Beginning of the End


The Judges, Deliverers of Israel

This chapter is based on Judges 6 to 8; 10.

Satisfied with the territory already gained, the tribes lost their zeal and discontinued the war. “When Israel was strong, ... they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out.” (Judges 1:28). BOE 273.1

On His part, the Lord had faithfully fulfilled the promises He made to Israel. It only remained for them to complete the work of driving out the inhabitants of the land, but they failed to do this. By making treaties with the Canaanites they violated the command of God and failed to fulfill the condition on which He had promised them possession of Canaan. BOE 273.2

At Sinai God had warned them against idolatry. “You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.” As long as they remained obedient, God would subdue their enemies: “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come. ... And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. ... You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” (Exodus 23:24, 27-33). BOE 273.3

God had placed His people in Canaan to hold back the tide of moral evil, so that it would not flood the world. God would give into the hands of the Israelites nations that were greater and more powerful than the Canaanites. “You will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves. ... From the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the Western Sea, shall be your territory.” (Deuteronomy 11:23, 24). BOE 273.4

But they chose ease and self-indulgence. They let their opportunities slip away for completing the conquest of the land, and for many generations they were harassed by the survivors of these idolatrous peoples, who were like “irritants” in their eyes and “thorns” in their sides (Numbers 33:55). BOE 273.5

The Israelites “mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works.” They intermarried with the Canaanites, and idolatry spread like a plague throughout the land. “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. ... And the land was polluted with blood.” “Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people, so that He abhorred His own inheritance.” (Psalm 106:35-40). BOE 274.1

Until the generation who had received instruction from Joshua died out, idolatry made little progress, but the parents prepared the way for the apostasy of their children. The simple habits of the Hebrews had strengthened them with physical health, but association with the heathen led to indulgence of appetite and passion, which gradually weakened the mental and moral powers. By their sins the Israelites were separated from God, and they could no longer overcome their enemies. So they came to be dominated by the very nations that they could have conquered. BOE 274.2

“They forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.” “They provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.” Therefore the Lord “forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent He had placed among men, and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy’s hand.” (Judges 2:12; Psalm 78:58, 60, 61). BOE 274.3

Yet God did not completely forsake His people. There was always a remnant who were true to Jehovah, and from time to time the Lord brought up faithful and courageous men to put down idolatry and deliver the Israelites from their enemies. But when the deliverer died and the people were released from his authority, they would gradually return to their idols. This is the reason for Israel’s story of backsliding and correction, of confession and deliverance, repeating itself again and again. BOE 274.4