Lesson 78: Judges 10–21
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“Lesson 78: Judges 10–21,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 78,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 78

Judges 10–21


Despite Israel’s mistakes and sins, the Lord raised up judges to deliver the Israelites from their oppressors. One of these judges, Samson, was blessed with tremendous physical strength but failed to fulfill his divine calling because of selfish choices.

Suggestions for Teaching

Judges 10–21

The Lord calls other judges, including Samson, to deliver the Israelites from their enemies

Before class, write the following question on the board: What are some things you feel Heavenly Father would like you to accomplish in your life?

As students enter the classroom, invite them to write their responses to this question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

After sufficient time, invite several of them to read their responses aloud to the class. Their answers may mention serving the Lord and others; receiving essential ordinances and covenants; creating an eternal family; receiving an education; developing skills, talents, and divine attributes; or living worthily to return to Heavenly Father’s presence.

You may want to testify of students’ divine potential. Invite students to look for truths as they study Judges 10–21 that will help them understand what could prevent them from accomplishing the things Heavenly Father desires for them.

Consider displaying the diagram titled “Cycle of Sin and Deliverance in the Book of Judges” from lesson 76. Summarize Judges 10–12 by explaining that after the Israelites again began to worship false gods, they were afflicted by their enemies, the Ammonites. When the Israelites turned to the Lord, He raised up a judge named Jephthah to deliver the Israelites from their enemies.

Invite a student to read Judges 13:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Israelites did after they were delivered from their enemies.

  • What kind of leader did the Israelites need to help them be permanently freed from their enemies? (A righteous spiritual leader who could help them forsake their sins.)

Invite a student to read Judges 13:2–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for special characteristics of the new leader whom the Lord would send to help the Israelites.

  • What special characteristics did this new leader have?

  • What does it mean that the child would be a Nazarite?

Remind students that Nazarites were those who vowed or covenanted to dedicate themselves to God for a period of time. During the period of their vow, Nazarites promised not to drink wine, touch any dead thing, or cut their hair.

Refer again to the diagram “Cycle of Sin and Deliverance in the Book of Judges.”

  • How might the Israelites be blessed by a leader whose life would be dedicated to God? (This new leader would have the potential to help the Israelites break their cycle of sin so they could be delivered from their enemies.)

Summarize Judges 13:6–23 by explaining that the angel reappeared to the woman and her husband and repeated the message about their son. Invite students to look in Judges 13:24 for the name of their son, the new Israelite leader.

Invite a student to read Judges 14:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Samson desired once he had become an adult.

  • What did Samson desire?

  • What was wrong with this desire? (The Lord had commanded the Israelites not to marry those who were not part of God’s covenant people, for such marriages would result in sin and destruction [see Deuteronomy 7:3–4].)

  • What do we learn about Samson from verses 1–3? (Samson placed his own desires ahead of the Lord’s will.)

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we place our own desires ahead of the Lord’s will, then …

Invite students to consider how they might complete this statement as they learn about Samson’s choices.

Ask a student to read Judges 14:5–6 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Samson did as he traveled to marry the Philistine woman.

  • What do these verses teach us about Samson’s physical strength?

  • According to verse 6, what was the source of Samson’s physical strength?

Explain that today when we speak of someone having the Spirit of the Lord, we are usually referring to someone who is faithful and obedient and therefore close to God. However, as used here, referring to Samson (see Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14), the phrase seems to acknowledge Samson’s remarkable physical strength, which came as a gift from God. The scriptures give credit to the Lord, the true source of Samson’s gift, by saying “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him,” but this does not necessarily mean that the Lord prompted or approved of Samson’s actions. Sometimes Samson used his gift of strength properly, and sometimes he did not.

Summarize Judges 14:7–15 by explaining that when Samson returned from Timnath, he found that bees had formed a hive within the carcass of the lion he had killed. Samson used this experience to create a riddle to challenge the Philistines. When the Philistines could not discover the answer to the riddle, they threatened Samson’s wife and convinced her to obtain the answer from Samson. This led to a series of conflicts between Samson and the Philistines.

Provide copies of the following handout to students. Ask them to write next to each summary the desires or emotions they think motivated Samson. Students may work alone, with partners, or in small groups.

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What Motivated Samson?

  1. After Samson’s wife reveals the riddle’s answer to the Philistines, Samson separates himself from her (see Judges 14:16–20; 15:1–2).

  2. When Samson learns that his father-in-law, a Philistine, gave Samson’s wife to another man, Samson burns the Philistines’ crops (see Judges 15:1–5).

  3. The Philistines seek revenge against Samson by burning his wife and father-in-law. Samson responds by smiting the Philistines “with a great slaughter” (see Judges 15:6–8).

  4. The Philistines come against Samson to bind him and “do to him as he hath done to us.” Samson responds, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.” He slays one thousand more Philistines (see Judges 15:10–16).

  • What desires or emotions do you think motivated Samson’s actions? (You may want to point out the words anger in Judges 14:19 and avenged in Judges 15:7.)

  • How did Samson’s choices to act in anger and seek revenge affect him and his family? (The cycle of revenge resulted in the deaths of Samson’s wife and father-in-law.)

  • What principle can we learn from Samson’s actions about the consequences of choices that are based on anger or vengeance? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: Anger and vengeance can lead us to make choices that hurt others and ourselves.)

Invite a student to read Judges 16:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for evidence that Samson continued to place his selfish desires ahead of the Lord’s will.

  • How did Samson continue to place his selfish desires above the Lord’s will?

Summarize Judges 16:2–14 by explaining that the pattern of conflict and revenge between Samson and the Philistines continued. The Philistines decided to bribe a Philistine woman named Delilah to discover the source of Samson’s physical strength. They hoped to use this information to defeat Samson. On three different occasions, Delilah tried to persuade Samson to reveal his source of strength, but each time he lied to her.

Ask several students to take turns reading aloud from Judges 16:15–20. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what happened when Delilah spoke to Samson a fourth time about the source of his strength.

  • According to verse 20, why did Samson lose his strength? (“The Lord was departed from him.” You might want to suggest that students read Doctrine and Covenants 3:4, which gives some insight into Samson’s case.)

Point out that Samson’s hair was not the source of his strength. Rather, it was the symbol of his covenant relationship with God, who was the source of Samson’s strength.

  • In what ways had Samson broken his covenants with the Lord?

  • From Samson’s experience, what principle can we learn about the results of breaking our covenants? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we break our covenants with the Lord, then He will withdraw His Spirit from us.)

  • When the Lord withdrew His Spirit from Samson, Samson lost his gift of physical strength. What blessings or abilities might we lose when the Lord’s Spirit is not with us?

Summarize Judges 16:21–27 by explaining that the Philistines captured Samson, put out his eyes, and made him a slave. In time, they held a celebration claiming that their god had delivered Samson into their hands. During the celebration, Samson asked a boy to lead him to the pillars of the building so that he could lean on them.

Ask a student to read Judges 16:28–30 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for Samson’s motive as he prayed to the Lord.

  • According to verse 28, why did Samson want to kill the Philistines in the building?

Remind students that the Lord had called Samson to dedicate his life to Him so the Lord could deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. Refer again to the diagram “Cycle of Sin and Deliverance in the Book of Judges.” Summarize Judges 17–21 by explaining that after Samson’s death, the Israelites continued to sin against the Lord and suffer afflictions from their enemies (see Judges 17:6; 21:25).

  • How well do you think Samson accomplished the Lord’s will in his life?

Help students understand that although Samson killed many Philistines, he did not help the Israelites turn to the Lord and forsake their sins, which was necessary for them to be truly delivered from their enemies (see D&C 3:4).

Refer to the incomplete statement you wrote on the board earlier.

  • Based on what you’ve learned from Samson’s example, how would you complete this statement? (Using students’ words, complete the statement on the board. It may read like the following principle: If we place our own desires ahead of the Lord’s will, then we will not reach our divine potential.)

  • How could Samson’s life have been different if he had sought to do the Lord’s will rather than his own?

Conclude by testifying of the blessings of seeking the Lord’s will. Invite students to refer back to what they wrote in their scripture study journals. Ask them to write on a piece of paper one thing they will do today that will help them fulfill their divine potential and accomplish what Heavenly Father would want them to do. Invite them to carry this piece of paper with them throughout the day as a reminder of their goal.

Commentary and Background Information

Judges 11:34–40. “She returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed”

“Many have supposed that Jephthah offered his daughter as a human sacrifice, and a literal reading of the text may support that view. But if that is true, some difficult questions are raised. Jephthah was regarded as a great hero and deliverer of Israel, and even his sacrifice of his daughter is treated in a way that suggests the author of Judges viewed it as a commendable act. In Hebrews 11:32–35 Jephthah is used as one of the examples of great faith. Would this case be true if he had engaged in human sacrifice, an act viewed as one of the greatest of abominations in ancient Israel? Why does Jephthah’s daughter ‘bewail her virginity’ (Judges 11:37) rather than mourn the approaching loss of her life? After Jephthah had fulfilled his vow of sacrificing his daughter, the text states that ‘she knew no man’ (v. 39)” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 256).

It is widely accepted by most Biblical scholars that Jephthah’s vow was fulfilled by committing his daughter to a life without marriage and children, hence the phrase “she knew no man.” This would have been devastating indeed, for in that day marriage and children were critical parts of a woman’s life. Likewise, it would have been devastating for Jephthah, as she was his only child and he would have no more posterity because of his rash vow.

Judges 14:4. “His father and his mother knew not that [the marriage] was of the Lord”

This statement does not mean that the Lord approved of Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman. The Lord had expressly forbidden the Israelites from marrying outside the covenant (see Deuteronomy 7:3–4). Nevertheless, the Lord used this marriage, even though it was contrary to His will, to further His purposes in delivering Israel from Philistine bondage.

Judges 17–21. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes”

“In the closing chapters of Judges the writer turned from stories of Israel’s heroes to two incidents that illustrate the low state of religion and morality in the days when Israel forsook her covenant with the Lord and everyone ‘did that which was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 17:6; 21:25).

“The stories of Micah the Levite and the Danite migration, in chapters 17 and 18, and the account of the rape of the concubine at Gibeah and the subsequent punishment of the Benjamites, in chapters 19–21, are samples of Israel’s worst days. Nothing in the stories show the Israelites doing what was right” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 261).