Questions to Consider
1. Go back to lesson 3 (link above) and review your answer to the first part of question 5, Israel’s pattern of sin and repentance in 2:16-23. How does today’s passage fit this pattern? How does today’s passage fit the theme verse of Judges (21:25), “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”?
2. Read 10:1-5. Notice again (as we saw in lesson 4, link above) the copious details God gives us about some judges, like Gideon, and the sparse details He gives us about other judges, like Tola and Jair. Why do you think there’s such a discrepancy? Is this an indicator that some judges were more important or more faithful than others? Why not? How might this help us understand, especially in light of today’s evangelical celebrity culture, that neither fame nor obscurity are a measure of a Christian’s faithfulness to the Lord or effectiveness in the work of Kingdom?
3. Read 10:6-16. Why does God consider idolatry such an egregious sin for His people? How is idolatry the opposite of glorifying God? How is idolatry harmful for those who practice it?
Compare 10:10 with 10:15-16. Did Israel put away their idols and worship God when they first cried out to Him? Compare this to the “godly grief” and “worldly grief” over sin in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. Have you ever exhibited worldly grief over your sin instead of godly grief? What was the result?
What was the point God was making to Israel in 10:11-14? In today’s world, even many professing Christians would say that God was being harsh and unloving in what He said because of His tone and His words. Is this true? Explain why what God said to Israel in these verses was, in fact, loving. What did it lead Israel to do in 10:15-16?
4. Read 10:17-11:28. Explain in your own words what is going on here. (Use your cross-references for help.) Why did the king of the Ammonites say he was making war on Israel? (11:13) Did he have his facts straight? (11:14-23) How long ago had all of this taken place? (11:26)
Compare 11:24 with 10:11-14. Try to see this potential war and the battle for land through the eyes of both the Ammonites and the Israelites, who viewed their gods / their God as the commander in chief of their military – the one who led them into battle, gave them victory over the enemy, and gave the conquered land into their hands. What is the message of today’s passage about God’s supremacy over all other gods? His power compared to their power? How should this realization have caused Israel to remain faithful to God? How might this realization have converted some of the Ammonites and other pagans to faith in the one true God?
5. Read 11:29-40. Describe in your own words what is happening in this passage. The heading for this passage is “Jephthah’s Tragic Vow”. Why was his vow tragic? Does it seem from the text that it occurred to him that a family member might be first to come out?
The text of this passage supports the theory held by some theologians that Jephthah did not actually slay his daughter, but instead offered her as a “living sacrifice,” never to marry and have children, but to serve the Lord full time in the temple for the remainder of her life. Read these articles: Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter to the Lord? and Jephthah’s Daughter and see what you think. Is the evidence stronger for Jephthah slaying his daughter or for dedicating her to serve in the temple?
If Jephthah slew his daughter, compare his sacrifice with Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Were there any similarities between these two events? How were they different? Why do we consider Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac to be heroic, but Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter to be sinful and tragic? How does Abraham’s sacrifice point to Christ’s sacrifice for us, but Jephthah’s sacrifice was more akin to sacrificing children to false gods?
If Jephthah dedicated his daughter as a “living sacrifice” to serve full time in the temple, compare her service and her sacrifice to God’s call to Christians to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.
6. Read 12:1-7. Shades of lesson 8 (link above)! Why is Ephraim always getting perturbed at not being called up to join in the battle du jour?
7. Think about some of the “shining knight” types of heroes and “happily ever after” victories outside the book of Judges, for example: Moses leading Israel out of slavery after the ten plagues, David defeating Goliath, Solomon building the temple, Elijah and the defeat of the prophets of Baal. Compare these to some of the “dark heroes” and “tarnished victories” we’ve seen (and will continue to see) in Judges so far. Deborah – a woman. Jael – the glory for the victory goes to a woman. Jephthah – the son of a prostitute (in a culture in which family pedigree was crucial). Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter and battle with his fellow Israelites after defeating the Ammonites. How does this add to the feeling of the heaviness, darkness, and pervasiveness of sin that permeates the book of Judges?
We’ve noted before that God always preserves a remnant of those who are faithful to Him. A least a few Israelites must have been faithful to the Lord during the time described in 10:6-16. How do you survive these times of crushing oppression – knowing you’re not guilty of the sin that brought it on – if you’re an Israelite who’s faithful to the Lord? Put yourself in that godly Israelite woman’s sandals, yet with access to today’s Scriptures. Which passages do you turn to for comfort and strength? Which of God’s attributes do you meditate on? How do you pray?