Judges 2:1-5 almost seems to be ill placed on the hills of chapter one. Judges one recounts for us the efforts of the Jewish people against the Canaanites after the death of Joshua. It is, what appears at first glance, a remarkable record of conquest. But the Lord's rebuke at the very beginning of chapter two forces us to go back and reevaluate what we have read.
It is a chapter that opens with the tribes of Judah and Simeon slaying 10,000 Canaanites. It is a chapter that ends with Amorites forcing the tribe of Dan into the mountains. A chapter that begins with the Israelites dictating to the Canaanites and ends with the Canaanites dictating to the Israelites reveals a problem somewhere.
There is a pattern that emerges as we follow the events a little more closely.
Judges 1:19 - Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley. (says who)
Judges 1:21 - The tribe of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem
Judges 1:27 - Manasseh did not drive out the Canaanites but allowed them to dwell in the land
Judges 1:29 - Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites but allowed them to dwell among them
Judges 1:30 - Zebulun did not drive out the Canaanites but allowed them to dwell among them
Judges 1:31,32 - Asher did not drive out the Canaanites but dwelt among the Canaanites
Judges 1:33 - Naphtali did not drive out the Canaanites but dwelt among the Canaanites
Judges 1:34 - The Amorites (Canaanites) forced the tribe of Dan into the mountains and would not allow them to come down to the valley.
Judah, could not drive the Canaanites out. Benjamin did not drive the Canaanites out. Manasseh, Ephraim, and Zebulun did not drive them out but let the Canaanites dwell among them. Asher and Naphtali did not drive out the Canaanites but dwelt among the Canaanites. The Danites were driven into the mountains by the Canaanites.
We read of each of these tribes putting the Canaanites under tribute, that is they enslaved them. A great arrangement, right? The Israelites were in possession of most of the land, they were prospering at the expense of the Canaanites. This was a good idea. Wrong! It was a bad idea. Again Judges 2:1-5 make this clear. God was not happy with their foreign policy.
He reminds them in Judges 2:1 of his faithfulness to them.
He reminds them in the first part of Judges 2:2 of his instruction to them.
He calls them to account in the last part of verse 2.
"Ye have not obeyed my voice." They were to drive out the inhabitants of the land, in fact they were to have no pity upon them.
"Why have ye done this." It is as though God is saying to them after all I have done FOR you why are you doing this TO me?
No doubt their disobedience had seemed a small thing to them. Disobedience to God is never a small thing. In their seemingly small disobedience they had sown the seeds that would seal the fate of their theocracy.
Even a small step down is still decline.
Even a small departure is still departure.
Even a small apostasy is still apostasy.
Even a little disobedience is still disobedience.
Even a little backsliding is still backsliding.
What was the response of the people?
Judges 2:4 - They wept. Were they weeping because of their disobedience? Were they weeping because of the consequences of their disobediecne? One is a godly sorrow that works repentance. The other is a worldly sorrow that laments getting caught.
Judges 2:5 - They sacrificed. Sacrifice is a good thing, but it does not take the place of obedience. "To obey is better than to sacrifice."
Instead of weeping and sacrificing they should have been on the field of battle driving out the Canaanites!
Of course the judgment for their disobedience according to Judges 2:3 is that the Canaanites would be as thorns in their sides and their gods would be a snare unto them.
So they found themselves in the awkward position of having enslaved their own snare!
Have you, through some small disobedience, enslaved your own snare?