Study Guide

Book of Judges Human Relationships, Divine Relationships

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Human Relationships, Divine Relationships

As mentioned in the "Figures" section on Israel and God, readers can draw a symbolic link between the crazy, messed-up human relationships in Judges and Israel's crazy, messed-up relationship with its Deity. When Jael promises Sisera the protection of her tent only to murder him in his sleep (4:18-21), we might see Israel promising devotion to God only to quickly "transgress [his] covenant" (2:20). When "Samson's wife [and later Delilah] wept before him, saying, 'You hate me; you do not really love me […]'" (14:16-17) until he finally gives in, we might recall how "the people [of Israel] lifted up their voices and wept" (2:4) for God's help until "he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer" (10:16). And when the Levite goes to his concubine's father's house to "speak tenderly to her and bring her back" (19:3) only to throw her to the wolves later (19:25), we might see Israel saying, "We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day!" (10:15), only to do "evil in the sight of the Lord" all over again later (13:1).

All of these examples work just as well going the other direction, as well: When "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and […] the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune" (2:14-15), that reflects Samson swearing to the Philistines, "I will not stop until I have taken revenge on you" (15:7). And this, of course, is just a small sampling of the dysfunctional smorgasbord that is Judges. Whether the oppressor is male or female, forceful or subtle, stranger or family, you could say that Israel, in its way, is lying to, cheating on, stabbing, betraying, crushing, kidnapping, raping, and killing the Lord when it breaks its covenant with him. The graphic violence of these human encounters echoes the emotional rawness God feels with each instance of Israel's apostasy.

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