Not so well known. But since he is the first named judge in the Book of Judges, we should expect to perhaps see a foreshadowing of things to come. And indeed we do.
But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them (3:9).
Lesson #1 – Salvation, deliverance is for God’s special, chosen people. Notice the repetition of the phrase “the people of Israel.” This deliverance had nothing to do with Israel’s merits. They were committing flagrant idolatry! Yet in compassion God sent a savior to them. Are you making a bee-line now for John 3:16? Or Romans 5:8? Or Titus 3:1-8?
Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand (3:10).
Lesson #2 – Deliverance comes by the Spirit of the Lord. This pattern will hold in Judges. It is the Holy Spirit of God that empowers and enables these men to accomplish the deliverance and feats of greatness. Indeed, nothing truly great in the spiritual realm happens apart from the all-powerful presence of God who is Spirit (John 4:24). Jesus said, “You must be born again . . . born of the Spirit” (John 3:1-8) if you would enter and enjoy His kingdom.
Lesson #3 – Deliverance demands a warrior who is able to conquer our evil tyrants. Our captors must be taken captive. The strong man must be bound (Luke 11:14-23).
So the land had rest forty years (3:11).
Lesson #4 – Deliverance from our Oppressor brings peace. Rest. We cannot help but think of the words of our Savior, can we? “Come to Me, all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died (3:11).
Lesson #5 – Othniel is not the Messiah. He is not the longed for King who would conquer all the enemies of God’s people forever. By God’s power, Othniel handled an earthly king, but could not vanquish Satan, nor finally satisfy the wrath of God against the sins of Israel. Othniel went the way of all sinners. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Like so many judges, as we shall see, his deliverance was temporary. But what Israel really needed, and what we still really need today, is a Deliverer who can conquer ALL our spiritual enemies: our sin nature, the devil, and the God-hating world around us.
Othniel was great. But he’s no Jesus. Not even close!