The Book Of Judges Part 4
Henry Steedman, Birmingham
Our last article was devoted to three outstanding servitudes, under Midian, meaning “strife” (c. 6). Then under Ammon who sprang from “Ben-Ammi,” son of Lot, begotten in shame with a shameful history. His name means “Son of my People” (Gen. 19). This bondage is described in Judges 10. The third to which we refer is their oppression by the Philistines (c. 13). Altogether 65 years they were crushed by these foes. Strife, shame and the flesh are active in them all.
Midian comes from Abraham by Keturah. They also carried Joseph to Egypt. With Moab they sought to ruin Israel. (See Gen. chs. 25, 36, 37; Mum. 22). The food and sustenance of the people are destroyed. Thus impoverished they made themselves dens, caves and strongholds. How very distressing when the world and the flesh gain such power to destroy God’s people who are so unfaithful in many ways. They cried to Jehovah. He sends first a prophet (6. 8), then the angel of Jehovah appears to Gideon.
Conscience was reached and their sin felt. Yet deliverance is delayed. The Instrument is chosen of God to be their Deliverer, poor and insignificant, with small thoughts of himself. Yet he bowed to divine chastisement in true exercise and at the same time threshed the wheat and hid it from the foe.
As with Gideon so with many of God's chosen vessels. Is it not so with us to-day? There is constant need for our young men to be alone with God for teaching, training and preparation. One is reminded of Moses, Joseph and David, each as his day appeared, withdrew to be with God for years and reappeared in power, glory and leadership. When the closet, the Scriptures and prayer are neglected we become powerless and profitless in all else. We must be prepared unto every good work.
Gideon is prepared of God. Note we have peace in v. 23; worship, v. 24; service, v. 25. The order is divine. A testimony to God is set up in v. 26 after the first blow is served to Baal at home. Baal is in contempt and the mighty man of valour proceeds fearlessly. God is with him. In v. 34 the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon. Here are the two signs given which remind us of God’s blessing for Israel—dew on the fleece, what was often their true condition—dew on the floor and the fleece dry. Did Gideon rest now in confidence on God? Ch. 7. 10 tells us fear lingered in his mind.
Next, the people of ch. 6. 35 are tested and reduced by thousands until a contemptible 300 are retained God saves by “few.” Further assurance of victory is dressed in the dream heard by Gideon and Phurah his servant (vv. 9-14). Gideon worships, arises, divides his little army and directs all. The earthen pitchers are broken, the trumpet is sounded and the torches flare up on every side. “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon” (cf. R.V.). The enemy’s host ran, they cried, they fled. Thus when the life of Christ is seen in empty broken vessels power is with us and the world knows it too (Phil. 2. 14-16; 2 Cor. 4. 6-11).
The 22,000 reappear in ch. 7. 23. They simply pursue the plighted Midianites. Gideon, the Manassite, now calls upon the men of Ephraim to arise to their work of “gleaning” which Gideon speaks of as a greater victory than the vintage of Abi-ezer (ch. 8). Gideon’s soft answer turned away the wrath of Ephraim. Wise man. It is the meekness of might without weakness. A great lesson lies here for us all. “Grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15. 1). So compare Judges 12.
The two princes of Midian are taken—Oreb, i.e., a Raven, and Zeeb, i.e., a Wolf. After these the two kings of Midian, Zcba and Zalmunna, fall to Gideon.
Now 300 swordless men defeat all that come before them. In closing, Gideon refuses Kingship and grasps at Priesthood. Material memorials of success become his snare and valiant Gideon falls. Such is seen even among the mighty. Let us beware should victory attend our warfare. Bidding farewell to the battlefield, Gideon and his house fell to the idol—Ephod!
Abimelech, the unhappy son of Gideon, arises in usurpation to be the victim of a woman in battle (ch. 9).
Next to Abimelech, Tola defended Israel for 23 years. Then arose Jair who judged Israel for 22 years. These were calmer days.
The final storm breaks upon Israel in the days of Samson and with this we close this series. Jephthah we must pass by and other striking things. Israel sins again and are delivered by the Lord into the hand of the Philistines -10 years (ch. 13).
Samson the Nazarite is born. His mother, nameless and barren. Samson is a Danite—meaning, Judge. Separation to God was the true secret of his strength.
Manoah offering the kid and the meat offering speaks of Christ incarnate and slain. So too Christ is seen as the One Who ascended in the power of an accepted sacrifice. This is the basis of communion and blessing with God.
One sees in Samson physical strength and moral weakness, an ominous combination. He frequents places of danger to a Nazarite. His friends are badly chosen. He feasts with his enemies. His riddles are solved by a woman. He is betrayed. He fights in foxes. He loses his wife. Self-will stains his story. Cowardly vengeance clothes his anger. Judah binds and delivers him up to his foes. How personal all this sounds. Where are the cowering sheep of Israel? Is Samson a mere disturber of the enemy? Now and again he slays his thousands, be it with a bone. The blow is not final. The Philistines—internal foes—-are still very strong. The Lord departed from Samson and he wist it not. What is our strength without God? His eyes go at the hand of his captors.
Another woman—a weaker vessel (?)—weakened him and wins his secret. Dagon, his devotees, his temple, all fall but, alas! Samson who began to save Israel lies buried in the debris. God’s Nazarite, His people’s judge, sinks in victory, yet in shame, for he loses his life having lost all else as the result of telling the secret of his strength to a Philistinian tool.
Let every one of us as a people separated unto God preserve our sight, strength, life and usefulness by continuing in the path of the Will of God.
Judges, chs. 17 to 21, are stained with Idolatry and Corruption, and this sad book—betimes glowing with partial victory—closes practically as it began.
“In those days there was no King in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (ch. 21. 25).
Let us “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1).
We hope to follow this series on Judges with a series on the Books of Samuel by William Trew of Cardiff.