Author: Ron Graham
—And his weakness and strength
Time ~ 4. Conquest of Canaan
Span ~ 170 years
Books ~ Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1Samuel
Figures ~ Joshua, Samuel
Begins with ~ Entry into promised Land across Jordan
We continue in the time of the Judges and the Conquest of Canaan. In this lesson we look at the six judges before Samuel. For the earlier six judges after Joshua see the previous lesson.
No matter how far people stray from God, he is still reaching out to them. No matter how weak they become, he still credits what faith they retain. No matter how unworthy they may be, he still uses them as instruments of his will. No matter how wrongly they act, he still acts justly toward them, hoping they will return to him.
1 Weakness and Strength
As the time of the conquest of Canaan drew on, the quality of Israel's life and success continued to decline.
Judges still rose up when things got really low. However, between Jair and Samson, the reigns of the judges were short —one decade or less.
The judges of Israel seemed to have strange mixtures of weakness and strength. In some ways they were wise and strong, in others weak and foolish.
We have already noticed this in Gideon. He had a remarkable faith in God, yet he made an idol of gold.
In our present lesson, "the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephtah" yet he responds with a stupid vow to the LORD —with tragic results.
Samson, the focus of this lesson, is also blessed by God's Spirit, yet he was often immoral and irresponsible.
The Bible tells it like it is —to our great embarrassment. But would we rather the Bible gloss over the truth?
God never approved of, or even overlooked, the sins of his people. However, without entering into their unrighteousness, he gave them credit for, and used, what faith they had.
The Hebrew writer puts it nicely when he says, "Out of weakness they were made strong" (Hebrews 11:33-34).
2 Bible Summary (Judges 10-21)
This summary covers the six judges before Samuel. For previous six judges (those after Joshua), see previous lesson.
- Jair the Gileadite with 30 sons (10)
- Israel worships the Baals again (10)
- Jephtah "mighty man of valour" (11)
- Jephtah, of noble birth, outcast (11)
- Invited back to lead (11)
- His message to Ammon (11)
[wilderness wanderings 300 years ago]
- His foolish vow (11)
- Gilead fights Ephraim (12)
- The password "Shibboleth" (12)
- Ibzan 30 sons and 30 daughters (12)
- Elon of whom nothing is told (12)
- Abdon 40 sons, 30 grandsons (12)
- Samson the strong (13-16)
- An angel entertained (13)
- Samson is born (13)
- Samson marries a Philistine (14)
- The riddle (14)
- Samson's marriage ends (14)
- The foxes' tails (15)
- The donkey's jawbone (15)
- A miracle for Samson's thirst (15)
- Samson visits a prostitute (16)
- Samson loves Delilah (16)
- Delilah betrays Samson (16)
- His eyes are burned out (16)
- Samson's revenge in death (16)
- Micah's idolatry (17)
- Danites (18)
- Territory unconquered
- Seek an alternative land
- Spies steal from Micah -his priest and idols
- tribe of Dan migrates
- Benjaminites (19-21)
- Perverts abuse a girl
- All Israelites shocked
- They make war upon the Benjaminites
- Tribe almost blotted out --only some men are left
- They need wives for tribe to survive
- Oaths have complicated the problem
- A dubious "solution" is found.
- Note: The tribe of Benjamin never did fully recover, and remained small. From that time it was little more than an attachment to Judah.
3 Some Facts About Samson
Samson was the last judge except for Samuel
For twenty years Samson judged Israel, at a time when Israel was "in the hands of the Philistines" (Judges 13:1). He was born into a "family of the Danites" (Judges 13:2). The tribe of Dan was one to whom a territory "had not yet fallen" so they were an unsettled people (Judges 18:1). This, incidentally, is symbolic of us. We are "sojourners and pilgrims" in this wicked world, waiting for the inheritance of Heaven (1Peter 2:9-12).
Samson was born by way of a miracle
His parents were apparently godly people. As seems to be an oft-repeated sign, God chooses a barren woman and promises her, "You shall conceive and give birth to a son" (Judges 13:2-3).
Samson was a Nazirite from birth
The Nazirite vow is described in Numbers chapter six. A Nazirite did not cut his or her hair, did not eat or drink anything made from grapes, and did not go near a dead body. The vow was usually for a limited time, but God commanded that Samson be "a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death" (Judges 13:5,7). This vow has little value in itself, but it symbolises sanctification through Christ (Hebrews 10:10,14). [Note: a Christian cannot not keep the Nazirite vow, because it would conflict with the partaking of the LORD's supper. One would violate the vow literally in partaking of the cup, and symbolically in partaking of the bread].
Samson 'obtained a good testimony through faith'
Although Samson's ways fell sadly short of God's ways, God still used Samson's faith for victory. We, though sometimes of too "little faith", look for the victory to be finally perfected in Jesus (Hebrews 11:32-34,39-40).