The Judges of Israel are some of the most fascinating people who were the leaders of the Israelites when they had no kings. There were 12 judges in all; Othniel (Judges 3:9-11), Ehud (Judges 3:15-31), Shamgar (Judges 3:31), Deborah (Judges 4-5), Gideon (Judges 6-8), Tola (Judges 10:1-2), Jair (Judges 10:3-5), Jephthah (Judges 11-12), Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10), Elon (Judges 12:11-12), Abdon (Judges 12:13-15), and Samson (Judges 13-16).
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Who Was Othniel? (Judges of Israel)
Othniel was the first judge of Israel. He was the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother. He attacked and captured the mountain town of Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher), driving out the Canaanites from that place. He got married to Achsah, Caleb’s daughter, as Caleb had promised the hand of his child to whoever conquered Kiriath Sepher.
Achsah moved Othniel to ask Caleb for a field. Some biblical scholars say that Othniel being a brave but shy man did not ask his father-in-law anything. Achsah had already received as her dowry, the entire Southlands, the Negeb. However, they were drylands, and so she asked for the upper and the lower springs from her father, who gave them to her. Othniel had two sons, Hathath and Meonothai, through Achsah.
Cycle of the Book of Judges
Before we explore the events that happened when Othniel was a judge, let us first understand the cycle of the Book of Judges.
The children of Israel sinned against the Lord and served the idols of the land. The Lord was angry with them and delivered them into the hand of their enemies. They were greatly troubled and oppressed. When they cried out to the Lord, the Almighty pitied them because they groaned and raised judges who delivered them from their enemies. They remained faithful to the Lord until the death of the judge.
When the judge passed away, they reverted to their old ways and behaved more immorally than their fathers by following strange gods and bowing down to them. They did not turn away from their stubborn ways and forsook the Lord God of their patriachs, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.
Othniel, the First Judge of Israel (Judges of Israel)
Othniel was a great leader who was preceded by Joshua and followed by Ehud in the history of Israel. The name Othniel possibly means lion of God or strength of God, according to ancient scriptures. He lived in a period when the Israelites turned their backs on the Lord by serving Baal and Ashtoreths after the death of Joshua. The people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, and Jebusites during this time.
Othniel was a member of the tribe of Judah and one of the minor judges in the Bible. He delivered the transgressing Israelites from eight years of oppression by Cushan-Rishathaim (meaning doubly-wicked blackness), King of Mesopotamia. Othniel was the first of 12 judges whose leadership covered an intermediate period connecting the leaders of the past (who left Egypt as freed slaves and entered the Promised Land) to the leaders of subsequent generations.
After eight years of servitude and subjection, the people of Israel cried out to God for help and relief. This bondage was punishment for forgetting the true God and serving foreign gods. The anger of the Lord was burning against the Israelites due to their rebellion against Him.
However, our ever compassionate Lord raised a savior, Othniel, the son of Kenaz, who liberated them from the hand of the Mesopotamians. Since the Spirit of the Lord God came upon him, he became Israel’s judge and went to war with Cushan-Rishathaim. He was only one of the four judges, which include Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, of whom it is mentioned that “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him.” Othniel prevailed against the enemy as the Lord delivered the King of Mesopotamia into his hands. He overpowered the adversary, and the land had rest for forty years until Othniel died. Othniel’s leadership spanned many years, covering about 1350—1310 B.C.
A short synopsis of his life reveals that Othniel lived up to his name and accepted the challenge of being the deliverer earnestly, even though he knew he had to face numerous challenges and risks. He was raised as a judge and leader in Israel and defeated Cushan-Rishathaim, the king of Mesopotamia. He succeeded in reforming the people of Israel and restoring their faith in God, and the Israelites lived in peace during his lifetime.
3 Lessons from the Life of Othniel (Judges of Israel)
Never Worship False Gods. It is Only Jehovah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit We Must Praise and Worship
The first lesson from the story of Othniel is that we should not turn to false gods and become unfaithful to our Creator. Our betrayal will make us slaves to sin and our enemies. We worship our Lord God for our own good. We should never imitate the worship of the pagan people, who venerate their dumb and lifeless idols (carved stones and wooden statues). If we worship their graven images, we will resort to false beliefs and sexual immorality, which are abominations to God and lead us to eternal destruction.
The people of Israel worshipped false gods, as a result of which they went through distress and tribulation. Our God is the only one who deserves praise and adoration, and He is alive and sits on the throne on High.
God Will Deliver Us If We Repent
It took the Israelites eight years to realize the importance of the Almighty Creator. They would have thought that they do not need the Living God, and can overcome their enemies will the help of the dead gods of the land. Their pride would have made them oblivious to their pain and hardship and how hopeless their situation was. Later, they realized the actual situation, and how they cannot be saved without God’s intervention, as the Asheroths and Baal could not remove their suffering.
Their actions had put them in a difficult situation, and finally, they cried to their Supreme Being for help. Our God is a merciful God who heard their cries and answered them by sending them a champion who redeemed them from their enemies.
Understand God will hear our prayers when we faithfully obey Him and suffer for righteousness’ sake. In our hour of trial, we should call upon God and lift our voice to Him. He knows our needs, will hear us, and take care of us. We should never worship other gods as they cannot help us because they are nothing but stone and wood.
God Will Provide Us Pleasant Rest
God will give us rest so that we can live our lives without danger and pain. We always go after things that make us unhappy as they are attractive and deceptively sweet. We end up feeling tired, disappointed, and void. Only our Lord God can give us true rest and peace that passes all understanding.
The distractions, noise, and cares of this world take us away from God. When we feel overwhelmed and weary, we should seek the Lord and His strength. We cannot live alone in this world without God’s intervention. God is waiting to respond to our calls and gives us tranquility and contentment, which can only be found in the Almighty.
Yahweh delivered His people from their enemies, and they enjoyed four decades of rest.
These are the finest lessons that we can learn from the story of Othniel.
Biblical References: Joshua 15:17-18, Judges 1:13, Judges 3:9-11, 1 Chronicles 4:13.
Our series on Bible heroes, who trusted God in the middle of difficult times, were powerfully used by the Almighty despite their faults and failings, will inspire you to believe the Supreme Being for the impossible.