Chapter 2


The Angel of Yahweh Comes to Bokim

        • The Angel of Yahweh went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said to the Israelites, “I brought you out of Egypt and I brought you into the land I swore to give your ancestors. I said: ‘I will never break My covenant with you. As for you, you are not to make a covenant with the people living in this land, and you are to tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me. What have you done? So, now I say to you: ‘I will not drive these people out before you. They will become like thorns in your sides and their gods will be a trap for you.’” When the Angel of Yahweh had said this to all the Israelites, they wept loudly. So, they named that place Bochim and offered sacrifices there to Yahweh.

          • Who is the Angel of Yahweh, or the Angel of the Lord (as most English translations render it)? We have extensively discussed in previous chapters that this is none other than God the Son (the pre-incarnate Christ). Some people are troubled by the word “angel” in the title. This is due to misconceptions about what the word “angel” actually means. We generally envision created spirit beings with wings. (If you’ve read Dr. Michael Heiser’s work, which I have linked in previous chapters, you are likely no longer under this impression.) However, as the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, the Hebrew word merely means, “’messenger’” or ‘envoy’”.

          • For a discussion of the identity of the Angel of Yahweh, the interested reader may refer to the gotquestions article, Who is the Angel of the Lord?

          • Guzik includes these arguments in his commentary, “First because the Angel of the LORD here claimed divinity by saying that He was the one who led Israel up from Egypt, who made a covenant with Israel (Judges 2:1), and who personally called Israel to obedience (Judges 2:2)…Second because this person, appearing in human form before Israel, cannot be God the Father, because the Father is described as invisible (1 Timothy 1:17) and whom no man has seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:16).”

          • Why does it say that the Angel of Yahweh came up from Gilgal? NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The sanctuary had been set up at Gilgal (Joshua 4:19-20; 5:10).”

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “The location of Bochim has not been identified; its name means ‘weepers,’ after the weeping described in the previous verse.”

          • In these verses we see the reason for Israel’s failure to possess the land. Essentially, the Israelites did not hold up their end of the deal. Guzik cites Wolf, “The deplorable spiritual condition of the Israelites, not their lack of chariots, lay behind their failure to dispossess the Canaanites.”

          • Guzik articulates a very important lesson modern readers should learn, “This emotional response of the people was very hopeful. With all the weeping and wailing, there was reason to believe that God’s word had a deep impact upon them, and they that were on their way to a genuine revival of God’s work among them…Sadly, it was not the case. The subsequent record of the Book of Judges shows that this initial reaction of sorrow and repentance did not mature into a real, lasting repentance. Real repentance shows itself in action, not necessarily in weeping. We can be sorry about the consequences of our sin without being sorry about the sin itself.” (emphasis mine)

Leadership Failure and the Raising Up of Judges (2:6-3:6)

        • * Note* Beginning of 2nd Prologue. NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The second prologue also follows from the events of Joshua 23-24… adding the element of a third generation (2:10) who had no personal experience of the Lord’s mighty acts.”

The Death of Joshua

        • Joshua dismissed the people and each went to his inheritance to take possession of the land. The people served Yahweh throughout Joshua’s lifetime and throughout the lifetimes of the elders who outlived him- those who had seen all the great works that Yahweh had done for Israel. Joshua, Nun’s son, the servant of Yahweh, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land that he had been allotted, at Timnath-serah in Ephraim’s hill country, north of Mount Gaash. After that entire generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who didn’t know Yahweh or the work He had done for Israel.

        • Clearly, we see here that the author is not writing chronologically, but rather to make a theological point. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary states this point well, “This passage is a repetition of Jos 24:29-31. It was inserted here to give the reader the reasons which called forth so strong and severe a rebuke from the angel of the Lord.” Benson Commentary agrees, “’The sacred writer,’ says Dr. Dodd, ‘having just related the reproaches delivered by the angel of the Lord against the Israelites, would now show his readers how and when the nation had incurred those reproaches. To this end he carries the matter as far back as possible…’”

Israel’s Unfaithfulness

        • And the Israelites did what was evil in Yahweh’s sight and served the Baals. They abandoned Yahweh the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed other gods from the gods of the people who lived around them, and bowed down to them. They provoked Yahweh’s anger. They abandoned Yahweh and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides these excellent explanations of the Baals and the Ashtaroth, respectively:

          • When applied to a god, the name Baal functions as a title (‘divine lord’, ‘master’) rather than a personal name, and is used as an appellative for many gods in the ancient world, like the Babylonian god Marduk, also known as Bel. Occurring as a divine title more than 70 times in the OT, baal usually refers to the storm/weather-god, who in the Canaanite mythological literature goes by the name Hadad, as well as other titles: ‘the victor Baal,’ ‘Rider of the Clouds,’ ‘son of Dagan,’ ‘the prince lord of the earth,’ ‘Baal of Zaphan.’ The present plural form, ‘the Baals,’ does not refer to a multiplicity of gods, but to numerous manifestations of the one weather-god, on whose blessing the fertility of the land was thought to depend. These manifestations are reflected in the Biblical-place names bearing Baal as an element: Baal Peor (Dt. 4:3), Baal Hazor (2Sa 13:23), Baal Gad (Jos 11:17), Baal Hermon (Jdg 3:3), Baal Shalishah (2Ki 4:42), Baal Tamar (Jdg 20:33).”

          • [Ashtoreths] Refers to the deity Astarte, who was worshiped widely as the goddess of love and war. This deity was identified in Ebla as Ashtar and in Mesopotamia as Ishtar. Although in Ugaritic mythological literature Anath usually functions as Baal’s consort, Astarte also appears as his spouse, which agrees with the broader ancient Near Eastern world reflected in the OT. Like ‘the Baals’…the present plural form refers to the local manifestations of the deity. Together these two gods formed a powerful force in ancient Near Eastern spirituality.”

          • With respect to the type of behaviors serving these gods would have entailed, Guzik cites Cundall, “The religion of these fertility gods was accompanied by all kinds of lascivious practices, especially in Canaan, where it was found in a degraded form which even incorporated child sacrifice.”

        • So, Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel, and He handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He handed them over to all their enemies around them and they were no longer able to resist them. Whenever the Israelites marched out to battle, Yahweh was against them to cause them harm, just as He had warned and sworn to them. And the Israelites were in great distress.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “As Israel served other gods, God withdrew his support…God was not simply absent; he was actively involved in Israel’s defeat, and the outcome of the battle belonged to the Lord (cp 2 Chronicles 20:15).”

Yahweh Raises Up Judges

        • Then Yahweh raised up judges who saved them from the hands of those who plundered them. But, they didn’t listen to their judges. Instead, they prostituted themselves with other gods and served them. They quickly turned from the path of their ancestors who had walked in obedience to Yahweh’s commandments.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible clarifies what is meant by “judges” in context since it differs from our modern assumptions, “Unlike the English expression ‘judge,’ which is usually associated with judicial activity, the meaning of the title in the book of Judges is established in 2:16-19: each judge functioned as a deliverer/liberator, who rescued the Israelites from outside oppressors. Although the verb ‘judge’ is applied to several individuals in the book, none of these persons is portrayed as exercising judicial function…”

        • Various translations render the concept of Israel being unfaithful to Yahweh by following other gods with varying terms. For example, ESV says “they whored after”; KJV says, “they went a whoring after”; NASB says, “they played the harlot after;” HCSB says, “they prostituted themselves”. Regardless of the verbiage, the concept is the same. As ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The metaphor of Israel’s committing adultery against God by following other gods is one of the most powerful in the OT.”

        • This is actually a very unique concept in the ancient Near East. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “The notion of divine anger with the people over whom the deity served as patron/matron is common in the ancient Near East. Where these non-Israelite accounts give reason for divine fury, the cause tends to be the people’s failure to satisfy the god with proper rituals. Here, the cause is the Israelites’ failure to be exclusively devoted to Yahweh… Yahweh’s intolerance of worship of other deities was unique within ancient Near Eastern context…”

        • Whenever Yahweh raised up a judge for the Israelites, He was with that judge, and rescued His people from their enemies throughout the lifetime of the judge. When the people groaned because of those who afflicted and oppressed them, Yahweh was moved to pity. But, when the judge died, the Israelites would turn back and act even more corruptly than their fathers- following other gods, serving them, and bowing down to them. They did not give up their practices or their stubborn ways.

        • Guzik writes, “This [‘He was with that judge’] explains the source of power with the judges God raised up. They were able to lead Israel in dramatic acts of deliverance because the LORD was with the judge, not because the judge was necessarily great or powerful in themselves… During the time of the Judges, Israel only cried out to God and really depended on Him in times of emergency. When they did cry out to Him with groaning, He answered with pity and faithfulness.” Guzik cites Morgan, “This connection of sin, punishment, and deliverance really forms the keynote to the historical movement recorded in the whole of the Book.”

        • So, Yahweh’s anger burned against Israel, and He declared: “Because this nation has violated My covenant that I made with their ancestors and disobeyed Me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them- whether or not they would keep the way of Yahweh and walk in it like their ancestors did.” So, Yahweh left those nations, not driving them out quickly. And, He didn’t hand them over to Joshua.

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes the significance in the author’s reference to the people of Israel as “this nation,” “…this term was normally reserved for pagans…Biblical authors usually refer to Israel as ‘a people’ (Hebrew ‘am). This use of ‘this nation’ illustrates God’s disgust toward his people, whom he now regards as just like the other nations.”

        • HCSB adds, “That God tested the Israelites ‘to see whether they would keep the Lord’s way’ did not mean He did not know the future. The test was for Israel’s benefit, not God’s, because their obedience would strengthen their faith.”

          • Guzik writes, “Israel wanted these Canaanite nations around, so God gave them the worst punishment He could think of: He would allow it…After setting their hearts on sinful things, Israel found that God gave what their sinful hearts desired. This illustrates the great danger of setting our hearts on sinful things; we may get to the point where God may allow us to have them – thus bringing sin, bondage, and pain into our lives.”

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