Judges 2 (New International Version)
The Angel of the LORD at Bokim
1 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’
It is God’s general pattern to remind us of His great love and faithfulness to us before calling us to obedience or confronting our sin. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and we can only really obey Him as we walk in His love and abide in His covenant with us. The words, “I will never break My covenant with you” remind us that even though Israel never fully lived up to their part of the covenant, God promised that He would never forsake His part of the covenant.
Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”
The announcement that the Canaanites would remain as problems to the nation was promised beforehand to Israel if they would not faithfully drive out the Canaanites.
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. (Numbers 33:55)
4 When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.
We will see if this sorrow over their disobedience to God will continue and spur them to faithfulness.
Disobedience and Defeat
6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance. 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, 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 fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
This is bad news!
In all likelihood Israel did not see their idolatry as forsaking God; they probably just thought they were adding a few gods along side of the God of their fathers. Don’t they remember the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me”?
Baal was a Canaanite fertility god. He and his consort Ashtoreth were nature gods who ruled over the crops. The belief was that when Baal and Ashtoreth had intercourse, the rains would fall and grow the crops. But Baal needed encouragement, so the religion employed temple prostitutes. Worship for Canaanite men included a roll in the hay with the temple prostitutes, with (perhaps) a fleeting thought that Baal would see and get busy himself.
No wonder that the Israelites adopted this religion! This was better than sacrificing the best animal in your flock! And no wonder that “they provoked the Lord to anger” with their disloyalty and disobedience.
But before we think ourselves too much better than the Israelites, let’s think: where are we, where is our church, where is our nation disobedient and disloyal to the God who created heaven and earth and the sea and everything in them and who loves each one of us more than we can begin to imagine? And how can we live so as to honor the Lord in all we say and do?
14 In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to 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.
16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
These verses line out a pattern that we will see over and over again in the book of Judges. As the Walk Thru the Old Testament Seminar explains it, there are five stages:
1) sin. And the sin is always idolatry. (Verse 13 above: They forsook him and served Baal.)
2) servitude. The Lord lets things get bad, hoping the people will see the connection and turn back to him. (Verse 14 above: “the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them.”)
3) supplication. When all else fails, pray! (Verse 18 above: “as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.”)
4) salvation. God sends deliverance and relief in the form of a “judge,” usually a heroic military leader. (Verse 16 above: “Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.”)
5) silence. There is obedience to God and peace among the people as long as the judge lives. (Verse 18 above: “he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived.”)
20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.” 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
After setting their hearts on sinful things, Israel found that God gave what their sinful hearts desired. This illustrates the great danger of setting our hearts on sinful things; we may get to the point where God may allow us to have them — thus bringing sin, bondage, and pain into our lives.
Verse 10 captures a great disobedience and a great sadness: Another generation grew up who did not know the Lord.
HERE “Teach Your Children Well” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. The song was first released in 1970.