Study Notes

Judges 3:1-31

Review The Sin Cycle

The book of Judges takes us through seven rotations of Israel's "sin cycle." As we learned in our first study, this cycle is...

- The people are devoted to God

- The people delve into sin

- The people are defeated by their enemies

- The people deplore their situation and repent

- The people are delivered by judges

This was summarized in chapter two:

Judg. 2:11-12 ...The sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD...

Judg. 2:14 And the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around {them,} so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.

Judg. 2:16 Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.

Judg. 2:18-19 And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers....

Now we pick up in chapter three...

3:1-2 Taught War

The nations that inhabited the Promised Land would have been driven out completely if the Israelites had been faithful to obey the commands of the Lord. But because they did not, these nations were left in the land. What was these nations' ultimate purpose in God's plan? To test Israel, and to teach the next generation how to wage war.

To teach them war. Now that's a strange concept. Why did God decide that Israel needed to be taught war?

There are actually a number of places where the concept of being taught war occurs in the Bible. When the Lord delivered David from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul, he said,

Ps. 18:32-35 ...God who girds me with strength, and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds' feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation, and Thy right hand upholds me; And Thy gentleness makes me great.

He also wrote in Psalm 144,

Ps. 144:1-2 BLESSED be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; My lovingkindness and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer; My shield and He in whom I take refuge; Who subdues my people under me.

In both of these cases, David credits the Lord with giving him the skills and ability to wage war, yet both psalms point out that salvation doesn't come from this strength. It comes from the Lord being our shield, Him upholding us, taking refuge in Him. So it would seem that God desires us to be so strong, so that we realize that even in our greatest strength, we cannot have victory without Him.

One day, this will not be necessary. In the millennial kingdom, we read,

Isa. 2:4 And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.

So when God rules the earth, we will not need to learn war. For now, it is a necessity, yet not where our hope should lie.

3:3-4 Testing Obedience

Not only were the nations left for the Israelites to learn war, but they were left to be used as the instruments by which the Lord would test them.

In school, you spend days, weeks, or months learning about a subject. But the real gauge of whether you've learned the subject is when you're given a test. How you score on the test reveals to you and your teacher just how well you've learned what's been taught.

The tests of the Lord are the same thing. He has been teaching us many things in His Word. Now comes the test of whether we've really learned them - whether or not what we've heard will affect how we live, react, and respond.

Prov. 17:3 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests hearts.

Isa. 48:10 "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

Testing involves turning up the heat on us, allowing us to endure affliction. And often He will use the ungodly to administer the test.

Deut. 13:1-3 "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

God's test in this case is a false prophet. As we're reading here in Judges 3, the test is being administered through the idolatrous nations of Canaan. Much as we hate tests, they are really good for us. That's why we should be able to pray,

Ps. 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.

James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have {its} perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Testing of our faith and obedience through affliction and fire is for our good - may we rejoice when we are tested.

3:5-8 Eight Years Of Slavery

It would appear that at this point in history, the Israelites got F's on their tests. They had been commanded through Moses,

Deut. 7:1-4 "When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and shall clear away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God shall deliver them before you, and you shall defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you.

Joshua, too, had reminded them

Josh. 23:11-13 "So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God. For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.

God's promises were true: He became angry with the Israelites, and He allowed them to become slaves to Koo-SHAN Rish-aw-THAH-yim, the king of Mesopotamia. Koo-SHAN was a place in Mesopotamia, and its name means, "their blackness." This king's name, Rish-aw-THAH-yim, means "wickedly wicked ," or "twice-wicked." So his full title was "Their blackness is doubly wicked."

Boy, this must have been an evil king ruling over an evil bunch of people! And here's Israel, "governed by God," sold into slavery for eight years, at the hands of this nation. How could God allow this to happen? They had forsaken Him, yet He knew that at some point during their suffering, they would turn back to Him.

3:9-11 The Result Of Affliction

Sure enough, the Israelites cried out to God. This is a natural instinct of human beings - in the midst of suffering, their attention focuses on God. And that attention takes one of two forms: they either cry out for mercy and help, or they blaspheme and reject God. We have seen that happen just recently in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Littleton.

In the book of Revelation, we read that God will bring judgment and affliction to the earth in the Great Tribulation. This will galvanize and polarize people into these two positions. No one will be lukewarm. They will either cry out to God, or they will blaspheme God.

Rev. 16:8-11 And the fourth {angel} poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues; and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory. And the fifth {angel} poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast; and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.

These terrible days we live in present a fantastic opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because people who are hurting will either receive Christ, or they will obviously reject the message.

Othniel, The First Judge

God answered the people's prayers by raising up the first judge, Oth-nee-ALE, the son of Ken-AZ. You remember that Othniel was the younger brother of Caleb who had captured the city of Keer-YATH Say-fer, which was written about in Joshua 15 and Judges 1.

Othniel went to war against Koo-SHAN Rish-aw-THAH-yim and was victorious by the power of the Spirit of God, and for forty years, the Israelites were not afflicted. But then Othniel died. And remember what we've read about this cycle of Israel's sin,

Judg. 2:19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers...

So here we go again...

3:12-14 Eighteen Years Of Slavery

The second time around the cycle now - and the Lord uses Eg-LAWN the King of the Moabites to conquer the Israelites and keep them in servitude for 18 years.

3:15-16 Ehud, The Second Judge

It took them 18 years this time, but again, the Israelites cry out to the Lord. He raises up a second judge, Ay-HOOD, the son of Gay-RAW.

Now it just so happens that Ay-HOOD was left-handed. This is unusual in the Scripture. Although about 13% of people that are born are left-handed, many ancient cultures thought that left-handedness was somehow evil or accursed. Even in this century, many left-handed students in Catholic schools were forced to use their right hands.

To make matters worse for Ay-HOOD, he was from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin is a name that means "son of the right hand." But God is going to use this thing that Ay-HOOD probably grew up thinking was a curse, and turn it into an advantage.

Ay-HOOD bound an 18" sword on his right thigh, hidden under his cloak. The right-haded warriors would bind their short swords on their left thighs, to draw them across their body for battle. The bodyguards of the day had gotten used to only patting down the left sides of visitors. This was how Ay-HOOD got in with a weapon - God was using his "handicap" as an advantage.

3:17-25 King Eglon Killed

The king, eager to hear the message that Ay-HOOD was bringing, sent everyone else out of the room.

Now Eg-LAWN was hugely fat - monstrously obese. When Ay-HOOD shoved the sword into his belly, the sword was irretrievable, and the mess was huge.

Ay-HOOD used a two-edged sword to slay Eg-LAWN. We know that the Scripture says,

Hebr. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Notice that the sword which saved Israel was the same sword which killed Eg-LAWN. The Word of God is a sword:

Eph. 6:17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And that sword which has brought us to salvation is the same sword which will destroy all that have rejected Christ. The book of Revelation tells us about Jesus,

Rev. 19:15 And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations...

Rev. 19:21 ...The rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse...

That same sword will save or kill.

3:26-30 Victory Over Moab

Ay-HOOD escapes to Seh-ee-RAW while the servants were waiting. He blows the Sho-FAR, the trumpet made of a ram's horn, to assemble the people for battle. They killed 10,000 Moabites, gaining their freedom from servitude for 80 years.

3:31 Shamgar, The Third Judge

The cycle happened a third time, and Sham-GAR was the third judge that God raised up to deliver Israel from their oppressors.

Sham-GAR's name means "sword." But while Ay-HOOD had used a sword, Sham-GAR used an oxgoad. This is a long wooden pole, between 8 and 10 feet long, with a metal point at one end, and a flat metal chisel on the other. The point is used to goad the oxen to move, and the chisel scrapes the plow clean.

Next week, we will look at chapters 4 and 5, as the Lord uses Deborah to deliver Israel from the Canaanites.

Go to next study

Go to previous study