Judges: Chapters 1-3

This post is the third of a series studying the biblical book of Judges. If you’re just joining us, you may want to go back to the beginning. Follow these links to the first and second posts.

The book of Judges opens with one major question: Who will be our leader?

Caleb, Acsah & Othniel                                     

  • Judges 1:12—15
  • Joshua 15:13—19

As the tribes divide to conquer their different portions of land, the account of Judah’s tribe offers a little sidebar in which Caleb promises his daughter, Acsah, as a bride to anyone who helps him conquer his land. The author of our study frequently reminds us to view Scripture in accurate context and not merely through our own cultural lenses. In light of the culture, this really wasn’t a terrible thing.

Caleb’s offer presents Acsah as a prize, both to be GIVEN and to be WON. Othniel won proving himself to be a worthy husband, a leader devoted to the Lord. He later became a judge and a rescuer of God’s people. (Judges 3:9—11) Sounds like a pretty good husband to me!

Some in our group last night felt that Scripture revealed a good relationship between this father-daughter duo. Others found Acsah to be manipulative and a bit spoiled. While we may not be able to precisely identify Acsah’s character, we know for sure that the men in her life loved the Lord and trusted in Him.

A Pattern of Disobedience

  • Judges 1:19—34

The Tribes of Israel were instructed to eliminate the ungodly people living in the region. This passage repeatedly illustrates their consistent disobedience. Look for these two phrases throughout Judges Chapter 1: “did not conquer” and “lived among them.”

There is one point I want to make about the “lived among them” statement. God specifically ordered the Israelites to eliminate all the tribes of Canaan because of their false Gods. It was not a matter of heartless genocide, but rather a measure of protection for the Israelites.

Intermarrying and co-habitation are not sins UNLESS they worship false gods. Consider Rahab (Joshua 2:1—21, 6:22—25), Zipporah (Exodus 2:16—22), and the many Egyptians who joined the Israelites after the plagues against Pharaoh (Exodus 12:38). Even Caleb was descended from a family outside of Israel. All of these are examples of foreigners who left their gods to follow the one, true and living God.

The Mosaic Law allows for the care of foreigners and aliens. God even instructed them to build “cities of refuge” for outsiders, refugees and contrite criminals.

The indication here in Judges that these people were “living among them” does not symbolize hospitality, but rather spiritual compromise. (Judges 3: 5—6; Joshua 24:15) Spiritual compromise is always a sin.

  • In what way are we “living among them” with a compromised faith?

Creating a Legacy of Faith

  • Judges 2:6—10, 2:16—3:4
  • Deuteronomy 4:9
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1
  • Ephesians 5:1

 Joshua, Caleb and the judges serves as leaders and examples. They provided visible, tangible models for the Israelites to imitate. After 400 years of being slaves, of having their every move dictated to them, the Israelites were weak in their faith and immature in their devotion to God. They needed leaders – thus the institution of judges – but, sadly, when those leaders died, so did the faith of their people.

  • How can we pass on a sustainable faith to the next generation?

The Dangers of Drifting

  • Judges 3:7
  • Hebrews 2:1

“One of the greatest dangers of the Christian life is
losing interest in what is familiar.”

Drifting is not something that happens instantaneously. It is a gradual neglect, a slow moving away from what once impassioned us. It is forgetting what once left you awe-struck.

  • Think of a time when you drifted from your faith. Did anything bring you there?
  • Why signs can you watch for that might indicate you are drifting?
  • Drifting happens by simply doing nothing. What are some specific things you can do to keep your “first love” fresh? What are ways to renew a cooled passion?

Extreme Obedience

  • Judges 3:15—31
  • Hebrews 2:3

“Help me to love people fiercely and to hate evil courageously.”

 An incredible sacrifice deserves an incredible response. Ehud and Shamgar offer concise, yet precise examples of extreme obedience.

Ehud’s story initially seems … well, juvenile and a bit gross and graphic. But it’s so cool! He was just one man, and yet he had the faith and the courage to take on the oppressive king then rally his people toward freedom. Sure, there were some details of fat oozing over the embedded sword and confused servants thinking the dying man is really just having bowel issues, but the point of the story is radical. Ehud showed obedience and extreme faith in our God.

Poor Shamgar only gets one verse, but it’s a good one. Though years after most of the other Israelites had forgotten, Shamgar remembered God’s instructions and promises. Not only did he remember, he acted upon them until his obedience was complete.

  • Think of a time when you have shown extreme obedience. What were the results?
  • How can you exhibit extreme obedience in this time of your life?

In our discussion last night we also talked about the value of extreme obedience. Is there ever a time when it’s not worth it?

Let’s discuss!

Use the comments section to talk about any of the questions posted here. Share any other observations you’ve had from the first three chapters of Judges.

NEXT TIME: This post is already quite long, so I’ll post tomorrow some more thoughts on these characters, including some biblical genealogy and parallel lives. I also have some bonus reading suggestions for bibliophiles like myself. :)

In two weeks we’ll dive into chapters 4 and 5.

Talk to me!

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