Verses 1-6: God had commanded Israel to rid the land of all the inhabitants, but here it is confirmed that God knew that they would fail to drive them all out. Indeed, God left these idol-worshippers in the land as a test. If Israel is able to withstand the influence and temptations of the indigenous people, they would be obeying the commandment of the Lord. Verse 6 leaves no doubt to the omniscience of God: “And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons; and they served their gods.”
Verses 7-31: Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar are listed in sequence as judges that God designated to save the people. Israel turned from God and served idols. Eventually this denial of the true God resulted in slavery or captivity for Israel and they would seek Him again. Once they cried out to Him, God designated and blessed a judge to lead them out of the mess and to defeat their enemies. It was the beginning of a cycle that we will see competed many times.
Ehud’s removal of Eglon in this chapter is particularly interesting, if not gory. Notice that Ehud was not dishonest throughout and that the will of God in this case was carried out.
In this chapter, let us consider: God subjecting Israel to this temptation and subsequent punishment leaves us with some engaging questions.
– Does God test those that love Him?
– Does God seek to improve our dedication to Him?
– If God knew Israel would fail, why would he allow them to be corrupted?
– Why did God tell the Israelites to rid the land of all the inhabitants if He knew they ultimately wouldn’t?
We have tentative answers to most of these questions. God does test the righteous: “The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” Psalms 11:5
Also, we know that God puts paths before us to strengthen our will and desire to serve: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” I Peter 5:10
The last two questions posed are more difficult to definitively answer. If God knew Israel would fail, He may have wanted to test the amount of their dedication to Him, to see how far they would go before their shame compelled them to return to Him. Trying to answer those questions is like trying to find a grain of sand in a dark ballroom with no lights while blind. We can’t see what God sees; we can’t know what God knows. He created us and our limits of comprehension. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9