king.

Yeah, really? David was a good king, but Saul was not. He didn't fix it, and Solomon, the second in line, court-sponsored idolatry. Kings don't solve the problem, and I think that's why in my interpretation that phrase doesn't refer to human kings.

In those days, there was no king in Israel. Not even Yahweh was king, and this is what happens when you have a godless society, and this is where we are. It's the cesspool of culture, and it's the cesspool of spirituality where you tolerate the most awful abuses.

Look at the way men treat women in the book of Judges. I have an essay on that somewhere, too. Crime's unspeakable, the abuse of women in the book of Judges.

It's horrible what they're doing to women, which is why Deborah shines like such a brilliant light. I mean, here is one heroine in the book, the one clear, unequivocally honorable person without compromise. I think Othniel actually at the front.

That's why he's at the front end. This is not chronological. That's why he's the paradigm, and look at what he accomplished.

Aram Nahariam from Mesopotamia, the big boy. We took care of him. God took care of him, but with the rest, I mean, they can't even overcome petty internal problems.

This to me is the Western world. We have this tradition of godliness, and what's happened when you lose it. You outdo the world in your own evil.