Thursday, January 16, 2014

Learn the Flow of the Bible: RPC's Bible for Dummies Class - Judges

Most Christians wish they had a better understanding of the Bible. At RPC we are engaged in an 18 month study through the entire Bible. It is inspired by a textbook, The Bible for Dummies.  Nearly half of the RPC congregation is enrolled.

In the future I will be posting the audio from my lecture and the notes for that lecture.  Unfortunately, I don't have all of the previous lectures, but I'll post what I have.  And if you want to buy the textbook, offers it for about $ excellent investment. (Note: Though the textbook is "off" in a few places, it is a good resource to which I supplement.)

Enjoy! - KM

Understanding the Book of Judges

** The opening of the book describes the history of the tribes as they wage war to take the land God had promised each tribe. Some were more successful than others, leading to various agreements between the various tribes of Israel and the local people (e.g.: Judges 2:1-3)

** Things started out relatively well (see Judges 2:6-7), but deteriorated when the generational shift occurred (Judges 2:10-15)

** Our textbook has it right…after the death of Joshua, there is an unhealthy, repetitive cycle
that ultimately is the downfall of Israel.

The Cycle

1. New generations of Israelites ignore God’s Word and worship other gods.

2. God punishes Israel through foreign forces/oppression.

3. Israel repents and begs God for forgiveness.

4. God forgives and delivers Israel, giving them military victory over their oppressors, led by a “judge”.

Judge Not, Lest You be Judged: Being a Judge in the Ancient World

** God raised up “Judges” to save Israel from the hands of their enemies, but the people rejected God’s leadership vis a vis the Judges (Judges 2:16-19)

** A “Judge” (Hebrew: Shofet, Shoftim - plural) is one who often fulfills many roles.

·      The Judges timeframe was approximately 1350BC-1050BC. (The era before Saul became King.)

·      S/he is often spiritual leader, military commander, and prophet, all rolled into one.

·      God called each Judge into that position. It was not inherited, as were the priestly roles of the Levites and/or the governmental position of king/queen.

·      The textbook does a good job of tabling the “Major” and “Minor” judges.  (see pages 131-132 in the textbook)

Note: The Judges, like the prophetic books in the Old Testament, are called Major and Minor given how much was written about them in the Bible. “Major” judges have a lot written… “Minor” judges, not so much.

** Here is another table chronicling the facts of the Major Judges:

Years of Bondage
Deliverance and Rest      

Othniel: The First Judge (3:7-11)

Issue: Baal worship
Foreign Force: Mesopotamia
Key Moment: Israel cried out to the Lord (3:9)

Ehud: Dirty jobs require getting dirty (3:12-31)

Issue: Israel did “evil in the sight of God” (the most common indictment against Israel)
Foreign Force:  Eglon, king of Moab
Key Moment: The disemboweling of the king. (3:21-22)

Deborah: Judge, Prophetess, Warrior (4:1-5:31)

Issue: Not so much about Israel’s actions, but a continuation of God’s disputes with Cana
Foreign Force: Jabin, king of Cana …and by extension, Sisera – general of Cana’s army
Key Moment: Jael’s (servant to Sisera) cunning assassination of Sisera by driving a tent peg into his skull (4:21)

Gideon: A wimp turned warrior (6:1-8:28)

Issue: Israel, again, did “evil in the sight of the Lord” – specifically, Baal worship (thus, Gideon’s additional name, Jerubbaal = “contend with Baal”
Foreign Force: Midian
Key Moments: Bringing down the sacred pole (6:30ff); Making a “fleece” with God (6:36-40);The reduction of Troops (22,000 à 10,000 à 300 to fight the Midianites (7:2-8); The Dream that led to the “torch strategy” that ultimately defeated the Midianites (7:13-23) 

Jephthah (son of a prostitute – 11:1): The consequence of a hasty vow  (10:6-12:7)

Issue: Multiple kinds of pagan worship
Foreign Force: Ammonites
Key Moment: The Vow to give a burnt offering (11:30-31), only to have it be Jephthah’s daughter (11:34); The daughter’s incredible statement of faith (11:36); Jephthah’s fulfillment of his vow (11:39)

Also Note: Earlier, the king of the Ammonites demanded that Israel give back all of the land they had seized (11:13) – seems like a discussion between Israel and Palestine, today. But Jephthah reminds the king:

1.  …check your history (11:15-22)…the Lord gave this land to Israel

2.  …check your theology (11:23-25)…our God reigns sovereign over your impotent gods

3.  …check your chronology (11:26)…Israel has been here 300 years. Why make your request now?

Samson: A buffed Nazirite duff (13:1-16:31)

“Nazirite” = one who took a vow (see Numbers 6:1-21).  nazir” in Hebrew means to “consecrate”, “dedicate” or “separate”…i.e.: for the Lord’s service. 

Note: To be a “Nazirite” is not the same as being a “Nazarene” (i.e.: one from Nazareth)

** Key elements of this vow were:

11.     Abstain from wine (Numbers 6:3)

a.     violates this when eating the fermented honey from the lion’s carcass

22.     Not cut one’s hair (Numbers 6:5)

33.     Abstain from touching the dead…thus, becoming unclean according to the Law (Numbers 6:6-7)

a.     violates this when scoops the honey from a dead lion’s carcass (14:9), and when he uses a dead donkey’s jawbone to kill 1,000 (15:15)

Note: Of course, Samson’s predicament with Delilah was that he violated the vows to God.

Issue: God can use even a hot-headed, rebellious, angry, womanizing person
Foreign Force: Philistines
Key Moments: Samson razes the temple of the pagan gods by using his God-given strength to
            push the pillars down, collapsing the temple and killing thousands (16:28-30)

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