10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress (Judges 2:10-15).
Judge 2 provides a preview for what happens in the rest of the book. During the period of the judges, the Israelites went through a repeated cycle that goes like this:
- Israel did evil in the eyes of God.
- God gave them into the hands of oppressors whom they serve for years.
- Israel cried out to God for deliverance.
- God raised up a judge and put His Spirit on that judge to deliver them.
- The oppressor was subdued, and for several years the Israelites followed God more closely and lived in peace.
- Gradually, the people fell away from the Lord.
- The cycle repeated itself.
The Israelites repeated this cycle seven times during the 300-plus year period of the judges—that is true, at least, in the early part of the Book. By the time we get to the end of Samson’s life (a judge whose story we will encounter in Judges 13-16), the Israelites have fallen so far from God that they no longer even cry out to God for help at all! Before the book introduces us to the first judge, there is a flashback in Judges 2.
Judges 1:1 mentions the death of Joshua, Moses’ successor, but Judges 2 speaks of him in the present, and then recounts his death again. During the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him, the people served the LORD. But after Joshua and his generation died, “another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel” (v.10). The people did evil and turned away from God and began worship the various false gods of the people they had failed to drive out of the land. Throughout Joshua’s lifetime, Israel gained many victories and had the ability to drive out all the Canaanites, but they stopped short. Instead, the Israelites put the unconquered peoples of Canaan to forced labor in violation of God’s command. Despite their disobedience, Israel was successful for a while. But, then, their disobedience caught up with them, and they fell into bondage.
There’s a lesson here: Dale Ralph Davis writes, “Pragmatic success and spiritual failure—a strange but possible combination. So, Israel is dominant if not obedient; she enjoys superiority even if she does not maintain fidelity. . . It is possible for the believer’s life to display the marks of success and yet be a failure in the eyes of God. . . What began as toleration became apostasy. What seemed so reasonable proved lethal. Living with Canaanites led to worshiping with Canaanites. Tolerate Baal’s people and sooner or later you bow at Baal’s altar.” It seemed small at the time, but in time it had disastrous consequences.
Dear God, like the ancient Israelites, I find it easy to stray off course to pursue my own way instead of following you. Please forgive my disobedience, and help me walk the path You have laid out for me so that I may experience the fulfilled life You desire for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.