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Judges 2:6--3:6

The End of an Era

2:6 When Joshua dismissed 1  the people, the Israelites went to their allotted portions of territory, 2  intending to take possession of the land. 2:7 The people worshiped 3  the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and as long as the elderly men 4  who outlived him remained alive. These men had witnessed 5  all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. 6  2:8 Joshua son of Nun, the Lord’s servant, died at the age of one hundred ten. 2:9 The people 7  buried him in his allotted land 8  in Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 2:10 That entire generation passed away; 9  a new generation grew up 10  that had not personally experienced the Lord’s presence or seen what he had done for Israel. 11 

A Monotonous Cycle

2:11 The Israelites did evil before 12  the Lord by worshiping 13  the Baals. 2:12 They abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors 14  who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They followed other gods – the gods of the nations who lived around them. They worshiped 15  them and made the Lord angry. 2:13 They abandoned the Lord and worshiped Baal and the Ashtars. 16 

2:14 The Lord was furious with Israel 17  and handed them over to robbers who plundered them. 18  He turned them over to 19  their enemies who lived around them. They could not withstand their enemies’ attacks. 20  2:15 Whenever they went out to fight, 21  the Lord did them harm, 22  just as he had warned and solemnly vowed he would do. 23  They suffered greatly. 24 

2:16 The Lord raised up leaders 25  who delivered them from these robbers. 26  2:17 But they did not obey 27  their leaders. Instead they prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped 28  them. They quickly turned aside from the path 29  their ancestors 30  had walked. Their ancestors had obeyed the Lord’s commands, but they did not. 31  2:18 When the Lord raised up leaders for them, the Lord was with each leader and delivered the people 32  from their enemies while the leader remained alive. The Lord felt sorry for them 33  when they cried out in agony because of what their harsh oppressors did to them. 34  2:19 When a leader died, the next generation 35  would again 36  act more wickedly than the previous one. 37  They would follow after other gods, worshiping them 38  and bowing down to them. They did not give up 39  their practices or their stubborn ways.

A Divine Decision

2:20 The Lord was furious with Israel. 40  He said, “This nation 41  has violated the terms of the agreement I made with their ancestors 42  by disobeying me. 43  2:21 So I will no longer remove before them any of the nations that Joshua left unconquered when he died. 2:22 Joshua left those nations 44  to test 45  Israel. I wanted to see 46  whether or not the people 47  would carefully walk in the path 48  marked out by 49  the Lord, as their ancestors 50  were careful to do.” 2:23 This is why 51  the Lord permitted these nations to remain and did not conquer them immediately; 52  he did not hand them over to Joshua.

3:1 These were the nations the Lord permitted to remain so he could use them to test Israel – he wanted to test all those who had not experienced battle against the Canaanites. 53  3:2 He left those nations simply because he wanted to teach the subsequent generations of Israelites, who had not experienced the earlier battles, how to conduct holy war. 54  3:3 These were the nations: 55  the five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo-Hamath. 56  3:4 They were left to test Israel, so the Lord would know if his people would obey the commands he gave their ancestors through Moses. 57 

3:5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 3:6 They took the Canaanites’ daughters as wives and gave their daughters to the Canaanites; 58  they worshiped 59  their gods as well.

1 tn Or “sent away.”

2 tn Heb “the Israelites went each to his inheritance.”

3 tn Or “served”; or “followed.”

4 tn Or perhaps “elders,” which could be interpreted to mean “leaders.”

5 tn Heb “all the days of Joshua and all the days of the old men who outlived him, who had seen.”

6 tn Heb “the great work of the Lord which he had done for Israel.”

7 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 tn Heb “in the territory of his inheritance.”

9 tn Heb “All that generation were gathered to their fathers.”

10 tn Heb “arose after them.”

11 tn Heb “that did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.” The expressions “personally experienced” and “seen” are interpretive.

12 tn Heb “in the eyes of.”

13 tn Or “serving”; or “following.”

14 tn Or “fathers.”

15 tn Or “bowed before” (the same expression occurs in the following verse).

16 tn Some English translations simply transliterate the plural Hebrew term (“Ashtaroth,” cf. NAB, NASB), pluralize the transliterated Hebrew singular form (“Ashtoreths,” cf. NIV), or use a variation of the name (“Astartes,” cf. NRSV).

sn The Ashtars were local manifestations of the goddess Astarte.

17 tn Or “The Lord’s anger burned [or “raged”] against Israel.”

18 tn Heb “robbers who robbed them.” (The verb שָׁסָה [shasah] appears twice in the verse.)

sn The expression robbers who plundered them is a derogatory reference to the enemy nations, as the next line indicates.

19 tn Heb “sold them into the hands of.”

20 tn The word “attacks” is supplied in the translation both for clarity and for stylistic reasons.

21 tn The expression “to fight” is interpretive.

22 tn Heb “the Lord’s hand was against them for harm.”

23 tn Heb “just as he had said and just as he had sworn to them.”

24 tn Or “they experienced great distress.”

25 tn Or more traditionally, “judges” (also in vv. 17, 18 [3x], 19). Since these figures carried out more than a judicial function, also serving as rulers and (in several instances) as military commanders, the translation uses the term “leaders.”

26 tn Heb “and they delivered them from the hand of the ones robbing them.”

27 tn Or “did not listen to.”

28 tn Or “bowed before.”

29 tn Or “way [of life].”

30 tn Or “fathers.”

31 tn Heb “…walked, obeying the Lord’s commands. They did not do this.”

32 tn Heb “them”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

33 tn The phrase “for them” is supplied in the translation for clarity.

34 tn Heb “the ones oppressing them and afflicting them.” The synonyms “oppressing” and “afflicting” are joined together in the translation as “harsh oppressors” to emphasize the cruel character of their enemies.

35 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the next generation) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

36 tn The verb שׁוּב (shuv, “to return; to turn”) is sometimes translated “turn back” here, but it is probably used in an adverbial sense, indicating that the main action (“act wickedly”) is being repeated.

37 tn Heb “their fathers.”

sn The statement the next generation would again act more wickedly than the previous one must refer to the successive sinful generations after Joshua, not Joshua’s godly generation (cf. vv. 7, 17).

38 tn Or “serving [them]”; or “following [them].”

39 tn Or “drop.”

40 tn Or “The Lord’s anger burned [or “raged”] against Israel.”

41 tn Heb “Because this nation.”

42 tn Heb “my covenant which I commanded their fathers.”

43 tn Heb “and has not listened to my voice.” The expression “to not listen to [God’s] voice” is idiomatic here for disobeying him.

44 tn The words “Joshua left those nations” are interpretive. The Hebrew text of v. 22 simply begins with “to test.” Some subordinate this phrase to “I will no longer remove” (v. 21). In this case the Lord announces that he has now decided to leave these nations as a test for Israel. Another possibility is to subordinate “to test” to “He said” (v. 20; see B. Lindars, Judges 1-5, 111). In this case the statement recorded in vv. 20b-21 is the test in that it forces Israel to respond either positively (through repentance) or negatively to the Lord’s declaration. A third possibility (the one reflected in the present translation) is to subordinate “to test” to “left unconquered” (v. 21). In this case the Lord recalls that Joshua left these nations as a test. Israel has failed the test (v. 20), so the Lord announces that the punishment threatened earlier (Josh 23:12-13; see also Judg 2:3) will now be implemented. As B. G. Webb (Judges [JSOTSup], 115) observes, “The nations which were originally left as a test are now left as a punishment.” This view best harmonizes v. 23, which explains that the Lord did not give all the nations to Joshua, with v. 22. (For a grammatical parallel, where the infinitive construct of נָסָה [nasah] is subordinated to the perfect of עָזַב [’azav], see 2 Chr 32:31.)

45 tn The Hebrew text includes the phrase “by them,” but this is somewhat redundant in English and has been omitted from the translation for stylistic reasons.

46 tn The words “I [i.e., the Lord] wanted to see” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

47 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

48 tn Or “way [of life].”

49 tn “The words “marked out by” are interpretive.

50 tn Or “fathers.”

51 tn The words “this is why” are interpretive.

52 tn Or “quickly.”

53 tn Heb “did not know the wars of Canaan.”

54 tn The Hebrew syntax of v. 2 is difficult. The Hebrew text reads literally, “only in order that the generations of the Israelites might know, to teach them war – only those who formerly did not know them.”

sn The stated purpose for leaving the nations (to teach the subsequent generations…how to conduct holy war) seems to contradict 2:22 and 3:4, which indicate the nations were left to test Israel’s loyalty to the Lord. However, the two stated purposes can be harmonized. The willingness of later generations to learn and engage in holy war would measure their allegiance to the Lord (see B. G. Webb, Judges [JSOTSup], 114-15).

55 tn The words “These were the nations,” though not present in the Hebrew text, are supplied in the translation for clarity.

56 tn Or “the entrance to Hamath.”

57 tn Heb “to know if they would hear the commands of the Lord which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.”

58 tn Heb “to their sons.”

59 tn Or “served”; or “followed” (this term occurs in the following verse as well).

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