Verses 1-3 – There had been a covenant made between God and Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-8). God had kept His part to protect them, make them into a great nation, and give them unique blessings following Him. Israel’s part was to love God and obey His laws. But, because Israel did not honor their part, the protection that God promised was no longer in effect. God’s intention was never to abandon His people. He wanted them to ask for forgiveness and sincerely follow Him again. Making Israel into a great nation through which the entire world would be blessed, was fulfilled in the Messiah’s coming. God still wanted the Israelites to be a holy people. Too often people want God to fulfill His promises while excusing themselves from their responsibilities.
Verse 4 – The people of Israel were deeply sorrowful. They were aware of rejecting their part of the covenant, so they repented. True repentance is not just being sorry that the sin is found out, but true repentance is not making excuses for what was done, but admitting it. We always have a choice whether to follow God’s ways or stubbornly doing what we know to be wrong.
Verse 10 – Each generation failed to teach the next generation to love and follow God. One generation died and the next did not follow God thus the sin cycle began judgment and repentance. We can’t leave the responsibility of teaching our children about God to others. The parents or guardians must teach faith in Jesus Christ to the children.
Verses 11-15 – Baal was the god of the storm and rains: therefore, he was thought to control the vegetation and agriculture. Ashtoreth was the mother goddess of love, war, and fertility (she was also called Astarte or Ishtar). Temple prostitution and child sacrifice were part of the worshipping of these Canaanites idols.
Verse, 16-19 – Despite Israel’s disobedience, God showed his great mercy by raising up judges to save the people. Mercy has been defined as “not giving a person what he or she deserves.” Our disobedience demands judgment. But, God shows mercy toward us by providing an escape from sin’s penalty through Jesus Christ, who alone saves us from sin and took our penalty for sin on the cross.
Why would the people of Israel turn away so quickly from their faith in God? One of the most attractive features of the Canaanite religion was that the people could remain selfish and promiscuous and yet fulfill their religious requirements. They could do almost anything they wanted and still be obeying at least one of many Canaanite gods. Male and female prostitution was not only allowed, but encouraged as a form of worship. Faith in the One True God, does not offer short-range benefits that appeal to our sinful nature. The essence of God’s way is selflessness.