Judges opens up with the death of Joshua. Remembering back to the book of Joshua, not all the territories had been taken but enough were that God had released the tribes from acting as one complete army. This meant that there were still skirmishes left to be had.
The people ask God Himself who will be their leader after the death of Joshua and He answers them. God answers them with a whole tribe and the book refers to the tribe as if it were a person. The tribe of Judah asks only Simeon to take up arms with them against the Canaanites. Then there is an accounting of the places they take.
Within that accounting is a man giving away his daughter for a city. While progress has brought us away from taking such agency from our daughters, I found it interesting that she asks for her land to include “springs of water”. It seems like a simple enough request, but it was strange for it to be included here.
Accounts of the other tribes follow her request along with the cities that were taken and the people that were left, but no one was meant to be left.
Then God reminds them that they were not supposed to leave anyone and tells them the consequences. He will leave them and the inhabitants to be “thorns in your sides and their gods shall be a snare to you”. They get all bent out of shape about it and give a sacrifice.
The book then recounts Joshua’s death and that all the rest of his generation passes too. So now we have a group of people are in charge who “did not nkow the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel”,
How did they not know? I’m sure that it really means that they didn’t see it first hand the way the others did, but still. Do you have to see it firsthand? Is the account from your parents and grandparents not enough? Then again, a cursory look around the world reveals that easy truth.
In their ignorance or disbelief or however we want to justify not following what seem like simply instructions to not worship other gods, they anger God, the one who got them this far in the first place. Now, it really seems like the instruction to not worship other gods was the key one here. There were lots of rules and commandments and laws that are hard to follow and keep perfectly, but it seems like it’s worshipping God and no one else is the key to God moving against them and not protecting them anymore.
Just like the book of Deuteronomy promised, God turns from them when they turn on him; He brings someone to bring them back and then there is harmony and good living until that person dies and the cycle begins again. Each generations is supposedly worse than the last. Because of this cycle, God stops driving out the people of the lands as they continue to take them.
Even though it’s not good for the people, this book appears to again be about God keeping promises. This time it’s just the promise to not be with them when they are not with Him and giving them guidance on how to return to Him when they ask to come back.