for they forsook Him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
I. THE NATURE OF THE APOSTASY.
1. It consisted in forsaking God. All sin begins here, because while we live near to him it is impossible for us to love and follow evil. If we cannot serve God and mammon, so long as we are faithful to God we shall be safe from the idolatry of worldliness. The guilt of forsaking God is great because it involves
(1) disobedience to our Father,
(2) ingratitude to our Benefactor,
(3) the fall from devotion to the Highest to lower pursuits.
2. This apostasy consisted in the worship of other gods. The shrine of the heart cannot long be empty. Man is a religious being, and he will have some religion; if not the highest and purest, then some lower form of worship. We must have a master, a God.
3. There was nothing inventive in the apostasy of Israel. The people only worshipped the old deities of the native population. They who give up Christianity for supposed novel forms of religion generally find themselves landed in some old-world superstition.
4. The guilt of the apostasy was aggravated by the character of the worship into which the people fell. This was
(1) false - the worship of supposed gods which possessed no Divine power;
(2) materialistic - the worship of idols in place of the unseen spiritual God; and
(3) immoral - the worship of impure deities with impure rites.
II. THE CAUSES OF THE APOSTASY.
1. Defective education. So long as Joshua and his contemporary elders lived the people remained faithful. Apostasy arose in a new "generation which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel." But if the former generation had trained its children aright they would not have been thus ignorant. The Church should feel the supreme importance of the religious education of the young. Her continued existence depends on this. Children do not inherit their father's religion by natural succession. They must be trained in it.
2. Circumstances of ease. While the people were surrounded with the perils of the wilderness they displayed a moral heroism which melted beneath the sun of peaceful prosperity. Worldly comfort brings a great inducement to religious negligence.
3. Tolerance of evil. The earlier generation had failed to extirpate the idolatry of Canaan, and now this becomes a snare to the later generation. Indifference and indolence in regard to the wickedness which is around us is certain to open the door of temptation to our children, if not to ourselves.
4. The worldly attractions of the lower life. The service of God involves high spiritual efforts, purity of life, self-sacrifice, and difficult tasks (Joshua 24:19). The service of the world is more agreeable to the pleasures of sense and selfishness. Regarded from the low ground of sense and with the short sight of worldly wisdom, it is easier to worship Baal than to worship the Eternal. - A.
They forsook the Lord God of their fathers.
1. The first is the continual tendency to relapse into idolatry. The fact itself, and the frank prominence given to it in the Old Testament, are both remarkable. As to the latter, certainly, if the Old Testament histories have the same origin as the chronicles of other nations, they present most anomalous features. Where do we find any other people whose annals contain nothing that can minister to national vanity, and have for one of their chief themes the sins of the nation? As to the fact of the continual relapses into idolatry, nothing could be more natural than that the recently received and but imperfectly assimilated revelation of the one God, with its stringent requirements of purity and its severe prohibition of idols, should easily slip off these rude and merely outward worshippers. Instead of thinking of the Israelites as monsters of ingratitude and backsliding, we come near the truth, and make a better use of the history, when we see in it a mirror which shows us our own image. The strong earthward pull is ever acting on us, and, unless God hold us up, we too shall slide downwards. Idolatry and worldliness are persistent; for they are natural. Firm adherence to God is less common, because it goes against the strong forces, within and without, which bind us to earth. Apparently the relapses into idolatry did not imply the entire abandonment of the worship of Jehovah, but the worship of Baalim and Ashtaroth along with it. Such illegitimate mixing up of deities was accordant with the very essence of polytheism, and repugnant to that of the true worship of God. These continual relapses have an important bearing on the question of the origin of the "Jewish conception of God." They are intelligible only if we take the old-fashioned explanation, that its origin was a Divine revelation, given to a rude people. They are unintelligible if we take the new-fashioned explanation that the monotheism of Israel was the product of natural evolution, or was anything but a treasure put by God into their hands, which they did not appreciate, and would willingly have thrown away.
2. Note the swift-following retribution: "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel." That phrase is no sign of a lower conception of God than the gospel brings. Wrath is an integral part of love, when the lover is perfect righteousness and the loved are sinful. The most terrible anger is the anger of perfect gentleness, as expressed in that solemn paradox of the apostle of love, when he speaks of "the wrath of the Lamb." God was angry with Israel because He loved them, and desired their love, for their own good. The rate of Israel's conquest was determined by Israel's faithful adherence to God. That is a standing law. Victory for us in all the good fight of life depends on our cleaving to Him, and forsaking all other. The Divine motive, if we may so say, in leaving the unsubdued nations in the land, was to provide the means of proving Israel. Would it not have been better, since Israel was so weak, to secure for it an untempted period? Surely it is a strange way of helping a man who has stumbled, to make provisions that future occasions of stumbling shall lie on his path. But so the perfect wisdom which is perfect love ever ordains. There shall be no unnatural greenhouse shelter provided for weak plants. The liability to fall imposes the necessity of trial, but the trial does not impose the necessity of falling. The devil tempts, because he hopes that we shall fall. God tries, in order that we may stand, and that our feet may be strengthened by the trial.
3. Respite and deliverance are described in verses 16 and 18. The R.V. has wisely substituted a simple "and" for "nevertheless" at the beginning of verse 16. The latter word implies that the raising up of the judges was a reversal of what had gone before; "and " implies that it was a continuation. And its use here carries the lesson that God's judgment and deliverance come from the same source, and are harmonious parts of one educational process. Nor is this thought negatived by the statement in verse 18 that "it repented the Lord." That strong metaphorical ascription to Him of human emotion simply implies that His action, which of necessity is the expression of His will, was changed. The will of the moment before had been to punish; the will of the next moment was to deliver, because their "groaning" showed that the punishment had done its work. But the two wills were one in ultimate purpose, and the two sets of acts were equally and harmoniously parts of one design. The surgeon is carrying out one plan when he cuts deep into quivering flesh, and when he sews up the wounds which he himself has made. God's deliverances are linked to His chastisements by "and," not by "nevertheless."
4. A word only can be given to the last stage in the dreary round. It comes back to the first. The religion of the delivered people lasted as long as the judge's life. When he died, it died. There is intense bitterness in the remark to that effect in verse 19. Did God then die with the judge? Was it Samson, or Jehovah, that had delivered?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel.I. SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF NATIONAL SINS (vers. 11-13). There is an amazing tendency in communities to commit the same sins. We are such creatures of imitation that every community develops a certain individuality; all composing it, while having personal peculiarities, do yet have many modes of speech and thought and habits of life in common. Every nation, every city, has its characteristic virtues, its characteristic sins. It is easy to "follow a multitude to do evil." So the Jewish people developed a propensity to idolatry. But a still more striking fact regarding national sin is the way it is promoted by the influence of other nations. Israel followed the gods of the people that were round about them.
II. THE RETRIBUTION OF NATIONS (vers. 14, 15). A nation must be punished in this life if at all, for it has no hereafter. Consequently, in national experience the connection between sin and the loss of prosperity is most distinctly seen.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD MEN AS LEADERS (vers. 16-18). It is God's method to elevate and save nations by the influence of men whom He brings forward for the purpose. They may hold very different positions in public life, they may be men of very different character and abilities, but we are to recognise the work they do as made possible through the goodness of God. We must trust God more in national emergencies, and pay more heed to the counsels of men who are appointed of God to be our leaders. It is worth our notice here that the judges of Israel were simply the vicegerents of God. God was the Chief Magistrate of the nation. He claimed absolute authority. The government was a theocracy; that is, God enacted the laws of the nation, interpreted them, and enforced them. He combined in Himself the three departments of government — the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. Our governments are under equal obligation with the judges of old to bring God's thought before the people and to enforce His will. Our rulers show themselves to be raised up of God, and are delivering us from the misery of our national sins only as they act for God and express His will in their government of the people.
IV. THE AMAZING TENDENCY OF NATIONS TO RELAPSE INTO SIN (ver. 19). It is a sad record, but true to nature and repeated in every age of the world. Reform makes progress, as the tide advances, by refluent waves, only each succeeding wave rolls a little higher up the beach. The wave sweeps in, but it does not stay there. It rolls back and leaves the shore bare, and everything seems swept out to sea. That is a very discouraging feature to the eager reformer. There is need for us of to-day, in view of this law of retrogression in progress, of two things. One is never to be discouraged by any seeming discomfiture. There are undoubtedly moral lapses in communities. In Cromwell's day, in England, there was a great advance in morals and high purpose, but with the death of Cromwell and the accession of Charles
II. the wave of progress flowed back again and left the unhappy kingdom demoralised and given over to folly. But this was only a temporary reverse. In time the right re-asserted itself, morality triumphed, and the nation rose to a higher level than ever before. We may be sure this is God's design for us.
V. THE PROBATION AND DISCIPLINE OF NATIONS BY TRIAL (vers. 20-23). Just as David was fitted for kingship by the rude discipline of his life as an outlaw, so was Israel fitted to introduce Christ to the world by its bitter experiences in the time of the judges, in the days of the captivity, and under the hated Roman yoke. God is doing the same thing for this nation, training it for great usefulness, or at least giving it opportunity to be so trained, by its successive trials.
(A. P. Foster.)
PeopleIsraelites, Joshua, Nun
PlacesBochim, Egypt, Gaash, Gilgal, Timnath-heres
TopicsAshtaroth, Ash'taroth, Ashtoreths, Astartes, Baal, Ba'als, Forsake, Forsook, Servants, Served, Service, Yea
Outline1. An angel rebukes the people at Bochim
6. The wickedness of the new generation after Joshua
14. God's anger and pity toward them
20. The Canaanites left to prove Israel
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJudges 2:13
1025 God, anger of
8728 enemies, of Israel and Judah
6200 imperfection, influence
1310 God, as judge
1135 God, suffering of
LibraryA Summary of Israel's Faithlessness and God's Patience
'And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. 2. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? 3. Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Israel's Obstinacy and God's Patience
Whether the Female Sex is an Impediment to Receiving Orders?
The Unmistakable Honesty of the Writers of the Bible Attests to Its Heavenly Origin
The Death of Abraham
Formation and History of the Hebrew Canon.
The Doctrine of Angels.
A Case of Conscience Resolved
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