Moral Relativism Destroys a Nation
What happens to a country when it abandons God and each one does what is right in his own eyes? Listen to this lesson to hear the example of Israel when it went off the rails and had to learn lessons in the school of hard knocks. Find out there are three sections in the book and hear about the leaders, called judges, who descended into paganism and led the people astray. See how what happened to those people parallels in many ways what we are facing in our country today. As we study these people in the Bible we can be thankful for the lessons we can learn and remind ourselves that God in His grace rewards even our smallest acts of faithfulness to Him.
Everyone Did What Was Right in Their Own Eyes
Judges Lesson #001
January 12, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are thankful that we can be here this evening and study Your Word. We know that Your Word is sufficient; that means it is enough to give us the framework for thinking about every issue in life. And when we come to the Old Testament, we see a lot of different kinds of literature; we see different things from the psalms: hymns of praise, thanksgiving, and confession, and lament.
“Father, now we’re going to begin a new study in Judges, a Book that really does speak to the situation we face in this country describing what happened to Israel and the ancient world as they succumbed to the pressures and the enticements of pagan thought and compromised and led to the inner rot and destruction of the nation, the loss of freedom, and it got to the point where they weren’t any different from anybody else.
“Father, we see that in our own nation, and so there are a lot of lessons here that You have set up for us, and it’s important to learn this book and study it and to think through what we should do as believers in such a relativistic, atheistic anti-Christian, anti-God culture. We pray that You would give us wisdom as a result of this study. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are going to study the Book of Judges. Some of you may have listened to the series I taught 20 years ago; it was in 2000 that I began a series when I was at Preston City Bible Church, and in the 20 years prior to that, I think I taught Judges, eight, nine, or ten times. I was a pastor at two or three different churches and taught at Sunday School.
When I was at my third year at Dallas [Theological Seminary], back in those days, Dallas Seminary had what they call a lay institute on Monday nights, and this gave students who were interested in going on into perhaps teaching in academia, opportunities to teach this lay institutes course.
Sometimes they did accept third-year students to teach, and I was accepted to teach that year, and I was teaching on the Book of Judges. I really had not had time before I knew about this to really study the Book of Judges. I had surveyed it and other things but sometimes teaching a book, you learn more about it than at any other time. It’s just like anything else in life. When you go teach something, you really, really learn it.
I ended up writing my master’s thesis on Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11. So, it’s always been a book that I’ve been very, very interested in for a lot of different reasons, and have always enjoyed teaching it.
Several people have said, “Well you taught this back in 2000; why are you teaching it again?” Somewhat facetiously, I said, “So you don’t know any pastors who have taught some books four, five, or six times over 30 years?” We can all think of at least one or two that have done that.
I’ve learned one or two things since 2000, and I’ve been to Israel, and I had never been before, so there are a lot of different things related to archeology, related to history, related to politics, related to the Mosaic Law, and just what’s going on here that I’ve learned over the last 20 years or so. Consequently, I think it’s time to revisit it, especially as we see the cultural collapse that we see taking place in America at this particular time.
Tonight, I’m going to do an overview of this book. We’re going to go through all of the chapters in one night, and that’s so you can get this bird’s eye view of this book. The theme of the book is stated in the very last verse of the book: [Judges 21:25b] “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” An absolutely perfect statement of moral relativism.
This isn’t a good thing; this is a very bad thing that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Actually, two of the times its mentioned, the verse begins: “There was no king in Israel.” [Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25] What that means is that they had rejected God as their king.
Under the Mosaic Law, it was a theocracy, and God was their king. By saying that there was no king in Israel, what they are saying is two things. The kingship had not yet begun, Saul hadn’t become king yet, but they had rejected God as their king. And in God’s place, they had substituted themselves, and so everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
What we see as a subtitle for the book and the whole series is the phrase I have at the bottom of the slide. It is a picture of how moral relativism destroys a nation. The pictures that we see of people in the Book of Judges that we have grown up hearing about in Sunday School, and sometimes in church, people like Deborah and Barak, Gideon and Jephthah and Samson. We’ve heard all of these stories; they are all encapsulated in a very, very positive framework. But, if you read the Book of Judges as it was intended, it’s not necessarily a positive thing. It doesn’t paint these guys with bright colors showing how wonderful they are. The picture is really of deterioration and the degradation and paganization of the people, and the leadership.
The reason we get this good idea, this optimistic idea about these people in Judges is from Hebrews 11. I thank God this is here because this is a real testimony to grace. One day, you and I are going to be standing at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and we are going to be evaluated. I don’t know about you, but I can look at my life and be pretty hard and say, I’m just not going to show up too well when I get to the Judgment Seat of Christ. There’s a whole lot more failures than there were successes, and I’m maybe the only one who knows that, but it’s not going to go too well at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Then you read Hebrews 11, and you realize what absolute failures some of these people were 95 percent of the time, and here they are in this, some call it, “The Hall of Faith” chapter. It is a hall of heroes because at one point in their lives when everything was at stake, they trusted God. They might really have, like Samson—nothing good is said about Samson in the Book of Judges; not one thing positive—and here he’s listed.
So, God’s evaluation at the Judgment Seat of Christ for us is not going to be quite as harsh as your judgment of yourself might be or others might be of you. Because God looks at Samson, and He sees that at some point, Samson trusted God.
Look at this—in Hebrews 11:32, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon.” Gideon, who led the nation into idolatry, “and Barak”—who was a wimp of a man who wouldn’t go into the battle trusting the Lord, he had to have Deborah go along with him—“and Samson,” not a good thing is said about him; he was a womanizer; he violated his Nazarene vow every chance he could, and he is just a spiritual loser—self-absorbed, willful, goes against every command that God had for him—and here he shows up with Jephthah.
We’re going to study Jephthah. There’s controversy over it, but I wrote my master’s thesis some years ago and a number of scholarly articles have been published since then confirming everything that I wrote. Jephthah, according to the text, offered his daughter as a burnt offering to God. Here he is, because at another point, he trusted God. So, he was a man of faith and that’s why the writer of Hebrews goes on to say, [Hebrews 11:32–34] “who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions (that refers to Daniel, of course), quenched the violence of fire [Daniel’s three friends], escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
[Hebrews 11:35–37] “Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two—that is Isaiah; his cousin is the king, Manasseh, and he is so evil at that point that he has Isaiah executed by having him sawn in two—were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—”
[Hebrews 11:38] “of whom the world was not worthy.” That’s how God evaluates them. He knows we have a sin nature. He knows Christ died for every single sin; those aren’t the issue. The issue is not what you did wrong, but what you did right. And just a little bit, apparently, seems to make you a hero in God’s eyes. You have fulfilled that. We read in Hebrews 11:39, “And all these— Jephthah, Gideon, Samson; all of these—having obtained good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.” That is the promise of the land in the Old Testament. So, take heart as we go through Judges.
A lot of people say, “Well in light of Hebrews 11, how can you say all of those bad things about these people?” Because that’s what the writer of Judges did. He’s not looking at what they did good, he is indicting the nation, the people, and the leadership for their moral relativism, their abandonment of God, their violation of the Mosaic Covenant, their antinomianism, a word that you’ll be quite familiar with if you’re not already; that means they were against the Law. They were just making up whatever they wanted to do.
Our world today in Western civilization, in the United States, is governed by antinomians. You can just go through a list of Congress. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on, they are all antinomians. That is the spirit of our age, and has been since the 1960s. We just want to make up the law the way we want it as we go along and not do what’s right because its right; not stick to the letter of the Constitution; not stick to the letter of Scripture; we want to just make it mean whatever we want it to mean.
In case you doubt that, just in case you have been asleep like Rip Van Winkle for the last 40 or 50 years and you don’t realize that we live in antinomian age, an age of rank immorality where good is called evil, where right is called wrong, and wrong is called right, and evil is called good, then listen to this. I’m going to read parts of this because it’s just so deliciously crazy that you need to pay attention to it.
This is an article that came out December 17, 2020, on the wellandgood.com website. It is entitled, “2021 Heralds the New Age of Aquarius: Here’s What Five Astrologers Want You to Know About It.” This is so insightful, you’ve got to understand, this is how everybody who lives around you thinks. Unfortunately, this how some of your children and grandchildren think; this is how your siblings think; this is how your nieces and nephews think, and they think you are nuts.
This is written by Mary Grace Garis, and she starts off saying: “You know how sometimes in order to start afresh, everything first needs to completely fall apart? That’s basically been the energy of the pandemic-laden year, which is finally coming to a close and bringing us from the end of the age of Pisces to the beginning of the transformative age of Aquarius. Yes, the age of Aquarius as in the “dawning of the age of Aquarius” featured in that catchy bop from the musical, Hair.
“But what is the age of Aquarius actually? An astrological age (I didn’t know this; I’ll bet you didn’t either) shifts about every 2,150 years when the earth’s rotation moves into a new Zodiac sign around the spring equinox. Now there’s some debate about when the age of Pisces ends and the true age of Aquarius begins.”
What I’m reading here is that this may not be the end of the age of Pisces and it may not be the beginning of the age of Aquarius, but I like what this means, so I’m going to go with it even if it’s wrong because I’m antinomian and I’m not going to believe in any absolutes. I’m just going to go with whatever makes me feel good.
So, she goes on in that vein for a couple of paragraphs and then she says, “The age of Pisces shaped many belief systems but now it’s time to bring our practices into a way of life that keeps us connected, not segregated, to create a foundation that can bring us into a new age,” says Corina Crysler, transformational astrologer. “This year was largely the result of Pluto and Uranus,” (I didn’t know they had volition and could accomplish things) “where any structures built on old traditions were dismantled. Pluto exposed many of Saturn’s structures for our personal evolution. But a series of transits will push us toward the Aquarian influence.
“Below, learn about Aquarian energy that’ll guide this forthcoming era, then get intel from astrologers about what the Age of Aquarius is and means for you (and the world) into 2021.
“Before we deep dive into answering what the age of Aquarius is and means as an era, let's revisit its energy and the common traits that those born under the sun sign share. "[Aquarians] channel from the collective consciousness and ether, and bring the intangible to life with their creations.” They are making things up; they are creating things out of nothing. This is said by Crysler, “They often know what we need before it's needed, and their intention—although they sometimes can seem detached—is typically for the greater good of humanity.”
Even if they are absolute nut jobs, their intentions are good. My mother always said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; I think she was right. “The Age of Aquarius follows a similar progressive, forward-thinking, ‘we versus I’ mentality of visionary, rebellious, innovative, and eccentric Aquarians.” In other words, they are antinomian. “It focuses on humanitarian pursuits of valuing each person’s individuality, holding and taking care of each other as a unit, and also disrupting the system.”
Slides 6 and 7
“As Adama Sesay, astrologer and creator of Lilith Astrology, points out—if you don’t know the name, Lilith is often associated with a demon in occult literature—there will be a major shift in power dynamics in this era: For eons the power has rested in traditional oppressive hierarchical structures, and their beliefs dictated our reality.” (Read Christianity and the Bible). She says, “[In the Age of Aquarius,] the power is turning over to the individual, and giving the freedom for you to choose your own reality based on what aligns with your soul.”
The key verse in Judges says, [Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25] “[E]veryone did what was right in his own eyes.” That’s the same thing that she said: “Isn’t it wonderful that we get to start this Age of Aquarius, and everybody can do what is right in their own eyes because what matters is their viewpoint.”
So, don’t you think from this that we can see that the Book of Judges is targeting 21st century America? We are right in the center of the bullseye.
Let’s look at this book that is not taught that often in many churches and when it is, I don’t think a lot of people really understand the framework of it because in today’s world, so many pastors want everything to be upbeat and positive and there’s rarely anything in this book, especially after you get past the first three or four chapters, that is going to be that upbeat and positive. It is teaching some hard lessons about what happens when God is removed from the life of a nation.
Let’s look at the outline; just the basic structure of Judges. The word, “judges,” we’ll talk more about this when we drill down into some detail, is a Hebrew word that was wrongly translated into English as “judges.” When you and I think of a judge, we think of a legal magistrate sitting in a courtroom who is rendering decisions in a courtroom where people disagree with each other or are determining the guilt of innocence of somebody who is accused of a crime. We think of it as a judicial function.
But that’s not what the word means in Hebrew. It often, when you look at it in other contexts and you look at what those people did, it refers more to a tribal leader, a chieftain, or someone who is a military commander who is taking charge of the community in order to deliver from the enemy. That’s what we see a lot in Judges, is rather than describing them as judges, they’re described as deliverers.
The word yasha, which is a word we often associate with salvation, spiritual salvation, because that’s the root for yashua, Jesus, it often, as I pointed out in our study on psalms, refers to physical deliverance from sickness, foreign oppression, from enemies, from those who wish to do us harm.
That’s really how we should look at this. One commentator, who is an excellent Hebrew scholar, said it should be called the book of “Tribal Leaders.” That communicates a lot more to people what it is than calling it the Book of Judges.
There are basically three sections in this Book of Judges. The first section is Judges 1:1 to 3:6. In 1:1 to 3:6, we have the overview of the book, the basic fundamentals of what we’re going to see in the book. As you go through that basic introduction to the book, it’s going to talk at first, at the beginning, how Israel won a great spiritual victory.
That’s how it starts at the beginning of Judges 1, but by the time you get down to the end of chapter one, you’re no longer talking about tribes that have been in the conquest under Joshua. You are no longer talking about those who were successful.
We think of the early part of Judges and the conquests. We think of the victories of Jericho, we think of the victories at Ai, the victories at Gibeon, and other victories in the north and the south, and how under Joshua they took control of the major cities and major population areas, and then they began to deal with the mopping up operations in all of the smaller villages and towns, and that’s where things began to fall apart.
They did well initially, but when God has given them a command to kill, in some cases, every man, woman, and child, and in some cases, some of the beasts, then that made it difficult for them to do what God said to do. Their experience of guilt and sorrow and not being willing to do what God said to do led to tragic consequences.
It’s a variation on the principle I have reminded you of many times, that truth is determined not by how we feel, but by what God says. Often what we feel, we experience is diametrically opposed to what the Word of God says, and the issue for us is: are we going to believe the Word of God and use the Word of God to judge and evaluate our feelings, our emotions, and our experiences, or are we going to let our feelings, emotions, and experiences, and in some cases, our intellect, determine what the Word of God says? That’s the issue.
So, when you’re out there—you can understand this and I can understand this—when you’re out there and you’ve been told that you have to kill every man, woman, and child, and you’re the soldier out there with the sword and you have to do this, you’re probably thinking, “I don’t know why I have to do this.” If you don’t have the spiritual maturity to do what God says to do and be the executioner, then it’s going to lead to problems.
That’s what happened; Israel went from spiritual victory at the beginning of the book to the end of the book where Samson is actually worse than the Philistines.
When we get into the two appendices at the end of the book where we have the really bazaar story of the Levite with his concubine, and the concubine is gang raped in Gibeah, which is later where Saul is from, and she dies as a result of that. Then he, in order to alert the nation to the fact that there is something wrong, he cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends the body parts around to the 12 nations to call them to battle.
That’s just bazaar, but the writer also includes another story about Micah, and you don’t get it in English because they base it on the Masoretic Text, but it’s very clear: the person who is the Levitical priest is the grandson of Moses. And that’s the picture: that they have deteriorated so much that they are now acting worse than the pagans because they’ve gotten away from the Word.
This is the flow of the Book of Judges, how Israel goes from spiritual victory to being worse than the Canaanites. It starts with incomplete obedience in Judges 1and then they begin to compromise more and more and they say, “Oh we don’t need to kill all of these Canaanites; let’s just enslave them; let’s just live next to them.” They become all caught up with living with the Israelites until eventually, we get to the end of the first chapter and read that the tribe of Dan is unable even to take control of the territory that God gave to them, and the Amorites basically kicked them out.
Finally, the tribe of Dan has to go—and that’s part of what the story in one of the appendices is about—they have to go back up to what later becomes Dan [the original name was Laish], but it’s called “Dan.” Most of the time in Scripture, we read that the territory in Israel is from Dan to Beersheba.
So, they go up there, and there is this priest that is the grandson of Moses, and because he’s the grandson of Moses, they set him up as a priest. He builds a temple there for idol worship. This just leads them into all kinds of horrible things up there in Dan.
So, the compromise eventually leads to the complete failure of the people spiritually and their destruction. This section, from Judges 1:1 to Judges 3:6 is the introduction, and describes what’s going on. (So, I’m going to take just a second and just highlight a couple of things because they tell us what’s going on. First, let me finish this, and then we’ll come back to that.) So that creates a series of cycles of discipline which we will look at in just a minute.
Then we get to the core part of the Book from Judges 3:7 which begins, “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and it goes to the end of the Samson episode, Judges 16:31. What we see there is that the leaders are paganized. They start with the first one, Othniel, he’s the best; he’s the one about whom nothing bad is said, and then you go from Othniel to Ehud, to Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, who were minor judges, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, who are just briefly mentioned in Judges, and then Samson. And Samson is the worst.
So, you start with Othniel about whom nothing negative is said, and you go straight down to Samson about whom nothing good is said. What is that telling you? As they went through the cycles over a period of about 300 years, one generation after another became worse than the generation before them, and it affects everybody. It affects their leaders because leaders are coming out of the culture of the people.
We see that today. We have leaders in Austin, we have leaders in Houston, leaders in Washington D.C. that are as bad, if not worse, than the people out there in the country, and they have all drunk out of the same poison well of post-modern relativism. We expect them to do well. There are a few strong Christians there; we need to pray for them all of the time, but the rest of them are not.
They have compromised their souls in so many different ways, we can’t imagine. And so, we are in serious trouble, and that’s what happened in the time of Judges. So, we’ll go through each one of these to see their good points as well as their bad points. So, the arrow on slide 8 shows this deterioration.
Then we come to the end of the book and there are these two appendices, sort of an epilogue that has two different episodes. The first involves the paganization of the priests. The leadership is paganized, they are acting like Canaanites, and I’m going to use that word “pagan” all the way through.
What makes you a pagan? A pagan is someone who rejects the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They say that you are a Jew or Christian, even if you are not a believer in the gospel technically, that you are not a pagan because you believe in the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Others will say that Islam is not pagan, and I differ with that because all of my studies of Allah and Islam, Allah and the revelation of the Quran to Mohammad is very similar to what happened with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It is not only pagan, I believe Allah is just another name for Lucifer, for Satan, for the ruler of this world. Allah is not their version of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves the Jewish people and the god of Islam hates the Jewish people; they can’t be the same person.
So, we see the paganization—that is where you adopt a totally anti-God, anti-biblical view of reality, you reject the Judeo-Christian worldview, and you go with polytheism, and you go with moral relativism and everything else—and it just breaks down everything in society. It breaks down the leadership. They are described and indicted in Judges 3:7 to 16:31, and then the first episode is of the paganization of the priests.
That’s the story of the priest who has the concubine who gets gang-raped in Gibeah of Saul, where Saul will be later on. And that’s described in Judges 19.
Also, Judges 18, Dan is moving from the Shephelah, the coastal region, across to the hill country of Samaria, and then north. As they make that move, they run across this priest there who has set up a little shrine there in Gibeah, and they bribe him to go with them. So, he goes with them and goes up to the north, and they set up a pagan shrine up in Dan, up in the north.
Then Judges chapters 20 through 21 talks about the paganization of the people, this horrible revolt and rebellion that involves civil war against the tribe of Benjamin. It’s just sordid; it’s evil, but they have rejected God, so the theme of Judges is that if you reject God, if you reject the Bible, and you worship anything other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and His Word, the result is going to be the destruction of yourself, the destruction of your marriage, the destruction of your family, the destruction of your country. This book is the pathology of what happens to a nation that rejects God, and how they self-destruct.
In Judges 2:1, we’ll just briefly cover this because this sets the stage for the rest of the book. At Judges 2:1, after you have this lengthy description of 36 verses in Judges 1 going through each of the different tribes describing what happened. It starts off with the tribe of Judah; they have great victories, they defeat Adoni-Bezek, they defeat the Canaanites down in Hebron, and then you get this sad note in Judges 1:21, “but the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.”
That tells you two things: the first thing that that tells you is that the Benjamites had to compromise and live with and alongside the Jebusites in Salem, in Jerusalem. They were going to end up assimilating all of their beliefs. The second thing it tells you is that when the writer of Judges wrote this, David had not yet captured Jerusalem and defeated the Jebusites, and the Jebusites and Benjamites were still living together in what later became the city of David. That becomes a problem.
Then you get down into Judges 1:27 and read how Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and all of those areas. Judges 1:28, “And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out.” They are disobeying God. They are doing it the way they want to.
Ephraim does not drive out the Canaanites in Gezer; Zebulun does not drive out the inhabitants in Kidron up in the northern Galilee area. Asher doesn’t do it, none of them do it until you get down to the point where Dan, not only doesn’t drive anybody out, they get driven out and have to go find a new homeland, which comes up at the end of the book.
As we get to that point, then the writer of Judges tells us this in Judges 2:1, “Then the Angel of the Lord—that’s the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ—came up from Gilgal to Bochim.” Now Bochim is named because of what happens here. Gilgal is an important location because when the Israelites came into the land under Joshua, they crossed over the Jordan River, and they came into the land, they stopped and they had a covenant renewal ceremony with Yahweh where they renewed the vows of their covenant there at Gilgal.
This is a very important spot in the history of Israel, and now, this is going to be a spot where they are going to reveal that they completely violated that covenant with God. So, the Angel of the Lord comes up from Gilgal where the Angel of the Lord had given directions, that was Joshua’s command and control center, and He comes to Bochim, and He reminds them of His faithfulness: [Judges 2:1] “and said ‘I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, “I will never break My covenant with you.” ’ ” And what have they done? they’ve just broken the covenant left and right.
He goes on to say [Judges 2:2], “And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land;” and what have they done? They have made covenants with the people in the land. And the command went on, “you shall tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?” What’s your motivation; what’s really going on here?
Then he goes on, “Therefore, I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ ” This is divine discipline on Israel; divine judgment on Israel, that they are going to go through these cycles of judgment because they disobeyed God. God said, “Okay, I’m going to lead them there; I’m going to leave them alive, and they are going to be a real thorn in your flesh; they are going to be a major problem for you, and their gods will trap you.”
Then we get down past that to Judges 2:5, and they call the name of that place Bochim. Why? Because all the children of Israel lifted up their voices and wept. That’s at the end of Judges 2:4. They are like the kid that got caught. He’s not sorry he did what he did; he’s sorry he’s gotten caught and is going to be penalized, so they weep. It’s all emotion. [Judges 2:5] “Then they called the name of that place Bochim, and they sacrificed there to the Lord. And when Joshua had dismissed the people, the children of Israel went each to his own inheritance to possess the land.”
Then we’re told about the death of Joshua in Judges 2:7–10, and the death of Joshua’s generation, the founders as it were. Once that founding generation is off the scene, then the next generation begins to lose its integrity. What did they do? Judges 2:11, “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals;” Now what does it mean to do evil? Does it mean to be a racist? Does it mean to be a drunk? Does evil mean that you’re just irresponsible? None of the above. Evil in these contexts is always defined contextually as going into idolatry.
What’s the first commandment in the Mosaic Law? [Deuteronomy 5:7] “You shall have no other Gods before Me.” Idolatry is prohibited because the law of the land is between God and Israel in that covenant. What happens is they break that covenant. They abandon God; they reject Him, and they go after other gods, and that is what evil is.
Evil is turning your back on God. Evil isn’t committing adultery; evil isn’t being a drug addict; evil isn’t being a murderer. Evil is turning your back on God. David never committed evil. He was a man after God’s own heart, but he committed a lot of sins, so the Bible defines evil in a very different way than the way most of use the term.
Then we’re told that they forsook God, and I changed it to a better translation: [Judges 2:12–13] “and they abandoned the Lord God of their father, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.”
Now what did we just learn in our study about the demons and the fallen angels in Deuteronomy? That the idols are demons. The idols are manifestations, a physical representation of a real entity that is a spiritual entity that is a demon, and so they are worshiping demons. That is exactly what Moses warned them against in Deuteronomy. They abandoned the Lord, and they are serving the Baals, and the Ashtoreths. That’s in Judges 2:13.
What we read in Judges 2:14 is “The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So, He delivered them into the hands of the plunderers who despoiled them.” If we have bad government, and we are defeated by enemies, it is because God has brought that upon us because we have rejected God as a culture. We are not looking to God anymore.
So, God despoiled them, [Judges 2:14] “and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.” That’s in a military context, but let me tell you, Christians are not standing before our enemies in this nation. They are not because we are under discipline because so many Christians today have really compromised with the world that they are spiritually impotent. They have bought into moral relativism, and they are not applying Scripture at all in their thinking.
So, we go on to read in Judges 2:15–16, “Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them,—that is, whenever they went out to battle—the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges—see, that’s grace—the Lord raised up judges and delivered them.”
That was the role of the judge; he’s a military leader who delivers and frees them from the oppression of their enemies. [Judges 2:16–17] “delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods.” This is true spiritual adultery; it’s when you are not faithful and obedient to God, and you are worshiping other gods. It is violating the first commandment.
They don’t listen to the judges; they are unfaithful to God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They bow down to the false gods, the idols, the demons, and they turn quickly from the way in which their fathers walked in obeying the commandments of the Lord.
[Judges 2:17–19] “And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groanings because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And when the Lord raised up. And it came to pass when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers.”
The cycles just get worse and worse. So, we see this basic cycle. First, they are disobedient, and then that leads to divine discipline, then that leads to them turning to God and crying for deliverance, and God delivers them, and then they go to disobedience. You just see one cycle after another, and the cycles go down; it’s a deteriorating line. That’s what happens under paganism.
In Judges 3:1–3, we read, “Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan,—so these are the next generations—(this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at those who had not formerly known it,) namely—these are the enemies they would have to fight—five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath.”
[Judges 3:4] “And they were left that He might test Israel by them.”
So, we’re going to have a testing, folks, because of these people who are evil, and these people who have been gaining power, and who have been gaining power for some time. This didn’t just start this year. This has been going on for decades. Its roots go back to the first part of the twentieth century. So, we’re being tested by them.
Judges 3:5 says, “Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” They are just getting cozy with the enemy, and they are going to absorb all of their values, and that’s how they become paganized.
Judges 3:6–7, “And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. So, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. The forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs.” Look at that verse, “So the children of Israel did evil;” it’s a conclusion. Why? Because they served other gods. That’s my point: evil is serving other gods. Judges 3:7: “They forgot the Lord their god, and they served the Baals and Asherahs.”
This takes us down to Judges 3:6, and Judges 3:7 is actually the beginning of the next section which is the first judge, who is Othniel, and Othniel is one of the great judges. He’s the first judge, and he’s the one who is going to be the first deliverer who comes up, and he is going to end up marrying Caleb’s daughter.
When we look at him, he is a very positive individual, and his name means “God is my protector.” We’re not told a whole lot about him. His story goes down from Judges 3:7–11, but everything that is said about him is fine. He’s the nephew of Caleb. It’s worded weird. Everybody debates this. He is Othniel, son of Kenaz, so Kenaz is his father, but is Kenaz Caleb’s younger brother or is Othniel Caleb’s younger brother, so there’s a lot of debate there. But I believe he is Caleb’s nephew, and in Judges 3:10, we’re told that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. That’s not filling him; that’s just giving him the ability, and he judged Israel. He’s their leader, their chieftain, and he’s going to deliver them from the oppressors.
Then the next judge is Ehud. Here’s a map—we’re going to see a lot of maps; we’re going to see a lot of different things this time that we didn’t see last time because visuals have gotten so much better—and this is Israel. You have to understand the geography of Israel. At the bottom of the map is the Dead Sea, and just to the west, about 18 miles but it’s all uphill because the Dead Sea is about 1,300 feet below sea level, and Jerusalem is about 3,000 feet above sea level, so that’s quite a hike in 17 miles. You’re going almost straight up, so you can always get your bearings there.
The area north of Jerusalem is the hill country of Samaria, and the area south is the hill country of Judah. Then the body of water up to the north is the Sea of Galilee, and the Jordan River flows from the Sea of Galilee south down into the Dead Sea. So that gives you your basic orientation.
Then to the west of the Sea of Galilee, you have a valley that runs from the northwest to the southeast called the Jezreel Valley. It’s also called the Valley of Esdrealon, and it is called the Valley of Megiddo because Megiddo is on a hill right behind this cut out here. The word for hill is har; the word for Megiddo is Megiddo, and when you put it together, its harmegiddo or in English, Armageddon. This is where the staging area for the battle of Armageddon is going to take place, so this just gives us a little bit of an orientation.
What we see is Othniel is dealing with this invasion by Cushan-Rishasthaim, who is the king of Mesopotamia, and he is going to conquer them and rule for eight years, and then Othniel’s going to deliver them.
Then the next guy is Ehud, and this time, it is the king of Moab, and Moab is down here to the southeast of the Dead Sea, what is now part of modern Jordan. Eglon is the king, and he dominates probably Judah and the southern part here, and Ehud is going to deliver them. I still love the title for that that I will use again, that Eglon is quite obese, and he goes to the outhouse, and that is where Ehud attacks him: “lefty kills fatty in the outhouse”. So, you’ll remember that story.
Then, we have just that one verse of Shamgar, who is very interesting. He’s a warrior, son of Anath, which is a Philistine god. Actually, this term, “sons of Anak,” this was an elite, special operations unit in the Egyptian army. His name is not a Hebrew name; he kills six hundred men of the Philistines, and he delivers Israel. We don’t know anything about him spiritually, but we do know that things must have been so bad in Israel that God had to take a Hurrian soldier probably, who is a mercenary serving in the Egyptian army, to deliver Israel from the Philistines because nobody in Israel was ready to do it.
So, God has to raise up a woman. We’ll get into some important issues about the role of women as we see in the Scriptures, and Deborah is a judge and a prophetess.
We’re going to get into some fun stuff there because a lot of people don’t understand what a prophet or prophetess is. When we look at the language—we’ve all done this many times—in Chronicles, you have some of these musicians who prophesy with the lyre and musical instruments.
So, if you think of prophecy not as the role of the prophet who is bringing a lawsuit against Israel but as someone who sets the Word of God to music and sings, then it makes sense. Because Miriam, who is Moses’ sister, is a prophetess, and the context where that’s mentioned is the song of deliverance that she sang.
Then you come to Deborah; she’s called a prophetess, and in Judges 5 is her song of victory. You have a couple of other examples like that, so they’re not teaching. They’re not pastors; they’re not spiritual leaders, but God used them in incredible ways, but not like the evangelical feminists think today.
So, we’ll look at this; it’s a great story, and it take place up in the Jezreel Valley because this is where the river that flows through here is just below Mt. Carmel, and it’s the Kishon River, and this is where that battle takes place with Deborah and Barak. Sisera, who is the commander of the Canaanite forces, escapes; he is exhausted at the end of battle, and this is when Jael is going to take a tent peg and drive it through his temple, and he gets nailed. That’s the end of the battle, and the Israelites win.
We go from there to this map where you see the valley a little bit larger, the Valley of Jezreel, and the Canaanites are coming down from this city. I haven’t visited that with a tour group in about twelve years, Hazor, and they come along the shore of Galilee, and they are dominating. This is the breadbasket of Israel; this is where all of their grain is grown, and they are under the oppression of the Canaanites. Deborah and Barak deliver them.
Then, we come to Gideon, and so many people know the story of Gideon, and the Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon. The Midianites have been oppressing them, and we read in Judges 6:11–13, “Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under terebinth tree, which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezerite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!’ Gideon said to Him, ‘… if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?’ ” And the Angel of the Lord said to him, it’s very clear; God gives him straight directions: you are going to follow My directions, and you are going to defeat the Midianites.
So, the next day, Gideon’s thinking that maybe that’s not such a good idea; did He really tell me that? He’s not trying to find God’s will by laying out the fleece; he’s trying to avoid God’s will by laying out the fleece. He’s trying to come up with something that’s impossible, so he says, I’m going to put the fleece out there, and if the dew comes in the morning and the fleece is dry and the ground is wet, then I’m going to know that’s what you want me to do.
The next morning, he gets up, and the fleece is dry and the ground is wet. So he goes, let’s try this again. Tomorrow morning if the fleece is wet and the ground is dry, then I’ll know You want me to do this, and of course, the ground is dry and the fleece is wet. He’s stuck. He’s been trying to avoid God’s will. He leads the people into battle, it’s a great story, he steps up to the plate, he is the valiant warrior, defeats the Midianites.
Afterwards, the people want to make him king. This is the highwater mark in his humility. He says, “no, I’m not going to be king.” But what does he do? He thinks, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, and he has a son, and he names his son Abimelech, which means, “My father is king.”
There’s so much humor in this book. There are all of these puns, and all of these things that are going on in the Hebrew to catch our attention to point out that Gideon has a few flaws here. Then Gideon puts up this ephod, that is a golden, jeweled ephod; it looks beautiful; it is a priestly garment. And he says that this is the god that delivered us, and he leads the people into idolatry. But God says that he’s a great man of faith over in Hebrews 11. Doesn’t that encourage you in your spiritual life?
Then Abimelech has his own section; we’re going to find out a lot about him in the next couple of chapters after that. He’s just a real piece of work and is finally killed.
Then we have in Judges 10, these minor judges: Tola, Jair. Then Israel is oppressed again, and there’s this kind of a brigand; he’s an outcast. He’s the son of a prostitute. He’s not everybody’s favorite person. He just doesn’t have the right pedigree, and he’s out in the boonies, and the Spirit of God is going to work on him to use him to deliver Israel from their oppression from the Ammonites.
He doesn’t know much about God; they didn’t have their own copy of the Scriptures; none of these people did. They’re just making it up as they go along, and they have all of these superstitions like a lot of Baptists and Methodists and other Christians that I know who think the Bible really does say that cleanliness is next to godliness, because they’ve never read the Bible, and they have all of these pagan ideas that have infiltrated their thinking. So, he thinks he has to give some special sacrifice to God.
Now remember, we’ve studied this before in relation to Mary and Joseph and the inn in Bethlehem, that the typical house had an opening—we would call it a carport, maybe—where their good animals could come inside out of the inclement weather, and they didn’t want their sheep getting sick, so they had animals that sort of slept inside of the house.
So, Jephthah makes this vow to God that whatever comes out of the door to greet me when I come back from battle, I will sacrifice as a burnt offering. He uses that technical language. I will make an olah to You. Then when he returns, his daughter comes running out of the house, pushes the sheep aside, she runs past them and she’s the first one out of the door, and the text says that he did to her as he vowed.
A lot of evangelicals are squeamish about that, but a human sacrifice was very common in all of these Canaanite religions at that time. So, we just see that each one of these judges is acting more and more like the Canaanites around them.
Then, the last major judge is going to be Samson. Samson is disrespectful of his parents; he’s angry; he’s self-absorbed. He’s supposed to have a Nazarite vow, and we see all of these little episodes. As a Nazarite, he’s not even supposed to touch grapes or touch a grape vine, but he goes out and he’s going through the vineyard. Well, he’s not supposed to be there.
Then he has this wrestling match, and he kills a lion. Then, the lion’s carcass is there, and as a Nazarite, he’s not supposed to touch a carcass. That’s unclean. But he goes back and finds this carcass that has gotten hard—now carcasses don’t get hard, so we know that God had something to do with this. The carcass has become hard, and in the abdominal cavity, the bees have just filled it up with a honeycomb. So, he gets into this carcass, which he is not supposed to touch, and he gets all of the honey out.
Everything that he does is a violation of his vow. He is a womanizer, a first-class spiritual loser, and he dictates terms to his parents to go get that Philistine woman for me because I want to marry her. He has absolutely no control over anything. Eventually, he succumbs to Delilah’s charms, and she keeps going after him to tell her what the secret of his strength is. And he says that it’s his long hair, and so she calls the Philistine barbers, and they cut his hair; that’s it for Samson. They arrest him, and they blind him, and they put him in the temple of Dagon. He then calls upon God to give him strength one more time, and he pushes the pillars down, and the temple falls down.
He does this at about the same time that Samuel is alive, and you have the battles with the Philistines going on in 1 Samuel 3, 4, 5, and 6. So, that all overlaps. Then you get to Judges 17; we’ve already talked about that some; this is the apostasy of Micah who hires this apostate priest, who turns out later to be the grandson of Moses. And he sets up his own little shrine, and then the tribe of Dan comes through there looking for a new place to go, and they bribe that priest to go with them. That’s just a horrible thing, and you get down to Judges 19, and that’s the Levite’s concubine, and I’m going to go back to the main chart here.
In this third section of the slide, we get into Judges 19, and we see the problem with the people in chapters 19, 20, and 21, and it’s just this horrible, horrible situation as the Jews are just killing each other. Eleven of the tribes want to destroy Benjamin, and they’re on the edge of doing it, when God intervenes. It’s just horrific, and this is what happens when a culture gives themselves over to paganism and rejects God.
So, we will have a lot of fun going through Judges. It is mostly narrative; you don’t get into some real heavy theology or anything; it’s all about studying how a culture turns from a spiritually victorious culture at the beginning when they have conquered the land, and they’re moving in. God has done all of these great things.
The first generation, the children of the exodus generation, they are obedient to God, but then compromise comes in, and eventually erodes the integrity of the nation. And they’re worshiping all the other gods. This goes on for about 300 years. This is the set up for Samuel. Samuel is going to show them that even though they have been unfaithful, God’s going to provide the deliverer in David, and the son of David, who is going to be the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a great picture of God’s grace, and we learn a lot about God’s grace as we go through this. So, we’ll come back next time and begin to look at the first part of Judges.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study this, as difficult as it is, and as pessimistic as this appears, we’re thankful for the lessons that are here because they teach us that as believers, we’re not too different from the few faithful believers at that time, and at later times. We think of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; we think of Elijah and Elisha.
“We know that there are times when the remnant is very small. And in our time, the number of believers who are truly committed to Your Word have dwindled, yet we must remain faithful.
“Father, we pray that You would keep us focused on Your Word, and we pray for Your grace in this nation, that we would see a turnaround, but we know that we may be in for a season of divine discipline where we reap the whirlwind because of the sins of the nation. We pray that we might be steadfast even in those times. In Christ’s name. Amen.”