Category: Book of Judges


A judge of Israel, Jephthah, had made a foolish vow to the Lord that if God gave  him victory in battle, he would sacrifice whatever first came out of his door  when he came home (Judges  11:30-31). Jephthah’s daughter was the first thing to come of out his door  when he came home (Judges  11:34). The Bible never specifically tells us whether Jephthah actually  sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering. Judges  11:39 seems to indicate that he did: “He did to her as he had vowed.”  However, since his daughter was mourning the fact that she would never marry  instead of mourning that she was about to die (Judges  11:36-37), this possibly indicates that Jephthah gave her to the tabernacle  as a servant instead of sacrificing her.

Whatever the case, God had  specifically forbidden offering human sacrifices, so God never would have wanted  Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter (Leviticus  20:1-5). Jeremiah  7:31; 19:5; and  32:35 clearly indicate that the idea of human sacrifice has “never even entered God’s  mind.” Jephthah serves as an example for us not to make foolish vows or oaths.

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Author: The Book of Judges does not specifically name its  author. The tradition is that the Prophet Samuel was the author of Judges.  Internal evidence indicates that the author of Judges lived shortly after the  period of the Judges. Samuel fits this qualification.

Date of  Writing: The Book of Judges was likely written between 1045 and 1000  B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Judges can be  divided into two sections: 1) Chapters 1-16 which gives an account of the wars  of deliverance beginning with the Israelites’ defeat of the Canaanites and  ending with the defeat of the Philistines and the death of Samson; 2) Chapters  17-21 which is referred to as an appendix and does not relate to the previous  chapters. These chapters are noted as a time “when there was no king in Israel  (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).” The Book of Ruth  was originally a part of the Book of Judges, but in A.D. 450 it was removed to  become a book of its own.

Key Verses: Judges 2:16-19: “Then the  LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet  they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods  and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in  which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands.  Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved  them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD  had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted  them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt  than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping  them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”

Judges 10:15: “But the  Israelites said to the LORD, ‘We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think  best, but please rescue us now.’”

Judges  21:25: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw  fit.”

Brief Summary: The Book of Judges is a tragic  account of how Yahweh [God] was taken for granted by His children year after  year, century after century. Judges is a sad contrast to the book of Joshua  which chronicles the blessings God bestowed on the Israelites for their  obedience in conquering the land. In Judges, they were disobedient and  idolatrous, leading to their many defeats. Yet God has never failed to open His  arms in love to His people whenever they repent from their wicked ways and call  upon His name. (Judges 2:18)  Through the 15 judges of Israel, God honored His promise to Abraham to protect  and bless his offspring (Genesis  12:2-3).

After the death of Joshua and his contemporaries, the  Israelites returned to serving Baal and Ashtaroth. God allowed the Israelites to  suffer the consequences of worshiping false gods. It was then that the people of  God would cry out to Yahweh for help. God sent His children judges to lead them  in righteous living. But time after time they would turn their backs on God and  return to their lives of wickedness. However, keeping His part of the covenant  with Abraham, God would save His people from their oppressors throughout the  480-year span of the Book of Judges.

Probably the most notable judge was  the 12th judge, Samson, who came to lead the Israelites after a 40-year  captivity under the rule of the ruthless Philistines. Samson led God’s people to  victory over the Philistines where he lost his own life after 20 years as judge  of Israel.

Foreshadowings: The announcement to Samson’s  mother that she would bear a son to lead Israel is a foreshadowing of the  announcement to Mary of the birth of the Messiah. God sent His Angel to both  women and told them they would “conceive and bear a son” (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:31) who  would lead God’s people.

God’s compassionate delivery of His people  despite their sin and rejection of Him presents a picture of Christ on the  cross. Jesus died to deliver His people—all who would ever believe in Him—from  their sin. Although most of those who followed Him during His ministry would  eventually fall away and reject Him, still He remained faithful to His promise  and went to the cross to die for us.

Practical Application:  Disobedience always brings judgment. The Israelites present a perfect  example of what we are not to do. Instead of learning from experience that God  will always punish rebellion against Him, they continued to disobey and suffer  God’s displeasure and discipline. If we continue in disobedience, we invite  God’s discipline, not because He enjoys our suffering, but “because the Lord  disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:6).

The  Book of Judges is a testament to God’s faithfulness. Even “if we are faithless,  He will remain faithful” (2 Timothy  2:13). Though we may be unfaithful to Him, as the Israelites were, still He  is faithful to save us and preserve us (1  Thessalonians 5:24) and to forgive us when we seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9). “He will keep  you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord  Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ  our Lord, is faithful” (1  Corinthians 1:8-9).

Samson’s life is one of contradiction. First, he was to be “a  Nazirite, set apart to God from birth” (Judges  13:5), yet he continually broke his vow. The Spirit of God came upon him  many times, giving him great strength to fight the Philistines, the oppressors  of the Israelites. At the same time, however, Samson was a womanizer and a  vengeful man, full of sin. Samson’s life illustrates that giving in to  temptation leads to sin,  that God will use even a sinful man to enact His will,  and that God will not let us escape the consequences of our  sin.

The life of Samson – giving in to temptation leads to  sin
Samson’s story begins with a violation of God’s law. He wants  to marry a Philistine woman despite his parents’ protests and in violation of  God’s law about intermarriage with pagans. His mother and father accompany him  past the vineyards of Timnah (Judges 14:5)  to obtain his new bride when a lion attacks and is killed by Samson. As a  Nazirite, Samson had to follow the laws written in Numbers  6:1-21. First, he was to “abstain from wine and other fermented drink  and…not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not  drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.” By passing by the vineyards of  Timnah, he invited temptation to violate this portion of his vow. Had he not  walked so openly into temptation, he would not have encountered the lion,  another source of later sin. When Samson came back by the carcass of the lion,  it was filled with a honeycomb, which he ate. This was a clear violation of the  second part of the Nazirite’s law: “Throughout the period of his separation to  the Lord he must not go near a dead body” (Numbers  6:6). Samson seemed to know what he was doing was wrong because when he gave  the honey to his parents, “he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from  the lion’s carcass” (Judges  14:9).

The customary feast described in Judges  14:10 was, literally, a “drinking party.” Although Scripture does not  indicate whether Samson drank wine or fermented drink, it was yet another source  of temptation that ultimately led to sin. In this case, Samson offers a wager on  a riddle, and his wife betrays him and gives the answer to his riddle to her  countrymen, the Philistines. In response, Samson murders thirty  men.

The life of Samson – God will use even a sinful man to enact  His will
Samson willingly went into situations that led to sin, but  each time, God used him for His glory. God created Samson to “begin the  deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). Even sinful men cannot prevent God’s will.  When Samson killed the lion, it was his first recorded test of strength. It gave  him confidence to face the Philistines. He murdered 30 Philistines out of  vengeance in order to pay a debt. Later, Samson swears to “get even with the  Philistines” (Judges 15:3)  and to “get [his] revenge on [the Philistines]” (Judges  15:7). Both occasions were for personal reasons and were not godly, but God  used them as a springboard to launch Israel out of their oppression. Despite  Samson’s sin, God’s will would not be thwarted.

The life of  Samson – God will not let us escape the consequences of our sin.
Even though God’s will is unstoppable, Samson still experienced the  consequences for his sin. When he met Delilah and she begged to know the secret  of his strength, he broke the final part of the Nazirite law: “During the entire  period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be  holy until the period of his separation to the Lord is over; he must let the  hair of his head grow long” (Numbers  6:5). After Delilah’s countrymen cut his hair, Samson still expected God to  be with him. “He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and  shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him” (Judges 16:20). He had  gained confidence from previous violations which appeared to have gone  unpunished, but his continual willful disobedience had reached an end. When  Samson had finally broken all of the Nazirite laws, he had to face the  consequences of his actions.

The lessons we can learn from Samson’s  life are that if we willingly and repeatedly walk into temptations which lead to  sin, we will suffer the consequences of our disobedience even though God still  uses us to accomplish His will. In the end, Samson understood the true source of  his strength, but he never understood his true purpose. “Then Samson prayed to  the LORD, ‘O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once  more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes’”  (Judges  16:28). We see from this verse that Samson was more concerned about revenge  than about doing God’s will, and it cost him his life. “Thus he killed many more  when he died than while he lived” (Judges  16:30). God’s will was done, but the many blessings Samson might have seen  were never realized.

The account of Gideon’s life is recorded in Judges 6:11-8:32. The  backdrop for Gideon’s biography begins with the Israelites being ravaged by the  Midianites as a consequence of their disobedience to God (Judges 6:1). For seven years they faced invasions from  the Midianites, Amalekites, and Eastern foreigners who ruined their crops and  destroyed their cattle. Although they had been unfaithful to God by worshipping  the gods of the Amorites, they cried out to God for His help without realizing  why this was happening to them (Judges 6:6).  And so God sends them a prophet to remind them of how the one true God had  provided for them in the past and yet how quickly they had forsaken Him (Judges 6:8-10).

God hears their cries and graciously intervenes by sending an angel to Gideon  to call him into service (vs. 11-14). Gideon, whose name means “cutter” or  “cutter of trees,” belonged to an undistinguished family of the Abiezrites, but  from the angel’s greeting we can assume that Gideon had already proved to be a  mighty warrior (Judges  6:12). Though Gideon was a willing servant of God, he needed assurance that  it was, in fact, God calling him to this divine service (vs.17). In  accomplishing the mission set before him by God, Gideon proves himself to be  faithful, a mighty warrior, a strong leader of men (Judges  7:17), and a diplomat (Judges  8:1-3). As such, he is included in a fitting testimonial for the great men  of faith in Hebrews  11:32-34. Gideon was the fifth judge and renowned as the greatest of  Israel.

The highlights of Gideon’s life include his victorious battle  against Israel’s enemies. However, we mustn’t overlook his amazing faith, by  which he carried out God’s mission and which was first put to the test and  confirmed when he destroyed the Baal idols his father and the community had been  worshipping (Judges  6:25-27). Gideon’s battle triumph is preceded by God’s anointing (Judges 6:34). It was no small feat that Gideon managed to  enlist his tribesmen, the Abiezerites, to go into battle with him. These were  the men whose idols he had destroyed and who had renamed him “Jerub-baal” (Judges 6:32). Before  entering battle, Gideon’s troops number 32,000, but in obedience to God he  reduces them by 22,000 (Judges  7:2-3). Again in obedience to God he decreases the remaining 10,000 by a  further 9,700, leaving him with just 300 men (vss. 7-8). This was against an  enemy that is described as “thick as locusts” with “camels as numerous as the  grains of sand on the seashore” (Judges  7:12). With the battle finally won, the people suggest that Gideon rule over  them as their king, but he declines their accolades and tells them the Lord will  rule over them (Judges  8:22-23).

Gideon had proved his faithfulness to God, and his  obedience had required him to take a stand against his own father and tribe.  And, although he feared his own people (Judges  6:24), from the three requests he made for the Lord’s confirmation of His  will, it is evident he feared God much more. In battle he took on far greater  odds than were realistic to mere mortals. When the Israelites wanted to honor  him as their king for triumphing over their enemies and restoring Israel’s  pride, Gideon, recognizing God as the real victor in the battle, declines their  request and affords the rightful sovereignty to God. This was a great test of  Gideon’s faithfulness, when he could so easily have succumbed to pride by  accepting the people’s honor. So, it is with great surprise that we see Gideon  go on to compromise his faith by requesting they all contribute gold from the  plunder of the battle so he could create an “ephod,” a breastplate or mask used  in cultic worship (Judges  8:24-26). And, as we see in verse 27, it became a snare to Gideon and his  family.

From Gideon’s example we can learn that no matter how great the  odds against us may be, our faithful God is sovereign, and He will always see us  through whatever battles we face in life, as long as we remain faithful to His  calling and obedient to His commands. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and  lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He  will make your paths straight” (Proverbs  3:5-6). We can also see how God uses ordinary people to accomplish His  plans, although with Gideon, the key factor was his willingness to obey  God.

Sometimes, the most difficult people to witness our faith to are  our families. And we can see after Gideon destroys the false gods his family had  been worshipping that he receives an anointing from the Lord. It was because of  this anointing that he was able to accomplish the mission that God had set  before him. And it is with God’s anointing on our lives that we can truly claim  “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  Gideon had gone from being a warrior in hiding, threshing wheat at the foot of a  hill out of sight of the enemy, to vanquishing the same enemy in battle.  However, he was careful to ensure that it was God’s will he was obeying. As the  Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but  be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and  approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

However, unlike Gideon, who had  proved his faithfulness to God and received God’s answers to his requested signs  as an encouragement, we must not expect God to do likewise for those who request  signs from God because of their doubts or weak faith. There may be  times when everyone around us does lack the faith to go on, and it is up to us,  like Gideon, to take the lead by our example and encourage the weak among us (Judges 7:17; Romans 15:1).