The Israelites’ failure to drive the Canaanites out of the land is going to impact the children of Israel for generations. The Lord says to Israel, “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 you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? 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.’”
We sadly learn that after Joshua and his generation died, “another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” Welcome to the Judges Era, which is defined by everyone doing what is right in their own sight (Judges 17:6, 21:25), which never goes well. The children of Israel are now intermarrying with the nations around them, worshiping their gods, and doing all kinds of evil in the sight of the Lord. Therefore, the Lord allows their enemies to overtake them. When the people cry out to the Lord, He raises up a judge or military leader to rescue them. This is called the sin cycle: Israel serves the Lord and experiences peace – Israel does evil – Israel is oppressed by their enemies – Israel cries out – God raises up a judge – Israel is delivered – and repeat. In the book of Judges, this cycle happens seven times over what most scholars believe was about a three hundred and fifty year period with twelve different judges, some serving during overlapping periods. We will meet two more judges, Eli and Samuel, when we enter the Kingdom Era.
The Lord is always in control, and He is using the Israelites’ disobedience to test them, teach them, and train them – “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 (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it), namely, 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. And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods.”
The Lord has been training His children to fight and stand firm in obedience to Him and His word. However, the children of Israel disobeyed the Lord. Because of the people’s disobedience, the Lord sells them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, for eight years. Othniel, Caleb’s son-in-law, delivers them, and they have peace for forty years. After Othniel dies, the children of Israel go back to their evil ways. So the Lord delivers them to Eglon, king of Moab for eighteen years. When the Israelites cry out, He raises up Ehud to deliver them. Ehud shoves a dagger in fat Eglon’s belly, killing him, and Israel has peace for eighty years.
Tomorrow the sin cycles continue and we will meet the only female judge, so keep reading. (Judges 1:1-3:30)