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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Judges 3

 

 

Verses 1-4

2. The Angel at Bochim and the History of the Entire Book

CHAPTERS 2:1-3:4

1. The angel at Bochim ( 2:1-5)

2. Israel’s obedience remembered ( 2:6-10)

3. Israel’s strange gods ( 2:11-15)

4. Israel’s history under the judges outlined ( 2:16-18)

5. The nations left to prove Israel ( 2:19-23; 3:1-4)

The opening event of this chapter is significant. The Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. This Angel is Jehovah Himself. His own words reveal this fact. In Joshua’s time after the land had been possessed the Angel of the Lord, Jehovah in visible form, was with them and as leader of the Lord’s host led them on in the conquest (Joshua 5:13-15). Israel had left Gilgal, the place where the reproach had been rolled away, the place of the “sharp knives,” typical of self-judgment. It was for Israel the place of strength and power for victory, as it gave the flesh nothing to glory in. They had left Gilgal. How often we, who are crucified with Christ, leave our Gilgal and instead of glorying in the Lord and having no confidence in the flesh, we too act in self-confidence. The place to which the Angel went was “Bochim.” It means “weepers.” It was the best place for Israel to be after all their failures to do what the Lord had commanded them. It is the place today for us in the midst of the worldliness in which so many of the Lord’s people have drifted, as well as the divisions which exist among those, who are members of the one body, and other evils besides. But Bochim, the place for weeping, must be the place of self-judgment and confession. It was not so for Israel. They wept when the plain words of Jehovah told them their disobedience and when they heard what should follow. “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” But we do not read anything of a true repentance and return unto Jehovah.

From chapter 2:6-3:4 we have the history of the whole period of Judges outlined. There is first mention made of their obedience and service, how they began in the Spirit. The second generation, as it is always the case, leads to failure. For the first time we read the words which, as already stated, appear in six other places in this book. “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.” They forsook Him, the loving, gracious Jehovah, whose kindness and tender mercies are so fully revealed in their past history and instead of serving such a God, they served Baal and Ashtaroth. Connected with this Canaanite “religion” were the vilest immoralities by which they were dragged down to the level of these doomed nations. All moral corruption, social and political confusion is the result of turning away from God. Romans 1:19-32 reveals the awful steps down. Christendom in apostasy, turning away from God and from the light, leads to moral corruption as well. Turning away from the truth means being turned into fables.

The Lord then acted in behalf of His backslidden people and raised up judges (verses 16-18). The result was recovery, and once more the people under these revivals rejoiced in victory over their enemies and the promised covenant blessings. Self-judgment, which is true repentance, had to precede each revival. They cried unto the Lord; they sought His face, and then deliverance came. Even so it is in the individual experience of the children of God.

Yet in spite of these revivals in Israel the tendency is downward. “When the judge died they returned and corrupted themselves beyond their fathers ... they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.” So it has been in the professing Church. Revivals have come and gone, but it has not remedied the wayward conditions, and the departure from God and His Word becomes more and more pronounced till the final great apostasy is reached. The only complete deliverance can be the coming of the Lord which we do not find fully revealed in the types of the book of Judges.


Verses 5-11

II. THE DECLENSIONS, PUNISHMENTS AND DELIVERANCES

1. The Sin of Idolatry and Othniel

CHAPTER 3:5-11

1. The first declension ( 3:5-7)

2. Sold to the king of Mesopotamia ( 3:8)

3. The deliverance through Othniel ( 3:9-11)

The first declension, bondage and deliverance is briefly related. We see how Israel went from bad to worse. First, the wicked nations they were to exterminate dwelt amongst them. Then the children of Israel established some relationship with them and dwelt amongst these nations. First, the children of Israel permitted them to exist in their midst; then the doomed nations gained the power over Israel and the people of God became dependent on them. The third step down is intermarriage. They did exactly what Jehovah had forbidden (Deuteronomy 7:2). Then they began to serve their idol-gods. It began by “forgetting the LORD.” The application to the individual believer and to the professing church can easily be made. If He is forgotten, who has redeemed us and made us His own, an alliance with the world is soon formed and rapid decline follows. The same story is written in the message to Ephesus, which stands prophetically for the Apostolic age. “I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4). Leaving the first love means to have no longer the Lord Jesus Christ as the all-absorbing object before the heart. Thus the decline began in the Church, and it always begins in this way in the individual believer.

Chushan-Rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, becomes their lord and they served him eight years. This king is the first punitive instrument in Jehovah’s hands. His name very significantly reveals the very condition into which Israel had plunged. Chushan-Rishathaim means “the blackness of double wickedness.” They had become doubly wicked, leaving Jehovah and serving strange gods.

When they cried unto the Lord out of the depths of their misery and sin, casting themselves once more upon Jehovah and turning their backs upon the strange gods, the Lord answered and sent a saviour who saved them. (The authorized version has “deliverer.” The correct translation is “saviour.”) It is the same Othniel of whom we read in chapter 1:13 and Joshua 15:17. Othniel means “lion of God,” and as he was of Judah, he is the type of Him, who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Upon him rested the Spirit of the Lord. The king of Mesopotamia was given into his hands, and a rest of fifty years followed for Israel. Thus we too must return to the Lord and expect our deliverance from Him. What grace towards His people is manifested in this first deliverance!


Verses 12-31

2. Second Declension Under Moab--Ehud and Shamgar

CHAPTER 3:12-31

1. The second declension: serving Eglon, king of Moab ( 3:12-14)

2. Ehud raised up ( 3:15)

3. Eglon, king of Moab, slain by Ehud ( 3:16-25)

4. The deliverance by Shamgar ( 3:31)

When they continued to do evil Jehovah used Eglon, king of Moab to punish their disobedience and evil-doings. With him there is Ammon and Amalek, a trinity of evil. The city of Palms is Jericho (Deuteronomy 34:3) a type of the world, as we saw from Joshua. Moab pictures typically an outward, empty, Christian profession. Amalek is the type of the lusts of the flesh which flourish with those, who have the form of godliness but deny the power thereof. How many today have become captives of Moab! The greater part of Protestantism, with a name to live, yet dead, is in that deplorable condition.

They served Eglon eighteen years. For the second time they cried unto the Lord and again He answered graciously by raising up Ehud, the son of Gera, the left-handed Benjamite. The story of the deliverance wrought by him is interesting. Without repeating the history of the chapter we give briefly its typical meaning. Ehud’s father was Gera, which means “meditation.” This is needed first of all to get deliverance from a mere profession or world prosperity with its attending evils to bring the soul to a blessed realization of its possessions and blessings in Christ. Ehud means “I will give praise.” Here is the deliverance for God’s people out of a dead formalism. Meditation on the Word leads to a believing possession of the realities of redemption in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is followed by praise, the confession of His Name. Then Moab’s bondage is ended.

Ehud was left-handed, showing the weakness of the instrument. The two-edged dagger is the type of the Word of God, while the hand which grasps it illustrates how faith is to use the sword of the Spirit. Then Ehud, the Son of Gera, the left-handed, thrust the two-edged dagger into the fat belly of Eglon. Fat is the emblem of prosperity, the prosperity of the world by which so many of God’s people become captivated. The sword of the Spirit must be plunged into that which is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

“Face to face in this solemn place, in solemn silence and alone they stand; the fat, prosperous world; and poor, left-handed faith. The scene is quickly over. Into the very belly of Eglon sinks the sharp sword of Ehud; the very belly, the center of all that is of the world and not of the Father; of ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life’; that which flesh serves (Phil. 3) and which is never satisfied, is pierced through and through. With what result? Its true nature is fully exposed. Let us not be so falsely delicate as not to profit by this strong-worded truth. The prosperity of the world, fat and flourishing as it appears externally, is seen under the stroke of God’s word--in the light of Jesus, whom it crucified, being the Son of the living God--as nothing but ‘dirt.’ Yea, so says another Benjamite, who well knew how to wield that sword: ‘I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ and be found in Him.’ How much does this leave of fat Eglon alive?” (F.C. Jennings, Notes on judges.)

Then the trumpet of victory was blown. Even so is our faith the victory which overcometh the world.

Shamgar’s work seems to have been closely connected with that of Ehud. He smote the Philistines with an ox-goad. The ox-goad is like the sword, an emblem of the Word of God. Then the land had rest for eighty years.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Judges 3:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/judges-3.html. 1913-1922.

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