Author: Ron Graham
Time ~ 4. Conquest of Canaan
Span ~ 170 years
Books ~ Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1Samuel
Figures ~ Joshua, Samuel
Begins with ~ Entry into promised Land across Jordan
We are in the time of the Judges and the Conquest of Canaan. In this lesson we continue to cover the time of the six judges after Joshua.
This page provides an outline for reference of the time of the first six judges of Israel after Joshua. (For the next six judges, those before Samuel, see next lesson).
Part 2 provides some background information including simple principles drawn from a study of this period and the Judges who punctuated it. Then we look at the almost valiant Gideon, whose attitudes and ways reflect those of many dedicated Christians.
What can "these things written for our learning" (Romans 15:4) teach us? What can Judges 1-10 tell us about our lives today and the problems we have to deal with?
During the time of Joshua's leadership, the Israelites showed a degree of faithfulness to God. However, after his death, "the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals" (Judges 3:7).
This had a predictable flow-on effect. As the generation whom Joshua had led died out, "another generation arose who did not know the LORD nor yet the work which he had done for Israel". (Judges 2:10).
Their forgetting of God and the onset of ignorance happened so quickly —in one generation. Apostasy rarely happens overnight. It gradually creeps up on you. On the other hand, it doesn't take centuries either. You can see it happen in your own lifetime.
This backsliding of the Israelites resulted in disaster. The people turned to idols, so God allowed their enemies to oppress them (Judges 4:1-2, 6:1-2).
The village life under God's blessing was idyllic. The alternative was idiotic —if not being slaves, then hiding in caves and threshing wheat in a winepress! (Judges 6:11).
God's providence, especially his protection, is his response to our faith and allegiance to him. God is not our puppet. He is in control. But neither are we his puppets. If we repudiate God, he inflicts the consequences; he lets us hurt.
When the Israelites entered and largely conquered Canaan, God left a few nations to test the future generations. The idea was that they should experience war and victory under his blessing, or if they turned away from God they should experience war and defeat (Judges 3:1-8).
When the Israelites were oppressed, then (not surprisingly) they remembered God and cried out for salvation. So God raised up a warrior leader (a "judge") to win back their supremacy. Under his or her leadership, the people would be somewhat faithful to God.
When a leader died, again the Israelites would turn to idols, become oppressed, cry out to God, and get a deliverer. This cycle was in fact repeated in various places, involving twelve judges, over the period between Joshua and Samuel. At the time Gideon was called to judge Israel, this same pattern had occurred (Judges 6:1,7-12,14).
Let's break the cycle and "give the more earnest heed to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it" (Hebrews 2:1-3). Let's also pass faith and obedience on to the next generation so it will know the Lord.
Gideon came next after Deborah Gideon was the next judge of Israel following Deborah. She was a hard act to follow, but a generation gone by (Judges 5:31) and a lot had been forgotten. In this period between the two judges, history repeats itself for the umpteenth time. "The sons of Israel did what was evil" and "Israel was brought very low" (Judges 6:1,6).
Gideon, when called, was negative and reluctant Gideon seemed to think God had abandoned Israel —in fact Israel had abandoned God. Furthermore, Gideon felt that he was the least among Israel to be their deliverer. Before he would be convinced, he wanted to see a sign from God. His first act as judge, helped by ten of his servants, was to obey a command from God to destroy the pagan altars and idols of his father's house, and to build an altar to the LORD instead. However, he was too afraid to do this in daytime, so he did it by night (Judges 6:11-27).
Later he was bold and full of confidence in the LORD. At the Lord's bidding, Gideon went down to spy out the great war-camp of the Midianites. He overheard a man tell a simple dream, and another interpret it (Judges 7:9-15). This was enough for him to show great faith and boldly attempt the rout of the Midianite army using only 300 men and a ruse (Judges 7:16-23).
He spoke true wisdom, but acted in folly When the Israelites requested him to rule over them, he said, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son... the LORD shall rule over you". Yet he then requested gold from them, out of which he made an image, and the people of his city worshipped it! This image "became a snare to Gideon and his family" (Judges 8:22-28).
God took account of his faith Gideon, a child of his times, followed some customs that were not the way of God. However, God saw Gideon's faith, and by it Gideon joined those who "out of weakness were made strong" (Hebrews 11:32-34).