11 Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, 12 and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.
14 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. 15 Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed.
(Judges 2:11 — 15 NASB)
When mom repeated something three times, it was serious. Either we got it, and all calmed down, or that was the extent of her patience leading to wrath. It was our choice. We could push her buttons beyond the sacred three repeats, and incur her swift justice. Or we could choose to obey the third repeat of the command, diffusing the tension and recovering the peace of the home. My mom raised two boys, so it was often tense.
It’s kind of like that in Scripture too. When God repeats Himself three times it’s probably important. In this passage, the author compiles two sets of threes. I’m going to say that’s important. Wait, you don’t see it? Well, this translation doesn’t help since the verse division an sentence structure don’t exactly match in one point, and the verse structure actually obscures the second set. Let me help you out.
The first “triad” is the is what the Sons of Israel did, and is found in verses 11 through 13. Each verse repeats the sin of the Sons of Israel, but in a slightly different way. They did evil in His sight serving the Baals, they followed other gods bowing down to them, and they forsook Yahweh to serve Baal and Ashtaroth. Clearly it’s important we know that the Sons of Israel sinned by following the gods of the people around them.
The second triad, what Yahweh did, is more difficult to spot because verse 14 has two of the three pieces. Yahweh’s anger burns and He has them plundered, He sells them to their enemies so they can’t put up a fight, and His hand is against them for evil (yes, God’s hand does evil). Without this triad, you might think God abandoned the Sons of Israel. They did. This writer isn’t allowing such a conclusion. God was there, but was against them because of their service to other gods.
We think God has forsaken us sometimes. Things don’t go well at home, at work, with friends or family. We get sick, our family gets sick or hurt, and we think God has left us, or hates us. The Children of Abraham probably thought that when times got hard. When crops were light, or bad, or sickness struck, where was God? And then, if successful people worshipped this Baal god, maybe that would help. These Canaanites also worshipped El, and Baal was his son, so that makes it okay, right?
We don’t like to think ill of God, but we don’t want to understand Him either. We’d really prefer that He do what we want, be like we want or imagine, and just be more convenient for us. Whatever we might want, God not only persists being Who He is, but He also refuses to go away. If we want to get along with Him, then we need to learn how. And that requires worship of Him as God, time spent with Him in prayer (listening and speaking), and studying Scripture. If we’re not willing to do that, then this will a bewildering and frustrating relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
Anyway, that’s my view this morning. If you read past my comment that God does evil, then share your view through your knothole?
Since having written this, I translated the chapter. In doing so, I became a lot more familiar with the verbs of this passage, and now realize the structure I saw was really only visible in English translations, not from the either the Hebrew text nor the Greek Septuagint. I’ll be writing another entry correcting this view, and that entry will be what I include in the study guide I’m writing on “Reframing Scripture”.