4.16 Judges -- Transition and Disorganization
Judges is a strange book, a letdown after the grand entrance into Canaan. God had this master plan, which He spelled out to Moses at great length, and imposed upon the Israelites in stringent detail -- down to the wearing of tassels, the classification of skin diseases, the ingredients of sin and fellowship offerings. He installed Moses as Liberator, and then Joshua as Conqueror. But then what? Joshua too needed to appoint a successor, someone to carry on the custodianship of the Covenant, to be a link to the Authority (Sholem Asch). This person would consolidate and complete Joshua's victories, and provide for at least a rudimentary central government. But we look in vain for the Administrator. And the whole enterprise quite frankly unravelled, as Judges records. After such extraordinary attention to detail and to the control of every aspect of daily life, how could God suddenly take His hands off the steering wheel?
It is no good to argue that God wanted no man to rule over them, that He Himself would be their king. That's like trying to run a kindergarten class without a teacher. He knew that the people were unstable, "stiff-necked" and rebellious, requiring the constant presence of a strong leader/teacher/judge/prophet to keep them on track. Without that central structure of authority, chaos and apostasy were inevitable. Judges is the chronicle of this exact situation.
Of course, in time, that central structure developed, when Saul started the monarchical period. But then it came not as the logical successor to the invasion of Canaan, but as the desperate remedy for 300 years of internal dissolution and perpetual conflict. During that time, the "holy nation" lost its character of religious zeal and became acculturated to its neighbors, alternately fighting them and intermarrying with them. Far from being qualified to be a light to the nations, Israel's primary need was to set its own house in order.