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After the people of Israel had taken possession of their promised land, they became negligent toward what, or rather, Who, made them strong. They assumed that they were superior to other people, but that view was not correct - their own origin was those "inferior" nations around them e.g. Abraham was born in what is today Iraq (see Israel's Iraqi Roots), Judah, from whom the term "Jew" originated, was born in what is today Syria (see Jacob and Laban); the Israelite patriarchs Ephraim and Manasseh were born in Egypt to an Egyptian mother. The only factor that made the Israelites "superior" was The Lord, when they obeyed Him. For example, the Israelites were, overall, obedient to The Lord during the lifetime of Joshua, but after he died, "they forsook The Lord, the God of their fathers."
"And the people served The Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which The Lord had done for Israel." (Judges 2:7 RSV)
When they were disobedient to Him, The Lord allowed Israel's enemies to prevail over them; when they returned to Him after their self-inflicted hard lesson, "The Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the power of those who plundered them." But it became an endless cycle, "whenever the judge died, they turned back and behaved worse than their fathers."
"Whenever The Lord raised up judges for them, The Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for The Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and behaved worse than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them; they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways." (Judges 2:18-19 RSV)
Judges Chapter 3
The Israelites also intermarried among the nations around them, which was not itself necessarily sinful (even Moses had married a "foreign" wife i.e. Numbers 12:1) because as explained above, the Israelites themselves originated from most of those nations around them. The point, the purpose, of "Israel" was a people, a nation, who were faithful to The Lord - anyone could, and can be "Israel" (see Physical and Spiritual Israel), but they could not "marry" into their idolatry (a mistake that caused even wise King Solomon to become apostate - see Israelite Monarchy - The Division Of Israel).
"So the people of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and they took their daughters to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons; and they served their gods. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, forgetting The Lord their God, and serving the Baals and the Asheroth." (Judges 3:5-7 RSV)
As stated, when the Israelites turned back to The Lord, He provided them with a powerful deliverer, such as Othniel, a name in Hebrew which means lion of The Lord (numerous other Hebrew names had The Lord's name El in them e.g. Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Ezekiel - and of course Israel itself). Othniel was a nephew of Caleb.
"Therefore the anger of The Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried to The Lord, The Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who delivered them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of The Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel; he went out to war, and The Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died." (Judges 3:8-11 RSV)
When the people returned to their unfaithfulness (i.e. the endless cycle as mentioned), The Lord then allowed their enemies to prevail over them again, such as Eglon the king of Moab who crossed the Jordan and took over Jericho, "the city of palms."
"And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of The Lord; and The Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of The Lord. He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel; and they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years." (Judges 3:12-14 RSV)
When the Israelites returned to The Lord, He raised up Ehud who assassinated Eglon and led a successful revolt against the Moabites.
"But when the people of Israel cried to The Lord, The Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length; and he girded it on his right thigh under his clothes." (Judges 3:15-16 RSV)
The Israelites also were delivered from the Philistines by Shamgar.
"After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred of the Philistines with an oxgoad; and he too delivered Israel." (Judges 3:31 RSV)
Judges Chapter 4
Deborah was unique among the women, and men, of Bible History in that she was prophetess, a judge and a military leader all in one - a powerful triple combination of authority and responsibility held by only two other Israelites, Moses and Samuel. Dated at approximately 1200 B.C., Deborah served as a judge at "the palm tree of Deborah" in southern Ephraim between Ramah and Bethel, thereby possibly making her of the tribe of Ephraim, as was Joshua earlier. She was referred to as the "mother of Israel" because of her leadership in the battle against the Canaanites
The endless cycle continued; once again the Israelites became corrupt, and when they turned back to The Lord, He provided them with a deliverer, in this case Deborah who merely provided The Lord's instructions to the fighting men.
And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, after Ehud died. And The Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth-hagoiim. Then the people of Israel cried to The Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.
Fact Finder: Along with the idolatry, what is Satan's connection to "Baal"?