What does Judges 3:8 mean?
ESV: Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.
NIV: The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years.
NASB: Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years.
CSB: The Lord's anger burned against Israel, and he sold them to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim, and the Israelites served him eight years.
NLT: Then the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim. And the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years.
KJV: Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.
NKJV: Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years.
Verse Commentary:
This sounds very familiar to what was written in the previous chapter (Judges 2:11–15). This time, a specific oppressor is described. God's anger burns for Israel's betrayal of Him by serving other gods (Judges 3:7). In response, God sets out to harm them as He said He would.

The Lord sells His people into the hands of the Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, also known as Aram Naharaim. This king reigned over the Arameans. Their large territory began north of the Sea of Galilee and extended far into the north. Bible scholars speculate on what ruler in the history of this region this king might be, but he remains something of a mystery. His empire must have been quite strong to control Canaan from that far north for eight years. Centuries later, the prophet Habakkuk would refer to "Cushan" when speaking of Israel disrupting the peace of the Canaanites after the exodus (Habakkuk 3:7).

During those eight years, the people of Israel were slaves to his kingdom, likely alongside the other Canaanite peoples of the land. This does not mean the people were in literal, personal chains or held as prisoners. Rather, it would mean their nation was occupied and controlled by the foreign nation.
Verse Context:
Judges 3:7–11 describes Israel's first cycle of rebellion and rescue. The very first generation after Joshua forgets the Lord and serves the Canaanite gods known as Baals and Asheroth. In anger, God allows them to be conquered and enslaved by the king of Mesopotamia. The people cry out to God eight years later, and He raises up the first "judge:" Othniel, Caleb's nephew. He leads the people to victory over the Mesopotamians. This is followed by forty years of peace.
Chapter Summary:
God leaves several Canaanite nations in and around the Promised Land to test Israel's reliance on Him. Some live among the people, others are part of unconquered territories. The Israelites immediately ignore God's commands and begin serving other gods. First, the Lord subjects them to Mesopotamia. After eight years, the first judge, Othniel, leads them to victory and peace. Israel again rebels and is conquered by Moab for 18 years. Ehud's brutal assassination of the Moabite king sparks another period of freedom and peace. In a single brief statement, the obscure Shamgar is celebrated for his victory.
Chapter Context:
After Israel's failure to complete their mission, as described in chapters 1 and 2, chapter 3 begins by describing the idolatrous nations God left intact to test Israel. In the first of many such cycles, the people sin, are conquered, then are rescued by a "judge." This chapter describes the victories of Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar. Chapter 4 mentions the first of the truly famous names among the judges, describing the careers of Deborah and Barak. This is followed in chapter 6, which introduces Gideon.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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