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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Judges 3

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The First Three Judges

A. The pagan nations left in Israel's midst.

1. (Jdg 3:1-2) God's reason for allowing these nations to continue in Israel's appointed land.

Now these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it),

a. These are the nations which the LORD left: God left these Canaanite nations behind because Israel was not faithful in driving them out.

i. In the same way, we can say to a person who has "pagan territory" in their life, "the reason is because you allow it to be there." And, at the most basic level, that is true.

b. That He might test Israel by them: It was within the power of God to eliminate those pagan nations without any help from Israel. God allowed the pagan nations to remain for a reason. The word test here is used in the sense of "proving." These nations would remain because God wanted to prove the faithfulness of Israel to Himself, and to improve their reliance on Him.

i. Likewise, the person who has "pagan territory" in their lives knows that God is able to change him instantly. Why doesn't God just do that? Why does it have to be so hard?

ii. God doesn't just instantly change every area of our lives so that our relationship with Him can be proved and improved; so that we will live a life of true partnership with God.

c. So that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war: This is another reason why God allowed the Canaanites to remain where Israel did not drive them out. No one likes the struggle against sin, but the battle is good for us. The symbol of Christianity is a cross, not a feather bed.

i. Parents quickly learn that you don't really help your children if you make everything easy for them.

2. (Jdg 3:3-4) The pagan nations are specifically listed.

Namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

a. Namely: We could perhaps make our own specific list of "pagan territory" in our lives; such a list is helpful because it forces you to identify your enemy.

b. That He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey: The reason that God didn't just eliminate these nations is again stated. It was to prove Israel's commitment to God's word. If they were faithful to the word of God the other nations would not hinder them and they would grow strong enough to drive them out completely.

B. The first judge: Othniel.

1. (Jdg 3:5-7) The apostasy of Israel in the days of Othniel.

Thus the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods. So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs.

a. They took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons: Simply, their sin was intermarriage with the pagan nations in their midst.

i. What led to their sin was subtler. First, it was the allowing of pagan territory in their midst. This was dangerous for them and dangerous for us.

ii. Second, romance led them into sin. There is nothing wrong with romance, but we have a terrible habit of falling in love with people that we have no real business falling in love with.

iii. Proverbs 4:23 says Keep (literally, guard or protect) your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. If we don't guard our hearts, we can end up in trouble.

b. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs: Their ungodly romances led them to the worship of the pagan gods Baal and Ashtoreth.

i. Jesus told us that following Him would require that we give up the things we love most (Mark 10:29-30). Often an ungodly romance falls into this exact category.

2. (Jdg 3:8) Israel's servitude to the king of Mesopotamia.

Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years.

a. He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: God gave Israel just what they wanted. They didn't want to serve God, so He allowed them to be in bondage to a pagan king. Israel reaped exactly what they sowed.

b. Eight years: It was many years of bondage before Israel cried out unto the LORD.

3. (Jdg 3:9-11) God's deliverance through Othniel.

When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim. So the land had rest for forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

a. When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD: After the eight years of bondage Israel finally cried out in dependence on God. It often takes many years of bondage and calamity before man look away from self and unto God.

b. The LORD raised up a deliverer … Othniel: Othniel was the son-in-law of the great hero Caleb (Judges 1:12-3) and his wife was also a woman of faith (Judges 1:13-15).

c. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him: This is enough to know about Othniel. The Holy Spirit empowered him for the job God called him to do.

i. Othniel lived the principle of Zechariah 4:6: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

C. The second judge: Ehud.

1. (Jdg 3:12-14) The cycle continues: Israel sins and is sold into servitude.

And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. Then he gathered to himself the people of Ammon and Amalek, went and defeated Israel, and took possession of the City of Palms. So the children of Israel served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years.

a. The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD: When God brought deliverance through the work of Othniel, Israel eventually drifted back from their dependence and obedience towards God. Their victory would not automatically last forever; it had to be maintained.

b. The children of Israel served Eglon: Israel's sin brought them into bondage. They suffered 8 years of bondage before they cried out to the LORD in the days of Othniel. Here they endure 18 stubborn years of bondage before they cried out to the LORD.

i. Sin always brings bondage; though it comes to us deceptively. The fish never contemplates the bondage of the hook when it goes after the bait; Satan snares us by making the bait attractive and hiding the hook.

ii. A news story told of a grease processing plant that opened up a 55-gallon drum of grease that came from a prison. Inside, they found a little bit of grease, but a dead prison inmate. He tried to escape by hiding in the barrel, but his quest for freedom became a means of bondage and death for him. He was deceived like we are deceived by sin, thinking that it can be a path to freedom. Instead, it only brings bondage and death.

2. (Jdg 3:15) God raises up a deliverer for Israel: Ehud.

But when the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for them: Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. By him the children of Israel sent tribute to Eglon king of Moab.

a. When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer: This shows the mercy of God. When Israel repeatedly drifted from God, He had every right to cast them off completely. Yet He still responded when they finally did call on Him for deliverance.

b. Ehud … a left-handed man: In the ancient world left-handed people were often forced to become right-handed. This made Ehud's standing as a left-handed man more unusual.

3. (Jdg 3:16-26) Ehud's daring assassination of Eglon.

Now Ehud made himself a dagger (it was double-edged and a cubit in length) and fastened it under his clothes on his right thigh. So he brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. (Now Eglon was a very fat man.) And when he had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who had carried the tribute. But he himself turned back from the stone images that were at Gilgal, and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king." He said, "Keep silence!" And all who attended him went out from him. And Ehud came to him (now he was sitting upstairs in his cool private chamber). Then Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you." So he arose from his seat. Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. Even the hilt went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the dagger out of his belly; and his entrails came out. Then Ehud went out through the porch and shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. When he had gone out, Eglon's servants came to look, and to their surprise, the doors of the upper room were locked. So they said, "He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber." So they waited till they were embarrassed, and still he had not opened the doors of the upper room. Therefore they took the key and opened them. And there was their master, fallen dead on the floor. But Ehud had escaped while they delayed, and passed beyond the stone images and escaped to Seirah.

a. He brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab: Israel had to pay this tribute money because they were under the domination of the king of Moab. Ehud came to Eglon as a messenger or courier.

b. I have a message from God for you: Ehud certainly told the truth when he said this. The message was, "Those who oppress the people of God touch the apple of His eye and will be judged for it."

i. This message from God was not good news for Eglon. His name means "a little calf" and in Eglon's case, it was a fatted calf.

c. Ehud reached with his left hand: Because most men fought with their right hand, it wasn't expected for a man to use his left hand with a dagger or a sword. This shows how cunning Ehud was and how unexpected the strike was to Eglon.

d. He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber: Without being coarse, we can see how real and true-to-life the Bible is. It describes normal, everyday functions but in a dignified way.

4. (Jdg 3:27-30) Ehud leads the Israelites in battle against the Moabites.

And it happened, when he arrived, that he blew the trumpet in the mountains of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the mountains; and he led them. Then he said to them, "Follow me, for the LORD has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand." So they went down after him, seized the fords of the Jordan leading to Moab, and did not allow anyone to cross over. And at that time they killed about ten thousand men of Moab, all stout men of valor; not a man escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.

a. And he led them: As much cunning and courage as Ehud had, he could not do the work by himself. It was essential for brave and faithful men to rally around him. Ehud led, but he had to have followers.

i. In the same way, God raises up leaders in the church, but they can't do the work by themselves. The whole body needs to work together.

b. Follow me, for the LORD has delivered: Ehud asked the Israelites to follow him, because he was their leader. Yet he also encouraged them to look with faith to the LORD (for the LORD has delivered your enemies into your hand).

c. And the land had rest for eighty years: Ehud's cunning and courage, coupled with Israel's faithful following of a leader, brought Israel's longest period of freedom under the 400-year period of the Judges. Ehud is a dramatic example of how in the LORD, one man can make a difference, and how God will call others to work with that one man.

D. The third judge: Shamgar.

1. (31a) The brief story of Shamgar.

After him was Shamgar the son of Anath,

a. Shamgar the son of Anath: Shamgar is one of six individuals we call "minor" judges, because not much is written about them. Yet the work they did for God was just as important in their day as anyone else's work.

2. (31b) Shamgar's great accomplishment.

Who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.

a. Killed six hundred men of the Philistines: Shamgar was a man of great accomplishment. Perhaps so little is said about Shamgar because his story was so well known.

b. With an ox goad: Shamgar is an excellent example of serving for God. He simply used what God put in his hand - in his case, an ox goad.

i. An ox goad was a stick that was 8 feet long, and about 6 inches around at the big end. One end of the ox goad was pointy (for poking the ox), and the other end was like a chisel (for scraping the plow clean of dirt).

ii. "In the hands of a strong, skilful man, such an instrument must be more dangerous and more fatal than any sword." (Clarke).

c. He also delivered Israel: There was nothing spectacular about an ox goad. But God can use, and wants to use, whatever is in our hands. Shamgar was merely a laborer doing his job; but he took what was in his hand when prompted by God and did great things.

i. Shamgar was like Moses and his shepherd's staff or David and his sling shot. God used each of those simple things for great works.

© 2003 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission


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