The Israelites, under Joshua’s able leadership, have almost completely conquered the land promised to them by God. Joshua – all of the elders – as well as all of that generation died off, leaving Israel in occupation of the land of Canaan. That is how the book of Joshua ends and the book of Judges begins.

The book of Judges is the beginning recording of the downfall of Israel. Under the strong leadership of both Moses and Joshua – the fledgling nation has thrived – obeying the Lord (somewhat) and seeing His goodness come to pass in their lives. But, we now enter a period where the nation has no strong leader – and they vacillate between obeying the Lord and not. The Jewish Talmud says that Samuel wrote this book (although some suggest it was the prophet Isaiah) – and numerous statements throughout indicate that it was written as a “looking back” into history.

Chronicling the events of about 400 years or so after the death of Joshua’s generation – the book of Judges details the Israelites struggle to obey God – coupled with their rebellion. God sends 16 Judges who attempt to lead them administratively in obeying the commands of the Lord. Back and forth we see God’s people move from obeying God (under the leadership of a judge) to disobeying God (after the death of that judge) and being thrust into servitude to a foreign power.

Either way – it is a sad recounting of Israel’s repeated failure to obey the Lord – as both Moses and Joshua had repeatedly implored them to do. It also is a telling view of the incredible patience and grace God demonstrated to them with each judge He sent to lead them.

Right out of the gate we see the problems start as the various tribes attempt to complete the clearing process that was left unfinished by Joshua. The instructions from the Lord were to completely remove these people from the land.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you are entering to possess and has plucked away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, And when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you smite them, then you must utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them, or show mercy to them.”Deut 7:1-2 AMP

We have already discussed why it was necessary for the Israelites to completely destroy these people groups – and their failure to do so would prove to be a stumbling block for generations to come.

Judah – Benjamin – Manesseh – Ephraim – Zebulun – Asher – Naphtali – Dan and Joseph all failed to obey the Lord… instead leaving some of the original inhabitants of the land in place. Obviously these Canaanites had no desire to leave their homes – being perfectly willing to settle for slavery and paying tribute in exchange. BUT – God did not tell the Israelites to make them pay tribute or keep them as slaves – He said to destroy them.

The reasons varied – from iron chariots to just plain disobedience – but the results were still the same. One by one the tribes chose to only partially obey God’s instructions. But the truth is, partial obedience is really not obedience at all. By only taking God’s Word so far into their reality – the Israelites only created heartache and drama for themselves.

In fact – notice how things progress: the tribe of Judah disobeys in fear of the iron chariots – this eventually leads to the tribe of Asher “dwelling among the Canaanites” (instead of the other way around). – (Judges 1:32). Eventually the slippery slope of partial obedience leads to the enemy forcing the tribe of Dan to live up in the mountains, instead of in the fertile valley as God had planned. (Judges 1:34).

As we shall see – this compromising attitude will spread and rot the nation from the inside out. Their choice to only obey God in as far as they could understand would allow the enemy a foothold into their lives which would wreck havoc in the future – leading to their total demise.

This is a picturesque warning for all of us Christians today. God has provided instructions in how to live our lives according to His original intent. When we choose to only obey these instructions in part – we give the enemy a foothold into our lives from which he can launch attacks from within (Eph 4:27) – eventually leading to our complete destruction. It is amazing how much of our struggles and problems in life can be traced back to partial obedience.

As we follow along on this bird’s-eye view of the early years of the nation of Israel – may we heed the warning placed before us and ensure that we obey God completely. That is the only way to true blessing, multiplication and fruitfulness.


Be Fruitful & Multiply,