Judges - When All Do What is Right in their Own Eyes

 

The Hebrew word Shopetim (Judges) means "executive leader" according to Gleason Archer in Survey of Old Testament Introduction. It is the title given to the people who led and judged Israel from the time of Joshua to the time of Saul, the first king. These men, and a woman, served God to varying degrees. In Joshua we learned from the character and life of a man who as far we know never compromised in his walk with God. Now, life is more complicated, and not so blessed, for those who walk with God but many times did compromise.

 

We do not know who wrote the book of Judges. The Talmud suggest Samuel, but we have no way of knowing. It was probably written in Samuel's time though, after Israel had a king (1051 B.C.) and certainly before David conquered Jerusalem (1004 B.C.).

 

Judges can be said to be summed up as "when Israel was without a king". They had no earthly king at that time, and they apparently had rejected God as their heavenly king. Instead, each man did what was right in his own eyes. Some Christians today may be the same way. If we do not want to follow anybody but God, yet we are not following God, how will our lives be in this vacuum. Let's read the book of Judges and find out.

 

Becoming Wise in God's Ways

 

In many places in the Bible, we learn important truths from clear commands and answers. In Genesis and Joshua through Job however, we are taught by a different method: examples. It is critical to experience God through your own relationship with Him, but is not it even better to additionally learn from other lives too? It is more difficult to learn how God relates to man than to only learn specific answers to specific questions. So with that in mind, let's begin our study of Judges with the goal of becoming wise in God's ways.

 

An Outline of the Book of Judges

 

Coming attractions we are going to learn about in Judges are "did Jephthah or didn't he", what was the source of Samson's strength (it was not his hair), spirals, and serving God in any way you see fit. Below is an outline of this study.

Introduction -

1-2 Passing the Torch

3 Othniel and Ehud: Brave, Uncompromising Leaders

4-5 Deborah and Barak: True to the End

6-8 Gideon: Conqueror of Armies, Conquered by Success

9 Abimelech: God's Justice for Murder

10-12 Jephthah and Others: Rash Vows

13-16 Samson: Compromised Strength is Not Strong

17-18 Micah and the Danites: Idols for the Lord?

19-21 Wiping Out the Benjamites: Justice without Mercy

 

By studying Judges, it is hoped that your judgment of what pleases the Lord is improved. After all, if we are going to judge the world and angels (1 Cor 6:2-3), we should start working on our godly judgment right now.

 

Who and When in Judges

 

 

Judge

Oppressor

 

Verses

Years

 

Cushan-Rishathaim of Aram Naharaim

Jdg 3:8

8

Othniel of Judah

 

Jdg 3:9-11

40

 

Eglon, king of Moab

Jdg 3:12-14

18

Ehud of Benjamin

 

Jdg 3:15-30

80

 

Philistines-Iron

Jdg 3:31

?

Shamgar

 

Jdg 3:31

?

 

Jabin of Hazor-900 chariots

Jdg 4:2-3

20

Deborah of Ephraim

 

Jdg 4-5

40

 

Midianites-Camels 6:1-6

Jdg 7

 

Gideon of Manasseh

 

Jdg 6:7-8:28

40

Abimelech's Reign

 

Jdg 9

3

Tola of Issachar

 

Jdg 10:1-2

23

Jair of Gilead

 

Jdg 10:3-6

22

 

Ammonites/Philistines-Iron

Jdg 10:7-9

18

Jephthah

 

Jdg 10-12:7

6

Ibzan of Zebulun

 

Jdg 12:8-10

7

Elon of Zebulun

 

Jdg 12:11-12

10

Abdon of Ephraim

 

Jdg 12:13-15

8

 

Philistines-Iron

Jdg 13:1

40

Samson of Dan

 

Jdg 13-16

20

CONSECUTIVE TOTAL

 

410

 

We know there was overlap of periods for the following reason. Since Solomon's Temple was 440 years after the wanderings, and we are rather sure Saul was 84 years before Solomon, that leaves 356 years for Joshua plus Judges, which is less than 410 years. Thus all the periods cannot be consecutive; there was likely a great deal of overlap between Othniel and Joshua and after Jephthah. If the Exodus was 1446 B.C., we are fairly confident of the dates below +/- 10 years.

1400 B.C. Joshua Crosses the Jordan River (Joshua 3).

1362 B.C. Joshua dies (110 years old Judges 2:8).

1300 B.C. Hazor burned by Pharaoh Seti I (by archaeology).

1298 B.C. Rameses II conquers Phoenician Coast.

1285 B.C. Egyptians & Hittites battle at Qadesh.

1280 B.C. Askelon sacked by Egyptians.

1230 B.C. Hazor, Lachish & other cities burned (archaeology).

~1100 B.C. Jephthah (Jephthah said 300 years Judges 11:26).

1051 B.C. Saul begins to reign.

1011 B.C. David begins his reign over Judah. (1 Sam 13:1)

967 B.C. Solomon's Temple (480 years after Exodus: 1 Ki 6:1)

Archaeologist John Garstang has determined that the periods of rest mentioned in Judges were so because the Egyptians exerted their control over the coastal Canaanites.

 

Israel's Sins in Judges

 

The Israelites were not very true to God during this period. Judges does not at all gloss over the sins of Israel.

 

Wrong Actions

Verses

Covenanted with Canaanites

Jdg 2:1-3

Did not destroy pagan altars

Jdg 2:1-3

Served Baals, Ashtoreths, other gods

Jdg 2:11-19

Did evil, forgot the Lord and served idols

Jdg 3:7

Did evil

Jdg 4:1; 6:1

Made the gold into an ephod to worship

Jdg 8:27

Worshipped Baal-berith and forgot God

Jdg 8:33-35

Abimelech murdered his 70 brothers

Jdg 9:5

Worshipped many gods

Jdg 10:6

Jephthah carried out a rash vow

Jdg 11:30,39

Israelites killed 42,000 Ephraimites

Jdg 12:6

Samson married pagan, sexual sin, broke vow

Jdg 14-16

Micah's idol "to the Lord"

Jdg 17:3-4

Robbed Micah of his idol

Jdg 18:14-26

Men of Gibeah raped Levite's concubine

Jdg 19:22-26

Civil war. 90,130+ Israelites killed

Jdg 20-21

Killed Israelites in Jabesh-Gilead

Jdg 21:10-12

The Israelites' rash oath

Jdg 21:7,18

Kidnapped the girls of Shiloh

Jdg 21:20-23

 

The Israelites also did not multiply in the time of Judges. Indeed, in the time of David the population was approximately 2.1 million (1 Chr 12:23-27), slightly less than then roughly 2.5 million living when Joshua entered Canaan (Num 26). Below are numbers given in Judges of Israelites killed by fellow Israelites.

 

Killers

Number Killed

Reference

Abimelech

70 sons of Gideon

Judges 9:5

Abimelech

1,000+ Shechemites

Judges 9:49

Jephthah's army

42,000 Ephraimites

Judges 12:6

Benjamites

40,030 Israelites

Judges 20:21,24

Israelites

50,100 Benjamites

Judges 20:35,44-46

Israelites

1,200+ Jabesh-Gilead

Judges 21:10-11

TOTAL Israelites

134,400+ Israelites

 

 

 

 

The Torch is Passed (Judges 1-2) ~1363 B.C.

 

A tradition in the Olympic games is to "pass the torch". At the site of the previous Olympic games, a torch is lit from the Olympic fire and carried to the site of the current games. The torch passes through many hands, and for each person who carries the torch his distance, he or she has the responsibility to take hold of it from the one who ran before him, not to drop it or let the fire go out while in his care, and to carefully pass it on to the one to follow. In Joshua 23 and 24 Joshua passed the torch to all the next generation. In Judges we will see how they carried it. As we pray to open this study, we should think of all the people who carried the torch from then to our time. We should thank God for how He helped those who carried the torch, but especially thank Him for the many, many relightings He provided, and especially the time he carried the torch alone through Jesus Christ.

 

1. Galatians 6:4 says, "... A man reaps what he sows." A slang expression in English, "Poetic justice", means that a person received exactly what he gave to others. In what two ways does this prove true for Adoni-Bezek in Judges 1:6-7?

 

 

2. Did God command Judah to cut off Adoni-Bezek's thumbs and big toes and let him return to Jerusalem or not? Why do you think the men of Judah and Simeon did that? Was that right?

 

 

3. How many times did Israel fight against the people of Jerusalem? If Jerusalem was taken (Judges 1:8), then explain Joshua 15:63 and Judges 1:21. Hint: remember what a citadel was for.

 

 

4. As the Israelites fought the Canaanites, notice that there were always one of three endings: 1) the Israelites drove out the enemy, 2) they were confined by the enemy, and 3) the Israelites were did not drive out the Canaanites, but subjected them to forced labor. What application is there to sin today?

 

 

5. In Judges 2:1-5, for which of the "endings" was the Lord angry with the Israelites? Do you see any applicability today?

 

 

6. What was God's punishment for what Israel did (Joshua 23:12-13 or Judges 2:2-3)? Does it seem fitting? Is there a principle we can learn here to today?

 

 

7. Since the Lord was angry with the Israelites for worshipping idols, when the Israelites fought, did God just ignore them? See Judges 2:15.

 

 

8. In the rest of the book of Judges, the people follow a pattern spelled out in Judges 2:14-19. Why do you think this pattern existed?

 

 

The Transfer of Leadership

 

9. When the leadership changes in any group, what are the paths the new leaders can follow, based on the old leadership? What happened in Judges?

 

 

10. Three other things can happen to an organization. What are they?

 

 

11. There are two styles of leading for a Christian organization. One corresponds to Israel in the time of Judges. The other corresponds to Israel under the kings. What are the pros and cons of both? Do we need a "king"? (There's more than one answer based on the interpretation of this question.)

 

 

12. In church work, we often pass the torch among ourselves. Generally, how do they do? What usually happens?

 

 

 

13. We are often in a similar situation of "passing the torch" when we finish our current time of teaching and turn over the class to a new teacher. If the new teacher was not already in the class, what do you do to improve the transition so that the new teacher can lead better and the students can learn better?

 

 

 

14. When we teach we should do the best job we possibly can. It would seem very strange to care so much for the class while you teach it, and then not care at all when a new teacher comes. What should we hope for? a) the new teacher is not a good as us, b) the new teacher is almost as good as us, c) the new teacher is as good as us, or d) the new teacher is even better than us. For a hint, read Phil 2:3.

 

 

15. According to Judges 2:10, how effective were the Israelites in training their children? In Judges 2:14-15, what happened to the area conquered by their fathers? What happens to our work with no one to follow in our footsteps?

 

 

There was not another judge with the success, consistency, and faithfulness of Joshua. Of course, it is not recorded that any other Judge spent the time in the Tabernacle and with Moses that Joshua did either. How much time do you spend "in the Tabernacle" by praying? If we are not all happy with our answers, let's spend a few minutes discussing what we can do to change.

 

Othniel and Ehud: Brave, Uncompromising Leaders (Judges 3)

 

Othniel is first mentioned in Joshua 15:17-18 with his successful capture of Debir, and then the capture is retold in Judges 1:13-14. Once people are "a success" at something, sometimes they figure they can sit back, take it easy, and rest on their success. -- Not Othniel. Othniel already had a successful career capturing Debir, but he came back here in Judges 3, because he was needed. Do we serve to get success, primarily because we enjoy it, or primarily because God wants to use us? If we serve for success, we may stop once we think we have achieved it. If we serve for the enjoyment, we will not serve during the times it is not enjoyable. If we serve for the third reason, only then will we always want to serve. If we serve for the third reason though, often the success and enjoyment will also come.

 

Observations

 

1. According to F. Duane Lindsay in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, Cusham-Rishathaim means "double wickedness". Aram Naharaim means "Aram of the double rivers", i.e. the part of modern Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. What was the major military edge an army could have back then?

 

 

2. After seeing Judges 3:5-6, do you think the Israelites would now be eager to drive out all the Canaanites? Why not?

 

 

3. Who were the Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites? What relationship did they have with Israel?

 

 

4. Ehud was a Benjamite, and There apparently were many left-handed Benjamites. (See Judges 20:16). This is interesting since Benjamin means "son of my right hand". How was Ehud's being left-handed important?

 

 

5. What was the strategy of Ehud's soldiers?

 

 

Note: During Ehud's judgeship, the land had peace for the longest time it would have in Judges: 80 years.

 

6. Shamgar is also briefly mentioned in Judges 4:6. Shamgar's ox goad was probably a 7-10 foot long stick, sharp at one end, with a chisel on the other. Judges 3:31 says, that Shamgar came after Ehud; yet Judges 4:1 continues the narrative after Ehud (not Shamgar) dies. What do you think of the theory that Ehud and Shamgar were contemporaries, with Ehud becoming a judge before Shamgar?

 

 

Lessons to Learn

 

Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar had no special qualifications we know about, except that God needed to use someone, and they were willing and available. Many times when God needs a person for a job, natural talents are the least important qualification. Is the person willing to be used, and is the person truly available, or is he or she tied down by too many lesser things? We have briefly looked at Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar, so let's know look a bit at ourselves.

 

7. Many times we are tempted to ask, "what is the best job in the church for me?", instead of "where am I needed most?". Assume that the greatest single need is making disciples of all nations for Christ. Give an example of doing church work by asking the first question vs. asking the second question.

 

 

8. Sometimes of course there is a job to be done, but God has not called us to do it or given us the gifts needed. Other times we are supposed to do the job, but either we do not want to do it, we do not realize we are the ones to do it, or we do not want to find out if we are the ones to do it. What is the balance between these two truths? Which side of the balance do you think most people are on?

 

 

9. American companies have often been criticized for being top-heavy with management. Many in America have an emphasis on administrative issues and service industries vs. production. Can God's churches ever have the same problems? Give some examples.

 

 

10. Some may ask "how can I be excused from doing God's work?"; others may wonder, "how can what I want to do fit in with the church's work?", and still others may pray, "Lord, I only want your will. Change my preferences and give me the needed gifts to do the work that most needs to be done." Are there any other categories? Privately, consider which category are you in. What do you think distinguishes the people in these categories?

 

 

Note: If you are not in the category you would like to be in, you are probably not alone. Hopefully, you can have a greater awareness of where you are, an increased desire to go where Christ wants you to be, and wisdom from God on what you need to do to get there.

 

 

In summary, Othniel was not complacent because of his past success, and he and Ehud were not discouraged by Israel's past defeats. These men of God knew what they needed to do and they did it. Can we do the same today?

 

Deborah and Barak: True to the End (Judges 4-5) ~1250-1190 B.C.

 

Today's study looks at a role model of success and a woman in authority. Deborah's name means "honeybee" and as one Bible teacher said, she was a "honey of a judge." Barak means "lightening". Hazor was burned 1500 B.C. by the Egyptians, ~1400 B.C. by Joshua, 1300 B.C. by the Egyptians again, and 1230 B.C. here. Jabin was likely a descendent of Jabin who lived 160 years ago in Joshua's time. Kings were often named after their forebears.

 

1. Why was Israel oppressed according to Judges 4:1 and 5:8?

 

 

2. Let's analyze what kind of person Deborah was. What three things do we know about her from Judges 4:4-6? What else is true of Deborah according to her words in Judges 5:7?

 

 

3. What do we hear about Deborah's husband? Some husbands do so much more than the their wives they "eclipse" their wives. Sometimes wives "eclipse" their husbands. Is either way wrong? Which way is best?

 

 

4. Note that Deborah was a judge and prophetess before Barak asked her to join him. She had the authority of both a secular leader and a prophet. God commanded Barak through her in Judges 4:6-7, and if he had ignored her, he would have disobeyed God Himself. What do you think about the opinion that women should never be in positions of authority? Since God commanded Barak through Deborah, what does God think about women prophesying, having secular authority, and being used to command people?

 

 

5. An interpretative point: who is the "I" in 4:7, Deborah or God? How could we know for certain before reading Judges 4:14?

 

 

6. How do you think God felt towards Barak in Judges 4:8-9? Do we ever do that? What other leader before Barak did the same?

 

 

7. Mt. Tabor (Ta' bor) was a cone of rock 1300 ft high, 1843 ft above sea level. It is ~10 miles from the Kishon (Ki' shon), a seasonal river. Why would that location be chosen? What happen-ed in the battle as told in Judges 5:4 and 5:21? Why would Sisera flee on foot in Judges 4:15?

 

 

8. Bedouin women put up the tents, so they often used hammers. Custom forbade a man to enter a women's tent except her husband or father, so Sisera was well hidden. Where was Jael's tribe from? What do you think of her betraying her hospitality?

 

9. A Christian pro baseball player once said women should not be umpires because women were not meant to have positions of authority. It took courage for him to stand up and be criticized for saying what he believed was right. What do you think about women having secular authority? What would Deborah say about that? What advice might you give the Christian ballplayer?

 

10. Was King Jabin killed in the battle? After the major victory, what did the Israelites do in Judges 4:23-24? Is there an important lesson here for us today?

 

The Song of Deborah and Barak

 

Now let's look at the Song of Deborah and Barak. This is clearly a jubilant celebration of freedom from a tyrannical foe. Write down an "outline" of the message of this poetic song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Of the twelve tribes, which ones helped Barak and which did not? Should all the tribes have participated? Why or why not? See Judges 4:6 and Judges 5:13-18.

 

 

 

12. Now, 2300 years later, it is still on record who fought Jabin for God and who shrank from their duty. In heaven, it will be on record which of us are fighting for God and which of us are shrinking from the work God has given us. How do you feel about that?

 

 

13. What words of praise to God are in this song?

 

 

14. What words that could be a rebuke are in this song?

 

 

15. What words of praise towards people are in this song? Of course we should praise God, but today should we praise people when they do a good job?

 

 

16. Meroz was somewhere close by the battle and Sisera's flight route. Why do you think a curse was pronounced on Meroz? Are there times when you wonder whose side some Christians are on?

 

 

17. Is it all right to praise ourselves when we do a good job? See Judges 5:7 but also Prov 27:2, Prov 26:12, and peripherally Matt 6:5-6.

 

 

18. We will see some judges sin against God and become foolish after they became a success. Do you see any evidence of this with Deborah or Barak? Is it inevitable that successful Christians be ruined by their success?

 

 

Deborah has one lesson she clearly speaks to us today. In closing, let's read together Judges 5:2.

 

Gideon: Conqueror of Armies, Conquered by Success (Judges 6-8)

 

Today we will study a different battle very close to Deborah and Barak's victory. Gideon's victory was probably the most spectacular of all. However, this account is marred by Gideon's personal defeat. Since Gideon was treading grain inside a winepress, the Old Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that not only was this to avoid discovery by the Midianites, but if it was in a winepress, it was probably a rather small harvest. Gideon's life follows a pattern. He was doing small things, God took him to do great things, but the greatness was diminished by his sin. Likewise Gideon had a great many sons (72), yet all but two were murdered by the sinful son of his concubine.

 

1. What was the Israelites' situation in Judges 6:1-10?

 

 

 

2. Why do you think Gideon argued with the angel of the Lord in Judges 6:13-18?

 

 

 

3. What was Gideon's reaction in 6:22-28?

 

 

 

4. Who was Baal? What was an Asherah pole? Asherah is another name for Ishtar, Ashtarte, or Ashtoreth.

 

 

 

5. It is sad that rather than worship God and stone idolators, they wanted to stone Gideon for tearing down Baal's altar of worship. Do you think Joash followed God? Read Judges 6:30-32.

 

 

 

6. What tribes helped Gideon in Judges 6:35? What tribe did not in Judges 8:1?

 

 

 

7. In Judges 6:36-40, Gideon used his fleece to determine God's will. What things were not good about Gideon doing this? Some-times Christians today try to follow Gideon's example by making God guide them by a sign. If the sign can only be two ways, what happens if God chooses not to answer by a sign?

 

 

 

8. How many men were with Gideon at first? How many Midianites and allies were there in Judges 8:10?

 

 

 

9. Who probably sent the dream to the Midianites that Gideon overheard? What do you think about the dream?

 

 

 

10. According to Old Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary, in Gideon's day the three watches were 6-10 p.m., 10 p.m.-2 a.m., and 2-6 a.m.. What is interesting about Gideon's timing his attack?

 

 

 

11. Normally only a very small fraction of the soldiers carried trumpets. If there were 300 trumpets, one might easily assume there were at least 100 times more soldiers. Notice that these trumpets were all the trumpets of the original Israelite army. What similar strategy often works today?

 

 

 

12. Can you understand the attitude of the men of Succoth and Peniel in Judges 8:6-8? These Israelites were also oppressed, yet they refused to fight their oppressors. How does this compare with what we surmised about Meroz with Deborah and Barak? Is there a generalization we can make here?

 

 

 

13. It is interesting to contrast Gideon's not forgetting his slain brothers (8:18-21), with what happened to all but two of his 72 sons. What do you think about that?

 

 

 

14. What reason did Gideon give for refusing to become Israel's king or start a kingly dynasty? Do you think his (correct) refusal of this request contributed to his later sin?

 

 

 

15. From what you know of the nature and psychology of people, try to explain Gideon in Judges 8:24-27. In your opinion:

a) who Gideon was trying to worship,

 

 

b) why he made the ephod to worship,

 

 

c) how a man who saw God's angel and God's great victory could do something like that,

 

 

d) if a similar thing could happen today,

 

 

e) what advice you would give someone to keep it from happening to them.

 

 

 

Abimelech: God's Justice for Murder (Judges 9)

 

The judge we are studying today is unique in that he was never appointed by God. Unfortunately Abimelech did not follow God like Gideon in the first part of his father's life, but was even worse than Gideon in the last part of his father's life. (Gideon was also called Jerub-Baal in Judges 6:32). It is sad that Gideon started his career by tearing down Baal's altar, while his son Abimelech received money to start his career from the temple of a Baal. Abimelech's mother was a concubine of Gideon's from Shechem. If Gideon had only known what his own son would do, certainly he never would have taken that concubine as a secondary wife. If we only had God's vision to see the consequences of our actions (good, bad, and lazy) we would be all the more zealous to serve God.

 

1. Gideon resisted the temptation for he and his sons to be crowned king in Judges 8:22-23, but Abimelech had other ideas. As Christians should we ever want to be a king over our empire here on earth?

 

 

 

2. "Baal-Berith" means lord (Baal) of covenants. How is it ironic that this altar would be in Shechem? What else was very close to Shechem?

 

 

 

3. Where did the Shechemites get the money to pay Abimelech in Judges 9:4? Where was the last refuge of the Shechemites in Judges 9:46? (El-Berith means god of covenants.)

 

 

 

4. Is it possible for us today to be more concerned about our covenant than the One we made the covenant with? How? In Christian tradition has anyone done this?

 

 

 

5. What was the main point of Jotham's speech in Judges 9:7-20?

 

 

 

6. What was the meaning of Jotham's parable in Judges 9:7-16?

 

 

 

7. A side note: should Christians ever curse others today? Answer before reading Rom 12:14 and James 3:9,10. After reading these verses, explain the difficulty in Gal 1:8-9.

 

 

 

8. Judges 9:22-23 says that "God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem,...". What does this mean?

 

 

 

9. Summarize what happened in Judges 9:22-41.

 

 

 

 

 

10. Summarize what happened in Judges 9:42-55.

 

 

 

 

 

11. What was Abimelech's fear as he was dying in Judges 9:54? 2,500 years later today, what do we know about Abimelech? What did Joab remember about Abimelech in 2 Sam 11:21?

 

 

 

12. If we are a part of a Christian organization that has an unbelieving or ungodly leader we have various choices:

 

1) Ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Somebody else

should take care of it.

 

2) Avoid the problem by abandoning the organization.

 

3) Maintain unity at all costs. God removes ungodly leaders.

 

4) Be divisive. Complain loudly. All that's necessary for

evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

 

5) Try to kick out the leader. If unsuccessful, then leave.

 

6) Pray to God and let Him take care of it.

 

What is wrong with each of these choices?

 

 

 

13. In your opinion what is the best way to deal with this problem? If you do not have any idea, perhaps Titus 3:9-11 and Matt 18:15-17 may help. However, remember that the best way to treat a Christian leader who has made a mistake and treating an ungodly leader may not be the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Defend your opinion against the charge that you are either being divisive or else wanting unity at all costs.

 

 

 

Jephthah and Others: Rash Vows (Judges 10-12) ~1121-1097 B.C.

 

Like Gideon, Jephthah's story is a heroic one with a tragic ending. In contrast to Gideon though, Jephthah's tragedy is not in breaking his commitment to God but in keeping a foolish vow. Unlike Gideon, who was able to mollify the Ephraimites, this judge did not or could not and killed 42,000 of them. Nobody questioned Jephthah's determination to keep his vows. Perhaps Jephthah himself should have.

 

1. Why was God angry with the Israelites? Why do you feel the Israelites did what they did?

 

 

 

2. What do we know about Jephthah from just Judges 11:1-3,7,9. Analyze what kind of person Jephthah was.

 

 

 

3. What else can you surmise about Jephthah from verses 12-27?

 

 

 

4. What happened to Jephthah in verse 29? If the spirit of the Lord comes upon someone will they not make any mistakes? See verses 30-31.

 

 

 

5. Some people view God as a "mean guy" who has to inflict you with hardship and take from you to compensate for what He gives you. Do you think Jephthah might have felt this way as he made this vow in Judges 11:30-31? How about after his daughter came to meet him in 11:34-35?

 

 

 

6. How do you think people today sometimes think of God as a cruel person that wants to make those who obey Him suffer for no reason? Give some examples.

 

 

 

7. What would you say to help someone with this attitude them?

 

 

 

8. Did Jephthah kill his daughter or not? Not all Christians agree. Regardless of your opinion, list all the reasons one could use to argue that he did not actually kill his daughter.

 

 

 

9. Regardless of your opinion list all the reasons one could argue that Jephthah did in fact kill his beloved daughter.

 

 

 

10. Based on the previous reasons, what do you think?

 

 

 

11. What do you believe God thinks about that? If you had to choose between losing face by breaking a vow to God (which is lying and being untrustworthy), and sinning by murdering someone you love dearly, what would you do?

 

 

 

12. We may wish to chastise Jephthah severely, but are there ways today in which we stand back and allow those we love to be hurt deeply because we do not want to lose face and respect in the eyes of man?

 

 

13. In situations like Jephthah's, what is one very simple way told by James 5:12 to avoid problems like this. Why would people want to make oaths according to Jesus in Matthew 5:37?

 

 

What are other reasons springing from that one root cause?

 

 

14. When should we break a promise or vow we have made?

1) Never.

2) When it is convenient.

3) Whenever in our judgment it is the best thing to do.

4) Whenever circumstances change.

5) Only when it would be a sin to keep it, and only after telling others why.

6) Other.

 

 

 

15. When Jephthah's army killed 42,000 fellow Israelites from Ephraim, It is hard to believe that was God's perfect will. Who do you think was at fault, Jephthah or the Ephraimites? Why?

 

 

16. Explain what happened in Judges 12:5-6.

 

 

 

17. Jephthah was a very "straight" thinker. He had a will of iron and never deviated from what planned to do. How was this good? How was this bad?

 

 

 

18. Christians today often do not deviate from their plans just because circumstances change. How can this be good? How can this be bad? When should we have a will of iron as strong as Jephthah's? When should our will be easy to mold and change?

 

 

 

Most people are far better at one way than another. Which way are you best at, and which way are you worst at?

 

Samson: Compromised Strength is not Strong (Judges 13-16)

~1121-1051 B.C.

 

Samson likely lived during the lifetimes of Samuel, Saul, Goliath, and possibly even David. Samson is a unique character in the Bible; at the same time we may have conflicting feelings about him. We envy his supernatural strength and power. We agonize over his sinful life and compromising. We pity his fall and his end. Finally, we wonder how much more an obedient Samson could have accomplished with his god-given power if he had leading armies instead of sleeping with prostitutes. Sometimes in our lives we are frustrated by our lack of accomplishment due to our own spiritual defeats, and when we look at lives of Christians who have fallen, we can probably empathize with Samson only too well.

 

What happened to Samson do in Judges 16:17?

 

In Judges 16:17,20, did Samson and the Timnah woman have a happy wedding?

 

In Judges 14:1, was the Timnah woman's relationship with Samson "good for her"? See Judges 15:7.

 

With Samson's disobedient life, did God do any miracles besides giving him his strength? See Judges 15:18-19.

 

There are three ways to understand God's ways with man: magic, law, and faith. Today we are going to look at the characteristics of these three ways, and finally look at the story of Samson from all three angles to find out which understanding we lean towards. First an explanation of the three understandings.

 

Magic is the simplest way to understand God. Ask any knowledgeable seven year old, and his answers will probably be from a "magic" understanding.

 

View of God: A mysterious magician.

 

How do we get God's authority? Through rituals and saying the right "formulas".

 

Why does God work? He has to.

 

 

 

Many children eventually leave this understanding and think in terms of law. All of us know about law, because apart from grace and mercy, that is how the world works. You do good, good things happen to you. You do bad, bad things happen to you. What could be more fair?

 

View of God: Righteous, strict, lawgiver and judge.

 

How do we get God's authority? by obedience to his commandments and principles.

 

Why do our prayers work? Because of our obedience to God's commandments and principles.

 

 

Faith is more of a two-way street; a two-way relationship.

 

View of God: Loving father.

 

How do we get God's authority? God chooses to give it to us.

 

Why do our prayers work? Our loving, wise Father chooses when to answer our prayers with a "yes".

 

Let's take a simplistic example. Let's say someone prayed that the chair he was sitting on would rise six feet off the ground. What if nothing happened? From the magic viewpoint, someone would say he just did not have enough faith. After all, all things are possible to him who believes. From the law viewpoint, it would work if he was obedient to God's commandments and principles, and if the request was in agreement with God's commandments and principles. From the faith viewpoint, the chair would lift if God wanted it, and it would not rise if God decided not to have it rise.

 

To make sure these three understandings are clear to everyone, have one person make up their own example.

 

To test where we are at in our spiritual journey, we are going to ask three questions about the story of Samson:

 

Where did Samson Get His strength?

 

How did Samson lose his strength?

 

Why did Samson tell Delilah his secret?

 

Write down your answers, and the Bible Study leader will have something of a "key" to place where the answers lie.

 

 

Below are answers to these three questions:

Where did Samson Get His strength?

How did Samson lose his strength?

Why did Samson tell Delilah his secret?

 

Magic: 1. From his hair.

 

2. His hair was cut.

 

3. He was stupid.

 

By the way, if we grow our hair long will we have the strength of Samson? Maybe some of the women in the room can answer that.

 

 

Law: 1. By obedience to God's laws.

 

2. By disobedience to God's laws.

 

3. He sinned.

 

By the way, if we are as obedient as Samson was, (and I hope we are better) will we have the strength of Samson?

 

 

Faith: 1. God gave it to him.

 

2. God took it from him.

 

3. He did not know for sure what would happen.

 

By the way, if God chooses to give us the strength of Samson without conditions, what can stop us from having that power? God often may choose not to give us something if we are disobedient, but if you think disobedience is more powerful than God, look at Saul prophesying and Judas performing miracles by the power of God.

 

What were the vows of a Nazirite?

 

What did Samson do in Judges 14:8-9? Was this against his Nazirite vow?

 

What did Samson do in Judges 16:1-2? Was this against his Nazirite vow?

 

The downward spiral (Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament p.383)

Sin

Servitude

Supplication

Salvation

Silence

 

 

Micah and the Danites: Idols for the Lord? (Judges 17-18)

 

The story of Micah does not mean he was necessarily a unique man, but it is probably included to illustrate the general spiritual condition of Israel at that time, which was poor. The effects of Micah were unique though, in that this is the first sign of the rapid falling away of the tribe of Dan. On one hand one can concentrate on the evil of venerating those idols. On the other hand, one can concentrate on a genuine Levite giving a false legitimacy to the veneration of those idols.

 

 

Wiping out the Benjamites: Justice without Mercy (Judges 19-21)

 

Shiloh destroyed in 1050 B.C. and uninhabited for many centuries after that.


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