God had made a covenant of blessing with the Israelites and commanded that they not make alliances with the evil Canaanites. But they did not heed the voice of God. Instead, Scripture says the Israelites did what was right in their own eyes, mimicking the decadence and corruption of Canaan. As a result, the Israelites began to look more like the inhabitants that they were supposed to destroy. Their deviant behaviors included blatant sexual promiscuity and idol worship.
When Joshua was still alive, the Israelites followed his example, obeying the laws and regulations of God. But after Joshua died, not only did the people fall away from God, but they neglected to teach the ways of God to the next generation. Their children did not know about the incredible miracles God had performed throughout the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings. Nor were they instructed in any of His laws. Judges 2:10 says, "When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel."
God finally withdrew His protection from the Israelites because of their continuous disobedience and unbelief. Just as He had foretold them through His message given by the angel, they were overtaken by their enemies and fell under the tremendous weight of social and financial oppression. At different times throughout their initial years in the Promised Land, the Israelites suffered at the hands of their dreaded enemies, including the Mesopotamians, Moabites, Philistines and Midianites.
Despite the sins of Israel, God always remembered His promise to Abraham for a nation that would be His special possession. So rather than let them be completely destroyed by their enemies, God sent them rescuers, called judges, who delivered the people from their oppression.
A few of Israel's greatest judges are well-known characters taught in Sunday School. First is Jael, the tent peg, and Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army. Then came Gideon, the sign of the fleece, and the trumpets and torches that scattered the Midianites. Finally there was great Samson, the betrayal of Delilah and the collapse of the Philistine temple. Each deliverer was sent by God and stood for righteousness, offering light into the dark and depraved lives of His people.
Unfortunately, throughout Judges the Israelites followed a common pattern of sin and debauchery, then oppression by enemies and then deliverance from a judge. For a time, Israel maintained obedience. But whenever a deliverer died, they returned to sin and debauchery.
The last verse in Judges exposes the root issue: in those days, there was no king in Israel. The Israelites were like sheep without a shepherd, but they did not seek their true Shepherd, nor did they follow their true King. For this reason, the book of Judges is an incredible account of God's patience and forgiveness for those who often did not receive Him. Yet He never forgot them, nor did He forget His promise made in Genesis: the coming Messiah who would one day deliver His people from their sins. This is where the book of Ruth begins.