Roots of BitternessWorld Events

Roots of Bitterness: The Nation of Israel – A Turbulent History

In the previous post, we explored the impact of Moses’ and Joshua’s campaigns against the regions’ kingdoms, as they began to drive out the inhabitant’s of Arpachshad’s land.

Unfortunately, they didn’t heed God’s warning to completely drive the nations out of the region.  Psalm 106 confirms it.

“They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them” (Psalm 106:34-36 ESV).

As the story transitions from the days of Joshua to the establishment of Judges and eventually kings of Israel, and then to the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel, their disobedience wreaked havoc, with virtually endless wars and 2 separate episodes of captivity.

Joshua 1 details Israel’s utter failure to fully drive out the inhabitants, yet one verse sums it up.

“When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely” (Judges 1:28 ESV).

When they failed to do as God commanded, He pronounced judgment.

“Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, “I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.” But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept” (Judges 2:1-4 ESV).

From the book of Judges through Esther and the prophets, the Bible recounts the difficulties experienced by Israel due to their disobedience and infidelity to God’s law, despite His constant warning and gracious forgiveness, time and again.

If only Israel had been obedient…

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you” (Leviticus 26:3-9 ESV).

Unfortunately, they weren’t obedient, so the warnings God issued in Leviticus 26 became their reality.

“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress” (Judges 2:11-15 ESV).

Sampson, Saul, David… No one was immune from God’s judgment.

The turmoil was unbearable, as Israel’s neighbors fought against them and each other trying to regain lost territory.  Control was gained, lost, and regained multiple times just as God foretold.  They were in terrible distress.

Although harsh, God’s warnings — and ultimate judgment — were for a purpose.  He was trying to show them the blessings of obedience He had in store…for eternity.  He wasn’t doling out discipline out of spite.  He was disciplining His chosen (adopted) children out of love, showing them the destruction brought by disobedience, as a foreshadowing of the ultimate destruction awaiting anyone who chooses a lifestyle of disobedience.

Unfortunately, their on-again, off-again relationship with God and all the ensuing battles simply reinforced the resentment of Israel among the surrounding nations.  Read more here

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