Probably a weird thing to say, but Judges is my favorite book in the OT. It feels like the Wild West. There is a sense of law vs. lawlessness in the claiming of this new land. And much like the European visitors who tried to take the land from the Native Americans, the would-be settlers were not always behaving as though they were righteous or just. Judges gives us a picture of people vacillating between right and wrong. It feels real, gritty, and more relatable than the wanderings in the desert we’ve been dealing with the last couple of weeks. Still, this book also contains some HORRIFIC passages, and none are worse than the Jephthah’s daughter debacle. What a disaster of a promise Jephthah makes and what an awful result.
On to the notes!
- Judges 1 – Here’s the first reference to Jerusalem (I think?). Amazing to see this important city enter through violence. It is still such a divided place today and it began as a divided place in Judges. Just a preview of what’s to come…
- Funny how just a generation after Joshua dies, the people forget the Lord. Do we have the same problem? Do we take for granted the exploits and sacrifices of our parents? Grandparents and beyond?
- “Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…” We run into this phrase an awful lot over the next 20+ chapters, don’t we?
- Othniel doesn’t get very much of a story, just a short paragraph in chapter 3. I wish there was more to his backstory.
- Judges 3:12-30 – WOW that’s a lot of violence all of the sudden. Killing a guy in the bathroom? Again, best book in the OT. Wild stories.
- I love the introduction of Deborah. Here we have a very strong female leader who takes up the mantle when the male general is unwilling to do so alone. If this isn’t great rationale for female leadership and ordination, then I don’t know what is. Deborah is called by God to lead the people with her gifts, talents, and faith. I want my daughter to know this story. I want my son to know this story. I want all people to read the scripture with an eye toward the whole – what is God’s ultimate message about our relationships with one another, strangers, friends, and even our enemies.
- Judges 6 – The Sign of the Fleece – Gideon may be blessed, anointed, and touched by God, but he doesn’t have a ton of trust in God, does he? It’s funny how he test God once and when God passes, he decides to retest God. What does he think, the first time was a fluke? God got lucky?
- And the very next chapter we get an army chosen because they drink like dogs? This stuff is hilarious, awesome, fantastic, and hopeful. I really, really enjoy this book.
- Judges 11 – Jephthah’s vow feels like the beginning of the end for the book. Why do we make deals with God that God does not ask us to make? Why would you bargain with God when there is no need to bargain? This poor girl. What an awful story…
- And onto the scene burst Samson! Here is yet another child of promise, born to a previously barren mother. There will be many more of these individuals in the scriptures that follow. My favorite Grateful Dead song? “Samson and Delilah” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQXv4JL0Fzg
- The Samson chronicles are great to teach kids…until everybody starts dying…and we have to deal with the weird sexual stuff…and the genocide…and animal abuse…and blindings…and, well, I’ll take back my previous statement.
- And after Samson comes another passage I didn’t really learn in Sunday School. Judges 19 describes the horrible rape of two women and the civil war that follows between the various tribes involved in the incident. You’ll notice that God is absent from this section. The people were without any clear leadership, faith, or hope.
- Ruth was one of the first books I preached on when I became thepastor at The Peoples church. I love the way this book provides a hope that was missing in Judges. It’s kind of a palate cleanser for the end of the last book. Now THIS is a story you can teach to all ages. After the NC-17 Judges, we have the more digestible PG Ruth…with a few scenes of adult situations (threashing room floor comes to mind).
- Who are the people picking up the sheaves in our culture? Do we leave the sheaves out for them?
- Names are important.
- Everyone has the responsibility for another person. We are all called to take care of others, aren’t we?
- Boaz and Ruth are part of the lineage of David, and a little farther down the line, the genealogy of Jesus. Makes you start to wonder about all the questionable characters in Jesus’ background.
- We’re just starting this book today.
- We encounter yet another child of promise. Hannah prays for a child and is eventually rewarded. So what does she do with her new baby? Gives him away to the temple.