RDean Judges Lesson 40
Divine Grace and Faithfulness – Judges 10:1-9
Judges 10, and we begin a new section of Judges; a new segment as it were. For the last several months we have been in the episode, really the Gideon narrative because even though chapter 9 deals with his son, Abimelech, that's all part of the Gideon narrative from about chapter 6-9. Starting in Judge 10 we get into the Jephthah narrative and the introduction to that and it just seems to get more and more bizarre. And the reason it gets more and more bizarre is because the nation has gone so deep into spiritual apostasy, they've rejected God, they've adopted so much of the thinking and the lifestyle of the Canaanite culture that surrounds them, that they're virtually now indistinguishable from the Canaanites. Their leaders are indistinguishable from the Canaanites and so all of the things that are going on just seem to be extremely strange and odd to us. But this signifies how dangerous human viewpoint thinking and pagan thinking really is and the effect that it can have on a culture, whether that culture is a broad national culture or local culture, subculture, family culture, work culture, whatever it is, when human viewpoint dominates the result is always going to be fragmentation and disruption.
Let's pick up the overall theme of Judges. Remember that the key verse is, "There was no king in the land, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes." That emphasized two principles. First of all, they had no physical king but the emphasis is not on the fact that there is no monarchy. That's the standard interpretation of that passage, it's written later, during the first monarchy of Saul or maybe even later under David, and they're just emphasizing the absence of a physical king or absence of a monarchy. But under the theocratic rule of law set forth in the Mosaic Law God was viewed as the executive branch, so it's a theocracy, God is the king. But they're rejecting God as king. Once you reject God as the ultimate source of absolutes in a culture, that creates a vacuum; something is going to get sucked into that vacuum and what gets sucked into that vacuum is going to be human viewpoint standards. And depending on how consistently they match up with the establishment principles of the Mosaic Law you're going to have different degrees of disruption, disorder, instability in a society.
Remember establishment principles, or the laws, the moral code, the ethics code that is grounded or founded in the Mosaic Law, that is applicable to believe and unbeliever alike so that believer and unbeliever alike can apply certain principles and go to a certain level but beyond that only believers can go. You look at the Ten Commandments, those were for believer and unbeliever alike, prohibitions against murder, false witness, adultery, were designed to protect individual rights and individual freedoms and to protect private ownership of property. The first section of the Ten Commandments focused on the spiritual dimension and their allegiance to God and excluding, even though the individuals in the culture might not have been believers, the obedience to the first five commandments applied nationally and was designed to exclude idolatry. Once idolatry would come in nationally and individually it would open the nation up to slavery to false doctrine, false teaching, which the New Testament reveals is ultimately doctrines of demons and what it calls worldliness is the thinking of demons in James 3:13-15. So all false teaching comes under the category of worldliness, cosmic thinking, which is the thinking of demons, doctrines of demons, or human viewpoint. It ultimately boils down to the same thing. Those are roughly synonymous terms, just looking at those same ideas from different vantage points.
So Israel succumbs in the book of Judges to the pressure of idolatry; they go negative to God, they reject doctrine and idolatry comes in, and as a result of violating the first two commandments of the Ten Commandments, and their adoption of idolatry, the nation becomes enslaved to false gods and false thinking, and as they become slaves in their soul they become slaves eventually, either economically or militarily to foreign powers.
As we look at Judges there's a cycle that takes place. There's disobedience to God and then God brings divine discipline on the nation and then there is a deliverance. The cycle of Judges goes from disobedience to divine discipline and then they cry out for deliverance and God delivers them but it doesn't stay; there's a lack of positive volition across the board culturally. While they may go through a generation after the deliverance it's not long before they're back in disobedience rejecting God and they just go through this cycle again and again. As time goes by through the period of the Judges the cycles get worse, so that the culture as a whole deteriorates; it's in decline, the first judge is Othniel, nothing is said negative about Othniel, everything said about him is positive. And then with each successive judge there's more and more indications and hints that they have succumbed to the thinking of the culture around them. And as a result of that they reflect the human viewpoint and there's further and further deterioration.
We have gone through the cycles of Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, and Gideon, the first four judges and now we come to the sixth judge, Jephthah. As we approach the study of Jephthah we're going to see one of the most bizarre episodes; I can't find a word more extreme than that, it's the only incident of its kind in all of the Old Testament and all of Scripture and it's hard to even find a parallel to this in the ancient world. And then the final cycle is that of the judgeship of Samson and Jephthah and Samson's judgeships must almost be understood simultaneously. They do indeed overlap, and they indicate the stages of reversionism that the nation has gone through. We've studied the eight stages of reversionism; a believer is in spiritual advance and then for one reason or another begins to turn away from God. The Scripture in Judges 10 and Judges 2 use words like abandoned, forsake, forget, and they emphasize not just some sort of passive ignoring of God but whenever God is taken out of your life and your positive volition is reversed to negative volition it is an active decision on the part of the believer.
We may come up with all sorts of rationalizations and excuses for it, I'm too busy, too many things are going on in our life, whatever it might be, but it is still emphasized in Scripture, it's a conscious decision to reject doctrine. It begins with reaction and distraction and that emphasizes the fact that some event happens in life; sometimes it may involve an increased demand at work, sometimes it may involve increased demands at home, sometimes it might involve health problems, whatever it might be, sometimes there's reaction to a personality, a pastor or somebody else in the congregation. You get mad, you get angry at somebody, or you react to some behavior and all of a sudden that becomes an issue rather than doctrine. And so there's a reaction and a distraction away from doctrine and suddenly doctrine is no longer the number one priority.
As you stay in that stage and you start forgetting doctrine and focusing more on the human viewpoint concepts that are not influencing your soul, you begin to look somewhere else for happiness, for meaning, for purpose in life. That leads to soul poverty. The Scripture says, referring to the Jews, that God gave them what they asked for but He sent leanness to their soul… leanness to their soul! And that emphasized the fact that as you search for happiness in all the details of life it comes up empty and there is further and further frustration and dissatisfaction with life. This, then, leads to emotionalism. People feed on emotion, on emotional hype, trying to find real happiness, confusing the happiness God provides with emotion, and so then they begin to run their life based on emotion. Now this can happen culturally and often happens as a result of mysticism and the influence of mysticism and subjectivism in a culture. That's where we see ourselves nationally right now; emotion is the number one criteria for anything in life, just about. And even the questions listed, sometimes through the correspondence, the news reporters and the questions they ask the people they're interviewing and how much they emphasize on how you feel about something, how did that cause you to feel and that sort of thing. It just goes on and on to the point of making us somewhat bilious.
Then this intensifies into a more ingrained negative volition which leads to a complete darkness in the soul because doctrine is no longer there and that eventually hardens the heart, the Scripture says, what we call scar tissue in the soul, and that leads, finally, to cosmic degeneracy, full-blown paganism, rejection of God, rejection of doctrine, atheism, idolatry, and everything that goes along with it. This is the pattern that we have seen culturally in Israel during the period of the Judges and that's exactly what's going on in the lives of most of the individuals including the leadership. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because many of these people, Gideon, Jephthah, Deborah, Barak, Samson, are listed in Hebrews 11, which emphasizes their faith, that they were spiritual giants. For the most case they were spiritual pygmies, but at one particular time in their life or other, they trusted God at a crucial time as leaders of Israel and for that God honor them. And that should be a tremendous example and encouragement to us because we're made the same way they are, we have the same problem with the sin nature that they do, and God recognizes how frail and weak we are and His grace still overrides our weaknesses. And that's really the emphasis that we see in Judges from this point on; the nation has so deteriorated and become so entrenched in paganism and it so colors everything in the life and thinking of the nation that you would think that God would take them out under the fifth cycle of discipline at this point, but He is gracious and He continues to supply deliverers for them, despite the fact that there is no spiritual recovery in the nation.
Let's look at Judges 10:1, "After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar;" arose to save Israel. After Abimelech died, Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, arose to save Israel and he lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim.  He judged Israel twenty-three years; then he died and was buried in Shamir."
Now when we look at something like that there's more that's…obviously a lot more that's left out than we're told about. So we can make a few points about Tola, but we can't say a whole lot because we're not told a whole lot. One of t he first things that we should notice as we get into this section is that it begins in 10:1 and extends down through Judges 12:15. If you hold your place here, turn over to chapter 12 and look at verse 8-13. In Judges 12:8 we're introduced to three other…these are called minor judges because so little information is given to us about them. We're told there about Ibzan of Bethlehem in verse 8; Elon the Zebulunite in verses 11-12, and Abdon in verses 13-15. Very little is said about them as there is little said about Tola and Jair in 10:1-5.
What is interesting is just from a literary standpoint is that you have these five minor judges, two and three, two at the very beginning of the Jephthah episode and three at the end that sort or frame it. And they're going to tell us something about…the reason the author has included that is just to emphasize a couple of points about what's happening among the leadership in Israel at this time. One of the points in terms of looking at this entire scheme is that these men are not raised up by God. Nothing is said about God raising these men up; nothing is said about their devotion to God; nothing is said about their spiritual life at all or their judgeships being related to God at all, but they do deliver Israel. So it de-emphasizes the spiritual aspect of these men while at the same time it emphasizes that God, in His providential care of Israel, is still raising up men who are providing some sort of protection and leadership for the nation, despite the fact that the nation is in full-blown apostasy and rebellion against God. So the emphasis throughout this section is on the faithfulness of God in delivering Israel and bringing about His plan despite the continuing and increasing reversionism of the nation. It is a testimony to God's grace.
Only Tola, this first minor judge, is given a record in history that seems to emphasize something positive about him, though little is said. Let's look at what is said. "Now after Abimelech died," so immediately the author wants us to contrast this judge with Abimelech, "there arose to save Israel," according to both the New King James and the New American Standard, the Hebrew word translated to save is yasha' from which we get Jesus' name, Yeshua, meaning to save or to deliver; it is the Old Testament counterpart to sozo, and it doesn't mean simply to save in terms of saving someone from eternity in the lake of fire; it also has the connotation of to deliver or to rescue. So you always have to look at the context to find out what you're being delivered from or rescued from and obviously they're being delivered or rescued from foreign powers, disorder, from instability in the nation, and this is a man who is going to provide leadership. So it should best be translated "to deliver Israel."
"After Abimelech there arose to deliver Israel, Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo," now we don't know who Puah and Dodo were, Issachar was one of the sons of Jacob and one of the tribes of Jacob, so he is an Issacharite who is living down in the central part of Israel, "in the hill country of Ephraim." We don't know who Puah or Dodo were, but the writer is emphasizing the fact that this is a real historical individual. If you were a Jew reading this about the time in which it was written you probably knew who those people were. So this is an indication this is not just some mythical figure somebody made up but this is a person who is located in space/time history and he has a specific genealogy. Now it tells us that he "arose to save Israel," to deliver Israel.
Notice the verbs, he saved Israel, he lived in Shamir, which was in the central part of Ephraim, we don't know exactly where it was, probably in the central part of Ephraim. He delivered, he lived, he judged for twenty three years, so there's specificity in terms of the time frame there, he died and he was buried. Now the interesting thing is, when you look at these verbs, they emphasize a regularity, a consistency and a stability to his reign; he delivered, he reigned, he judged, he died, he was buried. There's a pattern there, it's a normal pattern. So what we can infer from this is after the instability of the period of Abimelech that there was a period of stability brought in under Tola. Now Tola's name means worm, so the emphasis here is on the fact that he's of somewhat lowly birth or lowly presence, it may indicate that he has a level of humility and this would be in contrast to Abimelech and Abimelech's arrogance and desire for tyranny. Also, Ephraim is located across the border; Ephraim is located in this central highlands area just south of the area oaf Shechem. If you look no the map here is where Mount Gerizim is located and Shechem was located just on sort of the shoulder just to the south, southeast of Mount Gerizim, so just across the border from Ephraim.
So the writer wants us to notice certain things in contrast to what has been going on before us, that God has raised up a judge, this is the first judge since Gideon, and he brings a level of stability to the nation. And that's about all that we can say about Tola.
Then we have a second judge, a second judge who is called Jair, and he is a Gileadite. His name, Jair, means "may God enlighten." And he is a descendant of Manasseh; the tribe of Manasseh has settled across the Jordan in the area indicated… Gilead really extends from up north near the Sea of Galilee up in this area where you have the tribe of Manasseh located on the Transjordan, and it goes south down to the Dead Sea, to the border of Moab which is located in this general vicinity. So there is about sixty miles from north to south in the region known as Gilead which is comprised of…you have both Gad in the south, Manasseh is the tribe in the north, are settled into this area of Gilead. And this begins to shift our attention away from what's happening in central Israel. All the judges that we have seen up to this point have been operating, for the most part, in this central area. Now we're going to move across the Transjordan and we're going to see the problems and the pressures that have been brought to bear on the tribes across the Jordan.
Judges 10:3, "And after him, Jair, the Gileadite arose, and judged Israel twenty-two years." So now we have a period of 22 and 23, a 45 year period of relative stability.  And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys," now the word here for donkey in the Hebrew, there's a couple of different words, and this is the word 'amiyr, not the word chamowr, and they both refer to a donkey but an 'amiyr donkey is a donkey is a donkey that is ridden as opposed to one that is a pack animal. And so the image here is of someone who is wealthy enough to not only have donkeys but to ride them rather than using them for pack animals and that indicates wealth. Furthermore, notice he had thirty sons; that would indicate, first of all, he probably had more than one wife; either that or she was an extremely exhausted woman. But the picture reminds us of Gideon and Gideon's attempts to act like an ancient Near Eastern monarch. He took numerous wives and he had seventy sons. We don't know how many daughters he had as well, but he had seventy sons. So the idea of multiple wives and large numbers of children was something that was indicative of a person trying to act as a powerful influential person, if not trying to act as a monarch. So once again we see the judges are not acting as servants to the people but they are trying to develop their own power base. We see once again the shift towards tyranny from these local leaders that are raised up.
So we are told, Judges 10:4, "he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities in the land of Gilead that are called Havveth-jair to this day." That is, the towns of Jair to this day, that is the time in which this was written. Then we're told,  "And Jair died and was buried in Kamon," which is one of the villages in Gilead in the Transjordan. Now the emphasis here is a little bit of a contrast to Tola. Tola has nothing negative said about him; he is said to deliver Israel, to save Israel and we saw that the word there indicates deliverance or salvation, which is a positive term. We don't even have that said about Jair; some of the things we can pick up from this deal with what's not said. It's not an argument from silence.
What we see here is that the writer of Judges is emphasizing the spiritual decadence of the nation, so the absence of any indication that God raises them up, the absence of any words that carry a positive connotation to them tells us something—that there was nothing positive to say and the absence of a positive statement really says a lot about these particular judges. There wasn't a lot positive to say about them and the only thing he wants us to notice, because of his emphasis on the thirty sons and the thirty donkeys in the thirty cities is he's establishing a bit of a dynasty, it seems, and he's building his own power base. And this is what becomes indicative of any kind of pagan society. We studied this under the doctrine of tyranny when we were studying Abimelech, is that when God is removed as the absolute authority then man seeks to move into that vacuum, he creates his own standards, and then some institution in the human realm seeks to move in to be that absolute controlling authoritative force, and usually it is the state under some form of dictatorial tyranny.
And this is exemplified in the ancient world because if you went out from Israel, all over the ancient world, whether you went south, west to Egypt, whether you went towards the east in Syria, Babylonia, those nations, whether you went to the Hittites, what you saw is men rising to power who either claim to be deity in the case of the Egyptians or the mouthpiece of the gods in the case of the Mesopotamian nations and they exercised a form of authority and tyranny that would put anything that we are familiar with in modern times to shame. They were absolute dictators in their time. Not even the greatest dictators of our time, for example, Saddam Hussein or going back a little bit to Hitler or Stalin, or Lenin, none exercised the kind of absolute authority these ancient leaders exercised. So what we see here is that the influence of paganism on the concepts of leadership and authority in the nation are fairly profound. So these leaders are operating on these pagan concepts and they're not seeking to really serve the nation.
Well, in the midst of this, of course it doesn't surprise us that once again Israel goes through the cycle of disobedience. Judges 10:6 reads, "Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD," and there we see the first time in this chapter the mention of the Lord; in fact, this is the first time we have Yahweh mentioned since chapter 8 and this emphasizes His covenant relationship, His covenant responsibility to the nation. This is based on the four-lettered word for God in the Hebrew, called the sacred Tetragrammaton, which refers to the sacred four letters. It looks like this in the Hebrew and it's transliterated YHWH. Now we can be pretty sure, there weren't any vowels in ancient Hebrew, but we can be pretty sure the first one is an "a" because this is often used as a suffix in human names. So we can guess pretty much what that was, and this was probably a short "e," Yahweh, and this is how it was pronounced. Whenever the Jews read it, they had a deep respect for the name; they would never pronounce it so they would read Adonai, meaning Lord, instead of ever pronouncing the sacred Tetragrammaton. But it is build off of the verb hayah, which means to be. And when Moses was commissioned by God to deliver the nation, he said "whom shall I tell the Jews sent me," and God replied, gave him this name and said "I am that I am." This is the name that is specifically associated with the Mosaic Law; therefore it is always used in passages where the emphasis at some level is on God's covenant relationship to the nation. Now sometimes God's referred to as Elohim, and that was more of a generic word for God and would be emphasizing a different aspect of His character. But especially in a context like this, when we've gone several chapters without any mention of God as Yahweh, to have that name here is a reminder, a subtle reminder that God is the One who has entered into a covenant relationship with Israel; Israel is His special people, and yet they are rejecting Him.
Judges 10:6, "Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD," now too often when we see a passage like that we think, well what's evil, and we think of whatever our favorite sins are and that's what they must have been doing. But if you do a study in the Old Testament of this phrase, and you find it again and again and again and again and again and again; you find it with all the negative kings, all the kings in the northern kingdom, that so and so did evil in the sight of the Lord. And you always find the same statements, they committed the sins, when it deals with the kings in the northern kingdom it says they followed the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and what did he do? He set up a golden calf up in Samaria to be worshiped in competition to God at the central sanctuary in the temple in Jerusalem.
We find the same emphasis here, they "again did evil in the sight of the LORD," the word "again" emphasizes the repetitiveness of Israel's sin. See, we often commit sins over and over again and we're going to see that that produces a certain reaction in God. "Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals and the Ashtaroths," now this explains what the evil is; the evil is idolatry, the evil is substituting a false god for the true God, it's not any other sin. There's all kinds of other sins that they committed as a result of this but the core issue is at this point negative volition rejecting God; that's at the core of every sin because at some level what we're saying is that I'm going to determine what's right and wrong in my life, not God, and whenever we sin, whenever we start operating on the sin nature, then at that point what is happening is we are basically rejecting God as an authority in our life. So this is where it begins, the rejection of God and the substitution of a false god, whether it's a concrete idol as they were serving, or whether in our case in modern times we serve more sophisticated idols of our thinking.
So, "again they did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they served the Baals and the Ashtaroths," now that is particularly indicative of the Canaanite culture. Baal was the chief male god related to fertility and the Ashtaroth, the "oth" is a plural form of the word, various goddesses that came together, known as the Ashtaroth and that was the female counterpart to Baal and the female goddess of fertility. So they enslaved themselves, the word for "served" is the Hebrew word 'abad which means to work, to worship, but it also has that idea to be enslaved to or to serve and what the emphasis here is that whenever we're under the control of the sin nature Romans 6 says we become slaves of unrighteousness, and this is the foundation of all the problems in Israel. The problems that they have are not the result of bad leadership, they're not the result of a bad legal system, they're not the result of any other factor in their environment, they're the result of a spiritual rejection of God. Now all those other things, the bad leadership, the bad administration, poor military, bad economics, all of that were the consequences, ultimately, of a spiritual rejection of God.
So, "they served the Baals and the Ashtaroths," and then there's a listing of the gods they go into. Now this is important to understand the dynamics here, "the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon," that was Tyre and Sidon, the Phoenicians up on the Mediterranean coast northwest of Israel, "the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon," Moab and Ammon were the sons of Lot; Lot was Abram's nephew; Lot departed from Abram, lived for a while in Sodom and Gomorrah, after he left there, at the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he left, his wife was turned to salt so he's left with his two daughters who got him drunk one night and they committed incest with him and they each got pregnant, one had a son named Moab and the other had a son named Ammon, and God had promised to protect them because of their relationship with Abraham, the consequence of the blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant, and they were given land that was theirs that was to be to the south east of Israel. If you look at the map it's down in this area. Here's Moab, Moab is south here and this area is the area for Ammon. Now that name, Ammon, continues today as Amman, the capital of Jordan. So this situation today has its roots, of course, in ancient Biblical history.
So they worship all of these various gods, but what can we learn about these gods. The writer before has not said this, in fact this passage is very similar to one earlier in the book; in Judges 2:11-14; turn back there and we'll see a parallel passage. This is in the section that is summarizing the cycles of disobedience and deliverance in Israel. Notice the parallel with what we have in Judges 10:6 and following. Judges 2:11, "Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals,  and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples," now there we're not told who those gods are, they're just stated generally as "other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and they bowed themselves down to them; and the provoked the LORD to anger.  So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroths.  And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, so He delivered them into the hands," or literally "He sold them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.  Wherever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for calamity, as the LORD had said and as the LORD had sworn to them, and they were greatly distressed."
Now I want to come back to that word but we have the word "distressed" there and we find that same word back in our passage, Judges 10. We look at these gods that are mentioned here, "the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines," and we need to study a little bit about these gods. Now we don't know a lot about the various gods that some of these people worshiped. We do, of course, the gods of Sidon because they were Canaanites and those were the Baals and the Ashtaroths. Then we have the gods of Moab; now the chief god in Moab… on the overhead is an inscription that Mesha, the king of Moab wrote on what's called the Moabite stone, that was his dedication, this is called the Mesha stele, and this is his dedication to Chemosh to show how closely identified the Moabites were with this god, Chemosh, "I am Mesha, son of Chemosh, king of Moab, the Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab for thirty years, and I reigned after my father. Now I built this high place to Chemosh in Qarhar, a high place of salvation because he saved me from all the kings and because he made me victorious against all my enemies." Notice how he emphasizes everything comes from his god, Chemosh, this is the national deity of the Moabites. "Omri was king of Israel and he afflicted Moab many days because Chemosh was angry with his land." In other words, the reason we were defeated was because our god was mad at us. "Then his son succeeded him," Omri's son succeeded him, that's Ahab, "and he also said I will afflict Moab. In my day he said so but I was victorious against him and his house, and Israel was utterly destroyed forever." Well, they weren't destroyed forever but they were defeated. "Now Omri had taken possession of all the land of Medeba and had dwelt in it during his time and half the days of his son, for years, but Chemosh dwelt in it in my time," in other words, there is the close identification of Moab to Chemosh.
One of the interesting thigns that we know about Chemosh is that he was worshiped sometimes; he was similar to Moloch, these are almost interchangeable gods at times, and in both cases they were worshiped at times with child sacrifice and human sacrifice. So this is not a foreign concept. Now this plays a major role in understanding what's going to happen in Judges 11, that they are influenced now by these gods, the Canaanite gods, where human sacrifice was practiced and the thing was that you would make a bargain with God and if you were extremely serious in your intent then that would be backed up by offering the life of your child. It wasn't an every day thing; we're not talking about the kind of human sacrifice that characterized the worship of Quetzalcoatlin Mexico where at one time they were dedicating the temple to him in Mexico City and they sacrificed between twenty and forty thousand humans within a period of days so that the blood flowed knee deep, as you were walking up the steps to the top of the temple and the whole city reeked from just the blood that was shed during that time and there was just one sacrifice after another where they would bring one prisoner in and they would put him on the altar and they would cut his throat, and it was like an assembly line, just one sacrifice after another, it went on 24 hours a day for several weeks as they were dedicating the temple.
Now this is not that level of human sacrifice. In the ancient Near East it occurred only rarely but it was in times of personal or national calamity or distress, when people were at, sort of the ends of their rope, and they had to convince god with the most serious bargain they could think of and then they would sacrifice a child in order to convince god to do what they wanted him to do. It's not the same degree today but it's the same kind of theology that characterizes much of what is known as the health and wealth gospel, prosperity theology today, that people are making bargains with God and the emphasis that you have in this prosperity theology and all the emphasis in money that goes with it is that God, I will give you X number of dollars and then You'll give it back to me ten-fold, and it's the same idea of manipulation of God. And this is the underlying theme of this whole episode in Judges 10 and 11, is the manipulativeness of the leadership here and we're going to see that specifically in the person of Jephthah. So the background here tells us that the Jews are being influenced by the idolatry of these foreign nations, specifically the Moabites; the Ammonites also worshiped a god where there was some human sacrifice, and the gods of the Philistines.
Then it goes on to say, Judges 10:6, "they forsook the LORD," from the Hebrew 'azab, they abandoned God, they willingly left Him, they abandoned God "and did not serve Him." This emphasizes their intentional rejection of God, and the result is given in verse 7.
Judges 10:7, "So the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon." The first thing I want to note is the phrase "the anger of the LORD." Now this seems to indicate that God has some sort of emotional reaction and it's amazing how many commentators and how many people look at this and say see, this shows that God has emotion. We've gone over this before and I just want to remind you that this does not mean that God has emotion. You have a Hebrew word here, aph plus the verb harar; aph refers to the nose, harar means to burn or to turn red. Now the question here, when we try to understand what's going on with "the anger of the LORD," is whether this is a literal phrase or a figurative phrase. That's the first stage in interpretation you have to ask. Is this a figure of speech or is this a literal statement. In the English it looks like it could be literal, but if you get into the Hebrew you realize that even the Hebrew statement is a metaphor; it is what is called an anthropomorphism, anthropos means man and "morphism," from the Greek word morphos means form, so it is the attribution of human form to God which He does not actually possess in order to communicate something about God's plans or God's policy to mankind using a point of common reference. That's what an anthropomorphism is. Now God does not have a literal nose to turn red or to burn. So when the question came up, someone asked me this one time, what do you do with the phrase "God was angry," you're presupposing that that's a figure of speech. And I said no, look at the Hebrew; the Hebrew indicates that it is a figure of speech to begin with, it's an anthropomorphism to start with. The problem is how figurative is this? Well, it's used as an anthropomorphism to communicate an anthropopathism. An anthropopathism comes from the Greek, anthropos meaning pathos meaning emotion, and it's the same thing, similar to anthropomorphism, it is the attribution of human emotion to God which He does not actually possess in order to communicate something about God's plans and policies.
Now why do I say God doesn't actually get angry? In the New Testament you might say well, there's all these passages about God's anger, God's wrath, over and over again it talks about the wrath of God, the wrath of God, the wrath of God, and wrath seems to indicate some intense emotion. And there's the key word, it's "intensity," that's the thrust of this figure of speech is to emphasize the intensity of God's response to man's sinfulness, but if you look at passages, the one…when Pastor Quartez was teaching here he's been going through Romans 1 the last couple of times I was gone, and there you see the application of divine justice to man's rejection of Him in several stages of wrath; the wrath of God. The wrath of God is a primary term used in the book of Romans to express God's judicial action towards rebellious mankind.
Now let me pose just a good academic question here. Is it a good thing, a beneficial thing, a wise thing to have a judge who makes His decisions based on emotion? No it's not. See, wrath of God, as it's explained in the New Testament, if the wrath of God which is always associated with the application of His justice to man's disobedience is emotional, then what we have is a God in heaven who is operating judicially on the basis of emotion. And that means He's not impartial, that would imply that He's out of control, that would imply a number of things that we cannot be comfortable with. Wrath is used, the concept of wrath is used and anger is used because in human experience this emphasizes an intensity, a strength of reaction to something. When something horrible takes place the most extreme way in which we react is in terms of wrath. But God is responding from His justice. What the righteousness of God rejects the justice of God must condemn and this is emphasizing the condemnation function of the justice of God towards rebellious mankind and a phrase like this, an anthropopathism like this, indicates the intensity and the extremity of God's response to Israel's sinfulness. So it's not to be taken as an emotional reaction but as the intensity of God's judicial condemnation of the nation for their disobedience to His law and their rejection of Him.
So we're told in Judges 10:7, "So the anger of the LORD burned against Israel;" literally what we would take it, the justice of God condemned Israel strongly, "and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the sons of Ammon." Now if you have a map of Israel, the Philistines are down to the southwest along the Mediterranean Sea coast. The Ammonites are off to their east. So what you have is God's using a hammer and anvil here to crush the nation. He's going to bring in the Philistines from one side and hit them on their west flank and He's going to bring in the Ammonites from the other side.
We go on to Judges 10:8, "And they afflicted and crushed," extremely strong words, if you're reading that in the Hebrew there's assonance there, they rhyme, and the double use there just emphasizes the seriousness of what happens. "They are afflicted and crushed," the word "crushed" is rarely used in the Hebrew but it occurred in the previous passage in Judges 10 when we were told that the upper millstone landed on Abimelech's head and crushed it. So there's the image of what is happening between these two pincher movements, so to speak, God working strategically to bring Israel to their knees and to discipline them. So "they afflicted and crushed the sons of Israel that year; for eighteen years they afflicted all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in Gilead in the land of the Amorites." So this is emphasizing what's happening across the Jordan; we're going to focus first on the Ammonites and the Ammonite oppression which occurs in the Transjordan, and then in the next judgeship, in Samson, we're going to focus on the Philistine oppression coming from the other side. So Samson and Jephthah have judgeships that overlap. The Ammonite oppression goes from 1124 BC to 1106 BC and the Philistine oppression goes from 1124 BC to 1084 BC, it's not ended until…the Philistine oppression really isn't broken until much, much later. Saul begins to break it but David is the one who finally ends it. Jephthah's life goes from 1150-1100 BC where Samson's life overlaps from 1123-1084 BC.
So these last two judges in this book have lives and judgeships that not only overlap with each other, but they also overlap with Samuel. So what happens from this point on in the book of Judges is overlapping time wise with what takes place at the beginning of the book of Samuel. There we have it…the Philistine oppression ends at the battle of Mizpah, 1 Samuel 7:11 in 1084 BC.
Now the text goes on to say that this went on for eighteen years, and then Judges 10:9, "Moreover the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight against Judah also, against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed." Now here we have the Hebrew word tsarar and this is an intense word and tsarar means to be stressed. What we have here is the outside pressure of adversity that is producing the inside pressure of stress in the soul in the Jews at that time. This is divine discipline, this is how God often responds to the believer's sinfulness as He brings to bear some sort of serious discipline in the life and if we don't respond with the stress busters, if we don't respond biblically through confession of sin so that we can be restored to fellowship, recover the filling of God the Holy Spirit, and begin to use God's spiritual problem solving devices then we are just going to deteriorate further and further into reversionism. And what we find here is that this word "distressed" is used at the end of verse 9, it's used at the end of verse 13, it's used again several other times in this passage to emphasize the fact that the nation has not been responding biblically but there is fragmentation in their soul and as a consequence fragmentation in the nation.
So this tells us what the problem is and gets up to verse 10 where we begin to see the nation Israel respond by confessing their sin and then in verse 11 we see that God really doesn't want to accept it and He's going to emphasize the fact that well, you just keep crying out to me but there is no real change or spiritual change among the people and we'll look at what that means next time.