Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth
Judges 2: Israel’s disobedience and Joshua’s death.
This chapter opens with a reprimand from the Angel of the Lord. The Israelites had been commanded not to make any treaties with the people of Canaan, and to tear down their altars. The Angel warned that Israel had broken their covenant to the Lord, so the Lord would not drive out the other inhabitants of the land; they would be thorns in Israel’s side, and their gods would be a snare. Israel wept, and sacrificed to the Lord.
After the Israelites had gone to their assigned territories, it mentions Joshua’s death and burial (yet Joshua had died at the end of the book of Joshua!). All Israel had followed the Lord during Joshua’s time, and understood what the Lord had done for Israel. But the older generation died away, and a new generation arose who did not know the Lord, nor what He had done for Israel.
The chapter then spells out the terrible plight in which the people of Israel had entangled themselves. They had begun to worship Baal and Ashtaroth, the gods of the Canaanites, and they turned away from the Lord who had done so much for them. So, the Lord allowed their enemies to attack them, and Israel could not stand against them. This theme of straying from the Lord, and in turn being punished, will return through the next few chapters.
In the midst of this, the text says that the Lord raised up judges who delivered Israel. However, when each judge died, the people reverted to worshipping other gods. This seems to anticipate the events ahead in Judges.
This chapter really marks the first of many transgressions committed by the Israelites in the book of Judges. The first three verses of this chapter feature the Angel of the Lord, who appears many times throughout the Word, and for many reasons: sometimes to bless, but in this case, to admonish the children of Israel for their disobedience. The Angel of the Lord stands firm and resolute, and represents truths from the Lord revealed in our hearts and minds (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Providence 96).
The spiritual meaning of ‘weeping’ can mean various things, depending on the context. Here, the people wept because of the Angel’s warning, in momentary recognition of their wrongdoing. This is not real repentance (a ‘change of heart’), but fear along with a sense of our own self-love, which may lead us into more disobedience (see Swedenborg’s work, Heaven and Hell 153).
The death of the older generation and rise of a new one represents a change of state in us. The older generation - Joshua and the elders - served as a connection between the people and the Lord, since they had seen the Lord’s blessings on Israel in their own time. However, when we lose that connection, both our love of obedience and understanding of why we must obey the Lord fall away.
Our changes of state usually happen quickly; we suddenly get angry, feel fear, become selfish. When we turn to the Lord for help during these times, we quickly enter a state of humility in which the Lord can reach us (see Swedenborg’s Doctrine of Life 21).
After Joshua’s death, the children of Israel began to worship other gods, and the Lord punished them. In our lives, this would be like turning back on our devotion to the Lord to instead focus on worldly things, and do just as we please. There is no punishment from the Lord, only the consequences of our actions. We become weak, easy prey for doubts and anxieties, completely at the mercy of the hells (see Arcana Caelestia 7373).
Although the Lord raised judges to lead the people, the Israelites would would return to their old ways once the judge had passed away. This gives us a valuable spiritual truth that even in our sorry state of self-interest, we are still, at times, able to see the mess we are in. We may feel alarmed for a while, but this subsides and we grow complacent once again. The Lord raises up judges so that we can hold ourselves accountable.