DISCOVERY for TEACHERS: Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Kings

Judges

3rd Era of Judges: Samson

source for questions

Judges 13:1 through 21:25

key verse for memorization

“And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judges 16:28)

background

By this time, the nation of Israel had been living in the Promised Land for a number of years. During those years, they had spiritual highs and lows. The spiritual low point in today’s lesson was brought on by disobedience. As a consequence God allowed the people to fall under the rule of the Philistines in the longest oppression Israel experienced during the time of the judges. 

The Children of Israel cried out to God because of the oppression of the Philistines, and once again God raised up a deliverer. Samson was chosen before his birth to do a great work for God, and it was pronounced by the angel of the Lord that he would be a “Nazarite unto God” from his birth. To help him accomplish God’s plan, Samson was given enormous physical strength. He became the thirteenth Judge of Israel. 

In spite of his godly heritage, Samson’s record was anything but exemplary. He grieved his godly parents, made friends with the Philistines, married a heathen woman, and alienated himself from those of his own nation. 

Samson paid a great price for not following God’s perfect plan. He shared the secret of his great strength: his Nazarite vow to not cut his hair. Due to more of his poor choices, he found himself in the arms of his enemy (Delilah) who cut his hair. Immediately his strength was gone. Captured and blinded by the Philistines, he was forced to work turning a human-powered gristmill in a Philistine prison. 

The Philistines credited their victory over Samson to their god Dagon, and they gathered at Gaza for a great feast to praise their god. (Dagon was a god of fertility whom the Philistines had borrowed from the Canaanites.) Samson’s hair had grown long again. In a final dramatic act, and through the help of God, Samson pulled down a building destroying many of the main people in the Philistine government and military. 

These chapters also record instances of idolatry, a disturbing account of a rape, murder, and the civil war between Israel’s tribes. It is hard to believe that these were God’s chosen people, but this passage serves as a warning to us that sometimes what is right in a person’s own eyes can be far from God’s will, and even outright sin.

Suggested Responses to Questions
  1. At Samson’s birth, how long had the Israelites been under the rule of the Philistines? (Judges 13:1) What are some possible reasons for such a long period of oppression?

    The oppression by the Philistines lasted for at least 40 years. Students’ answers regarding possible reasons may include: the evil in Israel (verse 1), a lack of unity among the people, acceptance of how things were, a lack of strong spiritual leadership to guide the people back to God.
     
  2. What special instructions were given to Samson’s parents regarding his upbringing? Judges 13:7

    He was to be raised as a Nazarite (the details of taking a Nazarite vow are found in chapter 6 of Numbers). The term Nazarite meant “consecrated or set apart for the Lord’s use.” In most cases the vow was voluntary and was taken for a specified period of time, typically 30 days, though durations of 60 and 90 days were not uncommon. In Samson’s case, God chose the Nazarite vow for him for his whole life. 

    The one who took the vow had to do three main things: 1) Refrain from eating or drinking anything that came from the grape plant. 2) Refrain from cutting his hair or beard. 3) Refrain from going near a dead body. Nazarites could go about their normal lives as long as they observed these three main points. If somehow they violated their vow, the time period started over. At the successful end of their vow, there was a ceremony conducted by a priest at the Tabernacle.

     
  3. Under the dispensation of grace, which of our three foundational experiences is most like a Nazarite’s vow? Why?

    Various aspects of the Nazarite vow are similar to salvation, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. But the experience that is closest would be sanctification. Both sanctification and the Nazarite’s vow require the individual to be consecrated and set apart for God’s service.
     
  4. What are some of the heartaches Samson could have avoided if he had married a godly woman? (Judges 16:4-21) What are some contemporary parallels we can draw from this aspect of his life?

    Your students’ answers could include betrayal, lack of support, deception, difference of goals, and loss of God’s blessing. Allow time for your class to generate a list of similar heartaches people experience today when they take ways of their own.
     
  5. After Samson failed God, he was given another chance right at the end of his life to follow God’s will. Does everyone get another chance? How can we best accomplish God’s plan for our lives?

    No one is guaranteed multiple opportunities, but we do serve a merciful God. We can best accomplish God’s plan by always staying close enough to God to not fail Him in the first place. Discussion should lead to how one can stay close to God on a daily basis: prayer, reading God’s Word, associating with like-minded people, remaining honest before God, etc.
     
  6. Judges 17 and 18 record a dispute between Micah and the soldiers from the tribe of Dan. What was it about? What sort of things do we see in our world today that parallels this kind of dispute?

    Both Micah and the soldiers from the tribe of Dan wanted the idols and the renegade Levite for their worship.

    It has been said that those who stand for nothing will fall for anything. Micah and the tribe of Dan were so far from God that they were arguing over idol worship. In this day and age, people of the world are constantly saying, “Don’t talk to us about God, place no limits, we will do as we please.” That creates arguments like whether or not a same-sex couple has the right to marry. Like Micah and the tribe of Dan, they seem to have completely missed the main point: that God condemns sin. They would not have to address these side issues if they kept the line where God placed it.

     
  7. In Judges 19, we read of a horrible crime that was committed by members of the tribe of Benjamin. What was the nation of Israel’s response when the word got out? Judges 20:1-2

    A 400,000 man army was assembled, and marched to confront the tribe.
     
  8. What did the army ask of the tribe of Benjamin? What happened as a result of their response? Judges 20:13

    The army asked the tribe of Benjamin to turn over those that committed the crime. The Benjamites refused and thus brought about their near extinction. The emotional duress of the other tribes blinded their judgment in their harsh treatment of the tribe of Benjamin.
     
  9. In an effort to salvage the tribe of Benjamin, what additional wrongs did the Israelites do as a means of trying to correct an earlier wrong? 

    After all but annihilating the tribe of Benjamin, the men of Israel made a vow to not give their daughters to the remaining men from the tribe of Benjamin. As they lamented the loss of one of the tribes, they discovered that there was one tribe that did not fight against Benjamin. They destroyed Jabesh-gilead and saved only the young women to give to the Benjamite men. Discussion could lead to how committing another wrong to fix a previous wrong is not God’s way. Was there another way to resolve the terrible situation? Answers could include: the Levite in chapter 19 could have stood against the men of Gibeah, etc.
     
  10. What does this lesson teach us about the dangers of “toying” with wrong?

    Class discussion should bring out that dabbling with sin will have terrible consequences. The suffering that the Israelites went through during this period was not caused by God, but resulted from the fact that the people ignored God and went their own way. The warning is clear: if one chooses his own way and goes against God’s instructions, he will not escape the consequences of his decision.
conclusion

A key point that can be drawn from this lesson is the need to constantly seek God’s will rather than to do what seems right at the moment. These three accounts are extreme examples that show it is much better when a person is acting within God’s perfect will.