Israel’s Choice, Pt. 7 – Time of the Judges

Allow me to summarize what we have been studying so far in this series. When God gave His law at Sinai, he revealed something about his character. He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), meaning that He desires his people to be faithful, loyal, and undefiled. As the Israelites repeatedly broke the covenant and proved unfaithful to God after the Sinai experience, His jealousy was manifested through anger and wrath. There were times during the wilderness wandering when God’s anger was kindled and wrath was poured out upon the people, but the fullness of his wrath had been greatly withheld in mercy. And so far, we have not seen the full measure of the wrath that God warned them about, which would be manifested in the curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. To this point we have not seen a scattering, which was one of the most drastic of the curses mentioned in Leviticus 26.

As I discuss the great amount of unfaithfulness in the children of Israel as a people group, it is not to say that there were no times of faithfulness or that there were no faithful individuals.

“Although the Israelites, as a nation, departed from God, yet there was ever a remnant who resolutely withstood the evil influences surrounding them, and maintained their allegiance to Jehovah. These were constantly growing in courage and true godliness. They clung to the Lord more firmly as they saw the apostasy of their brethren. Their faith grew stronger, with every conflict.”

The Signs of the Times {ST, June 9, 1881 par. 5}

I don’t like to focus unnecessarily on the negative, however this study is with a purpose, and I need to bring out some difficult facts. We are studying to find out the prevailing choice of God’s chosen nation throughout their history — obedience or disobedience, blessings or curses. The sad reality is that humanity doesn’t get very far without God, and so much of Israel’s history reveals this weakness of turning away from God and blessings.

As we saw in the previous blog, even from the time that Israel had approached the border of Canaan they had begun to depart from God. But Joshua, the leader after Moses died, sought to renew the covenant with the children of Israel as they entered the promised land.

Read Joshua 23:14-16 and 24:19-27

The time of the Judges followed the death of Joshua. The following statement summarizes the time of the judges.

“Of the generation that arose after the death of Joshua, the Sacred Record states that ‘they knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.’ [Judges 2:11-12 quoted]

“Notwithstanding their apostasy and great wickedness, the Lord did not utterly forsake his people. From time to time he raised up faithful and valiant men to deliver them from the oppression of their enemies. But the hearts of the people had become so corrupted by an evil course that it was not an easy task to restore purity of faith or of worship. When the deliverer was dead, and the people were released from his authority, they would return to their idolatry.

“‘They ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died.’”  [Judges 2:19-21 quoted]

The Signs of the Times {ST, June 9, 1881 par. 1-3}

The time of the judges began a short period of years after this renewed covenant and the settling in to the land of Canaan. Some chronologers place the entry into Canaan at around 1408 BC, and the rise of the judges beginning around 1380 BC. We probably are most familiar with this time period through the stories of Deborah, Gideon or Abimilech .

Read Judges 2:8-19 to see what the Bible says about the time of the Judges.

Read also Psalms 106:34-36

Though there were periods of returning to God during this time, there was clearly a continuation of backsliding and rebellion.

There is one quote especially relevant to our study that we need to look at.

“Moses traced the evils that would result from a departure from the statutes of Jehovah. Calling heaven and earth to witness, he declared that if, after having dwelt long in the Land of Promise, the people should introduce corrupt forms of worship and bow down to graven images and should refuse to return to the worship of the true God, the anger of the Lord would be aroused, and they would be carried away captive and scattered among the heathen. ‘Ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it,’ he warned them; ‘ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.’ [Deuteronomy 4] Verses 26-28.

This prophecy, fulfilled in part in the time of the judges, met a more complete and literal fulfillment in the captivity of Israel in Assyria and of Judah in Babylon….” –Prophets and Kings, p. 295-296 {PK 295.1-296.1}

So, what is this saying? Continued disobedience in the time of the judges brought a partial fulfillment of the scattering curse. Deuteronomy 4 is quoted, but it is the same curse as mentioned in Leviticus 26:33.

How was that curse partially fulfilled in the time of the judges?

First we need to consider the word fulfilled. Perhaps people have a tendency to think fulfilled means “complete” or finished in the past tense, as if the prophecy was done and finished, no more to be relevant. I was tempted to think that way before I looked at the definition. Although “to complete” is part of the definition, the word fulfil also carries the idea of performing or executing that which was predicted. It carries with it a notion of time and process. Take a look at the various meanings.

Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines it:

  1. To accomplish; to perform; to complete; to answer in execution or event what has been foretold or promised; as, to fulfill a prophecy or prediction; to fulfill a promise.
  2. To accomplish what was intended; to answer a design by execution.
  3. To accomplish or perform what was desired; to answer any desire by compliance or gratification.
  4. To perform what is required; to answer a law by obedience.
  5. To complete in time.
  6. In general, to accomplish; to complete; to carry into effect.

I believe the idea of “carrying into effect” or “execution of” is the most appropriate understanding of fulfilled in the context of the quote, because obviously it was not completed or finished at that point. When we look at what happened in the time of the judges, we see that the scattering curse which Israel was warned against was partially carried into effect. Or in other words, there was a partial execution of the curse of Leviticus 26:33. As we see in the Bible, in the book of Judges, there were various countries which attacked and oppressed the children of Israel. They did not completely scatter Israel, nor did they permanently rule over the land, but the Israelites were scattered for periods of time. The oppression was a result of their unfaithfulness to the covenant and disobedience against God.

“…God removed his protecting care and support, and the Israelites were no longer able to contend with their enemies. Soon they were brought into subjection to the very nations whom through God they might have subdued.”

The Signs of the Times {ST, June 2, 1881 par. 6}

The following is what we see in the Bible. I added some rough chronological dates to give you an idea of the timeline of the judges.

1378 BC                Mesopotamian Oppression, 8 years (Judges 2:14, 3:8)

Delivered by Othniel, then 40 years rest (Judges 3:11)

1330 BC                Moabite Oppression, 18 years (Judges 3:12-15)

Delivered by Ehud, then 80 years rest (Judges 3:30)

Also delivered by Shamgar (Judges 3:31)

1232 BC                Canaanite Oppression, 20 years (Judges 4:1-3)

Delivered by Deborah and Barak, then 40 years rest (Judges 5:31)

1172 BC                Midianite Oppression, 7 years (Judges 6:1)

Delivered by Gideon, then 40 years rest (Judges 8:28)

Abimilech reigned 3 years (Judges 9:22)

Tola judged 23 years (Judges 10:1-2)

Jair judged 22 years (Judges 10:3)

1101 BC                Philistine/Ammonite Oppression, 18 years (Judges 10:7-8)

Delivered by Jephthah (Judges 11), judged 6 years (Judges 12:7)

Ibzan judged 7 years (Judges 12:8-9)

Elon judged 10 years (Judges 12:11)

Abdon judged 8 years (Judges 12:13-14)

1052 BC                Philistine Oppression, 40 years (Judges 13:1)

Samson judged 20 years (Judges 15:20, 16:31)

Unfortunately, the people in the later time of the judges continued to do wrong. Oppression did not serve to teach them greater faithfulness to God.

Judges 17:6 “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (see also Judges 21:25)

What does it mean that they did right in their own eyes?

Moses had given instructions to the people before entering the land of Canaan, that they should not do that.

Deuteronomy 12:8 “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.”

Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”

Eli (See Patriarchs and Prophets {PP 575.1}) and Samuel also judged

Later we will look at “the more complete and literal” fulfillment of the scattering, as mentioned in the quote. But first comes the time of the Monarchy and the Divided Kingdom.

To be continued…


Bible, King James Version

Quotes taken from the Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008 CD


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