Introduction to the Book of Judges
“After Joshua's death in about 1429 B.C. and until Saul was appointed king in 1095 B.C., Israel's tribes were loosely bound together by a common religious covenant, with each tribe functioning independently of the others.
“Military champions and heroes led the various tribes, aiding Israel during crises. These leaders were called judges.
“The office of judge was non-hereditary and rested upon a special endowment of God's Spirit. The judges have been called ‘charismatic leaders,’ those whose authority was acknowledged because they were possessed by the divine charisma, or spiritual power.
“However, as a rule, the judges were more fighters than preachers. Their right to lead rested on the fact that in the eyes of the nation they were the strongest and best persons for that purpose. They did not preside over tribes in a judiciary sense. Instead, they governed or dispensed advice, or often led military campaigns.
“The period of the reign of the judges was marked by disorder, idolatry and foreign oppression.
“Israel had many judges, but only 13 are easily identified in the Old Testament: Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Samuel, Shagmar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, and Abdon. Little is known about most of the judges.” (LDS Church News, 1994, 04/02/94)
“The book of Judges begins with a summary of Israelite settlement under Joshua in Canaan, a land-bridge area that connected mighty empires and thus seldom knew tranquility. For generations, waves of herdsmen, fighting men, traders, farmers, and homesteaders swept into or through the territory in search of power, wealth, fruitful land, abundant water and rich pasturage, and safe homes.
“At the time of Israel’s settlement in Canaan, changes in the balance of power and in the nationality and lineage of Canaan’s inhabitants, along with the rise of a new and powerful technology, brought uproar to this western arc of the Mideastern fertile crescent. The might of the Egyptian and Hittite empires, which had long fought fiercely over this strategic area, declined; and as their influence weakened, other peoples eagerly snatched at opportunities to fill the power gap.
“During the time-period of Israelite settlement in Canaan, indigenous Canaanites expanded their strong city-states. A coalition of sea-peoples, including the Philistines, swarmed in from the west to wrest power from waning empirical strength. On the Israelites’ eastern border, nomadic raiders from the Trans-Jordan attacked, avid for a share of wealth. Other tribes such as Edomites and Moabites also fought for permanent settling-places in Canaan…
“Even the Israelites, despite their military triumphs under Joshua, could not avoid war in Canaan. For a long time, the Israelite tribes forgot their common ancestral ties and viewed themselves as separate entities, each battling for its own territory. They also forgot, at times, their common religious heritage: foreign Baalim and Astartes replaced the Lord in the hearts of the Israelites.
“Only gradually, as the individual tribes struggled to win and hold their own areas against the enemies who assailed them, did the Israelites come to regard themselves as a single people.” (Kristin E. Litchman, “Deborah and the Book of Judges,” Ensign, Jan. 1990, 32–33)
Judges 2:1-4 an angel of the Lord came up… and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt
Joseph Smith did not finish his translation of the Old Testament. While he may have read the Book of Judges and felt that the text was adequate, the modern reader can be confused by the term, “angel of the Lord.” Michael is an angel of the Lord; Gabriel is an angel of the Lord; Moroni is an angel of the Lord. But that is not what the text means here. Whether the problem is translational, transcriptional, or linguistic is merely semantic. Imagine how much more sense this verse makes if it reads, “And the Spirit of the Lord Jehovah, came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt…” The same thing applies to verse 4, “And it came to pass, when the Spirit of the Lord Jehovah spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.”
We don’t know why this message seemed to bypass Joshua; perhaps he was too old. What is interesting is how the text describes the Lord speaking to “all the children of Israel”! There does not seem to be an intermediary prophet conveying the message. Did they hear the voice of the Lord themselves? Their remorse suggests they did. Their subsequent behavior suggests their remorse didn’t last long.
Judges 2:7 the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua
The Lord admitted that the children of Israel were a stubborn group (Deut. 9:13, 27). They had fallen into apostasy before Moses day, and it took 40 years of strict rules and severe punishments to prepare them for the Promised Land. After all of that “tough love,” what was the result? Well it began to bare fruit—but not for long. After a lot of pruning, digging, nourishing, and caring, the tame olive-tree began to produce tame fruit (Jacob 5:3). But the season of fruitfulness was brief.
All that discipline, all that manna, all that animal sacrifice, could only produce a faithful people for the duration of Joshua’s ministry. Quite remarkable, certainly, that the people followed the Lord for such a short time. The Lord had made provisions to prevent a short season of tame fruit. He had commanded Israel to teach the commandments to their children: thou “shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:7)
Thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deut 6:9)
The altar established by Joshua on the west side of Jordan was to be a teaching monument:
..that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying What mean ye by these stones?
Then ye shall answer them, that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. (Josh. 4: 6-7)
What happened then? Did the fathers forget to teach the children, or did the children reject the teachings of the fathers? As Elder Neal A. Maxwell noted: “Members of the… rising generation… may even receive ‘the same instruction and the same information’ (Alma 47:36), yet some believe and others dissent. Clearly, each individual and each rising generation is left free to choose (see 2 Nephi 2:27; 10:23). But it should be an informed choice.” (Sermons Not Spoken [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985], 2) We all know, “Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, [and]… teach them not… the sin be upon the heads of the parents” (D&C 68:25), but the text doesn’t tell us who to blame. Not only did the next generation falter, but their sin was worse than their fathers. That is pretty bad when you consider the golden calf, the idolatry caused by Balaam’s league with the Moabites (Numbers 25), and the plague which came from lusting for meat (Numbers 11). Still the record states, “they… corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them” (v. 19).
Judges 2:10 there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord
Neal A. Maxwell
To the rising generation of youth and young adults in the Church, I say that scriptural memories, spiritual memories, can be lost in a generation: “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” (Judg. 2:10). In one generation!
When the scriptures are either not available or are not searched and believed, then two things happen—a loss of belief in God and a loss of belief in the resurrection: “They had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator” (Omni 1:17).
“Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.
“They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ” (Mosiah 26:1–2).
Those vital things always go first, and they can go within a generation unless we truly are feasting upon the scriptures. Feasting on the scriptures, combined with the gift of the Holy Ghost, will “show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:5). (“The Pathway of Discipleship,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 10–11)
Judges 2:16 Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them
Mark E. Petersen
But the Lord has infinite patience. He had pledged to Moses and Joshua that he would bring his people into the land of milk and honey, which Palestine was at that time, and had promised them great prosperity, even with peace, if they would serve him. In spite of their apostate ways, he still endeavored to keep his promise to Abraham by saving this stubborn people from themselves.
The Lord determined upon a new form of government. Whether he had in mind an approach to some kind of democratic rule is not clear, but from among the people he "raised up judges" as deliverers and leaders in their battles, but also to provide some semblance of centralized authority.
Some of these judges reigned for as long as forty years, and under their rule peace prevailed at times. Some of the judges were fighters, too, great leaders in the battles of the Israelites, and in many instances they won significant victories.
"And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods…” (Three Kings of Israel [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 10)
Judges 2:16 judges… delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them
The importance of Israel’s deliverance by judges cannot be overstated. Who cares? Why does it matter? Because after Joshua, the idea of a leader for Israel that would deliver them from their enemies became a regular part of history, tradition, and lore. Every time a judge went before the enemy and won, it reaffirmed the idea of a deliverer producing political and military victories. This was the kind of deliverer that the Jews expected in Jesus’ day. One of the main reasons so many Jews failed to see the Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth was because he did not fit the pattern they knew from their history books.
They knew of Othniel, a judge who delivered Israel out of the hands of the king of Mesopotamia (Judg. 3:8-11). They knew of Ehud who delivered Israel out of the hands of Moab (Judg. 3:15-30). They knew of Shamgar who delivered Israel from the hand of the Philistines (Judg. 3:31). And they knew of Deborah, the only female leader in Israel’s Biblical history, who delivered Israel from the Canaanites and their “chariots of iron.” (Judg. 4-5)
No wonder, then, that they expected such a deliverance from the long awaited Messiah. Certainly, the writings of the prophets reinforced the idea of a political victory. Look at how Isaiah connects Messianic judgment with military conquest:
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isa 11:4)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder…
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. (Isa 9:6-7)
Sounds like the Messiah will come to execute judgment for the poor, plead for Israel, and fight their battles! Shouldn’t the Messiah come to deliver Israel from the Romans who were spoiling the Israelites with heavy taxes? What the scribes and pharisees didn’t perceive, now obvious in retrospect, is that Messianic prophecies would have a dual fulfillment. In many instances, the prophecies were not fulfilled in Christ’s First Coming and await fulfillment at his second.
“This… threatened the proud hopes of the Jews at the Savior's time, those who looked for a powerful political Messiah to take the responsibility of changing the world so they would not have to change. They were looking for the spectacular. Their Messiah was to display great power and glory in overthrowing the Roman taskmasters and enthroning Israel again. Their Messiah did come—born naturally, in a manger, of a virgin. Instead of bringing a revolution among the nations, he taught of a revolution to take place within the hearts of men and women.
“We are too often like these early Jews, expecting others to change, looking for a miracle or manifestation outside ourselves, instead of within.” (Stephen R. Covey, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970], 55)
Judges 4:4 Deborah, a prophetess… judged Israel at that time
“The gift of prophecy is a special spiritual endowment that is available to every worthy member of the Church. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said: ‘Every member of the Church—acting in submission to the laws and system which the Lord has ordained—is expected to have the gift of prophecy. It is by this gift that a testimony of the truth comes.’ (Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958, p. 542)
“One definition of a prophet or prophetess, then, is one who knows by the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, ‘for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Rev. 19:10). Moses prayed, ‘would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them’ (Num. 11:29). Thus, a woman who had an abundance of the special gift of testimony may have been referred to as a prophetess.
“The term can take on additional depth and meaning, however. Elder George Q. Cannon wrote: ‘The spirit of the Church of God is that manifested by Moses. … The genius of the kingdom with which we are associated is to disseminate knowledge through all the ranks of the people, and to make every man a prophet and every woman a prophetess, that they may understand the plans and purposes of God. For this purpose the gospel has been sent to us, and the humblest may obtain its spirit and testimony’ (in Journal of Discourses, 12:46).
“Add to these two meanings—having the testimony of Jesus, and having a broader understanding of the plans and purposes of God—is a third usage that relates directly to foretelling or prophesying. President Joseph Fielding Smith has said: ‘Our sisters are entitled just as much to the inspiration for their needs of the Holy Spirit as are the men. They are entitled to the gift of prophecy concerning matters that would be essential for them to know as it is for the men.’ (Take heed to Yourselves, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971, p. 259) Thus, as a woman with a special gift for poetry can be called a poetess, so could a woman with the spiritual gift of foretelling be termed a prophetess.” (Daniel H. Ludlow, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Dec. 1980, 31)
“One of [Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s] daughters once asked her dad what a prophetess is. His reply: ‘A prophetess is a woman like your mother.’” (Ensign, June 1985, 20)
Gordon B. Hinckley
My dear sisters, you, as women, have tremendous executive responsibilities in this Church. And no one appreciates more than I the wonderful contributions you make and the great wisdom you bring. (“Ten Gifts from the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 88)
Judges 4:8 Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go
Ardeth G. Kapp
I believe that a lot of good can be accomplished when we are not so concerned about who gets the credit. Deborah seems to have been more concerned about the things that needed to be accomplished than about the glory that would come to her. (Judg. 4:1-10.)
She possessed one of the gifts of the Spirit spoken of in Moro. 10:13, in which it is stated that to some is given the gift to “prophesy concerning all things.” Deborah had the spirit of prophecy, a gift given to men and women.
Because of the gift, Deborah was blessed with spiritual insight and leadership ability, which she freely shared, not concerned about who got the credit. She did not need a title or a position, or recognition to help Israel. All she needed was a willing, charitable heart that desired to be of service to the Lord, and that she had. The scriptures tell us that Barak would not lead an army against Jabin until Deborah was present. (Judg. 4:8-9.)
Deborah is a beautiful example of how the Lord could use us if we were more concerned about serving and less concerned about titles and who gets the credit. (LDS Church News, 1994, 04/02/94)
Judges 4:9 the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman
“Of the battle itself, the Bible says only that the Lord ‘discomfited Sisera and all his chariots . . . so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot and fled away on his feet.’ Josephus describes in more detail how a sudden storm of rain and hail swept down upon Sisera from Mount Tabor, the Israelite's rallying place, and broke over the Canaanite army. The aim of the archers was deflected, and the horses were terrified, breaking free of the iron chariots and running amok among the foot soldiers. All were routed. Deborah's specific role in the battle is not described in either source. Likely she remained at the rear, her army's inspiration, not their swordsman.
“That role fell to another woman, Jael. When Sisera was forced to flee on foot, he made straight for a friendly tribe of nomads called the Kenites. They were itinerant metal-smiths who doubtless had a hand in fashioning the Canaanite chariots. A man named Heber was leader of the tribe, but he was not present when Sisera arrived. In his place his wife, Jael, went out to meet Sisera, offered a kind and reassuring welcome, brought him milk and food—‘a lordly dish,’ the scriptures say—and made him a bed. When Sisera asked her to watch at the tent door so that no one would come upon him unawares, she agreed that she would.
“Why Jael chose to side with the Israelites is never revealed. Neither is her nationality; she is simply called ‘the wife of Heber, the Kenite.’ She may have been an Israelite who had married outside her own race, or she might have been captured in a raid and given to Heber as a prize. She may simply have been tired of the bloodshed, the constant plundering by Sisera and his army. Whatever the reason, it was into her hands, a woman's, as Deborah had prophesied, that Sisera was delivered, and by her hand he died. In those days, everything connected with a tent was a woman's responsibility. Taking the instruments with which she was familiar, a tent peg in one hand and a hammer in the other, she stole toward Sisera. The skull of this great general was probably softer and less resistant than the dry soil where many, many times she had pitched her tent. She deftly pounded the nail through his temples into the ground.” (Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 48)
Judges 4:21 Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer… and smote the nail into his temples
This is one of those great Old Testament stories. Whether it is the talking donkey (Num. 22), the sons of Jacob who killed their neighbors after circumcising them (Gen. 34), or the Levite who cut up his gang raped concubine and mailed a piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Judg. 19), the stories of the Old Testament get our attention.
What is sometimes disturbing to the reader is that there is no commentary from someone like Mormon or Moroni to help the reader interpret the event. The last story of the Levite’s concubine is a good example of something that was included just because it was so outlandish and unbelievable. We should by no means assume the lack of commentary means divine sanction. The reason the story is included is because it is newsworthy, “There was no such deed done nor seen [before]… consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.” (Judg. 19:30)
Heber’s wife Jael made the news. To us, her act may seem deceitful and gruesome. However, she is a heroine because she helped the Israelites defeat the enemy. She is creative in her means of killing. She is forever revered in the annals of Israelite history, “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent” (Judg 5:24). Her act represents the value system of the Israelites: whoever performs great feats, particularly in helping Israel defeat her enemies, is a hero.
Judges 6:1-5 The Midianites… left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass
Both the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament are very brief about battles lost by the Nephites and Israelites respectively. In contrast, detailed descriptions and histories recount military successes. Therefore, we need to read between the lines to realize how badly the Israelites were beaten by the Midianites. There was nothing left; people were moving to the mountains and caves like the Essenes of Qumran centuries later; “Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites.” Things were grim, grim, grim.
“Every year for seven years a powerful confederation of nomadic tribes from southeastern Palestine had overrun the land of Israel. This was done each year at harvesttime, not by armies arrayed for battle, but with people ‘as grasshoppers for multitude.’ They invaded, pitching their tents and grazing their animals as they wandered through the land. So devastating were these migrations that they stripped the land of everything that could sustain life (see Judg. 6:1–5). The Midianites were like unwelcome distant relatives who came each year and stayed too long, eating the Israelites out of house and home.
“So impoverished and desperate were the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. The first thing the Lord did was send a prophet, whose name is unknown, to rebuke Israel for its disobedience (see Judg. 6:7–10). Next He sent an angel to a young man named Gideon as he secretly threshed wheat under an oak tree, hoping to keep the grain from the Midianites. The angel said: ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. … Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.’” (Manfred H. Schütze, “The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” Ensign, Apr 2002, 46)
Judges 6:15 Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel?
“Gideon did not think he was a mighty warrior and replied, ‘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.’ The angel replied, ‘Surely I will be with thee and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man’ (Judg. 6:15–16; emphasis added). To smite as one man means that the vast masses of Midianites would be conquered as if they were but a lone man. This seemed unbelievable to Gideon, so he asked the angel for a sign, to prove that he was truly sent from God. Evidence was duly provided, and Gideon bowed in humble submission to the Lord’s call (see Judg. 6:17–24)…
“So often the Lord calls inexperienced people to His service and gives them important and decisive assignments. At first, like Gideon, they may be fearful of the task. “If any brother or sister feels unprepared—even incapable—of responding to a call to serve, to sacrifice, to bless the lives of others, remember this truth: `Whom God calls, God qualifies.` He who notes the sparrow’s fall will not abandon the servant’s need.’ As we read the stories of those whom the Lord has called out of their weakness, we can have the assurance that we will receive the strength to fulfill callings. ‘God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.’
“The Lord calls missionaries, Primary teachers, quorum leaders, fathers and mothers out of their weakness to become His powerful servants. He does not ask that they become strong first, then serve; He does not wait until they become fully trained and skillful. Like Gideon, He often calls them from obscurity and weakness. He tells them to ‘go in the strength you have’ and then make them mighty warriors. The first assignments are often smaller yet truly significant and assist those called in strengthening their own families.” (Manfred H. Schütze, “The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” Ensign, Apr 2002, 46)
James E. Faust
The Lord has a great work for each of us to do. You may wonder how this can be. You may feel that there is nothing special or superior about you or your ability. Perhaps you feel, or have been told, that you are stupid. Many of us have felt that and some of us have been told that. Gideon felt this when the Lord asked him to save Israel from the Midianites. Gideon said, “My family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” He had only three hundred men, but with the help of the Lord, Gideon defeated the armies of the Midianites.
The Lord can do remarkable miracles with a person of ordinary ability who is humble, faithful, and diligent in serving the Lord and seeks to improve himself. This is because God is the ultimate source of power. (“Acting for Ourselves and Not Being Acted Upon,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 47)
Judges 6:17 If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign
Joseph Smith taught that it was a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks for a sign (Teachings, 278). Most demands for signs from God remain unfulfilled. Sometimes, when the sign is given, it is a punishment for the wicked—like Sherem and Korihor (Jacob 7:13-15; Alma 30:48-50). On occasion, individuals have asked the Lord for a sign without reprimand. When the righteous desire a sign, it is because they lack faith not in the Lord but in themselves. Moses worried about his legitimacy as a prophet, “behold, they will not believe me.” He was given a sign that he could show to others—he cast his staff upon the ground and it became a serpent (Ex. 4:1-5). If that sign wasn’t enough, Moses placed his hand in his bosom and brought it out as leprous as snow. These were two of the signs given to Moses and the children of Israel (Ex. 4:6-9).
Those who know the Lord, however, must be careful not to weary the Lord with such a request.
“Before asking the Lord for a sign or manifestation of his power, the righteous must exercise caution, remembering that ‘blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe’ (Alma 32:16).
“The scriptures, however, also make it clear that signs can confirm a person’s faith in the Lord (see 3 Ne. 1:8, 22; 3 Ne. 11:14–17); indeed, the Lord has promised that signs will ‘follow them that believe’ (Mark 16:17).
“He has said that when these signs are given to those who believe, they are given ‘for [our] profit and for salvation’ (D&C 84:65–73; see also Mark 16:17–18; Morm. 9:21, 25; D&C 35:8–9; D&C 46:7–9). The scriptures record examples of people who asked the Lord in righteousness for signs or miracles and whose desires were granted (see Judg. 6:11–24; 2 Kgs. 20:8–11; Mark 9:20–27; Luke 1:34–38; Hel. 11:1–5; JS—H 1:29–30).
“Nevertheless, we must remember that ‘signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God’ (D&C 63:10; see also D&C 24:13). And the Lord has admonished us that we ‘receive no witness [or sign] until after the trial of [our] faith’ (Ether 12:6).” (Jonathan H. Stephenson, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Dec. 1994, 61)
Judges 6:22-24 I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face
Did Gideon see an angel or the Lord? Elsewhere, we talked about the phrase, “angel of the Lord” being a euphemism for Jehovah himself (see commentary for Judges 2:1-4). Gideon may in fact have spoken directly to the Lord rather than an angel. When the Messenger says, “have I not sent thee?” and “Surely I will be with thee,” we think of Jehovah himself (v. 14-16). The other reason it makes sense that Gideon spoke face to face with the similitude of Jehovah is the name he gives to the altar, Jehovah-Shalom—meaning literally, “the peace of Jehovah.”
Judges 6:31 he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning
Gideon’s father knows the Law. He knows that according to the Law, anyone who encourages the worship of idols is to be killed immediately (Deut. 13). The elders of the city are the ones who are supposed to enforce the Law of Moses. Instead, they are the ones suggesting Gideon be killed for destroying the altar and the groves (where ritualistic sexual acts were hidden from view).
Joash’s wisdom prevails; the men of the city are guilty and they know it. It is they who should be killed. Convicted of their own guilt, they press the issue no longer.
Judges 7:2 The people that are with thee are too many... lest Israel vaunt themselves against me
“This is an example of the way the Lord works-not by physical or worldly force but by divine power and miracles. The children of Israel would know that they were delivered out of the land of Egypt not by their own strength but by the power of God. Their faith was to be in God, not in their armaments or their own strength. The principle involved here is expressed in this New Testament scripture: ‘God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty’ (1 Cor. 1:27-29; see also D&C 1:19). We see the principle at work again in the episode of David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17) and in the account of Gideon's victory with his army of three hundred men, a number reduced from a larger one (Judg. 7). The Israelites had to believe that God would deliver them, over and beyond what they could do themselves. They were not to trust in the arm of flesh. This is still the way the Lord works among the children of men today.” (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 62)
Judges 7:3 Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart
John A. Widstoe
Gideon, mighty man of ancient Israel, was called to rescue his people from a seven-year oppression by the Midianites and associated people. He raised therefore an army of thirty-two thousand men to fight the enemy. But in those days, as in ours, battles were won not by numbers but by men of quality. So he was commanded to proclaim:
"Whosoever is fearful and afraid let him return. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand . . ."—(Judges 7:3) It was a high percentage. It is probably as high in the world today. Nevertheless Gideon's army was stronger because the faithful ones were left. Fear never fails to lead a man or a group of people to weakness and to ultimate failure.
The fears of man are legion. They float to the surface from submerged corners in our consciousness. They are often the products of our imagination.
Really what have we to fear?... Righteous men if united are masters of their generation and can and should cast out all such fears, and should sternly set about to root out such weeds of existence. False teachings fall before truth.
It would be better for man's happiness to substitute for such fears a proper control of the use of his powers, whether of his natural endowment, or those that have been discovered by the patient searchers for truth. (Conference Report, October 1950, General Priesthood Meeting 184)
Judges 7:22 the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow
Visualize it this way: Imagine a class in tactics at West Point. The uniformed cadets march to class, where they are introduced to a guest lecturer who promises three surefire ways to win a battle.
"The first method," he tells them, "is the Moses strategy. During the fighting, you get the president of the United States to hold a Bible in his uplifted hands as he watches the battle from some vantage point. If he gets tired, call on the secretaries of state and defense to hold his arms up. As long as his arms remain aloft, the United States will win.
"The second method is the Gideon way. Pick the most unlikely general you can—one from a small family on the wrong side of the tracks who has a fearful, negative attitude. Put him in charge. Reduce your standing army by more than 90 percent. Do away with all weapons and give the men musical instruments and flashlights. Surround the army at night. Play your instruments, turn on your flashlights, and holler about God and your chicken-hearted general. The enemy will become confused and kill each other and flee. You are sure to win.
"Finally, there's the Jehoshaphat plan. Gather everybody in church and let the president lead in a prayer confessing the utter weakness of the country. Then gather a choir, and let them take the front lines as they sing praises to God. The enemy will be defeated."
When you phrase it in practical terms, these tactics are pretty absurd, aren't they? The Israelites weren't stupid or primitive. They knew this wasn't how you won wars. But that was how the Israelites did it, because their God was a God of miracles. All of these battles were times when the Israelites perceived clearly the grace of God—simply because there was no other way to explain what happened. Disciples believe in miracles. (Disciples [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 30)