Judges, A Narrative of God's Power
By Cyril J. Barber
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
2.2 (Fall 1991) : 199-200
The author, presently a counsellor with "Insight for Living," is best known for his work The Minister's Library. To his prolific list of books he here he adds fifteen readable chapters expounding the whole book of Judges. His exposition displays the high relevance of Judges to Christian life today, showing that present problems were problems in Israel, too`problems such as depression, lukewarmness, idol worship, homosexuality, rape, etc. He directs attention to spiritual solutions for these both in the days of the Judges and now.
"Many see Judges as a dismal record of Israel's failure, but to me it illustrates God's power, a message both timely and relevant" (p. 9). God's Spirit, operating through ordinary men and women, can accomplish the will of God. The work's introduction discusses various views of Judges' theme and concludes it is the power of God displayed through His representatives (p. 24). Barber gears his book for Christian lay people, not scholars or seminarians (p. 9).
Spiritual lessons are plentiful throughout, and aptly worded headings in bold-faced print mark out subdivisions. Short paragraphs carry the reader's thought through the text quickly. Frequent illustrations spice the content. For example, Pogo the cartoon character returns from a battle saying, "We have met the enemy and he is us" (p. 53). A line at the bottom of each page shows the exact verses dealt with on that page. Barber weaves in timely quotes from other sources.
Graphic sections depict Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. Along with Gideon's faith, commitment, and perseverance, Barber is quite candid about the ephod marring his later years (p. 108). He favors the view that Jephthah gave his daughter over to perpetual virginity (pp. 149-50), but his reasons for doing so are sometimes rather arbitrary and not difficult to answer for those who hold the popular view that Jephthah gave the girl as a burnt offering (cf. among evangelicals, J. J. Davis, Conquest and Crisis [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969] 124-28; F. D. Lindsey, "Judges," in Bible Knowledge Commentary [Wheaton: Victor, 1983] 1:402). A better balance in supporting both views would strengthen the book here. It seems arbitrary to argue, as Barber does, "It is difficult to imagine the Holy Spirit using Jephthah [a man who sacrificed his daughter] as an example of faith if his act was so contrary to God's revealed will" (p. 150). What, then, of other characters who are noted for faith in Hebrews 11, but who also failed miserably at times?
Some will also feel uncomfortable with the book's attempt to bring Samson into a good light, even in cases of possible sexual impropriety (pp. 155-56). An example is Samson's relations with the woman from Timnah, where Barber stresses Samson's good design to bring peace between the Philistines and Israel (pp. 170-74). Here, Barber sees a Sid=i q=a marriage arranged between the groom and the bride's family. Barber does not condone Samson's immoral conduct with the prostitute at Gaza, but many will not agree that Samson was not motivated by lust (p. 199), but by a desire to ravish her to show his power in defying the enemy. Barber likens this to Absalom's show of authority over David by going in to David's palace concubines in 2 Samuel 15-17. A more balanced view is that Samson was lustful, even if the power factor was present (cf. the recognition of lust by Davis, Conquest 138; Paul Enns, Judges [Zondervan] 111; Leon Wood, Distressing Days of the Judges [Zondervan] 325-28).
The section on Samson includes much that is helpful. Barber is sensitive to many areas readers want discussed. No writer covers everything because of space limitations. Still, one could wish that the book offered some explanation for how Samson may have caught and managed three hundred foxes to send on a fiery mission through Philistine fields (p. 185).
Barber sees as reprehensible and unconscionable the Levite's act in submitting his wife to the men of Gibeah for a night of using her for sexual pleasure (p. 227).
Many fine discussions popularly written help the book offset the few places of possible disagreement. Overall it has much to stimulate and benefit preachers, Bible study leaders, and Christians in general who appreciate the colorful tracing of a passage's flow. Barber's endnotes for each chapter reflect his use of good sources. A Scripture index and a person/title index are also beneficial.