From Conquest to Chaos (Judges 1:1-3:6)

The downward spiral of a people

who refuse to listen to God

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? The opening chapters of Judges are divided into two sections. First, the author bridges the partial conquest of the Promised Land to the multi-generational cycle of rebellion and deliverance that characterized the era before the monarchy. Israel’s disobedience and failure to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan would haunt them for generations. In the second section, the narrator presents an overview of the cyclical pattern that would characterize the people of Israel for the next three centuries. Throughout this era, the people would forsake the LORD. As a result, God would allow the people to be disciplined through a period of oppression. Then, the people would repent and the LORD would raise up a deliverer (judge). Finally, the deliverer would die and the people would again forsake the LORD by worship the false gods of the surrounding nations.

SO WHAT? The LORD had set Israel apart to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Through a series of rebellious events, however, the people demonstrated an inability to be faithful to the LORD and an unwillingness to live in obedience to divine revelation. This ongoing rebellion is vividly highlighted throughout Judges and is the framework upon which the narrator builds a case for a righteous King who would unite and lead the people in obedience to the LORD.

The rebellion described in the book of Judges has numerous parallels to the anti-gospel attitude and activity that characterizes much of western culture. We find ourselves, individually and collectively, going through cycles of rebellion, discipline, repentance, and deliverance. When Christ is not King, we too will do whatever is right in our own eyes.    


1. The end of an era.

2. The pattern of rebellion, repentance, and restoration. 

 3. The need for a righteous king.

judges 1 to 3 darkness blogNOW WHAT? Like the Israelites, we struggle through cycles of disobedience, being disciplined, repentance, and restoration, only to repeat the entire episode. It is only when we surrender our entire being (intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally) to the Lord Jesus Christ that we will begin to find freedom from the perpetual cycle of disobedience and discipline. We must rely upon the righteous King Jesus to both save and sanctify us.


16Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so.18Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways (Judges 2:16-19 ESV)


STUDY QUESTIONS (Judges 1:1 – 3:6) 

1. Explain why the tribe of Judah is portrayed positively in the opening chapters (1:16-20).

2. Explain why the tribe of Benjamin is portrayed negatively throughout the book of Judges (1:21).

3. Describe the faithfulness of God to His people, even though they have again failed to be obedient (2:1-5).

4. Explain how the LORD used the people groups (nations) that Israel had not driven out to both test and discipline them (2:1-5; 3:3-6).

5. What was the role of the judges whom God raised up to save His people (2:16-19)?

6. Describe the pattern or cycles that would characterize the people of Israel throughout the period of the judges (2:16-23).

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