Notes on Judges 2:10-23

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Judges 2:10, KJV: And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

This means that the generation who had been born in Egypt or during the wilderness journeys had died. These were most likely the “veteran soldiers” of the conquest and the first settlers to receive their inheritances. Joshua and Caleb were the oldest men in Israel at the time but they had died, followed by their contemporaries.

How the next generation could have not known the LORD is puzzling: the altars, both in the Jordan River and on the western bank, made of stones taken from the riverbed, were apparently visible for some time after the conquest. The people, especially the men, were required to make their way to the Tabernacle on three occasions: Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:15-17, 34:23; Deut. 16:16). Moses had commanded the people to teach and write God’s Words to their children (Deut. 6:4-9). Doubtless the presence of pagan Canaanites may have tempted some Israelites to idolatry. Had the Canaanites become believers in the God of Israel, they would have been spared, like Rahab and her family (Josh 6).

11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:

This is the second step in Israel’s downward spiral: not only did they not know the LORD (verse 10), they did evil by serving “Baalim”. “Baalim” is the Hebrew plural word for “Baal”, meaning “lord” or “master”. “Baal” seems to be a generic or catch-all name for any number of pagan deities. One such “Baal” was “Baalpeor”, or “the lord of Peor”, mentioned in Numbers 25. The Midianites and Moabites “invited” the Israelites to worship this “god (!)” and 24,000 Israelites did so. They were executed for this idolatry. The Law gave specific instructions and penalties for any Israelite who worshiped a pagan deity or any deity besides the God of Israel (see Deut. 13:5, 29:18, 31:20, etc.) and these had broken that law. In addition, these who worshiped Baalpeor were guilty of breaking the first Two Commandments (Ex. 20:3-6)!

12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that (were) round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.

Now the Israelites did even worse: they forsook the LORD, Who was the God of their fathers and followed the deities or “gods” of the very people they had conquered! God had warned the Israelites about driving out the Canaanites—and this was one reason why. These deities had been powerless to stop Israel’s conquest of Canaan but now, the Israelites abandoned the God of their fathers, Who had given them victory in every campaign (except the first battle of Ai, see Joshua 7) and worshiped “gods” people made with their own hands! No wonder the LORD was provoked to anger!

13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.

Perhaps repeated in this verse for emphasis, this section serves as am introduction or summary of the rest of the book. Here, the writer again states that Israel forsook the LORD and served Baal, a male “god” or deity; and Ashtaroth, a female deity. The concept of Canaanite religion is far beyond the scope of these notes but the reader is encouraged to study any of the standard or conservative Bible study helps, commentaries, etc., for any further study.

14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.

The writer states that before, the LORD’s anger was provoked against Israel (verse 12) but now it is hot against Israel. Their sins and rebellion against Him crossed the line and now Israel was going to experience God’s wrath in a way they had never seen before.

Israel had been warned about what would happen if they forsook the LORD (Lev. 26:14-45, Deut. 28). Joshua had exhorted them to get rid of the idols which Israel had somehow kept in their possession even during the wilderness journey (Josh. 24:23). Even so, by this time, Israel had forgotten God, yet God had never forgotten Israel and was going to use judgment to bring them back.

15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.

These were the warnings in Lev. 26:14-45 and Deut. 28. Joshua and the first generation of settlers had followed God’s instructions but the generation after them—some of whom may well have seen and could have remembered what God had done—for the most part abandoned God and paid dearly.

16 Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.

The word “judge” means more than a person making a decision in a court case or legal affair. Israel had before this chosen leaders of various groups in order to make decisions (Exodus 18:13-26, Numbers 11). These judges, here, were also military leaders and patriots, as later chapters will show. None of them reigned as kings because they knew God was the King of Israel. Some received more “press” or coverage in the book, some were mentioned only briefly, but all were God’s people for a particular time.

17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; (but) they did not so.

God would bring deliverance through the judge but Israel would quickly lapse into idolatry again. The writer again states the younger generations did not obey the LORD’s commandments like the early or first generation of settlers did.

18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.

The LORD would raise up the judge but only when Israel would “groan” because of their oppression, They, to be repeated, would not have suffered any of this if they had followed God’s instructions. The LORD would much rather have heard the sounds of praise to Him instead of listening to their groanings due to their sin. Israel had indeed groaned for many years when they were slaves in Egypt, but that was not something they entered voluntarily. In this case, they abandoned God and received their punishment.

19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, (that) they returned, and corrupted (themselves) more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.

Incredibly, they called for deliverance, received it when the judge came on the scene, then promptly abandoned the very God Who had freed them from their bondage!

20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;

They had broken the covenant, the first time, when Moses was on Mount Sinai, receiving the very Law they had promised to follow, and Aaron more or less willingly made a golden calf for the Israelites to worship. As Joshua had said in his farewell address, he knew that there were any number of idols still being kept (and worshiped?) among the people (Josh. 24:23).

21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:

God had promised to drive out the Canaanites “little by little (Ex. 23:30, Deut. 7:22)” but now He says He is not going to do this any longer. Israel had left groups of Canaanites, of unknown populations, among the tribes instead of driving them out of the land (see chapter 1). Even before this, there were certain groups of people whom God said to drive out but Joshua had not done this (Josh. 13:1-6).

22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep (it), or not.

“Prove” here means the test of obedience.

23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.

There is no mention that the LORD put fear into the hearts of the nations or that He helped Israel very much during this period of time. Sin has consequences and Israel would learn some very painful lessons.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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