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The Crisis in the Second Generation Church

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The book of Judges covers the experience of the people of Israel from the time of Joshua and entrance into Canaan until the time of Samuel and the establishment of the dynasty of David.

§         The divine messenger’s interpretation [2:1-5]

§         The narrator’s interpretation [2:6-20a].

We have looked at the ‘2nd Generation Syndrome’ in the light of [2:10] and Israel’s behaviour after the death of Joshua.  Israel was called to loyalty to Yahweh: “ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land…” [2:2a].

§         At best, it was a case of divided loyalty: “they knew not the Lord…” [2:10].

§         At its worst, it was a case of apostasy: “they forsook the Lord God of their fathers…” [2:12].

§         The centrality of God’s word [Jos.1:8] had been lost: “the word of the Lord was rare in these days; there was no open vision…” [2Sam3:2].

§         Whatever religious observance they had was more out of tradition that conviction.

We now come to look at the second pattern that we have at the beginning of this book which helps us understand its message: ‘The Lifestyle Pattern’ or ‘The Lifestyle Cycle’.


1.        2nd Generation Syndrome – The Sin

2nd generation Israel: “served Baalim…” [2:11] whilst the 1st generation: “served the Lord…” [2:7].

a.        Tolerance

Israel tolerated the presence of the Canaanites: “they did not drive out…” [1:21].

§         This was in direct rebellion against Yahweh: “for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and you shall drive them out before thee” [Exo.23:31]; “so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has said unto thee” [Deu.9:3].

§         As a result Christians and non-Christians become almost indistinguishable.

b.        Apostasy 

Spiritual complacency leads to apostasy:  “they did evil in the sight of the Lord…” [2:11].  

§         Double action: “they forsook the Lord God of their fathers…” [2:12]; and “served Baal and Ashtaroth” [2:13].

2.        The Servitude

a.        God’s Wrath

Israel’s behaviour stirred God up against them: “provoked the Lord to anger…” [2:12].

§         Ws[ik.Y - “provoked” [2:12], hiphil – cause to be; seems to be tied more closely with the sense of jealousy: “they provoked him to anger…and moved him to jealousy” [Psa.78:58].

§         rx;YIw - “hot” [2:12], ‘to burn’; ‘to be kindled’; ‘to scorch or roast’;

i.              Israel’s Shame

In his wrath God: “delivered them into the hands of the spoilers…sold them into the hands of their enemies” [2:14].

§         ~nET.YIw - “delivered” [2:14], ‘to give’; ‘to give as a gift’;

§         ~reK.m.Y - “sold” [2:14], ‘sell as merchandise’; ‘to change ownership’; “you have sold yourselves for nothing…” [Isa.52:3].

b.        Promise

The wrath of God is experienced in relation to His promise: “The Lord God shall drive them out from before you, and drive them out from your sight, and you shall possess their land” [Jos.23:5]. Because of her “forsaking” [2:12] of Yahweh, Israel has lost her claim to the promise.

i.              Enemies

This means that, with respect to the enemy, they experienced what God threatened: “I will not drive them out from before you…” [2:3]; “know for a certainty that the Lord God will no more drive out any of the nations from before you…” [Jos.23:13].

§         vreg"a - “drive out” [2:3], piel, ‘to dislodge’; ‘to banish’; “God drove out the man…” [Gen.3:24].

c.        Israel & Enemy

i.              Snare & Trap

As far as Israel was concerned, this now meant: “but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you” [2:3].

§         vqeAm - “snare” [2:3], ‘to set a trap’; ‘to lay a trip wire’; the picture is the logical sequence of a large animal running into a trap, falling, injuring itself, being caught in a net, and so captured [Isa.8:15; 28:13].

§         xp; - “traps” [Jos.23:13], ‘a bird trap’; ‘for a snare to be effective it needs to be attached to a sapling or light branch and set across a game track, in such a way that when an animal puts its foot or neck into the trap, the sapling springs back and the noose is pulled tight [Amo.3:5].

ii.            Thorn & Whips

The enemy was: “thorns in your sides…” [2:3].

§         ~ynInIc. - “thorns” [Jos.23:13], ‘thorn, barb, or hook’; may be identified with the bramble – a wild prickly shrub; “thorns in your side…” [Num.33:55].

§         jjevo - “scourges” [Jos.23:13], ‘a whip’; distinct from the ‘wooden rod or staff; conveys more the idea of a ‘flexible whip’; used to prod to servile labour: “my father has chastised you with whips…” [1Kgs.12:11], and to goad horses: “a whip for the horse…” [Pro.26:3].

d.        The Experience

Israel’s experience as a result: “they were greatly distressed…” [2:15].

§         rc,YEw - “distressed” [2:15], ‘to be narrow’; ‘to bind’; ‘to wrap’; conveys the opposite of those words that denote spaciousness; applied to any kind of restricting or claustrophobic experience;

§         h['r - “evil” [2:15], ‘human experience of calamity’;

i.              The Nations

The action of the nations summarised: “them that oppressed them and vexed them” [2:18].

§         ~h,ycex]l - “oppressed” [2:18], literally ‘to squeeze’; ‘to pressure’; “I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you” [6:9].

§         ~h,yqex]do - “vexed” [2:18], ‘to thrust or crowd’; ‘to jostle for space’; “neither shall one thrust another” [Joel 2:8].


The similarities between this experience and that of the bondage of Israel in Egypt is remarkable.

§         Apply to those who may be seeking but are refusing to ‘change their position’

§         Apply to those who are Christian and who may be too close to the world.


1.        Supplication

Israel’s response to their new-found situation: “because of their groanings by reason of…” [2:18].

§         ~t'q'a]N:m - “groanings” [2:18], ‘the paralinguistic utterances of a wounded man’; “I will break Pharaoh’s arms, and he shall groan before him…” [Eze.30:24]; a link with Israel’s experience in Egypt: “God heard their groanings, and God remembered his covenant…” [Exo.2:24].

§         There is no hint of regret or “repentance” in the account of Israel’s “groaning” [2:18].

a.        God-ward

From the words we can understand that Israel’s “groaning” was towards the Lord: “God heard their groanings…” [Exo.2:24]; “I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel…” [Exo.6:5].

2.        Salvation

Yahweh comes to save Israel: “delivered them out of the hand of their enemies…” [2:18].

§         ~['yviAhw  - “delivered” [2:18], hiphil perfect, ‘to take vengeance’; ‘to preserve’; ‘to be saved’; ‘to give victory to’;

a.        Motivation

The motivation which represents the key to the entire book: “for it repented the Lord…” [2:18].

§         ~xeN"y - “repented” [2:18], niphal imperfect, Arabic ‘to breathe deeply’; ‘to perform mourning rites’; ‘to take comfort’; ‘to regret past actions’; ‘to grieve or feel sorry for’;

§         The present text is sufficiently ambiguous to leave open the possibility that ~xeN"y should be rendered ‘he changed his mind’.

§         Yahweh is sensitive to human calamity: “hand of the Lord was on them for calamity” [2:15].

§         This element is as ‘fundamental to the divine nature as his “grace”, “compassion”, “slowness to anger”, and “abundant covenant love”.

i.              Cause

The immediate cause of Yahweh’s repentance: “because of the groaning…” [2:18].

§         ~t'q'a]N:m - “because” [2:18], particle min, indicates the cause from whence an effect derives;

b.        Method

God’s method of deliverance: “the Lord raised them up judges…” [2:18].

§         ~yqih - “raised” [2:18], hiphil perfect, ‘cause to rise, arise, stand’;

§         ~yjip.v - “judges” [2:18], ‘to judge or govern’; describes a variety of actions that ‘restore or preserve order in society’;

i.              Defeat of Enemies

In the context of Judges the focus is very much on the enemy and the defeating of the enemy: with regard to Othniel, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went to war…” [3:10].

ii.            Spiritual Reform

There also seems to be the concept of a plea for spiritual reform: “they would not hearken unto their judges…” [2:17].

§         A plea to return to the ways of the fathers: “people served the Lord all the days of Joshua” [2:7].

§         Samuel: “Samuel spoke unto the house of Israel, saying, If you will return unto the Lord with all your hearts…And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh” [1Sam.7:3-6].


In the mercy and goodness of God, he does not let his people go.


Yahweh’s deliverance from the yoke of the oppressor should have produced in the Israelites an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

1.        Temporary

Their experience of Yahweh’s presence was temporary: “when the judge was dead…” [2:19]. . 

a.        Apostasy

i.              Rejection

They “would not hearken to the judges…” [2:17];

§         W[mev' - “hearken” [2:17], ‘to hear, listen, obey’;

§         Wnz - “played the harlot with” [2:19], ‘to commit fornication’;

ii.            Servitude

Instead: “they returned and corrupted themselves…” [2:19].

§         Wbvuy - “returned” [2:19], ‘to turn or return’; return to their old ways:

§         Wtyxiv.h - “corrupted” [2:19], hiphil, derives from the verb ‘to go to ruin’; ‘to destroy, corrupt, disfigure’;

b.        Determination

They were determined in their rejection: “they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way…” [2:19].

§         WlyPih - “ceased” [2:19], hiphil perfect, ‘to fall, to be cast down’; hiphil ‘to drop’;

§         ~h,ylel.[;M;m - “doings” [2:19], ‘to act without restraint’; ‘to deal severely with’ ‘to abuse’; ‘to make a fool of’;

§         hv'Q'h - “stubborn way” [2:19], ‘to be hard’; ‘stubborn’; to be “a people stiff of neck” [Exo.32:9].

i.              Lifestyle

They returned to the same lifestyle as before: “following other gods to serve them…” [2:19].

§         yrex]a; tk,l - “pursuing” [2:19], ‘to walk or travel in pursuit of’;

§         ~d'b.['l - “serving” [2:19], ‘to work or be a slave’; especially in worship;

§         twOx]T;v.hil - “bow down” [2:19], a physical gesture of prostration before a superior; the gesture has been interpreted as a non-verbal equivalent to the declaration ‘May he live’. Directed towards Yahweh the gesture is related semantically to the oath formula “as the Lord lives” [8:19].


There is “survival” but no progression; they did not “serve the Lord” [2:7] as there fathers did on the days of Joshua.

§         Whatever change took place was temporary, suggesting that it was not God-centred but ‘human centred’: “when the judge died…” [2:19].

§         Instead of effecting fundamental repairs on this deteriorating dyke, they plugged the wholes with their fingers. As soon as the finger was removed, the water gushed through with increasing force.

2.        Downward Spiral

In order to express the downward spiralling of Israelite faith and conduct, the narrator adds a significant clause: “more than their fathers…” [2:19].  

§         ~t'Aba]m - “more then their fathers” [2:19], literally ‘from their fathers’;

a.        Cycle Completed

The reader is then brought full cycle: “the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel…” [2:20].


Israel is depicted as increasingly Canaanised, spiralling downward into worse and worse apostasy; not only do patterns of evil repeat themselves; the treacherous behaviour of Israel intensifies.

§         Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Pogo. In one strip Pogo and the others marched off to battle in the swamp, and Pogo returned with the scornful report, “We have met the enemy – and he is us”.

§         The greatest battle we fight is with ourselves!

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