Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do as their fathers. When the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
In those days Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in his or her own eyes [Judg. 17:6]. What looked right to many was the opulence and sensuality of the Canaanite religion.
The economy of the Canaanite religion eliminated the need for faith—and that sparkled with an irresistible brilliance, perhaps even more than their temples adorned with gold or their women adorned with precious stones. It seemed so simple. All they had to do was give in order to get. So the children of Israel turned from the ways of their fathers, who obeyed the commands of the Lord. They followed after other gods and bowed down to them.
The people rejected the Lord and worshiped other gods, so the Lord allowed them to be conquered and oppressed by the nations whose gods they worshiped. Crushed under this oppression, Israel cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent a deliverer to rescue them. (These deliverers were called judges.) With each judge, the delivered people returned to the Lord for a time, serving him only. But eventually they turned again to foreign gods and the cycle starred over, under a deeper oppression than the one before.
Israel needed a king whose sole passion was to do the will of the One who sent him (Jon. 4:34), someone who would lead God’s people in righteousness.
Israel needed a perfect king [Judg. 21:25]. They were called to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and strength and to live as his children, loved with an everlasting love. But without a king to lead them, they would only do what seemed right in their own eyes.