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Second, there is the historical and eventual conduct.
From The Bible Knowledge Commentary, we read, “Theologically chapters 17-21 constitute an epilogue giving illustrations of the religious apostasy and social degradation that characterized the period of the Judges. Those conditions were viewed by the author (probably early in the monarchy) as indicative of the anarchy which prevailed when ‘Israel had no king’ (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Historically the events recorded in these chapters form an appendix to the book, having transpired fairly early in the preceding history. An early date is indicated by the presence of the grandsons of both Moses (18:30) and Aaron (20:28) and by reference to the ark at Bethel (20:27-28). Possibly the events in chapters 17-18 took place in the days of Othniel, the first judge.”
Dr. Adam Clarke (1760-1832) writes, “The word melech, which generally means king, is sometimes taken for a supreme governor, judge, magistrate, or ruler of any kind; (see Genesis 36:31, and Deuteronomy 33:5); and it is likely it should be so understood here.” Dr. Clarke further writes, “He was his own governor, and what he did he said was right; and, by his cunning and strength, defended his conduct. When a man’s own will, passions, and caprice, are to be made the rule of law, society is in a most perilous and ruinous state. Civil government is of God; and without it the earth must soon be desolated. There was a time when there was no king in England; and that was, in general, a time of scandal to religion, and oppression to men.”
Dr. Arno C. Gaebelien (1861-1945) writes, “The last five chapters of the book form an appendix. The events given did not occur after Samson’s death, but they happened many years before. These chapters are not in chronological order but arranged in this way to teach the root of the evil and its results. This answers much, if not all, of the objections of the critics. These chapters reveal the internal corruption which existed in Israel during the different declensions. Idolatry and lawlessness are the two characteristic features. True worship and dependence on God is given up and then follows the dreadful fruit of this, which is hatred, strife culminating in lawlessness. The predictions in the New Testament reveal the same two phases. Departure from the faith is followed by moral corruption (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-4). Then we find in these chapters a statement which does not appear elsewhere in the book. ‘There was no king in Israel’ is the statement made four times (Judges 17:6; 18:1, 19:1; 21:25). A king was needed to remedy these sad internal conditions, this departure from God and strife of one against the other. This is an evident link with and preparation for the history which follows. Even so in this age of evil, darkness and cunning lawlessness; what the world needs is a king, the King of Righteousness and Peace. When He comes, order will be brought out of chaos, all strife and war, all bloodshed and lawlessness will cease.”
3. Third, there is the temporal and eternal consequences.
Dr. Theodore J. Cabal shares, “This statement, repeated at the end of the book, is the ‘motto’ of the book of Judges. The absence of recognized spiritual authority leads to social chaos; the narrative of Judges lays out the consequence when a people ignores its responsibility to honor, and observe, the Lord’s directives for the conduct of human life.”
Dr. Walter A. Elwell shares, “The Book of Judges closes with an analysis as to why these terrible events occurred: there was no king in Israel (21:25). There was no king to embody the concept of the ideal, godly leader. There was no king to exemplify and enforce religious loyalty to the covenant. There was no king to expedite the conversion and assimilation of the Canaanites—or the annihilation of those who resisted. There was no king to maintain public order and to prevent outrages such as the one in Gibeah. There was no king to prevent these evil trends from culminating in a murderous civil war.
Actually the consequences of the evils recorded in this book were more tragic than indicated. Even in the Old Testament, God’s general purpose was to use Israel as his holy priest-nation (Exod. 19:6) to reach the entire world. Therefore, the breakdown in God’s purposes recorded in this book are not merely a setback for his plans for one nation. These failures represent a setback for God’s worldwide purposes for all mankind.
Jeff Carroll shares, “The privatization of religion is going on at several different levels. As we already noted, religious identity is now a matter of individual choice rather than family or community loyalty, but even beyond that, individual, make-your-own religion is one of the choices. A famous example is Sheila, the California nurse interviewed by the authors of Habits of the Heart, who called her personal assortment of beliefs ‘Sheilaism.’
‘I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism, just my own little voice.’
Sheila is remarkably typical. Most Americans say that they believe in God, but increasingly they ‘practice’ religion by themselves, on their own. In addition, many of those who do go to church are what William McKinney calls independents, persons who think that the church they attend should not regulate the way they live.”
In Romans 1:25 we read about those “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 4:1-2 reads, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” Paul warns in 2 Timothy 3:5 about those “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
Dr. Leith Anderson describes the challenge of ministering to ‘Baby Boomers’: “The baby boomer who is a conservative Christian heterosexual opposed to nuclear disarmament may be fully accepting of a liberal agnostic homosexual who promotes nuclear disarmament. But this is more than mere tolerance; it has become a belief that what is right for me is right for me and what is right for you is right for you. Even absolutes begin to seem relative.”
Romans 2:12-16 reads, “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
Dr. Howard F. Vos writes, “The book of Judges is a sad book that tells of human proneness to wander from God and the results of spiritual decline. Actually it pictures a series of recurring cycles: apostasy from God, punishment in the form of oppression by neighboring tribes, cry to God for relief, redemption or release from bondage, and a period of rest from oppression. One must not conclude that the book depicts only gloom, however. Of the 410 years referred to in the book, during only some one hundred years of that time are the people said to have been in sin. So it is also a book of faithfulness to God, and it is a book of God’s grace in watchcare and restoration.”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “In his well-known poem ‘The Second Coming,’ the Irish poet William Butler Yeats describes the collapse of civilization in vivid and frightening imagery. Each time I read the poem, I feel chilled within; and then I give thanks that I know the One who is coming.
‘Things fall apart,’ writes Yeats; ‘the center cannot hold.’
The closing chapters of the Book of Judges echo that theme: ‘the center cannot hold.’ The nation that once marched triumphantly through Canaan to the glory of God now disintegrates morally and politically and brings disgrace to His name. But what else can you expect when there is ‘no king in Israel’ and the people are flouting the laws of God?
The events described in chapters 17-21 took place earlier in the period of the Judges, probably before the forty-year rule of the Philistines. The movements of the tribe of Dan would have been difficult and the war against Benjamin impossible if the Philistines had been in charge at that time. The writer departed from historical chronology and put these events together as an ‘appendix’ to the book to show how wicked the people had become. In three major areas of life, things were falling apart: the home, the ministry, and society.”
Dr. Lawrence O. Richards writes, “During the age of the Judges, the knowledge of God and His will was lost, diluted by Canaanite concepts which found their way into the religious consciousness of Israel.” We need to keep these things in mind when we consider the condition of society.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, Old Testament Edition, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, a division of Scripture Press Publications, Inc., 1985), 408. Database ©2014 WORDsearch.
Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary. Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp.
Arno Clemens Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible – Volume 2: Joshua to Chronicles, (New York, NY: Publication Office “Our Hope”, 1921), 108. Database © 2015 WORDsearch Corp.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe, gen. ed. Ted Cabal (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 392. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
Baker Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1989), 177. Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
Robert N. Bellah, et. al., Habits of the Heart (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985), 221. Cited in 6,000 Plus Illustrations for Communicating Biblical Truths. “Make-Your-Own Religion” Portions Copyright © 1985 to 1997 by Jeff Carroll. Portions Copyright © 1998-2001 by Christianity Today, Inc. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
Leith Anderson, Dying for Change (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1990), 88.
Howard F. Vos, Concise Introduction to the Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publications, 1993, 2004), 83. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament– History (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor is an imprint of Cook Communications Ministries, 2003), 155. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
Richards, Companion, 170.