Sunday, July 3, 2016

Mystery Jerusalem Rising Ch 7 - From Chaos to Corruption to Chains in the Promised Land

The Law of Moses provided a much needed legal structure for the people of God. It had one major weakness: no adequate mechanism to internalize the law in the hearts of the people. The result of this was that the people periodically forgot the hard lessons the Israelites learned under Moses. Those who saw what the Lord did for Israel remembered the hard lesson. Israel was faithful during the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who served alongside of him. After they died, Israel departed from following the Lord and served false gods.

“So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel.  Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he was one hundred and ten years old.  And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at TimnathHeres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash.  When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lordnor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals;” 
- Judges 2:7-11

Because God knew they would be so quick to depart, he left some of the nations there. The narrative in  Judges 1:1-22, which begins after the death of Joshua, documents the nearly complete victory of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in conquering its portions of the land. These two tribes had Joshua and Caleb as tribal leaders. Due to the faith of these men who persisted in faith for over forty years, these tribes walked more consistently by faith when it came time to enter into battle. This resulted in almost complete victory for these tribes.

The other tribes, however, fell short of total victory. They failed to conquer some of the territory that was promised to them. The tribe of Dan failed completely. Judges 1:23-36 documents the failures of various tribes to take the land. The result of this failure is that foreign nations continued to occupy parts of the Promised Land.

Judges 2:1-5 tells that God’s messenger appeared to tell them that, because  they were not fully faithful, that God would no longer drive out all of the nations from the land. This would remain the case until the reign of King David. Judges 2:6-11 is a flashback to the great assembly of Joshua in Shechem(Joshua 24). The Israelites followed the Lord during the days of Joshua and the elders that served with him, but revolted against the Lord afterward. The ever so quick tendency of Israelites to rebel explains why God left these nation in the land.

The continued existence of these nations in the Promised Land had a two-fold purpose. Israel would first be tested to see if she would follow God. She would also be taught war. She would also learn of the cycle of timeout-conflict-victory that brings Fatherly discipline to the children of the Heavenly Father.

“Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof; Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath. And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.”    -  Judges 3:1-4
Israel would undergo seven cycles of bondage followed by crying out to God, followed by God appointing Judges to deliver them (Judges 2:13-19). They spent about a third of their time under the judges under occupation by foreign powers (114 years). Judges Chapters 3-16 documents these cycles. I have placed a summary of these cycles below:
PassageInvader/Judgetime in bondageJudgeRest
Judges 3:7-11Mesopotamia8Othniel40
Judges 3:12-30Ammon and Moab18Ehud80
Judges 4-5Jabin of Canaan20Deborah40
Judges 6-8Midian7Gideon40
Judges 9-10:5Abimilek3Tola23
Judges 10:6-12:13Philistines and Ammon18Jephtah6
Judges 13-16Philistines and Ammon40Samson*20
Total: 390114
*Samson only partially delivered Israel. Samuel finished the job

Judges 17-21 as a dark, sad epilogue
Judges 17-21 refer to two events that are off of the maim timeline. Judges 17-18 document apostasy of the tribe of Dan and Judges 19-21 documents a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel.

Chapter 17 begins with someone named Micah creating a graven image, prohibited by the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. Micah hires a Levite to be priest to his homemade god. The narrative continues in chapter 18 where the tribe of Dan takes away from Micah both his priest and his home-made god (18:18-20). According to verses 30-31, The Danites set up these idols and perpetrated this idolatry the entire time the Mosaic Temple was in Shiloh.

Judges 18:1 indicates that this during a time when the tribe of Dan did not yet get is inheritance. This would place this rebellion at about the time of the first backsliding of Israel (Judges 2:11).

Judges 19-21 records both perversion and civil war. This narrative begins when the secondary wife or concubine of a Levite flees him to her father’s house. The Levite pursues her. After an extended layover at her father house, they travel back home. They make a stop in Gibeah and spend the night in the house of an old man. Thugs from the town surround the house and desire to know the Levite homosexually. The Levite throws his wife to these wolves to be raped and abused all night long. The rape was so savage that she died the following morning.

When the Levite sees his wife dead on the porch the next morning, he chops her into twelve pieces and sends a piece to each tribe of Israel. The Israelites demand that Benjamin hand over the thugs. Benjamin responds by attacking the Israelites, starting a civil war.

Conclusion of Judges
Four times in Judges 17-21, the phrase “there was no king in Israel” appears (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). The first and last occurrences of this phrase in the epilogue also add everyone did “what was right in their own eyes.” In both of these final stories in the book of Judges, there were no heroes; everybody was a bad guy. The conclusion of the book of Judges is that the system of elders and judges was a complete failure. The people of God showed that, at this time in history, they were simply not mature enough for self-governance. The last judge in the timeline of the book of Judges, Samson, was not the only judge at the end of this period. Another judge, Samuel, was his contemporary. After Samson’s death Samuel would be confronted with the epic failure of this system on both a personal and professional level.

Israel asks for a King.
The last major occupation in the main timeline of the book of judges was that of the Philistines. This occupation lasted forty years. Judges 13-16 documents this occupation and indicates that God appointed Samson to be judge; he judged Israel twenty years. The text, however, give no indication that Samson succeeded in ending the occupation.

Samuel begins his ministry during this occupation. Samuel was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. God used Samuel to inaugurate a new chapter in the history of God’s people. Samuel’s ministry affected both the ecclesiastical and civil governance of God’s people.

Samuel’s first word of knowledge was confirm a previous prophetic word that Eli’s  priestly line was going to go extinct because his sons were taking unauthorized portions of offerings and committing sexual immorality with women coming into the temple(2:27-3:18). While Eli rebuked them, he did not use his high priestly authority to remove these evil shepherds from the priesthood.

Traditional Jewish understanding asserts that removal of Eli's father's house was applicable only to Ithamar and his descendants1, but the text is actually an indictment of the whole Aaronic priesthood. It was Eli’s “father” in Egypt (1 Samuel 2:27-28) that was ordained to be priest for Israel that is the complete subject of this judgment according to vss 27-28. This would be the whole household of Aaron that was chosen out of Israel to be priests. God is promising to remove Aaron from the priesthood.  In this word of judgment, there is a promise that God will ”raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever”(1 Samuel 2:35). This was fulfilled in Christ.

Samuel finished what Samson started. Sometimes after Samson crashed the temple of Dagan and killed off most of the Philistine government, Samuel led the people first in repentance; he then led them into battle, driving them out and ending the forty year occupation.

Sometime after this victory, when Samuel “was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel” (1 Sam 8:1). Samuel would experience the epic failure of the system of judges firsthand. His sons were not righteous judges, but “turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice”(1 Sam 8:3 NKJV).

In response to this, the elders of Israel approached Samuel and asked him to give them a king, pointing out the epic failure of his sons as their argument. He was distressed and went before the Lord.

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shewthem the manner of the king that shall reign over them.”
- 1 Samuel 8:4-9
God instructs Samuel to give them what they wish. The Lord says that their request is the latest in a long pattern of rebellion that has been going on “since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day.” God then instructs Samuel using the words “Now therefore.” These words signify “because.” It is because of this pattern of rebellion that Samuel was to give them a king. God had concluded what the book of Judges had alluded: the system of judges was an epic failure.

Everybody but Samuel agreed that the system of judges was a failure. Although the text does not specify this, there is no doubt that the elders of Israel were thinking about the pattern of epic failure in the 390 year history of Israel under the judges.The elders thought that the format of the system of judges was flawed. What they did not understand was that the system of judges was designed to fail when the people ceased to be faithful to God. Deuteronomy 28 and other places in the Mosaic Law promised that a curse would fall on them if they forsook the covenant.

When the elders asked for a king, they failed to realize that the root problem with the system of judges would simply be replicated in a system of kings. The root problem was that human nature was corrupted by sin (Gen 3, Rom 5). What this corruption of human nature did was translate “doing whatever was right in his own eyes” to following his selfish desires. Setting up a king did not do away with selfish ethical reasoning, but only gave a monopoly to a single person. Doing what was right in the king’s eyes quickly degraded into kings fulfilling their selfish desires at the expense of the people (1 Sam 8:11-18).

In chapter 9, I will show how government by kings ended up as a colossal failure. In the midst of this failure, God moves to create a dynasty that will result in the emergence of perfectly just and incorruptible King. It is to this work that we now turn our attention in ch 8.

1 "Eli The High Priest 2772 - 10 Iyar 2870/2871", Nissan Mindel, Chabad

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