The Bible In Our World (Part 9)

The Promised Land

Joshua and Judges

By Don Ruhl

The Book of Joshua represents a major change in Israel’s history.

Moses died, the forty years of wandering in the wilderness ended, and Israel stood at the edge of the Jordan River. However, God gave Israel a new leader to replace Moses in answer to a prayer of Moses (Num 27.15–17).

After God encouraged Joshua to be strong by daily meditation in the Law, he spoke to the people about what they would do shortly in the Land of Canaan, and then the people encouraged him, promising that as they obeyed Moses, so they would obey Joshua (Jos 1.16–18).

Joshua sent scouts, who found Rahab. She received them because she had heard of God’s works on behalf of Israel. Others heard the same news and fought Israel. She heard the news and was converted (Jos 2.9–11).

The two men brought back a good report to Joshua and Israel, and the army crossed over the Jordan River (Jos 3.14–17).

This reminds us of the crossing of the Red Sea. If an obstacle stands in the way of obeying God, He will remove it. Does it always have to be miraculous? No, for the providence of God is still God working. Miracles and providence are simply different manifestations of the power of God to intervene for His people. Miracles suspend the laws of nature; providence works with the laws of nature.

When Joshua led Israel across the Jordan River it represented a dramatic change for the nation. It was after crossing the Jordan that Israel started eating the produce of the land and the manna ceased (Jos 5.12). Crossing rivers is often a major event, such as Washington crossing the Delaware.

Notice the difference between the land Israel eventually occupied and the land of Israel today. Many conflicts in that region today have their roots in the land.

Many names on the American landscape have come from places in the Books of Joshua and Judges, such as Canaan, New Canaan, Gilead, Hebron, and Jericho. Battlefields of the American Civil War have come from these books also, Manassas and Shiloh.


Warfare is the theme of the Book of Joshua. The Book shows unusual methods of battle, but if the Lord ordered it, and Israel followed it, they had success, such as when they marched around the city of Jericho (Jos 6.2–5).

The Judges 

Joshua ended his time of leadership over Israel with a thought-provoking address. One of the things he said was this, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Jos 24.15).

The Book of Judges shows the choices that Israel made for a span of several hundred years. The Book of Judges also shows the chaos of the nation without a leader. Read the message of Judges 2.7–19.

Also, toward the end of the Book, the writer repeated his message of the disastrous results of no leadership (Jdg 17.6; 18.1; 19.1; 21.25). These passages show that without a king everyone in Israel did what was right in his own eyes.

Here is what the last five chapters of the Book of Judges show. When everyone does what is right in his own eyes:

  • Chapter 17 – God’s Religion is Perverted
  • Chapter 18 – False Religion Spreads
  • Chapter 19 – Immorality Happens
  • Chapter 20 – Genocide Happens
  • Chapter 21 – Weird Things Happen

After the people sinned and then returned to God, He gave them a leader to deliver them from their enemies, and to lead them in the right way for as long as the judge lived. The judges were more like deliverers than judicial magistrates.

Notables Among the Judges 

Deborah was the only woman judge in the Bible. While she accompanied the army, she did not fight (Jdg 4.6–9).

Gideon won a battle against insurmountable odds. With three hundred men he defeated 135,000 (Jdg 8.10, 12), using an unusual method. “Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers. And he said to them, ‘Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!”’” (Jdg 7.16–18).

Why did Gideon do this? What was the effect? It appeared that tens of thousands of troops were attacking the Midianite camp, because each light and each trumpet would have represented thousands of troops. However, the Midianites could not tell, because it was dark.

During the first Persian Gulf War, America and her allies employed a similar method, simulating a large attack at night along the shore of Kuwait, and so the Iraqis prepared for that assault, while the actual attacking army swung out to the west and came in behind the Iraqis.

What are the Bibles called that you can find in hotels, motels, hospitals, and other places? The organization describes its link to the story of Gideon thus,

Gideon was a man who was willing to do exactly what God wanted him to do, regardless of his own judgment as to the plans or results. Humility, faith, and obedience were his great elements of character. This is the standard that The Gideons International is trying to establish in all its members, each man to be ready to do God’s will at any time, at any place, and in any way that the Holy Spirit leads.

In keeping with this symbolism, the symbol of the Gideons is a two handled pitcher and torch, recalling Gideon’s victory over the Midianites as described in Judges, Chapter 7…

Wikipedia says,

On Christmas Eve 1968, the astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission read from the first part of Genesis during a live television broadcast from lunar orbit. A Japanese correspondent staying at a Houston hotel while covering the mission called NASA Public Affairs to request a copy of the speech that the astronauts were reading. The Public Affairs official asked where he was staying and then told him that if he opened the desk drawer in his room he would find a book and that he should open it to page one. The reporter found the Gideon Bible and later reported that “NASA Public Affairs is very efficient—they had a mission transcript waiting in my hotel room.”

Jephthah made a vow to God that the judge later regretted. He was the son of a harlot, nevertheless, God used him to deliver Israel. Why then did Jephthah make the following vow? “And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering’” (Jdg 11.30–31).

The earlier parts of the chapter showed that God was with Jephthah. There could be two parts to vow. What or who greeted him, he would give to the Lord forever, and Jephthah would also offer a burnt offering. The “and” could also be “or.” Reading verse 39 gives the impression that his daughter bewailed her virginity, because having been given to the Lord, she would not marry and have children.

Samson was a man who had difficulty controlling himself. Still God used Samson to fight Israel’s enemies, although Samson did it without leading an army against the enemy. He was a man of mighty strength and his encounter with Delilah showed the source of his strength (Jdg 16.15–17).

Numbers 6 shows that a Nazarite took a special vow in service to God and part of that vow was not cutting the hair (Num 6.1–5).

This may have the been the vow Paul was taking in Acts 21.

The final judge was Samuel, who also anointed the first two kings of Israel. Interestingly, the Book of Judges notes several times that there was no king in Israel and perhaps the Book of Judges showed the chaos of living without a king and with Israel failing to see God as their king.


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