Judges Essentials Lesson Notes

Judges Essentials Lesson Notes

Storyline of Judges

Though the Israelites were deeply enmeshed in sin and their enemies were formidable, even overwhelming, all was not lost. For “the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders” (Judges 2:16). This He did for Israel in that day—against the Amalekites, the Ammonites, and Moabites—and this He has done for all time for all who will trust in Christ—against all forces and beings, natural and supernatural, who would seek to separate Him from His children.

Key Verses: Judges 2:20, 21; 21:25—“Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, ‘Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died’” (2:20, 21).

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25).

Key People in Judges

Othniel —first judge of Israel; victorious over a powerful Mesopotamian king; brought forty years of peace to Israel (1:13–14; 3:7–11)

Ehud —second judge of Israel; brought Israel eighty years of peace by helping to conquer the Moabites (3:15–31)

Deborah —prophet and Israel’s only female judge; succeeded Shamgar as fourth judge of Israel (4:4–16; 5)

Gideon —Israel’s fifth judge; destroyed the Midianite army (6–8)

Abimelech —Gideon’s evil son who declared himself king over Israel; killed sixty-nine of his half brothers (8:31–9:57)

Jephthah —judge of Israel and warrior who conquered the Ammonites (11:1–12:7)

Samson —dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth; also a judge of Israel sent to overthrow the Philistines (13:24–16:31)

Delilah —Samson’s lover who betrayed him to the Philistines for money (16:4–21)

5 Reasons Behind Israel’s Decline

  1. Disobedience in failing to drive out the Canaanites from the land (1:19,21,35)

  2. Idolatry in adopting local gods and religious practices (2:12)

  3. Intermarriage with wicked Canaanites against God’s instructions (3:1–6)

  4. Minimal cooperation with the judges (2:17)

  5. Turning away from God after the death of each judge (2:19)

God’s Intervention in Israel’s Lives

Israel departs from following God’s ways. God faithfully corrects by allowing military defeat and foreign domination. Israel cries out for deliverance. God raises up judges who serve as civil or military champions and lead the people to victories over the oppressors.

Key Doctrines in Judges

God’s mercy in delivering Israel (2:16,18–19; Deuteronomy 30:3; Joshua 1:5; Psalm 106:43–45; Luke 1:50; Romans 11:30–32; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 2:4)

Israel’s apostasy (3:7; 4:1; 6:1; 8:33; 10:6; 13:1; 21:25; Numbers 31:1–3; Deuteronomy 32:18; 1 Samuel 12:9; 1 Kings 11:33; Isaiah 1:4; Ezekiel 6:11–14; John 3:18–21; Romans 7:5–6; Colossians 3:25; Titus 3:3)

God’s Character in Judges

God is righteous —5:11

God is wrathful —9:56

Christ in Judges

The Book of Judges traces the people of Israel through seven periods of rebellion and apostasy. During each period, specific judges are brought forth as deliverers and saviors for the fallen people. These judges illustrate Christ as the final Savior and King of His people (Luke 2:11; John 4:42;

Mark 15:2).

Key Words in Judges

Judge: Hebrew shaphat —2:16,18; 10:2; 11:27; 12:9,11; 15:20; 16:31—this Hebrew word for judge means “to deliver” or “to rule.” The judges of Israel had a wide range of responsibilities. Like their modern counterparts, Old Testament judges could decide controversies and hand down verdicts (Exodus 18:16). These judges were also involved in the execution of their judgment in both vindicating the righteous (Psalm 26:1) and destroying the wicked (Exodus 7:3). Many judges were God’s appointed military leaders who, empowered by God’s Spirit (6:34; 15:14), fought Israel’s oppressors and thereby delivered the people. Later, Israel’s king functioned as the national judge (1 Samuel 8:5). Ultimately, Israel’s perfect Judge is God. He alone is capable of flawlessly judging the wicked and delivering the righteous (Isaiah 11:4).

Riddle: Hebrew chidah —14:12–19—meaning “an enigmatic saying.” In Samson’s story, the riddle is used in a contest of wits. Proverbs attributes enigmatic sayings to the wise (Proverbs 1:6). When the Queen of Sheba tested Solomon’s wisdom, her questions are described by this same Hebrew word (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1). In the Lord’s confrontation with Miriam and Aaron, God describes Himself as speaking in “dark sayings” (the same Hebrew word) to the prophets, but to Moses face-to-face (Numbers 12:6–8). Perhaps Paul had this last concept in mind when he admonished the Corinthians that even someone with the ability to understand all mysteries would not amount to anything if that person did not possess the love of God (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Tribute—The word is derived from a similar word meaning “burden” and carries the sense of forced labor (Josh. 17:13; 1 Kin. 9:21; 2 Chr. 8:8; Prov. 12:24) more than a monetary tax, though the latter meaning is possible (e.g., 2 Kin. 5:22—“revenue”). The word can also refer to the group of people upon whom labor is forced (1 Kin. 5:13—“labor force”). The word is used in the same sense in Lamentations 1:1 but in the singular, rendered “slave.”

Teaching Structure

Life in the Promised Land after Joshua

1:1-36 Military successes and failures

2:1-5 Israel have disobeyed God by failing to complete the conquest of the land

2:6-10 The death of Joshua and the forgetfulness of Israel

2:11-23 The recurring cycle of disobedience and deliverance in the period of the judges

3:1-6 A list of the other nations who remained in the land

The stories of twelve judges

3:7-11 Othniel and the king of Aram

3:12-30 Ehud and the king of Moab

3:31 Shamgar and the Philistines

4:1-5:31 Deborah and Jabin, the Canaanite king

6:1-8:32 Gideon and the Midianites

8:33-9:57 Apostasy and Abimelech’s evil

10:1-2 Tola the judge of Israel

10:3-5 Jair the judge of Israel

10:6-12:7 Jephthah and the Ammonites

12:8-10 Ibzan the judge of Israel

12:11-12 Elon the judge of Israel

12:13-15 Abdon the judge of Israel

13:1-16:31 Samson and the Philistines

The religious and moral decline of Israel

17:1-13 The idolatry of Micah

18:1-31 The tribe of Dan worship Micah’s idol

19:1-30 The rape and death of a Levite’s concubine

20:1-11 Israel gather an army to avenge the concubine’s death

20:12-25 The Israelite army is defeated twice by the tribe of Benjamin

20:26-48 Benjamin is defeated by the Israelites

21:1-25 The defeated Benjamites take wives for themselves

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