Judges Key People



Ehud

At first glance, Ehud’s career as a judge in Israel may not seem relevant to us. He clearly lived in another time. He took radical and violent action to free his people. His murder of Eglon shocks us. His war on Moab was swift and deadly. His life is difficult to relate to. But our commitment to God’s Word challenges us not to ignore this leader. As we read about his life, some questions come to mind: (1) When was the last time God showed me something wrong in my life and I took immediate and painful action to correct the error? (2) When was the last time I ask God to show me how he could use something unique about me (as he used Ehud’s left-handedness)? (3) When was the last time I made a plan to obey God in some specific area of my life and then followed through on that plan? (4) When was the last time my life was an example to others of obedience to God?


The enemies we face are as real as Ehud’s, but they are most often within ourselves. The battles we fight are not against other people but against the power of sin. We need God’s help in doing battle against sin. We also need to remember that he has already won the war. He has defeated sin by Jesus’ death and resurrection. His help is the cause of each success, and his forgiveness is sufficient for each failure.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Second judge of Israel

  • A man of direct action, a front line leader

  • Used a perceived weakness (left-handedness) to do a great work for God

  • Led the revolt against Moabite domination and gave Israel 80 years of peace


Lessons from his  life

  • Some conditions call for radical action

  • God responds to the cry of repentance

  • God is ready to use our unique qualities to accomplish his work


Vital statistics

  • Where: Born during the last years of the wilderness wanderings or during Israel’s early years in the Promised Land

  • Occupation: Messenger, judge

  • Relative: Father: Gera

  • Contemporary: Eglon of Moab   


Key verse

  • “But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord again raised up a rescuer to save them. His name was Ehud son of Gera, a left[handed man of the tribe of Benjamin”(Judges 3:15).


His story is told in Judges 3:12-30



Deborah

Wise leaders are rare. They accomplish great amounts of work without direct involvement because they know how to work through other people. They are able to see the big picture that often escapes those directly involved, so they make good mediators, advisers, and planners. Deborah fit this description perfectly. She had all these leadership skills, and she had a remarkable relationship with God. The insight and confidence God gave this woman placed her in a unique position in the Old Testament. Deborah is among the outstanding women of history.


Her story shows that she was not power hungry. She wanted to serve God. Whenever praise came her way, she gave God the credit. She didn’t deny or resist her position in the culture as a woman and wife, but she never allowed to be hindered by it either. Her story shows that God can accomplish great things through people who are willing to be led by him.


Deborah’s life challenges us in several ways. She reminds us of the need to be available both to God and to others. She encourages us to spend our efforts on what we can do rather than on worrying about what we can’t do. Deborah challenges us to be wise leaders. She demonstrates what a person can accomplish when God is in control.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Fourth and only female judge of Israel

  • Special abilities as a mediator, adviser, and counselor

  • When called on to lead, was able to plan, direct, and delegate

  • Known for her prophetic power

  • A writer of songs


Lessons from her life

  • God chooses leaders by his standards, not ours

  • Wise leaders choose good helpers


Vital statistics

  • Where: Canaan

  • Occupations: Prophet, judge

  • Relative: Husband: Lappidoth

  • Contemporaries: Barak, Jael, Jabin of Hazor, Sisera


Key verse

  • “Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who was judging Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4)


Her story is told Judges 4-5.



Gideon

Most of us want to know God’s plan for our lives, but we’re not always sure how to find it. One common misunderstanding is the God’s guidance will come to us out of the blue, that it has nothing to do with what we’re doing now. But if we’re always looking around for God’s next assignment, we run the risk of ruining whatever we’re working on right now. Fortunately, the Bible points to a kind of guidance that does not put our current projects in jeopardy. In Bible’s descriptions of how God guided many people, we can see that often God’s call came while people were completely immersed in the challenge of the moment. A good example of this kind of guidance is seen in Gideon’s life.


Gideon had a limited vision, but he was committed to it. His challenge was to obtain food for his family even though hostile invaders were making the growing, gathering, and preparation of the food almost impossible. Gideon was resourceful. He put a wine press to double duty by turning it into a sunken threshing floor. It lacked ventilation to blow the chaff away, but at least it was hidden from the Midianites. Gideon was working in his threshing floor when God sent him a messenger with a challenge.


Gideon was surprised by what God told him to do. He did not want to jump into a task for which he was ill prepared. The angel had to overcome three objections before Gideon was convinced: (1) Gideon’s feelings of responsibility for his family’s welfare, (2) his doubts about the call itself, and (3) his feelings of inadequacy for the job. Once Gideon was convinced, however, he obeyed with zest, resourcefulness, and speed. He dedicated those personality traits to God, with whom he was now personally acquainted.


Gideon had his weak moments and failures, but he was still God’s servant. If you can easily relate to Gideon’s weakness, can you also see yourself being willing to serve? Remember Gideon as a man who obeyed God by giving his attention to the task at hand. Then give your full attention to believing God will prepare you for tomorrow when it comes.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Israel’s fifth judge. A military strategist who was an expert at surprise

  • A member of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

  • Defeated the Midianite army

  • Was offered a hereditary kingship by the men of Israel

  • Though slow to be convinced, acted on his convictions


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Feared that his own limitations would prevent God from working through him

  • Collected Midianite gold and made a symbol that became an evil object of worship

  • Through a concubine fathered a son who would bring great grief and tragedy to both Gideon’s family and the nation of Israel  

  • Failed to establish the nation in God’s ways; after he died they all went back to idol worship


Lessons from his life

  • God calls in the middle of our present obedience. As we are faithful, he gives us more responsibility

  • God expands and uses the abilities he has already given us

  • God uses us in spite of our limitations and failures

  • Even those who make great spiritual progress can easily fall into sin if they don’t consistently follow God


Vital statistics

  • Where: Ophrah, valley of Jezreel, spring of Harod

  • Occupations: Farmer, warrior, judge

  • Relatives: Father: Joash. Son: Abimelech

  • Contemporaries: Zebah, Zalmunna


Key verses

  • “ ‘But Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!’ The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man” (Judges 6:15, 16).


His story is told in Judges 6-8. He is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:32.



Abimelech

People who desire power always outnumber those who are able to use power wisely once they have it. Perhaps this is because power has a way of taking over and controlling the person using it. This is especially true in cases of inherited but unmerited power. Abimelech’s life shows us what happens when hunger for power corrupts judgment.


Abimelech’s position in Gideon’s family as the son of a concubine must have created great tension between him and Gideon’s many other sons. One against 70: Such odds can either crush a person or make him ruthless. It is obvious which direction Abimelech chose. Gideon’s position as warrior and judge had placed Abimelech in an environment of power; Gideon’s death provided an opportunity for this son to seize power. Once the process began, the disastrous results were inevitable. A person’s thirst for power is not satisfied when he gets power - it only becomes more intense. Abimelech’s life was consumed by that thirst. Eventually, he could not tolerate any threat to his power.


By this time,ownership had changed: Abimelech no longer had power - power had him. One lesson we can learn from his life that our goals control our actions. The amount of control is related to the importance of the goal. Abimelech’s most important goal was to have power. His lust for power led him to wipe out not only his brothers but also whole cities that refused to submit to him. Nothing but death could stop his bloodthirsty drive to conquer. How ironic that he was fatally injured by a woman with a farm implement! The contrast between Abimelech and the godly people of the Bible is great. He wanted to control the nation; they were willing to be controlled by God.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • The first self-declared king in Israel

  • Qualified tactical planner and organize


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Power hungry and ruthless

  • Overconfident

  • Took advantage of his father’s position without imitating his character

  • Had 69 of his 70 half brothers killed


Vital statistics

  • Where: Shechem, Arumah, Thebez

  • Occupations: Self-acclaimed king, judge, political troublemaker

  • Relatives: Father: Gideon. Only surviving half brother: Jotham


Key verses

  • “In this way, God punished Abimelech for the evil he had done against his father by murdering his seventy brothers. God also punished the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham son of Gideon was fulfilled” (Judges 9:56, 57).


His history is told in Judges 8:31-9:57. He is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 11:21.  



Jephthah

It’s hard not to admire people whose word can be depended on completely and whose actions are consistent with their words. For such people, talking is not avoiding action; it is the beginning of action. People like this can make excellent negotiators. They approach a conflict with the full intention of settling issues verbally, but they do not hesitate to use other means if verbal attempts fail. Jephthah was this kind of person.


In most of his conflicts, Jephthah’s first move was to talk. In the war with Ammonites, his strategy was negotiation. He clarified the issues so that everyone knew the cause of the conflict. His opponent’s response determined his next action.


The fate of Jephthah’s daughter is difficult to understand. We are not sure what Jephthah meant by his vow recorded in Judges 11:31. In any case, his vow was unnecessary. We do not know what actually happened to his daughter - whether she was burned as an offering or set apart as a virgin, thus denying Jephthah any hope of descendants since she was his only child. What we do know is that Jephthah was a person of his word, even when it was a word spoken in haste, and even when keeping his word caused him great pain.


How do you approach conflicts? There is a big difference between trying to settle a conflict through words and simply counterattacking someone verbally. How dependable are the statements you make? Do your children, friends, and fellow workers know you to be a person of your word? The measure of your trustworthiness is your willingness to take responsibility, event if you must pay a painful price because of something you said.


Strengths and accomplishment

  • Listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

  • Controlled by God’s Spirit

  • Brilliant military strategist who negotiated before fighting


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Was bitter over the treatment he received from his half brothers

  • Made a rash and foolish vow that was costly   


Lesson from his life

  • A person’s background does not prevent God from working powerfully in his or her life


Vital statistics

  • Where: Gilead

  • Occupations: Warrior, judge

  • relative: Father: Gilead


Key verse

  • “So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave him victory” (Judges 11:32.


His story is told in Judges 11:1-12:27. He also mentioned in 1 Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32          



Samson

It is sad to be remembered for what one might have been. Samson has tremendous potential. Not many people have started life credentials like his. Born as a result of God’s plan in the lives of Manoah and his wife, Samson was to do a great work for God - to rescue Israel from the Philistines. To help him accomplish God’s plan, he was given enormous physical strength.


Because Samson wasted his strength on practical jokes and getting out of scrapes, and because he eventually gave it up altogether to satisfy the woman he loved, we tend to see him as a failure. We remember him as the judge in Israel who spent his last days grinding grain in an enemy prison, and we say, “What wasted potential!”


Yes, Samson wasted his life. He could have strengthened his nation. He could have returned his people to the worship of God. He could have wiped out the Philistines. But even though he did none of those things, Samson still accomplished the purpose announced by the angel who visited his parents before his birth. In his final act, Samson began to rescue Israel from the Philistines.


Interestingly, the New Testament does not mention Samson’s failures or his heroic feats of strength. In Hebrews 11:33, he is simply listed with others who “overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them,” and in other ways were given superhuman aid. In the end, Samson recognized his dependence on God. When he died, God turned his failures and defeats into victory. Samson’s story reaches us that is never too late to start over. However badly we may have failed in the past, today is no too late for us to put our complete trust in God.


Strengths and accomplishments

  • Dedicated to God from birth as a Nazirite

  • Know for his feats of strength

  • Listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

  • Began to free Israel from Philistine oppression

             

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Made a wow; violated God’s laws on many occasions

  • Was controlled by sensuality

  • Confided in the wrong people

  • Used his gifts and abilities unwisely  


Lesson from his life

  • Great strength in one area of life does not make up for great weaknesses in others areas

  • God’s presence does not overwhelm a person’s will  

  • God can use a person of faith in spite of his or her mistakes


Vital statistics

  • Where: Zorah, Timnah, Ashkelon, Gaza, valley of Sorek

  • Occupation: Judge

  • Relative: Father: Manoah

  • Contemporaries: Delilah, Samuel (who might have been born while Samson was a judge)


Key verse

  • “You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazarite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines” (Judges 13:5)


His story is told in Judges 13-16. He is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:32.



Delilah

A person’s greatest accomplishment may well be helping others accomplish great things. Likewise, a person’s greatest failure may be preventing others from achieving greatness. Delilah played a minor role in Samson’s life, but her effect was devastating, for she influenced him to betray his special calling from God. Motivated by greed, Delilah used her persistence to wear down Samson. His infatuation with her made Samson a vulnerable target. For all his physical strength, he was no match for her nagging, and he paid a great price for giving in to her. Delilah is never mentioned again in the Bible. Her unfaithfulness to Samson brought ruin to him and to her people.


Are people helped by knowing you? Do they find that knowing you challenges them to be the best they can be? Even more important, does knowing you help their relationship with God? What do your demands for their time and attention tell them about your real care for them? Are you willing to be God’s instrument in the lives of others?


Strength and accomplishment

  • Persistent when faced with obstacles


Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Valued money more than relationship

  • Betrayed the man who trusted her


Lesson from her life

  • We need to be careful to place our trust only in people who are trustworthy


Vital statistics

  • Where: Valley of Sorek

  • Contemporary: Samson


Key verses

  • “She tormented him her nagging day after day until he was sick to death of it. Finally, Samson shared his secret with her” (Judges 16:16, 17)


Her story is told in Judges 16.