Now that we've moved onto the book of Judges here is some extra reference material...The map and photos below are from "See the Good Land" brochure and the following info is from the (1/15/05 WA)
(Judges and Tribes of Israel - pg 15 *click for a closeup* the yellow circles shown on the map, correlates with the 12 Judges listed in the box to the left)
(Mount Tabor and Valley of Jezreel and flooding of the Kishon riverbed, pg 14)
Highlights From the Book of Judges
How does Jehovah respond when his own people turn their back on him and begin to worship false gods? What if they repeatedly fall away and call on him for help only when they are in distress? Does Jehovah provide a way of escape for them even then? The book of Judges answers these and other vital questions. Completed by the prophet Samuel about 1100 B.C.E., it covers events that span some 330 years—from the death of Joshua to the enthronement of Israel’s first king.
As a part of God’s dynamic word, or message, the book of Judges is of great value to us. (Hebrews 4:12) The exciting accounts recorded in it give us insight into God’s personality. The lessons that we learn from them strengthen our faith and help us to get a firm hold on “the real life,” everlasting life in God’s promised new world. (1 Timothy 6:12, 19; 2 Peter 3:13) The deeds of salvation that Jehovah performs in behalf of his people provide a foregleam of the greater deliverance by his Son, Jesus Christ, in the future.
WHY WERE JUDGES NEEDED?
After the kings of the land of Canaan are defeated under the leadership of Joshua, the individual tribes of Israel go to their inheritance and take possession of the land. However, the Israelites fail to dispossess the inhabitants of the land. This failure proves to be a real snare for Israel.
The generation that comes after the days of Joshua ‘does not know Jehovah or the work that he has done for Israel.’ (Judges 2:10) Moreover, the people proceed to form marriage alliances with the Canaanites and to serve their gods. So Jehovah gives the Israelites into the hands of their enemies. When oppression becomes severe, though, the sons of Israel call upon the true God for help. In this religious, social, and political climate unfolds the account of a line of judges whom Jehovah raises up to save his people from their enemies.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:2, 4—Why is Judah designated to be the first tribe to take possession of the land allotted to it? Normally, this privilege would go to the tribe of Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. But in his deathbed prophecy, Jacob foretold that Reuben was not to excel, having forfeited his right as the firstborn. Simeon and Levi, who had acted with cruelty, were to be scattered in Israel. (Genesis 49:3-5, 7) Hence, the next in line was Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. Simeon, who went up with Judah, received small areas of land scattered throughout the large territory of Judah.—Joshua 19:9.
1:6, 7—Why were the thumbs and the big toes of defeated kings cut off? A person who lost his thumbs and big toes apparently was incapacitated for military action. Without the thumbs, how could a soldier handle a sword or a spear? And the loss of the big toes would result in inability to maintain one’s balance properly.
Lessons for Us:
2:10-12. We must have a regular program of Bible study so as ‘not to forget Jehovah’s doings.’ (Psalm 103:2) Parents need to sound down the truth of God’s Word into the hearts of their children.—Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
2:14, 21, 22. Jehovah allows bad things to happen to his disobedient people for a purpose—to chastise them, to refine them, and to move them to return to him.
JEHOVAH RAISES UP JUDGES
The exciting account of the exploits of the judges begins with Othniel’s bringing an end to Israel’s eight-year subjugation to a Mesopotamian king. Using a courageous strategy, Judge Ehud kills Eglon, the fat Moabite king. Valiant Shamgar single-handedly strikes down 600 Philistines using a cattle goad. With encouragement from Deborah, who serves as a prophetess, and with Jehovah’s backing, Barak and his lightly equipped army of ten thousand men rout the powerful army of Sisera. Jehovah raises up Gideon and gives him and his 300 men victory over the Midianites.
Through Jephthah, Jehovah delivers Israel from the Ammonites. Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon are also among the 12 men who judge Israel. The period of the Judges ends with Samson, who fights against the Philistines.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
4:8—Why did Barak insist that the prophetess Deborah go with him to the battlefield? Evidently, Barak felt inadequate to go up against Sisera’s army by himself. Having the prophetess with him would reassure him and his men that they had God’s guidance and would give them confidence. Barak’s insistence that Deborah accompany him, then, was not a sign of weakness but of strong faith.
5:20—How did the stars fight from the heavens in behalf of Barak? The Bible does not say whether this involved angelic assistance, meteorite showers that were interpreted ominously by Sisera’s wise men, or perhaps astrological predictions for Sisera that proved false. Undoubtedly, however, there was some type of divine intervention.
7:1-3; 8:10—Why did Jehovah say that Gideon’s 32,000 men were too many against the enemy force of 135,000? This was because Jehovah was giving Gideon and his men the victory. God did not want them to think that they defeated the Midianites in their own strength.
11:30, 31—When making his vow, did Jephthah have a human sacrifice in mind? Such a thought would be far from Jephthah’s mind, for the Law stipulated: “There should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire.” (Deuteronomy 18:10) However, Jephthah did have in mind a person and not an animal. Animals suitable for sacrifice were not likely kept in Israelite homes. And the offering of an animal would be nothing outstanding. Jephthah was aware that the one coming out of his house to meet him might well be his daughter. This one was to be offered up “as a burnt offering” in that the person would be devoted to Jehovah’s exclusive service in connection with the sanctuary.
Lessons for Us:
3:10. Success in spiritual pursuits depends, not on human wisdom, but on Jehovah’s spirit.—Psalm 127:1.
3:21. Ehud wielded his sword proficiently and with courage. We must acquire skill in using “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” This means that we must use the Scriptures courageously in our ministry.—Ephesians 6:17; 2 Timothy 2:15.
6:11-15; 8:1-3, 22, 23. Gideon’s modesty teaches us three important lessons: (1) When a privilege of service is extended to us, we should reflect on the responsibility it entails rather than dwell on the prominence or prestige that may be associated with it. (2) When dealing with those inclined to quarrel, displaying modesty is the course of wisdom. (3) Modesty protects us from being position oriented.
6:17-22, 36-40. We too must be cautious and “not believe every inspired expression.” Instead, we need to “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God.” (1 John 4:1) To make sure that counsel he plans to give is solidly based on God’s Word, a new Christian elder is wise to consult a more experienced elder.
6:25-27. Gideon used discretion so as not to anger his opposers needlessly. When preaching the good news, we must be careful not to offend others unduly by the way we speak.
7:6. When it comes to serving Jehovah, we should be like Gideon’s 300 men—alert and vigilant.
9:8-15. How foolish to act proudly and harbor ambition for position or power!
11:35-37. The good example of Jephthah was undoubtedly instrumental in helping his daughter develop strong faith and a self-sacrificing spirit. Parents today can set such an example for their children.
11:40. Offering commendation to someone who displays a willing spirit in Jehovah’s service encourages that one.
13:8. In teaching their children, parents should pray to Jehovah for guidance and follow his direction.—2 Timothy 3:16.
14:16, 17; 16:16. Applying pressure by weeping and nagging can damage a relationship.—Proverbs 19:13; 21:19.