The Judge Othniel Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Judges)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Chapter 12


The Judge Othniel
Judges 3.5-3.11


Scripture
5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:
6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
10 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.
11 And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.


Commentary

5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:
6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.

It didn’t take long for Israel to mingle themselves with those that remained in the Land. One thing God intended by leaving the Canaanites among them was to prove Israel (v. 4), that those of Israel who were faithful to God might have the honor of resisting the Canaanites’ allurements to idolatry, and that those who were false and insincere might be discovered, and might fall under the shame of yielding to those allurements. Likewise, there needs to be 2heresies within the Christian churches in order to reveal those who are able to stay faithful to the God of Israel, “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Co. 11:19). Paul was certain that some divisions would occur in the assembly, if only to bring to light those who defend the truth. It is significant that God in His sovereign purpose might even use dissension and disorders in the assembly to put His people to the test. Israel, on trial, proved bad:
1. They joined in marriage with the Canaanites (v. 6), though they could not advance either their honor or their wealth by marrying with them. They would mar their blood instead of mending it, and sink their estates instead of raising them, by such marriages. Finally, they served their idols, and thus became one with them in politics and religion.

2. Thus they were brought to join in worship with them; they served their gods (v. 6), Baalim and the 1groves (v. 7), that is, the images that were worshipped in groves of thick trees, which were a sort of natural temples. In such unequal matches there is more reason to fear that the bad will corrupt the good than to hope that the good will reform the bad, as there is in laying two pears together, the one rotten and the other sound. When they were inclined to worship other gods they forgot the Lord their God, and they showed a growing conformity to the manners and worship of their idolatrous neighbors. In wanting to please their new relations, they talked of nothing but Baalim and the groves, so that by degrees they lost the remembrance of the true God, and forgot there was such a Being, and what obligations they had to him. In nothing is the corrupt memory of man more treacherous than in this, that it is apt to forget God; because out of sight, he is out of mind; and here begins all the wickedness that is in the world: they have perverted their way, for they have forgotten the Lord their God.

3. God’s anger toward His people. God had put a wall between Israel and her neighbors, not because Israel was better than any other nation, but because she was different. Instead of worshipping idols, the Jews worshipped the one true God, who made the heavens and the earth. Israel alone had the true sanctuary where God dwelt in His glory; it had the true priesthood, ordained by God; and it had the true alter and sacrifices that God would respect 3(Rom. 9.4-5 ). Only through Israel would all the nations of the earth be blessed 4(Gen. 12.1-3 ). When Israel obeyed the Lord, He blessed them richly; and both their conduct and God’s blessings were a testimony for their unbelieving neighbors. (see 5Gen. 23.6 ; 626.26-33 ; 730.27 ; 839.5 ) The pagan people would say, “These Jews are different. The God they worship and serve is a great God!”

And the Jewish people would then have had opportunities to tell their neighbors how to trust Jehovah and receive His forgiveness and blessing. (See Deut. 4.1-13.)

Is it any wonder that God became angry? Is it any wonder He humiliated Israel by using pagan nations to discipline His own people? Since Israel was acting like the pagans, God had to treat them like pagans! Had the Jews been faithful to the Lord, He would have sold their enemies into Israel’s hands 9(Deut. 32.30 ).

Charles Spurgeon said that God never allows His people to sin successfully. Their sin will either destroy them or it will invite the chastening hand of God. If the history of Israel teaches the contempory church anything it’s the obvious lesson that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14.34).

Served Baalim and the groves—No groves were ever worshipped, but the deities who were supposed to be resident in them; and in many cases temples and altars were built in groves, and the superstition of consecrating groves and woods to the honor of the deities was a practice very common with the ancients. Pliny assures us that trees, in old times, served as the temples of the gods. The Romans were admirers of this way of worship and therefore had their groves in most parts of the city, dedicated to some deity.

8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he 17sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
Othniel was the first and one of the better judges. There is no great criticism leveled against him.
10 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.
11 And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

We now come to the records of the government of the particular judges, the first of which was Othniel. He is also mentioned in the book of Joshua, which is one of several instances where this book is interlaced with that of Joshua, for even in Joshua’s time Othniel began to be famous. It appears that it was not long after Israel’s settlement in Canaan before their purity began to be corrupted and their peace (as a consequence) disturbed. And those who have taken pains to enquire into the sacred chronology have generally agreed that the Danites’ idolatry, and the war with the Benjamites for abusing the Levite’s concubine, though reported in the latter end of this book, happened about this time, under or before the government of Othniel, who, though a judge, was not a king in Israel, and therefore he could not keep men from doing what was right in their own eyes. In this short narrative of Othniel’s government we have:
1. The misery that Israel had to go through because of their sin, v. 8. God who was rightly displeased with them for doing away with the hedge of their individuality, and putting themselves in common with the heathen nations, plucked up the hedge of their protection and laid them open to the nations, and the first to lay hands on them was Chushan-rishathaim, king of that Syria which lay between the two great rivers of Tigris and Euphrates, also called Mesopotamia, which means in the midst of rivers. It is probable that this was a warlike prince, and, aiming to enlarge his dominions, he invaded the two tribes first on the other side of the Jordan River that lay next him, and afterwards, perhaps by degrees, penetrated into the heart of the country, and wherever he went he put them under the yoke of tribute, extorting it with severity, and perhaps quartering soldiers in their cities. At the same time Canaan was nominally subject to Egypt.
2. Their return to God in their distress: When he slew them, then they sought him whom they had slighted before. The children of Israel cried unto the Lord, v. 9. At first they made light of their trouble, and thought they could easily shake off the yoke of a prince whose kingdom lay at such a distance; but, when it continued for eight years, they began to feel the sting of it, and then those who had laughed at it before, cried under the cruelty of the foreigners. Those who were quick to find mirth in their circumstance and had cried to Baalim and Ashtaroth, now that they are in trouble cry to the Lord from whom they had revolted, whose justice brought them into this trouble, and whose power and favor alone could help them out of it. Misery makes those plead with God, who would scarcely speak to Him before.

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