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.
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?
Why does God desire our whole heart being devoted to him? What is the danger of half-hearted devotion?
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?
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?
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?
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!
Sin is deceptive and enticing. It can also be enslavement. Discuss the sins that you seem to struggle with most often. Why is it that you often feel enslaved by the same sin(s)?
In what ways do you see God’s sovereignty at work in this passage? (Sovereignty means His complete authority and power over everything) How does this encourage us as Christians?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:28-29. Why would Ehud have been a surprising choice as a deliverer for God’s people? What does this tell us about God and His wisdom?
Read Judges 3:11 and 3:30. How are both passages similar? The idea of rest is a truth of the gospel. How does Jesus provide us with permanent rest?
Judges 3:19 and 3:26 both mention the presence of idols among the people: What does this tell you about God’s people? What does this show us about God?
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.
Why does God keep rescuing His people if they keep turning away from Him?
What do you do differently in your life because you have faith, even though you don’t receive honor for doing it?
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?
In Judges 6, Israel has seen better days. The Midianites have come to town and are taking whatever Israel has. They have caused so much distress for Israel that Israel is now hiding in caves to stay away, but they are the one who have put themselves in this state. Again after God has saved them from their enemies they have disobeyed God yet again and God has given them into the hands of the Midianites. But again out of God’s great love and grace He has decided to save them yet again. This time He calls on Gideon to assume the position of Judge and God and Gideon will save Israel. In the call of Gideon we see Gideon fearing his enemies more than God, Gideon blaming God, Gideon’s lack of trust in God, and yet through all of this God still says “But I Will be with you”. In the storms in our life, through the sin in our life, God out of his great grace and love still comes to us, saves us, and will be with us into the end. This leads Gideon to repentance and tearing down his idols, something we should all strive for today.
We see Gideon’s first response to God is actually blaming God. Do you blame God in your life in any area? When life is tough, do you blame Him and distance yourself from Him? Do you ever consider the sin in your life first?
Do you feel like the Lord is with you at all times? Do you fully believe Him when He say ” I will be with you”? What is stopping you from listening to his call in your life?
We see Gideon demand a sign over trusting in the word of God. Do you trust the word of God? What actions in your life prove or do not show that you trust the word of God? How much time do you spend in the word of God? Do you obey it as much as you think you should?
We see Gideon come to this state of dropping to his knees, face on the ground, in total repentance. Have you ever been in this state before? Are there things in your life that you need to repent of? What is holding you back from complete repentance?
We see Gideon tear down the idols in his life. What idols do you have in your life in place of God? What will you do to tear them down? Which do you love more God or your idols?
We pick up where we left off last week. Gideon has JUST destroyed the alter to Baal and the Asherah pole beside it in the dead of night and he has built an alter to God in their place.
It doesn’t take his family and neighbors very long to figure out who had destroyed the alters to their false gods, and they demand that Gideon’s father, Joash, give him up to be executed. Joash defends his son, and suggests that Baal can contend for himself.
After this, Gideon calls his people to join him in battle against the Midianites and the Amalekites, who had risen up against Israel. The armies (AMAZINGLY) respond to his call and take up arms against their oppressors, but before the fighting starts, Gideon demands something interesting from God.
Gideon asks God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.”
God answered Gideon’s request, and Gideon found the fleece dry and the surrounding floor wet, but Gideon is not yet satisfied. He comes back to God asking, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.”
God proved Himself and His will once more to Gideon by making the ground wet, while the fleece remained dry.
Why would God choose a family who openly worshiped false gods to free His people?
What false gods are demanding that you worship them along the one true God?
Was Gideon wrong in asking for a sign from God? Why would Gideon need a sign from God if the Angel of the Lord had already appeared to him?
Is it wrong for us to seek out signs from God today? Should we seek out miracles?
Pride is not always a bad thing. It is perfectly fine to be proud of yourself for achieving a good grade on a test because of diligent study. It is acceptable to have pride in your hometown football team. It is even okay to have pride for how you carry yourself. Where pride becomes dangerous is when we attribute the work of God to ourselves as if we, and not God, accomplished something great.
In chapter seven of the book of Judges, we see God take away every opportunity for Gideon and the people of Israel to boast in any work of themselves. God makes Gideon and his army completely reliant upon Him. However, it does not stop there. Not only does God make Gideon reliant upon Him, He also gives encouragement. God brings assurance that He will accomplish victory and that His word is true.
Today, we must position ourselves to be completely reliant on God. Our salvation is a work of His doing, and His doing alone. There is nothing for us to boast of. Yet, while we are reliant upon a God who has saved, is saving, and will continues to save us, we can be encouraged and strengthened that God’s word will always hold true.
Why was God so intent on showing Gideon his weakness? What are some weaknesses that you have?
How does God assure Gideon? Why do you think Gideon need assurance? Think of a time when you needed to be assured of the outcome before you preformed a task.
Discuss amongst your group as to why you feel God seems to choose the “weak” and “lowly” to accomplish His purposes.
Have there ever been times in your life when God has weakened you? If so, how did you respond?
Chapter 8 of Judges continues the story of Gideon, and unfortunately informs us of his tragic downfall by contrasting his words with the motives and intentions of his heart. God had just used Gideon and his small army of 300 men to defeat the Midianites and scatter them throughout the land. Now Gideon is confronted by the mighty Ephramites, who confront him for his failure to ask them to assist in attacking the Midianites. Gideon, desiring to keep this mighty group of warriors on his side, graciously calms their doubts by praising them. Gideon soon encounters two more groups of Israelites (men from Succoth and Penuel) who are not quite sold on Gideon’s success, and for fear of Midianite attack do not allow his men food. It seems that success has got the best of Gideon, he conquers the remaining Midianites, and enacts violent revenge on Succoth and Penuel.
Soon after Gideon’s conquests, the people of Israel desire for him to be their King. Gideon refuses their offer and reminds them that their King is Yahweh. This seems like a fantastic response and a great way to close out the story of Gideon. However, the unfolding of the end of this narrative shows us that Gideon’s heart and his words do not match! Though he acknowledges Yahweh as the King of God’s people who deserves the glory for his faithfulness, Gideon acts as if he is the King of Israel. His success has become his downfall. His actions cause the Israelites to be ensnared in further sin and rebellion. He has attempted to be their guide, their King, and their Priest. It is clear, that a human King will not lead to the saving of God’s people. Only a perfect human, who is Yahweh himself can perfectly lead God’s people away from sin to eternal rest from their enemies…That person came not to seek self glory and service from others, but that King came to serve and lay down his life in the place of His people!
Gideon was used by God in his weakness. He now seems to boast in his strength and success. How does the gospel help us deal with success?
Are there areas in your life in which your actions and your faith seem contradictory? In other words, in what areas does your heart not match what you claim to believe?
It seemed that Gideon wanted more than what God had provided him with. He wasn’t satisfied in the Lord’s grace and strength in his life. Where are there areas in your life in which you are not fully satisfied with what God has given you? How does God’s grace speak to those areas?
The end of Gideon’s story creates tension for us. It is clear that Israel desires a King but only God can lead them perfectly. This story creates a longing for a better King and leader of God’s people…What are all the ways, Gideon’s story (Judges 6-8) points us forward to a better Judge, who is Jesus?
We have just learned about the judge Gideon, who is raised up to save Israel from the hands of their enemies. We see his victorious ascension and conquest, and we also see his selfishness and downfall. We learned about letting the strength we receive from God go to our heads and lead us into idolatry.
This week we are taking a look at the story of Jephthah, a story full of intrigue, war, and great sorrow. We see Jephthah exiled, redeemed and raised up, and how his pride leads him into his ever-famous vow that ends in the death of his only daughter.
We’re also going to take a look at chapters 9 and 10: the story of Abimelech, and Israel’s further idolatry and repentance leading to the need for Jephthah’s elevation as a savior to Gods people.
The purpose of this story, as with all of the judges, is to show us that the purpose of Gods using sinful people is not to highlight the might or ability of the object being used but to point to the ultimate fulfiller of what the object can never accomplish, Jesus Christ!
Can you ever think of a time when you, much like Israel, sometimes went to God only to seek circumstantial relief and not to make HIM your ultimate relief from sin and death?
Do you often feel the need to “hang onto” the people you witness to? Why do we often fear to hand people over to God once we’ve given them the gospel?
Do you ever question or get upset with God when He takes away from you, either by a temporal judgment for sin or by discipline?
(For examples, refer to Job 1:21; 2:10; 5:17-18; and Psalm 39:11)
Jephthah has just lead the Gileadites into victory against the Ammonites and all of Israel has been delivered from their yoke by the hand of God. Jephthah in a ridiculous attempt to sway God’s hand in his favor to ensure victory, makes a rash vow to offer whatever walks out to meet him upon victory as a burnt offering. Unfortunately it was his one and only daughter and she is offered up. A bittersweet victory to say the least and in his mourning another problem has come knocking on his door. The Tribe of Ephraim hasn’t come to congratulate or celebrate the victory and the deliverance of their neighbors and distant family, as well as all of Israel, nor have they come to meet Jephthah in his need after such a harrowing event in reference to his daughter. They have come to pick a fight with Jephthah for his lack of including them in the war. Jephthah has apparently insulted the great Ephraim by not asking them to come along but the truth is that they were angry that they did not get to relish in the spoils and triumphs of victory. They missed the bus so to speak and now their pride was hurt and so they look to blame Jephthah.
Jephthah does not let them off the hook or excuse their nonsense. He reminds them that he did actually invite them to be who Ephraim always claims to be and come fight against these pagan oppressors for the good of our country and people and it was their pride that kept them at home. Ephraim lashes out with some nasty insults and civil war breaks out, brother against brother. Jephthah uses his skills as a solid military leader and captures the only crossway points across the Jordan. A test is given to distinguish who was an Ephraimite and it was based on their accent, they said Shibboleth funny. They were found out and they got owned, they were humbled, they weren’t as big and bad and awesome as they thought and we too will be humbled if we cling to such a pompous view of ourselves. Jephthah lives out his days and his successors after him in a continuing but shaky peace.
Are you offended when people question you, are you bothered when people don’t think well of you and do you tend to only like people who like you back?
When you look at someone doing something else, do you think you could do it better? Do you have a secret satisfaction when you see someone failing in the sport or activity, job as you?
What about at church or people from another church to which you differ that mess up, the same is to be asked about your siblings, friends, and enemies, etc. Do you enjoy when that occurs? Do you enjoy it because it makes you look better?
If you see the evidences of your pride and are convicted and have a desire to be humble before God, you have a changed heart. Whoever loves to be first like Diotrephes in 3 John 9 will be a stumbling block to others. We are called not to be first, but to serve like our Savior. What does this look like? What is Gospel Humility?
In Judges 14, we are introduced to adult Samson and he is certainly not what his parents expected him to be. A man child with little self control, we see Samson pursuing marriage with a Philistine girl, outside of God’s covenant. Despite his parents urging otherwise, Samson goes to marry the woman. On his way, Samson encounters a young lion and literally TEARS IT IN HALF. Very cool.
Not so cool though, is when Samson returns later to the lion, finding that bees have formed a hive inside of it. He touches the lion’s dead body to retrieve honey, breaking his Nazarite vow by touching a dead body. He even shares this unclean honey with his parents!
At his wedding feast, Samson continues his streak of breaking his vows by drinking alcohol, and challenges the Philistines to a battle of wits. He poses a riddle to the Philistines, giving them seven days to come up with the answer. They cannot, and threaten Samson’s bride-to-be to get the answer. She gives it to them, and Samson, in a fit of rage, murders 30 Philistines to fulfill his end of the bargain. He returns home, and the Philistine woman is given to his best man as a wife.
In what day-to-day situations do you find it hard not to act on impulse?
Do you wrestle with the implications of 2 Corinthians 6 for your own life? How so?
Has the Lord ever worked through your sin, or someone else’s sin? How does this lead you to praise Him?
After spending some time pouting at home, Samson decides that it is time to return to the Philistine wife that he left behind and consumate their union. Upon his return, however, Samson is infuriated to learn that his wife was given to his best man. The girl’s father offers his other daughter to Samson, but Samson will have none of that.
Our boy Samson, always one to delicately tip-toe over the line into brash overreaction, catches 300 jackals, ties them together, sets their tails aflame, and sets them loose into the Philistine fields.
The Philistines are less than amused by Samson’s antics, and they burn his (almost) wife and her family alive. In fury, Samson retaliates by slaughtering a number of Philistines. The Philistines, realizing Samson’s power, begin to take him more seriously, and work out a deal with the men of Judah.
The men of Judah bind Samson, and hand him over to the Philistines. Next, in (what I personally believe is) the coolest sentence of the Bible, Samson grabs the nearest weapon, a piece of an animal carcass, and slays 1,000 Philistines. Alone. Woof!
Does Samson use a gift from the Holy Spirit sinfully?
How does Israel’s complaint to Samson show how “godless” they had become?
How does this chapter show us the never-ending cycle of retaliation that comes from humans attempting to avenge for themselves?
How is Samson and modern society’s idea of a “hero” different than Jesus, the only true hero to mankind?
In Judges Chapter 16, we pick up in the final days of Samson’s rule in Israel. He obviously has not changed much, as we find him seeking out a prostitute in Gaza. As he flees the city, after sleeping with her, we see another miraculous feat of strength before we are inroduced to the woman that will finally bring Samson down, Delilah.
Delilah was enticed by the rulers of the Philistines to betray Samson by finding the source of his strength and revealing it to them, that they may finally defeat him in battle. After a few attempts to seduce it out of him, Samson finally caves to Delilah’s questions, similarly to what happened during his wedding feast in chapter 14.
Once he finally tells her everything, she unsurprisingly has his hair cut as he sleeps, and the Philistines come in to enslave him. He tries to fight back, but is unsuccessful, as God had left him. After scooping out his eyes, the Philistines put Samson to work milling grain.
As Samson’s hair begins to grow back, the Philistines bring him to the temple of Dagon to worship Dagon for delivering Samson over to them. They used Samson as entertainment. As they left Samson by the two main pillars of the temple, God gives Samson one last burst of strength, and Samson uses his strength to bring the pillars down, killing thousands with his death.
Judges ends with some of the darkest chapters in the entire Bible. We see the state of Israel’s complete depravity and the results of their turning away from God. It is incredibly dark and disturbing. The events lead to Israel’s first civil war, where the twelve tribes cannot even coexist peacefully anymore.
It all points us towards Jesus’s sacrifice, also in death, but where Samson began to defeat the enemies of God’s people through His death, Jesus finished the battle with His.
How could Samson not have known that God had left him when he rose to fight the Philistines after his hair had been cut? Was it confidence or arrogance?
Samson often fell to his weakness, sex. What are major stumbling blocks for you in your relationship with Jesus?
How does the manner of Samson’s death help us to appreciate the death of Jesus?
Do you think Samson prayer to God indicated repentance or revenge?
How do you live by doing what is right in your own eyes?