Judges 12:8-15 “After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. . . And he judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem. After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. . . and he judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.”
One of the things that is true of any human leader is that their leadership is limited in many ways. For example, often the president of the United States is called “the leader of the free world.” It’s a term used to denote the leadership role the United States has among the democracies of the world, typically thought of as the Western powers, as opposed to those led by dictatorships, communist strongmen, and other “non-democratic” governments in other parts of the world. But the very term denotes that this person is not the leader of the “non-free,” world, and the truth is that the president of the U.S. is really only the leader of the U.S. His power and authority are limited, just as he as a man is limited. The same holds true for all human leaders.
As we look at the passage above about three of the leaders of Israel at the time of the judges, I am struck by the limited nature of their leadership. Very little is said about any of them. They each served for relatively short periods of time (seven to ten years), with their terms cut short by their deaths. Also, their leadership was limited in extent. They served only within the confines of Israel, and further, their leadership seems to have been confined to limited regions within Israel (e.g., Ibzan lived and died in Bethlehem, Elon in the land of Zebulun, and Abdon in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim). And so, we see the limitations of the leadership, the power, and the authority of these human judges, also referred to elsewhere as the “saviors” of Israel.
In this we see an example of how the shadows of the Old Testament fall short of the realities that they point to, spiritually speaking. Each of the human saviors of Israel can be compared and contrasted with the Savior Jesus. While the saviors of Israel as well all other human leaders who have ever lived, have a limited territory over which they rule, Jesus is the Savior of the whole earth. Isaiah 52:10 tells us, “The Lord has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” And in the New Testament we are told that Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy as it refers to Him with these words: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6 as quoted in Acts 13:47).”
Israel’s judges, just like Israel’s priests, were limited in time. As we see above, each judge served only for a period of a few years, and then they died. This was the case for all Old Testament priests, all Old Testament kings, and all Old Testament leaders, whether it be Moses, Joshua, the judges in the verses above, or anyone else. By contrast, our Savior lives forever, for He rose again. And while the salvation of Israel’s judges ended at their death, our Savior brought us salvation by His death. Wonderfully, His is an everlasting kingdom, and His salvation is forever. In Hebrews 7:21-25 we are told, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You (i.e., Jesus) are a priest forever.’ This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
And another thing, the saviors of Israel at the time of the judges were only able to save the people of Israel physically. While they may have protected them from their enemies for a time, every person who was ever saved by these judges eventually died, just as the judges did. However, the salvation of our God is a spiritual salvation. It’s a salvation that’s so much more wonderful than physical protection, only, in that this protection preserves us by giving us life that is eternal, forever protected by our great Judge.
So, while its interesting to read about how God preserved Israel at the time of the judges, it is much more wonderful to realize how the salvation our Savior offers us is so much greater than the salvation Israel’s judges offered them. The worldwide, eternal salvation of our God: there is nothing more wonderful! There is nothing that compares!
Praise His glorious name!