Judges and Ruth
JUDGES AND RUTH - THE FOLLY OF FORSAKING GOD
"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Mark that expression well. It is the last sentence in the book of Judges. It gives us not only the key to the book but the key to human nature as well. Observe that every man did that which was right in his own eyes, not that which was wrong. The tragedy is that man's idea of what is right and what is wrong is often exactly opposite to God's. This becomes evident when we realize that one of the constantly recurring expressions in Judges is "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord."
Joshua had appointed no successor to the supreme authority, and the separate tribes, under the control of their own chieftains, and other local officers, assumed the administration of affairs. The Utopia of the lawgiver commenced its political existence; the land of milk and honey began to yield its fruits to a simple, free, and pious race of caretakers, a people worthy of its blessings. But one fatal act of disobedience, quitting the war before their enemies were rooted out, prevented its permanence. The land, which was intended to be a scene of peace and freedom, soon became that of war and servitude.
|The History of the Judges|
|Mesopotamians||8 Years||Othniel||40 Years|
|Moabites||18 Years||Ehud||80 Years|
|Canaanites||20 Years||Deborah||40 Years|
|Midianites||7 years||Gideon||40 years|
|Amonites||18 years||Jephtah||6 years|
|Philistines||40 years||Samson||20 years|
The book of Judges is a sad sequel to the book of Joshua. In Joshua the "heavenlies" are typified, in Judges the "earthlies." Joshua rings with the shout of victory, Judges echoes with the sobs of defeat. In Judges we go round and round - rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restoration.Then the same cycle all over again, some six or seven times. The book of Ruth with the last five chapters of Judges forms a kind of appendix to the book of Judges, highlighting the moral and spiritual conditions of the whole period.
Solemnly and repeatedly Israel had been warned in the law to make no league with the inhabitants of Canaan. The iniquity of the Amorites was full. Their religious, moral, and social habits were utterly vile. They had polluted the land with their abominations. Their gods were demons and their religious practices filthy. The worship of Ashtaroth was the special sin of the Canaanite nations. It entailed idolatry of the most revolting form in which immorality was elevated to an act of worship. All virtue was surrendered. "To go a whoring" (Chapter 2:17) was far more than a figure of speech.
Israel was instructed to remove this moral disease from the land. In its place they were to set up the pure worship of Jehovah and be a witness to all mankind of the true and living God. Instead they "forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed down themselves unto them and provoked the Lord to anger" (Chapter 2:12).
The early victories of Israel were not carried through to final triumph. Soon compromise ended in complicity, and Israel sank to the level of the nations she had been destined to replace. Again and again God allowed Israel to taste the bitter fruits of idolatry. Terrible times of hardship, privation, and woe followed hard upon each period of national apostasy. This period was indeed dark and dismal for Israel.
The different judges were raised up whenever an enemy invaded the land and after the people cried out to the Lord. They had no particular qualifications - daring and craftiness just to mention two. They appear as gallant guerilla leaders rather than the grave administrator of justice or the regular authority of a great kingdom. The office of the judge was in fact a military leader. It is interesting to see how God used the "weak thing" to bring deliverance in the book of Judges: the left hand, an oxgoad, a woman, a nail, a piece of millstone, a pitcher and trumpet, and the jawbone of a donkey. (See I Corinthians 1:27 and II Corinthians 12:9). The exploits of Samson make for interesting reading. It may be observed that despite his sins of the flesh, the Spirit of God is mentioned more in connection with Samson than with any of the other judges. But, the exploits of the different judges I will leave to the reader. As we read the experiences and the exploits of the various judges, it will be readily observed that Israel as a nation was in want of unity. But there was none. The mingling of the peoples with the surrounding foreigners led to apostasy, apostasy to weakness, and weakness to servitude.
The Last five chapters of Judges give examples of the prevailing apostasy of the times. Micah made an idol of silver, and he set up a false religion of his own. The terrible deeds done in Gibeah (sounds like Sodom, doesn't it?) almost cause the annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin.
The link that the book of Ruth has with Judges is evident from its opening sentence: "Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled…" The book of Ruth shows that, despite the prevailing apostasy of the nation, there were individuals with high convictions, living godly lives. The character, integrity, and piety of Boaz are outstanding. His familiarity with the Mosaic law and his personal knowledge of Jehovah are in marked contrast with the general ignorance, immorality, indifference, and idolatry of the times.
Ruth presents a simple and beautiful story of love and devotion, which paints for us a far better picture than Judges with its scenes of strife and bloodshed. The story of Ruth is a complete contrast to the conflicts, distress and suffering in Judges. How refreshing it is to take a different look at the character of this family history; being quiet and restful with nothing to disturb the picture of pastoral life, love and devotion, and simple trust in Jehovah.
Near the end of the period of judges, a wiser and more useful head of state was growing up within the walls of the tabernacle. Eli, judge and high priest, was grooming a young lad to be the leader of the nation. That lad was Samuel, the last of the judges.