Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

What would happen if God actually did cease his involvement with our lives, and left us to the harsh muse of chaos theory?

Well, remember those poor people at the end of Joshua? The ones who feared that their descendants might not ‘get’ the whole God thing? Bad news.

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.

- Judges 2:10 (NIV)

The LORD replied, "When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!"

But the Israelites said to the LORD, "We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now." Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel's misery no longer.

- Judges 10:11-16 (NIV)

With generations of Israelites repeatedly turning from God and then later regretting it, Judges becomes a book of both monotony and excitement.

In the monotony corner, the same thing keeps on happening again, and again, and again...

10 Good things happen.
20 The Israelites get complacent and forget God.
30 God stops helping them.
40 Things degenerate
50 Things get so bad that eventually they decide to turn back to him.
60 Goto 10

It’s all starting to look fairly BASIC...

(well I don’t know, why DO you read this blog?!)

Also, while we’re on the subject of long-winded content, is this the longest sentence in the whole of the NIV?

"Now if you have acted honorably and in good faith when you made Abimelech king, and if you have been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family, and if you have treated him as he deserves- and to think that my father fought for you, risked his life to rescue you from the hand of Midian (but today you have revolted against my father's family, murdered his seventy sons on a single stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave girl, king over the citizens of Shechem because he is your brother)- if then you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today, may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too!

- Judges 9:16-19 (NIV)

(and the next verse starts with a conjunction, too)

On the exciting side, Judges also shows us the other side of the coin, pitching ordinary people against impossible odds, which they have no chance at all of achieving without God's heavy intervention. As such, there are a couple of really good movies in here, such as the hero’s journey of Gideon, who actually keeps getting rid of more and more troops in order to ensure that they don’t later credit their victory to themselves.

Also, I want to stop and talk about Samson. He’s a superhero. He’s an everyman with a past. His life is wrapped up in his identity, shaped by decisions made by higher beings before he was born. And he wrestles a lion. And then says nothing about it afterwards. I’m amazed that more babies don’t get named Samson.

The final account of the book is a much grimmer one, of an unfaithful concubine who is forgiven by her husband, but then gang-raped and killed by strangers. This sparks a war of retribution in which nearly the entire tribe of Benjamin is killed. Making some deranged form of peace afterwards, 400 Israelite girls have their entire families murdered before they themselves are permanently given to the enemy as wives. When there turn out to be more male Benjamites than girls, they are then authorised to storm an innocent town during a dance to forcibly abduct more girls to make up the numbers.

God’s appearances are rather fleeting by this stage. Towards the end, the Israelites’ morality grows worse and worse, and with it, events take place in an increasingly random and chaotic manner.

And as God’s involvement seems to seriously diminish, the following verse is quietly repeated...

In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.


4 comment(s):

At 6:52 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

I'm in the middle of Judges now. So you beat me by a long way!

At 7:31 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Thank you. Is this an appropriate moment to mention that by 27th April I'd re-read it?

I came nowhere on the rugby - I knew better than to even try!

At 8:10 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

Nobody's perfect.

I just read the very strange bit where the Israelite guy (Jeru-something?) promises God he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his front door if God helps him win a battle. That thing turns out to be his only daughter. She seems to accept her fate quite well, only asking for a few months to walk the desert lamenting the fact that she will die unmarried and a virgin.

Not even the Message could convey that in a way that made any sense to me. Surely promising to sacrifice the first thing/person to walk out your front door is really stupid?

Judges doesn't really comment on whether God approved of such action, either.

At 8:49 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Yeah, that plot-development is really telegraphed-in well in advance.

He says if God gives him victory and gets his home safely then he'll offer whatever comes out of his house as a burnt offering, so I guess that implies that Jephthah Doolittle kept sheep, goats, doves and/or pigeons in his house/tent.

I don't think they understood God to be a loving, forgiving God, and were probably driven by fear into doing something so tragic. They may have thought that, if Jephthah broke his promise, then God would break his half of the bargain and reverse their recent victory in battle, and many more Israelites would be killed. He did ask to get home safely too, suggesting that he was quite fearful, even in victory.

As with so much of the Old Testament, I think they were more wrapped-up in doggedly following rules instead of considering right and wrong.

Mind you, the CEV actually has him promising to sacrifice "whoever" comes out of his house... so maybe he didn't like his wife...


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