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 ancestors. 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.” Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, “I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.”’
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.
Disobedience and defeat
6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their 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 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 worshipped 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.
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 worshipped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient 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 relented because of their groaning 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 ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, ‘Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors 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 ancestors 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.
Historical context: Judges 2 identifies a cycle that is a pivotal to understanding this book of the Bible. One commentator describes this cycle as follows: ‘Israel’s cycles of apostasy (verse 16–19) always begin with a relapse into sin, followed by ruin and servitude to a foreign power. After crying out to God in repentance, the nation (is) restored through a judge and enjoys a period of rest. This cycle, repeated throughout the book of Judges, forms the pattern for Israel’s bondage and deliverance.’
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the Book of Judges that shows us so effectively that we need a Saviour to deliver us from our sins. Like Old Testament Israel, whom You redeemed out of slavery in Egypt, thank You for redeeming us from our sins. Thank You that You will never break Your gracious covenant with us (verse 1). You are always completely trustworthy. This was true for Israel, and this remains true for us.
Lord, help us, we pray, unlike Old Testament Israel, to be faithful witnesses to our family and friends and those we meet so that a true knowledge of You will not die out with our generation.
Lord, help us, we pray, to guard our hearts and minds lest we, like Old Testament Israel, be drawn back into the world and its ways. The hymn-writer tells us that our hearts are prone to wander, while another writer warns that our hearts are ‘idol-factories’. So, Lord, please help us to worship You alone, and not to pursue or ‘prostitute’ ourselves with the man-made gods of this world who will always fail us.
Lord, in this chapter, we see the distress and devastation that sinful rebellion and disobedience can bring. Help us not to turn aside from You, Lord, like Old Testament Israel. Thank You, Lord, that You did not leave Israel in their distress. Judgment was not the last word for them. You raised up deliverer after deliverer, to rescue them.
O Lord, like Old Testament Israel, we too need a Deliverer, but unlike the Old Testament judges, a deliverer who will never fail us, who will secure a permanent victory over our enemies. Thank You that we have such a Deliverer in the Lord Jesus Christ! Help us, we pray, to live faithful lives of obedience that honour Him in the midst of all the difficulties and challenges we face day-by-day. It is in His Name that we pray. Amen.