Problem: God forsakes Israel then changes his mind
Verses: Judges 10:6,13,16; Status: Weak

According to the Old Testament, the people of Israel showed a remarkable tendency to start worshipping rival gods instead of Yahweh, despite all that he had done for them. Judges 10:6 records one such occasion:

The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him. (ESV)

In punishment, God allows the Israelites to be oppressed by their neighbours; and they now remember that Yahweh is the real god, and cry out to him. But he's had enough. This is Judges 10:13:

Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. (ESV)

That seems clear enough. But a few verses later he seems to be changing his mind. This is Judges 10:16:

So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel. (ESV)

Anyway, as we know, God did not end his association with Israel at this point but continued to save the Israelites on a number of occasions. How then is Judges 10:13 a true statement?

I'm not sure. Verse 13 looks like a simple statement of fact, yet it can also be read as a sort of conditional statement. God is explicit that his rejection of Israel is a result of their behaviour, so his words can be understood as also specifying what they need to do to bring him back to their side. Under this reading, when God says "I will save you no more" he means "unless you cease your worship of false gods".

This doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to me.

Updated: 2010-03-21

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