“And so all of that generation were gathered to their fathers, but following them arose another generation which did not know Yahweh and also the works which he had done in Israel.”
The Historian, Will Durant, is famously quoted as saying, “From barbarism to civilization takes a century; from civilization to barbarism needs but a day.” In principle, with many things, it takes a lot longer to build than to tear down, and when the fathers do not think it significant enough to pass down their faith and the knowledge of God to their children; society will crumble.
This verse marks the end of the summary overlap between the end of Joshua and the beginning of Judges. Joshua and the generation that remembers the mighty works of God based on firsthand experience passes away. And in passing away, their witness is lost because their children have not been instructed in the things of God. Remember, that while the written word is available at this point in history (Moses penned the Torah), it is not widely distributed as every scroll must be copied by hand still, and thus people would have only had access to parts themselves and only to the whole through the Levites in their midst.
One might be tempted to think that such access to the scriptures would be enough to preserve the history of God’s work in Israel, but if we use our own nation as an example, it is not hard to see how the people would fall away and forget the things of God. In today’s world, we have access to information and writings that is unprecedented in history. There are more books in print and out-of-print books can be acquired in electronic format from free libraries. We know what our American founding fathers thought about and wrote about. But as accessible as these documents are, we do not read them. We tend to be content to learn only as much as we need to get by. In fact, as much access as we have to the written word today, fewer and fewer Americans read, or if they do, they read only short snippets and not whole works.
Further, the riches of the Word of God, as expounded by the saints of the past, is more accessible than ever, yet a broad swath of the church is spiritually and intellectually illiterate, satisfying itself with a feel-good theology that has froth and foam, but no depth of substance. One of the effects of the Fall of Adam is that the things we most need to know, we struggle the most to dig into. Yet, when we fail to dig, when we fail to study the Scriptures deeply, that which has been built and established crumbles because the people walk and wander astray. And if you seek a testimony about the truth of that statement, look at America today…look at the errors that are being taught about history today…look at the errors that are being taught about God today. Look at the foolishness that passes as Christian orthodoxy today. And then we will see the truth of this statement in Judges as well as Durant’s observation.
We will also see the importance of correcting that error…a task that is as pressing today as it was back in the days following Joshua’s death.