SynopsisThis passage starts out with yet another recap of what has happened before: At the age of a hundred and ten, Joshua reconfirmed the LORD’s covenant with the Israelites, and then died. The people had served the LORD throughout his lifetime, and when he died, they went to take possession of the Promised Land. But then…
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Because of this cycle of disobedience—disobey God; He sends a judge; they sort of repent; the judge dies; they do even worse than before—the LORD is angry with them, and, as mentioned before, He tells them that He will no longer drive the nations out of the Promised Land, as He would have, if they’d have obeyed Him.
So, because He is not driving out the other nations, they’re still there. And the Israelites are living among them, and even inter-marrying with them:
The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. (verses 3:5–6)
Get used to seeing the list of peoples listed above; the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. I seem to recall seeing that phrase a lot in the book of Judges, and maybe the rest of the Old Testament, too.
ThoughtsYou’ll see “Baal” or “the Baals” mentioned a lot in the Old Testament. Sometimes you’ll see references to “Baal” as if that’s the name of a particular god, and sometimes you’ll see “the Baals,” which seems to indicate that it can be used as a particular category of gods. I don’t think it really matters; the point is that the Israelites were worshipping other “gods,” and forsaking God.
This passage sort of sums up the entire book of Judges that we’re about to read, with the cycle of disobedience/obedience/disobedience. And notice also that the Israelites inter-marrying with the other peoples goes hand in hand with them worshipping the other nations’ gods. Which should come as no surprise, since that’s exactly what God had warned the Israelites would happen.
But there is another important point in this passage: When did this start happening? When the next generation of Israelites came along. The generation that had followed Joshua was fine, but the next generation “knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel” (verse 2:10). And why is that? Well, as faithful to the LORD as the Israelites were, during Joshua’s time, what they didn’t do was teach His ways to their children.