The Judge Othniel Page 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Judges)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

3. God’s return in mercy to them for their deliverance. Though need drove them to Him, He did not reject their prayers, but graciously raised up a deliverer, or savior. Observe:


a. Who the deliverer was. It was Othniel, who married Caleb’s daughter; he was one of the old stock that had seen the works of the Lord, and had kept his integrity, and secretly grieved over the apostasy of his people, but waited for a divine call to appear publicly to rectify their grievances. He was now, we may suppose, an old man, when God raised him up to this honor, but the decays of age were no hindrance to his usefulness when God had work for him to do. I also believe that he was a little man. All of the judges were “little men.” There was not a big one in the bunch. These men were used by God because they were—and I have to say it—odd characters. Their very oddness caused God to use them.

b. Who it was that gave him his commission; it was not of man, nor by man; but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (v. 10), the spirit of wisdom and courage to qualify him for the service, and a spirit of power to motivate him to do it, and to satisfy him and others that they were engage in the will of God. Certain judges were expressly said to have the Spirit of the Lord come upon them:
• (Jg. 6.34) “But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.”
• (Jg. 11.29) “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.”
• (Jg. 13.25) “And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him (Samson) at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.”
• (Jg. 14.6) “And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him (Samson), and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.”
• (Jg. 14.19) “And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him (Samson), and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father's house.”
• (Jg. 15.14) “And when he (Samson) came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.”

Others, apparently, also had this experience. This is a common OT expression signifying a unique act of God which conferred power and wisdom for victory. But this did not guarantee that the will of God would be done in absolutely all details, as is apparent with Gideon (Jg. 8,24-27, 30 ), Jephthah (Jg. 11.34-40 ), and Samson (Jg. 16.1 ).

c. What method he took. He first judged Israel, rebuked them, called them to account for

their sins, and reformed them, and then went out to war. This was the right method. Sin at home must be conquered first, for that is the worst of enemies, and then enemies abroad will be the more easily dealt with. Thus let Christ be our Judge and Law-giver, and then he will save us: “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

4. What good success he had. He prevailed to break the yoke of the oppression, and to break the neck of the oppressor; for it is said, The Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim into his hand. “ ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.’ Says the Lord of Hosts” (Zech.4.6). This was the secret of Othniel’s strength, as it was with Gideon (6.34; see note 3b above), Jephthah (11.29; see note 3b above), and Samson (14.6, 19; 15.14; see note 3b above); and it must be the source of the believers power today (Acts 1.8 ; 2.4 , 4.8, 31 ; Eph. 5.18 ).

5. The happy consequence of Othniel’s good services. The land had rest, and some fruits of the reformation, for forty years; and the benefit would have been perpetual if they had kept close to God and their duty.

Chushan-rishathaim. Also rendered “Kushan, the wicked” or “impious” by the Chaldee Targum, the Syriac, and the Arabic, wherever it occurs in this chapter. This name had probably been given to him for his cruel and immoral character.

King of Mesopotamia. King of “Syria of the two rivers;" translated Mesopotamia by the Septuagint and Vulgate. It was the district situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, called by the Arabian geographers Maverannaher, "the country beyond the river," it is now called Diarbek.

Served Chushan—eight years. He overran their country, and forced them to pay a very heavy tribute; the raising of which must have caused a great amount of hard work and privation.

Raised up—Othniel, the son of Kenaz. This noble Hebrew was of the tribe of Judah, and nephew and son-in-law to Caleb, whose praise stands without abatement in the sacred records. Othniel had already showed his valor by taking Kirjath-sepher, which appears to have been a very heroic act. By his natural valor, experience in war, and the distinct influence of the Divine Spirit; he was well qualified to inspire his countrymen with courage, and to lead them successfully against their oppressors.

His hand prevailed. We are not told about the nature of this war, but there was a most decisive victory; and the consequence was forty years of undisturbed peace, during the whole life of Othniel. By the Spirit of the Lord coming upon him, he received the spirit of prophecy; others have received the spirit of fortitude and extraordinary courage, as opposed to the spirit of fear or faintness of heart; but as Othniel was a judge, and had many offices to fulfill besides that of a general, he had need of the Spirit of God, to enable him to guide and govern this most headstrong and fickle people. It was because he received it for these purposes, that we know that the political state of the Jews was still a theocracy. No man attempted to do any thing in that state without the immediate inspiration of God.

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