Reflections on Judges 3:1-5

Judges 3:1-4:

These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

Literal Sense: God chose to raise up various nations in the Promised Land. These enemies served as a test of obedience, in order for the Israelites to prove their obedience to the commands given to them in the Pentateuch. These commands included the eradication of the enemies in the Holy Land, the forbidding of intermarriage (in order to avoid idolatry) and the command to be a witness to the one, true God. 

Allegorical Sense: The LORD has repeatedly raised up enemies against the church, throughout history. The church has often been faced with enemies from without, but especially from within, just as the Israelites had to face enemies within the Promised Land. These enemies often challenge the Body of Christ in the form of heresy or moral laxity. Just as the Israelites were expected to combat the nations by leaning on the commandments given to them by Moses, so too the Body of Christ is to to combat heresy and moral laxity by relying on the faith and instructions she has been given in the Sacred Scriptures. 

Moral Sense: God often allows us to experience moral trials and temptations to test our obedience to God. Perhaps he allows us to be tempted by sin or by an enemy. Rather than see them as a reason to resent God, we should see them as a fatherly test of our obedience.

Judges 3:5:

The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

Literal Sense: The Israelites failed God’s test and intermarried with the pagans, contrary to Deuteronomy 7:3. Intermarriage was forbidden, not because God was concerned about different ethnicity intermixing, but because non-Israelites worshiped pagan gods, and the LORD knew the pagans would lead the Israelites away from worshiping the true God alone.

Allegorical Sense: The Church of Christ is constantly tempted to be assimilated into the world. Society is relentless in its attempt to conform the church into her image. The church gives into this temptation and marries the Canaanite when she tries to make herself look and sound like the world rather than being a “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9) and serving as a witness to it. 

Moral Sense: The Christian marries the Canaanite when he turns away from God’s commands and is wedded to the lusts of the flesh. He serves the gods of the Canaanites when he gives in to the temptations of sin, Satan and this world.


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