User:RobertC/OT Lesson 19

From Feast upon the Word ( Copyright, Feast upon the Word.
Jump to: navigation, search

Lesson 19: The Reign of the Judges

Judg 2; Judg 4; Judg 6-7; Judg 13-16

Feel free to post any comments, questions, suggestions, links, etc. on the discussion page.


  • Conquering of lands, but some Canaanites remain. In Joshua, we read about how the Israelites conquered many of the Canaanites. In Judges we read about the Israelites conquering more lands, but not driving out all the Canaanites as commanded (cf. Judg 2:2). God ceases to preserve Israel as a result.
  • Reign of judges. After Joshua died, Israel was not united under a single leader until the days of the prophet Samuel and King Saul. During this interval, 12 judges served as Israel’s rulers and military leaders. Most of their reign was tragic as Israel went through the cycle of apostasy, bondage, repentance, and delivery many times. The twelve judges are (some scholars also consider Abimelech a judge, cf. 8:33-9:57; those considered major judges are given in caps):
  1. OTHNIEL (3:7-11)
  2. EHUD (3:12-30)
  3. Shamgar (3:31)
  4. DEBORAH (4:1-5:31)—some claim Barak was the judge instead of Deborah
  5. GIDEON (6:1-8:32)—some claim Gideon wasn't technicvally a judge
  6. Tola (10:1-2)
  7. Jair (10:3-5)
  8. JEPHTHAH (10:6-12:7)
  9. Ibzan (12:8-10)
  10. Elon (12:11)
  11. Abdon (12:13-15)
  12. SAMSON (13:1-16:31)
  • Deborah, Gideon and Samson. The lesson focuses on three of the main stories in Judges: Deborah is a prophetess-judge who helps her friend Barak have faith to lead his army to victory against Sisera; Gideon is called of God to lead Israel's armies to victory with a 300-man army; Samson is blessed with incredible strength to serve Israel, but he breaks his covenant with God by letting Delilah cut his hair.

Cycle of apostacy: Judg 2[edit]

  • Forgetting God.
  • Children weren't taught. See commentary for Judg 2:10.
  • They forsook the Lord. See commentary for Judg 2:12.
  • God's wrath/jealousy. See several notes for Judg 2:13-14.
  • Cycle of judges?
  • The Anchor Bible suggests there is a deliberate cycle (archaeologists have found evidence suggesting a different historical order to the judges' reigns) between good judges (Othniel, Deborah, Jephthah) and problematic judges (Ehud's treachery, see Judg 3:26; Gideon's slow recognition of God (see Judg 6:36) and building of an idol (see Judg 8:24-27); Abimelech's aspiring to be king (see Judg 9); and Samson's not guarding his covenant with Delilah (see Judg 16:17).
  • The International Theological Commentary (p. 90) argues instead that Ehud is an exemplary judge, but Gideon and Jephtah have moral flaws (they quote Nahum Sarna's Gideon entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica).
  • Downward spiral of judges.
  • J. Clinton McCann in the Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching series seems to take a positive view of Ehud, but a negative view of Gideon and Jephthah. On this view, the progressing moral demise of the major judges in the Book of Judges sets the stage for the the establishment of an Israelite monarchy in 1 Samuel.
  • Baker's Evangelical Dictionary also outlines a deterioration of Judges. This article (which is very well written) takes an interesting take on Deborah, suggesting that her dynamic presence (as well as other women in the story) represents an implicit condmenation of the male leadership of Barak and Sisera.

Debora and Barak: Judg 4[edit]

  • Captive to Jabin (vv. 1-3). After Ehud, Israelites are wicked and the Lord "sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan" (Judg 4:2).
  • Deborah becomes judge and gives charge to Barak (vv. 4-9). Deborah, a prophetess, was the judge in Israel (vv. 4-5). Deobrah asks Barak if God hasn't asked him battle Sisera (Jabin's general) (vv. 6-7). Barak says he'll go only if Deborah goes with him (v. 8). Deborah agrees to go, but declares the journey will be for God's honor, not Barak's (v. 9).
  • Friendship theme. The SS manual suggests that good friends can help us when our faith is weak.
  • Barak defeats Sisera (vv. 10-16). Barak goes to mount Tabor (w/ troops) and Sisera goes out to the nearby river of Kishon(w/troops; vv. 10-13). Deborah says God will favor Barak (v. 14). Barak's men kill all of Sisera's, though Sisera flees (vv. 14-16).
  • Jael kills Sisera (vv. 17-24). Jael finds Sisera fleeing and pretends to hide him (vv. 17-20), but Jael drives a nail through Sisera's head (v. 21). Barak finds Sisera dead (v. 22). Summary: God deserves credit for victory (vv. 23-24).
  • Women in Judges. Deborah is the most prominent of several interesting women characters in the book of Judges. Some scholars have conjectured that the premonarchic period was much more egalitarian than the monarchic period for Israel. For more, see this subpage on women in the scriptures.

Gideon's faith: Judges 6-7[edit]

Chapter 6: Gideon's call[edit]

  • Canaanites prevail against Israelites (vv. 1-7). Children of Israel were wicked and Midianites prevail against them (vv. 1-2). Midianites and other Canaanites destroy Israelites' crops (and livestock? vv. 4-5). Israelites are impoverished and cry to God for help (v. 6).
  • Gideon is called by God to lead Israelites to victory (vv. 11-18).
  • See Judg 6:11 regarding the name Gideon and "hacking down idols."
  • An angel causes fire to come out of rocks (vv. 19-24). To prove that Gideon's calling was from God, an angel causes fire to come out of rock and devour some food.
  • Gideon destroys the altar of Baal (vv. 25-32). God commands Gideon to destroy his father's altar to Baal and build an altar to God instead (vv. 25-26). Gideon does so at night (v. 26). Gideon's father, Joash, protects his son by saying Baal should defend himself (vv. 27-31). Based on this incident, Gideon is given a new name Jerubbaal (v. 32).
  • See Judg 6:32 regarding the name Jerubbaal.

Chapter 7: Gideon's army of 300[edit]

  • Gideons army is reduced to 300 (vv. 1-8). God commands Gideon to reduce his army so that Israelites will not think they were victorious b/c of their own strength (see Judg 7:2, "lest Israel vaunt themselves").
  • Prophetic dream (vv. 9-15). A man, presumably a Midianite or Amalekite, has a dream which is interpreted as a prophetic victory for Gideon.
  • Victory by confusion (vv. 16-25). Gideon's army confuses the Midianite armies with trumpets and lights (vv. 16-20), and the Midianites fight among themselves, flee, and are defeated by Israel (vv. 21-22). Israel pursues the Midianites and slay Oreb and Zeeb, two Midianite princes (vv. 23-25).

Samson's tragic story: Judg 13-16[edit]

His birth was announced to his mother by an angel of the Lord, who commanded that he be a Nazarite from birth, and that no razor should touch his head. Samson possessed astounding physical strength: he even tore a lion apart with his bare hands. But he lost it by infidelity to the Lord. He married a Philistine woman, Delilah, who beguiled him into telling how he could lose his strength: by having his hair cut. She arranged to have that done while Samson was asleep; the Philistines made him prisoner, put out his eyes, forced him to work grinding grain. After a while, his hair began to grow again. The Philistines put on a banquet, and wanted to have Samson amuse them. He asked a boy who was leading him to bring him to the pillars that were the support of the hall. He asked God to give back his strength, received it, shook the pillars, and died in the ruins with a great number of Philistines.
The story of Samson at first sight does not seem to fit the usual pattern of the judges. Samson did not lead forces against the enemies of Israel. Yet God made use of even Samson's sin to bring the deaths of many of the Philistines.
So the 'Judges" were not in general judicial officers, they were mostly charismatic leaders that is, leaders with a special divine mission to do the work God intended.
  • See this article for an overview and commentary on the story of Samson.

Other passages[edit]

Judg 3: Othniel and Ehud[edit]

  • Intermarrying (vv. 1-7). Children of Israel intermarry with Canaanites, worship false gods, and are cursed.
  • Othniel (vv. 8-11). Othniel judges Israel. Othniel was Caleb's younger brother and married Caleb's daughter after winning her hand in marriage by capturing the land Hebron (see the [Jewish Encyclopedia entry for Caleb for more on this, and on other legends surrounding Caleb).
  • Ehud (vv. 12-30). Ehud, who's left-handed delivers Israel from Moabites by slaying Eglon, who's fat.
  • Shamgar (v. 31). Shamgar succeeds Ehud.

Judg 5: Deborah's song[edit]

(Outline taken mostly from here.)

  • Blessing God for deliverance through judges (vv. 1-9)
  • Offering oneself to God (vv. 1-2)
  • God preserved Israel in the past (vv. 3-5)
  • Things looked bleak when Deborah arose (vv. 6-8)
  • Bless the Lord refrain (v. 9)
  • The victory remembered (vv. 10-31)
  • A call to recount the great victory (vv. 10-12)
  • Which tribes did and didn't help (vv. 13-18)
  • The battle of Taanach (vv. 19-22)
  • Meroz cursed for not helping (vv. 23)
  • Praise to Jael for killing Sisera (vv. 24-27)
  • Disappointment of Sisera's survivors (vv. 28-30)
  • Final praise to God (v. 31)

Judg 8: Gideon after the victory[edit]

Many scholars think that after the victory against the Midianites, Gideon's moral character is suspect. Although he declines to serve as king (Judg 8:22-23), he seems unnecessarily vengeful (vv. 4-22 regarding Zebah and Zalmunna, see esp. verse 7) and builds and makes an ephod (which is worshipped like an idol; vv. 24-27) which leads to the Israel's "whoring after it" (vv. 27, 32-34). On the other hand, verse 35 may be read as an implicit approbation of Gideon's overall character in mentioning "all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel."

Judg 9: Abimelech's kingship and Jotham's fable[edit]

  • Abimelech's slaying of his brothers (vv. 1-6). Abimelech (which means "my father is king") is Gideon's son who becomes king after slaying all his brothers except Jotham.
  • Jotham's warning (vv. 7-21). Jotham recounts a fable which condemns Abimelech's kingship: all useful trees decline reigning over others while only a useless and prickly bramble (shrub) agrees to regin (vv. 7-15). Jotham warns that Abimelech's supporters will be devoured for condoning Abimelech's slaying of Gideon's sons (vv. 16-21).
  • Abimelech's downfall (vv. 22-57). Gaal leads the Shechemites against Abimelech, but the Shechemites are defeated (vv. 22-41). Abimelech slaughters many innocent people of Shechem (vv. 42-49). Abimelech also attacks the city of Thebez, but Abimelech is stopped by a woman in the city who drops a millstone on him (vv. 50-57).

Judg 10-12: Jephthah and several minor judges[edit]

  • Tola and Jair reign (vv. 10:1-5).
  • Israelites become wicked again and are sold into servitude (vv. 10:6-8).
  • Israel begs God for mercy and deliverance (vv. 10:9-16).
  • Jephthah is chosen to lead Israel (10:17-11:11). Israel does not have a leader (10:17-18). Jephthah is driven out of his home because he is a bastard son (11:1-3). The elders of Israel beg Jephthah to be Israel's captain (11:4-8). Jephthah agrees if they will make him in charge (11:9-11).
  • Jephthah's diplomacy with Ammon (11:12-28). Jephthah sends letters back and forth to Ammon making the case that God gave the lands to Israel.
  • Jephthah's price of victory (11:29-40). The Holy Spirit helps Jephthah defeat several enemies (11:29). Jephthah vows to sacrifice whatever meets him first at home if God will help him defeat the Ammonites (11:30-31). God helps Jephthah defeat the Ammonites (11:32-33). Jephthah's daughter is first to gree him coming home (11:34). Jephthah's daughter is slain after "bewailing her virginity" for two months in the mountains (11:35-40).
  • See the following article for a discussion of different views on Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter (the article argues that she does not simply live a life of virginity like the LDS Institute Manual suggests, but the article discusses the issues well): The Story of Jephthah and his Daughter: Then and Now

Judg 17-21: Epilogue to the book of Judges[edit]

Related links[edit]

  • Summaries and overviews