Articles

Judges - Jehovah Delivers His Unworthy People (3)

This article was first published in the Standard Bearer. For the original source link click here.

After the Lord had given victory over the Canaanitish king Jabin, and his captain Sisera, Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise unto Jehovah. In the opening verses they describe Jehovah their God who alone is worthy of such praise (Judges 5:1-5). By contrast, the people chose new gods and forsook Jehovah; and He sent the enemy against them. The call for help went out to the governors. They responded well and God gave victory (Judges 5:6-11). 

We have more details how that victory came about. Certain tribes contributed the man power and performed acts of bravery—especially Ephraim, Benjamin, Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali. Others, it seems, were cowards. Some among Reuben, for example, stayed with the sheep; Gilead abode beyond Jordan; Dan remained in ships; Asher continued on the sea shore (Judges 5:12-22). Even then, the mighty kings of Canaan were defeated. The Angel of Jehovah pronounced curse upon them and destroyed their superior power. The song of Deborah and Barak expresses joy in Jael who gave Sisera milk and then, when he was asleep, struck a nail through his temples so that he lay dead at her feet. Reference is made to the mother of Sisera who fearfully looked through the lattice, aware of his delay, but consoled by the women as they described how he was busy dividing the spoil. It concludes, "But let thine enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might" (Judges 5:23-31). 

The fifth judge mentioned is Gideon. After the land had rest for forty years, the people once again turned to idols; and this time the Lord made them servants of Midian for seven years. Each year at harvest time, the Midianites came as grasshoppers and destroyed the crops so that Israel was impoverished. They tried to survive by making dens and caves in the earth and by hiding some of their produce (Judges 6:1-6). Jehovah sent a prophet to remind the people that He was the one who delivered them from Egypt and cared for them. He warned them not to serve the gods of the land, but they disobeyed (Judges 6:7-10). 

The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon as he threshed wheat in secret, and said, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." His answer was, if that is so, why are we in such a sorry state, and where are His miracles? Gideon is then instructed to go in his might and save Israel. He objects that his family is poor, and he is the least of the family. The angel tells him that the Lord will be with him. When he asks for a sign, the meal that is laid out on the rock is set on fire that comes out of the rock when the angel touches it with his staff. The angel disappears and Gideon expresses fear for having seen the angel of the Lord face to face. He is assured of peace, and Gideon builds an altar to Jehovah (Judges 6:11-24). 

Upon divine instruction, that very night Gideon destroys the altar of Baal and cuts down the grove that is by it and builds an altar to Jehovah upon the top of the rock. The next morning the men of the city discover this act and inquire as to who did it. They learn that Gideon did it, and they request of his father Joash to produce his son that they may kill him. His father mocks them by asking if they have to plead for Baal? If Baal is a god, let him plead for himself. Gideon's name, Jerubbaal, is derived from this incident. It means, let Baal plead (Judges 6:25-32).

The confrontation with the Midianites and Amalekites was set at the valley of Jezreel. Gideon blew a trumpet and called Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali to come and join him (Judges 6:33-35). While he waits, he asks God twice for a sign and receives the sign of the fleece. The first night the dew is on the fleece only; the second night it is on the ground while the fleece remains dry (Judges 6:36-40). The people responded well to the call for arms: 32,000 came. Jehovah tells Gideon that the number is too large, lest the people .vaunt themselves and say, mine own hand hath saved me. When the fearful are told to return home, 22,000 leave. This is still too large a number, so the remaining 10,000 are taken to the water and instructed to drink. Those who lapped like a dog could go home, while those who used their palms to bring water to their mouths would accompany Gideon. The latter numbered 300 men. God assured them that He would give victory through them. They took food and their trumpet and the rest were sent home (Judges 7:1-8). 

During the last night before the battle, God told Gideon that if he feared, he should go down into the camp of the Midianites and he would be assured. So Gideon took Phurah his servant and they heard the Midianite tell of his dream, how a barley cake tumbled into the host of Midian and destroyed the tent. His fellow said, "It is nothing else save the sword of Gideon, for into his hand hath God delivered Midian and all the host." Hearing this, Gideon worshiped, returned to the host, and divided his army into three companies of 100 each. They are given trumpets, and empty pitchers with lamps in 1 them. They are instructed by Gideon that, at the blowing of the trumpet, they must also blow their trumpets, and then they must shout, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon" (Judges 7:9-18). 

At the beginning of the middle watch, Gideon led his 100 men to the outside of the camp. When they blew the trumpets, broke the pitchers, and shouted, the others followed. The response was that the Midianites set every man's sword against his fellow, as they fled in terror. Those that escaped were pursued by an organized army of men out of Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh. Later Gideon sent messengers to Ephraim to ask for help to take the ones on the other side of the Jordan River. They did this and slew Oreb and Zeeb, princes of Midian (Judges 7:19-25). 

The men of Ephraim complained to Gideon, asking why they were not invited to help from the very outset. They were pacified when Gideon pointed out the importance of their harvesting crops, and by reminding them that they did help capture two princes (Judges 8:1-3). 

Gideon with his 300 men then crossed Jordan and came to Succoth. He asked that the men of Succoth give bread to them, as they were faint in their pursuit of Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian. But they refused, and he threatened revenge. He came next to Penuel, and they also refused to help him. We learn that these two princes of Midian have only 15,000 men with them, all the others (120,000) having already been killed. At Nabah, Gideon smote the remaining host and took the two kings captive. On his return to Succoth, he taught the men of the city with thorns of the wilderness and briars as he promised, and he killed the men of Penuel. Having learned that Zebah and Zalmunna participated in the death of his kinsmen at Tabor, Gideon asked Jether, his firstborn, to slay them. When Jether refused out of fear, Gideon did it himself (Judges 8:4-21). 

The men of Israel wanted to make Gideon their king. This he refused, since Jehovah was their king. He did request that they turn over the gold they had taken from the fallen Midianites. This amounted to 1,700 shekels of gold. Out of this he made an ephod which he put in Ophrah; and Israel went a whoring after, it. The land had rest for forty years. Gideon had 70 sons by many wives, and in addition a son by his concubine in Shechem, Abimelech. Gideon died in good old age and was buried in Ophrah. After his death, Israel went again after Baa1 and remembered not Jehovah nor the house of Jerubbaa1 (Judges 8:22-35).

The uprising of Abimelech demonstrates this. After the death of Gideon, Abimelech went to his family in Shechem and suggested that he could better reign over them than the 70 sons of Gideon. They agreed and gave him 70 pieces of silver to hire wicked men who went with him to Ophrah to kill the 70 sons of Gideon. Only Jotham, the youngest, escaped. The men of : Shechem then made Abimelech j the king (Judges 9:1-6). 

Here, Jotham shouted from the top of Mt. Gerizim a parable about the olive tree, the fig tree, the vine, and the bramble. If Abimelech is wrong, Jotham said, let fire destroy him like the bramble. Jotham then ran away (Judges 9:7-21). This parable was fulfilled three years later when the men of Shechem turned against Abimelech and followed Gaal, son of Ebed. They in turn were killed by Abimelech, who even burned the tower with over a thousand men and women in it. When Abimelech tried to take Thebez, he came under the tower to burn it also. But a woman threw a millstone on him and killed him. Hence God avenged the blood of the sons of Gideon on Abimelech and realized the curse spoken by Jotham (Judges 9:22-57). 

A brief reference is made to the sixth judge, Tola, son of Puah, of lssachar, who dwelt in Mt. Ephraim and judged Israel 23 years and was also buried in Shamir (Judges 10:1, 2).

Tola is followed by the seventh judge, Jair, of Gilead, who judged Israel 22 years. He had 30 sons who ruled over 30 cities within Gilead (Judges 10:3-5). 

Jephthah is the eighth judge mentioned. Once more, the children of Israel had turned to a number of other gods: Baalim, Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, Zidon, Moab, Ammon, and the Philistines. In anger, the Lord brought the Philistines and Am- monites against them. The Ammonites not only troubled the Israelites on the other side of Jordan, but even crossed into Benjamin and Judah. They did this for 18 years. Then the Israelites cried to Jehovah for help. God rebuked them, telling them to cry to the gods of the heathen for help, for they are following them. The people of Israel then confessed their sins and put away these gods (Judges 10:6-18). 

Gilead had begotten by a harlot a son named Jephthah. His family drove him out of the city of Gilead because he was thus born and he fled to Tob. However, when the city was threatened by the Ammonites, the elders came to Tob to fetch Jephthah to lead them in battle. Only when they promised that they would make him their ruler upon victory did he consent to come along (Judges 11:1-11). Jephthah then sent word to the king of Ammon, reminding him of the past and of his injustice in possessing the land of Israel. Jephthah vowed a vow that if the Lord would give victory, he would offer as burnt offering whatsoever cometh forth from his door to meet him. After defeating the Ammonites in 20 cities he returned home and was greeted by his daughter. He rent his clothes and sorrowed since he could not rescind his vow. She left for two months and bewailed her virginity after which she returned and, according to custom, knew no man. The daughters of Israel went yearly for four days to lament her (Judges 11:12-40). Ephraim once again resents not being included in the war. This led to battle between Gilead and Ephraim. At the pass, they were detected by their inability to pronounce "Shibboleth" and were forthwith slain. Jephthah judged Israel six years (Judges 12:1-7).

Kortering, Jason L.

Rev Jason Kortering (Wife: Jeannette)

Ordained: September 1960

Pastorates: Hull, IA - 1960; Hope, Walker, MI - 1966; Hull, IA - 1970; Hope, Redlands, CA - 1976; Loveland, CO - 1979; Grandville, MI - 1984; Minister-on-Loan (Hope PRC, Walker, MI), Singapore - 1992

Emeritus: 2002

Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Jason_Kortering

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