The first four verses of this chapter are closely connected with the last chapter. We are told that the Lord purposely left some of the Canaanite nations in the land which He had given to the Israelites, in order to try them. The Israelites were a picture of the Church on earth – they were not to be idle and slothful. Temptations and trials, such as these Canaanites truly were, expose the wickedness of the hearts of sinners; but they strengthen the graces of believers in their daily conflict with Satan, sin, and this evil world. The people of God must live in this world, but they do not belong to it; and therefore, they are forbidden to conform to it.
Now, for the first time, the Israelites fatally abandoned their separateness and purity as a nation. They contracted marriages with the idolatrous nations of Canaan. “The lust of the eye and the pride of life” speedily overcame whatever last shreds remained of their faithfulness to God. The supposed “advantages” and “enjoyments” which were presented by these intermarriages with the idolaters exerted a mightier influence than the counsels and warnings of Joshua and Moses, or the remembrance of both past mercies and past chastisements. These intermarriages naturally led the Israelites into the worship of those abominable idols that their heathen spouses worshipped. And the sure and certain consequences of voluntary association with evil followed almost immediately! The moral infection rapidly spread; and unless it had been checked by Divine surgery, the nation would have perished in paganism. Thus, through many generations, the Lord mercifully chastised His people as often as they partook of this deadly poison. This was done by one or more foreign powers gaining dominion over His people, and enslaving and oppressing them – until the people were brought to their proper spiritual senses and repented of their great wickedness.
The first of these periods of oppression began in 1400 BC – only about 25 years from the time when Joshua passed into glory. The Lord gave His disobedient people into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim (that’s the second longest name in the Bible!), who was king of Mesopotamia. This oppression lasted a full eight years (1400-1392 BC) before Israel cried out to the Lord in their distress. The first Judge that the Lord mercifully raised up (1392 BC) to deliver His people was Othniel. Even in Joshua’s time, Othniel had begun to become famous; for he was the conqueror of Debir, which resulted in him becoming Caleb’s son-in-law. We read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon this man – the Spirit of wisdom and courage to qualify him for the office, and the Spirit of power to allow him to fulfill the duties of this office. He first judged Israel – reproving and reforming them – and then went to war with great success. His leadership was continued after the restoration of national liberty; and under his authority, the Israelites enjoyed undisturbed rest for 32 years (1392-1360 BC). Upon Othniel’s death, however, their obedience seems to have terminated; and a second period of servitude speedily followed.
This new oppressor was the ruler of Moab, whose territory was separated from that of Judah only by the waters of the Dead Sea. This monarch, Eglon, not only formed an alliance with the Ammonites; but he also called to his aid the Bedouin clans of Amalek – the descendants of Esau, who had long been the bitter foes of the descendants of Jacob. Thus strengthened, Eglon crossed the Jordan, attacked and defeated the Hebrews, and established himself in the plain of Jericho. So the Israelites were placed under tribute and remained subject to the Moabite king for 18 years (1360-1342 BC). However, the discipline of suffering was again effectual; and repentance, prayer, and deliverance again followed the people’s sin and degradation. This time, a Benjamite named Ehud was the deliverer; he was a left-handed man, but he was endowed with desperate valor. He resolved upon the perilous act of assassinating the Moabite oppressor. He was entrusted by his countrymen with the customary tribute that the nation paid to Eglon. Concealing a long two-edged dagger under his clothes, Ehud boldly headed the procession of attendants who were carrying the tribute to the king. After the tribute had been presented, Ehud returned and requested a private audience of the king, who was in his private summer-retreat. Ehud announced that he had a Divine message for the ruler, who arose from his seat; but as he did so, he received a fatal wound from Ehud’s dagger and fell down dead. Eglon’s servants did not discover the lifeless body of their sovereign until Ehud had gotten safely away, gathering his fellow-Israelites in haste so that they could intercept the Moabites and prevent them from fleeing into their own country. The choicest warriors of Moab fell that day, Israel was once more free, and they enjoyed a time of rest for the next 62 years (1342-1280 BC).
At some point during the years of peace that followed Ehud’s deliverance from Moab, a man named Shamgar repelled an attack of the Philistines. Although next to nothing is recorded of his personal life of Shamgar, God raised him up to deliver His people. Since Shamgar had neither sword nor spear, he used an ox-goad – a tool employed to urge oxen onward when they were plowing. With this, he slew 600 of the enemy. The Lord often uses the weak things of this world to confound the mighty; and He often works by unlikely means, so that all the glory may go to Himself alone! (1 Cor. 1:27-29; 2 Cor. 4:6-7)
Lord, when our sins try to bring us again into bondage, help us to look up to Jesus, Who drives out our spiritual enemies and makes us more than conquerors! Amen.
Join other families all around the globe! Receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day, and enjoy a FREE copy of my e-book A Call to Family Worship! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
photo by Anis Rahman | Unsplash.com