Verses 8-12 – The Israelites moved from one mess to another. We don’t know the circumstances behind the brutal massacre of Jabesh Gilead, but it seems that the rest of Israel followed Benjamin’s pattern. They put tribal loyalties above God’s commands, and they justified wrong actions to correct past mistakes.
Verse 25 – During the time of Judges, the people of Israel experienced trouble because everyone became his own authority and acted on his own opinions of right and wrong. Our world is similar. Individuals, groups, and societies have made themselves the final authorities without reference to God. Men like Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson are known for their heroism in battle, but their personal lives were far from heroic.
Verse 1 – Having a concubine was accepted in Israel’s society although this was not what God intended (Genesis 2:24). A concubine had the duties and privileges of a wife but her children had no inheritance rights. Her primary purpose was bearing additional children and contributing to the household or estate.
Verse 24 – The rape and abuse of a daughter and companion were preferable to the possibility of a conflict between a guest and a neighbor. These two men were selfish. They didn’t want to get hurt themselves; they lacked courage; they didn’t want to face a conflict even when lives were at stake; and they disobeyed God’s law because they allowed deliberate abuse and murder.
Verses 29, 30 – Saul used a similar method in 1 Samuel 11:7. Ironically, the man who alerted Israel to the murder of his concubine was just as guilty for her death as the men who actually killed her.
Verse 30 – Sexual perversion and lawlessness were by-products of Israel’s disobedience to God. The Israelites weren’t willing to speak up until events had gone too far. Whenever we get away from God and His Word, all sorts of evil can follow. Drifting in the opposite direction often starts out slowly with little neglects. When people drift too far from God, they will forget their purpose, and soon “do as they see fit.” When you leave God out of your life, you may be shocked at what you are capable of doing. However, God is waiting for all to come to Him, with open arms for the forgiveness of sin.
Verse 1 – The tribe of Dan had been assigned enough land to meet their needs (Joshua 19:40-48). However because they had failed to trust God to help them conquer the territory He had given them, they were forced by the Amorites to live in the hill country (1:34). Now they were going to take land from the least resistance.
Verses 4-6 – Priest and their assistants were all members of the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:5-13). They were to serve the people, teach them how to worship God, and perform the rituals involved in the worship services at the tabernacle in Shiloh. But, this disobedient priest showed disrespect for God because (1) he performed his duties in a house. (2) He carried idols with him. (3) He claimed to speak for God when God had not spoken through him (8:6).
Verses 11-26 – Through this entire incident, no one desired to worship God; instead, they wanted to use God for selfish gain.
Verse 14 – An ephod was a ceremonial vest worn by a priest.
Verse 24 – Some people invest all their energy in the pursuit of money, success, possessions, or a career. If you make any of these things idols in your life and then it is taken away, only an empty shell will be left. The only way to protect yourself is through the only True Living God.
Verse 27 – Did the tribe of Dan have the right to kill the citizens of Laish? No. God had not commanded it. He only commanded for them to clean out certain cities because of idolatry and wickedness. This was not within the boundaries of Dan and its people were peaceful in contrast to the war-like Canaanites.
Verse 27 – Just because the Danites successfully defeated Laish doesn’t mean their actions were right. It’s the same today. People justify wrong actions by outward signs of success. They think that wealth, success, popularity, or lack of suffering as an indication of God’s blessings. Success doesn’t indicate God’s approval. We shouldn’t allow personal success to become a measuring rod of whether or not we are pleasing to God.
Verses 30, 31 – Worshiping images of God is not worshiping God. People make this same mistake today when they claim to be Christians without believing in God’s power or changing their conduct to conform to His expectations. However, we don’t do this alone; Christ is in us to help us do all things.
Verse 3 – Samson’s parents objected to his marrying the Philistine woman but his father eventually gave in. The Philistines were Israel’s greatest enemy. Marriage to a hated Philistine would be a disgrace to Samson’s family.
Verse 6 – “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power” refers to the unusual physical strength given him by the Spirit of the Lord. Samson didn’t seem to be affected in any other ways than increased physical strength (there certainly was no sign of wisdom.
Verse 18 – “If you had not plowed with my heifer” means “If you had not manipulated my wife.”
Verse 19 – Samson used the special gift God gave him for selfish purposes. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, states these gifts are to be used to build up the church. To use these gifts for selfish purposes is to rob fellow believers of strength. Be sure when using the gifts God has given to help others.
Verse 1 – The Philistines lived on the west side of Canaan, along the Mediterranean seacoast. From Samson’s time to the time of David, they were a major enemy force and a constant threat to Israel. The Philistines knew the secret of making weapons out of iron (1 Samuel 13:19-22). Once again, during this time, Israel starts the cycle of sin, judgment, and repentance. Warnings of consequences are clear in God’s Word; if we continue to harden our hearts against God, we can expect the same fate as Israel.
Verse 5 – Samson was to be a Nazarite – a person who takes a vow to be set apart for God’s service. Samson’s parents made the vow for him. This vow made for Samson was for life, not temporary as some vows that were made. Samson could not cut his hair, touch a dead body, or drink anything containing alcohol. Samson’s part in subduing the Philistines was just the beginning. We should always take care in being faithful to follow God even if we don’t see instant results. You might be beginning an important job that others will finish.
Verse 18 – This angel would not give Manoah his name perhaps because it was beyond Manoah’s understanding. Sometimes we ask God questions and then receive no answer. We may be asking for knowledge beyond or the ability to understand or accept.
Verse 19 – This grain offering was offered to God as a sign of honor, respect, and worship. It was acknowledgment that because the Israelites’ food came from God, they owed their lives to Him.
Verse 25 – Samson’s tribe was Dan. They had continued to wander in their inherited land (18:1), which was yet unconquered (Joshua 19:47, 48). As with Samson, preparation often begins long before adulthood.
Verses 1, 2 – Jephthah was chased out of the country by his half brothers. He suffered because of another’s decision and not for any wrong, he had done. If you are suffering unfair rejection, remember, God used Jephthah and He can use you.
Verse 3 – Today, both believers and nonbelievers may drive away those who don’t fit the norms dictated by our society, neighborhoods, or churches. Often, as in Jephthah’s case, great potential is wasted because of prejudice.
Verses 14-28 – To Jephthah’s credit, he wanted to solve the problem without bloodshed. However, the king of Ammon ignored his message and prepared his troops for battle.
Verse 27 – Over the years, Israel had many judges to lead them. But, Jephthah recognized the Lord as the people’s true Judge, the only One who could really lead them and help them conquer the invading enemies.
Verses 30, 31 – When Jephthah made this vow, did he consider a person would come out to meet him? We’ve all made promises to others and to God we haven’t kept. As Christians, we need to be very careful of what we vow to others and to our God. Our God is not like us though; He is faithful to His promises.
Verses 34, 35 – I think Jephthah had to have known that human sacrifice was against God’s law. But, the vow he made in order for God to help him was made in haste. I believe you have an option of two meanings of these two verses. One, when Jephthah’s daughter came out, he quickly decided that he would simple not let his daughter marry, keeping her a virgin and devoted to God or he literally did what the verse says and kept the vow he made of sacrificing what came out of his door.
Verses 1-10 – Once again the Israelites suffered for many years before they gave up following foreign gods and called on the True God of Israel for help. They placed God as the last resort. I have actually heard people say, “When all else fails, pray.” Much suffering that people go through is unnecessary. A lot of people come to the desperate stage in their crises before they turn to God wholeheartedly.
Verse 11-16 – These verses showed how difficult it was for the Israelites to follow God for the long haul. Israel seemed to forget God as long as things were going well. We should always strive to stay close to God rather than see how far we can go before calamity strikes.
Verses 17, 18 – The Ammonite’s power peaked during the time of Judges. These Ammonite’s were descendants of Ammon, conceived when Lot’s daughter slept with her drunk father (Genesis 19:30-38). The land of Ammon was east of the Jordan River across from Jerusalem. South of Ammon lay the land of Moab; the nation conceived when Lot’s other daughter slept with her father. Moab and Ammon were usually allies.
Verses 1-3 – With Gideon dead, Abimelech wanted to take his father’s place (Jerubbaal is another name for Gideon; see 6:32). Abimelech went to his mother’s town, Shechem, to drum up support. These relatives were Canaanites and were glad to unite against Israel. Shechem was a busy and important city where trade routes were linked between the coastal plain and the Jordan Valley. Whoever controlled Shechem would dominate the countryside.
Verses 2-5 – Israel’s king was to be the Lord, not man. In Abimelech’s selfish quest, he killed all but one of his 70 half brothers. People with selfish desires often seek to fulfill them in ruthless ways.
Verse 4 – Religion became a profit-making business. In Israel’s religion, this was strictly forbidden. God’s system was designed to come from an attitude of the heart through a relationship with Him. It was also designed to help those in need, not to oppress the needy.
Verse 6 – Abimelech was declared ruler over Israel at Shechem. Abraham’s first stops upon arriving in Canaan was Shechem (Genesis 12:6, 7); Jacob lived there when two of his sons killed all the men of Shechem because the prince’s son had raped their sister (Genesis 34); Joseph’s bones were buried in Shechem (Joshua 24:32); Israel renewed its covenant with God there (Joshua 24); and the kingdom of Israel split apart at this same city (1 Kings 12).
Verse 7-15 – In Jotham’s parable, the trees represented Gideon’s 70 sons, and the thorn-bush represented Abimelech. Here is Jotham’s point: a productive person would be too busy doing good to want to bother with power politics. A self-centered person, on the other hand, would be glad to accept the honor-but would destroy the people they ruled. Abimelech, like a thorn-bush, could offer Israel no real protection or security. Jotham’s parable came true when Abimelech destroyed the city of Shechem (9:45), burned “the tower of Shechem” (the city of Beth Millo, 9:53, 54).
Verse 16 – In this parable, the good trees chose to be productive and to provide benefits to people.
Verses 22-24 – Abimelech was the opposite of what God wanted in a judge, but it was three years before God moved against him. We are not alone when we wonder why evil seems to prevail. God promises to deal with sin but in His timing, not ours. God, in His mercy often spares us from immediate consequences of our sin by giving us time to repent. In God’s time, all evil will be destroyed.
Verse 23 – This evil spirit was not just an attitude of strife, it was a demon. It wasn’t Satan himself, but one of the fallen angels and under Satan’s influence. God used this evil spirit to bring judgment on Shechem. 1 Samuel 16:14, records how God judged Saul in a similar way.
Verse 45 – Scattering salt over a conquered city was a ritual to symbolize the desolation of that city. It would not be rebuilt for 150 years.
Verse 53 – A millstone was a round stone about 18 inches in diameter with a hole in the center. Millstones were used to grind grain into flour. Abimelech’s death was humiliating: he was killed by a woman, not by fighting, and he was killed by a farm implement instead of a weapon.
Verses 56, 57 – In the end, Abimelech killed 69 of his 70 half brothers, tore apart a nation, and then was killed himself. From Gideon’s life we learn that no matter how much good we do for God’s Kingdom, sin in our lives will still produce powerful, damaging consequences.
Verses 1-3 – Ephraim’s leaders were angry because Gideon had not asked them to go with him to fight. Gideon assured them that their accomplishment was even greater than his own was. They had been left where they were to “clean up” the Midianites that were escaping.
Verses 5-9 – The leaders of Succoth and Peniel refused to help Gideon. They were probably afraid that Midian’s army would retaliate since Gideon only had 300 men and was chasing 15,000. Because of fear ourselves; we may not recognize God’s presence in other people and miss God’s victory. Because God will accomplish His purpose with or without us, we should be quick to join others who are engaged in His work.
Verse 11 – Because the Midianites were escaping into the desert where the tent-dwelling nomads lived, they didn’t expect Gideon to follow them.
Verses 15-17 – Gideon carried out the threat he made in 8:7. Was this an act of justice or revenge? It’s difficult to tell. Whether we benefit personally or not, we should help others.
Verses 20, 21 – It would be humiliating for a boy to kill a king (“as is the man, so is his strength”).
Verse 23 – The people wanted to make Gideon their king, but Gideon refused and told them the Lord was to rule over them.
Verses 26, 27 – After Gideon’s victory, it seems he got carried away with this accumulation of wealth. Eventually it led the Israelites to idolatry.
Verse 27 – An ephod was a linen garment worn by priest over their chest. It was considered holy (Exodus 28:5-35; 39:2-24; Leviticus 8:7, 8). Gideon probably had good intentions for making this ephod, but the people began to worship it as an idol. In our plans and decisions, try to take time to anticipate how a good idea might lead to a potential problem.
Verse 31 – Sometimes Satan’s strongest attracts come after a victory. Gideon and a concubine produced a son who tore apart Gideon’s family and caused tragedy for the nation.
Verse 33 – Baal-Berith means “Baal” (lord) of the covenant. Worship of the idol may have combined elements of both the Israelite and Canaanite religions.
Verse 2 – Self-sufficiency is often the cause of our failures. God gives us an assignment and then we assume we are able to do it in our own strength. This is when we will become frustrated because it’s not working. God prevented Gideon’s soldiers from having this attitude. God reduced their number from 32,000 to 300. With an army this small, there could be no doubt that victory was from God. We can be confident of victory only if we put our confidence in God’s strength, not ours.
Verses 10, 11 – God understands our fear, but does not excuse it. Instead, He allowed Gideon to slip into the enemy’s camp and overhear a conversation that gave Gideon courage. Don’t be startled how God helps you. His ways to open doors for answers is always better.
Verse 13 – Barley grain was only half the value of wheat, and the bread made from it inferior. In the same way, Israel’s tiny band of men were considered inferior to the vast forces of Midian and Amalek.
Verse 19 – The night was divided equally into three watches. The beginning of the middle watch would have been around 10:00 p.m. Many in the camp could have still been awake.
Verse 21 – Gideon’s army watched as the army of Midian fell into panic, confusion, and disordered retreat. Not one man had to draw his sword. God demonstrated to Israel that victory depends on obedience and commitment to Him.