SDA Sabbath School Lessons
April 20, 1996
Read for this week's study:
Judges 3:9, 10
The "judges" were deliverers, impelled and empowered by the Spirit
of God. These individuals gained justice for the Israelites by defeating
their enemies, who were oppressing them.
Help for the Helpless:
Little Johnny runs to his mother, complaining that big Bobby, is picking on
him. Mother investigates and discovers that the accusation is true. She
sends Bobby to his room for a while to help him remember how to treat Johnny
in the future.
A woman is harassed by an employer, who ignores her pleas to leave her
alone. In desperation, she seeks and obtains a legal injunction to protect her.
A small country, attacked by a larger one, requests protection from United
Nations peacekeeping forces. The request is granted, and the aggression is
In each of these cases, the stronger oppresses the weaker until the latter
obtains help from a higher power. Such a power acts according to standards
of fairness, which can be called "law," and enforces these standards.
When the Israelites disobeyed God, He allowed them to be oppressed by their
enemies. But when they repented and cried to Him for help, He delivered
them from oppression and gave them justice.
- Sunday April 14: Othniel
- In summarizing the history of God's dealings with the Israelites after
the death of Joshua,
2:14 speaks of the Lord's giving them over to plunderers when they
turned from Him. The first of these oppressors mentioned in the book of
Judges is Cushan-rishathaim, king of Aram of the Two Rivers
3:8, the land to the northeast of Palestine, which we call Mesopotamia
(from the Greek meaning "between rivers," namely, the Tigris and
- The name of this king as it is given in the Hebrew text means
"Cushan of two wickednesses." The latter part of the name, which
seems to play on the fact that the king was from Aram of the Two Rivers,
"was probably added by the Israelites to show their aversion for
him."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p.324.
- The Bible does not say whether Cushan-rishathaim was allied with the
Canaanites or whether he oppressed them, as well as the Israelites. The
important thing is that the Lord "sold" the Israelites into his
power because they turned to other gods
(Judges 3:7, 8)
- What does Judges
3:8 mean by saying that the Lord "sold" the Israelites?
- God had ransomed, or redeemed, the Israelites from slavery to Pharaoh
6:4). They no longer belonged to Pharaoh but to Him. But when they
ungratefully rejected the Lord, He temporarily allowed them to be oppressed
by another cruel master.
- After eight years of oppression, the Israelites finally got around to
turning in the right direction for help (Judges
3:7, 9). When they returned to the Lord, He delivered them under the
leadership of the first of the "judges": Othniel the son of
Kenaz, Caleb's younger half brother (or full brother if Jephunneh, the
father of Caleb, is another name for Kenaz; compare Num.
30) or Caleb's nephew. In any case, Othniel was closely related to
Caleb. Like Caleb, he was a courageous hero who won victories for the
Israelites because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord.
- Monday April 15: Judges Means "Deliverers"
- When we think of a "judge," we think of a person who sits in a
courthouse and makes decisions on legal cases. Closest to this idea in the
book of Judges is Deborah, a prophetess
(Judges 4:4, 5).
- Aside from Deborah, the "judges" in the book of Judges may
have engaged in some judicial activity, but they were primarily known as
military leaders who delivered the Israelites from their enemies (Judges
2:16). Thus, Judges
3:9, 10 refers to Othniel as "a deliverer [saviour] to the
children of Israel, who delivered [saved] them." In these verses,
judge means "deliverer."
- In the book of Judges, why are deliverers referred to as
"judges"? Ps. 82:3.
- Which of the following best answers the above question?
- The Hebrew word that is translated "judge" has a broader
meaning than the English word. It can refer to a deliverer, as well as to a
person who decides legal cases.
- "Judging," that is, "making decisions," was an
important function of a political organizer such as a king (1 Kings
3:9; compare 2 Sam.
15:2-4). Thus, before the Israelites had kings (Judges
17:6), they referred to their organizers and decision makers as
"judges." Understood in this way, Judges
3:10 can mean: The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel, so that he
assumed leadership of Israel as its organizer, following which he went to
war and defeated the enemy.
- A "judge" in a court of law has the power to make a decision
that vindicates an oppressed person, thereby freeing him or her from an
29:14). Likewise, when the Israelites returned to God, the protection
of His covenant then went into effect again. Their enemies were no longer
instruments of God's justice, but rather, unjust oppressors. Then
"judges" acted for God in carrying out His sentences of judgment
17:11) upon the enemies of the Israelites, freeing His people from
- Another answer:
- All the above.
Tuesday April 16: Impelled by the Spirit of the Lord
Othniel did not appoint himself as Israel's judge-deliverer; the Lord raised
him up (
3:9 ). "The spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged
Israel" (verse 10, NRSV). Likewise, the other "judges" were
raised up by the Lord
3:15 ). In the cases of several of these people, the book of Judges
states explicitly that the Spirit of the Lord played a major role in raising
them up for special work. The Spirit of the Lord "took possession of
6:34 ), "began to stir" Samson
13:25 ), and "rushed on" Samson
14:6, 19 ).
What occurred in other instances when the Spirit of the Lord came upon
The Spirit of the Lord (Holy Spirit) came upon people earlier, during the
wilderness wandering of the Israelites
11:25-29 ), and later, in the time of the first kings of Israel (see the
verses in 1 Samuel given above). In the book of Judges, activity motivated
by the Holy Spirit's control was primarily military in nature.
It is clear why God's Spirit would control a person in a military situation:
to deliver God's people. Why was the Spirit poured upon people in other
The Holy Spirit inspires and empowers special communication between God and
human beings. The fact that there is a supernatural element involved means
that people are likely to pay attention and gain the benefit of God's
communication. Because such manifestations can be so influential, it is
vital to test them "to see whether they are from God"
Are you willing for God's Spirit to control you? (See
2:28, 29 .) To which actions of the Spirit should we continually yield
Wednesday April 17: Retribution for Afflicting God's People
Again, the Israelites turned from the Lord, who this time gave them into the
power or Eglon, king of Moab, who defeated Israel with the help of the
Ammonites and the Amalekites (Judges
3:12, 13). After 18 years of serving Eglon, the Israelites
concluded that they would rather serve the Lord, so they cried to Him, and
He raised up Ehud to deliver them (verses
14, 15 ).
Whereas Othniel had been from Judah, the largest tribe, Ehud's leadership
ability was handicapped by the fact that he was from Benjamin, the smallest
tribe. Moreover, his right hand was "restricted" (verse 15,
Hebrew), meaning that he was left-handed.
Why does God at times choose as leaders people who seem unfitted?
Ehud's physical difference was an important factor in his success! In order
to deliver Israel, he first needed to assassinate the leader of the
oppressing power, Eglon. To kill Eglon, he had to be within striking
distance with a weapon. He could come close by taking him tribute on behalf
of the Israelites and then saying that he had a secret message from God (
Judges 3:15, 17-20 ). But how could he pass the Moabite guards with a
weapon? Because he was left-handed, Ehud carried a concealed dagger on the
right side (verse
16 ) rather than the usual left side. So the guards did not detect the
Ehud's assassination of Eglon is recounted in particularly gory detail (Judges
3:21, 22 ). Why?
The Israelites deplored the cruelty of their oppressors. This explains why
the king defeated by Othniel is called in Hebrew: Cushan-rishathaim, which
means "Cushan of two wickednesses" (Judges
3:8; see Sunday's lesson).
Why was such retribution meted out by a servant of God appropriate in that
setting but very wrong in our setting? (See Matt.
- Thursday April 18: Goading on to Victory
After Ehud, Shamgar delivered Israel by killing 600 Philistines with an
The book of Judges mentions five additional "minor" judges:
Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. We are told nothing more than where
they were from some information about their families, and how long they
Why are the "minor" judges (Judges
mentioned in the book of Judges at all?
Which of the following best answers the question?
The author wanted to present a complete list of deliverers.
The author wanted to acknowledge the contributions of people of various
tribes and parts of the country.
Counting the minor judges, there are 12 judgeships mentioned in the book of
Judges, just as there were 12 tribes of Israel.
The brief notices about the minor judges (names in italics below) contribute
to the book's structure:
I. Introduction to the Period of the "Judges" (Judges 1:1-3:6).
A. Historical preface (1:1-2:5).
B. Summary with interpretation (2:6-3:6).
II. Accounts of the "Judges" (3:7-16:31).
A. Othniel (3:7-11).
B. Ehud (3:12-30).
C. Shamgar (3:31).
D. Deborah and Barak (4:1-5:31).
E. Gideon and his son, Abimelech (6:1-9:57).
F. Tola (10:1-2), Jair (10:3-5).
G. Jephthah (10:6-12:7).
H. Ibzan (12:8-10), Elon (12:11, 12), Abdon (12:13-15).
I. Samson (13:1-16:31).
III. Conclusion: Two Important Events.
A. Micah's idolatry and its transfer to Dan (17:1-18:31).
B. A Benjaminite crime and war with Benjamin (19:1-21:25).
All of the above.
- Friday April 19:
Further study: Study the structure of the book of Judges (see outline in
Thursday's lesson) in relation to its content. Consider the possible
significance of structural features--such as the increase of minor judges
toward the end of the book--for the book's meaning.
Note the double beginning of the book and its double ending. The historical
preface at the beginning of the book (Judges
1:1-2:5 ) is tied to the end of the book, which deals with the war
with Benjamin (
Judges 19:1-21:25 ). In both sections, military coordination between
the tribes is governed by the Lord's instruction that the tribe of Judah
should lead the way (1:1,
). Furthermore, the second and second-last sections of the book (2:6-3:6;
both emphasize idolatry. Thus, the outer framework of the
book is unified by a pattern of inversion that can be called
"chiastic," after the Greek letter chi, which looks like an X .
In addition to unity, this pattern emphasizes tragic, ironic shifts that
occurred during the period of the "judges." At the beginning of
the book, Judah leads the battle against the Canaanites, and the Israelites
become ensnared by Canaanite gods. At the end of the book, Israelites make
gods of their own, and Judah leads the battle against fellow Israelites. So
the Israelites become their own enemies.
On the background, theme, and structure of the book of Judges, read the
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, pp. 301-306.
"When Othniel was designated as the man whom God had chosen to lead and
deliver Israel, he did not refuse to take the responsibility. In the
strength of God he at once commenced to repress idolatry as the Lord had
commanded, to administer justice, and to elevate the standard of morality
and religion. as Israel repented of their sins, the Lord manifested His
great mercy toward them, and wrought for their deliverance."--Ellen G.
White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1002.
What parallels do you see between the way God delivered Israel and the way
Jesus delivers us?
What similarities and differences are there between the "judges"
and the spiritual leaders of our church?
Through the leadership of "judges" such as Othniel, Ehud, and
Shamgar, the Lord won justice and deliverance for His people. These leaders
were designated, motivated and empowered by the Spirit of the Lord.
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Last updated on April 21, 1996.