Home > Articles > Reflections


Judges says, Israel failed, over and over.  And yet, when people repented, God was there to deliver them.
Read Time: 3 minutes

Listen to the Audio of This Article!

(Written May 2, 2024)

Led by the reading plan I’m using this year, I’ve just finished reading Judges.  It’s a book that presents a number of challenges.  It can help a little bit if we understand the structure. 

The first 16 chapters relate the history of this period. 

Then chapters 17-21 present two example incidents, both of which occurred early in the Judges period.  The account of Micah, the Levite and the Danites illustrates a fall into idolatry masked by a veneer of honoring the God of Israel.  (We know it’s early because it turns out the Levite is Moses’s grandson—18:30.)  The account of the Levite and his concubine illustrates horrendous moral decline.  (We know this one is early because Phineas is still alive—20:28.)

Functioning as bookends around these two incidents is the declaration, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  (17:6 and 21:25)  The same statement is repeated in 18:1, and 19:1 repeats the part about there being no king in Israel.  Remember, at this time the Lord declared He was king in Israel—so this statement is an indictment.

Personally, I consider the book of Ruth to be a third example drawn from the period.  It occurs later in the Judges period, but the main thing is that it draws a sharp contrast from the other two examples.  There was a lot of wrongdoing and faithlessness in this period.  But, as Ruth shows us, there were also faithful people—and they were the reason God continued to bail the nation out of its repeated self-inflicted troubles.

Anyway, knowing the structure, we see that chronologically the Judges period ended with Samson.  The angel who foretold his birth stated he would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines (13:5).  The work would be continued by Samuel, then Saul, and finally completed by David.

Samson.  One of those challenges I mentioned at the beginning.  What Samson is most known for is his failures, specifically failures arising from his involvement with women he shouldn’t have been involved with.  Even though the angel’s prophecy was fulfilled—he did indeed begin getting Israel free of the domination of the Philistines—most of the focus placed on Samson is on his questionable actions and his outright failures.

And yet, as you probably know, the writer to the Hebrews includes Samson in the catalog of the faithful.  After citing numerous examples of faith, the writer concludes, “And what more shall I say?  For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets…” (Hebrews 11:32)

This sentence makes a lot of people go, “Huh.”  Or even, “Huh?”  Because Samson isn’t the only one in that list who has negatives as the primary focus of our attention.  Starting in children’s Sunday School and carrying right on to serious Biblical scholarship, the judges mentioned in this list are generally considered to have big flaws, and it’s the flaws that we usually focus on.

God’s focus is on salvation

I’m not sure all the alleged flaws are in fact understood accurately.  But leaving that question aside for now, let’s make sure that in our minds we aren’t thinking that the Hebrews writer got it wrong.  We wouldn’t say that in so many words, but we might have some real doubts about including those men.  If that’s the case, I think maybe we have a focus problem.  The problem being with us, not with Hebrews.

The Bible doesn’t sugar coat.  It shows us who we are, warts and all.  But the warts aren’t the Almighty’s focus.  His focus is on the salvation He has provided, specifically for people with moral failures, idolatry failures, faith failures.  They are us. 

That’s the point of Judges, including Samson and the rest.  Judges says, Israel failed, over and over.  And yet, when people repented, God was there to deliver them.  Which is pretty much the message of the whole Bible.  The message of grace.  That should be our focus.

Love, Paul

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Suggested Readings
View all events
Upcoming Events