‘The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.’ Judges 3v10
The context of how and why God’s Spirit comes upon Othenial is better understood through the community’s ‘on-off’ relationship with God. In Judges 3v7-10 we are told:
‘The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord…and served the Baals and the Asherahs…so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them.’
What I find sad in this passage is how long it took the Israelites to return to God. Eight years of slavery to the King of Aram before they reach breaking point and cry out for a deliverer. No sooner has the community cried out, then God sends them a deliverer. But why did it take so long? Moreover, why didn’t they cry out sooner and be restored back to God?
My understanding is that it took them eight years because this was how long the people were prepared to suffer this hard yoke of slavery before acknowledging their mistakes and returning to God. Consider the two types of responses observed in this passage:
- People serve idols and suffer for eight years before crying out to God for help?
- Othenial is called by God and responds immediately to His call to action?
Surely, it’s a no brainer!