The Book of Judges is aptly named; for it tells of twelve leaders God raised up to deliver the children of Israel from their servitude to other nations in the land of promise, during the four hundred years of history that this book covers. This sixth book of the Old Testament time period begins after the death of Joshua and ends with the death of Samson. The author is unknown, but is usually attributed to Samuel.
When Israel was established in the promised land under the ministry of Joshua, and the wanderings had ended, the mandate was given to possess the land. The children of Israel were to displace the inhabitants and to cleanse the land of paganism, so that they could enter into rest under the Divine Rulership of God. However, over and over again, Israel compromised their obedience to the Kingship of God, and turned to the gods of Canaan to secure their peace.
Seven times we see the same cycle repeated throughout this book. This cycle is best described in Judges 2:11-19. First, the children of Israel would depart from the Lord. Second, they would enter into servitude to their enemy. Thirdly, there was a supplication to the Lord concerning their condition. Fourthly, God would raise up a judge to deliver them. Fifth and last, Israel returns unto the Lord.
Out of this cycle of: sin; servitude; supplication; deliverance; and returning emerges another important theme: the covenant faithfulness of God! Here we can clearly see the patient long-suffering of God against the contrary faithlessness of the children of Israel. But before we are quick to condemn Israelís flagrant ignoring of God until they are in trouble of their own doing, consider our own occasions of sin and disobedience. The lament of Judges 21:25 "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (KJV) can unfortunately be said of many of the children of God now. How often have we found ourselves in the midst of difficulty doing that which is right in our own eyes, only to cry unto the Lord for deliverance from the consequences of our ways? Far more often than we might care to admit; and yet God is ever faithful to deliver us and draw us back unto Himself. Praise His Name!!
As we have seen, the Promised Land represents a type and shadow of Kingdom Living. This "land" is ours to enjoy, but we must possess it without compromise. The success in the book of Joshua contrasts the failures in the book of Judges. The children of Israel, in the book of Judges, did not drive out the inhabitants of the land, but lived in the land with them, and took part in their idolatry. If we think we can make peace with the enemies of God in our mind, and still enjoy Kingdom Living in our "Land of Promise" we are just as mistaken as Israel. That which we do not drive out of our life that is contrary to His ways; we will covenant with in sin.
Consistent with the theme of this book is the verse: "another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel" (2:10). Our history in North America covers a significantly less time period than that of Judges, and yet we can see a clear departure from the Godly standards by which our forefathers founded this nation. This is significant to remind us that we must pass on our heritage in the Lord to the next generation, and each person of each generation must have their own personal relationship with God. For when another generation arises who does not know the Lord nor the work He has done, they are left to do that which is right in their own eyes.
That heritage we receive from the Old Testament, which makes it relevant to our present generation is the ability to "see" Christ in every book, and Judges is no exception. Each judge is a savior and a ruler, a spiritual and political deliverer. Thus, the judges portray the role of Christ as the Savior-King of His people. The Book of Judges also illustrates the need for a righteous king. The mixture of backgrounds from which the judges are taken represents a variety of offices including warriors-rulers, priests and prophets. This gives us a picture of the combined offices of Christ who is our ultimate Prophet Priest and King.
But the types and shadows of Christ in the Book of Judges are not limited to the offices of the judges themselves, it can also be seen in the unique way that each judge administered their deliverance. In the case of Othniel we have a judge that delivered Judah from the enemy and secured for himself a bride. (Judges 1:12-13). This shows us a type of Christ who has secured the Church as a bride for Himself by His delivering us from our bondage to the enemy.
With Ehud, who was from the tribe of Benjamin, which means: "son of my right hand" we have a left-handed judge who used a double edged dagger strapped to his right thigh hidden by his raiment to deliver Godís people. (Judges 3:15-16). We are seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. The double edged dagger represents the Word of God, which is sharper than any two edged sword. The thigh is close to our place of reproduction, and is protected by the raiment of righteousness. Ehud thrusts the dagger into the fat belly of the "flesh king" until all of the dirt came out and killed him. Christ has put our "flesh king self" to death and with the sword of the Spirit has purified us of the dirt of sin. Ehud then sounds a trumpet, meaning a clear word, signaling the death of the "flesh man" having made provision for the victory over the Moabites.
Shamgar is another judge whom God used to slay 600 Philistines with an ox goad. (Judges 3:31) An ox goad is a stick about 8 feet long, and 2 inches thick, with a point at one end. It is symbolic of a rod used for correction, or a shepherd's staff used for guidance. Six is the number of man. The name Philistines means: rolling in the dust. Dust is symbolic of the flesh. Man was created from the dust of the earth. Christ is the Good Shepherd who uses the rod and staff to bring correction and guidance in our life. (Psalm 23).
Next we have the story of a woman named Deborah. She was a prophetess used by God as a judge to deliver Israel from the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan whose captain of the host was Sisera. Deborah enlists the services of Barak and along with ten thousand men, the Lord grants them the victory against the enemy and their nine hundred chariots of iron until not a man was left. Sisera escapes though, and flees into the tent of a woman named Jael the wife of an ally of Jabin the king. However, after being invited in to the tent by Jael, and reassured of his safety, and after having his needs met, lays down to rest. While he was sleeping, Jael takes a tent peg and hammers it through the temple of his head into the ground. (Judges 4). This pictures for us the Church driving the Word through the mind of our old man rendering him helpless. Christ is symbolic of both the nail, and the workmanís hammer.
The last two judges that we will briefly look at are Gideon and Samson. They are amoung two of the most familiar stories known in Bible history. The details given in Scripture offer much more insight into the principles of Truth than this writing could examine; however the following represents some of the highlights.
The Midianite oppression of the Israelites during the time of Gideon was one of the most severe they had suffered. The raids by their oppressors left them living in abject poverty and fear, forcing them to take refuge in dens in the mountains, and caves. (Judges 6:1-6). This is significant because Midian represents the world, and when we make a covenant with the world instead of obeying the covenant we have with God, we will be subjected to spiritual poverty and we will live far below our rightful inheritance in God.
So then, the Lord sent a prophet to Israel to remind them of their sin of disobedience and the resulting consequences. Then an angel of the Lord (possibly a Theophany) appeared unto Gideon while he was threshing wheat (studying the Word). This angel of the Lord declared to Gideon that the Lord was with him, and referred to Gideon as a "mighty man of valor"! (Judges 6:12). This declaration is in contrast to the cowardly nature of Gideon. From this we can see that God is not interested in what we think we can do for Him, rather He is interested in what He can do in us. It is in our weakness that His strength is made perfect or complete.
Much has been said about the fleece Gideon put before the Lord. It should be noted that he did this as a conformation of the direction he was already given, not to get direction. That he did this twice is the number of witness. Many Christians today wrongly use the principle of Gideonís fleece as a substitute for hearing from God for themselves.
As we look at the battle Gideon was to fight, we see that the odds in the natural sense were against him. With an army of 32,000 men he was out numbered four to one. But because God plus one is a majority and for God to safeguard His Glory, (7:2) rather than God increasing the number in his army, He began to sift it down. First, the ones who feared to lose their life, who were not willing to trust in God, who were not committed to the task, where permitted to leave. Next separation by the way they drank water left Gideon with just 300 men.
The principle here is obvious. "It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord." When God has purposed it: "One can slay a thousand, two can slay ten thousand!" God delights to do the impossible so that none other can boast in their ability. Never put your trust in the natural, or fear that which God has called you to do, rather be sure of your calling and then go forth in His Power and His Strength!
Now then, after a further assurance that they were following the will of God, Gideon instructs the men. The 300 were placed into three companies surrounding the camp of the enemy; each had a trumpet (prophetic Word), and torches within pitchers (the Light of Christ in an earthen vessel). Gideon then instructs the men to follow his lead. Whatever he did, they were to do the same. Then all at once they shattered the pitchers allowing the light to shine forth, followed by a thunderous battle cry! In the midst of the darkness of evil in this world, does the Light of the Gospel shine ever the more brightly. And God uses broken vessels dedicated to Him, to let His Light shine brightly. At this the enemy panicked, and while Gideonís men stood in their place, the enemy "ran and cried and fled." (7:21).
While there is much more that could be said about the story of Gideon, and the rule of other judges reported after his death, this writing will discuss Samsonís judgeship as the last. Although it is easy to admire Samsonís feats of strength and mighty exploits, one cannot help but noticing he had little self control. He had the best opportunity to become as strong spiritually as he was physically. He was given a spiritual upbringing and knew the things of God because he was dedicated to the Lord from before conception. However, even though he kept his Nazarite vow until near the end which God honored, he was willful and rebellious. This shows, having a Godly upbringing is no guarantee of a Godly character. But God is not limited to act in the circumstances of even the rebellious. For when Samson desired a wife from the camp of the Philistines against his parents wishes, God used it to accomplish His purpose for an occasion against the Philistines. (14:4).
On the way down to the city where his fiancee lived Samson met a young lion, which he easily tore apart. On the way back he came across the carcass of the lion and found a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass. He ate some honey and gave some to his parents, after which the incident prompted a riddle that he gave to the thirty men at his wedding feast. "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." (14:14). The answer to this riddle has great Spiritual significance. The lion is the beast nature. Satan goes about as a roaring lion, and Jesus put to death the power of the enemy on the cross. Out of the remains of the dead carcass of humanity comes the sweetness of the Life of Christ.
The seven days of the wedding feast signify seven thousand years. Solving the riddle brings a change of garment that signifies knowing the mystery of the Gospel gains a garment of His Righteousness. On the seventh day Samsonís bride tells the answer to the thirty men, (thirty is the number of maturity) and in this seventh day from Adam the church is about to reveal the Gospel in all of its mature fullness to the world!
The book of Judges 15: 9-20, tells of how the people of Judah lived in peace and submission to the Philistines (rolling in the dust). They would rather live in bondage with peace, in the dust (carnal nature) than be set free. Three thousand of them went to the cleft of the rock (Christ) where Samson was to bind him with two ropes (legalism in thought and action) for fear of their lives. Many in the church today bind up the Truth that can set them free with the Law instead of Grace.
As the men of Judah secure in their thinking that Samson was silenced were about to deliver him into the hands of the enemy, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. The bonds melted away as fire consumes flax and Samson slew them with the jawbone of an ass. In other words, when the fire, speaking of the anointing, frees you from the bonds of the law, you are able to wield the jawbone, speaking of the spoken Word, with power to slay the enemy! Amen!
Samson could rend a lion but not his lusts; he could break his bonds but not his habits. Therefore we see that Samson, never having brought the lusts of his flesh into subjection to the Spirit, continued on a downward slope that would lead to his defeat. Samson loved a woman named Delilah, which means weakness. She was bribed by five lords (the natural senses) to discover the secret of his strength. While it is true that Samson lied three times, it is also true that each lie was a step closer to the truth. Finally, because of his flirting with "weakness", and not having the self control over his carnal nature, Samson broke his vow. Thus Delilah, through her persistent nagging broke down Samson, and he revealed the secret of his strength. The secret was not his hair, but rather it was in his keeping the Nazarite vow. When his head was shaven, the vow was broken, and the anointing left him.
The power of the Spirit does not lie in following a formula; it is possible to lose the anointing and not know it until it is needed. And when the anointing left Samson, he did not know it. He got up as he had done before but he had no power, and they subdued him, and plucked out his eyes. Without the anointing we have no Spiritual power and we lose our Spiritual vision; but that lost power can be restored by restoring the secret of that power. For when Samsonís hair began to grow again, his strength returned, and he slew more of the enemy in his last hour than all during his life. God will do more in one final hour, than in two thousand years.
With the death of Samson, thus ends the rule of the judges in the Book of Judges. We have looked briefly at some of the types and shadows of Christ. We have seen some of both their failures, and their victories. Uniquely Scripture details people and events "warts and all"; and because of such truth we are able to unlock deeper insight into more of the One who is Truthónamely Jesus. Because of such candor, even a Sunday school understanding of some of the familiar stories can inspire faith in our Loving and Patient God. Through a more mature understanding let us learn from them and continue to walk in His ways for our good and His Glory!