Judges 9:1-57: Abimelech’s Sinful Kingship
By defending Israel and governing her, the judges were like kings. But whereas the office of king in Israel/Judah would later be perpetual, passed from father to son, the position of judge was not perpetual.
While God accomplished great deliverances though Israel’s judges, it was more and more evident that Israel needed a king. Gideon’s sins, for one thing, illustrated this need. So did Israel’s readiness to return to idolatry as soon as a judge was dead.
But what kind of king did Israel need? I Samuel 13:14 gives an answer: a man after God’s own heart. And, he must be from the tribe of Judah. Any attempt to be ruled by a king who did not meet these criteria would end in disaster. So it was for Saul’s kingship. And so for Abimelech’s.
What kind of king do you desire?
The one main lesson that God teaching Israel during the time of the Judges is her need for a king (Judges 21:25). How does this chapter indicate that Israel was learning that lesson? And how does this chapter indicate that Israel was applying the lesson in a wrong way?
- What do we know about the city Shechem (especially see Joshua 24:24-27)? Why was this the city that crowned Abimelech king? What was the significance of this act on Shechem’s part?
- What kind of king was Abimelech? Give examples from the chapter. Why would God permit Israel, or any part of Israel, to have such a king?
- Is it possible that the church today have rulers and kings – pastors and elders – like Abimelech? How so? And why would God give His church such to rule her?
- Some chapters of Scripture seem to say nothing about Christ, and the salvation that is ours in Him. Yet, in one way or another, they do. What does this chapter teach us about Christ?
Judges 10:1-18: Judges Tola, Jair, and Jephthah
Psalm 106:34-45 refers to Israel’s repeated sin and misery during the time of the judges, and God’s faithful deliverance of His people. Verse 44 says: “Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry: And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.”
Did He always? We read of God telling the Israelites in Judges 10:14, when they cried to Him: “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen: let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” These words remind me of those of Joshua to Israel, Joshua 24:19: “Ye cannot serve the LORD; for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.”
Is this true? Are there times when God will not forgive the sins of His people? Why would God, and God’s servant, speak thus? And does He ever say the same to us, in effect?
Clearly God is not pleased with Israel’s repeated sins. Nor is He pleased with ours. So let us not turn aside to sin so quickly, but persevere in holiness and obedience!
But He will forgive. He must. He is Jehovah. He will forgive the sins of His people, for whom Christ died. And this chapter demonstrates that.
Verses 1-5: Judges Tola and Jair
We read very little about these two men. For this reason, some think their judgeships were not very important or significant. But what is the one great work which both of them did? And how did God bless this work?
- These men each judged in a different part of Israel. In which part did they judge? That is, where is Ephraim? And where is Gilead?
Verses 6-18: Israel’s renewed apostasy
How is it clear that Israel’s apostasy was greater now than it had been before?
- From a map, figure out where each of the countries listed in verse 6 were, in relationship to Israel. Also find in which geographical portion of Israel the tribes mentioned in verses 8 and 9 were found. What is the significance?
- God’s answer to the Israelites in verses 11-14 is significant. He says, in sum, that He will deliver Israel no more. How could He say this, in light of His love for Israel in Christ, and His desire to send Christ? What point was He trying to make?
- Compare Israel’s repentance, as described in verses 15 and 16, to her previous repentances.
- God says that He cannot change (Malachi 3:6), and yet He seemed to do that very thing (Judges 10:16). How do we reconcile these two points?
- What does it mean that God’s soul was grieved for the misery of Israel? Why was God grieved? What does this teach us about God’s view toward us who are in bondage and misery to sin by nature? What does it lead Him to do?
Judges 11:1-40: Jephthah’s Victory Over the Ammonites
Two striking events in Jephthah’s life are his conversation with the king of Ammon, and his vow. In both respects, and particularly the latter, he has been faulted. Was he rash in making this vow? Was he wrong to offer his daughter a burnt offering to Jehovah?
What must prejudice us in our answer to these questions is the fact that Jehovah used Jephthah to accomplish a great work of salvation in Israel.
Humanly speaking, Jephthah was an unlikely person to deliver Israel from Ammon. He was the son of a harlot, and was rejected by his own brethren. But spiritually, Jephthah was exactly the person God raised up to deliver Israel from Ammon. He was a man of faith (Hebrews 11:32), and possessed other spiritual gifts from God to prepare him for the work.
The Lord uses men to accomplish His work. He gifts the men He chooses, to do His work. And often He uses men who, at first glance, appear to us to be the wrong man. Think of it. Was not Christ also rejected? By men, He was. But He was God’s man for the work of atonement and redemption!
Are there men God has placed in our lives to do a great work, whom we despise, and whom we think cannot accomplish any good? Let us think honorably of others; God works through all His people for good.
Verses 1-11: Jephthah exiled and brought back
Using a Bible dictionary, find out what the name “Jephthah” means.
- What spiritual characteristics does this chapter ascribe to Jephthah?
- How had Jephthah been ill treated? How did he respond to this ill treatment?
- Why was Jephthah called back again?
- What about the points discussed so far indicates that Jephthah was Christ-like?
Verses 12-28: Jephthah’s conversation with the king of Ammon
Why does Ammon claim the right to the land in which Israel dwelt?
- What is the basic point of Jephthah’s answer to the king of Ammon?
- Why did Jephthah try to reason with the king, instead of simply fighting against him?
- What lessons can we learn from this section, regarding our spiritual warfare?
Verses 29, 32-33: Jepththah’s destruction of the Ammonites
What explains the victory of Jephthah?
- How can we be confident of obtaining the victory in our spiritual battles?
Verses 32-33, 34-40: Jephthah’s vow
What, really, was his vow? Did he really mean that he would kill and sacrifice the first thing that came out of his door? Or does the idea of a “burnt offering” have some other significance, than that the sacrificial victim was really killed and burnt?
- Was his vow rash, or done in faith?
- What happened to his daughter, in fulfillment of his vow?
- Why was Jephthah troubled at the fact that his daughter was the first one out of his house?
- What lesson do we learn about making and keeping vows?
- What lesson do we learn about women deliberately choosing the single life (I Corinthians 7:32-38)?
Judges 12:1-15: Judges Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon
In his book Unfolding Covenant History, Vol. 5: Judges and Ruth, Prof. Engelsma notes that Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon “keep Israel in the rest won by Jephthah,” so that “the benefit of Jephthah’s deliverance for the eastern and northern part of Israel is, in effect, some thirty years of peace.” The point is this, that some judges were raised up, not so much to deliver Israel from an enemy, but to prolong Israel’s obedience to God. Only in the way of obedience would Israel enjoy peace and rest.
The chapter is short; but it speaks not only of deliverance from enemies, but also of conflicts within the Old Testament church itself. Sad, this conflict was. And instructive for us. Let us work to avoid unnecessary conflict within the church. But when others stir up trouble, let us be ready to defend the honor and glory of God.
Verses 1-7: The incident with the men of Ephraim
Why were the men of Ephraim angry? Did they speak the truth to Jephthah, or did they lie? What was their threat?
- Had the Ephraimites ever done such a thing before? What did this indicate about them?
- Was Jephthah right to kill the Ephraimites? Would not it have been better to give them a soft answer, which would turn away wrath?
- What is God’s purpose in this destruction of 42,000 of Ephraim?
- How should we deal with conflict between various members of the church of God? Should we ignore it, or face it head on? If facing it head on, do we fight with fists…swords…guns…name calling…or what?
Verses 8-15: Judges Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon
- Using a good concordance or Bible dictionary, look up the word “Bethlehem.” How many Bethlehems were there in Israel? From which one did Ibzan come?
- Knowing where each of these three judges were from, which part of Israel did they all rule in succession?