JUDGES 2:20-3:7 € THE CHALLENGE OF THE TRUTH € IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF IT
In this portion of the typical history of the Judges, we come to a very interesting feature which again presents to us a powerful exhortation. Because of their waywardness in comprom ising His principles, Yahweh was angered with His people, and proposed to put them to the proof in a far more exacting way than they had anticipated: "I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died, that through them I may prove Israel whether they will keep the way of Yahweh to walk therein as their fathers did keep it, or not" (Judges 2:20-22). This was to prove an exact ing test of the fidelity of Israel towards Yahweh. It is extr emely interesting to note the nations that were left to "prove them". They are named in the third chapter of Judges v.3. There were four nations left by Yahweh to perform this work of trying the people of God. They were the:
The interesting feature about these nations is that they are all descendants from Ham the son of Noah, and as such were the members of an accursed race (Genesis 10:15-17). With the exception of the Philistines, they were the most unwarlike people that could be imagined. Israel were not to be tried by an enemy who opposed them belligerently, but by a warfare far more insidious and destructive than actual conflict. These people were to appeal to the emotions, to the greed, and to the lust of human nature, in subverting Israel from the cause of truth. Set out below are the characteristics of each of these nations.
The Hebrew word means "An Immigrant," "migratory", and the word is used in the sense of "rolling", that is, "to be always on the move." The word has been used to signify "to roll in the dust." It is so used in Micah 1:10. In this quotation from Micah note how the term is associated with the town of Gath which is called by the prophet "the house of Aphrah" (dust). The term has also been rendered, "wallow in dust" (Jer.6:26, 25:34, Ez.27:30). Here were a people who, as their name implied, were of the earth, earthy, wallowers in the dust, who mind earthly things (Phil.3:19). The Philistines were in the land of Canaan during the lifetime of Abraham (Genesis 21:32-33). They were sufficiently powerful to inspire fear into Israel at the time of the Exodus (Ex.13:17), and in the time of the judges they were so powerful that they were able to sus tain constant raids upon Israel (Judges 5:6 cf. 3:31, 1 Sam.23: 1, 13:6, 10:5, 29:11). The purpose of these raids was to cap ture Israelites and to trade them as slaves, a practice for which they were condemned by the prophets of Yahweh (Joel 3:6, Amos 1:6).
Their territory had been assigned to Judah (Joshua 15:2, vl2, v45-47), yet no portion of it was conquered in Joshua's day (Joshua 13:2, Judges 3:3). During the period of the Judges they dominated Israel who came to accept them as their over lords (Judges 15:11).
Philistine worship revolved around three main deities: Dagon (the fish god) (Judges 16:23); Ashteroth (with whom immoral practice was associated, 1 Sam.31:10); and Baalzebub (whose name means "Lord of the dung hill", 2 Kings 1:2&6). So apost ate had Israel grown that in the days of Isaiah the prophet, he likened them to the Philistines whose worship was associated with everything that was vile and unclean (Isa. 2:6). These vile people were despisers of the truth, because of which in aftertimes, they became styled "the uncircumcised", imply ing their utter contempt for the right of circumcision, which was an act of cleansing and a token of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen.17:9-13, 1 Sam. 17:26).
The term 'Canaanite' signifies "to bend the knee", "to humili ate", "to bring down". The word is rendered "merchant" (Hosea 12: 7, Zeph.l:ll, Isa.23:8). It is also rendered "traffic" (Ez.17: 4). Here are a people who were prepared to humiliate themsel ves, to scrape and to bow, in order to trade as a merchant, and to get gain of those with whom they came in contact.
The Canaanite was also in the land during the lifetime of Abraham (Genesis 12:6),and Abraham recognising the principles for which he stood, would not permit Isaac to marry their daughters (Gen.24:3,v37). They were the original settlers of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the abominable practices of those cit ies testifies to the character of this people, (Gen. 10:19). Yahweh constantly warned Israel about making covenants with the Canaanites (Ex.34:11-17, Deut.7:1-5, 12:1-3). He knew the characteristics of this people who were prepared to abase themselves in the name of commerce and trade.
As neighbours, these people were dangerous. Yahweh had com manded that Israel could take spoil and captives from the people of lands "afar off" but that these nations who were in habitants of the land were to be entirely exterminated (Deut. 20:10-18). Joshua also exhorted the people to destroy them by the strength of Yahweh. However, Israel failed to carry out these explicit instructions, and even during the reigns of David and Solomon they were still occupants in the Holy Land (2 Sam.24:5-7, 1 Kings 9:16). In the future age the nations will be so disciplined that the characteristics of the Canaan ite will never be found in the precincts of God's Holy Land, (Zech.l4:21). Unlike the Philistines, the Canaanites were in the main, an unwarlike people, and yet for all that they were a more dangerous enemy, their weapons were flattery and self-abasement by which they were able to overthrow the simple in Israel.
So affected were the Children of Israel by this people, that Israel copied their abominations (Judges 19:22-26), and Isaiah the prophet likens Israel to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, which cities were first inhabited by the Canaanites (Isa. 1:9-10).
This name signifies "to lie in wait," "to catch", and "a huntsman". The word is used more especially of the fisherman, who lures his prey by guile and cunning. The root word has been rendered "chase" in Lam.3:52, and "to hunt" (Micah 7:2).
Here again, the Sidonians were a people who were not skilled in the art of warfare. Their character is outlined in Judges 18:7, and there we notice these characteristics. They were a people who dwelt "careless". They were content to live "quiet and secure". They had no judicial form of law, so that there was complete freedom to practise their abominations without being called in question. Ironically enough, one of the characteristics here spoken of was that they were content not to have dealings with other nations. In allowing them to remain in the land, Israel forced their attention upon this people, and in turn were ensnared and trapped like an animal by the wiles of these cunning and lawless people. Along with the other nations Yahweh had commanded that these Sidonians be driven out of the land (Josh. 13:6). Israel failed to do so (Judges 1:1), and were finally overcome by the worship of their gods (Judges 10:6).
Their subsequent history reveals the far-reaching effects of Israel's compromise with them. In the days of Solomon, the Sidonians provided timber for Solomon's temple (1 Kings 5:6), and Solomon himself married a Sidonian woman and was led into idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-5). Eventually the whole of Israel by Solomon's error, were led into the evil worship of the Sidon ians (1 Kings 11:33). In failing to stamp out the Sidonians, the generation under the judges had laid a foundation for these people to work destruction in the generations which were to follow.
Jezebel came from Zidon, and was the daughter of the king of the Zidonians and she brought with her the idolatrous worship of her nation and contaminated Israel with her doctrine (1 Kings 16:31). She stands as a symbol of false teaching and immoral living, and her class is condemned by Christ (Rev. 2: 20). The ecclesia at Thyatira, like Israe2 of old, had failed to stamp out error and immorality in their midst.
Joel speaks of the Sidonians as decorating their heathen tem ples with the holy things of Yahweh and of making slaves of the Children of Israel (Joel 3:4-8).
Ezekiel speaks of their utter destruction, and likens it to the removal of a brier and a thorn from the fertile land of Israel (Ez.28:20-24). Yahweh had previously declared that if Israel were to leave these nations, they would indeed be "pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides" (Numbers 33: 50-55, Joshua 23:13).
In the generations of the sons of Noah we find that Sidon fit ly enough, was the first-born of Canaan, who was a descendant of Ham (Genesis 10:15).
Their name signifies "a villager", one who dwells quietly and peacefully. Here again we note the unwarlike characteristics of this people. During the days of Jacob, Dinah his daughter became attached to Shechem the son of Hamor, the Hivite, an incident that was to cause a great deal of trouble in the household of Jacob.
We note with interest the way in which the Hivites through the alliance of Dinah and Shechem endeavoured to the utmost to make a league and a pact with Jacob, "And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her to him to wife. And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein and get you possessions therein" (Genesis 34:8-10). From the foundation of their existence this was the policy of the Hivite.
Knowing these characteristics, Yahweh also warned Israel not to make a covenant with this people (Ex.34:11-14).
When Joshua entered the Promised Land he was deceived by the men of Gibeon who had clothed themselves in old garments and with old shoes upon their feet, came to him with a story that they had come from a far land. Being thus deceived by them, Joshua was foolishly led into making a league with these people (Joshua 9:3-15, 11:19). In these quotations two interesting details are noted: first of all that Joshua's error came about because he "sought not counsel of Yahweh" (9:14), and secondly we note that the men of Gibeon were Hivites (Joshua 9:7). Once again the characteristics of cunning and of deceit, display themselves in this people.
The Hivites were still in existence in Solomon's time, and he had them under tribute (1 Kings 9:20). They were still there because Israel disobeyed Yahweh's command to exterminate them (Judges 3:5).