Lesson 6: Judges: The Dark Ages Of Israel's History

Old Testament Survey

The time of the Judges was a very dark period in the history of God’s chosen people. Israel continued to be faithful to God during the lifetime of Joshua and the elders of his generation. However, the next generation “did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). This shows that God’s people are never more than one generation from apostasy. The only way to prevent this from happening is for every generation to teach its children well (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Israel’s history during this time can be summed up in four words: (1) sin; (2) slavery; (3) supplication; (4) salvation. Israel began worshiping idols. God punished them by allowing one of the neighboring nations to bring them into bondage. The people prayed to God for deliverance. God sent a judge to free them from their enemies. Israel remained faithful to God until the death of the judge. Then the cycle was repeated.

The book of Judges shows what happens to people when they forget God and follow their own ways. Twice it is recorded that: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Read also Jeremiah 10:23 and Proverbs 14:12).

The book of Judges covers the period of time between the death of Joshua and the first king of Israel. There were 15 different judges in all. The first judge was Othniel and the last was Samuel. The human author of Judges is unknown. Possibly it was written by Samuel, but we do not know for sure.

When the book of Judges begins, we find the Canaanites still controlling some of the land. There are several reasons for this. First, God had said He would drive out the Canaanites gradually “lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you” (Exodus 23:29,30). Second, Israel failed to destroy all the people of the land as God had commanded them (Judges 2:1-5). Third, the Canaanites who were left recaptured some of the land when Israel became weak (Judges 19:10-13). Fourth, because of their sins Israel could no longer stand up to their enemies (Judges 2:13,14).

The first judge of Israel that God raised up was Othniel (Judges 3:7-11). He delivered the people from the oppression of Cushanrishathaim, king of Mesopotamia.The second judge was Ehud, a left handed man (Judges 3:12-30). Because the people forgot God after the death of Othniel, God allowed Eglon, king of Moab, to oppress them. When the people repented and cried to God, Ehud was sent to deliver them. He brought tribute to Eglon. He asked to be alone in the king’s presence. Eglon thought Ehud had a secret message for him so he sent all the people out. Ehud then stabbed the king with a dagger and escaped.

Deborah was the only female judge (Judges 4:4-5:31). Israel was oppressed by the Canaanites. The commander of the Canaanite army was Sisera. Israel’s commander was Barak. The armies of the two nations fought against each other. When Sisera saw his army was being defeated, he fled. He came to the tent of Heber and asked Heber’s wife, Jael, to hide him. He lay on the ground and Jael covered him. While he was sleeping, Jael drove a tent peg through his head and killed him. Another well known judge of Israel was Gideon (Judges 6:1-8:35). The Israelites had again turned away from God. God allowed the Midianites to loot the land and take what they wanted. Finally, the people cried to God for help. God sent His angel to Gideon to tell him he had been chosen to be the deliverer. Gideon did not believe the angel and demanded proof. The proof was given and Gideon called his army together. God did not want the people to think they would win because of their own strength. He told Gideon to allow all the fearful to return home. Twenty-two thousand left and ten thousand remained. God said there were still too many. The army was put to a test. As a result, everyone was sent home except for three hundred. Gideon then gave the men trumpets and torches in pitchers. He divided them into three groups. At his signal, they broke their pitchers, blew their trumpets, shouted and rushed at the Midianite camp. The Midianites fled in confusion. A great victory was won that day when three hundred men defeated thousands of their enemies.

Perhaps the best known of all the judges was Samson (Judges 13-16). Samson was a Nazirite from birth (Judges 13:4,5; Numbers 6). He was not allowed to drink wine, nor was his hair allowed to be cut. He grew up to be a man of very great strength. In his day, the Philistines oppressed the people of Israel. Samson loved a Philistine girl. He insisted on marrying her in spite of his parent’s objections. He became angry with his wife at their wedding feast and left. When he returned, he found she had been given to another man. He took revenge by sending foxes with firebrands tied to their tails into the grain fields of the Philistines. Later he killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Next, Samson fell in love with a Philistine woman named Delilah. The leaders of the Philistines offered Delilah money to find the secret of Samson’s strength. Three times Samson lied to Delilah. Finally he told her that if his hair was cut, his strength would be gone. She had his hair cut while he was sleeping. He was captured and his eyes were put out. In prison, Samson’s hair began to grow. On a great sacrifice day, all the Philistine leaders and their wives assembled in the temple of their god. They brought Samson out to entertain them. He rested upon two pillars of the temple and prayed to God for strength. He then pulled the temple down killing 3,000 Philistines as well as himself.

The Book of Ruth

The little book of Ruth is a beautiful story of love. It also shows how God cares and provides for His people. Most important, however, is that the book of Ruth provides another link in the family line of our Savior. We have seen the family line of Jesus come from Adam to Seth to Noah to Shem to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and to Judah. Judah is the tribe from which the Christ came. The book of Ruth shows the family from which Christ came. It is the family of Jesse who was the father of David (Ruth 4:13-22).

Ruth was another Gentile who was in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5). Elimelech and Naomi, Israelites from Bethlehem in Judah, left their home in a time of famine. They went to live in Moab. Their sons Mahlon and Chilion married Moabite girls. Ruth was one of them. Elimelech died. Later Mahlon and Chilion died. Naomi decided to return to her home in Bethlehem. She tried to send her daughters-in-law back to their own people. Ruth did not want to go. She loved her mother-in-law. She had also become a believer in the God of Israel. Ruth’s words to Naomi are among the most beautiful words of love recorded in the Bible. Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part you and me” (Ruth 1:16,17).

Through God’s providence, Ruth met Boaz, a wealthy farmer. Boaz was a relative of Ruth’s husband who had died. According to the Law of Moses, if a man died without children, his nearest relative must marry his wife and raise up children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Boaz married Ruth. They had a son named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of David. Jesus was a descendant of David.

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    Fill in the blanks:
  1. God's people are never more than generation from apostasy.
  2. There were judges in all.
  3. The first judge was .
  4. The last judge was .
  5. was a left handed judge.
  6. was the only female judge.
  7. The best known judge was .
  8. Samson fell in love with who betrayed him.
  9. is the tribe from which Christ came.
  10. The mother-in-law of Ruth was .
  11. Ruth was a who married Naomi's son.
  12. Ruth and Boaz had a son named .
  13. Obed was the father of who was the father of David.
  14. asked for proof that God had chosen him to fight the Midianites.
  15. In the time of the judges each man did what was in his own eyes.
  16. Check the correct answer.
  17. True    False The time of the judges was a bright time in the history of God's people.
  18. True    False Jael killed Sisera with a tent peg.
  19. True    False Samson was a Nazirite from birth.
  20. True    False Samson killed a thousand Philistines with a slingshot.
  21. True    False Ruth was a Gentile who became an ancestor of Christ.
  22. True    False The human author of the book of Judges is unknown.
  23. True    False God gradually drove out the Canaanites in order to keep the wild beasts from taking the land.
  24. True    False The commander of Deborah's army was Jael.
  25. True    False Gideon's army consisted of only 300 men.
  26. True    False Samson's parents encouraged him to marry a Philistine girl.
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