Tag Archives: judge

Bible Term: Judgment

Biblical judgment is generally the spiritual parallel to being legally judged in a court of law against a preset standard.

In the Old Testament, judgment often refers to God‘s righteous punishment of those who continually turn their backs on him or harm his people. In many cases, the judgment was to the entire nation of Israel, although sometimes it was to individuals, groups, or other nations.

In other cases, judgment (the act of judging) refers to one person judging another. The New Testament has much to say about this type of judgment, generally critical in nature (Matthew 7:1-2, Luke 6:37, 1 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, 1 Corinthians 6:2-5, and James 4:11-12.

Ultimately, in the end times, the entire earth will be judged (2 Peter 3:7 and Revelation 6:10).

Bible Term: Judge

The men and women who are called Judges in the Bible were not Judges as we understand them today. They were more akin to informal military leaders who were called and empowered by God to rescue his people from the oppression of surrounding nations. After their military success, the Judges often implemented or inspired spiritual reform. Historically, the Judges served the nation of Israel in the early part of it’s history, before they were led by kings.

A reoccurring pattern is that the Israelites are oppressed, they call out to God for deliverance, he raises up a Judge to save them, they then turn to God for a time, but later fall away. The cycle repeats.

The actions of some of the Judges are noteworthy and significant. Other Judges are scarcely mentioned, some only garnering the briefest of citations. The lives, work, and heroic acts of these Judges are recorded in the book of Judges.

…and the Rest

So far, we have covered seven of the 15 judges mentioned in the book of Judges. They are the more commonly known judges, merely because there is more written about them. That leaves eight remaining judges, for whom very little is known. Often their entire life is summarized in just a couple of verses. They are:

Othneil (Judges 3:7-11) overpowered foreign oppression, resulting in 40 years of peace — until he died. (Trivia: He was Caleb’s nephew.)

Ehud (Judges 3:12-3:30) posed as a peaceful envoy with a private message for the king. The message was thrusting a sword into the king’s fat belly. Ehud then escaped, rallied the troops, and routed the enemy army. Then there was 80 years of peace. (Trivia: he was left-handed.)

Shamgar (Judges 3:31) killed 600 Philistines. (Trivia: he used an oxgoad — “a sharp wooden stick”)

Tola (Judges 10:1-2) led Israel for 23 years; then he died.

Jair (Judges 10:3-5) led Israel for 22 years; then he died. (Trivia: he had 30 sons, who rode 30 donkeys, and controlled 30 towns.)

Ibzan
(Judges 12:8-10) led Israel for seven years; then he died. (Trivia: he intermarried his 60 children to people from other tribes.)

Elon
(Judges 12:11-12) led Israel for ten years; then he died.

Abdon
(Judges 12:13-15) led Israel for eight years; then he died. (Trivia: his 40 sons and 30 grandsons rode 70 donkeys.)

From this, I have two general observations:

1) For many, there is seemingly strange trivial information provided. While it may seem nonsensical to us now, it may have had important meaning back then. If we can ascertain it, additional insight could be gained.

2) More importantly, the recorded impact of these judges was largely limited to their lifetime; no mention is made of them setting up a successor or influencing others to lead after their death.

Contemplation: What are you doing to extend your influence beyond your life?

Abimelech — A Failure

One of Gideon‘s sons was Abimelech. It is arguable if Abimelech should be counted as a judge. If so, he would be classified as a failure, for he violently seized power, did not fight for or liberate his people from foreign powers, but instead fought internally, with much loss of life as a result — including his own.

Abimelech was the son of a concubine (or slave). Interestingly, another judge, Jephthah, was a son of the prostitute. Jephthah, however, unlike Abimelech, was a successful judge, who liberated his people, whereas Abimelech killed — or caused the death — of his people.

Both Abimelech and Jephthah had a less than ideal start in life, but what they did with it was opposite from each other. Jephthah became a hero; Abimelech, a tyrant.

[Judges 9 and 10:6-12:7]

The Victory and Despair of Jephthah

Another judge, who is prominently noted in the book of Judges is Jephthah. Jephthah, the son of a prostitute — which doesn’t say much for his dad — was exiled from his people. However, when they became oppressed by a foreign power, they turned to him, asking for his help.

Eventually he agreed to their petition, doing exactly what they asked.

In his zeal for victory, however, he made an ill-advised vow to God. He promised God that if he were granted success, he would sacrifice the first thing he saw when he returned home. Tragically, it was his daughter — his only child — who first greeted him upon his victorious homecoming.

Distraught over his rash promise, his daughter urged him to do exactly as he had pledged.

It is unclear to me if this was to be a literal sacrifice, as Abram almost did with Isaac, or a figurative sacrifice of giving her over to God’s service, as Samuel’s mother did with him.

Regardless, Jephthah‘s reckless pledge resulted in a painful and regrettable loss for the otherwise victorious Jephthah.

We can learn from Jephthah‘s foolhardy words, guarding carefully what we say and promise.

[Judges 10:6-12:7]

An Unnamed Levite

If judge Deborah is the reluctant hero and Micah is the anti-hero, then the final character listed in the book of Judges might be viewed as a questionable hero. This judge, a Levite whose name is not given, has a dubious set of morals and a morose method of getting attention. Consider:

  • The Levite had a concubine who ran away from him. He waited four months, before looking for her.
  • Upon their trip home, the men of Gibeah, with their unrestrained sexual appetites, desire the Levite. His response is to offer them his concubine as an alternative.
  • After abusing and misusing her all night, she crawls to the house and dies.
  • The Levite then cuts her body up and sends the pieces around the country.

His countrymen, sufficiently riled up, go on a rampage against the men of Gibeah, who are aided by surrounding cities from the tribe of Benjamin. This effective “civil” war results in tens of thousands of people being killed and the tribe of Benjamin being essentially annihilated.

While all the other judges in the book of Judges went after other nations, this quasi judge went after his own people. Yes, evil was confronted, but at a high cost and over an event that could have been avoided.

[Judges 19:1 to 21:48]

Micah, the Anti-Hero

A curious fellow in the book of Judges is Micah (not to be confused with the prophet Micah who lived many centuries later and has a book of the Bible named after him). Micah, with two chapters surrounding him, was not listed as a judge and did not lead the people to overthrow their oppressors. If anything, Micah was an anti-hero or anti-judge, and there is nothing positive in his story:

  • He stole silver from his mom.
  • When he later confessed this to her, she blessed him! Then she told him to keep the silver and make an idol.
  • Micah used the silver to cast an idol and carve an image; he also made a shrine and fabricated an ephod.
  • A wayward Levite happened by and Micah hired him to be his priest. (Although all priests were Levites, most Levites were not priests; this was determined by ancestry. This Levite was likely not meant to be a priest, yet he jumped at the chance, even though — according to the Law of Moses — he was in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing.)
  • Since Micah now had a priest, he concluded that God would bless him, (which doesn’t seem to be the case.)

This is all backstory. Men from the tribe of Dan were looking for some land and come upon a “peaceful and unsuspecting people” — not an oppressing people, which the other Judges fought against, but a peaceful people.

The men from Dan, bent on conquering, stole Micah’s idol, image, and ephod, as well as enticing away his “priest.” They went into battle and won. They then worshiped Micah’s idol for several centuries.

Seemingly, everything Micah did was wrong.

[Judges 17 and 18]

A Reluctant Hero

Judge Deborah was a reluctant hero.

Deborah, also a prophetess, received instructions from God to relay to Barak. His mission was to lead a battle against their oppressors. When she shared this with Barak, he balked (as did Moses, Jonah, Gideon, and many others when God called them to a task). Barak did not want to go alone and requested that Deborah accompany him. Deborah agreed, but predicted that if she did, she would be the one credited with the victory and not Barak.

Apparently emboldened by her presence, Barak then did as instructed and led the army to victory. There is no mention of Deborah actually doing anything to ensure victory, except merely going with Barak. Yet, she is indeed the one who received the accolades.

I’m not sure if Barak lacked confidence in himself or in God, but either way, he wavered and did not obey God without question. Still, God was able to accomplish his purpose, albeit through Deborah.

It is always easier to serve God with a friend, but sometimes what God asks for is a solo effort.

[Judges 4:1 to 5:31]

Judge Deborah

Deborah is another familiar judge, with two chapters in the book of Judges devoted to her. There are some noteworthy facts about her:

1) She is the only female judge in the entire book. This was very counter-cultural for the day — and very cool!

2) She was the only judge who actually “held court” — which would be consistent with our modern understanding of what a judge does.

3) She was also a prophetess. Although there are many prophets listed in the Bible, there are only seven prophetesses (a female prophet).  They are:

  • Miriam (Moses and Aaron’s sister), Exodus 15:20
  • Deborah, Judges 4:4
  • Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Chronicles 34:22
  • Noadiah (a bad prophetess), Nehemiah 6:14
  • Isaiah’s wife, whose name is not given, Isaiah 8:3
  • Anna, the prophetess in the temple who was waiting for Jesus, Luke 2:36
  • Jezebel, the evil prophetess mentioned in the Revelation 2:20.

Deborah was also a reluctant hero. She didn’t want notoriety, but that is exactly what she received.

Do As I Do

Just before Gideon goes to battle, he tells his men to “watch me,” “follow my lead,” and “do exactly what I do.” His men did and God used their collective actions to throw the enemy into complete confusion. As a result, a great victory was won. Gideon’s actions were worthy of emulation.

From a spiritual perspective, Paul said the same thing. He says what you have seen me do, you should do, too.

Frankly, I’m not sure I would want anyone to do everything I did. Yes, I do believe that I have some worthy qualities, but certainly there are a few areas that are not worthy of emulation, at least not all the time.

You may be familiar with the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Well, Gideon and Paul are bold enough to effectively say, “Do as I do.”

Would you be confident enough in your actions to tell someone to “Do everything you see me doing”?

[Judges 7:17, Philippians 4:9]