Judges 2

Judges 2,
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

If yesterday’s gory tale of cutting off thumbs and big toes was classic old legendary narrative, associated with the ‘Jahwist’ voice of Judah in Torah, then today’s opening with an angel sure sounds like the ‘Elohist’ voice of Israel in Torah.  We are reminded of Moses and Egypt, the back story to Joshua.

The argument of this book is asserted: you were not supposed to assimilate into the peoples of the land.  You did.  So I won’t drive them out before you again.  There is no reference to genocide, just to the risks of co-existence and accommodation.  That’s going to give them adversaries and snaring temptations.  

The passage of time is summed up by the death of another generation.  Just as those who left Egypt all died short of the Promised Land, so those who occupied Canaan all died after Joshua, as their leader did at age 110.  Notice the echo of the opening of Exodus, ‘there arose a king in Egypt who did not know Joseph’.  

The sin is the next generation is not just amnesia, but of religious syncretism: ‘the religions are all the same, about being good people’.  The religions of the Baals and the Astartes, of money, power, and fertility and beauty, are always an option in any generation. The plunderers and profiteers skimmed like mob bosses.

So God lets it happen a while, then raises up a judge from time to time, and that is the shape of this book.  Even when people are reminded of what they forgot, and shown the payoff, they got sloppy time after time. Is this universal human nature, or the character of God’s people in particular?  I prefer the former.  

The case is made: Israel breaks covenant, God leaves our opponents, since we never beat others on our own merits.  This is the pattern you can expect for the book.  As it happens, the chapter division leaves another 6 verses of introduction for tomorrow, but you’ve got the overture, the opening credits.  
 
Now the angel of the Lord
went up from Gilgal to Bochim, 
and said,
 ‘I brought you up from Egypt, 
and brought you into the land
that I had promised to your ancestors. 
I said,
 “I will never break my covenant with you.
 
 2For your part, 
do not make a covenant
with the inhabitants of this land;
 tear down their altars.”
 
 But you have not obeyed my command. 
See what you have done!
 
 3So now I say,
 I will not drive them out before you; 
but they shall become adversaries to you,
 and their gods shall be a snare to you.’
 
 4When the angel of the Lord
spoke these words
 to all the Israelites, 
the people lifted up their voices
and wept.
 
 5So they named that place Bochim, 
and there they sacrificed to the Lord.
 
6 When Joshua dismissed the people, 
the Israelites all went
to their own inheritances
to take possession of the land.
 
 7The people worshipped the Lord
 all the days
 of Joshua,
 and all the days
of the elders
 who outlived Joshua,
 who had seen
 all the great work
 that the Lord had done
for Israel.
 
 8Joshua son of Nun, 
the servant of the Lord,
 died
 at the age of one hundred and ten years.
 
 9So they buried him
 within the bounds of his inheritance
in Timnath-heres, 
in the hill country of Ephraim,
 north of Mount Gaash. 
 
10Moreover, 
that whole generation
was gathered to their ancestors,
 and another generation
grew up after them,
 who did not know the Lord
or the work that he had done
for Israel.
 
11 Then the Israelites did
what was evil
in the sight of the Lord
and worshipped the Baals;
 12and they abandoned the Lord, 
the God of their ancestors,
 who had brought them out
of the land of Egypt;
 they followed other gods,
 from among the gods of the peoples
 who were all around them, 
and bowed down to them;
 and they provoked the Lord to anger.
 
13They abandoned the Lord, 
and worshipped Baal
 and the Astartes.
 
 14So the anger of the Lord
was kindled against Israel, 
and he gave them over
 to plunderers who plundered them, 
and he sold them
into the power of their enemies
all around, 
so that they could no longer
withstand their enemies. 
 
15Whenever they marched out,
 the hand of the Lord was against them
 to bring misfortune, 
as the Lord had warned them
and sworn to them; 
and they were in great distress.
 
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, 
who delivered them
out of the power
of those who plundered them.
 
 17Yet they did not listen
even to their judges; 
for they lusted after other gods
and bowed down to them.
 
 They soon turned aside
from the way
in which their ancestors had walked,
 who had obeyed the commandments
 of the Lord; 
they did not follow their example.
 
 18Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, 
the Lord was with the judge,
 and he delivered them
from the hand of their enemies
all the days of the judge;
 for the Lord would be moved to pity
by their groaning
because of
those who persecuted
and oppressed them.
 
 19But whenever the judge died,
 they would relapse
and behave worse than their ancestors, 
following other gods, 
worshipping them
and bowing down to them. 
 
They would not drop
 any of their practices
 or their stubborn ways.
 
 20So the anger of the Lord
was kindled against Israel; 
and he said,
 ‘Because this people
have transgressed my covenant
that I commanded their ancestors,
 and have not obeyed my voice,
 
 21I will no longer
drive out before them
any of the nations
that Joshua left
 when he died.’
 
 22In order to test Israel,
 whether or not they would take care
 to walk in the way of the Lord
as their ancestors did,
 23the Lord had left those nations, 
not driving them out at once, 
and had not handed them over to Joshua.