1 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (He did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which He had given their ancestors through Moses.
The Lord would not test the Israelites, but would let the surrounding nations test them. They would be free to make many choices, free to follow and obey the Lord’s commands, which He had given their ancestors through Moses or (!) to do otherwise. So what happened?
5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
It is not until you read the last four words that you determine the Israelites are in trouble, real trouble for they served the gods of the other nations. And actions have consequences, behavior has consequences especially when it occurs on a nationwide basis.
7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years.
The nation of Israel was punished for eight long years. In that time they learned their lesson and cried out to the Lord acknowledging their sin. It was then the Lord
9 He raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.
Eight years of punishment followed by a war and then forty years of peace! Finally Israel had learned its lesson or had they? After Othniel died
12 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and because they did this evil the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. … 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.
Judges 3:12, 14
This time the punishment lasted eighteen years before once again
15 the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.
Why did it last for eighteen years? Did it take them that long to remember who they were finally and to cry out to the Lord? Or did it take them that long to once again to acknowledge their sin of disobedience? I don’t know, but from the following I do know God heard their cries and gave them a deliverer and judge, Ehud who assassinated Eglon king of Moab. Shortly thereafter
28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.
Once again punishment was followed by war and then peace – this time eighty years of peace. This was a sequence that would occur over and over during the time of Judges. More on this tomorrow, but for today and this week consider what our nation may be facing in the future as it turns further and further from God.