The Reign of the Judges
The strength of righteous parents and the consequences of forsaking their
Deborah—the strength of a righteous friend.
Gideon—the strength of faith in God.
Samson—the strength of covenants and the consequences of breaking them.
A study of this lesson will encourage us to seek influences that will
strengthen us in living the gospel in a challenging world.
Scripture references for study: Judges 2;
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
notes: Click on links for expanded information.
Lesson 19 Handout (PDF
The Book of Judges
Named after the twelve individuals who led Israel between the time of Joshua
What were these judges?
Time frame: about 1250-1020 BC.
They were not simple definers of the law or judicial officials.
Judge = shophet in Hebrew. A shophet is a lawgiver or governor.
These judges were champions or heroes vindicating Israel in war.
The Message of Judges
Overall Message of Judges:
The Historical Cycle:
Years ago the daily newspaper carried a comic frame titled Graffiti. Each day the comic displayed a wall with a humorous saying. One particular
day the wall contained the following writing, "History repeats itself
because no one listened the first time." This is the story of
No historical book of the Old Testament has such a clear philosophy of
history as the Book of Judges.
APOSTASY - Part 1 of the Cycle.
The writer of Judges begins each cycle of apostasy with the same words,
which he repeats seven times in thirteen chapters, "And
the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord."
JUDGES 2:10-13. Israel forsakes the Lord
and turns to other gods.
WHO WERE THESE GODS?
There were two false gods which posed the greatest challenge to Israel.
The supreme storm-god: controlled the winds, clouds, rain, lightning, thunderings,
and elements of the atmosphere.
Often depicted with a thunderbolt with his left hand and an uplifted mace
in his right hand.
A helmet is shown on his head, adorned with the horns of a bull, the symbol
An astral goddess of fertility who caused or increased the fruitfulness
of plants, animals, and man.
Generally depicted as naked, her head adorned with horns.
She was associated with sensuous love.
- Resource Note 1.
WHY WAS ISRAEL ATTRACTED TO THE WORSHIP OF THESE FALSE GODS?
Similarities between aspects of the two religions: Prophets, temples,
priests, sacrifices and burnt offerings, entreated with prayer.
Visible, outward signs, with shows, pageants, and parades. Such things
are an attraction to the natural man. The natural man often fails
to perceive unseen spiritual realities.
Consider some of the TV evangelists of today. Many put on
an attractive show.
While I was on my mission in Oklahoma, there was a country Pentecostal
church in the eastern part of the state with a band that played each Sunday
evening. The people would flock to this church to hear this lively
Licentious revelries and obscene orgies with which the worship of these
idols or deities was observed.
"This worship, appealing to every sensual passion,
joined with the attractions of wealth and fashion and luxury, naturally
was a great temptation to a simple, restrained, agricultural people, whose
worship and laws demanded the greatest purity of heart and of life."
(Old Testament Student Manual, p247)
BONDAGE & OPPRESSION - Part 2 of the Cycle.
According to Judges, the Lord allowed neighboring nations to attack
and oppress Israel. The chart below shows the length of foreign domination.
HOW DOES THIS PATTERN COMPARE WITH THAT IN THE BOOK OF MORMON?
HUMILITY & REPENTANCE - Part 3 of the Cycle.
HOW DID ISRAEL RESPOND?
Isn't it interesting that the moral and spiritual decline the Israelites
was not arrested until they were punished.
DELIVERANCE BY THE JUDGES - Part 4 of the Cycle.
The Lord appeared to be infinitely patient with Israel.
The Lord raised up judges to deliver Israel from their foreign domination
and interceded with his power. These judges included: Samson, Deborah,
WHERE DO WE STAND? DO WE FALL INTO SIMILAR CYCLES?
The pattern appears to be the same. The main difference seemed to be that
Old Testament Israel turned to the worship of false gods and the Book of
Mormon Israelites were caught up in wealth and pride. The result
was the same = APOSTASY.
"Yea, and we may see at the very time when he
doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields, their flocks
and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious
things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them
out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies
that they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing
all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the
time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God,
and do trample under their feet the Holy One--yea, and this because of
their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.
"And thus we see that except
the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he
doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all
manner of pestilence, they will not remember him." (Helaman
HOW CAN PARENTS HELP THEIR CHILDREN REMAIN FAITHFUL AND AVOID ENTRY INTO
THIS DEADLY CYCLE?
The Book of Judges issues a solemn warning to people of all ages. History repeats itself
if we do not heed its lessons.
Consider what Judges has to say about the rebellious youth of that time:
"...and there arose another generation after them,
which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel"
"And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers...and
followed other gods" (Judges 2:12).
"...but they went a whoring after other gods,
and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which
their fathers walked in" (Judges 2:17).
WHY DO CHILDREN SOMETIMES FORSAKE THE RIGHTEOUS TEACHING AND WAYS OF THEIR
Agency is a fundamental consideration in any discussion of this question.
Heavenly Father lost a third of his spirit children. The scriptures have
many examples of children rebelling against their righteous parents. Consider the story of Laman and Lemuel or Alma and the sons of Mosiah.
Children are often lured away by the attractions of the world. In
ancient Israel, it was the heathen gods and the practices that surrounded
their worship. Today we find a variety attractions in the world luring
our children away from the paths of righteousness: an unrighteous pursuit
of success or learning, possessions, the supposed easiness of following
the ways of the world, and the modern culture as portrayed in the media.
Parents sometimes neglect teaching children the ways of truth and righteousness.
Some questions to ponder:
President Hugh B. Brown: "I think we older
ones need to be reminded of our duty! I think we need to be reminded that
we who are older are in a very large measure responsible for what might
happen to those who are younger." (The Abundant Life, p166)
The example we set and the way we live our lives tells our children if
we really believe what we preach. Parents know that younger children
often mimic their actions. Children are observant and they know hypocrisy
when they see it.
We need to be proactive in teaching our children the ways of righteousness.
The Lord has provided a tool for this purpose: Family Home Evening.
We can have personal interviews with our children.
Other opportunities present themselves for teaching. As parents,
we cannot allow other activities to take precedence over unique teaching
The thoughts and ideas that we implant in our children's minds will come
back to bless our children. President Hugh B. Brown talked of his
mother and how she taught him. "More than
half a century ago, I was standing on a little railway station platform
in Cardston, Canada. I was leaving for England on a mission. My saintly
mother stood there with me and held my hand. This is what she said. 'Hugh,
my son, do you remember when you were a little boy you often had bad dreams,
nightmares, and you called out to me as I was sleeping in the next room:
"Mother, Mother, are you there?" Do you remember I always said, "Yes, my
son, I'm here. Just turn over and go to sleep. Everything is all right".'
She said, 'My boy, five thousand miles must now separate us, across a continent
and an ocean. You are not going to have bad dreams only at night, but many
times, in the daytime, you are going to want to call for help and comfort.
Son, when you are beset with difficulties, when you meet temptation, when
you are confused and don't know where to go, call out and say, "Father,
are you there?"' She said, 'My boy, I promise you He will always answer
and you need not fear.'
"...through the intervening
years, countless occasions have arisen where men could not help me much,
when I felt alone, where I had a nightmare with my eyes wide open. I have
taken the advice of my mother and have said, 'Father, are you there?' Now
He has not spoken to me audibly; He has not appeared to me personally;
but He has always answered me. There has come into my heart a quiet peace
which enabled me to know that I could, figuratively, turn over and go to
sleep." (The Abundant Life, pp202-203)
Never give up on our children. Once again, consider the story of
Alma the younger and his story of conversion. When the angel appeared
to Alma he said, "Behold, the Lord hath heard
the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who
is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou
mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth" (Mosiah 27:14).
Elder Orson F. Whitney: "You parents of
the wilful and the wayward: Don't give them up. Don't cast them off. They
are not utterly lost. The shepherd will find his sheep. They were his before
they were yours--long before he entrusted them to your care; and you cannot
begin to love them as he loves them. They have but strayed in ignorance
from the Path of Right, and God is merciful to ignorance. Only the fulness
of knowledge brings the fulness of accountability. Our Heavenly Father
is far more merciful, infinitely more charitable, than even the best of
his servants, and the Everlasting gospel is mightier in power to save than
our narrow finite minds can comprehend." (CR, April 1929)
How can we recognize the early signs of apostasy?
How can an individual break the cycle of apostasy?
How might we appropriately help a family member or friend who seems to
be falling away from the truth?
Deborah - The Strength Of A Righteous Friend
"And the children of Israel again did evil in
the sight of the LORD" (Judges 4:1). As a consequence
of their apostasy, "the LORD sold them into the
hand of Jabin king of Canaan" (Judges 4:2) and they were oppressed
for twenty years.
Deborah, a prophetess, judged Israel at this time.
Deborah called upon Barak to take 10,000 men and go up against the army
of Jabin, led by Sisera.
JUDGES 4:13-16. Barak's army goes into battle
and defeats Sisera's army.
HOW WAS DEBORAH A TRUE FRIEND TO BARAK?
WHAT CONDITION DID BARAK REQUIRE IF HE WAS TO TAKE ON THIS ASSIGNMENT?
"If thou wilt go with me, then I will go"
WHY TO YOU SUPPOSE BARAK WAS WILLING TO FACE SISERA IF DEBORAH WOULD GO
It always helps to have a prophet along when you go into battle against
It helps to take on a challenge when you have the support of good friends
HOW HAVE FRIENDS AND/OR FAMILY MEMBERS HELPED YOU FACE DIFFICULT CHALLENGES?
HOW HAVE THEY ASSISTED YOU IN OBEYING THE LORD'S COMMANDMENTS?
She entrusted him with a difficult assignment.
She had faith in him that he could be successful in carrying out this assignment.
She did not just send him, but was willing to go with him.
She inspired him, "Up; for this is the day in
which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone
out before thee?" (Judges 4:14)
As a teenager, the friends with whom I spent most of my time, helped fashion
the direction of my life. We weren't perfect kids, but we did keep
each other on the straight and narrow. The goal for each of us was
to serve a mission and to be married in the temple. Most of us did
that. We encouraged each other in our endeavors. True friends
inspire us to be the best we can and support us in following the commandments.
Gideon - The Strength Of Faith In God
"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight
of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven
years" (Judges 6:1).
Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites (Judges
The Midianites and Amalekites were a roving people of the desert.
For seven years they invaded Israel during the harvest season, like swarms
of locusts, and carried away their grain and livestock.
Israel adopted every means to conceal themselves. They even made
caverns to hide in.
Angel appears to Gideon.
Through a prophet the Lord stated, "...ye have
not obeyed my voice" (Judges 6:10).
Gideon called to save Israel from the hand of the Midianites (Judges 6:14-16).
JUDGES 6:20-23. The power of the Lord confirmed
HOW DID GIDEON RESPOND WHEN THE ANGEL ASSURED HIM THAT THE LORD WAS WITH
He asked: Why then has all this befallen us? Where are the
miracles of the past?
DO WE SOMETIMES FEEL THIS WAY, THINKING THAT MIRACLES ARE A THING OF THE
Consider the great miracles of modern Church history: Brigham Young
transfigured as Joseph in Nauvoo, spiritual experiences at Kirtland temple,
and deliverance from the crickets.
AS THE HISTORY OF OUR DAY IS WRITTEN AND CARRIED TO FUTURE GENERATIONS,
WHAT EVENTS WILL LIKELY TO BE HIGHLIGHTED? ARE THERE ANY?
The opening of the nations of the world to the missionary work.
The building and opening of so many temples.
Our modern prophets.
WHAT IS OUR ROLE IN THESE MIRACLES?
IF WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR SPECTACULAR MIRACLES, HOW MIGHT THAT AFFECT
OUR ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE THE MORE QUIET ONES? HOW CAN WE LEARN TO RECOGNIZE
THE QUIET MIRACLES IN OUR LIVES?
Gideon sends out a call to four of the tribes for an army to cast out the
Midianites (Judges 6:35).
Gideon and his army make camp near the "host" of the Midianites.
It appears that there may have been some doubt in the mind of Gideon that
this was in fact an angel of the Lord. In
verse 17 Gideon had asked
for a sign.
The Lord commands Gideon to prepare for the Midianites, for they are delivered
into his hand (Judges 7:9).
JUDGES 7:2. The Lord requires Gideon to reduce
his army so that the hand of the Lord will be recognized in Israel's success.
Started with 32,000.
Reduced to 10,000. The "fearful" and "afraid" were asked to depart.
The Lord wants the army reduced even further. Selection made by how
each man drank. Those that brought their hands to their mouth were
chosen to remain with the army.
This reduced the army to 300.
I think that if I were Gideon, I would have questioned the wisdom of the
Lord in reducing the army to less than 1% of its original size. The
fact that Gideon followed the instructions of the Lord is a testimony of
his faith and that he was convinced of the power of the Lord.
This raises a question: Do we sometimes not perceive the hand of
the Lord in our lives, because it appears that we have the capability to
handle the tasks before us?
Gideon was called upon by Israel to be king. People seem to love
military heroes and want them as their leader.
The Midianites/Amalekites appeared to be a formidable army.
They laid "along in the valley like grasshoppers
for multitude" (Judges 7:12)
The "camels were without number, as the sand by
the sea side" (Judges 7:12)
The 300 men divided into three companies. A trumpet was put into
the hand of every man, along with a pitcher and a lamp. The lamp
was to be placed in the empty pitcher.
JUDGES 7:20-22. The attack begins.
I am reminded of the Utah War and how a few men were able to slow the progress
of Johnston's army.
After this startling beginning, the host was then pursued. Those
men that had been previously dismissed now joined in the pursuit.
120,000 men of the east (Midianites and others) were destroyed.
The story of Gideon once again provides proof of Nephi's statement, "I
will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that
the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall
prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth
them" (1 Nephi 3:7).
Gideon's noble response: "I will not rule
over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over
you" (Judges 8:23).
Gideon might have understood that great Book of Mormon principle regarding
the potential difficulties that can arise from monarchy.
After Gideon's death, his son Abimelech killed all but one of Gideon's
sons and became king of the Shechem and ruled over Israel wickedly. Eventually he was destroyed.
Elder LeGrand Richards: "Over fifty years ago
I heard Elder James E. Talmage tell this story. It has remained with me
all these years. He told about a group of tourists or travelers in the
Alps who were snowbound. The Lord sent an angel to a monk and told him
about these people, asking him to go and rescue them. The answer was, 'Why?'
And the minute he said 'Why,' the angel disappeared. He went to the second
monk and delivered the same message, and the answer was, 'How?' And the
angel disappeared. He went to the third and delivered the same message,
and the monk said, 'When?' And the angel remained and delivered his message.
"It shouldn't be
for us to say, when the call of the Lord comes or when we understand a
command that is given to us through the prophets of God, 'How can we do
it?' or 'Why does he ask us to do it?' but 'When, oh, God the Eternal Father,
as thy son or daughter, wouldst thou have me do the thing that thou hast
commanded?'" (CR, Oct 1964)
Samson - The Strength of Covenants & Consequences
Of Breaking Them
"And the children of Israel did evil again in
the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the
Philistines forty years" (Judges 13:1).
An angel appears to the wife of Manoah, a Danite.
Samson goes down among the Philistines.
JUDGES 13:3-5. She was to bear a son, a deliverer.
A Nazarite was one who was consecrated to the Lord.
"And the woman bare a son, and called his name
Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him" (Judges 13:24).
Samson marries a wife of the Philistines (see
"Then went Samson down, and his father and his
mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold,
a young lion roared against him.
"And the Spirit
of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent
a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his
mother what he had done" (Judges 14:5-6).
WHAT WAS THE SOURCE OF SAMSON'S POWER?
After Samson's father-in-law informed him that his wife had been given
to another, Samson caused the corn fields of the Philistines be burned
(see Judges 15).
At the seven day wedding feast Samson proposed a riddle.
His wife revealed the answer to the thirty Philistine guests to save her own
life and Samson lost the wager.
In his anger he went down to Ashkelon and slew thirty men and took their spoils
to pay his wager.
In the mean time, Samson's father-in-law gave Samson's wife to his best
man at the wedding.
This story begins to tell us a little about Samson. He was a man
who had been blessed with great power and destiny. Yet he married
a Philistine, interacted with them, and smote them only when it suited
his personal desire.
Samson fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, Delilah (see
When the Philistines discovered the cause of the burning they took Samson's
wife and her father and burned them.
The Philistines then came and camped against Judah in search of Samson. They bound him and turned him over to the Philistines.
"And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted
against him; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the
cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire,
and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of
an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men thereith."
JUDGES 16:15-17. Samson finally reveals the source
of his strength. Delilah causes his head to be shaven while he was
The lords of the Philistines came to Delilah and asked her to find the
secret of Samson's strength. They offered her 1100 pieces of silver.
Three times Delilah asked Samson the source of his strength and three times
he deceived her.
The Philistines took and bound him, brought him to Gaza, "and
he did grind in the prison house" (Judges 16:21).
"...and she began to afflict him, and his strength
went from him" (Judges 16:19).
Some Lessons To Be Learned From The Story of Samson.
"The hair of his head began to grow again"
The Philistines called Samson forth from the prison to make sport of him.
JUDGES 16:28. Samson calls upon the Lord for
Samson was placed between two pillars which supported the building. He
pulled down the pillars causing 3,000 to die, including himself.
WHAT WAS THE REAL CAUSE OF SAMSON'S DOWNFALL?
"For although a man may have many revelations,
and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength,
and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates
of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance
of a just God upon him." (D&C 3:4)
WHY, AFTER SAMSON KNEW THAT DELILAH HAD TRIED THREE TIMES TO BETRAY HIM,
DID HE TELL HER THE SECRET OF HIS STRENGTH?
See Judges 16:15-17.
"How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart
is not with me?"
"She pressed him daily with her words, and urged
Contrast Samson's response to Delilah with Joseph's response to Potipher's
wife (see Genesis 39:7-12).
DO WE HAVE PERSISTENT TEMPTATIONS?
DO WE EVER GIVE IN?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE VIOLATE OUR COVENANTS?
Like Samson, we lose our promised blessings.
HOW CAN WE RESIST OR OVERCOME PERSISTENT TEMPTATIONS?
In the case of Joseph, he removed himself from the scene.
As we ponder this story, we should consider our Patriarchal Blessings. Do we do things that lead us away from our intended destiny?
Samson might have been the greatest leader in Israel since Joshua, but
his selfish self-centered life led him down a far different path.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
- After claiming their inheritance under the leadership of Joshua, the
ancient Israelites fell into a cycle of apostasy. As modern Israelites,
we are also subject to these cycles unless we strive diligently to keep
the commandments. We can either be like Gideon, who had great faith
in the Lord and trusted in his promises, or we can be like Samson who did
not honor his covenants and lost his destiny.
- Record your thoughts on the history of the Israelites in Judges. Do you
fall into cycles where your spirituality declines? How can you overcome or
prevent these cycles from occurring?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Conference Reports (CR).
Old Testament Student Manual - Religion 301.
The Abundant Life by Hugh B. Brown.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
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