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An Argument of the Book of Judges

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Message Statement:

Because of the outward and inward anarchy of the tribes of israel, the theocracy nearly collapsed as YHWH ruled over her by raising up discipline to humble the nation and providing mercy to deliver her through her judges making evident the need for a king to direct the nation

I. Prologue--An Incomplete (Failed) Conquest of Canaan by Israel--Focus upon Individual Tribes:1 The Tribes were unwilling to take full possession of the land 1:1--2:5

A. Israel’s Incomplete Possession of the Land: Even through the nation began in obedience and receiving the promises of God, they began to gradually suffer defeat because of their disobedience 1:1-36

1. This book describes what happened after the death of Joshua 1:1a

2. The victories in the land of Palestine are recounted during the leadership of Joshua 1:1b-15

3. Mixed with further victories are occasional loses until the losses begin to override the victories 1:17-26

4. The reason for the losses is because in event after event the people did not follow the word of the Lord to destroy the inhabitants of the land2 1:27-36

B. Consequences to Israel’s Disobedience: In faithfulness to His covenant YHWH gave Israel the land, but would not drive out their enemies because Israel had not obeyed Him 2:1-5

II. Israel in the Period of the Judges--Focus Upon Individual Judges:3 YHWH rules over rebellious Israel by raising up discipline to bring Israel low in order that mercy might reign in the deliverance of the judges 2:6--16

A. Introductory Principles of Operation During the Period of the Judges--Causes and Elements of Israel’s Disobedience: 2:6--3:6

B. The Downward Cycles of the Judges--The Salvation of a Long-Suffering God:4 YHWH, the judge of Israel, delivers His unrepentant people through unusual and weak judges, calling the nation to covenantal obedience 3:7--16:31

1. Four Cycles Where the Judge was Good:5 3:7--8:32

a. Cycle I--Othniel:6 3:7-11

b. Cycle II--Ehud:7 3:12-31

c. Cycle III--Deborah and Barak:8 4:1--5:31

d. Cycle IV--Gideon: YHWH cares for His continually sinful people: 6:1--8:32

1) The People Finally Remember YHWH--The Cycle of Sin, Servitude, Supplication is Repeated: 6:1-6

2) YHWH’S People Are Prepared Spiritually: 6:7-32

a) The people are Reminded of Broken Covenant: YHWH sends the people a prophet to remind them that they are suffering because they have broken the covenant 6:7-10

b) The Servant Is Prepared to Follow: 6:11-24

(1) YHWH commissions a cynical Gideon to deliver Israel from Midian 6:11-16

(2) YHWH confirms to a doubting Gideon that it is He who is speaking in peace 6:17-24

c) The People Are Prepared to Follow: 6:25-32

(1) When YHWH ordered Gideon to tear down the idols of his father and build an alter and sacrifice to Him, He did so timidly 6:25-27

(2) Nicknaming Gideon ‘fighter of Baal’ His father protects him and encourages the people to let the true God fight here 6:28-32

3) The Enemy is Defeated: 6:33--8:21

a) YHWH confirms for Gideon and the People His Defeat of the Midianites through Them: 6:33--7:15a

(1) The people from the east enter the land and Gideon sends for all in Israel to gather and fight 6:33-35

(2) Once again out of personal doubt Gideon seeks confirmation from God of His will 6:36-40

(3) With so many men available YHWH cuts the number from 32,000 to 300 so that they will see YHWH as the cause of victory 7:1-8

(4) YHWH gives fearful Gideon confirmation that he will be victorious in the battle with the Medianites 7:9-15a

b) The Battle is Won: The battle is described as one which God supernaturally won and allowed Israel to clean up on with the dead leaders 7:15b-25

c) Gideon Calms the Ephraimites: Gideon calms the anger of the Ephraimites by proclaiming their deeds in capturing the kings as greater than his deeds 8:1-3

d) The Enemy is Complete Eliminated and its protectors Disciplined by Gideon 8:4-21

(1) Running into discouragement at Succoth and Penuel who refuse to be a part of God’s working, Gideon promises that they will loose their lives later 8:4-9

(2) Zebah and Zalmunna are captured by Gideon 8:10-12

(3) Succoth and Penuel are provided for in a talionic way for their evil against YHWH 8:13-17

(4) Gideon seeks personal revenge by killing Zebah and Zalmunna 8:18-21

4) The End of Gideon’s Reign: 6:22-32

a) Although Gideon refused to stand in YHWH’s place as king, he did error in erecting an ephod which Israel later worshiped 8:22-27

b) Midian was defeated and the land was in peace for forty years while Gideon lived like a king, died at an old age and was buried in his fathers Joash’s tomb 8:28-32

2. Three Cycles were the Judge was Evil:9 8:33--16:31

a. Cycle V--Abimelech: Even through God mercifully offered an opportunity for those sinning to repent, He also allowed their continued evil to come upon them 8:33--10:5

1) Cycle Repeated--People Sink in Sin: When Gideon was dead after the forty years of peace, Israel forgot God’s deliverance and sinned again returning to Baal 8:33-35

2) A Sinful Man, Abimelech, Rises to Lead a Sinful People: 9:1-6

a) Formulating his father’s flirtations, Abimelech has his mother’s family and Shechem appoint him as king 9:1-4

b) Killing all of his brothers, save Jotham, Abimelech is pronounced king in Shechem 9:5-6

3) An Opportunity for These Sinful People to Choose: Jotham stands on the mount of blessing (Mt. Gerizim [Dt. 27] and in a parable questions integrity and prophecies judgment 9:7-21

4) The People Choose Evil: Abimelech reigned three years 9:22

5) God Allowed Evil to Reign Upon An Evil and Rebellious People: 9:23-57

a) God’s Allowance of Evil to Work: God allowed an evil spirit to come between Abimelech and his people so as to bring back upon them their evil 9:23-25

b) The People of Shechem Rebel: The Shechemites join themselves behind a man named Gaal who encourages rebellion from Abimelech to Hamor 9:26-29

c) Abimelech Defeats the Military of Shechem: Under the sneaky protection of Zubul, his lieutenant, Abimelech ambushed Shechem and Gaal 9:30-41

d) Abimelech Defeats the Common People of Shechem: Abimelech completely defeated, slew and raised the city the next day 9:42-45

e) Abimelech Defeated the Leaders of Shechem: Abimelech burned alive all of the leaders and their families in Shechem 9:46-49

f) Abimelech (the Strong) was Killed (by the Weak)--Talionic: Abimelech died in an attempt to capture Thebez by a strong woman and the sword of his armor bearer

g) The People Are Left Floundering: With the death of Abimelech all of the men of Israel left the battle 9:55

h) God’s Principle in Dealing with These Evil Ones: God used men to bring about evil upon the evil--Abimelech and Shechem 9:56-57

6) A Period of Peace for the Nation: 9:1-2

a) Tola’s Reign for 20 years as Judge: After the evil of Abimelech, Tola arose to deliver Israel for 23 years 10:1-2

b) Jair’s Reign for 22 Years as Judge: Jair and his 30 sons reigned with influence for 22 years 10:3-5

b. Cycle VI--Jephthah: As sin continued to infect the nation and its leaders (Judges), YHWH allowed more evil to reign in the midst of deliverance 10:6--12:15

1) A Spiritual Battle Reoccurred, Was Clarified and Decided Upon: 10:6--11:28

a) Israel Returned to Sin and Idolatry: Israel once again turned from serving YHWH to the gods of the people surrounding them 10:6

b) God Gave the Nation into Servitude: 10:7-8

(1) God once again allowed Israel to be sold into bondage--this time to the Philistines and the Ammorites 10:7

(2) Israel became greatly afflicted for 18 years--especially by the Ammorites 10:8

c) Israel Repented of Their Sin (Negotiated with YHWH) and YHWH Had Mercy [Based upon His Covenant]: 10:9-16b

(1) Israel Repented and confessed their idolatrous sin to YHWH 10:9

(2) YHWH reminded the nation of his historical deliverance of them in their past and his refusal to help them in their rebelliousness 10:11-14

(3) Israel confessed sin and took steps toward upright living toward YHWH 10:15-16a

(4) YHWH responded to his people’s great need as a loving father with hurt child 10:16b

d) Lining Up for Battle, Israel Humbly Asked Jephthah to Lead Them: 10:17--11:11

(1) Israel and Ammon came together for battle, but Israel did not have a leader 10:17-18

(2) Israel had to humble itself to ask Jephthah to lead them even through they had done evil to him 11:1-11

e) Reminder the War Is YHWH’s: In letters sent to the king of Ammon, Jephthah presented their possession of the land as that which YHWH gave from the Amorites 11:12-28

2) The Physical Battle Was Fought and Won over Ammon by Israel and Jephthah through YHWH 11:29-33

a) By the empowering of the Holy Spirit Jephthah lead Israel against Ammon 11:29

b) Jephthah vowed to YHWH to give whatever met him at him first if he won the battle 11:30-31

c) The Lord enabled Jephthah to win against the Ammonites 11:32-33

3) Internal Sin Continues to Plague the Nation: A Painful aftermath of the War with Ammon affects Jephthah and Israel due to poor leadership by Jephthah 11:34--12:6

a) Jephthah mournfully fulfills his vow to YHWH with his daughter 11:34-40

b) Jephthah is confronted by Ephriam for not including them in the battle 12:1

c) Jephthah and the men of Ehriam fought only to slay 42,000 from Ephriam 12:2-6

4) Jephthah’s Death: Jephthah died after judging for six years 12:7

5) Transition--A Period of Three Continual Judges: 12:8-15

a) Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel 7 years yet had his children marry out of the faith 12:8-10

b) Elon, of northern Zebulun, judged Israel for 10 years and died 12:11-12

c) Abdon the Pirathonite judged Israel 8 years with experience of wealth and royalty 12:13-15

c. Cycle VII--Samson: In spite of a sinful people and leadership, YHWH kept his word to deliver his people 13:1--16:31

1) Sin and Servitude--Israel Returns to Evil and Bondage: Israel once again pursuing evil is placed in bondage to the Philistines for 40 years 13:1

2) A Promise from YHWH in Samson: YHWH promises and gives a deliverer to Israel through Manoah and his wife named Samson 13:2-14

a) YHWH appeared to Manoah’s wife to announce the birth of a son through them who would be separated to God to defeat the Philistines 13:2-5

b) Manoah’s wife reports the message of YHWH to her husband 13:6-7

c) YHWH confirmed his word to Manoah and his wife through the acceptance of a burnt offering 13:8-23

d) A son is born to Manoah and his wife whom they call “Sun” and grows up with God’s enrichment 13:24

3) Through corruption and suffering many of the consequences of sin, Samson is used by YHWH to deliver Israel from the oppressive rule of the Philistines 13:25--16:31

a) The Spirit of God Works in Samson: The spirit of God began to work in Samson 13:25

b) Many Philistines die by Samson’s hand but not uprightly--rather through acts of anger and jealousy with personal hurt 14:1--15:8

(1) Leaving his people, Samson fell in love with a Philistine and asked his parents to arrange a marriage (God’s permissive will) 14:1-4

(2) When Samson and his parents go to arrange the wedding, Samson secretly breaks part of his Nazarite vow 14:5-9

(3) Samson, boasting through a riddle of his conquest of the lion, is betrayed by his fiancee, looses the bet and his wife 14:10-20

(4) In jealous violence Samson destroyed the corps of the Philistines only to loose the life of his and wife whereupon he slaughters more Philistines 15:1-8

c) Betrayal and Deliverance: Those of Israel tried to deliver their judge in fear over to the Philistines, but God strengthened Samson to be victorious and to judge for 20 years 15:9-20

d) Humiliation of Philistines: Though in Philistine Territory for relations with a harlot, Samson humiliated their defense by carrying away their gates 16:1-3

e) Suffering and Death: Though Samson suffered for breaking his vow, many Philistines died with Samson for YHWH 16:4-30

(1) Loving a Philistine more than his vow to YHWH, Samson allowed her to interfere with his vow to YHWH and suffered servitude 16:4-21

(2) At a banquet where the Philistines acknowledged their god, Dagon, for their victory Samson was enabled by YHWH to overcome them 16:22-30

f) Burial of Samson: Samson was buried with his fathers as a victorious and tragic judge 16:31

III. Epilogue--Conditions Illustrating the Need and Source of a Future King in Israel--Two Appendices:10 17:1--21:25

A. Micah’s Household and the Danite Migration 17:1--18:31

B. The Outrage at Gibeah and the Punishment of the Benjamites: 19:1--21:25


1 Johnson writes, The individual tribes now show themselves willing to obey partially. The compromise takes various forms as the reasons surface but the effect only awaits realization of what God had set forth in Deuteronomy (An Analysis of Judges, 17).

2 Deuteronomy 7 and Exodus 23.

3 Johnson writes, The judges were guardians of YHWH's righteousness but in the midst of rebellion became agents of His mercy. As each cycle repeats itself the rebellion increases but never overcomes YHWH's deliverance in mercy (Analysis of Judges, 17).

4 Johnson writes, The reversal of fortune motif throughout the section distinguishes Israel's deliverance as specifically divine. A sovereign YHWH, moved to compassion by Israel's moaning (not repentance) uses unlikely people (judges) by worldly human standards, in unlikely circumstances to effect her deliverance. There can be no mistake that it is his work alone and it is in grace (Exposition of Judges, 4).

5 The structural formula presented in the introduction is followed in these first four cycles without alteration.

6 A paradigm for the pattern of the judges. Little detail is given, but the basics of the cycle are included.

7 YHWH uses the unexpected, a surprise 'message' by a left-handed Benjamite to bring deliverance.

With Shamgar the only weapon of deliverance mentioned is an ox-goad. Again, YHWH gets the credit for deliverance.

8 Because of fear, Barak does not receive the honor for the victory, and is given a relatively small place in the narrative. YHWH uses the most unexpected, a woman, to bring deliverance to the nation.

9 From this cycle on the structural formula presented in the introduction is varied in from. Johnson writes, This section is distinguished by altering the structural formula in presenting the cycles. One element or several are left out in each of the three remaining cycles and it is this failure to follow the formula that sets this unit apart from the rest of the book (Exposition of Judges, 4).

This section interprets the negative results of relying on man rather than YHWH and the unpredictable role that YHWH has in deliverance (Ibid.).

10 Johnson writes, If the judge was a guardian of YHWH'S righteousness the Levite was the guardian of the truth. With truth lost in the willful rebellion of the people, there is the evident need for a king (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) to thwart social anarchy (Analysis of Judges, 17).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines