Reading through the Bible, we can often find it difficult to transition from the dynamic history of Joshua to the short cycles of the Book of Judges. If we are asked to outline it, we generally do well in identifying some of the better known judges like Samson or Deborah because their accounts have illustrated many truths through years but what of Tola or Ehud, the left-handed man?
Judges can challenge us because of the number of different vignettes and Hebrew heroes that we encounter and the repeated cycles of obedience/blessing and disobedience/curse. Why can Israel not see that their preservation relies on obedience to the covenant between themselves and God? Do we have a perspective that the immediacy of history did not offer the Israelites? The inclusion of this compendium of stories in the Hebrew scriptures serves the purpose of allowing God’s people to view the stories in light of historical revelation. Perhaps there is more to be derived from this section of the scriptures than an initial reading might reveal.
The accounts of the Judges describe a humankind that has failed in its imagehood. They show a people who repeatedly decide that they want to be god rather than reflect Him in accordance with their calling. Because of their failure to uphold their end of the covenant, the Israelites find themselves subjects of invading forces. Before Gideon is called, the people of Yahweh had been given by their God into the hands of the invading Midianites. So deep was their fear that they sought shelter wherever they could, including burrowing into caves and mountain valleys. The invaders swept through the land destroying crops and livestock in their wake.
It may have been this reality that cause the Israelites to reconsider their status before God and to cry out to Him.