Module 14: The Need for a King - Departure from God
Module Guide: Judges - Deliverances; and Ruth - Faith amid Faithlessness
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
The book of Judges historically covers the period from the conquest of the land and the death of Joshua to the judgeship of Samuel and the introduction of the monarchy. It is a story, on the human side, of disobedience and disaster, and on the Divine of direction and deliverance. It is, as its name signifies, the book which gives us the account of the judges. These men were dictators raised up in times of special need for the deliverance of the people. The chronological history of the book ends with chapter 16, which connects naturally with the first book of Samuel. That history properly begins in chapter 3. So that we may consider the book in three divisions: Conditions after Joshua (1-3:6); the Period of the Judges (3:7-16); Appendix (17-21).
Conditions after Joshua
The first act of the people after the death of Joshua was that of seeking to know the will of God as to who should commence the final work of conquest. Judah, the kingly tribe, was appointed. It is evident that this work, begun in earnest, eventually weakened. A false toleration towards a people utterly corrupt, who ought to have been exterminated, resulted in the ultimate undoing of the chosen nation.
The story is told of the coming of the messenger from Gilgal, who called them back to loyalty to God. A brief retrospect follows of the condition of affairs under Joshua, and then a synopsis of the history which is to be set out in greater detail. In this synopsis the rotation of sin, punishment, and deliverance is the keynote to the historical portion of the book.
The Period of the Judges
This division of the book contains the story of seven consecutive failures, punishments, and deliverances.
The first declension was that of neglect of God and turning to idols. The punishment consisted of eight years of oppression. When under this affliction they cried to God, and the first of the judges appeared in the person of Othniel. Forty years of rest followed.
The second declension occurred after the death of Othniel, when the people sinned again. Punishment came from Eglon, and lasted for eighteen years. Then they cried to the Lord again, and Ehud, with whom Shamgar was associated, was the deliverer. Eighty years of rest followed.
The third declension then followed, and they were delivered into the hands of Jabin. Twenty years of oppression resulted, which became most terrible under Sisera. Again they cried, and were heard. The story of deliverance is full of romance and poetry, being associated with the name of Deborah. This daughter of the people, true child of faith, had suffered under the intolerable consciousness of the degradation of her people. She gained the ear of many to such a degree that she was appointed to judge the people, and at last she called Barak to her aid. He, inspired by her teaching, and she, helped by his consecration, went forward, and Israel was delivered from oppression. The great song of Deborah is full of fire and passion, and a remarkable index to the character of the woman herself. It may be divided into two parts. The first was a great chant of confidence, telling the story of the deepest secret of the victories won. The second part celebrated the victory. Everything ended with a cry: "So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord." Following this deliverance the land had rest for forty years.
The fourth declension issued in the victory of Midian, under whose oppression the people groaned for seven years. So terrible was it that the people hid themselves in dens and caves and strongholds. At last, in answer to their cry, the movement of deliverance began, and associated with this was the name and story of Gideon. He is seen first at his work, with the bitterness of the whole situation burning like a fire in his bones. When there came to him the supernatural visitor his double consciousness was confessed. "Did not the Lord bring us up?" "The Lord hath cast us off." He was conscious of the true relation of the people to Jehovah, and also that on account of their sin they had been judged. Called to act as deliverer, we follow him in his work of preparation. This proceeded in three stages. It began at home. He broke down the altar of Baal in connection with his father's house, and restored the worship of God. The second movement was that of the sending out of the call. The final one was his fellowship with God, in which signs were granted to him. The story of the conflict is one of the most remarkable on record. In response to his call to all the hosts of the people only thirty-two thousand gathered. Of these such as were faint-hearted and afraid were bidden to return, and twenty-two thousand went back. Those remaining were subjected to a further test, with the result that only three hundred were left. The victory was perfect; but it was so won as to teach the people that the one and only condition was that of dependence upon God and implicit obedience to His command. Following the deliverance from the oppression of Midian, Gideon had to deal with troubles among his own people. This section ends with an account of the last things concerning Gideon. One of them was characterized by great nobility, and the other revealed a weakness which issued in trouble. They sought to make him king. He absolutely refused, and thus indicated his disinterestedness and his loyalty to God. The story of the making of the ephod is somewhat difficult of interpretation. In any case, the effect produced was evil, for the people were thereby seduced from their loyalty, and Gideon himself suffered deterioration.
The fifth declension followed immediately upon the death of Gideon. They fell into the sin of worshipping the Baalim. Judgment this time came from within rather than from without. Abimelech, a natural son of Gideon, a man unprincipled and brutal, but of great personal force, secured to himself the allegiance of the men of Shechem, and practically usurped the position of king. In order to make his position secure, he encompassed the massacre of all the sons of Gideon, except Jotham. His parabolic prophecy from the height of Mount Gerizim indicated the line along which judgment would fall upon the sinning people. The tyranny of Abimelech's rule lasted for three years. He was then slain by the hand of a woman, and a period of forty-five years' quietness followed under the dictatorship of Tola and Jair.
The sixth declension was characterized by an almost utter abandonment of the people to idolatry. The list of the forms which this idolatry took is appalling. Judgment came this time from the Philistines and the men of Ammon, and continued for eighteen years. At last, sore distressed, they cried to God, and for the first time it is recorded that He refused to hear them, and reminded them of how repeatedly He had delivered them. The true attitude of Jehovah toward them, however, flamed out in a remarkable statement, "His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel." Deliverance came at length through Jephthah, a study of whose history is full of interest. He was the son of a harlot, and had been thrust out from his inheritance by the legitimate sons of his father. The iron had entered his soul, and he had gathered to himself a band of men, and had become a kind of outlaw freebooter. He was a man of heroic daring, having certain excellencies of character which marked him out as capable in a crisis of need. The story of his victory and his vow follows. After his victory the men of Ephraim complained that they had not been called to help, as they had already done in the case of Gideon. This quarrel reveals the sad disintegration of the nation. The consciousness of its unity seems to have been largely lost.
The seventh declension opens with the declaration, "Israel again did that which was evil," and they were again delivered to discipline at the hands of the Philistines, under whose oppression they lived for forty years. Here occurs one of the strangest stories of the Old Testament, that of Samson. It is the story of a great opportunity and disastrous failure. Everything would seem to have been in his favour. His birth was foretold by an angel visitor. This foretelling led to his special training, and finally he was moved in his early years by the Spirit of the Lord. Grown to manhood's estate, he went to Timnath, and there was swept away by his passions into an unholy alliance. The story of his exploits is most remarkable. The circumstances of them are not to his credit. The overruling hand of God is seen checking the power of the Philistines through him, but through all, his deterioration is manifest. His final fall occurred at Gaza. There is nothing, perhaps, in the sacred writings at once more pathetic and tragic than Samson, with his eyes put out, grinding in the house of the Philistines. At last, out of his degradation he cried to God, and in his death struck the heaviest blow at the people from whose oppression he ought to have delivered his own nation.
Here ends the history of our book. It is taken up again in the first book of Samuel. The remaining chapters and the book of Ruth have their chronological place in the period already dealt with.
The events here chronicled may have taken place closely following the death of Joshua. They give us a picture of the internal condition of the people, and it is most probable that they were added with that as the intention of the historian. Micah's act was a violation of the second commandment. His action was not that of adopting the idolatries of the heathen. His mother's language showed her recognition of Jehovah. "Blessed be my son of the Lord." Moreover, Micah's words when he persuaded the Levite to be his priest showed the same thing. "Now know I that the Lord will be my God." The images were intended to aid him in his worship of Jehovah. The whole story is a revelation of a degenerate condition. Micah had robbed his mother. On making restitution he accompanied the act, at her instigation, with this religious movement. The consent of the Levite to become a priest in the house of Micah for the sake of a living was a further revelation of the same degeneracy.
The story of the backsliding of individuals is followed by an illustration of its widespread existence among the people. The Danites, in the course of seeking new territory, found Micah and the condition of things established in his house. When presently they moved forward to possess, they did not hesitate to seize his images and capture his priest.
The story of the Levite follows, and is a clear revelation of the startling moral conditions. Resulting from it, the nation was stirred to its centre, and a great moral passion flamed out. Israel went to war with Benjamin. Uninstructed zeal wall, even in the cause of righteousness, often go beyond its proper limits. The carnage continued until not above six hundred men of the tribe of Benjamin were left. Then followed a sudden revulsion, and pity operated to the saving of Benjamin.
Part A: AFTER JOSHUA - Judges 1:1-3:6
A.1. Israel and the Canaanites - Judg. 1:1-1:36
- Judah - 1:1-1:21
- Joseph - 1:22-1:29
- The Rest - 1:30-1:36
A.2. Israel's Failure - Judg. 2:1-3:6
- Jehovah's Messenger - 2:1-2:5
- The People under Joshua - 2:6-2:10
- Synopsis of History - 2:11-2:23
- The Enemies - 3:1-3:6
Part B: THE SETTLEMENT OF THE PEOPLE - Judges 3:7-16:31
B.1. First Declension - Judg. 3:7-3:11
- Sin, Idolatry
- Punishment: 8 years oppression
- Deliverance: OTHNIEL
B.2. Second Declension - Judg. 3:12-3:31
- Punishment: Eglon 18 years
- Deliverance: EHUD (SHAMGAR)
B.3. Third Declension - Judg. 4:1-5:31
- Punishment: Jabin 20 years
- Deliverance: DEBORAH, BARAK
B.4. Fourth Declension - Judg. 6:1-8:32
- Deliverance: GIDEON
B.5. Fifth Declension - Judg. 8:33-10:5
- Sin, Baalim
- Punishment: Abimelech
- Deliverance: TOLA, JAIR
B.6. Sixth Declension - Judg. 10:6-12:15
- Sin, Idolatry multiplied
- Punishment: Philistines, Ammon 18 years
- Deliverance: JEPHTHAH (Successors)
B.7. The Seventh Declension - Judg. 13:1-16:31
- Punishment: Philistines 40 years
- Deliverance: SAMSON
Part C: APPENDIX - Judges 17:1-21:25
C.1. Micah - Judg. 17:1-18:31
- Micah's Idolatry - 17:1-17:13
- Its Punishment by Danites - 18:1-18:31
C.2. The Levite - Judg. 19:1-21:25
- The Outrage - 19:1-19:30
- War between Israel and Benjamin - 20:1-20:48
- Preservation of Benjamin - 21:1-21:25
The book of Ruth stands in striking contrast to the book of Judges, and yet is closely connected with it. In that book the national outlook has been presented, and so dark has it been as to create the impression of universal pollution. The story of Ruth illustrates the truth that God has never left Himself absolutely without witness. Throughout all the period of degeneracy there had been loyal and beautiful souls: children of faith, living, in the midst of the conflict and strife, the life of loyalty to God, simple, trustful, and triumphant.
This book is the story of a few such. Some incidents in their history are grouped together with fine poetic beauty. It is indeed an idyll of faithfulness amid infidelity. It has, moreover, the value of being a link in the history, showing how God led on to the next stage. All the interest of the book centres around the persons whose names are on every page. It may be divided into three divisions: the Choice of Faith (1-2); the Venture of Faith (3); the Reward of Faith (4).
The Choice of Faith
During a time of famine Elimelech, his wife, and two sons, went into the country of Moab to find bread and escape trouble. It is questionable whether their action was justified, and the sorrows which followed would seem to be of the nature of chastisement. To begin with, their sons married Moabitish women. Then Elimelech died, and his sons also, so that sorrow on sorrow came to the heart of Naomi. It is perfectly evident, however, that their action was rather that of foolish blundering than of wilful rebellion. Through all they maintained their faith in the one God. Perhaps it would be nearer the actual facts of the case to say that Naomi, through all her suffering, was loyal. When the heart at its deepest is true to God, grace finds an opportunity to work through chastisement to best results, notwithstanding the follies of a faltering faith.
When at last Naomi turned her face again to her own country, with great generosity she urged her daughters-in-law to leave her, and settle among their own people. This was the occasion of that choice of Ruth which in its devotion, and in the manner in which she expressed it, has become enshrined in the admiration of the world. With constant recurrence Ruth's language has been used to express the fidelity of love. It was the choice of a strong affection. The young woman found her heart closely knit to the older one, and she declined to be severed from her in the pathway that lay before her, choosing to share whatever the future might have in store for the one upon whom her love was set. This hardly touches the deepest note, for it is impossible to read her language without seeing that the very reason of her love for Naomi was the new faith which she had learned from her. The deepest note in her expression of devotion was "thy God my God," and it was to Jehovah she appealed. She announced her devotion to Naomi even to death. The language of Naomi at the home-coming showed that she looked upon the sorrows that had come to her as God's testimony against her. and His affliction of her. There was no touch of rebellion in what she said, but that gracious recognition of chastisement which always indicates that the lessons have been learned.
The home-coming was to poverty, and the practical problem of life faced the two women. This was rendered more difificult by the fact that Ruth was a Moabitess. Yet she it was who faced the fight, and went forth as a gleaner to gather what would suffice for present sustenance. The human side of things is beautifully expressed in the words, "Her hap was to light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz." The lines of the picture are few, but they are strong, and a man of fine quality is revealed to us. His greeting to his labourers, "The Lord be with you," and their ready response, "The Lord bless thee," reveal a man of strong and yet natural religious life. His presence in the field, overseeing the affairs of harvest, and his quick recognition of the strange girl gleaning, show a man of business capacity. Then all the rest of the story evidences the graciousness of his temper and the greatness of his heart. He knew that in all probability a Moabitish woman would not be very earnestly welcomed among his people; and he therefore, with assiduous care, provided for her. His influence is at once seen in the absence of objection among the people, and their readiness to co-operate with him. In short, Boaz stands out as a man of finest fibre, living simply and strongly in a degenerate age.
The Venture of Faith
Gleaning as a means of livelihood could only last through harvest, and Naomi was anxious about the future, especially that of Ruth. As the outcome of her anxiety we have the story of her yenture to interest Boaz more fully, and bring about a marriage between him and Ruth. Of course the expedient to which she resorted must be judged, in the light of her own age, as we have so constantly to remember. Yet, notwithstanding this, it can hardly be characterized as other than doubtful, and on the basis of faith it is difficult to justify it.
Yet again, it was rather an error of judgment than wilful disobedience, and the overruling love of God moved on to beneficent issue. One element, and perhaps the strongest, was the confidence in Boaz which this venture revealed. In order to provide for the future, Naomi's appeal should have been made to one nearer of kin, but the whole attitude of Boaz toward Ruth had inspired such confidence in him that it was through him she hoped for succour. The story of her venture was on the whole to his honour rather than to theirs.
The Reward of Faith
The nobility and faithfulness of Boaz are manifest in this story. It is hardly possible to read this book naturally without believing that Boaz had already found himself in love with Ruth, and there is no doubt that he was perfectly ready to take the responsibility of the next-of-kin, but there was one who had a prior right, and in loyalty to the law of his people he gave him the opportunity. It is an interesting picture presented to us of the gathering of the elders in the gate, and the legal statement of the case. The next-of-kin had a perfect right to abandon his claim, seeing that another was ready to assume it; and moreover, it can hardly be denied that he was justified on the ground of not desiring to run the risk of impoverishing his own family, seeing that Boaz was well able to fulfil all the obligations of the case.
The story ends with poetic simplicity and beauty. "Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife." Nothing need be added to this to indicate the joy and reward of two faithful souls, Naomi was at last comforted. The women of her own people spoke words of cheer to her, which unquestionably were full of comfort as they sang the praise of the one who had chosen to share her affliction, and had become the medium of her succour.
There is a stately simplicity in the story of the issue. "They called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David." In this final word of the book there is manifest the Divine movement in the history of the chosen people. Thus the kingly line was ordered in the midst of infidelity, through faithful souls. Presently the people clamoured for a king, and one was appointed for a time, through whom they learned the difference between earthly rule and the direct government of God. The man after God's own heart succeeded him, and his coming was from those who had realized the Divine ideal, and walked humbly with God. Yet a larger issue followed as the centuries passed. From this union came at last, as to the flesh, Jesus the Christ.
Part A: THE CHOICE OF FAITH - Ruth 1:1-2:23
A.1. Naomi's Sorrows - Ruth 1:1-1:13
- Elimelech to Moab - 1:1-1:2
- The Sorrows - 1:3-1:13
A.2. Ruth's Choice - Ruth 1:14-1:22
- Orpah - 1:14
- Ruth - 1:15-1:18
- The Home-Coming of Bitterness - 1:19-1:22
A.3. Boaz' Field - Ruth 2:1-2:23
- Ruth's Purpose - 2:1-2:3
- Boaz - 2:4-2:16
- The Means of Support - 2:17-2:23
Part B: THE VENTURE OF FAITH - Ruth 3:1-3:18
B.1. Naomi - Ruth 3:1-3:5
- Doubtful, yet in light of times
B.2. Ruth - Ruth 3:6-3:9
- The Claims of Kinsman Rights
B.3. Boaz - Ruth 3:10-3:18
- The Appeal to the next of Kin
- The Tender Love
Part C: THE REWARD OF FAITH - Ruth 4:1-4:22
C.1. The Redemption - Ruth 4:1-4:12
C.2. The Marriage - Ruth 4:13-4:13a
C.3. The Issue - Ruth 4:13b-4:22
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.