The Book of Judges
Author and Date:
Judges continues the history of Israel compiled by the sacred writers of the Deuteronomic tradition. Its present form was edited from several written and oral traditions in the sixth century B.C.
During the Babylonian Exile and its aftermath, the sacred writers and prophets were emphatic in teaching the people that the hardships that they had emphasizes God’s frequent intervention to save Israel from its oppressors and from its own transgressions, a message intended for the people living in a foreign land during the Babylonian exile.
The theological lessons of the Deuteronomic history were intended for the people of the exilic and post-exilic period as part of a concerted effort to restore and rebuild the People of God through a renewed commitment to the covenant.
Judges stand as a call to faithfulness to the covenant. In Judges we see a cycle of fidelity, sin, punishment, and then forgiveness and restoration by God. The judges stood as God’s representatives to remind his people of their obligations under the covenant, even though the judges themselves were not always faithful. God is All-just but he is also All-merciful as he deals with his people patiently and draws them back to himself continuously.
The Book of Ruth
Author and Date:
Ruth is not part of the Deuteronomic history but appears among them in many versions of The Bible because it is set “in the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). Its anonymous author composed the book of Judah during the sixth to fourth centuries BC while Judah was part of the Persian Empire.
The people of Israel in the post-exilic period.
Much of Israel’s history in the Old Testament was marked with concerns about maintaining the true faith and worship despite the constant presence and influence of pagan cultures. Intermarriage between Jews and nonbelievers was usually discouraged out of fear that the Gentile would dilute the faith of the Jewish spouse. In fact, syncretistic practices-incorporating paganism with Judaism-occured often throughout their history. The concern for maintaining ritual purity sometimes led to a rejection of many mingling whatsoever between Jews and Gentiles.
Although the intermarriage of Jews and Gentiles was at times problematic, the story of Ruth demonstrates that it was not necessarily a threat to Jewish identity and, in fact, could serve as a vehicle through which God can carry out his sacred plans. Ruth, a Moabite woman who married a Jewish husband and was later widowed, showed great virtue in her friendship and loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi, by returning with her from Moab to Bethlehm and supporting her. Thus, Ruth not only joined the Jewish people but she also eventually became the GREAT-GRANDMOTHER OF David, the great King of Israel (cf. 4:13-22), which is why she is remembered in the genealogy of JESUS CHRIST in the New Testament (cf. Mt 1:5).
The story of Ruth provides an early sign of the expansion of the People of God to include ALL NATIONS, Jew and Gentile, so every person may be called to faith and salvation in Christ. Anyone who draws near to the Church can become a member through BAPTISM and can find redemption, in keeping with Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
Another theme in Ruth is that of the subtle workings of divine Providence. While God is not credited directly for the unfolding of events, the narrative shows that the seeming coincidences are really God’s action as he works his will in hidden, unseen ways.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Judges 1-21 This book tells the story of the early years of Israel’s settlement in the Promised Land. It portrays the conquest of the land as involving more warfare than what is recorded in the Book of Joshua. However, like the Book of Joshua, Judges reports that through a truce Israel enjoyed a peaceful coexistence with some of the neighboring pagan tribes. One theme of Judges is that God blessed abundantly when the people kept the Commandments revealed to Moses; otherwise, suffering and strife befell the Chosen People. (CCC 62-64)
Ch 2:1-23 The Israelites’ sins prevented them from driving out the Canaanites completely. After Joshua’s death many Israelites slipped into the idolatry of the Canaanites around them, whose presence would test continually Israel’s resolve to be faithful to God. In the meantime, God would call JUDGES to lead the people and to deliver them from their enemies. As Judges shows, the death of each judge would be followed by ANOTHER REGRESSION into pagan practices. (CCC 2112-2114)
Ch 2:11-19 Without the grace of God, it is impossible for anyone to keep the Law since the will, on its own, is not sufficiently strong to uphold the moral law habitually. (CCC 1889, 1993-1995)
Ch 3:1-31 On account of Israel’s transgressions, divine punishment was heaped upon them in the form of subjugation by a foreign nation. When the Israelites returned to the practice of the Mosaic Law and the worship of the ONE TRUE GOD, they defeated their enemies in war. (CCC 218-220)
Ruth 1:1-22 Ruth, a young Moabite widow (POP QUIZ!! Where did the Moabites come from? Submit your answer in the comment section of the Facebook Post 😉), agreed to move with her Israelites mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem, where Naomi was raised. Ruth further pledged to take on the faith of Israel and worship the ONE TRUE GOD. For this reason, Ruth is a type (TYPOLOGY!!) of the GENTILES who would one day receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ and enter the Church that he established. The book also witnesses to the love and fidelity of a husband and wife in marriage. (CCC 489, 1611)
Ch 1:11-13 Under the Levirate law, a childless widow would marry the brother (or, if there was no brother, the nearest available male relative) of her deceased husband in order to produce an heir. Naomi urged her two widowed daughters-in-law to go back to their own people, warning them that she was too old to marry and have a son; thus, they would never have a husband and children of their own. One daughter-in-law left for her own people, but Ruth remained.
Psalm 133 This very short psalm extols the unity in faith symbolized by the oil of anointing that consecrates the priests, who are mediators between God and the people. The “anointed ones” bring about unity among the people through their unity with God. This psalm is complemented by Christ’s words, “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). (CCC 1294, 1564)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Israel’s Cycle of Sin (Sin--->Servitude--->Supplication--->Salvation--->Silence--->
back to Sin; this happens 7 times)
As Judges opens, the angel of the Lord has led Israel away from Gilgal (the place where they have lingered far too long, failing to settle the land).
Here God rebukes them for their idolatry.
The people weep and sacrifice to God, acknowledging their sin, and as a result, their new camp is called Bochim (“weeping”).
Why the lingering and sin?
Following Joshua’s generation, “there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel” (Jgs 2:10).
Just as Pharaoh did not know Joseph or the Lord, this new generation did not know the Lord and his works.
Joshua’s generation, even though they often fell short, fought the war and established a new life in the land, striving to be faithful to the Lord.
But they failed at one vital thing: CATECHIZING THEIR CHILDREN.
And the results were devastating.
Without faith, the next generation had no identity as the people of God, and so they adopted the identity of the pagan world around them: they “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Jgs 2:11).
Instead of “serving” the Lord, Israel serves false idols.
The Lord, in return, “sold them into the power of their enemies round about” (Jgs 2:14).
Exodus describes God as “redeeming” (buying back) Israel and setting her free.
The image of “selling” Israel evokes the reversal of the Exodus, for only slaves are bought and sold.
Judges 2:11-23 describes the terrible cycle characterizing this period.
Israel’s SIN leads them into SERVITUDE, from which they cry out in SUPPLICATION to God, who raises up a judge to deliver them, but this SALVATION is soon forgotten and responded to with SILENCE—as Israel fails to serve the Lord.
This cycle is repeated throughout Judges, and with each repetition Israel finds herself in a deeper plight.
Israel is in a spiral into darkness.
In this period of much darkness, the tribe of Judah is the only light, as they have the most success in taking the land assigned to them.
Judges 1 gives a simple summary of the twelve tribes’ attempts to settle the land, beginning with Judah in the south and moving northward to the northernmost tribe of Dan and, finally, the land held by the Amorites (who are foreigners).
The book of Judges will follow this progression when it orders the various stories of the twelve judges, beginning with a judge from Judah and ending with a judge from Dan.
The lesson this geographical ordering imparts is that the further one moves from Judah, the worse Israel’s sin and idolatry becomes.
This ordering also prepares the reader for the next period, in which a shepherd boy from Judah will become king.
The listing of the tribes and their land possessions in Judges 1 ends with an odd twist.
The last tribe of people whose borders are described is not one of the twelve tribes of Israel but rather the Amorites, indicating just how far Israel is from controlling the land.
Back in Numbers, as Israel crossed the wilderness, she fought and defeated the Amorites, as well as the Amalekites, Moabites, and Midianites. The fact that Israel must fight them again—and lose—shows how far Israel has slipped from where she was under Moses and Joshua.
Israel’s plight is rooted in one thing: IDOLATRY (their hearts were idol-making factories, just like ours are).
Judges tells us that Israel “played the harlot after other gods and bowed down to them” (Jgs 2:17).
The metaphor of the harlot can be said to be the controlling image of Judges, summing up its theme of covenant infidelity.
Two of the judges even seem to have been born of harlots, another breaks his sacred vows to pursue harlots, and Judges ends with a tragic civil war ignited by the brutal treatment of a harlot.
Handing On the Faith
God’s call for Israel to diligently teach their children the Torah (Dt 6:7) is an instruction Israel failed to heed.
The reason for this commandment is simple: the land that Israel is to possess is full of foreigners with a very different view of God and the world.
If Israel’s children are not grounded in the truth of the Torah, they will turn to the worship of foreign deities, sexual immorality, child sacrifice, and the many other sins that so often characterize pagan religious worship.
Our own contemporary culture worships many false gods, and if our children are to avoid the sin and bondage that results from such worship, we must heed God’s instruction and diligently train our children to “know” the Lord and live in the freedom and joy of Christ.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
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The Book of Judges is PHENOMENAL
It is like you have ventured into some really INCREDIBLE, and INCREDIBLY DARK history
We will hear stories that are relatively familiar to many of us, like the story of Samson and the story of Deborah
We might not be entirely familiar with ALL OF THE DETAILS
The details are PRETTY HORRIBLE AND THEY GET WORSE
The Book of Judges begins IN THE DARK and ends EVEN DARKER
So that is a head’s up, a disclaimer if you will
THIS IS REAL
Shall we begin?
What’s going to happen in Judges has already happened a couple of times
The Cycle of Sin
They disobey then they fall into distress
Then they repent and then they have a renewal
This is a CONSTANT HAMSTER WHEEL that we will see throughout the entire Book of Judges
This could become a source of frustration for a lot of people (Not for me, because I LIVE THIS TOO)
It is this complete sense of you see this all coming
WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
THIS IS CRAZINESS
This is INSANITY, where you keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a DIFFERENT RESULT
There is disobedience which leads to distress
Israel falls away because they are not faithful
They seek answers from other “gods”
This pattern keeps happening over and over (how many times in The Book of Judges? The answer is somewhere in these notes 😉)
At the beginning of the Book of Judges, when they go to battle, JUDAH SHOULD GO UP FIRST
This is powerful for several reasons
JUDAH MEANS PRAISE
Judah going into battle, when they face difficulty, a struggle, or a trial, to let JUDAH go up first is so powerful
To let PRAISE go up first is so powerful
Then, Joshua dies and the people WERE NO LONGER FAITHFUL
Then came AN ENTIRE GENERATION that DID NOT KNOW GOD
This generation TURNED AWAY FROM SERVICE (WORSHIP) OF THE LORD
“And all that generation were gathered to their fathers (died), those that knew and saw the Lord’s mighty works”
“There also arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that He had done for Israel”
What does that tell us?
It tells us that EVERYTHING that Moses and Joshua had been commanding and reminding the people TO NEVER FORGET, and TO TEACH THEIR CHILDREN WHAT GOD HAD DONE FOR THEM
THEY FAILED TO REMEMBER
THEY FAILED TO RAISE UP SUBSEQUENT LEADERSHIP
So thus begins the CYCLE OF DISOBEDIENCE
Disobedience, distress, repentance, redeemer, renewal
Whenever there is a Judge that is raised up, at the end of the Judge doing their thing, the land had REST for a time, and THEY WERE FAITHFUL
Today we heard of the first 3 JUDGES
Don’t think of them as Judges with gavels (or Judge Judy 😉)
We are talking about REDEEMERS
We are talking about people who are GENERALS
We are talking about people who LEAD OTHERS INTO BATTLE
Ehud is basically an ASSASSIN who goes up against the King of Moab and kills him in his chamber (I could be wrong, but this seems like a side mission in the Assassin’s Creed video game 🤓)
This is a VERY DARK AND VIOLENT TIME
Ehud is a pretty efficient assassin, and he is a JUDGE, a REDEEMER, a type of SAVIOR (TYPOLOGY!!)
These judges ARE NOT PERFECT
It doesn’t mean that what they are doing is GOOD
It means that what they are doing IS EFFECTIVE when it comes to defeating their enemies
The Book of Ruth has 4 chapters
Naomi, the wife of Elimelech, goes to Moab and while they are there what do they do?
They have their two sons, Mahlon and Chil’ion marry Moabite women, which was not something they should be doing
But, there is always this Grace from God working, even in unideal situations
Even though Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chil’ion die, the women that they married were STILL PROFOUNDLY FAITHFUL
We need to be reminded that God is NOT AGAINST ANY KIND OF PEOPLE
GOD IS FOR FAITHFULNESS
GOD IS FOR BRINGING PEOPLE INTO THE COVENANT
Ruth and Orpah (haha I read it first as OPRAH…not a fan of hers, sue me 🤪)
Both of these women are so moved by love for their mother-in-law that they want to go with her
But only Ruth goes with her mother-in-law
Keep this in mind
There is NOTHING about ethnic battles that is going on in Judges or Joshua that is a specific ethnicity vs another ethnicity
It is NOT about that
It is about the TRUE WORSHIP OF THE LORD and belong to His COVENANT vs IDOLATRY and DEMON WORSHIP that are happening amongst these other people
Ruth says, “Your God will be my God”
Ruth CONVERTS and becomes a member of the COVENANT
It is through RUTH that we get the great King of Israel, David
It is through David’s line that we get the ACTUAL GREAT REDEEMER, JUDGE OF THE UNIVERSE JESUS CHRIST
He comes from a bloodline from a woman who started out as a Moabite, but died IN COVENANT WITH THE LORD
This is NOT a battle of Races (we have enough of that nonsense today)
This is a battle between TRUE WORSHIP VS FALSE WORSHIP
TRUE WORSHIP = GOD
FALSE WORSHIP = DEMONS
Pray for Fr. Mike
Pray for EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven, we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much for your Word. We thank you for these stories that you reveal to us, because you reveal to us that even in the midst of trial, even in the midst of our unfaithfulness, once again, in the midst of unfaithfulness, you are faithful. You fight for us. You give us a deliverer whose name is Jesus Christ. And it is in His name that we pray to you this day. Amen.”