Yahweh’s Burning Nostrils

“Thus they forsook Yahweh and they served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. And the nose of Yahweh burned toward Israel and he gave them into the hand of plunderers and they plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their enemies that surrounded them and they were not able to stand in the presence of their enemies. In all of their going outs, the hand of Yahweh brought to them disaster, just as Yahweh had repeatedly warned — just as Yahweh swore to them. And they were constrained greatly.”

(Judges 2:13-15)

As a kid, I remember watching the old Buggs Bunny cartoons and one of the more vivid images that I remember is that of an angry bull bearing down on Buggs the Matador. To illustrate the rage of the bull, the cartoonists gave us what is almost a universal image for anger — steam would puff from the bull’s nostrils. This is also how the Biblical language portrays anger, but in this case, it is not an angry bull that is bearing down on Israel, it is an angry God whose nostrils are burning.

God demonstrates his anger toward his people by removing his hand of protection (the plunderers come) and by constraining them in the land by allowing their enemies to oppress them. Remember, the Promised Land as described by God to Abraham was much larger than the people ended up receiving (see Genesis 15:18-21). Here we are told why: the people forsook their God, the one, true, and mighty God who had delivered them. God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14) and he will tolerate no compromise to his true worship. Again, what a condemnation that is to much of worship today that loosely falls under the guise of “Christianity.” Woe to those who would worship by the ways of men rather than in the Spirit and Truth which God commands in his Word.

Notice too the language of God’s “repeated warning.” The verbal construction (Piel) indicates that this is a repeated and emphasized action. Indeed, God has repeatedly warned his people that while he will bless obedience, he will bring punishment against disobedience. And further, woe to those who call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). And oh, how this is a message that the Church in our nation needs to be reminded of today.

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