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Study In Judges. Chapter 10v1-11v3. God Is Greater Than Our Backgrounds.

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study in judges

Study InJudges

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introduction

After the sad and grim episode of Abimelech, there is brief mention of two more judges, Tola, of the tribe of Issacher, who judged Israel for 23 years v1-2, and Jair, of Gilead, who judged Israel for 22 years v3-5. They are given only the briefest mention, but we should not under-estimate their importance, for between them they clearly dominated the life of Israel for 45 years - which is a long time, on any estimate. It should be noted that nothing is said of any particular enemies of Israel in these verses.

This may not mean that there were not any; but it may be an indication that in their judging and defending of Israel v1 they kept the people from idolatry, and within the ways of God, during that time.

Introduction

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introduction1

That is a great accomplishment? It is surely better not to have needed a great and spectacular deliverance, having fallen into idolatry and sin, than to magnify God’s mercy in deliverances like those accomplished by Gideon, Barak and Deborah.

Christians are sometimes tempted to be envious, after hearing the testimony of someone whom God has delivered from the mire of blatant public sin … thinking, “if only I had a story like that to tell”, but it is no less impressive to recount that God preserved us from blatant sin!

Introduction

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setting the scene

Tyre

Aram

Notice the disposition of the various enemies that

we have seen thus far in the book of Judges who devastated Israel. In the time of Othniel of Judah 3v8ff, the enemy was Aram; in Ehud of Benjamin’s time 3v15 it was Moab; in Deborah of Ephraim’s time 4v1 ff) it was Jabin of Hazor; in Gideon’s time (who was of Manasseh 6v1ff) it was Midian and Amalek. The next judge is Jephthah, the Gileadite of Manasseh. And the next enemy is Ammon.

See the map and the geographical position of these tribes and their enemies, and grasp how substantial the threats to Israel’s security were. Israel’s obedience was the only effective safeguard against the encroachments of their enemies. They were indeed being ‘shut up unto faith’’ Gal.3.23

Hazor

Kedesh

Setting The Scene

Harosheth

Israel

Ammon

Bethel

Ephraim

Ramah

Jerusalem

Philistia

Moab

Midian

Amalek

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opression

Phoenicia

Before, however, we come to the story of Jephthah, there is a long introduction to occupy our attention in v6-18 . The pattern of declension unfolded in these verses has become a familiar one, as we may see in v6, where a sevenfold idolatry is described. The result of this was a twofold oppression, by the Philistines and the Ammonites v7.

The deliverance from Ammon was wrought by Jephthah in the chapters which follow, and that from the Philistines first of all, and only partially, by Samson 13v1ff, and fully and finally by Samuel. The oppression in v8 refers to Ammon, the land between the Jabbok in the north and the Arnon in the south (half way down the Dead Sea].

Aram

Tyre

Opression

Gilead

Israel

Jerusalem

Ammon

Philistia

Moab

Edom

Amalek

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opression1

Phoenicia

It only took a year for Ammon to subdue Israel [i.e. Gilead], and for the next 18 years they were under subjection. Incursions were also made into the west bank, to harass Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim.

In v10 we have the familiar cries for help under pressure: ‘We have sinned....’, but this was simply a question of words, words, words! The Lord’s response was a reminder of the deliverances he had wrought for them in the past v11-12 - the sevenfold deliverance mentioned in these verses corresponds significantly with the sevenfold oppression in v7.

Tyre

Aram

Opression

Gilead

Israel

Jerusalem

Philistia

Ammon

Moab

Edom

Amalek

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opression2

What is being indicated here, according to Delitzsch is that, “Israel had balanced the number of their deliverances by a similar number of idols which it served, so that the measure of the nation’s iniquity was filled up in the same proportion as the measure of the delivering grace of God.”

This comment serves to underline the ‘But’ in v13: in spite of all God’s patient grace, this is what they did, and it serves to explain the ‘so’ in v13b. God says: ‘Enough’, and v14 follows through the statement that the ‘so’ introduces.

Opression

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god s chastening

In v14 we have an example of the Psalmist’s words, “but to the devious you show yourself shrewd” Ps 18:26b. This severe Divine dealing had a salutary effect, and the confession made in v15 is different from that in v10, as v16, its consequence, makes clear.

The words “Do... .whatever you think best” indicate an acceptance of the consequences of their sins, and a handing of themselves into God’s keeping. The theologian P.T. Forsyth’s speaks about the holy God who is, ‘strong enough to resist pity until grief has done its gracious work even in his Son’.

God’s Chastening

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true repentance

The words in v16, ‘they put away the strange gods’ is the real test. This was done, not with a view to gaining the Divine intervention, but done anyway, because they now hated their sin.

And it was this disinterested turning from sin, without ulterior motive, when the love of sinning was driven out of them, that changed the Divine treatment of them. God’s love for them, his attitude to them, did not change; his treatment of them did, and had to. Hence, ‘God’s heart grieved for the misery of His people’ v16b.

True Repentance

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a leader required

All this, then, in preparation for, and introduction to, the story of Jephthah. In v17-18, the scene is set: Gilead and Mizpeh in Gad held the respective armies [Mizpeh is South East of Succoth and Penuel, south of Jabbok river].

The Gileadites are represented as gathered together with a new spirit and a new morale, but lacking a leader. But ‘a new spirit’ and ‘a new morale’ are what makes the raising up of a leader of stature possible among the people of God. Ability to shout loudly and stridently should not be mistaken for leadership!

A Leader Required

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a contrast noted

Note the contrast presented in 11v1-3- between Jephthah and Abimelech, whose grim record occupied us in the previous study. For, of course, the backgrounds of the two men are very similar. Both were sons of harlots; both had a hard time, and a difficult family situation - a deprived life. Indeed, the nature of the contrast seems to be to underline that it was even worse for Jephthah than for Abimelech. There is no record in chapter 9 that Abimelech’s brethren [the sons of Gideon] did him any harm. The resentment was all on Abimelech’s side, and he imagined their contempt of him.

A Contrast Noted

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a contrast noted1

But with Jephthah it was different: his brethren did despise him, and discriminate against him [v2] and drove him out, heartlessly, from home and inheritance. Abimelech at least had the support and help of his mother’s people at Shechem; Jephthah had none of this. He was ‘on his own’. The fact that Jephthah fled, [v3] suggests that his brethren had threatened his life. In the land of Tob, to which he fled, he became a brigand-chief over a group of outcasts and misfits - and, it would seem, did with them what David later did with his men at Adullam, turned them into a body of fighting men. Against the desolation and loneliness of Jephthah’s background his evident character and stature are all the more impressive.

A Contrast Noted

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a contrast noted2

Hebrews 11v32, underlines the faith of Jephthah. And it certainly was a faith that worked a transformation in his life, for he comes over in the story as a grave, balanced, good and honourable man, able and well equipped and endowed.

The truth of the matter is that in the stronghold of Tob he met with God, and found in him One whose love made him of inestimable value in his sight, and made him what he became.

Think of the great words in Hannah’s song, “he raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes” 1 Sam 2v8. This is how it was with Jephthah: when the Lord lifts up, he does it in style!

A Contrast Noted

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a contrast noted3

This is the real message of Jephthah’s story, as Hebrews 11 insists: it is the power of Divine grace to overcome the tremendous liabilities of any man’s background.

This surely adds a new dimension to our understanding of Isaiah’s words, “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench”. Isa. 42v3

Jephthah accepted his situation, and this is the biggest lesson a man can ever learn, as well as being the only realistic way forward.

A Contrast Noted

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acceptance

Amy Carmichael’s poetic words are insightful and certainly apply in this situation:

‘He said,

“I will accept the breaking sorrow

Which God tomorrow

Will to His Son explain.”

Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.

Not vain the word, not vain;

For in acceptance lieth peace’.

Acceptance

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