Israel abandons God and becomes completely corrupt in the land.
What happens when Israel forgets their God? The book of Judges shows the tragic downward spiral of Israel’s leaders and people. It’s a sobering examination of the human condition that highlights the need for a deliverer.
Descent into Madness
After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel begin a repeated downward spiral. Israel begins to adopt the corrupt practices of the Canaanites they failed to drive out. This leads to a repeated cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance, and peace—which only leads back into sin.
The book of Judges highlights six judges during this time and shows their increasing corruption. These judges start off fairly well (Othniel, Ehud, Deborah) but become increasingly worse (Gideon, Jephthah, Samson). The book ends with two very disturbing stories that show how incredibly lawless the people have become. The central verse that summarizes this says, "In those days Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes."
Failure to Drive Out
The book of Judges begins by telling us that Israel hasn’t completely driven out the Canaanites from the land. Instead, Israel follows their corruption and child sacrifice, becoming just as bad or worse.
A Destructive Cycle
Israel sins against God, leading to oppression by enemies. When Israel repents, God raises up a judge to deliver them. Peace reigns in the land—that is, until Israel becomes complacent and begins the cycle over again.
The Character of Judges
The book highlights six judges. In the story of the last three judges, their corruption is seen with increased clarity as Gideon forgets God, Jephthah doesn’t know God’s character, and Sampson lives completely contrary to God’s law.
The book ends with a private army raiding a private temple and then burning a city to the ground. In other words, there was no governing structure and people did as they pleased. This becomes disturbingly clear in the last chapters.
The Need for a King
The only thread of hope left is the line, "In those days Israel had no king…." The only hope for Israel is a king who could unite the people and bring them out of their cycle of corruption.