The book of Judges takes up where the book of Joshua left off. The Israelites are in the Promised Land, and they’ve started to take over the land.
Compromise, a serious problem with people today, is one of the main themes of Judges. When the Israelites failed to completely drive out the wicked nations in Canaan, they left themselves open to their influences—chiefly idolatry and immorality. God used the oppressors to punish the Jews. The Jews' disloyalty to him had painful consequences, but they repeated the pattern of falling away many times.
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger.
"Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways."
The Book of Judges is a tragedy of how God was taken for granted by His children year after year, century after century. Judges is a sad contrast to the book of Joshua which chronicles the blessings God bestowed on the Israelites for their obedience in conquering the land.
In Judges, they were disobedient and idolatrous, leading to their many defeats. Yet God has never failed to open His arms in love to His people whenever they repent from their wicked ways and call upon His name. (Judges 2:18) Through all of the many judges of Israel, God honored His promise to Abraham to protect and bless his offspring (Genesis 12:2-3).
After the death of Joshua and his contemporaries, the Israelites returned to serving Baal and Ashtaroth. God allowed the Israelites to suffer the consequences of worshiping false gods. It was then that the people of God would cry out to Yahweh for help. God sent His children judges to lead them in righteous living. But time after time they would turn their backs on God and return to their lives of wickedness. However, keeping His part of the covenant with Abraham, God would save His people from their oppressors throughout the Book of Judges.
You’ll have noticed that some of the judges get a lot of space devoted to them, and some get hardly any, or only a verse or two. Samson is one of the ones who gets a lot of space; a whole chapter is devoted to just his birth. (Yes, this is Samson, of Samson and Delilah fame.)
The announcement to Samson’s mother that she would bear a son to lead Israel is a foreshadowing of the announcement to Mary of the birth of the Messiah. God sent His Angel to both women and told them they would “conceive and bear a son” (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:31) who would lead God’s people.
When Samson fell for Delilah, a woman from the Valley of Sorek, it marked the beginning of his downfall and eventual demise. It didn't take long for the rich and powerful Philistine rulers to learn of the affair and immediately pay a visit to Delilah.
Hoping to capture him, the Philistine leaders each offered Delilah a sum of money to collaborate with them in a scheme to uncover the secret of Samson's great strength. Using her powers of seduction and deception, Delilah persistently wore down Samson with her repeated requests, until he finally disclosed the key information. Having taken the Nazirite vow at birth, Samson had been set apart to God. As part of that vow, his hair was never to be cut.
Rather than killing him, the Philistines preferred to humiliate him by gouging out his eyes and subjecting him to hard labor in a Gaza prison.
As he slaved at grinding grain, his hair began to grow, but the careless Philistines paid no attention.
And in spite of his horrible failures and sins of great consequence, Samson's heart now turned to the Lord. He was humbled. He prayed to God—a first—and God answered.
During a pagan sacrificial ritual, the Philistines had gathered in Gaza to celebrate. As was their custom, they paraded their prized enemy prisoner into the temple to entertain the jeering crowds. Samson braced himself between the two central support pillars of the temple and pushed with all his might. Down came the temple, killing Samson and all of the people in its.
Through his death, Samson destroyed more of his enemies in this one sacrificial act, than he had previously killed in all the battles of his life.
What does God teach us?
Disobedience always brings judgment. The Israelites present a perfect example of what we are not to do. Instead of learning from experience that God will always punish rebellion against Him, they continued to disobey and suffer God’s displeasure and discipline.
If we continue in disobedience, we invite God’s discipline, not because He enjoys our suffering, but “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:6).
God’s compassionate delivery of His people despite their sin and rejection of Him presents a picture of Christ on the cross. Jesus died to deliver His people—all who would ever believe in Him—from their sin. Although most of those who followed Him during His ministry would eventually fall away and reject Him, still He remained faithful to His promise and went to the cross to die for us.
The Book of Judges is a testament to God’s faithfulness.
“if we are faithless, He will remain faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). Though we may be unfaithful to Him, as the Israelites were, still He is faithful to save us and preserve us (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and to forgive us when we seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9). “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).