Judges 2


‘The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’” When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.’ Judges 2:1-5

It appears that the half-hearted attempts to dislodge the Amorites and also the failure to destroy the Canaanites completely brought a rebuke from God. He reminds them of the covenant he had with them. and they have broken that covenant.

He reminds them of what he did for them in Egypt and the wilderness, how He has kept faithfully His promises to Abraham and the Patriarchs, Exodus 33:1 / Numbers 14:14:23 / Numbers 32:11 / Deuteronomy 1:35 / Deuteronomy 10:11 / Deuteronomy 31:20-23.

He had brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land. There was no way that any blame could be attached to God in saying that he had let the people down in any way. In every way, God had acted consistently with His justice and divine righteous nature.

He reminds them that the covenant was conditional, that they were not to allow the inhabitants to live or they would face the consequences.

They were quite willing to take the gifts from God but were not willing to keep their obligations towards God. They had promised to Love their God to honour and obey their God, keeping His covenants and commandments,

The Angel Of The LORD At Bokim

Who is the angel of the LORD? He also appeared to Gideon, Judges 6:11-24 and Manoah’s wife, Judges 13:2-25. In everyone one of those texts, we find the angel of the Lord speaking in the first person as God and speaking with authority. So who is this angel of the Lord? He is none other than God Himself.

The ‘angel of the Lord’ is what we call a Christophany, that is, an appearance of the Christ. And it shouldn’t surprise us that God would reveal Himself in another form, after all, God Himself came in human form in the form of Jesus, John 1:1-2 / John 1:14.

In other words, even though this was Israel’s darkest time in history, God was still very much involved with His people.

Bokim was evidently near Bethel, in the hill country of Ephraim. The exact location of this place is altogether unknown today. God had ordered the people to make no treaties with the inhabitants of the land into which they came.

In the days of Moses, He had said ‘you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy, Deuteronomy 7:2.

Israel had been tricked into making a treaty with the Gibeonites, Joshua 9, and whenever a tribe of Israel was unable to drive out the inhabitants living in the land which was assigned to them, they made them tributaries, they made some kind of arrangement for these people to live among them and pay tribute to them.

They were also commanded to throw down the altars of these people. Through Moses, God had commanded the Israelites to ‘break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places,’ Deuteronomy 12:3.

This Israel had failed to do that, in fact, she herself had turned to worship Baalam and Ashtaroth.

God said that because Israel failed to obey him completely, He would drive out the nations before them. He left the nations to be as thorns in their sides.

He further stated that, since they had not overthrown their altars, these pagan gods would be a snare to Israel. Ultimately, these people in their false worship brought the downfall of Israel.

The people realised God had spoken the truth about them and as a result, they lifted up their voices and wept. Their weeping was of such nature that it gave the name Bokim to the place.

The word Bokim means ‘weepers’. At that time, they also sacrificed there to the Lord and so, they accepted the Lord’s punishment and turned to him for help.

Disobedience And Defeat

‘After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.’ Judges 2:6-9

Joshua had dismissed the Reubenites, Gadites and Manassites from Shiloh when the period of the conquest was ended. He allowed them to go back to the land which had been promised to them by Moses, Joshua 22. He then called the elders of Israel to him at Shiloh and delivered the charge, Joshua 23.

Finally, he gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem. He called for the elders of Israel, their heads, their judges, and their officers. On that occasion, he delivered his famous challenge and urged them to choose whom they would serve.

After this thrilling event, it is recorded that ‘Joshua dismissed the people, each to their own inheritance’, Joshua 24:28. This introduction to the book of Judges harks back to that meeting and sets the stage for the situation which demanded the raising up of the judges.

They served God most of all, but also followed pagan superstitions. They had expressly failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land and thus failed to serve the Lord completely by obeying his commandment which he had given them.

They had also failed to throw down the altars of the Canaanites into whose land they had come. Generally speaking, however, they had served God.

This merging of both religions continued to plague the people of Israel when the Northern Kingdom was finally carried into captivity by the Assyrians.

The prophet recorded, ‘They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.’ 2 Kings 17:40-41.

What was the exact site of Joshua’s grave? Since the site is evidently lost, we have also lost any identification of the tomb of Joshua, although some suggest it is located 12 miles from Lydda.

‘After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.’ Joshua 2:10-15

The younger generation did not know the Lord because they chose not to follow in the footsteps of their fathers. They certainly knew who the Lord was, they knew of his wonderful works, but they were like the rebellious sons of Eli who despised the Lord’s offerings and lived in a sinful way, 1 Samuel 2:13.

They had heard how the Lord worked wonders on behalf of Israel, but they chose not to let these lead them to faith in Him.

The Baals and the Asherahs were the various gods and goddesses of the Canaanites, Judges 3:7. The Baals were Canaanite gods, including Dagon, Baal Berith, Baal-Zebub and others mentioned specifically.

Many of their gods were associated with fertility rituals and their worship involved disgusting sexual acts and the actual prostitution of their daughters in the Asherahs.

The Asherahs were basically tall poles set up on hills and people would have intercourse between these poles in an effort to convince their gods to bless the crops and the ground with a good harvest, 2 Kings 23:13.

Moses had specially warned the people against falling away from the Lord. He told them that if they turned their backs on Him they would suffer although He held out to the many blessings if they obeyed God.

Moses also told them how disobedience would bring an equal number of curses, Leviticus 26. He had repeatedly warned them in this manner. His last speeches were especially filled with statements about how God would be against them if they turned away from Him, Deuteronomy 28.

The theme of Joshua’s addresses was of similar nature. In his farewell address, he had warned them to be faithful to God. He told his people that when they turned their backs on Him, God would be against them, Joshua 23-24. It is an everlasting principle that all nations need to learn that God will be against them when they turn away from following Him.

God allowed the enemies of Israel to overcome them, God ‘sold them into the hands of their enemies’. This was evidenced as they were no longer able to win victories in the field of battle.

They were no longer able to overcome the temptations which were presented to them by the surrounding pagan nations. Everything Israel had tried to do seemed to fail.

‘Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.’ Judges 2:16-19

Judges who governed Israel were not men who presided over courts of law, they did not go about attired in long, black robes sitting on what we call ‘benches’. They did not pound gavels to demand order in courtrooms. Rather, these men were filled with the spirit of God.

In almost every instance it is stated that the spirit of God came upon these men. Aroused as they were when they witnessed the depressed state of their country, they achieved deliverance. They continued in office as defenders of religion and avengers of crimes.

The people, when they saw that God’s Spirit was upon them, received them as God’s men for the hour and they submitted to their sway. Such a condition resulted in the land having rest. It is stated, however, that in general, the people were still rebellious, ‘they would not listen to their judges.’

Conditions continued to deteriorate and the people then asked for a king. The judges ruled over only one or several of the tribes, to whom they brought special deliverance.

Notice that in each case it is stated that the man judges Israel, not a particular tribe, Judges 12:7 / Judges 7:8 / Judges 12:11.

Note that some translations tell us that God ‘repented’, this means that God was grieved in his heart when he saw the rebellious ways of the people of Israel. This same kind of statement was made in the days of Noah, Genesis 6:6.

This doesn’t mean that God had sinned as some understand repentance to imply. He was not repenting in the same way in which a man repents of his wickedness.

This is an anthropomorphic statement, the putting of God’s thoughts and actions in words which describe similar thoughts and actions on the part of man.

God’s repentance is similar to man’s in the sense that it caused him grief, but it is dissimilar inasmuch as God had no sin for which to grieve.

‘Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.’ Judges 2:20-23

God decided not to drive out any more of the nations which were left in Israel at the time of the death of Joshua. He had been patient with the people. He had given them express commandments to obey and they had failed to keep them.

In a sense, His spirit was no longer striving with them, Genesis 6:3. Israel needed to learn how the king’s business demanded haste. They should have fought with zeal to drive out all the Canaanites so that the Promised Land might be theirs and theirs alone.

This punishment, however, was intended to lead the rebellious nation to repentance and to promote its prosperity by a true conversion to the Lord.

Had Israel not forsaken the Lord its God so soon after Joshua’s death, the Lord would have exterminated the Canaanites who were left in the land much sooner than He did.

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