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14th March

Judges 9-12; Psalm 73

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
14th March

Judges 9-12; Psalm 73

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Judges, we've read through the introduction that sets the cycle for the rest of the book. The Israelites failed to remove the other nations from the land completely when they conquered it. Because of this, these other nations led the Israelites to turn away from God.

This created a cycle. The Israelites would turn away from God and his protection. God would allow a foreign nation to come and oppress his people. The Israelites would then realise their mistake and turn back to God. God would send judges, tribal leaders, to rescue the people and the lead them back to him. The people would live in peace for a while, before getting complacent and turning away from God again.

We then read through the first few iterations of this cycle with the judges, Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar. Each led the Israelites to defeat the enemies that oppressed them and then live in an extended period of peace. But for each, after they died, the Israelites once again turned away from God and back to their own desires. These were followed by Deborah who, along with a woman named Jael, helped Israel defeat their Canaanite enemies.

But then came Gideon, who wasn't as good a judge. He helped the Israelites defeat the Midianites and gave them 40 years of peace. But through it all, he often lacked confidence in God and was violent and oppressive to the people he was meant to lead.

Judges 9-12

Gideon (also known as Jerubbaal) had died, but his legacy continues on. One of his sons, Abimelech, decides to take power for himself, making himself king of the town of Shechem and then killing all seventy of his brothers but one, Jotham.

Jotham then speaks a curse over Abimelech and Shechem and then flees. Because of this, God sends an evil spirit between Abimelech and Shechem. What follows is a lot of infighting that leads to a civil war within Shechem that ultimately destroys the town.

During this time, Abimelech's pride and love for violence causes him to seek out more and more battles, which then gets him killed. This story shows the state of Israel. Rather than being the people of God, they are becoming a proud people, that seek power for themselves and fight and kill one another.

After Abimelech comes Tolah and Jair, who were both judges over Israel. But unlike previous judges, there is no mention that God was the one that chose them.

This is also true of the next key judge, Jephthah. The author starts the cycle again, noting that the Israelites once again have turned away from God and so God gave them over to the Philistines and the Ammonites. The difference this time is that when the people cried out to God to repent, he ignored them.

Then Jephthah comes on the scene. The illegitimate son of his father, he is cast out of his family by his brothers. But as the oppression gets too much, the people ask Jephthah to lead them. For his help, Jephthah wants to be their ruler, and they agree.

Jephthah goes out to speak to the Ammonites who accuse Israel of stealing their land. Jephthah gives them a history lesson showing the journey Israel took through the wilderness and how the land is rightfully there's. But the Ammonites refused to listen.

It is at this point that God comes on the scene and decides to bless Jephthah as he goes out into battle. Unfortunately, while Jephthah does know the history of Israel, he doesn't really know the God of Israel. He promises God that he will sacrifice the first thing that leaves his house when he returns, which turns out to be his daughter.

Sacrificing children was common in the religions of the neighbouring nations, but was explicitly forbidden by the God of Israel. And yet Jephthah still goes ahead of, showing how far away from God Israel had come.

We then see more of Israel's tendency to fight and kill each other. Once again the tribe of Ephraim take offence at not being invited to a battle. The two groups fight and Jephthah and his men end up killing 42,000 Ephraimites. Israel is getting worse and worse.

Jephthah is followed by three more judges: Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. None of them are said to be appointed by God, are said to have brought about peace, and all three have much shorter reigns, with the longest being ten years.

Psalm 73

With Psalm 73, we start the third book of the psalm, ranging from Psalm 73-89. The first two books had a strong focus on lamenting. This continues into book three of the psalms, but with a shift. We get more lament psalms focused on how Jerusalem has fallen and its people exiled.

The wisdom and royal psalms are more about looking forward to God restoring his kingdom and what is needed to do it.

Psalm 73 opens the book with a wisdom psalm declaring God’s purity, goodness, and authority. It sets the tone that the wickedness that is about to come on Israel is their own doing, not God’s. The psalm is attributed to Asaph, who was one of the musicians appointed by David in 1 Chronicles 6:31-48.

Psalm 73:1-2 - God is good and pure

Psalm 73:3-12 - The wicked get away with much

Psalm 73:13-17 - Why bother being righteous?

Psalm 73:18-20 - Wicked will be repaid

Psalm 73:21-22 - The psalmist’s failings

Psalm 73:23-28 - God’s goodness

The psalmist opens with God’s purity. He is a good God. The psalmist then contrasts that with their own failings. They make mistakes and sometimes slip. For example, the psalmist was previously jealous of wicked people because it looked like they prospered.

The psalmist then points out how it looks like the wicked get away with much. They eat well and they don’t seem to face the same struggles as everyone else. They get to stand tall with pride and they seem to be happy, all while being violent and oppressive to others. They even mock God and seem to get away with it, all the while getting richer with an easy life.

So the psalmist points to themselves and wonders why they bother being righteous. They just get rebuked for their attempts. Even when they thought about it, there was a part of them knew that to turn from righteousness would be betraying God, trying to understand how it work just left them feeling tired.

That is until they were finally about to find the answer in God. While the wicked seem to get away with thing God is slowly setting their trap. While it seems like they stand fast soon, their feet will slip and it will be their ruin. Their success will be like a dream they wake up from.

The psalmist then again repents of their failings. They were wrong and ignorant to allow themselves to become jealous of the wicked, and they behaved wrong towards God.

Then, for the rest of the psalm, the psalmist focuses on God’s goodness. God leads them and guides them. No one on heaven and earth can compare with God. Even when the psalmist’s strength fails, God is their strength and sustains them.

Ultimately, those who are far from God will perish, and so the psalmist asked that God be close to them and keep them safe so they can tell others of God’s goodness.

This wisdom psalm tries to address that struggle many of us have when we look at those not living right but succeeding and we think, “why do we bother?”. The answer, because God has it all in hand. The wicked prosper for now but eventually they will stumble, but God will sustain you if you remain faithful to him.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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