KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.” (Judges 2:16)
The Book of Judges covers the period between the death of Joshua and the birth of Samuel — a time span of approximately 300 years.
Several cycles of sin, oppression, repentance, and deliverance occur throughout this book. The first phase involves sin or backsliding, in which the people began to compromise with their enemies, and allowed them to coexist in the conquered land. This ultimately led to gross disobedience to God through Israel’s adoption of the pagan worship of Baal and Ashtaroth.
The second phase of the cycle is oppression. In His wrath and displeasure, God sent or allowed hostile nations (those Israel should have driven out) to oppress Israel by means of war, taxation, or occupation. When the people grew weary of the hardship and distress produced by the enemy, they cried out to God.
Phase three is marked by the repentance of God’s people. When their repentance was genuine, God heard their cry.
Deliverance is the fourth and final phase of this cycle. In His mercy, God answered their prayers and raised up a leader or “judge,” which “delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them” (Judges 2:16). Unfortunately, the repentance of the people tended to last only as long as their judge lived, and then they lapsed into rebellion, initiating the first phase of the cycle all over again. The most prominent aspect of their rebellion was found in their acceptance and worship of false gods — primarily Baal.
Baalism was a religion that deified various aspects of nature. Worship was tied to the seasons and natural phenomena such as rain and harvest. Baal, whose name means “lord” or “owner,” was the god of rain and thunder. Ashtaroth, his female counterpart, was the patroness of sex and war. Ritual prostitution was practiced by both men and women worshipers, in a desire to increase fertility in their lives. Because the Canaanites were farmers, the fertility of their land, wives, and herds was of utmost importance to them. In times of famine or drought, the people would sacrifice their children to Baal “through the fire,” in an effort to appease this god of rain and harvest.
Not only did the Canaanites take extreme measures to please their gods, they took extra measures to ensure success over their enemies. Canaanite chariots were equipped with sharp iron blades on their axles, which would have been terrifying to foot soldiers such as the Israelites. In addition, the horses’ hooves and bridles were also covered with sharp spikes, making them a formidable foe.
God’s promises have always been conditional upon man’s obedience. If we choose to rebel and disobey, we will certainly face the consequences; however, if we trust God and obey Him, we can be equally certain of inheriting His promises.