Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Judges 1:1-2:23


The book of Judges is full of good stories. It has vivid, memorable characters, exciting situations, plenty of action, a little sex, a little violence, a measure of gore.

I like it.

Judges is not a happy book, however. From the botched conquest of Canaan it spirals downward into a state of degradation, depredation, and inter-tribal warfare that leaves the people crying out for a king. A king, depending on which part of the Bible you are reading, may be a good or a bad thing.

In this book, Israel lives as a loose confederation of tribes with no centralized government. The judges, from whom the book takes its title, are men and women who rise to positions of power as they are needed. They are charismatic leaders, strongmen (and women), tribal chiefs and warlords. Some of them even serve as judges in the legal sense.

The chapters that concern us here tell again of Joshua's death. Twice. There is a reprise of the story of Caleb, his daughter Achsah, and her marriage to Othniel.

Chapter 2 begins with a curious note. A "messenger" of YHWH announces that the people have been unfaithful and therefore will not be entirely successful in driving the Canaanites out of the land. Whether this nameless messenger is an angel or a human prophet is not entirely clear. "Messenger" and "angel" are the same word in Hebrew.

Verses 11-23 are programmatic. They describe a pattern that will repeat itself throughout the book.

A. The people are unfaithful and worship other gods (the Baals, Astartes, and Asherah).

B. YHWH gives his people up to their enemies.

C. The people cry out to YHWH who sends a judge to deliver them.

D. There is a time of peace.

E. The judge dies and the cycle begins again.

Next: Judges 3-5

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