Everything Goes Wrong: Judges 1-8, 13-21
But a Glimmer of Hope: Ruth 1-4
Judges marked the period of religious, social and political chaos where “there was no king in Israel; every man did what was the right in his own eyes” (Jud 17:6 & 21:25), whereas Ruth served as an oasis of relief between Judges and Samuel.
One key theme in Judges is the inversion of norms. When there was no central authority, everyone chose their own moral standard. Micha just built a shrine at his home and installed his son as the priest (Jud 17:5); the Benjaminites just grabbed wives from the daughters of Shiloh (Jud 21:21-23). Not only did the people disobey God’s law that “is the norm of all truth” (CCC 2151), it also created serious moral confusion and social chaos. This is the same case in today’s world where activities that are morally wrong in the eyes of God are now being promoted as being right: abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage etc. It is only by obeying the law of God, who is the “source of all truth” and “His Law is truth” (CCC 2465), that man may live and have eternal salvation. “God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth” (CCC 851).
Looking at the “heroic” characters in Judges, they were also the unusual and “defective” people, perhaps one could say from the peripheries. Deborah, a female judge, which was unheard of in the ancient world (Jud 4); Gideon, timid and cowardly went on to become a military hero (Jud 6); and Samson, a Nazarite who was out leading wars and having intermarriages with pagans, judging Israel for 20 years (Jud 15).
Yet, these souls echoed what St Paul said, that God likes to choose those who are weak, low and not powerful and raise them up. So when they become accomplished, it is not from them by from the power of God (1Cor. 1:26-31). Despite our incapabilities, disabilities, and challenges in life, God is able to raise us up for the sake of the Kingdom and do powerful things with us. Hence, people will give glory to God because we know it is not through our own power but His. “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1Cor. 1:31). This is the principle that still holds true in our Christian life, which is also the key message of Judges.