The Remarkable Teaching of Judges 2:1

September 1, 2012

The failure of the Israelites to drive out fully the Canaanites from the Promised Land (Judges 1:19; 21; 28; 29; 30; 31; 32; 33; cf. 34-35) led to their being judged by God:

2:1 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

 2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?

 3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.

 4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.

 5 And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.

In this passage, the author of Judges records a statement by the Angel of the Lord that reveals a remarkable truth about God’s dealings with the nation of Israel.

A Remarkable Statement by the Angel of the Lord

The Angel of the Lord declared, “I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers” (2:1a-c).  Saying this, He revealed that He was the One who had sworn to their fathers to give them the Promised Land.

Moreover, the Angel of the Lord added that He had promised that He would never break “His covenant” with them (2:1d). To understand the full significance of these statements, we need to look closely at the preceding Scriptural record of God’s covenanting to give the land to the fathers.

The Preceding Scriptural Record about God’s Promising the Land to the Fathers

God covenanted with Abraham to give to him and to his seed the Promised Land (Gen. 15:18-21; 17:8; 24:7) and reiterated that promise to Isaac (26:3-5). Later, He promised the Land to Jacob and his seed (28:13-15; 35:12; cf. 48:4).

Joseph said that God swore to give the Land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (50:24). God rehearsed with Moses how He had appeared to and covenanted with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them the Land (Exod. 6:2-8).

Moses is the first one to say explicitly that God swore to give the Land to the “fathers” of the Israelites (13:5). The same truth is communicated 23 more times  (Exod. 13:11; Num. 14:23; Deut. 1:8, 35; 4:31; 6:10, 18, 23; 7:12, 13; 8:1, 18; 9:5; 10:11; 11:9, 21; 26:3; 28:11; 30:20; 31:20; Jos. 1:6; 5:6; 21:43) before the statement in Judges 2:1, including four explicit references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the fathers to whom God made the promise (Deut. 1:8; 6:10; 9:5; 30:20).

Scripture thus provides us with at least 32 statements prior to Judges 2:1 about God’s swearing to give the Promised Land to the fathers of the Israelites whom the Angel of the Lord addressed (Judg. 2:1).

The Significance of No Preceding Revelation before Judges 2:1 about the Angel’s Promising the Land

Remarkably, however, not one of these prior statements specifically mentions that it was actually the Angel of the Lord who had sworn to the fathers to do so! Judges 2:1 thus supports our understanding that in every instance of the Lord’s appearing to or speaking to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make that promise, it was the Angel of the Lord who appeared to them or spoke to them.

Although the Angel of the Lord, therefore, was God’s Agent in all those occasions, we are informed of that truth explicitly only in Judges 2:1. The comparison of Judges 2:1 with all the preceding Scriptural revelation about the same truth thus underscores the importance of the agency of the Angel of the Lord in a remarkable way by pointing out to us that His agency goes far beyond explicit statements of His appearing, speaking, or acting.

On how many other occasions in Scripture that we read of the Lord’s appearing to or talking with people or performing some other actions are we, therefore, supposed to understand similarly that it was actually the Angel of the Lord as God’s Agent who did so?

Rajesh

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