The ﬁrst two chapters of Judges basically serve as two introductions to this epic book. They set the stage for the unfolding drama that we will soon dig into. But ﬁrst, we gotta lay the foundation and get the context… It has been two generations since God led his people out of slavery in Egypt. Now, the people of Israel ﬁnd themselves in the land that God had promised to give them, the land of Canaan. However, Israel was not alone in the land. They were surrounded by foreign nations who served false gods. But Israel was to be a light to the nations through their obedience to God and his law. We know that they were not always successful at this because of the sin that plagued them. The people of God were led by Joshua, who replaced Moses as Israel’s leader. The book of Joshua, which is the book before Judges, is ﬁlled with stories of God’s triumph through His people. However, Judges begins after the death of Joshua and the generation who now lives in Canaan, does not “know” the Lord. They had turned to the false gods of the foreign nations for their source of fulﬁllment and satisfaction and not surrendered every part of their lives to the God who had delivered them. It’s important to note that the Israelites were often commanded to drive out their enemies from among them…to fully defeat them and wipe them out. This may sound harsh, but it was deeply spiritual, and ultimately for the good of God’s people and His glory. Because of their failure to do this, God’s people were ensnared by the false gods surrounding them. This led to a downward spiral of sin and unfaithfulness. Despite this, God was faithful to His people and raised up Judges to avenge the enemies of Israel and deliver his people….But these Judges were tragically ﬂawed themselves. These Judges really couldn’t deliver or solve the real problem of the people, but God would eventually send a better Judge to avenge the problem, the problem of sin.
1) Read Joshua 23:3:13. What does God command the Israelites to do in Joshua’s time and now? Why did He command this and how well did Israel follow this according to Judges 1?
2) Why does God desire our whole heart being devoted to him? What is the danger of half-hearted devotion?
3) Read Judges 2:10. Surely these individuals have heard of the God of their parents. So, what do you think the author is trying to communicate through the words, “know the Lord”? How does this apply to your relationship with Jesus?
4) Read Judges 2:11-19. Describe the cycle of rebellion that is depicted… What does this tell us about ourselves and the consequences of turning to idols for fulﬁllment and satisfaction?
5) What are some areas in your life in which you have been half-hearted in your devotion to the Lord? How does the gospel apply to your half-hearted devotion?
READ JUDGES 1-2//USE A JOURNAL TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS:
1. We see a recurring theme in the lives of God’s people – from the time of the spies sent to observe Canaan and report back (Numbers 13) to (Judges 2). God’s people are given clear instruction, but they are constantly what in regards to God’s commands? Is their character any different at the end of Judges 2?
2. Resulting from this negative characteristic, what do we see happening again in Judges 2? (Think in broad terms of cause and effect).
3. What is God requiring of His people in the Old Testament? Is this different from what He requires of us as the modern body of His people?
4. God specifically left certain nations in place to test His people. Why do you think a sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God would test any human’s faith following their disobedience? What do you think it means with the backdrop of God’s righteousness?
5. Pursuing God faithfully has benefits, and we see that they are sometimes circumstantial (you may be blessed with something long desired). But sometimes, they are not circumstantial – what blessings do we find in honoring God that do not have to do with the physical world? Why are those things worth pursuing? (Read John 6:27 & 1 John 2:17)
6. Finally, we may be tested when we have not sinned. Read James 1:2-4. What does this tell us that God’s testing does to and for us? What are we told to do, and what are the benefits of doing it? (Note that James assumes here that we are to aim to suffer and endure faithfully, even when we, like our family before us, could not prosper faithfully – something to consider in our modern age.)
Chapter 3 begins the stories of the Judges, who are raised up throughout Israel to deliver God’s people from their enemies. It’s important to remember that God’s people were in this predicament because of their own stubbornness. They had turned away from God, and their idolatry eventually led to their enslavement.
In verse 12 of Chapter 3, we are introduced to Ehud, a very unlikely Savior. After God had rescued his people through Othniel, it did not take them long to forget of God’s redemption. They soon turned and “did what was evil in the sign of the Lord.” To discipline Israel, God strengthened the King of Moab, Eglon, to enslave Israel under his evil reign. But, God is gracious and merciful. He would not leave or abandon Israel. So, he raised up Ehud, the left-hand man! Being “left-handed” was probably sign of weakness, it could potentially mean he was disabled in his right hand. In other words, God used an unlikely person to rescue his enslaved people.
Ehud plotted a deceptive scheme to stand before Eglon alone, with no assistance. Ehud fashioned a double-edged sword and deceptively met the King alone in his chambers. It was there, that Ehud would deliver the fatal blow to the stomach of the obese, Eglon. And the people of God would be delivered….But not forever! Ehud points us to a better deliverer. A deliverer who hung alone on a cross, brutally defeating our ultimate enemies, Satan and Sin. He would rise from the dead, providing us with full and complete victory. It is in the work of Jesus, that we can find more than temporal rest, which is what Israel experienced in Judges 3:30…we find eternal rest!
READ JUDGES 3//USE A JOURNAL TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS:
3:1-6. In this passage the writer shows God left nations in the land so that future generations would know warfare and to test Israel to see if they would remain faithful to the commandments God gave them through Moses. Who are the nations God left? What was one of the commands Israel broke in verses 1-6? (Refer to Deuteronomy 7:1-6)
3:7-11. In the account of Othniel we see writer reveal a cycle of events that Israel undergoes starting in Judges 3:7 and goes all the way through Judges 16:31. See if you can find the cycle of events in the account of Othniel.
3:12-30. In the account of Ehud the king Eglon subjugates the people of Israel and sets up shop in Jericho “The city of Palms” in the land allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. According to Verses 12-15 where is the judge Ehud from? What characteristic of Ehud does the author include for the reader?
3:1-6 Why does God command Israel not to intermarry with the nations in the land of Canaan, and what is the outcome of their disobedience of that command?
3:7-11. We see a cycle of events happen in the book of Judges; rejection of God → God exacting judgement on Israel → Israel repenting → God raising up a judge and delivering Israel. In this progression what do we see about God’s character? (Refer to Psalms 103:1-14)
3:12-30. In this passage God uses Eglon to exact justice on sin. God also uses Ehud to redeem his repenting people from oppression. What about God is revealed in this passage? (Refer John 19:9-11, and Romans 13:1-2)
3:1-6 God gives commandments to Israel to protect them from sin. What has God established in your life to protect you from sin?
3:7-11. God reveals in his character a desire to restore his people to him. What has God done in your life to restore you to Him?
3:12-30. God is a sovereign god who builds up kingdoms and tears them down because he is THE Righteous Judge. Who has God established in your life as an authority over you and how can you grow closer to God under that authority?
Chapter 4 picks up after the death of Ehud, and the Israelites have once again fallen away from God. The Israelites were greatly and horrifically oppressed by Jabin, the king of Canaan, though he is largely missing from the story. Instead, we mostly deal with the general of his army, Sisera. Sisera was a force to be reckoned with, commanding 900 chariots.
The judge of Israel at the time, Deborah, called for Barak and told/reminded him of God’s call to action against Israel’s oppressors. He agreed to go, but only if Deborah went with him, so she did, but only after informing him that the glory for the battle would not go to him, but a woman.
Barak leads 10,000 men down the mountain and God delivers Sisera’s forces to His people. Amazingly, Sisera escapes and finds his way to the tent of a woman named Jael. Jael’s husband was an ally of Sisera’s, but Jael clearly was not. Making Sisera comfortable and putting him to sleep, Jael then takes a tent peg and hammer and (In a top 10 insane Bible death) hammers the peg through Sisera’s head into the ground.
Small Group Questions
1.) Why does God keep rescuing His people if they keep turning away from Him?
2.) What do you do differently in your life because you have faith, even though you don’t receive honor for doing it?
3.) Why is it important that Deborah and Barak’s story is retold in Chapter 5 through a different lens? How can we translate this to our lives today?