From Faithful till Fallen—How Long?
Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, and they conquered the territory for seven years. Afterwards, Joshua divided up the land to the twelve tribes (I just summarized the whole book of Joshua for you). We are told near the beginning of Judges that Israel was faithful as long as Joshua lived, and as long as the elders who outlived Joshua were still alive. But by the time we get into Judges 3, the Israelites had become so sinful, so unfaithful, that God sold them back into slavery. The question is: how long did it take for them to go from fully faithful to fully fallen?
We can’t get an exact answer, but we can certainly narrow it down to a specific range by looking at the life of the first judge, Othniel. We aren’t told his age at death, but Moses died at 120, and Joshua died at 110 (and they seem like outliers). Let’s be generous and say Othniel lived to age 100. So let’s account for the years of his life.
Othniel was a soldier during the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 15:15-17), meaning he was at least 20 years old when they crossed the Jordan River. The conquest lasted 7 years, meaning he was at least 27 years old when the land was divided. So here, we have accounted for at least the first 27 years of his life—during which time Israel was fully faithful.
Judges 3 tells us he judged Israel for 40 years before he died. But before he judged Israel, they had been in slavery to the King of Mesopotamia for 8 years. Thus, we have now accounted for the last 48 years of Othniel’s life. When you put that with the at least 27 years at the beginning of his life, we have already accounted for 75 years of his life. We still have 25 years in the middle to deal with.
Joshua didn’t die right away after dividing up the land. And the elders of Israel lived at least for a while after Joshua’s death. I don’t think it is a stretch to say they may have lived another 10 years after the conquest ended. And if that is the case, we have another 10 years of Othniel’s life accounted for—10 more years of Israel being faithful to God. And that leaves us with around 15 years. 15 years from Israel being called “faithful” by God to their becoming so wicked that He sold them back into slavery. And it may not have even taken that long, based on how old Othniel was when the conquest started—he was at least 20.
How fast can a congregation go from faithful to fallen? Pretty fast. See Galatians 1:6.
|Othniel becomes a Soldier
|Othniel in Conquest
|Life of Joshua and Elders
|Enslaved to Mesopotamia
|Minimum 20 years old
|+/- 10 years
-Bradley S. Cobb