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Lessons from the
Book of Judges

By Ken Raggio


Both Moses and Joshua could see a time coming when Israel would forsake God's commandments. There would be no king in Israel, and every man would do what was right in his own eyes. Yet, in those times, great men and women stood for God and righteousness, judging Israel in isolated circumstances. Gideon, Sampson, Deborah, Samuel and others were heroic. The moral: even in bad times, one person can save the day.

Judges 2:10 - "...there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel."

Who Shall Go Up First?

When Joshua died, Israel asked God who should lead in battle against their enemies. The Lord said, "Judah." So Judah led the way, taking the Canaanites, Perizzites, Jerusalem, Hebron, Debir, Hormah, Gaza, Askelon and Ekron. Those victories should be remembered on "World News Tonight." God gave those cities to Israel 3400 years ago. It pays to pray.

Judges 1:1-2 - "…the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand."

Crying Out For A Deliverer

After Joshua died, the children of Israel began to forsake the Lord and turn to the gods of the heathen. God allowed their enemies to overcome them. From time to time, Israel came to their senses and began to repent and cry out to God for deliverance. The book of Judges recounts how God raised up several anointed judges who brought miraculous deliverance. Surely God yearns to hear our cry when we have sinned.

Judges 3:9 - "And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them..."

Othniel, First Judge

It often takes a crisis to make us pray. Such was the case in Israel after Joshua died. The people began worshiping Baalim and groves of idols, so God sent the king of Mesopotamia to rule harshly over them. Finally the people cried unto the Lord for a deliverer, and He sent to them a godly leader: Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother; Israel's first judge.

Judges 3:10 - "And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand."

Ehud Conquers Moab

Israel's second judge, Ehud, cleverly gained entrance to the palace of Eglon, king of Moab, by delivering a gift. The king put everyone out of his chambers. Ehud then thrust him through with a dagger, and slipped away unnoticed. Eighteen years of evil rule ended as God gave a remarkable deliverance by one man. But deliverance only began when Israel cried out to God for a deliverer. Next victory, be careful to acknowledge God, who heard your prayer.

Judges 3:30 - "So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years."

The Woman Gets Honor

Deborah was a godly judge and prophetess in Israel during a twenty year oppression by the Canaanites. God commanded Deborah to send troops after Sisera, Canaan's army captain. She delivered the word of the Lord to Barak to lead an attack, but he would not go without her. Deborah showed herself a champion, but another woman, Jael, became the heroine who assassinated Sisera that day.

Judges 4:9 - "...I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman."

The Song of Deborah

For twenty years, Canaanites oppressed Israel. Deborah and Barak took an army and miraculously discomfited Sisera, Canaan's captain, who came against them with 900 chariots of iron. Sisera fled to a nearby tent for rest. While he slept, an Israelite woman named Jael drove a nail through his head. By Deborah, Barak and Jael, God delivered Israel that day. The song of Deborah (Judges 5) declared the might works of God.

Judges 5:31 - "...let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might."

The Call of Gideon

Once again, Israel did evil and God allowed their enemies to oppress them. Once again, Israel cried out for deliverance. Once again, God sent a deliverer. This time it was Gideon. The angel said, "The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." "Why then is all this befallen us?" Gideon asked. "Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?" Once again, prayer was the solution.

Judges 6:6 - "...Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD."

How Gideon Became Jerubbaal

Gideon's visitor instructed him to place the bread and meat he prepared for him on a rock. The angel touched it with his staff. Instantly, fire consumed it, and the angel vanished. God then commanded Gideon to destroy the local idols and altars to Baal, which he did. Never fear false gods. They are non-existent. Gideon built an altar to the LORD, calling it "Jehovah Shalom," meaning "God is Peace." The locals wanted to kill Gideon, but his father defended him.

Judges 6:32 - "Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him..."

Supernatural Confirmations

After Gideon destroyed Baal-worship, Midianites invaded Jezreel. Blowing a trumpet, Gideon called Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to war. Laying down a woolen fleece, he prayed, "...if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand." Next morning, he wringed “a bowl full of water” from the fleece. Still, Gideon wanted ANOTHER sign.

Judges 6:39-40 - "...let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night."

The Men Who Lapped

God planned Gideon's success before He ever called him. He would not allow Gideon to have a large army, "...lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me." First, God dismissed 22,000 recruits because they were fearful, then sent the remaining 10,000 to the river to drink. Those who knelt down to drink were eliminated. Only three hundred who lapped remained. But God still had plenty.

Judges 7:7 - "And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand."

The Dream That Caused An Army To Flee

God sent Gideon to eavesdrop on the Midianites' encampment. Gideon heard a conversation between a man who had a dream and his fellow who said it meant that God had delivered Midian into Gideon's hands. Gideon worshiped the Lord. God can strike fear in your enemies before you make your first move.

Judges 7:15 - "And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian."

The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon

Midianites and Amalekites "...lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude." With only 300 men, each bearing a trumpet, a pitcher and a lamp, Gideon surrounded them after midnight. "When I blow with a trumpet, ...then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon." No enemy is too big for men with faith in God.

Judges 7:22 - "And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled..."

Trouble With Family

God enabled Gideon to whip 120,000 Midianites with only 300 men, but his own brethren resisted him. Ephraimites chided him because he did not call them to battle. Men from Succoth and Penuel hatefully refused to feed Gideon's troops as they pursued. Family sometimes causes more grief than sore enemies. Gideon punished the offenders for their insolence, and won the hearts of all Israel.

Judges 8:22-23 - "...Rule thou over us, ...for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, ...the LORD shall rule over you."

Gideon's Snare

Deuteronomy 7:25-26 says, "Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God. ...but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing." Gideon's family was cursed because he disobeyed, by coveting jewelry from Israel's wars. One evil son killed Gideon's seventy other sons.

Judges 8:24 - "...Gideon said unto them, ...give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings)."

Spoiling a Legacy

Gideon refused to be king of Israel. "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you," (Judges 8:23). But Gideon sinned with the golden earrings, and his heroic legacy was lost. At Ophrah, where Gideon met the angel of the Lord, and built the altar to Jehovah Shalom, he caused Israel to go whoring after the golden ephod. He was buried there. His wicked son, Abimelech, manipulated the Shechemites into crowning him king.

Judges 9:5 - Abimelech "...went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren."

The Parable of the Trees

Gideon's evil son, Abimelech, usurped rule over Israel by killing all his brothers except Jotham, who escaped. Jotham prophesied a parable about trees who wanted a king over them. They asked the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine. All refused. The bramble (Abimelech) wanted to rule, but he ruled by terror. Jotham prophesied that the people would kill Abimelech.

Judges 9:53-56 - "...a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, ...and he died. Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren."

Forsaking the LORD

Gideon, in his backsliding, precipitated gross apostasy in Israel. Although Tola and Jair judged Israel over twenty years each, Israel nevertheless turned to many false gods - Baalim, Ashtaroth, Syrian gods, Zidonian gods, Moabite gods, Ammonite gods, and Philistine gods. Similarly today, multitudes are forsaking Biblical Christianity and choosing wicked belief systems. But the wrath of God will soon be revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18).

Judges 10:6-7 - "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, ...and forsook the LORD, and served not Him. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel."

Treasure Your Audience With God

This one is pretty scary. God reminded Israel of a long list of nations He had delivered them from. "Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation," (Judges 10:11-16). Israel went into mortifying repentance and "they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD." Do not jeopardize your audience with God. Nothing is worse than losing access to Him.

Judges 10:16 "...and His soul was grieved..."


Gilead's sons cast out their half-brother, Jephthah, "a mighty man of valour," because he was son of a harlot. But when Ammonites came warring, the elders wanted Jephthah for their captain. The Ammonite king accused Israel of conquering them without justification while fleeing Egypt. But Jephthah argued that Israel was only acting in self-defense against the Ammonites' aggression. Jephthah then launched a massive attack on Ammon and completely subdued it. God often remakes outcasts into heroes.

Judges 11:29,33 - "...the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, ...And he smote them ...with a very great slaughter."

Rash Vows

Jephthah vowed that if God gave him victory over the Ammonites, he would burn a sacrifice of whatever met him first when he returned home. Surely he was thinking about goats, lambs, or calves. But when he returned, his only DAUGHTER met him first! "...he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! ...thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back," (Judges 11:35). It is advisable never to make a vow.

Judges 11:39 - Jephthah "...did with her according to his vow which he had vowed."

Trouble With Ephraim

The Ephraimites had ego problems. They troubled Gideon, falsely claiming that he excluded them from war with Midian. Later, they troubled Jephthah, complaining that he did not invite them to war against the Ammonites. Jephthah HAD called them, but they were "no-shows"! Reality check: Ephraim never drove the Canaanites from their own territory, yet wanted superiority over all the tribes. Their ego antagonized Jephthah into civil war with them, and he won handily. "Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall," (Proverbs 16:18).

Judges 12:6 - "...there fell at that time of Ephraim forty and two thousand."

Manoah's Prayer

Again, Israel sinned against God, and oppressors overtook them: Philistines - for forty year. God sent an angel to Manoah's barren wife, informing them that they would have a son (Samson). He would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. The angel ordered him to be a Nazarite, but Manoah wanted to know how they should raise him. He prayed that God would send the angel again to clarify the instructions. Ask God again, when you do not understand.

Judges 13:9 - "...God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman."


The simple fact of Samson's birth was a fulfillment of prophecy. God declares the end from the beginning. Throughout history, God has sovereignly pre-ordained individuals to come on the scene for a specific time, a specific place and a specific reason. The angel told Manoah's wife she would bear a son who would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. As long as God's people cry for deliverance, God will continue to send deliverers.

Judges 13:24 - "And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and Jehovah blessed him."

Samson and the Woman at Timnath

God has many rules, but sometimes He makes exceptions to rules. When Samson took an interest in the Philistine woman at Timnath, it seemed to contradict good judgment. But a huge chain of events evolved from that relationship: Samson slew a lion, slew thirty Philistines at Ashkelon, burned the fields of the Philistines, and slew 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

Judges 14:4 - "But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel."

Need Water?

Samson miraculously slew 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. But when he finished, he was famished for a drink of water. He asked God to provide water.

Judges 15:18-19 - "And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived."

Samson's Last Prayer

Tragedy befell Samson for compromising his Nazarite vow to Delilah's ploys. She cut his hair while he slept, and the Philistines captured him, put out his eyes, and put him to grinding in prison. But his hair grew again, and Samson renewed his vow. The Philistines mocked him at a feast to their god, Dagon, but Samson prayed God to avenge him. God heard him, and Samson toppled the pillars on which the house stood.

Judges 16:30 - "...So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life."

Micah the Ephraimite

This story is weird. A woman cursed the thief who took her 1100 pieces of silver. Her son, Micah, confessed to taking them, then returned them. As thanks, she dedicated the silver to make a graven image and molten image. Micah set up a house of gods, and hired a vagabond Levite to be his private priest. But shortly thereafter, travelers stole away both the priest and Micah's idols. Do not waste yourself on unbiblical religion. It is worthless at best, abominable and cursed at worst.

Judges 17:12 - "...Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest."

Praying Counsel from Hirelings

One of the most pathetic stories in the Bible is about a vagabond Levite who hired out his priestly services to a man named Micah. Men from the tribe of Dan ignorantly prayed his counsel, and received phony blessings and fell into idolatrous deception. You will be duped if you trust phony ministries.

Judges 18:5-6 - "And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go."

Complicated Consequences

You can open the Bible almost anywhere and soon find complicated consequences of someone's foolish behavior. Modern culture promotes a delusion that everyone should be free to do whatever is right in his or her own eyes, but history proves that to be the prescription for social chaos, anarchy and disintegration. The woman in Judges 19 who left her spouse to commit whoredoms precipitated a chain of events that drew 400,000 men into war. Over 65,000 people died before the dust settled.

Judges 19:2 - "And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him..."

Pray For Instructions From God

A Levite and his concubine traveled through Gibeah and lodged overnight with an old man. Locals took the woman, abused, raped, and murdered her. The Levite cut up her body and sent one part to every tribe in Israel to publicize the abominable crime. 400,000 Israelites rose up to punish the perverse Benjamites. Israel sought counsel of God three times, but still lost 40,000 troops before slaying 25,000 Benjamites, defeating them. Sometimes justice requires great sacrifice.

Judges 20:18 - "...the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God."

Prayer About Family Sins

When the perverse men of Gibeah (who were Benjamites) raped and killed the Levite's concubine, all Israel was inflamed. Phineas, the high priest, enquired of the Lord whether Israel should declare war on the Benjamites. God said "yes." You have to obey God.

Judges 20:28 - "And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before [the ark] in those days, saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease? And the LORD said, Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand."

Restoring a Lost Tribe

The men of Gibeah who raped and murdered the Levite's concubine created a firestorm of trouble. God sent all Israel to war against the tribe of Benjamin. Israel mourned the tragic loss of one whole tribe, and prayed God what to do. They took 400 virgins from Jabeshgilead and gave them to the few hundred remaining Benjamites, to perpetuate the Benjamite tribe.

Judges 21:6-7 - "...the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. How shall we do for wives for them that remain?"

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