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The title of the book of Judges brings to the American mind images of flowing black robes and wooden mallets. The biblical concept is far from that. The judges of the Old Testament served two primary functions: one was to deliver the people in battle, and the other was to rule justly over them.* But why did Israel require deliverance after their miraculous, victorious invasion of the long-Promised Land? The people had enthusiastically accepted God's laws and commands: "We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God." Then Joshua said to the people, "You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God.... If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you." The people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord." Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses." (Josh 24:18-23) But a new generation grew up in the land, and they "did evil in the sight of the Lord," just as Joshua predicted (Jud 2:11). The story of Israel becomes a great dilemma, for God unconditionally promised the land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants (Gen 12:1-3). How will the holy God punish His rebellious people without betraying His promises? "Will God's holiness and his demand for obedience ... override his promises to Israel? Or will his irrevocable commitment to the nation ... mean that he will somehow overlook their sin?"2 Tremper Longman suggests that it is "this very tension that... propels the entire narrative."3 How will God be true to both His character and His word in a nation where "everyone [does] what [is] right in his own eyes" (Jud 21:25)? The Judges The title of the book of Judges comes from the oldest Hebrew records.4 The judges [shofetim5] were not identified through election, appointment, inheritance, or anointing. Rather,
Merrill F. Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 287. Tremper Longman and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Ibid.
Tremper Longm; Zondervan), 142. Ibid. * Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, 286. 5 Ibid.
"they spontaneously took leadership roles when the need arose."6 They were God's chosen instruments, despite their flaws. Andrew Hill and John Walton note that "the judges were not intended to be spiritual role models, nor was their spirituality necessarily a criterion for God's raising them up.... The task of the judge was to be a deliverer."7 Arthur Cundall adds that "their faults are clearly depicted and the focus throughout is on the infallible God, not fallible man."8 God's power is shown most prominently when He chooses to use weak, sinful people to accomplish His purposes. Authorship The authorship of Judges has been the subject of much debate. Since the book itself does not identify its author, some simply accept it as anonymous.9 A single writer obviously could not have been an eye witness to all of the events recorded over several hundred years.10 Liberal critics have suggested that the book is a series of "old hero tales" complied by two sources, J and E, and edited by a "Deuteronomist" around 200 B.C. to include "pragmatic religious interpretation."11 But the unity of the book of Judges - it's methodical layout and logical flow - supports a single author/editor, though some materials (chapters 4 and 5, for example] were probably compiled from existing sources.12 If we adopt the single-author view, both the Babylonian Talmud13 and Hebrew tradition14 identify the prophet Samuel as the writer. While not a lot of evidence for Samuel's authorship has been brought to light, we do know that Samuel wrote.15
Hill and Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 177. Hill and Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 178.
Cundall, Judges, 41. Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 182.
Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, 291. Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, 290. 12 Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, 290. 13 Davis, Conquest and Crisis, 93. Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, 292. 15 Lindsey, "Judges," 373.
The dating of the writing of Judges is also debated. Hill and Walton argue that "the book's composition involved a process that may have consumed several centuries."16 Others hold that Judges "was written during the early days of the monarchy - after the coronation of Saul (1051 B.C.) but before the conquest of Jerusalem by David (1004 B.C.)."17 The statements in Judges 17:6,18:1, 19:1, and 21:25 that "in those days where was no king in Israel" indicate the newness of the monarchy at the time the book was written.18 The problem passage for this view is Judges 18:30, which mentions the "day of the captivity of the land." If this refers to the Assyrian deportation, then Judges must have been written much later than David. Several other options have been suggested. The phrase may be a scribal error which originally referred to the carrying away of the ark.19 Another option is that the verse refers to the defeat and deportation of the tribe of Dan only.20 Or it could be an addition by a later editor, though this is doubtful.21 The best date for the writing of Judges remains around 1000 B.C., which makes Samuel a realistic possibility for the author. Time Period The dating of the period of the judges depends upon the dating of the Exodus, which is greatly debated. Most likely, Judges covers the fourteenth through eleventh centuries B.C.22 This raises a chronological problem. The time spans for the judges total 410 years. We know that Solomon began building the temple 480 years after the Exodus; if we subtract the years of wandering and the times of Joshua, Eli, Samuel, and David, we are left with only 291 years for the
Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 173. F. Duane Lindsey, "Judges," In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zock, eds. (Wheaton: Victor Books), 373. 18 Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, 291. 19 Ibid., 292. Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press), 275. 21 Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament, 292. 22 Hill and Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 174.
judges. Beyer. While Joshua had done much to "break the back" of the Canaanites (Josh 11:16-23). 25 Bill T. Each clan descended from Jacob's sons had its own leaders. large areas remained to be conquered by the tribes (Josh 13:1-6. At the time of the judges. 286-287. Hubbard. Form and Background of the Old Testament 2nd Ed. 160.28 The peoples that Israel allowed to remain in her midst became "thorns in [the tribes'] sides and their gods [were] a snare to [them]" (Jud 2:3). If this is the case. and internal tensions between strong personalities all tended to 23 24 Unger. Ibid. "Israel was organized politically by a tribal structure." 374. 186."30 Other factors also impeded Israel from becoming a unified nation. Bush. Old Testament Survey: The Message. Arnold and Bryan E. and Frederic Wm. . In addition to geography. "continuing struggles with the other inhabitants. David Allan Hubbard. Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker Books). Only a relatively small area was jeopardized by each military emergency. 28 Lindsey. A Survey of the Old Testament. 157. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans). Jud 1:2-36)."27 which explains how judges could rule over various parts of the nation simultaneously."26 Background The structure of the nation of Israel and the political climate around Palestine play a significant role in understanding Judges. Old Testament Survey. for it engendered isolation rather than communication. 175. then "the period of 'rest' in one region overlapped the 'oppression' in another."25 which supports the idea that they could have ruled simultaneously. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. 27 Hill and Walton. 29 Unger. 288-289. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. 30 LaSor. "Judges. During this time of unrest God provided the judges "who delivered and ruled over the twelve tribes of Israel in their national youth when they were only a loose confederacy or amphictyony without a stable central government and particularly subject to enemy incursion.23 The best explanation is that the judgeships overlapped and covered a time period much smaller than 410 years. 26 William Sandford LaSor."29 The Promised Land itself "was better suited to house a large number of small city-states than an integrated people.24 Arnold and Beyer emphasize that "The judges brought peace and security to a specific region for a limited period of time. and Bush.
. Arthur E. while in no way excusable."31 The only truly unifying factor among the Israelites was "the concept of Yahweh. Israel herself had a track record of turning to idols when things were hard (Ex 32). who demanded moral perfection and exclusive worship! The perversion and idolatry of Israel continued as families failed 31 32 33 Ib id . whose gods were "capricious and unpredictable and not particularly prone to moral behavior. "Israel's legacy included only a very tentative monotheism.segregate the tribes. Judges: and Introduction and Commentary. who made a covenant with his people. 36 Ib id . was willing whenever they turned to him to act repeatedly on their behalf by raising up judges or deliverers.. As Hill and Walton write. Cundall. 34 Hill and Walton. can be better understood by realizing the dramatic contrast between the God they were to worship and the gods they saw worshipped all around them. the gods could be manipulated. all-powerful God who controlled the entire universe and was ruled by no other power was totally foreign in the land of Canaan.35 The reality of a single. Ibid. in Judges Ruth (London: Tyndale).. 1 5 9 . And since they had needs that they were dependent on humans to provide.... Israel suffered from peer pressure from the surrounding nations."34 In Canaanite religion each god had limited powers in a particular area and was ruled by higher gods. . 35 Ibid."32 This nation that God had "welded together from a rabble of slaves and other diverse groups had entered the Promised Land.. 1 8 0 -1 8 1 . The pressure from the pagan Canaanites soon overwhelms Israel's initial commitment to Yahweh... and is seen in Judges settling down in an environment dominated by Canaanite culture and religion. Israel's sin in abandoning the commands of Yahweh. 160."36 What a contrast to Yahweh of Israel. Monotheism offered a whole new perspective on deity. 180. A Survey of the Old Testament. with high ideals and austere moral standards."33 The transition from slavery in Egypt to possessors of the Promised Land is a rocky one for Israel. 35.
and Ekron.44 Judges 1:19 mentions that Judah was unable to drive out valley inhabitants because of their iron chariots. Asia Minor. 43 Ibid. 157. 174-175. Sisera brought 900 iron chariots against Barak and Deborah (Jud. and trade was disrupted by the Sea Peoples (including the Philistines. Ashkelon. . Ashdod."40 Eventually the Hittite Empire collapsed.39 The book of Judges does not mention the surrounding political turmoil. Old Testament Survey. 175..43 Samson in particular battled these Philistine invaders (Jud 13-16). 42 William LaSor."38 Israel may have been insulated from the struggles of the empires because of geographic isolation. Hubbard.. In the world around Israel.. Sisera's superior equipment highlights God's role in destroying the Canaanite army before Barak.. which brought about a change in weapons and strategies of war. 37 38 Ibid. Egypt struggled internally. and Bush.. 175. who would later oppress Israel).37 The combination of external influence and internal apathy led to moral decline in God's holy nation.. possibly because the author was "more interested in the theological implications of history. 156. 44 Ibid. "Ib id . three "empires struggling in a virtual stalemate with the advantage constantly shifting from one power to another.to pass down God's commands and the priesthood failed to teach the law.42 The Philistines settled in the southern plains of Palestine and established five strongholds: Gaza. Hittites. Ibid. the Egyptians. 39 Ibid.. and later the Assyrians vied for power. 4:13).C. and flooded the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean in a series of invasions.41 The Sea Peoples came from "Greece. 174.). 40 Ibid. Gath. The period of the judges probably spanned the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age (1200 B. and the Aegean islands .
L in d s e y . Longman and Dillard. 287. For the newly established monarchy of Israel. disobedience will lead to punishment."51 The reason for Israel's 45 46 47 Unger. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.49 Theme John Davis describes the theme of Judges as "'Failure through Compromise' which is in contrast to the main theme in the Book of Joshua which was 'Victory through Faith. An Introduction to the Old Testament.46 But Judges fulfills more than a purely historical purpose. and the subsequent need for a centralized hereditary kingship as the means through which Yahweh would continue to exercise His kingship over the nation Israel."48 Judges warns that even under a king.45 The book explains the process of the nation's transition to a monarchy. while repentance leads to restoration. Judges records "Israel's disobedience to Yahweh's kingship as mediated through her sovereignly appointed and Spirit-empowered leaders. Conquest and Crisis: Studies in Joshua. 287. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. "J u d g e s . Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. It is a theological book describing "a transition between Yahweh's mediatorial activity through Moses and Joshua and His mediatorial rule through the anointed kings of the monarchy. 274. the book of Judges answers the question of how God will punish sin and yet still fulfill His promises to the patriarchs and portrays the consequences of sinning against Yahweh." 3 7 4 .Purpose Judges serves a very practical role by filling in the history of Israel from the time of Joshua to the birth of Samuel . Unger. Judges and Ruth (Grand Rapids: Baker). 94. 142. ."47 Yahweh relates to His people through a series of judges rather than a single chosen spokesman. Archer.a period of about 300 years. John J.'"50 Judges is the story of "Israel's failure as a theocracy to keep true to the covenant even under the leadership of men chosen of God to deliver them from oppression by the pagan world. Davis.
52 53 Hill and Walton. Judges emphasizes "Yahweh's long-suffering grace in the face of continual and rampant apostasy and injustice among his people.defeat and distress is her disobedience. for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. Ibid.52 The entire book is summed up in Judges 2:15-17: Wherever they went. but He is faithful to His promises and His mercies never fail. Yet they did not listen to their judges."53 The message to the fledgling monarchy is this: Yahweh demands purity and punishes sin. A Survey of the Old Testament. Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. . Covenant failures of the people were met by covenant faithfulness from the Lord. so that they were severely distressed. 176. Yet in the midst of Israel's sin. the hand of the Lord was against them for evil. as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them. cyclical story of the book of Judges. This is the sad. not God's unfaithfulness.
(6:1) And the land was undisturbed for forty years (8:28) . (3:11) Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of V. Gideon destroys the alter to Baal and an Asherah pole (6:27-32) D. Gideon defeats the Midianites and Amalekites (7:19-25) 1." (Judges 17:6] I. Conflict with Ephraim (8:1-3) 2. Punished by Mesopotamia. Gideon spies on the enemy camp (7:9-14) 5. Conquest of the land (1:1-20) B. Gideon kills Zebah and Zalmunna (8:18-21) the Lord. Failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land (1:21-36) C. Gideon's plan of attack (7:15-18) E. repentance. Cycle of disobedience. (2:7) Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals (2:11) The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. delivered through Ehud (3:12-30) The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua. Punished by Canaan. God promises deliverance from Midian (6:1-10) B. delivered through Deborah and Barak (4:1-5:31) A. Song of Deborah and Barak (5:1-31) V. __________(3:7)__________ Then the land had rest forty years. Key Verse: "In those days there was no king in Israel. Introduction (1:1-2:10) A. and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua. who had seen all the great work of the Lord which He had done for Israel. Barak defeats Sisera's army (4:9-16) C. but He is faithful to His covenant and His mercies never fail.Analysis Theme: Yahweh demands purity and punishes sin. deliverance (2:11-19) B. Deborah prophecies that God will give Canaan over to Barak (4:1-9) B. delivered through Shamgar (3:31) IV. Conflict with Succoth (8:4-17) 3. Gideon prepares to battle Midianites and Amalekites (6:33-7:18) 1. God reduces Gideon's army (7:1-8) 4. Gideon summons his army (6:33-35) 2.Jael kills Sisera (4:16-22) D. Punished by the Philistines.Jabin subdued (4:23-24) E. Gideon tests God (6:36-40) 3. Sin of Israel (2:10-3:7) A. delivered through Othniel (3:8-11) Punished by Moab. _________(5:31)_________ Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. God's judgment on Israel (2:1-7) D. delivered through Gideon (6:1-9:57) A. IV. Punished by Midian. God tests Israel through surrounding nations (2:20-3:7) III. Death of Joshua (2:8-10) II. Gideon called to deliver Israel (6:11-6:26) C. judgment. (3:12) And the land was undisturbed for eighty years. (3:30) Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord (4:1) And the land was undisturbed for forty years. every man did what was right in his own eyes.
3 ) G.F. the gods ofSidon. S am so n in P h ilistine cap tivity (1 6 :2 1-3 1) XV. S a m s o n m a rrie s a P h ilistin e w o m a n (1 4 :1 . M ica h 's id o la try ( 1 7 :1 -1 8 :3 1 ) A. M en o f S h e ch e m b e tray A b im ele ch (9 :2 2 -5 7 ) VIII. served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. M ic ah m ak e s id o ls an d fin d s a p riest (1 7 :1 -1 3 ) B. P u n is h e d b y th e A m m o n ite s . Je p h th ah a g re e s to fig h t A m m o n (1 1 :4 -1 1 ) D. A b im ele c h k ills h is b ro th e rs a n d b e co m e s k in g (8 :3 3 -9 :6 ) B. when there was no king in Israel (19:1) .2 8 ) E. J e p h th a h 's h isto ry (1 1 :1 -3 ) C.G id eo n 's d e ath (8 :2 9 -3 2 ] VII. Jo th a m 's s p e e c h (9 :7 . d eliv ere d th ro u g h S am so n (1 3 :1 1 6 :3 1 ) A. and the gods of the Philistines. D an ites sp y o u t L aish (1 8 :1 -1 3 ) C.M en o f Ju d ah su rre n d e r S a m s o n (1 5 :9 -1 3 ) E. A b im e le c h ru le s o v e r Israe l (8:3 3 -9 :5 7 ) A. thus they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him. S a m s o n e s c a p e s a n a m b u s h (1 6 :1 . D an ite s c o n q u er L aish ( 1 8 :2 7 -3 1 ) the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals. D elilah le a rn s S am so n 's sec re t ( 16 :4 -2 0 ) H . and made Baalberith their god. the gods of Aram. D an ite s tak e id o ls an d p rie st ( 1 8 :1 4 -2 6 ) D. S a m s o n g e ts re v e n g e (1 4 :2 0 -1 5 :8 ) D. Jep h th ah fu lfills h is v ow (1 1 :3 4 -4 0 ) G. (18:31) Now it came about in those days.J e p h th a h c o m m u n ic a t e s w ith A m m o n (1 1 :1 2 . d e liv e re d th ro u g h J e p h th a h (1 0 :6 -1 2 :7 ) A. P u n ish ed b y th e P h ilistin es. Ju d g esh ip o f A b d o n (1 2 :1 3 -1 5 ) X IV .1 9 ) C. Jud ge sh ip o f T ola (10 :1 -2 ) IX.A n an g e l p re d icts S am so n 's b irth a n d Ju d g e s h ip (1 3 :1 -1 3 :2 4 ) B. Ju d g esh ip o f E lo n (1 2 :1 1 -1 2 ) X III. the gods ofMoab. (10:6) Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord (13:1) In those days there was no king in Israel.Isr ae l c ries o u t to G o d a n d b re ak s H is h e art (1 0 :6 -1 8 ) B. G id e o n 's re w a rd [ 8 :2 2 -2 8 ) G. (8:33) Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. every man did what was right in his own eyes (17:6) In those days there was no king of Israel (18:1) So they set up for themselves Micah's graven image which he had made. the gods of the sons of Ammon. all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh. Ju dg eship of Jair (1 0:3-5 ) X. S am so n d ef ea ts th e P h ilistin es (1 5 :1 4 -2 0 ) F. Ju d g e sh ip o f Ib za n (1 2 :8 -1 0 ) XII.C o n flict w ith E p h raim (1 2 :1 -7 ) XI. J e p h th a h d e fe a ts A m m o n (1 1 :2 9 -3 3 ) F.2 1 ) C.
Levite gathers men of Israel against Gibeah (19:29-20-13) D. Israel's second defeat (20:22-25) 3.XVI. . Wives for Benjamin (21:13-25) In those days there was no king in Israel. Israel's first defeat (20:14-21) 2. Mourning the loss of a tribe (21:1-4) F. Woman raped and killed (19:22-28) C. Destruction of Jabesh-gilead (21:5-12) G. Levite and his concubine travel to Gibeah (19:1-21) B. everyone did what was right in his own eyes. War with Benjamin (20:1-48) 1. Benjamin's defeat (20:26-48) E. War with the tribe of Benjamin (19:1-21:25) A.
Synthesis Introduction Judges opens with an introduction summarizing Israel's conquest of the Promised Land. Gaza. The angel of the Lord pronounces a curse on Israel. and Talmai. The disobedience of Israel brings shame and destruction. This initial sin of incomplete obedience becomes the root of the sins that Israel will be punished for in the rest of Judges. Asher. They allow the inhabitants of the land to remain rather than driving them out completely as God commanded. and Ekron (1:17-18). Sheshai. Zebulun. but Judah is not able defeat the iron chariots in the valley (1:19). Ahiman. Judah and Simeon defeat 10. who will reappear in chapter 4 against Sisera. but their repentance will not last . God demanded total separation from the pagan nations. But the punishment is preceded by a reminder of God's covenant with the patriarchs: "I will never break My covenant with you" (2:1).Benjamin. and Dan . Naphtali. Hebron.000 Canaanite and Perizzite soldiers (1:4) and humble the great king Adoni-bezek (1:6-7). Manasseh. The people respond with weeping and sacrifices (2:4-5). Here we are also introduced to the Kenites (1:16). knowing that they will lead Israel into idolatry. seven tribes . From here the story of the conquest becomes a story of compromise. descendants of Moses' father-in-law. Othniel will play a more central role against Mesopotamia in chapter 3. Judah and Simeon again combine to fight the Canaanites at Zephath.fail to take full possession of their inheritance (1:22-36). The inhabitants of Canaan will be "as thorns in [their] sides and their gods will be a snare to [Israel]" (2:3). While Joseph has victory against Bethel. but it does not negate the covenant. God blesses Judah with military victory in the hill country. and Debir (1:8-11). and the people seek the Lord's guidance on how to attack the Canaanites (1:12). Ephraim. Judah continues in the conquest of the land and captures Jerusalem. Caleb finally receives his reward for faithfulness after spying out the land forty years earlier (1:20). Caleb's nephew Othniel distinguishes himself in the battle against Debir and wins Caleb's daughter as his wife (1:13). Joshua is dead (1:1). Ashkelon. In a spectacular victory.
The Lord gives them into the hands of enemy nations to be plundered (2:14-15). Perhaps he hopes that his written words will remind each new generation of Yahweh's commands and the consequences of disobedience. turning away from Yahweh to other gods (2:17). Deliverance from Mesopotamia. and the Philistines God responds with anger to Israel's sin. they fall to the influence of idolatry. 2. . Maybe this is one reason that the author of Judges is writing this account of Israel's unfaithfulness. The Lord raises up judges (2:16).long. Eighteen years pass before Israel repents and God raises up Ehud to deliver the nation (3:14-15). The Judges deliver Israel from her plunderers (2:16). nor yet the work which He had done for Israel" (2:10). Israel does evil. Israel is content to live among the peoples they were commanded to drive out. 9). choosing Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia as His instrument of wrath (3:8). to intermarry. This time the Lord brings Moab against His people (3:12). When Israel repents He is merciful and uses Othniel. God allows the pagan nations around Israel to remain as a test which they repeatedly fail (2:20-3:7). Caleb's nephew. Under Othniel's rule Israel has peace for forty years (3:911). Over and over the people forget their true Deliverer and return to idolatry. Rather than being a holy people as an example to the nations. turning away from Yahweh to other gods (2:11-13). 4. Sin of Israel The eyewitnesses of God's mighty work on behalf of Israel remain faithful to Yahweh for exactly one generation (2:7. 3. While Ehud's assassination of the kind of Moab is effective (3:19-23). to throw off the bondage of Mesopotamia. The Judges account now returns to the death of Joshua. and to serve their gods (3:5-6). In only one generation the covenant and the Law are forgotten. The rest of chapter 2 describes the cycle of the judges: 1. 1. overlapping the content of Joshua 24:28-31. And on and on. Israel does evil. The cycle repeats immediately after Othniel's death. Moab. Judges explains that the next generation "did not know the Lord.
Israel does not accept His sovereignty. forfeiting the honor of killing Sisera himself (4:8-9). this time choosing Jabin king of Canaan to oppress them for 20 years (4:2-3). The author of Judges makes it clear that Yahweh's ability to protect and save His people is never in doubt. Sometime during the oppression Deborah. She is the only judge specifically mentioned as ruling before delivering the nation. lulls him to sleep. Sisera himself escapes on foot. and the only woman judge mentioned. after Ehud died" (4:1). foreshadowing his family's later role in the story. king of Canaan. The description of the battle itself is very short. And yet. but his entire army is destroyed to the last man (4:15-16). God's second instrument of wrath. a descendent of Moses' father-in-law.his cowardly strategy is far from the glorious victories that God has granted to Israel in the past. the Lord sells them into the hands of foreigners. wife of Heber the Kenite. Barak's faith in Deborah is greater than his faith in God. "the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. Deborah receives a word from the Lord and commands Barak to gather his forces at Mount Tabor to fight the army of Canaan (4:6). Chapter 5 of Judges is a poetic interlude -the record of a song of victory retelling the story of Israel's victory over . is mentioned only briefly. delivered by Deborah Once again. She must have been a formidable woman! Israel continues to revolt against Jabin until they throw off the yoke of Canaan (4:24). The Lord routes Sisera's army before Barak's army (4:15). Moab. almost understated. The victory belongs to Barak. She offers Sisera safety. is subdued. becomes a judge in Israel (4:4).Jael. had moved to Kedesh. In verse 17 we learn that Heber's family had a peaceful relationship with Jabin. He agrees to lead the battle only if Deborah accompanies him. The next judge of the nation. Once again. and drives a tent peg through his temple (4:19-21). Punished by Canaan. but he delivers Israel from the Philistines with an oxgoad (3:31). The short interlude of verse 11 reveals that Heber the Kenite. a prophetess. Shamgar. but the honor of killing Sisera is reserved for a woman . and Israel lives at peace for 80 years (3:30). The powerful nations He brings against them are nothing more than tools in His hands.
To Gideon's credit. more reassurances that God will hand over his enemies. Gideon needs one. Though empowered by the Spirit of God (6:34). Their suffering is a result of their unfaithfulness and idolatry (6:10). and the armies of Israel for their bravery. The Midianites and Amalekites destroy Israel's crops and force them to live in fear in caves and strongholds (6:2-6). God is gracious to Gideon. and gave them rest for another forty years (5:31). And he will become valiant. He obeys. "the sons of Israel did what was evil the sight of the Lord. who fought on behalf of his people. no defense. 40). no vindication of Yahweh's honor. He tests God twice with a fleece and the morning dew (6:36-40). . the angel of the Lord greets Gideon as a "valiant warrior" (6:12). Barak. Asher. But the true glory goes to God. Zebulun. Instead. Punished by Midian. but for now he complains that God has not delivered Israel (6:13). When Gideon receives his first instructions from God . delivered through Gideon True to pattern. Nevertheless. and when his actions are discovered. and He answers by reminding them that He is their God.he is too afraid to carry them out in daylight (6:27). the cowardly Gideon. he does eventually respond in humility to the message and builds an altar to the Lord (6:22. and Naphtali to battle the gathered Midianites and Amalekites (6:33-35). and demands a sign as proof of God's words (6:17). He chooses a most unlikely deliverer for Israel. After a seemingly short period of time Gideon calls together the men of Manasseh. Ironically. whines that he is too insignificant to deliver his people (6:15). 24). Jael. Gideon's father defends him and names him Jerubbaal (6:31). God does not allow them to be destroyed by Midian. he offers no explanation. The song praises Deborah. Israel cries out to God.to destroy his father's altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah pole . actually two. but at night. bolstering his faith by performing the miracles Gideon asks of Him (6:38. and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years" (6:1).Sisera. who delivered them from Egypt and gave them the land as their inheritance (6:8-9).
God gives Gideon one more dose of encouragement. Gideon receives the courage he needs to begin the fight (7:14-15). When an enemy soldier declares that God has given the entire army of Midian into Gideon's hand. even when deliverance is within their grasp. Israel is angry. but he declines. In the aftermath of the battle. His story ends sadly. His flattery works. and shouting (7:19-20).16.17). . Gideon makes an ephod that becomes "a snare to Gideon and his household" (8:27). which he carries out after capturing Zebah and Zalmunna (8:12. sending the vast majority of the Israelite army home to ensure that human soldiers can in no way take credit for the victory that He will bring about (7:2-4). God is jealous for His honor in the battle. Before the battle begins. Gideon plays a surprisingly small role in the deliverance of Israel. Gideon's battle strategy is simple and highly effective. recognizing the Yahweh is the one true King of Israel (8:23). Gideon's sweeping victory over Midian sadly leads to conflict within Israel.000 men that gather to fight Midian. torches. Even in the wake of such a great victory. and arrogant. Of the 32. Gideon is offered the kingship of the nation. 8).But God also tests Gideon. petty. God allows only 300 to participate in the battle (7:7). though. he is met with doubt and mockery (8:6. Gideon continues on in pursuit of two more kings of Midian. Gideon vows revenge. God reserves the victory for Himself. sending him down into the Midianite camp to hear the interpretation of a soldier's dream (7:10-11). Oreb and Zeeb (8:1-3). Zebah and Zalmunna (8:4). Ephraim is angry for being left out of the fight. The success of the strategy depends entirely on the Lord. but Gideon avoids conflict by reminding them about their capture of two kings of Midian. who has already spread fear of Gideon in the camp (7:14) and causes the Midianite and Amalekite soldiers to slaughter each other (7:21-22). The tribes cannot work together. When he approaches the cities of Succoth and Penuel for supplies for his men. commanding him into battle with a drastically diminished army. establishing Himself once again as the true Deliverer of Israel and the Keeper of His covenant with His people. because with his battle plunder. He surrounds the enemy camp and surprises them with trumpets. and Ephraim goes his way in peace (8:3).
Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Abimelech destroys the city of Shechem and burns the leaders and their families alive in the tower (9:45. claiming the right to follow his father as Israel's leader (9:2). Israel has again abandoned the Lord and "played the harlot with the Baals. therefore I will no longer .. Abimelech is followed by two judges. Abimelech's youngest brother Jotham is the only one to escape the slaughter (9:5). After Gideon's death. Punished by the Ammonites. Abimelech. God's response to Israel's cries for deliverance shows both His growing frustration and His tender mercy. Abimelech orders his armor bearer to kill him so that he does not die at the hand of a woman (9:54). however. [and] returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads" (9:56-57). He mocks the kingship of his brother and utters a prophetic curse that Abimelech will destroy Shechem and Beth-millo and that Shecehm and Beth-millo will destroy Abimelech (9:15-20). Abimelech steps forward to unify his people.. Gideon declined for himself and on behalf of his son (8:23). God sells them into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites for 18 years. who "repaid the wickedness of Abimelech . and made Baalberith their god" [8:33].. "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians. delivered through Jephthath When Israel predictably does "evil in the sight of the Lord" (10:6) once again. Jotham's words are fulfilled three years later when God brings the treachery of Abimelech and the men of Shechem back on their own heads (9:22-23). a woman drops a millstone on his head (9:53). one of his sons. the Amorites. Tola and Jair.. They have forgotten the mighty deliverance of Yahweh (8:34). 49). When Israel repents of their idolatry He answers. but we know little about their rule (10:1-5). and the Philistines? . The only winner in this sad tale of treachery is God. schemes to become the king his father refused to be. He mercilessly slaughters his seventy half-brothers at his father's house and becomes king over the land at Shechem (9:5-6).Abimelech rules over Israel When offered kingship. When he moves on to do the same in Thebez. the sons of Ammon.
" (10:11.13-14) God has had enough of Israel's rebellion. Has Israel's sin finally outweighed God's covenant promise? Will He now turn His back on His people? Was this their last chance? Then. that Jephthah's vow was not required by God. In the story that unfolds. let them deliver you in the time of your distress. war once again leads to conflict with Ephraim. Jephthah's 6 year judgeship (12:7) is followed by 7 years of Ibzan. God grants Jephthah victory over Ammon. and 42. 34). He seems most interested in gaining power over the relatives who drove him away (11:7-9). Jephthah's own motives for leadership are questionable. but He does empower him by His Spirit (10:29) and grant him victory over the Ammonites. He can "bear the misery of Israel no longer" (10:16). After rashly promising to sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever first comes out of his house to greet him. who was not invited to the fight (12:1). Jephthah first attempts to negotiate peaceably with the Ammonites.deliver you. and 8 years of Abdon (12:8-15). The biblical record provides little information about these years. the text does not specifically say that God appoints Jephthah as judge of Israel. . God appears to change His mind. Despite his grief. and he destroys 20 Ammonite cities (11:33). however. Jephthah is not as successful as Gideon was at pacifying the offended tribe. 10 years of Elon. Not surprisingly. military victory is quickly followed by both personal and national tragedy. It is important to note. He has rescued them from their own foolishness for the last time. Jephthah carries out his vow (11:39).000 Ephraimites die in the ensuing conflict (12:4-6). the mightier Ammon is not willing to back down. his only child (11:31. Jephthah is horrified to be greeted by his daughter. in an incredible moment in history. On a national level. For Jephthah. The author of Judges makes no comment on God's reaction to the human sacrifice. asserting Israel's claim to the disputed land (11:12-28). Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen.
God's instructions about Samson's lifestyle are detailed. But God uses her betrayal and Samson's lust for revenge to bring destruction on the Philistines. Samson's greatest weaknesses are pride and poor taste in women. He goes on to judge Israel for 20 years (15:20). When the Philistines threaten Judah with destruction because of Samson's actions. Samson is designated by the angel of the Lord as a deliverer of Israel before he is born (13:5). revealing the answer to his riddle and costing him 30 sets of clothes (14:19). he is repeatedly caught in the same sins.Punished by the Philistines. three times she attempts to weaken him. Like Israel. Samson gets a second chance to be used by God. although not as detailed as his parents would like (13:12-13). concurrent to the Ammonite oppression that Jephthah overthrows. One might think that Samson would realize her treachery by now. Three times Delilah begs. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament.54 Here we have the most detailed story of a judge. . The best known story about Samson is his downfall at the hands of Delilah. 289. and when he falls for the beautiful Delilah. He tells her the 54 Unger. three times Samson lies. He acknowledges God as the source of his victory (15:18). But Samson's self-control does not equal his physical strength. Samson's bride proves to be fickly and manipulative (14:15-16). Samson kills 30 Philistines in cold blood (14:19) and destroys crops with fire (15:4-5). Why does the author spend so much time introducing this judge in particular? Perhaps it is because Samson's life story has so many parallels with the story of the nation. Like Israel. they offer her great wealth to uncover the secret to his strength (16:5). Samson breaks free and kills a thousand Philistine men with a donkey's jawbone (15:15). and God miraculously supplies water for him (15:19). The Philistines are well aware of Samson's weakness for women. and three times he breaks loose (16:614). and yet God chooses to work through him in a mighty way. delivered through Samson The Philistine oppression recorded in Judges 13 is probably the same one mentioned in chapter 10. Judah hands him over to his enemies to keep the peace (15:12-13). and he gives in to her pleading and whining.
The Levite demands revenge and sends parts of the woman's body to summon the tribes of Israel to fight against Benjamin (19:29). mercy. and determination to correct His people and deliver them from bondage in the land. discovers the priest. Benjamin's tribal loyalty runs deeper . 4) and hires a Levite to be his pagan priest (17:10). The Levite turns over his concubine to the men of Gibeah and they rape her so brutally that she dies in the morning (19:25-27).true reason for his strength (16:17). seeking land of their own. Samson's story. The tribe of Dan. like the story of Judges as a whole. Benjamites clamor to rape the Levite man (19:22). Micah uses money stolen from his mother to build an ephod and household idols (17:2. and idols and takes them away from Micah (18:18-19). When he is brought out to entertain the Philistines. Dan continues in idolatry. Israel's unfaithfulness continues and even worsens. ephod. worshipping Micah's idols while the house of the one true God is at Shiloh (18:30-31). The Philistines evidently do not believe that God will once again empower Samson as his hair grows out. Chapters 17 and 18 tell the story of the idolatry of a man named Micah and the tribe of Dan. He is doomed to live out his life in captivity. Israel's conscience is not completely deadened. Even the Levites have been corrupted into idolatry. Samson's foolishness costs him his eyes and his freedom (16:21). Micah's idolatry After Samson's death there are no more recorded judges. demonstrates God's patience. God hears his prayer for justice and strengthens him one final time to bring destruction on His enemies (16:28-31). But God is not finished with Samson yet. When a Levite and his concubine spend the night with an old man in Gibeah. War with Benjamin The last story in Judges chronicles the continued decline in Israel's morality. After conquering land and settling down. for they react with anger and demand that Benjamin turn over the guilty men to be killed (20:12-13). The scene is eerily similar to the crimes of Sodom and Gomorrah immediately before their destruction (Gen 19).
they devise a scheme to avoid technically breaking the vow by allowing Benjamin to kidnap wives for themselves (21:20-21). and eventually does. Judges stands as both a warning and a promise. The city of Gibeah is totally destroyed (20:48). Israel suffers heavy casualties (20:25). Yahweh will remain faithful forever. Once again a rash vow creates trouble for Israel. Now they repent and mourn for the loss of one of the tribes of Israel (21:3). and the angry fathers are pacified (21:22).Z. everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (21:25). He will bring destruction. result in severe consequences for many generations. Although Israel will fail again and again.14). The last verse in Judges sums up the situation well: "in those days there was no king in Israel.000 men of Benjamin are killed (20:35). and more than 25. although it may. If Israel rejects her God. No clear reason for Israel's defeat is given. Written to a nation that now has a king and national laws. Judges has no happy ending. Benjamin is saved from destruction. Whatever the reason. . The men swore before the battle not to give their daughters in marriage to Benjamites (21:1). But He will not forget His people. No sin that they commit will negate His covenant. J than his sense of justice. When the destruction of Jabesh-gilead does not yield enough women for the men of Benjamin (21:12. but the wickedness and perversion in the land continues. Israel inquires of God before the first battle. Again on the second day. 21). Sadly. Concern for Israel as a nation for once outweighs tribal jealousy. and he prepares for war against his brothers (20:13-14). on the third day God grants victory to Israel through an ambush. Maybe it is because Israel is only slightly less perverted than Benjamin. but is slaughtered by Benjamin (20:18.
The player who draws the highest card wins the set and collects all the cards. players reveal their cards. Talking is forbidden from the moment the groups form. What the players do not know is that each table has been given a different set of rules. each player draws the top card from the deck in the middle of the table and lays it face up. Key Passages: • Judges 2:7-19 • Judges 21:25 Activity: (10 minutes) Before giving the theme of the lesson or any introduction to Judges. They sit around tables and are given a deck of cards and an instruction sheet. Moving counterclockwise. The player with the most sets when time is called wins. each player draws the top card from the deck in the middle of the table and lays it face down. Aces are low. the students are divided into four groups. Each table will play cards according to the rules on their table until the leader calls time. ideally 4-8 people per group. Table 3 Table 4 Moving clockwise. each player draws the top card from the deck in the middle of the table and lays it face up. The player with the most sets when time is called wins. the leader collects the instruction sheets. . Aces are high. When everyone has drawn. The game continues until most players have moved at least once. Play stops when one player has won 5 sets. The instructions are these: Table 1 Table 2 Moving clockwise. The player who draws the highest card wins the set and collects all the cards. once players have learned their rules. Moving counterclockwise. After the first few minutes. The player who draws the highest card wins the set and collects all the cards. Losing players stay at their tables. The player who draws the lowest card wins the set and collects all the cards. Aces are high. Aces are high. At that point half of the players with the highest scores rotate clockwise to the next table.Lesson Plan #1 Theme: Doing what's right in you own eyes Context: This 45 minute lesson is designed for a high school youth group or Sunday school class. The player with the most sets when time is called wins. each player draws the top card from the deck in the middle of the table and lays it face up.
and Joshua led the conquest of the land. taken possession of the Promised Land. It was supposed to simulate culture shock. As the name of the book implies. what was it like to join a new table and be corrected for breaking rules you didn't know about? 3. or did you change with the new players? 6. I don't know what the game is called or if these are the standard rules. This book is set during a period of borderline anarchy in Israel. For those of you who stayed after the first round. for the most part. Did anyone stay at the same table the whole time? If so. This new generation of Israelites doesn't have a central government. but each judge will rule for a limited period of time in a limited part of Israel. what was it like to be 'invaded' by players who played differently? How many of you gave in quickly to the new rules? How many fought for your original rules at a new table? 5. What did you notice about the rules? (10 minutes] If you moved after the first round. The resulting situation is summed up in the last verse of the book: "In those days there was no king in Israel. Moses died before entering Canaan. The tribes have. God will raise up judges to rule Israel. Introducing Judges: (5 minutes) Now introduce Judges. players will encounter the various rules with no explanation. . How do you think you would like to live in a community without uniform rules? (10 minutes) 55 1 first played this game at a study abroad prep meeting. The point is for them to experience the feeling of people acting according to different rules and not being able to communicate them. 4. did you maintain your original rules. How did you enjoy the game? 2.As the tables mix.55 At the end of 15 minutes the leader brings the groups back together to talk about the experience. everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Discussion Questions: 1. Discussion Questions: 1. Let's read Judges 2:7-13 (have someone read it).
Let's see what happened (read Judges 2:14-19). How important do you think rules are? Could people get along without them? 5. how much do you think He means it? . stop and think for a minute: What if nobody followed this rule? Why did someone make this a rule? If it's a manmade rule. Would you want to live with changing rules like in the game we just played? 6. And so they broke them. how bad could it be to follow it? If it's God's rule. The next time you come across a rule that you think is stupid.2. How serious do you think God is about His rules? Application: (10 minutes) Israel thought that many of the rules God had given them were unnecessary. Are there rules that you wish other people followed but you didn't have to? 4. What percentage of the rules that you live with right now frustrate you? What percentage are helpful to you? 3.
God punished Israel to show them how important His rules were. Now Israel is free to worship God and to follow His rules. (read and explain Judges 21:25 as the theme of the book) What do you think it would be like if you didn't have a teacher at school? Would you learn much? Do you think it would be fun? In the Bible we have a book called Judges. Remember how He knocked down the walls of Jericho? (10 minutes) A God rescued Israel from the other countries that had invaded them. He picked a leader called a judge. and it talks about some of the stories you have learned about (Samson. Use hand motions like a clock to teach the kids the cycle. and God helped them take over the land. who fought their enemies and delivered the country. The purpose of this lesson is to show the cycle of the judges and the relationship between the stories that the kids have heard. Those stories are part of a bigger story in the book. Go through it several times until they can say it with you. (remind the kids about how Joshua conquered Jericho) Now they live in the land. Do you think they followed His rules for a long time? When you get punished. Do you know what repentance means? (to turn around. which works like a circle. The Cycle of the Judges: (10 minutes) This is the story of God's people . and they were sorry. What happens when you don't obey your parents? (you get punished) Well. They have just moved into the Promised Land. Joshua has died and there aren't any kings. do you ever do the same wrong thing again? 2 After a while the Israelites stopped following God's rules. Deborah. H When the Israelites went into the Promised Land they obeyed all of God's rules. They repented of the bad things they had done. 3 Then the Israelites realized that it was wrong to disobey God. He had other countries come and take over and be mean to them. The kids already know several of the individual stories of the judges (Samson. Gideon). Deborah). but they don't have a main leader. Gideon. to stop doing something that is wrong) What do you think God did next? .the country of Israel. Draw it on a piece of paper or a white board.Lesson Plan #2 Theme: The judges in context Context: This is a lesson for a 2nd grade Sunday school class.
bring the group back together. They are going to summarize the story for the group and fit it in with the cycle. Each child draws a picture that represents the part of the story that they are going to tell to the class. all the kids have reviewed the stories and should be able to put them in the context of the book. By the end. . Then the next group takes over and continues the loop. telling their story during the upswing of the cycle. Divide the kids into groups and assign each group one of these stories (check ahead of time to make sure that the kids know the stories): • Deborah and Barak • Gideon • Samson A teacher should be with each group to help them remember the story. Once the kids have finished their drawings. Each group comes up and goes through the cycle of the judges in order.Activity: (25 minutes) Now we want the kids to fit some of the Bible stories they know into the cycle of the judges.
What do you think of Israel's repentance in verse 10? 2. Did Israel deserve God's deliverance? 6. Key Passages: . 11:29-33 • Matthew 18:21-35 Discussion Questions: 1. how many times has God already delivered Israel? 3. A leader guides the group through the questions. Read Matthew 18:21-22. Judges 10:16 says that God "could bear the misery of Israel no longer. How many times does God require us to forgive? 5. According to this passage.Judges 10:6-16.Lesson Plan #3 Theme: Forgiveness Context: This is a plan for a young adult [twenties) discussion group. Read Judges 11:29-33." What does this tell you about God? 7. Have you ever felt like you have run out of chances? Have you ever asked for forgiveness and thought that you might not receive it? . but the content is largely discussion-based. Read Judges 10:6-16. How many chances do you think Israel deserves? Should God abandon them to their idols? 4.
How does your typical response when someone wrongs you compare to God's response in Judges 10:16? 10. How long can you bear the misery of your brothers and sisters in Christ? .8. Have you ever been asked for forgiveness that you didn't want to give? 9.
Read Judges 8:1-3. but the content is largely discussion-based. What do you think of Gideon's response? 6. Are you surprised? 4. What underlying attitudes do you think contribute to Ephraim's reaction to Gideon's victory? 5. What would you expect Israel's reaction to be to these events? 3. How do you expect Israel to react to this victory? 8. A leader guides the group through the questions.Lesson Plan #4 Theme: Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory Context: This is a plan for a young adult (twenties) discussion group. What is the context? 7. Read Judges 7:19-25. Key Passages: • Judges 7:19-8:3 • Judges 11:29-33. What is the context? 2. 12:1-6 Discussion Questions: 1. Read Judges 12:1-6. Read Judges 11:29-33. How does Ephraim's reaction to Jephthah compare to their reaction to Gideon? .
What could you do better the next time this happens to you? . Do you think the results in Judges 12:6 could have been avoided? 11. Do you think Jephthah's reaction is justified? 13. Why do you think it is that people so often fight immediately after a great victory? What makes us so susceptible in moments of strength? 12. Have you ever encountered a similar reaction after some kind of victory? What did you do about it? 13. How does Jephthah's response compare to Gideon's? 10.9.
London: Tyndale. Arthur E.Judges: and Introduction and Commentary. Form and Background of the Old Testament. Bill T. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans. Baker Books. Grand Rapids. F." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. Judges and Ruth. William Sanford. 1985. 1996. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Bush. Dillard. Walton. And Introduction to the Old Testament. Hill. in Judges Ruth.Bibliography Archer. 1974. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Conquest and Crisis: Studies in Joshua. eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 2nd Ed. Wheaton: Victor Books. Duane. Gleason L. 1999. Walvoord and Roy B. Merrill F. 2nd Ed. Beyer. 1969. and Bryan E. Arnold. John J. 1961. 1969. . Davis. David Allan Hubbard and Frederic Wm. Unger. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. A Survey of the Old Testament. 373-414. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. "Judges. Chicago: Moody Press. Cundall. Andrew E. Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey. 2006. Old Testament Survey: The Message. and John H. Zock. Tremper and Raymond B. Longman. John F. Lindsey. LaSor. 1991.
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