“Unit 16: Day 3, Judges 10–21,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 16: Day 3,” Old Testament Study Guide
When the children of Israel repented of their sins, the Lord continued to raise up judges to deliver them from their oppressors. One of these judges, Samson, was blessed with tremendous physical strength, but he failed to fulfill his divine calling because of selfish choices.
Have you ever thought about the things Heavenly Father would like you to accomplish in your life?
- In your scripture study journal, list a few things you feel Heavenly Father would like you to accomplish in your life.
As a child of God, you have divine potential, and with Heavenly Father’s help, you can achieve all He desires for you. As you study Judges 10–21, look for truths that will help you understand what could prevent you from accomplishing the things Heavenly Father desires for you.
In your study of Judges 1–3, you learned that the Israelites continually went through a cycle of sin, affliction, repentance, and deliverance.
In Judges 10–12 we read how they continued that cycle. After the Israelites began to worship false gods again, they were afflicted by their enemies the Ammonites. When the Israelites turned to the Lord, He raised up a judge named Jephthah to deliver them from their enemies.
Read Judges 13:1, looking for what the Israelites did after they were delivered.
What kind of leader do you think the Israelites needed to help them break their cycle of sin and deliverance and be freed from their enemies?
Read Judges 13:2–5, looking for special characteristics of the new leader whom the Lord would send to help the Israelites.
Notice that this new leader was to be a Nazarite. You may recall that Nazarites were men 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 (see Bible Dictionary, “Nazarite”). Jesus Christ was sometimes called a Nazarene (see Matthew 2:23), which meant He was from the city of Nazareth, not that He was a Nazarite.
Refer again to the diagram “The Cycle of Sin and Deliverance in the Book of Judges,” and consider how the Israelites might be blessed by a leader whose life would be dedicated to God. How would a leader like this help the Israelites break the cycle of sin so they could be permanently delivered from their enemies?
Read Judges 14:1–3, looking for what Samson desired once he became an adult.
What did Samson desire?
Based on what you have learned about God’s commandments about whom the Israelites should and should not marry, 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 from Judges 14:1–3 about Samson and his desires to follow the Lord?
- Write the following incomplete statement in your scripture study journal: If we place our own desires ahead of the Lord’s will, then … As you continue to learn about Samson’s choices, consider how you might complete this principle. When ideas of how to complete it come to mind, write those ideas in this journal assignment.
Read Judges 14:5–6, looking for what Samson did as he traveled to marry the Philistine woman. Think of what these verses teach us about Samson’s physical strength. According to verse 6, what was the source of Samson’s physical strength?
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, referring to Samson, the phrase seems to acknowledge only Samson’s remarkable physical strength (see Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14), 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. At times Samson used his gift of strength properly, and at times he did not.
In Judges 14:7–15 we learn 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.
- Complete the following assignment in your scripture study journal to identify what motivated Samson’s actions. Below are summaries of choices Samson made, as told in Judges 14–15. After you read the verses associated with each summary, write in your scripture study journal the emotion or desire you think motivated Samson to choose doing what he did.
Judges 15:1–5. When Samson learned his father-in-law, a Philistine, gave Samson’s wife to another man, Samson burned the Philistines’ crops.
Judges 15:10–16. The Philistines went against Samson to bind him and do to him as he had done to them. Samson responded, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (Judges 15:11). He slew one thousand more Philistines.
As you read the verses in the assignment, did you notice the words anger in Judges 14:19 and avenged in Judges 15:7? Reflect on how Samson’s choices to act in anger and seek revenge affected him and his family. From this account we learn that anger and vengeance can lead us to make choices that hurt others and ourselves.
Read Judges 16:1, looking for evidence that Samson continued to place his selfish desires ahead of the Lord’s will.
In Judges 16:2–14 we read how 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.
Samson’s hair was not the source of his strength. He lost the blessing of his strength because “the Lord was departed from him” (Judges 16:20). His physical strength was a symbol of his covenant relationship with God, who was the source of that strength. When he broke his covenants through unrighteous actions, Samson eventually lost his strength.
It is not known why the Lord allowed Samson to retain his gift of physical strength for a time while he was acting unrighteously. In Doctrine and Covenants 3:4, God warned that “although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.” It appears that this was the case with Samson.
From Samson’s experience we learn 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 him, Samson lost his gift of physical strength. Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What blessings or abilities might we lose when the Lord’s Spirit is not with us?
Judges 16:21–27 tells how the Philistines captured Samson, blinded him, 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 main pillars of the building so that he could lean on them.
Remember 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 Cycle of Sin and Deliverance in the Book of Judges” diagram.
In Judges 17–21 we learn that after Samson’s death, the Israelites continued to sin against the Lord and suffer afflictions from their enemies.
“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).
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). Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the tragedy of Samson’s wasted life:
“Samson was strong in a physical way. But he was yet a weakling. How much did the strength of his mighty physique count when temptation stood before him? …
“Samson was under a covenant. He was a servant of God, set apart to the Lord’s work. He was committed to the building up of the kingdom of God. To a large extent, he was a failure in life. …
“One compromise after another added to his weakness of purpose. His desire to be as other men blinded him to his responsibility and cheapened in his eyes the sanctity of his covenants. The more his resolution weakened, the further he sank into the ways of worldliness until at last he surrendered completely” (Your Faith and You , 243–45).
Refer to the incomplete statement you wrote for scripture study journal assignment 2 in this lesson. Based on what you have learned from Samson’s example, complete the statement in your scripture study journal assignment with how it relates to achieving your own divine potential.
- In your scripture study journal, write how you think Samson’s life could have been different if he had sought to do the Lord’s will rather than his own.
If we seek the Lord’s will in all that we do, He will help us reach our divine potential and accomplish the work He has called us to do.
Write on a piece of paper one thing you will do today that will help you fulfill your divine potential and accomplish what Heavenly Father would want you to do. Carry this piece of paper with you throughout the day as a reminder of your goal.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Judges 10–21 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: