Today’s reading begins with the continued conquest of the Promised Land after Joshua’s death and concludes with brief story of the judge Shamgar.
Although today’s reading contains the story of the Israelites continuing to conquer cities and areas of the Promised Land, the most striking narrative in today’s reading was that of the failure of the people to completely drive out the natives of the Promised Land and for the Israelites to rid themselves of the elements that God had promised that would lead them away from the LORD.
All of these tribes failed in one respect or another to drive out and destroy the unrighteous people who lived in the land: Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, Dan. Leaving the pagan remnants to live among their tribes, the Israelites were welcoming the watering down of their devotion to the LORD. It’s not long until we begin to see the people beginning to stray from the LORD by becoming comfortable with the beliefs and practices of those who them refused to drive out from among them.
Verses 11-15 of Judges 2 sums up the conflict of the majority of the book:
“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.” (ESV)
Because the Israelites failed to drive out the pagan peoples of the Promised Land, they became comfortable with the worship practices of the surrounding peoples. After becoming comfortable with the worship of the surrounding peoples, the Israelites began to take part in the worship. After regularly taking part in the worship of the Baals, the people forgot the LORD. The continued lack of faith on the part of the people led to God allowing the people to derive their protection from the gods whom they worshiped. It should have become evident to the people that the Baals were false gods with no power to protect them and advocate for them, but the Israelites–as I suppose I am–were slow to learn.
Even though God gave the Israelites over to misfortune at the hands of their enemies, in His mercy the LORD provided judges or saviors, to give them relief from their enemies.