Lessons Learned: The Rollercoaster of Idolatry

A review of what can be learned from the book of Judges. Much of the text directly relates to our society today.
The book of Judges was more violent than I remembered from previous readings, and definitely more violent than Genesis through Joshua. The last time I'd read Judges was when I was young, so it's possible that I didn't notice because it went over my head, or I simply wasn't paying attention to detail. However, multiple instances of graphic violence occur in Judges. I don't think it's a coincidence that this violence comes in to Israelite society during the time when they strayed from God's commandments and partook in idolatry.

There's a saying in which a student is trying to prove God didn't create evil: the student says that just like cold is the absence of heat and dark is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God. In Judges, we witness the Israelites go back and forth in their worship of God versus idols. Thus, it is no surprise that as we witness the absence of God, we also witness the rise of things God has said are evil, such as violence.

An interesting caveat to this book, that applies directly to us today, is how the Israelites handled the cultural clash between them and the Canaanites. God commanded them to get rid of the Canaanites. At the end of the conquest, the land was supposed to be 100% free of Canaanites because God knew that the idolatry of the Canaanites would infect the Israelites. However, the Israelites decided to let them stay. Some of this was likely about greed—it is explicitly stated in Joshua that in cities the Israelites defeated but didn't empty, they required the Canaanites to pay tribute. Yet, over time they began to intermarry pagans (also against God's commandments) and take up their customs. The Israelites essentially assimilated into the Canaanite way of life, but the Canaanites still didn't accept the Israelites. All this did was push the Israelites away from God and allow the Canaanites to rise against them in cycles of oppression.

Today, people often assimilate in to "normal" culture. Whether we're talking about Native Americans or African slaves being forced to assimilate to white culture during the early days of America, or Christians today being tempted to join the culture of the world today in sexual immorality, decadence, greed, etc., this is the same struggle the Israelites felt so long ago. Judges shows that it wasn't simply a matter of them waking up one morning and deciding to stop and let God back in, but after letting evil in the door, violent actions had to be taken to expel it. Perhaps they did fight fire with fire.

Another aspect of Judges that is very prominent is the rapid decline of the society. In the beginning of Judges, we see noble men and women of God called to deliver Israel from their idolatry and oppression. As we dive deeper into the book, the quality of the judges decline to the point that the people discussed don't seem to be led by God at all. This is another parallel we can see in today's society. While the initial leaders of the US (an most other countries) had faults—afterall the US presidents thought it was acceptable to consider blacks 3/5 of a person—they at least gave the appearance of diplomacy and leadership. Today we have two presidential candidates who at one point or another during their campaign were on trial![1][2] As Israel's judges became weaker and less God-fearing, the battles between the Israelites and the Canaanites intensified, causing more deaths. Similarly, in the US we are seeing a rise in violence, or at lease a rise in media coverage of violence. Whether the former or the latter, many people are apathetic toward this violence, which says a lot about the moral decay of society. Is this history repeating itself?

Photocredit: Movila
It is only after the low point of the Judges Era that God allows a monarchy to occur in Israel (we'll see this in 1 & 2 Samuel). As world leaders continue to deteriorate into madness and times worsen in our society today, God is preparing to set up the Earthly kingdom. This time, the throne will go to Jesus and the cycle will be broken.


  1. Herszenhorn, David M. "House Benghazi Report Finds No New Evidence of Wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton". NY Times. June 2016
  2. Eder, Steve. "Federal Judge Allows Suit Against Trump University to Proceed". NY Times. August 2016


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