Today's text from the ESV Study Bible: Judges 3-5.
The book of Judges is going to lay before our eyes 12 "judges", essentially military hero's, whom God will use to deliver Israel from their various captivities over the span of roughly 400 years.
Throughout the book of Judges we will see a consistent pattern emerge:
- Israel does what is evil in the eyes of God.
- God allows Israel to be conquered by a neighboring nation.
- Israel cries and repents.
- God sends a judge to deliver Israel.
The other thing that instantly jumps off the pages is that the Bible is not afraid to be very graphic in its depictions of this period of Judges.
Here, in the painting above, we see Jael driving a tent peg through the temple of Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army.
As I was seeking to understand why God didn't give Israel a new leader to replace Joshua, I found that one of the primary themes of the book of Judges is God's use of charismatic leaders. Here is an explanation from The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology:
"Charismatic leadership, as generally understood by scholars since Max Weber, is leadership which gains its authority by virtue of divine gifting or spiritual ‘filling’. Charismatic leaders are raised up by God, often with supernatural powers or gifts, and are recognized as leaders by their followers. They need not be appointed to their office, since the gifting proves itself in action, usually in the face of some crisis, and popular acclaim follows. In the editorial framework of Judges (e.g. in the second prologue), God is said to have ‘raised up judges’, to deliver his people (2:16, RSV). The various cycles, beginning with that of Othniel (3:9), outline the careers of these judges. Again and again a leader is ‘raised up’ and endued with the Spirit, faces a challenge and emerges victorious. The general is then transformed from a military hero into a judicial or administrative functionary.
The book of Judges, far from simply showing the weakness of the various leaders, celebrates the quality of charismatic leadership, from the affirmation in the second prologue of its divine origin (see especially 2:16–19) to the celebration, not only in narrative but also in poetry (cf. ch. 5), of the judges’ heroic feats. Charismatic leadership becomes a fundamental building block for divinely ordained kingship. Yahweh’s ideal king is raised up by Yahweh, filled with the Spirit, endued with power, and popularly acclaimed. He is, in short, the ideal charismatic leader. But despite its celebration of charismatic leadership, Judges also reminds the reader of its weaknesses. In the first epilogue (chs. 17–18) the only leaders left in Israel are Micah the idol-maker and his wandering Levite, a pathetic figure for sale to the highest bidder. Something more than charismatic leadership is needed."
The book of Judges demonstrates a transition in the leadership of Israel, through these "charismatic leaders", that will ultimately usher in God's divinely ordained kings. Which in turn will ultimately point to the ultimate King, Jesus the Christ.
Hang on, we are in for a graphic and sometimes ugly ride.