Judges 3: The Enemy within the Land.

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Book of Judges Bible Study: The Message of Judges - Chapter Three

Judges 3 - The Enemy within the Land.

by I Gordon

Judges 3:1-6 '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 forefathers through Moses. 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.'

The enemies of Israel

From the passage above, in all eight distinct people groups (all enemies of Israel) were left to dwell within the land. We read of the Philistines, Canaanites, Sidonians, Hivities, Hittites, Amorities, Perizzites, and the Jebusites. Certainly enough of a mouth full for one sentence! Now, and I'm sure I don't need to repeat myself on this one, these nations were not meant to be there! God did not want them living on within the land but due to Israel's disobedience, He left them for two distinct reasons which are mentioned in the passage above: that is, for testing, and for teaching. But more on that later! Now these nations are quite symbolic of different fleshly, worldly and satanic principles that stand against us as the people of God today. Of the eight nations, the biggest enemies were the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Hittites and the Amorities so I will spend more time on these  [1]  although all nations will be mentioned.

What a Philistine!

The first group mentioned is the Philistines. They were an aggressive tribal group in the southwest of the Promised Land, and one whom Israel would battle for a long time. The name 'Philistine' means 'wallowing' or to 'wallow self'. The dictionary says that wallowing means 'roll about in or to give oneself over to, or revel in, a feeling, or way of life. Example: To wallow in self pity, to wallow in riches.'

Now, we read that there were five Lords over the Philistines and if you will allow me a little lee-way here I would like to suggest that these stand for five different aspects of our sinful nature in regards to wallowing: Namely, self-pity, self-depreciation, self-importance, self-indulgence, and self-pleasure. The Philistines speak of our great enemy 'self' in all the delicious forms it comes in. Doesn't matter whether you are wallowing in the depths of self-pity or are giving yourself over to worldly indulgence or self-importance, one thing is for sure - there are stinking Philistines in the land! And don't forget this either - of all the enemies of Israel, the Philistines were the greatest and lasted the longest! This was not an easy battle then, and it isn't an easy battle now! The Philistines remained and would later become Israel's strongest and most bitter enemy during the reigns of King Saul and King David. So don't be surprised, even if you have been a Christian 20-30 years, at the depth of wallowing self will do if unchecked!  [2] 

The Canaanites - The curse of modern-day western Christianity!

While the Philistines speak of the wallowing of self, the Canaanites speak of the influence of the world upon the Christian faith. The name Canaanite means 'merchant, or trafficker' and this is exactly what they were. Harpers Bible dictionary states that 'the Canaanites enjoyed a reputation as traders.' They lived within the land and were happy to remain there just so long as the trading and profit were good! Do we not see this Canaanite principle all around us in western Christianity? The principle of looking 'religious' or going to church, simply for what you can get out of it! This may be for monetary gain  [3]  , or social gain... it is Canaanites within the land! How many 'Christians', while they would never say it, simply treat God like a Father Christmas to satisfy their every want? How can the 'name it and claim it, blab it and grab it theology' take such a hold upon so many believers? Or how could the self-centered 'Prayer of Jabez'  [4]  pass itself off as biblical Christianity, and draw in 'millions of followers', if you believe the hype, unless the Canaanites are still very much a strong enemy within the hearts of believers?

Hittites, Hittites everywhere!

Now this one gets me. The third major people group that lived on within the land were the Hittites. The Hittite empire was one of the largest in ancient times and it's people were very strong, spreading out over an immense area. The name Hittite is derived from the name 'Heth' and means 'sons of terror'. It is the principle, or spirit, of fear that seeks to dominate our Christian lives. Now the Hittite empire may have come and gone, but its principle of fear certainly hasn't. How many Christian lives are still held captive, and controlled by the Hittite enemy? I could go on but none of it would be half as good as the following footnote from Samuel Ridout,  [5]  so I'll stop!

The good-looking Amorites (from a distance!)

The next major people group we find in the land were the Amorites. The word Amorite means 'a talker, to say, speak'. It is also interesting to see that it is derived from a word that can be used in the sense of self-boasting or commanding. So the Amorites speak of words without action  [6]  . It is the very principle that Jesus warned His disciples against when He spoke of the Pharisees saying 'obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. (Matt 23:3) James spoke about these dangers as well saying 'Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.' (James 1:22) Paul reminds us that the goal of all instruction is love, from which, some have wandered away from, turning aside to meaningless talk. (1 Tim 1:5-6) Is not this something we can all be guilty of? When you read the Bible or listen to a sermon, are you merely after head knowledge or are you looking to how the word can be applied in your life? True understanding is important but it should always have a practical outworking  [7]  . (Psalm 119:34) All knowledge and speech is but a clanging bell is you do not have love. Beware of allowing the Amorites to settle and live in your life!

The false humility of the Hivites and Perizzites.

The names Hivites and Perizzites have the same meaning. Hivites means 'a villager', and Perizzites means 'rustic or belonging to a village'. In the Amorites you had a talker, someone who liked to command and thought very highly of himself. The Hivites and Perizzites represent the other side of the coin - the villager or commoner mentality. Someone who constantly downplays him or herself to the point where they do not think God can use them. Now, some boast of self, some downplay self, but sure enough, self is still the focus! Into this category of the villager mentality we could put two great 'stars' of the Old Testament - namely Moses  [8]  and Gideon  [9]  . But both overcame this attitude and were greatly used of the Lord.

Finally we have the Sidonians and the Jebusites. Sidonian means 'hunting' and reminds us of the battle that we are in where 'our adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.' (1 Pet 5:8) The last enemy mentioned is the Jebusites. Jebusite means 'to trample, tread down' and speaks of the desired end result of our combined enemies. The Jebusites dwelt around and in Jerusalem and there is evidence that Jebus was the pre-Davidic name for Jerusalem.  [10]  So from this we see that just as the Jebusites desired to rule in the center of Israel, where God's rule should be established, so our enemies desire to rule from the very center and heart of our lives. Think about your life for a sec... have you been giving the enemy a place that should be reserved for God?

The Purpose of the Enemy

Ok, so that took a while! Lets get back to the original text - Can you remember what God said He would use the enemy for? Here is a clue in the footnote.  [11]  Ok, here is the scripture again.

Judges 3:1-6 '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).

Two things remember? God said that He would use those nations to test Israel, and to teach warfare to Israel. So firstly, there is a test... What exactly was the test? Well, we read at the end of chapter two that the nations remained 'in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.' (Judges ) In other words, the nations remained in the land and God used them to see whether Israel truly had a heart for Him, or whether they would give in to the temptations of the other nations and follow their gods. So let me ask you... what enemies remain in your life? Are you given to Hittite fear, Philistine self-wallowing, Canaanite worldliness or Amorite hypocrisy? We are all different and as such, we all have different areas of weakness. But like Israel of old, the Lord will test us to see if our hearts are truly for Him.  [12] 

The testing of the Lord through the various trials and enemies we face, has another, often unseen, benefit. That is, like Israel of old, the Lord uses it to teach us warfare. The battleground may have shifted from the Megiddo plains to within our mind, but the fight itself is just as real. The Lord needs to teach us warfare. It is something we all have to learn as we live and grow as Christians. Notice also that the Lord was kind enough with Israel to even use the terrible situation they had got themselves in, for their own good. He didn't give up on them and He doesn't give up on us - even if we have blown it. But He will see another situation that He can use to teach us, and test us.

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.

Finally we read in this passage that Israel disobeyed the true God - through intermarriage with their enemy's daughters (something they were not allowed to do, Ex 34:15-16) and through the worship of false gods. Hence, the cycle of sin began. If you want to know where the cycle begins, it is here with compromise to the commands of God that He has declared for our own good. How about you? Have you made compromises with the enemy that draw you away from the living God? If so, then do you know that even now the Lord will use that situation to test your commitment to Him? Turn again to the living God. There is no situation too hopeless for the Lord, and victory, on His terms, can always be counted upon.

[1] ↩  And, thankfully enough, the meaning of these nation's names gives me plenty to go on! Whew!!!

[2] ↩  Major Ian Thomas writes 'The flesh will threaten, shout, strut, domineer, sulk, plot, creep, beg, plead or sob - whatever the situation may demand in the interests of its own survival... The flesh hates to be exposed for what it is and will fight desperately to avoid that awful moment of truth - that moment when the Holy Spirit rips the mask from its sickly face!' - So true. A lot of people will just say 'well, that's just me, that's who I am!' But if you are a born again Christian then you are also a new creation and that is not who the 'real you' is anymore. But you do have to know and recognise your enemy! And that may sometimes be the old you! The first step to victory comes from self-judgement. Instead of wallowing in some form of self-pity (which, if we are honest, we all strangely enjoy!) we recognise the influence of the enemy and ask the Holy Spirit to produce in us that which we are not.

On a different topic, repeat after me 'I must go and buy Major Ian Thomas' books.' Repeat 10 times in drone like fashion. Not sure if hypnotism works through a study, or that it will ever be overly popular within Christian circles :o) but you would do well to follow the advice for they are really good!!!

[3] ↩  Have a look at 2 Cor , 1 Tim 6:5, Jude 11.

[4] ↩  Went into a Christian bookshop the other day and found a new book on the life of Jabez. Someone had written a 200-300 page novel on the life of this man who is only mentioned in three verses in the Bible. Wow! What insight that author must have had! Or maybe, just maybe, it was a desperate attempt to make money out of the latest 'Christian' cash cow! I smell Canaanites!!! Or for that matter, while I'm having a rant, when will the 'Left Behind' series ever come to an end? I'm not against the content of these books but is it just me or does each new book seem to occupy a smaller time frame of the tribulation? You don't think they could possibly be squeezing it for all that its worth do you?

[5] ↩  Samuel Ridout in his excellent book 'Lectures on the book of Judges' makes the following convicting, challenging comment - The Hittites dwell everywhere, and if you allow them, they will settle down in your midst. They will close your mouths, so you will be afraid to speak. Why is there so much silence amongst God's beloved people? Why is there so little testimony in the gospel, so little ministry amongst the saints, so few voices heard in prayer and praise in the assemblies? Is it not because the Hittites are allowed to dwell right in our very midst? You are afraid to speak a word for the Lord Jesus, afraid to lift up your voice in thanksgiving - to lead the prayers and praises to Christ Jesus. You are afraid to take your stand for Christ and confess Him fully - afraid to do that which your conscience and the word of God declares should be done. Oh, the Hittite empire is indeed a wide one - it reaches everywhere and their dwelling amongst us is a witness how we have failed to cast them out. Yet thank God, their very presence amongst us is a call from Him to rise now and put them from us; to be done with fear, to be done with all this terror, this holding back, and to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!

[6] ↩  This cracks me up. You may remember that Christian and Faithful (Pilgrims Progress) met Talkative on their journey to the Celestial City. John Bunyan writes of Talkative saying 'He was a tall man and somewhat better looking at a distance than close up.' You probably all know someone like that! Someone who has all the right words, and when you meet them you think 'wow, that person is spiritual!' But a close up inspection of their life shows it to largely be a facade. They can talk the walk but are somewhat lacking walking the talk! Lord save us all from that hypocrisy!

[7] ↩  Good old Faithful (in Pilgrims Progress) makes another interesting comment about understanding and words without action (the Amorites)... 'Faithful then said, 'This reminds me of the words of Moses when he described the animal that is ceremonially clean. It is the animal that has a split hoof and chews it's cud, not the one that has a split hoof only, or the one that only chews its cud. The rabbit chews its cud but it's still unclean because it doesn't have a split hoof. This resembles talkative. He chews the cud - that is, he seeks knowledge and chews on the word - but he doesn't have a separated hoof; he doesn't separate himself from the way of sinners. Like the rabbit, he retains the foot of a dog or bear, and so he's unclean.'

[8] ↩  You probably know the story but please read Exodus 3:10-12 and right through chapter 4 if you are really keen. Here is a loose, and I mean loose, paraphrase... In verses 10-12 God tells Moses that He will send him to deliver Israel. Moses responds with 'oh, but who am I? I am nothing, a nobody, how can I go?' With Moses' eyes firmly upon himself, God simply says 'I will go with you! Isn't that enough? Do you really need to know anymore?' Moses carries on in saying 'Please Lord, I have never been this, and never been that... I don't have what it takes! Send someone else.' At this point the Lords anger burns against Moses because his lowly opinion of himself was becoming his reason for disobedience to God! Moses is known for his humility, this is not humility! It is the flip side of pride and shows that at this stage Moses still very much had his eyes on himself.

[9] ↩  The same attitude is found initially in Gideon in Judges 6:11-16 although he did overcome it and was, after great assurances by the Lord, obedient to God.

[10] ↩  See (Josh. 15:8; ; Judg , 2 Sam. 5:6-9, 24:18-25)

[11] ↩  _e_t_n_ and t__c_i_g. (Fill in the gaps. Lame form of hangman.)

 [12] ↩  The Lord will never tempt us to do wrong (James ), but like Israel He will use the imperfect situations we get ourselves into to test us. Testing by the Lord is certainly not a new thing. He tested Israel repeatedly in the wilderness (Ex 16:4, Deut 8:2). You can imagine Job's anguish in saying, 'What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? (Job ). The Lord even uses false prophets to test whether we will follow the truth. (Deut 13:3) David also knew (through his experience) of how the Lord tests the heart for integrity (1 Ch 29:17) and spoke frequently of it in the Psalms (17:3, 26:2, 139:23) Testing is always for our own good (James 1:3).