4.21 Judges -- Othniel
We now begin to study the pattern described in section 4.18: idolatry, oppression, deliverance, temporary peace. The first enemy who gained power over Israel was a king of Mesopotamia. Israel served him 8 years, before Othniel, Caleb's younger brother, was chosen by God as a deliverer:
The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war (Judg 3:10).
What a group, the clan of Caleb! The whole family "was after God's own heart." The descent of the Spirit upon Othniel was the first such indwelling since Moses laid his hands on Joshua (Deut 34:9). It is similar to the empowerment of the 70 elders in the camp in the wilderness:
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again (Num 11:25).
This coming of the Spirit on a man (or woman) was a combination of election, anointing and commissioning. It was a bestowal of authority to accomplish a task and empowerment to perform it. The elders were given a temporary gift of prophecy, declaring truth and praising God, plus the wisdom to rule the people. Moses was given a greater measure of intimacy with God, authority over the people, and an ability to do miracles. But Othniel received an anointing similar to Joshua's -- when the Spirit came on him, he "went to war."
The Spirit of the Lord empowered him to judge Israel and to go to war. Note that neither of these tasks was to pursue his own interests. He was the agent of the Lord's purposes, the steward or vice-regent of God. His judging had to be according to the Law of Moses, not what benefited the house of Othniel. His enemies in war were the enemies of Israel, not personal foes. This is important to remember, because God's gift of war is not a spirit of mayhem and rapine. Not all the judges realized this -- Samson made no distinction between personal interest and the work of God, until the last act of his life.