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Studies in Judges

Check out the various ways to study Judges.

1. The Top 55: Compare Gideon, Samson, Samuel, and various kings who came later.

Gideon (#48) and Samuel (#16) are the only two judges that are on the Top 55 list, and, of course, Samuel is in the book which bares his name rather than Judges. The various Jewish kings who came later are mention more. Samson who is ranked #57 almost made it onto the list. There is a one-page study on Gideon in the Top 55 booklet.

DISCUSSION IDEAS: use several Top 55 cards to help discuss the differences between the judges, the kings, and Moses and Joshua who also led the nation. Next discuss why most judges are not on the Top 55 list while Gideon and many kings are. Compare Gideon and Samson, including how their lives and ministries ended. You may wish to make up a special card for Samson (#57) to use as a visual as you do so.

2. Describing Deborah

How would you describe Deborah?
Using the suggested answers on the worksheet below, this can be done quite easily in a thought-provoking and interesting way. It can even be done as a game in a competitive as well as an educational way. Click on the worksheet for an enlarged view and for printouts. To see how Deborah is ranked compared to other women, see the list on the Top 60 Women in the Bible page.

Top 60 women page

Was Teamwork the Key to Victory?
Deborah was a prophetess and a real judge. Yet, she was also a wife (4:4) and mother (5:7) which made her position somewhat complicated and difficult. She was unable to raise and command an army all by herself. Therefore the Lord led her to call and work with Barak (4:6-9). She even went with him and the army to Mount Tabor, though ordinarily she probably did not travel far from home since she was a married woman (4:4). The people came to her to be judged, rather than her going to them (4:5). Thus, her marriage and family (5:7) limited her ministry as a judge in some ways.
     Perhaps the Lord chose to use Deborah, because the leading men in Israel at the time were not spiritually up to the task. Yet, ultimately, nobody was! Deborah was weak in some ways, and Barak was in others. Moreover, even their teamwork and their army were inadequate. Thus the story of Deborah points to the need for the Lord (5:1-31) and not just the need for teamwork. The life of Gideon does as well.

3. P(h)rah: Gideon's Little-Known Helper

P(h)urah comes to our attention at a critical moment in the life of Gideon, shortly before the famous, night-time attack by Gideon’s three hundred (Judges 7:19-22). Perhaps that great victory would never have been if it were not for P(h)urah’s help. The Lord suggested that Gideon take P(h)rah with him and go into the Midianite camp if he was fearful. God did not directly say that Gideon was afraid to go into the Midianite camp by himself, but the conditional (“if”) clause in 7:10 and his subsequent action imply that he was.
     Perhaps the most important point about P(h)urah is that he was the helper that Gideon needed at the time. May we be willing to serve the Lord by assisting other God-given leaders as P(h)urah did Gideon. -- One of two worksheets in this study is shown below. Are the lines all correct?

4. Jotham: Lesser-Known Son of Gideon

Abimelech, a wicked son of Gideon, is notorious for killing 70 of his brothers in order to become king (Judges 9:1- 5), but the ministry of Gideon’s youngest son  (9:7-20), Jotham, against Abimelech is easily overlooked. Jotham's parable drew a powerful parallel between the trees selecting the bramble bush as their king and the men of Shechem choosing Abimelech. The bottom line in this study is that we should be like Jotham, even though, like him, we are not prophets. We too should speak about and pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
     Which of the positive worksheet lines below are correct? Which are not?

5. Three Lesser-Known, Peace-Time Judges

Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon served as judges over a period of 25 years after Jephthah and before the much better known Samson. (See Judges 12:8-15.) Unlike other judges, apparently they did not need to fight foreign enemies. Ibzan and Abdon were apparently very active at home, however, since they had many children who must have been borne by several women. Elon may have been the only one of the three who was not a polygamist. Yet, the main thing reported about them may be that there was peace while they judged Israel. So the worksheet below has many positive lines about the three men, though some of the lines are not correct. Which ones?

6a. Describing Delilah

How would you describe Delilah?
Using the partial and suggested answers on the worksheet below, this can be done quite easily in a thought-provoking and interesting way. It can even be done as a game in a competitive as well as an educational way. Click on the worksheet for an enlarged view and for printouts. To see how Delilah is ranked compared to other women, see the list on the Top 60 Women in the Bible page.

Top 60 women page

Thinking Deeply about Evil
The goal is NOT to quickly fill in the blanks. It is good to question and discuss the answers. For instance, while Delilah was unable to deceive Samson (He willingly went along with her.), it may be better to point out that she was also unable to destroy him. She was stronger than Samson in a way, but God did not allow her to kill him. Limits were set, like in the book of Job. So she was ultimately a failure and bad for the Philistines as well as for Samson and herself.

Delilah, Magpies, and Nagging
Magpies are highly regarded in Korea and Pakistan, but in the U.K. and some other countries they are disliked. The name magpie is a compound from pie meaning bird and mag meaning chatter, especially the chatter of women. This naming is, of course, insulting and sexist, but it fits Delilah well since she was the ultimate nag (Judges 16:16).

6b. Samson and Delilah's Ungodly Relationship

This well-known story is told with a creative twist in this study. As we know, Samson lost his God-given strength through his relationship with Delilah and as a result was captured, blinded, and forced to work like a draft animal. This is sad, but in this study, the focus is placed on the contrast between the sad first part of the story in which God is not mentioned and the happier ending in which God answers Samson's prayer. So many of the positive worsheet lines below are correct.

7a. The Danites Ungodly Move

This study is titled Syncretism in Godless Times the set of several studies on Bible passages in which God is never or rarely mentioned. Although the Lord is mentioned four times in Judges chapter 18, he not really honored. The tribe of Dan talked about the Lord but worshipped idols.

DISCUSSION IDEA: Discuss the role that key individuals played in the first part of Judges and contrast this with whole tribes collectively going astray at the end of the book, in chapters 17-20.

7b. The Danites Bad Idea

Like the study above, this is on the tribe of Dan's move to an area north of the Sea of Galilee as recorded in Judges chapter 18. However, this time the four-step I.D.E.A. Bible Studies method is used and the focus is on why the move was a bad idea. -- The final section of the notes for this study, the part about assurance, is shown below.

DISCUSSION SUGGESTION: It is obvious that the people of Dan should have consulted a better counselor. The young Levite was more like a false prophet. Are there bad "Christian" counselors among us today? If so, how are they different from good ones?

© 2020 by Jon F. Mahar, Hakusan City, Japan