by Narelle Atkins
The story of Ruth took place during the time of the Judges. In Judges 17:6 we learn that the Israelites had gone their own way. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” The Israelites had taken on Canaanite practices, including worshiping idols and other gods.
Ruth stood out in this bleak period of Israel’s history for a number of reasons. She was a Moabitess who had married a man from the tribe of Judah. After being widowed, Ruth chose to leave Moab and go to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi, who was alone after the death of her husband and sons.
Ruth was not only loyal to her mother-in-law, but she worshiped the God of the Israelites. In Ruth 1:16 she said to Naomi “Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
In Bethlehem, Ruth faithfully followed her mother-in-law’s instructions. She worked hard in Boaz’ field and gleaned grain to provide food for herself and Naomi. She was prepared to marry Naomi’s husband’s closest relative, their kinsman-redeemer, in order to provide a firstborn son as an heir for Naomi. Boaz was impressed by Ruth and he believed she was a woman of noble character. God blessed Ruth’s marriage to Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer, and their firstborn son, Obed, became the grandfather of King David.
by Narelle Atkins
The book of Judges tells us about the twelve judges God raised up to lead Israel. There were six major judges and six minor judges. The major judges were Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson.
Gideon is remembered for being an ideal judge and Israel thrived under his leadership. In contrast Gideon’s son, Abimelech, was evil. The son of one of Gideon’s concubines, Abimelech murdered seventy of his brothers so he could rule over Israel after his father’s death. He is not considered a judge despite governing Israel for several years. Abimelech fought with everyone and was eventually killed. A woman dropped a millstone on his head and he died at the sword of his servant to avoid the shame of dying at the hands of a woman.
Samson is one of the more well known judges. He was a Nazirite, set apart by God to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Philistines. He possessed extraordinary strength from the Lord because the hair on his head had never been shaved. Samson fell in love with Delilah, who tricked him into revealing the source of his strength. Delilah betrayed Samson by arranging for the seven braids on his head to be shaved while he slept. Samson’s strength left him and he was captured by the Philistines.
Deborah was the only female judge to lead Israel. A prophetess, she was obedient to the Lord and brought a time of peace and prosperity to Israel.
by Narelle Atkins
Judges Chapter 2 outlines the role the judges played in Israel’s history. The judges led Israel during the period of time after Joshua brought the Israelites into the Promised Land and before the establishment by Samuel of Israel’s monarchy, starting with King Saul and King David.
The angel of the Lord spoke to the Israelites at Bokim. The Israelites had disobeyed God by not driving out all the inhabitants of Canaan before they took possession of the Promised Land. After Joshua’s death, Canaanite nations and other people still lived in parts of Canaan. The Israelites had broken their covenant promise to God and He left the foreigners in Canaan to test the Israelites’ faith and obedience to His laws.
The next generation of Israelites after Joshua grew up without knowing God or what He had done for Israel. They intermarried with the foreigners living in Canaan and worshiped their gods including Baals and the Ashtoreths. The Israelites were wicked in the eyes of the Lord and they angered Him. God handed the Israelites over to their enemies, who plundered and oppressed them.
The Israelites eventually cried out to the Lord for help. God appointed judges who saved the Israelites from their enemies and He restored peace and prosperity until the judge died. After the judge’s death, the Israelites returned to their evil practices and worshiped other gods.
The cycle of sin, judgment, repentance and redemption continued. Israel repeatedly forgot about God’s love and the covenant promises God had made with His chosen people. The new generations of Israelites turned away from God and embraced the religious and cultural practices of the other nations in Canaan. God showed His mercy to the Israelites by sending judges to save them and re-establish peace in the land.
by Deborah Horscroft
From Joseph’s line came Deborah, the only female Judge over Israel. She brought the word of the Lord to the commander of Israel’s army, Barak. God promised them victory and gave them an unusual battle plan against a stronger foe that had iron chariots. Barak had faith in God’s promise, but asked Deborah to accompany him – just in case.
Like us, many of those we read about in the early years of Israel’s history had an imperfect faith in God’s promises, yet God was faithful to them. He honoured their struggles to uphold their responsibilities, even when those around them were turning from God. In His mercy He forgave their sins when they were repentant.
Hebrews 11 provides a tribute to many of the faithful, including some from the time of the Judges. It also reminds us what it means to have faith while we await the time when we shall be perfect.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for… And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; … whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. – the world was not worthy of them. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11: 1-2, 32-33, 38-40)