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David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible

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Judges 3 - The First Three Judges

A. The pagan nations left in Israel's midst

1. (1-2) God's reason for allowing these nations to continue in Israel's appointed land

a. The most elementary reason is not hard to figure out; these pagan nations remained because Israel was not faithful in driving them out

i. In the same way, we can say to a person who has "pagan territory" in their lives "the reason is because you allow it to be there." And, at the most basic level, that is true

b. Yet, it was certainly within the power of God to eliminate those pagan nations without any help from Israel. God allowed the pagan nations to remain for a reason

i. Likewise, the person who has "pagan territory" in their lives knows that God is able to change him instantly. Why doesn't God just do that? Why does it have to be so hard?

c. The reason is simple: that He might test Israel by them; and test here is in the sense of "proving." These nations would remain because God wanted to prove the faithfulness of Israel to Himself, and to improve their reliance on Him

i. God doesn't just instantly change every area of our lives so that our relationship with Him can be proved and improved; so that we will live a life of true partnership with God

d. The additional reason is also important: so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war; no one likes the struggle against sin, but that battle is good for us. The symbol of Christianity is a cross, not a feather bed

i. An analogy from parenting is helpful: you don't really help your children if you make everything easy for them

2. (3-4) The pagan nations are specifically listed

a. We could perhaps make our own specific list of "pagan territory" in our lives; such a list is helpful because it forces you to identify your enemy

b. The reason that God didn't just eliminate these nations is again stated; that Israel's commitment to God's word would be proven. If they would be faithful to the word of God, these other nations would not hinder them, and they would grow strong enough to drive them out completely

B. The first judge: Othniel

1. (5-7) The apostasy of Israel in the days of Othniel

a. Their sin was simple: intermarriage with the pagan nations in their midst had led them to the worship of the gods Baal and Ashtoreth

b. What led to their sin was more subtle. First, it was the allowing of pagan territory in their midst, something as dangerous for us as it was for them

c. Second, romance led them into sin. There is nothing wrong with romance, but we have a terrible habit of falling in love with people that we have no real business falling in love with

i. Proverbs 4:23 says Keep (literally, guard or protect) your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. If we don't guard our hearts, we can end up in trouble.

ii. What if we need to give up on someone we love because it is right before God? Would God really ask us to make such a sacrifice? Yes He would; Jesus told us that following Him would require that we give up the things we love most (Mark 10:29-30)

2. (8) Israel's servitude to the king of Mesopotamia

a. Tragically, God is giving Israel just what they wanted. They didn't want to serve God, so God allowed them to be in bondage to a pagan king. Israel is reaping exactly what they have sowed

3. (9-11) God's deliverance through Othniel

a. Israel finally came to the place where their bondage was bad enough, and they cried out in dependence on God. Tragically, it takes this kind of bondage and calamity before so many will really trust God

b. We don't know much about Othniel, other than he was the son-in-law of the great hero Caleb (Judges 1:12-3), and that his wife was also a woman of faith (Judges 1:13-15)

c. But verse 10 tells us enough about Caleb: the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. That is what is needed in anyone who would accomplish anything for God; and this empowering of the Spirit is enough equipping for any task

i. Do we really believe Zechariah 4:6? Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Othniel lived this principle from God's word

C. The second judge: Ehud

1. (12-14) The cycle is set in motion again: Israel sins and is sold into servitude

a. Sin always brings bondage; though it comes to us deceptively. The fish never contemplates the bondage of the hook when it goes after the bait; Satan snares us by making the bait attractive and hiding the hook

b. A news story told of a grease processing plant that opened up a 55-gallon drum of grease that came from a prison. Inside, they found a little bit of grease, but a dead prison inmate. He tried to escape by hiding in the barrel, but his quest for freedom became a means of bondage and death for him. He was deceived like we are deceived by sin, thinking that it can be a means of freedom for us. Instead, it only brings bondage and death

2. (15) God raises up a deliverer for Israel: Ehud

3. (16-26) Ehud's daring assassination of Eglon

a. Ehud was definitely a man of cunning and courage; he is the "James Bond" of the judges

b. The message from God for Eglon was not good news! The name Eglon means "a little calf"; in this case, it was a fatted calf

c. Wood describes how archaeologists may have discovered this very house of Eglon in the ancient remains of Jericho

d. Without being coarse, we can see how real and true-to-life the Bible is; in the Bible (unlike most moves and television programs) people go to the bathroom

4. (27-30) Ehud leads the Israelites in battle against the Moabites

a. As much cunning and courage as Ehud had, he could not do the work by himself; it was essential that God raise up brave and faithful men around him. Ehud led, but he had to have followers

i. God raises up leaders in the church, but they can't do the work by themselves. The whole body needs to work together

b. Ehud asked the Israelites to follow him, because he was their leader; but he also encouraged them to look with faith to the Lord (for the Lord has delivered your enemies into your hand)

c. Ehud's cunning and courage, coupled with Israel's faithful following of a leader, brings in Israel's longest period of freedom under the period of the Judges (80 years)

D. The third judge: Shamgar

1. (31) The brief story of Shamgar

a. Shamgar is one of six individuals we call "minor" judges, because not much is written about them. But the work they did for God was just as important in their day as anyone else's work

b. Perhaps so little is said about Shamgar because his story was so well known

2. Shamgar is an excellent example of service for God: he simply used what God had put in his hand - in his case, it was an ox goad

a. An ox goad was a stick that was 8 feet long, and about 6 inches around at the big end. One end of the ox goad was pointy (for poking the ox), and the other end was like a chisel (for scraping the plow clean of dirt)

i. "In the hands of a strong, skilful man, such an instrument must be more dangerous and more fatal than any sword." (Clarke)

b. There was nothing spectacular about an ox goad; but God can use, and wants to use, what ever is in our hands

i. Think of Moses and his shepherd's staff; David and his sling shot - God used those simple things for great works

ii. Shamgar was merely a laborer doing his job; but he took what was in his hand when prompted by God and did great things

Copyright Statement
David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible are reproduced by permission of David Guzik, Siegen, Germany. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Guzik, David. "Commentary on Judges 3". "David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible". <>. 1997-2003.  


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