Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Reign of the Judges



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President Gordon B Hinkely told of a time when he planted a young tree in his yard but neglected to use supporting stakes to help it grow straight.  In time, the wind caused the tree to lean badly to one side.  President Hinckley realized that if he had tied the tree to stakes, it would have been supported until it was strong enough to resist the wind on its own.  (Conference Report 1993) 

Sometimes we may be like that young tree, unable to withstand the wind or temptations of Satan, on our own.  In the book of Judges we learn about some of the "stakes" that can support us.  


tree with supporting stakes


The Book of Judges

The book of Judges covers the first centuries of Israel's cycles of success and failure in the newly occupied land of Israel, where they should have become "a peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:5-6); by the end of the book, the Israelites' failure to fulfill the mission of Abraham to bring blessings to "all the families of the earth" is manifestly evident (TG, "Israel, Mission of," "Abrahamic Covenant"; BD, "Abraham, Covenant of").

The book of Judges is named after the book's thirteen men who led Israel between Joshua and Saul.  Its author is unknown, but it appears that it was written during the monarchy (after ca. 1000 B.C.). The period of the Judges began with the death of Joshua (Judg. 1:1) and concluded with the anointing and accession of Saul as king (1 Sam. 10:1). Othniel, the younger brother of Caleb, served as Israel's first Judge (3:9), and the sons of Samuel the prophet were the final Judges before Saul became the first king of Israel.

The first two chapters in the book of Judges review the situation at the close of Joshua's era and preview the coming cycles of success and failure in Israel's efforts to be God's exemplary nation. Details follow about several of the judges. Most of them were raised up by the Lord to supplement the priestly leaders in governing Israel, but some who were not raised up by the Lord are also covered. 


What or who were these Judges?  The Hebrew word for Judge is Shophet which means lawgiver or governor or "to act as ruler ; however, these men to some were not simply judicial officers but rather champions vindicating Israel in war. To others they were acting so as to uphold the covenant" made at Sinai.  

The book of Judges was written to show, through the flow of historical events, that obedience to Jehovah brings life and peace, while disobedience results in hardship, oppression, and death.  The book of Judges describes a recurring cycle of apostasy, oppression, repentance, and deliverance, When the Israelites abandoned the worship of Jehovah for the rites of the Canaanite deities, Jehovah allowed the neighboring nations to afflict them. Following a period of oppression, the Israelites became humble and prayerful and begged the Lord for deliverance from their enemies. In response to their cries, Jehovah sent a war hero ("judge") to deliver the people.

Led by Joshua, the Israelites conquered much of the promised land.  After Joshua died, Israel was not untied under a single leader until the days of the prophet Samuel and King Saul.  During this interval 12 judges served and Israel's rulers and military leaders.  Most of their reign was tragic and Israel went through the cycle of apostasy, bondage, repentance and delivery many times.  Yet Offsetting the tragic parts of this history are stories of people who remained true, setting a powerful example of how to exercise faith and courage in an apostate world.  

The reign of the judges is similar in many ways to the history of the Nephites prior to the coming of Christ. It is a story of one continuous cycle of apostasy and repentance. When the Israelites turned from the Lord, their enemies began to prevail (see Judges 2:14–15). Suffering under oppression and war, the people would cry unto God and He would raise up a Deborah or a Gideon to deliver them. But once peace and security were reestablished, the people turned again to their former ways (see Judges 2:16–19(Old Testament Student Manual)

cycle of apostasy
First, the people chose evil by worshiping heathen gods, and the Lord allowed them to fall into the hands of their enemies. Judges were then raised up by the Lord to deliver them. At such times, as it is more clearly stated in the Joseph Smith Translation, “the Lord hearkened because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them” (JST, Judges 2:18; emphasis added). But as soon as the judge was dead, Israel turned to the other gods, and the cycle began again. A strikingly similar cycle of righteousness and apostasy occurred among the people of the Book of Mormon and is graphically described in Helaman 12.other Gods.  (Old Testament Student Manual) 

The narrator of Judges begins each cycle of apostasy with the same words, which he repeats seven times in thirteen chapters: "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord" (see chart). The prophets had repeatedly warned Israel not to worship other deities (Ex. 20:5; 22:20; 34:14). In the Decalogue, God forcefully commanded: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" (Ex. 20:3-4). However, Israel was attracted to the myriad deities of the surrounding nations and "went a whoring after" them, "bowed themselves" before their fashioned stones and chiseled logs (Ex. 2:17), served these deities (Ex. 2:19), and even sacrificed their own offspring to them (Ps. 106:34-46).  According to Judg. 2:12, the Israelites worshipped the deities of the neighboring nations, which included the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, Sidonians, Moabites, Syrians, (Studies in Scripture Vol 3 Robert L Millet)

1. The Strength of righteous parents and the consequences of forsaking their ways Judges 2:6–23.

When Joshua and the leaders of Israel who served under him died, the national spirit of Israel also died. Tribal loyalty replaced national unity. Each tribe began to look to its own resources without giving help or asking aid from their fellow Israelites. Joshua’s generation remained faithful to the Lord (see Joshua 24:31), but spiritual apostasy soon occurred in the following generation. “And there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

 6 ¶ And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.
7 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel.
8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.
10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
11 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim:
12 And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.
13 And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
14 ¶ And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
16 ¶ Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.
17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so.
18 And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.
19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.
20 ¶ And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;
21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:
22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.
23 Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.
How did the rising generation of Israelites begin the cycle of apostasy?  The children of Israel left God and left the ways and covenants of their parents.  They forsake God and turned to worship Idols, however the failure of the rising generation of Israelites to remain faithful was not entirely their own fault.

 According to Judges 1:21, 27–33, and Judges 2:1–4, how was the foundation for the children's failure laid? It was laid by the parents’ failure to drive out the Canaanites. Even though the parents were strong enough to resist the influences of the world around them, their children were not.
Why do children sometimes forsake the righteous teachings and ways of their parents?  Agency is a fundamental consideration in any discussion of this question. Heavenly Father lost a third of his spirit children. The scriptures have many examples of children rebelling against their righteous parents. Consider the story of Laman and Lemuel or Alma and the sons of Mosiah.  Children are often lured away by the attractions of the world. In ancient Israel, it was the heathen gods and the practices that surrounded their worship. Today we find a variety of attractions in the world luring our children away from the paths of righteousness: an unrighteous pursuit of success or learning, possessions, the supposed easiness of following the ways of the world, and the modern culture as portrayed in the media.

How can parents help their children be faithful?  By living the gospel. obeying the commandments and being the example, never give up on them and always love them. 
Elder Orson F. Whitney:  "You parents of the wilful and the wayward: Don't give them up. Don't cast them off. They are not utterly lost. The shepherd will find his sheep. They were his before they were yours--long before he entrusted them to your care; and you cannot begin to love them as he loves them. They have but strayed in ignorance from the Path of Right, and God is merciful to ignorance. Only the fulness of knowledge brings the fulness of accountability. Our Heavenly Father is far more merciful, infinitely more charitable, than even the best of his servants, and the Everlasting gospel is mightier in power to save than our narrow finite minds can comprehend." (CR, April 1929) 

President Hugh B. Brown talked of his mother and how she taught him. "More than half a century ago, I was standing on a little railway station platform in Cardston, Canada. I was leaving for England on a mission. My saintly mother stood there with me and held my hand. This is what she said. 'Hugh, my son, do you remember when you were a little boy you often had bad dreams, nightmares, and you called out to me as I was sleeping in the next room: "Mother, Mother, are you there?" Do you remember I always said, "Yes, my son, I'm here. Just turn over and go to sleep. Everything is all right".' She said, 'My boy, five thousand miles must now separate us, across a continent and an ocean. You are not going to have bad dreams only at night, but many times, in the daytime, you are going to want to call for help and comfort. Son, when you are beset with difficulties, when you meet temptation, when you are confused and don't know where to go, call out and say, "Father, are you there?"' She said, 'My boy, I promise you He will always answer and you need not fear.'    "...through the intervening years, countless occasions have arisen where men could not help me much, when I felt alone, where I had a nightmare with my eyes wide open. I have taken the advice of my mother and have said, 'Father, are you there?' Now He has not spoken to me audibly; He has not appeared to me personally; but He has always answered me. There has come into my heart a quiet peace which enabled me to know that I could, figuratively, turn over and go to sleep." (The Abundant Life, pp202-203) 
How have parents or other family members strengthened you in righteous living?  

How can you recognize early signs of apostasy?  We can begin to see apostasy by the choices we are making in our lives, slowly the choice to commit sins of omission and other things such as disobedience to the word of wisdom will bring a person down, but  when this is happening it is important to listen.  By staying connected to Christ we can not only listen to the Holy Ghost  but hear him, he will whisper to us and we will know when things are not right and when we need to make a change in ourselves or help others.   
How can an individual break the cycle of apostasy? Stop, come unto Christ and repent and begin again to make proper choices and live gospel.  

How might we appropriately help someone that seems to be falling away? Be like Christ, be a righteous friend, love them, pray for them, set the example for them, do not judge...

2.  Deborah the strength of a righteous friend  Judges 4:1–16.
By all accounts, the best known prophetess is Deborah. She assumed leadership of Israel's military, judicial, and religious institutions at a crucial time and literally saved the young nation from sinking into oblivion. The Israelites, under Joshua, had forced their way into Canaan but had not gained full control of the country, and many years following that initial conquest were marked by skirmishes and an ebbing of national identity. The scriptures point out that because the Israelites were in danger of merging with the surrounding heathen tribes, God allowed the king of Canaan to afflict them, to demand tribute and to scourge them with raids led by his great general Sisera. During this period of oppression, Deborah served as Israel's judge

The account of Deborah's time as a judge ties back to Ehud's time and rather than a few verses, as with some of the judges, two chapters were written about Deborah, the only female judge of Israel and a prophetess (TG, "Prophetess"; "Holy Ghost, Gifts of"). She was a wife and mother (Judg. 4:4; 5:7) who provided advice and judgment for people who came to her home between Ramah and Bethel in Ephraim.  

But she was a woman?  Israel was sorely lacking in leadership at this time. The regular priesthood leadership was not in effect because the covenant had been broken. Deborah did not direct Israel in any official sense; she was a prophetess who possessed the spirit of prophecy, which is one of the gifts of the Spirit (see Revelation 19:10; Moroni 10:13; D&C 47:22). She was blessed with spiritual insight and leadership qualities that were not being put to use by any man and so the Lord was with her and she judged. 

“No special ordination in the Priesthood is essential to man’s receiving the gift of prophecy; bearers of the Melchizedek Priesthood, Adam, Noah, Moses, and a multitude of others were prophets, but not more truly so than others who were specifically called to the Aaronic order, as exemplified in the instance of John the Baptist. The ministrations of Miriam and Deborah show that this gift may be possessed by women also.” (Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 228–29; see also Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:66.)

An overview of Judges 4:1–16  tells us that Barak is commanded to free Israel from Jabin, king of Canaan (4:1–7). He agrees to go if Deborah will go with him (4:8–9). Deborah and Barak deliver Israel from the Canaanites (4:10–16).

1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead.
2 And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3 And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
4 ¶ And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
10 ¶ And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.
12 And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
15 And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet.
16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.
What did the Lord command Barak to do? Judges 4:6–7.
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
Deborah summoned Israel's most capable military leader from his home in Kedesh. She had come to know it was God's will that Israel be set free—not simply that the next battle be won that they might have a few months' respite from their oppressors. The nation was to be truly liberated. She believed it could be done, but it did not occur to her to actually lead the rebellion. Instead, she sent for the most likely man, Barak, and told him that if he would raise an army of ten thousand, she would promise him, as God's mouthpiece, that he would be victorious. (Our sisters in the Bible Jerrie W Herd) 
On what condition was Barak willing to go to battle against Sisera and his 900 chariots?  Judges 4:8
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
Why do you think Barak was willing to face Sisera if Deborah would go with him? Barak answered, "If thou wilt go with me, then I go; but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go." Some interpret that answer to mean that he was afraid. I think not. Rather, I believe that Barak sensed the spiritual insight Deborah possessed and wanted her with him and his army. I think his answer shows him to be a man of supreme moral courage. Without a quibble, he would raise an army; but he knew what he lacked, and he knew that Deborah, a woman, possessed what was needed. (Our sisters in the Bible Jerrie W Herd) 
What impresses you about Deborah? What qualities did she have that Barak may not have had?   Judges 4:4–9, 14
4 ¶ And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
What can we learn from Deborah about being a true friend? True friends inspire us to obey the Lord and give us the strength to do what is right.  
Take a piece of paper and write down the names of friends that come to your mind.  Now take a look at those names and ask yourself, are you like Deborah to these friends? Or is it that these friends are like Deborah to you?  

How can we be better friends to others?  

3.  Gideon the strength of faith in God Judges 6–7
An overview of Judges chapters 6–7. tells us that Gideon is commanded to deliver Israel from the Midianites (6:1–24). He and 10 other men destroy Baal’s altar at night (6:25–35). The Lord assures Gideon of help by granting him two signs (6:36–40). Gideon and 300 other men deliver Israel from the Midianites (7:1–25).  

 “The Midianites and the Amalekites were the children of the desert who, through their roving habits which begot naturally a desire for plunder, led them into a systematic practice of robbing the Israelites. During the seasons of harvest they came from the deserts on the south and the east like great swarms of locusts and carried away the corn [grain] and the live-stock upon which the Israelites subsisted.

 “For seven years Israel was thus impoverished, and adopted every means at their command to conceal their property and to hide themselves from the dangers of slaughter by the Midianites. In that period, through southern Palestine, they made caverns in the earth that may still be seen. In time, however, they came to feel so deeply their suffering and humiliation that they appealed to Jehovah, the God they had forsaken in their worship. He was their last refuge, their last means of escape from the awful bondage of those times.” (Tanner, Old Testament Studies, 1:288–89.)

Judges chapter 6
In Chapter 6 Israel is in bondage to the MIdinates.  An angel then appears to Gideon and calls him to deliver Israel.  He does so by overthrowing the alter of Baal and the spirit of the Lord rests upon him.  The Lord gives him a sign to show he is called to deliver Israel. Then in Chapter 7 Gideon's army is reduced to 300 but they frighten the Midianite armies with trumpets and lights.  The Midianites fight among themselves, flee and are defeated by Israel just as Gideon was commanded to do.    

Why do some people feel, like Gideon, that the Lord worked more miracles in previous generations than he does in theirs? Judges 6:13
13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
What is our role in the working of miracles? Moroni 7:35–38.
35 And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?
36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.
What exactly did the Lord command Gideon to do? Judges 6:14 
14 And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
What was Gideon's first response?  Judges 6:15.
15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
How did the Lord assure Gideon that he had commanded him to deliver Israel and that he would be with him and help him? Judges 6:16–23, 36–40; 7:9–15
When Gideon was called, he was first greeted by an angel with complimentary words. Gideon responded with irony: "If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of?" (Judg. 6:13). But the Lord's message from the angel was still positive: if Gideon would serve God with his might, God would be with him and help him do what he was called to do (Judg. 6:16). Gideon was too overwhelmed and humble to accept immediately; he asked for a sign that the message really was from the Lord. There is a difference between asking for signs out of an urge to be gratified and asking because of the desire to discern; so, as a sign, the Lord let the angel turn a meal provided by Gideon into a miraculous burned offering. (On the problem of discerning whether a messenger is from the Lord or not, see 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Jn. 4:1-2; D&C 129.) Then Gideon was more overwhelmed with awe, gratitude, and fear, but the Lord graciously comforted him and gave him peace; wherefore, Gideon built a memorial altar and named it Jehovah-shalom, meaning, "Jehovah is peace."  (Old Testament Student Manual)
Judges Chapter 7
When Gideon believed that the Lord had truly commanded him to deliver Israel, he went forward with faith never doubting and striving righteously to fulfill all that he had been commanded to do but the Lord let him in some ways that were unexpected. 

Why did the Lord want Gideon's army of 32,000 men reduced to 300 to fight the Midianites?  The Lord wanted the Israelites to trust him and recognize his power, not their power.  
2 And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
The enemy was numerous and their camels without number, but the sizable Israelite army of 32,000 assembled from the four tribes was reduced by command of the Lord to a mere 300—so that the help of the Lord might be very apparent. Then, against the formidable camel-mounted marauders, with whom hand-to-hand combat could have been disastrous, the Lord gave Israel miraculous success. When the rout began, Gideon summoned Ephraimite warriors and sent them to cut off the enemy retreat across the Jordan at Beth-bara, which they did.  (Old Testament Student Manual)

How do some of us today “vaunt [our]selves”? Instead of recognizing that our blessings and strength come from the Lord, some of us claim to have earned all that we have through our own efforts.

How can we overcome this problem?

How does the Lord teach us to trust him and recognize his power today? 

What happened when Gideon and his 300 men faced the Midianites?   Judges 7:16–23 17 And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.  
18 When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.
19 ¶ So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.
20 And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.
21 And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
22 And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Beth-shittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abel-meholah, unto Tabbath.
23 And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.

“Though only the tribes from the north—Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali—joined his campaign, these were more than enough for the purposes of the Lord at the time. Eventually the 32,000 were reduced to 300, that the ‘help of the Lord’ might be apparent to Israel. …“Against the formidable might of camel-mounted marauders, strategy and the help of the Lord gave the Israelites success where hand to hand combat would have been disastrous. It is now known that the use of camels for military purposes by the nomadic desert riders was only beginning to be common in those times—12th to 10th centuries B.C., and of course, the first tribes to use them had the advantage.” (Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:151.)  (Old Testament Student Manual)
Why do you think Gideon and his men shout, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon'? Judges 7:20. Gideon knew and wanted his men to know that the Lord was with them.
20 And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.

What can we learn from Gideon? Gideon clearly understood his role in the Lord's government, and refused personal gain.  HIs life was exemplary and his contributions noteworthy.  His only will was to serve the Lord, to go and do and commanded. He knew that when the Lord commands us to do something he will help us do it! 
How has the Lord helped you to do something that he asked you to do that was difficult?

4.  Samson the strength of covenants and consequences of breaking them Judges 13–16

Judges 13–16 tells us that An angel instructs Samson’s parents who were barren that they would have a child and were to raise him as a Nazarite (13:1–25). Samson performs great feats of strength but breaks many of his Nazarite vows (14–15). Samson gives in to Delilah’s enticing; his hair is cut, and he becomes weak, is captured by the Philistines, and dies while pulling down their temple (16:1–31). 

In Judges 13 Israel has been in Philistine bondage for forty years.  An angel comes to Manoah’s wife and promises a son who will begin to deliver Israel.  The angel comes again; he ascends in a flame from the altar after this Samson is born, and the Spirit of the Lord moves upon him.  
Judges 14  tells of how Samson slays a young lion with his bare hands then he marries a Philistine wife, propounds a riddle, is deceived by his wife, and slays thirty Philistines. 
In Judges 15 Samson burns the grain of the Philistines.  They burn his wife and father-in-law then Samson slays a thousand Philistines at Lehi with the jawbone of an ass. 
And finally in Judges 16 Samson carries away the doors of the gate of Gaza, he loves Delilah, who delivers him to the Philistines and He destroys a building, killing himself and 3,000 others.

In these four chapters begins an account of forty years of Philistine oppression and the miraculous rise of a leader who became a folk hero but not a valiant leader. He was Samson, who was blessed with power whereby he could have delivered Israel. An angel promised a son to a Danite woman, and she was instructed to prepare for him before birth and dedicate him to serve the Lord as a Nazarite. He should have become one of Israel's greatest judges, but he did not.

Beginning in Judges 13:2–3 how did Samson's mother who was barren, learn that she would have a son?  
2 ¶ And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.
3 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
What did the Angel tell Samson's mother about the son she would bear?  Judges 13:4–5 
4 Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

Nazarites made covenants with the Lord to separate themselves from the things of the world and become holy unto him. (The Nazarite vow is set forth in Numbers 6:2–6, 8.)

An angel of the Lord had promised Samson's parents that their child would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines if he would remain a Nazarite. A Nazarite was not to have strong drink, nor could he eat any fruit of the vine (grapes, raisins, etc.). He was not to have his hair cut, nor could he touch a dead person. If a person should die while the Nazarite was touching him, the Nazarite had to go through a week-long cleansing process. (Num. 6:2-12.)
“The primary meaning of the Heb. verb nazar is to separate. Hence the nazir [Nazarite] is ‘the separated,’ ‘consecrated,’ ‘devoted.’” (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Nazarite,” pp. 647–48). A Nazarite, therefore, was one who was separated from others by a special vow of self-dedication to Jehovah. The term “set apart” is used to mean that one has been given a special calling or position and is thus separated from others. Jesus’ title, the Nazarene, meant that He was from the city of Nazareth, not that He was a Nazarite. (Old Testament Student Manual) 

What Blessings did the Lord give Samson to help him fulfill his mission to deliver Israel from the Philistines?  Judges 13:24–25; 14:5–6, 19; 15:14–15. The Lord gave him spiritual and physical strength.  As long as Samson remained faithful to his Nazarite vows, he had the strength of the Lord with him.
As a Nazarite and a member of the house of Israel, Samson made covenants with the Lord. However, he soon broke his Nazarite vow and his covenants as a member of the house of  Israel.
What vows and covenants did he break?  His life was one of self-indulgence, immorality, selfish seeking for revenge, and violation of the covenant. He married outside the covenant house of Israel (Judges 14:1–3).  He was immoral with a harlot (Judges 16:1).  He had his hair cut (Judges 16:4–20).
What were the consequences of Samson’s violation of his covenants?   Judges 16:17–21  He lost his spiritual and physical strength, and the Philistines blinded him and bound him.  We should note here that Samson’s hair was not the source of his physical strength. Rather, his hair was a sign of his covenant with the Lord, and when his hair was cut, the Lord took away his physical strength because the covenant was broken.  Tragedy came upon Samson because as he broke one commandment (morality) he lost the Spirit of the Lord. This led to his breaking other covenants and resulted in weakness, blindness, slavery, and death (both physical and spiritual).

17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
18 And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand.
19 And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.
20 And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.
21 ¶ But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.

The biblical account of Samson reveals him as a man of extreme confidence and tremendous courage, qualities based on his recognition that his power was from God and that God would sustain him in the mission to which he had been called. But Samson did not realize that there is a rule that governs power in the Lord, which is, “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). Samson’s misfortunes began when his confidence in God turned into conceit and pride. Over a period of time he broke the vows of a Nazarite and violated other commandments, including the law of chastity (see Judges 16:1).

Samson’s superhuman strength did not reside in his hair but in his confidence in God and in the Nazarite oath, of which the hair was the outward symbol. Delilah’s treachery and the shaving of Samson’s hair signified the final betrayal of his vows. Thus, he became a miserable, broken man with no power left.  (Old Testament Student Manual)
We are taught and we know that the covenants we make with the Lord should be a source of strength, guidance, and commitment.  
 What covenants do we make with the Lord? Baptism, temple ordinances, taking the sacrament...
At baptism, we covenant to serve the Lord and keep his commandments. When we partake of the sacrament, we renew those covenants. We may receive covenants of the priesthood21 and the crowning blessings of the endowment, the doctrine, and the covenants unique to the holy temple.  (Conference Report Elder Russel M Nelson Children of the Covenant) 

How have these covenants strengthened you? One way covenants strengthen us is by helping us resist Satan’s efforts to blind or bind us.
What signs do we have of our covenants with the Lord?  
What happens when we violate our covenants? The spirit leaves and is no longer with us and we lose our promised blessings.  

Samson had great potential. The angel who announced his birth said he would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. The Lord blessed him with many gifts, including great physical strength. 

What inner weaknesses caused his downfall? Judges 15:7; 16:1; D&C 3:4  He was self-indulgence, immoral, sought revenge, and violated covenants.
7 ¶ And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
4 For 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.
How can we overcome weaknesses that may hinder us from fulfilling our potential?Samson could have been one of the greatest leaders in Israel since Joshua if he had been true to his Nazarite vows and to his Lord. If Samson, foreordained and chosen by the Lord, had been able to master himself, he could have set an example of spiritual and physical courage that would rank with the finest in history. But we can learn from Samson’s failure to avoid self-justification and uncontrolled passion.  

Conclusion
In the book of Joshua the Israelites fought and won many physical battles against the Canaanites. However, in the book of Judges the Israelites began to lose spiritual battles, letting themselves be influenced by the Canaanites’ worldly practices and false gods. We face similar spiritual battles, but we can succeed in these battles as we (1) follow the ways of righteous parents and ancestors, (2) make good friends, (3) increase our faith in the Lord, and (4) keep our covenants.  The story of the time of the judges is primarily a sad and tragic one, although in this period lived some of the most remarkable men and women of the Old Testament. In their lives of courage, faith, and personal greatness, as well as in the lives of those who forsook the Lord and pursued selfish ends, are many lessons of importance for Saints today. Look for those lessons as you read this period of Israel’s history.

Resources

Old Testament Student Manual
Conference Reports
Tanner, Old Testament Studies
Our sisters in the Bible Jerrie W Herd
Talmage, Articles of Faith
Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions
The Abundant Life
Latter-day Saint Commentary of the Old Testament Ellis Rassmussen
Unlocking the Old Testament Victor Ludlow
Studies in Scripture Vol 3 Robert L Millet

The Fall of Adam and Eve

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