Monthly Archives: January 2012

Teaching the Book of Judges to Children: Deborah

One of the biggest travesties of skipping the Book of Judges in Sunday School is that one of the greatest role models in the Bible for our little girls is the fourth judge, Deborah. Really, there are quite a number of good women described in the Scriptures, but precious few of them get much recognition in most Sunday School curriculum. Some denominations have a problem with Deborah as an authority figure, telling men what to do. However, it must be noted that Deborah’s authority was political–she was a judge, not a priestess. Some of history’s greatest political leaders have been women–but that’s a lesson for another day!

Please note that it is helpful to teach lessons from the Judges with the aid of a poster or diagram on the white board depicting the repetitive cycle of events in this period from Israel’s history: sin, particularly idol worship; punishment by enemy capture; repentance and cry to God for help; Judge called and enemy defeated; period of peace and obedience; judge dies and Israel falls into sin again.

My name is Deborah. I am a judge of Israel. Last week, you learned about the first two judges of Israel. Do you remember their names? Othniel and Ehud! Do you remember the cycle of events that kept happening in Israel after Joshua died? The people would fall into sin and worship false gods; then God would punish the people by allowing a foreign king to conquer them and oppress them. The people would be sorry for their sin and ask God to forgive them and rescue them. So God would send a judge to lead them out of bondage.

I am the fourth judge of Israel. During the time of the second judge, Ehud, there was an attack on our people by the Philistines. At that time, God raised a third judge named Shamgar to defeat the Philistine army. The Philistines had iron chariots and iron swords and shields, and our army had only long, pointed sticks called ox goads to defend themselves. But Shamgar killed 600 of these armed Philistines with his ox goad all by himself. That’s really all history tells us of this brave man!

But after Ehud and Shamgar died, the people of Israel again forgot the one, true God and began to worship false gods. They did evil in the sight of the Lord. And so, God allowed Jabin, the king of the Canaanites to defeat Israel with the help of his cruel, wicked general, Sisera. King Jabin and General Sisera tormented the people of Israel for 20 years, until finally Israel returned to the one, true God and cried out for His help. And God called me to help them.

When God called me, I was a prophetess. That means that God talks to me and I can tell people what He says. People would come from all over Israel to sit under the palm tree in my front yard and ask me to help them with their problems, because they knew that the Spirit of God was with me. Whenever two men had a disagreement that they couldn’t solve between them, they’d say, “Let’s go to the Palm of Deborah,” and then they would come and ask me to speak to God for them.

One day, God gave me a message to send to a man named Barak. God was answering the prayers of His people and was planning to deliver Israel from the rule of the Canaanites through Barak. I told God’s plan to this man whom God had chosen. “Gather 10,000 men upon Mt. Tabor and God will lead Sisera’s army right to you and give them into your hands. You will defeat him easily,” I told Barak.

But Barak did wasn’t so sure. “I’ll go,” he said reluctantly. “But only if you go with me. If you don’t go with me, I won’t go either!”

I sighed. I’m not a young woman anymore. Even if I were a man, I would be too old to fight in a battle! What help did Barak think I could possibly be? “All right,” I said, “I’ll go with you. But because you put more trust in me than in our God, the honor of this battle will not be yours. A woman will get the credit for defeating General Sisera.” Barak was fine with this, because he thought the woman getting the credit would be me, just for telling him how to win the battle. But he was quite wrong, as you will see.

Barak gathered his men on Mt. Tabor as God, though me, had instructed. And all went well, because God was with us. The Canaanites had iron chariots and we did not even have horses. The Canaanites had iron swords and shields, and most of our men had only primitive weapons like sticks and bows and arrows. There were far more Canaanites than there were Israelites. But still, when Barak blew his trumpet and our army ran down Mt. Tabor towards the Canaanites’ camp, the enemy panicked and fled, leaving their horses and fancy chariots behind! They were in such fear, they trampled and killed each other, and then they were trapped at the banks of a river, which God had caused to be flooded and rushing wildly. Most of the enemy who were still alive at that point, jumped into the river and drowned. The battle was won, and we had needed no weapon but God!

General Sisera, the enemy general, had seen that all was lost. Instead of staying with his own men, he ran away like a coward and tried to find a place to hide. He came to the home of man named Heber. Heber and his wife Jael did not live in a house like you have today: they lived in a tent. Sisera knew that Heber had served the Canaanite king Jabin in the past and hoped to find help at Heber’s tent. But Heber was not home, and Jael, unlike her husband, was loyal to Israel. When Sisera ran into her tent, demanding shelter and something to drink, she gave him a bottle of milk and let him lie down to rest on a mat on the floor. And then, when her enemy was asleep, she grabbed a tent stake and a hammer and nailed Sisera’s head to the dirt floor! He died instantly. Sisera, the mighty Canaanite general who had tormented the Israelites for 20 years, was dead at the hand of a woman. In the meantime, Barak realized that Sisera had escaped and was searching everywhere for him. When he came near Jael’s tent, she ran out and told Barak what she had done. Now Barak understood what God had meant when He said that the honor of the battle would go to a woman!

With General Sisera and most of the Canaanite army gone, King Jabin no longer had any power in the land of Israel. He was quickly overthrown, and Israel belonged to Israel again. After serving such cruel masters for 20 years, all of Israel rejoiced at our freedom! As long as I lived, the people continue to serve only the one, true God and to obey Him. And God blessed us as long as we served Him, giving us an abundance of every good. Do you think they will continue to serve God after I die?


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Teaching the Book of Judges to Children: Othniel to Ehud

Some teachers I know dread teaching the Book of Judges to children. It’s difficult to explain, and there’s a lot of violence and sinfulness going on. But honestly, I have a lot of fun with this book. It’s filled with just the kind of stories kids love: enemies defeated by ordinary heroes. It has many of the same themes as the best fairy tales and myths that have informed our children’s minds for hundreds of years. Why not give them “myths” that are true? In my experience, kids love these stories. So here we go with part one of Judges:

My name is Ehud. I was a judge of Israel. Do you know what a judge is? I wasn’t a judge like the court judges you have in America today. In Bible times, a judge was a leader of the people. After Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land and defeated the Canaanites there, the people spread out throughout Canaan and settled the land. The people were to have no king except God to rule over them. They were to obey God’s Laws, and if they did, they would be happy and successful in everything they did.

But soon after Joshua died, the people of Israel forgot to obey God. They began to worship the gods of the Canaanites, idols made of wood and stone. How does that make sense, worshiping the gods of the people you had defeated? You would suppose that, after all God had done for the Israelites, and after they had promised to serve God faithfully, they would never turn to idols, especially idols that could not even save their own people, the Canaanites. But that’s just what Israel did. Perhaps it was not so strange, though. In all the known world at that time, the Israelites were the only people who did not worship idols. All the nations around them—the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Moabites, everyone—had many idols and many gods to worship. These people had gods that you could see and touch, but Israel’s God cannot be seen or touched. Perhaps this is why it was easy for the Israelites to turn away from the one, true God and worship the gods of the nations around them.

When the people turned away from the true God and refused to obey Him, they also began doing all kinds of other wicked things to each other: stealing and killing and all kinds of horrible sins. God had to punish them to make them stop this wickedness. He allowed the King of Mesopotamia to march into Israel and make the people slaves to him. The Mesopotamians took all the wealth and all of the food of the Israelites, leaving them poor and hungry. The people of Israel suffered under the rule of the King of Mesopotamia for eight long, terrible years, until they finally learned their lesson and cried out to God for forgiveness. When the people turned back to God, God sent them a judge to lead them out of trouble. The first judge was Caleb’s nephew Othniel. Do you remember Caleb, Joshua’s friend? Othniel defeated the king of Mesopotamia and set Israel free. And while Othniel lived, the people followed him and obeyed the one, true God.

But after Othniel died, the people went back to their old ways and began to worship false gods again and do all kinds of wicked things. And so again, God let a foreign king defeat the people of Israel and make them his slaves. This time it was the king of Moab. The king of Moab was named Eglon, and he was the most remarkably fat man you could possibly imagine! He was so huge he could hardly walk! He was also very cruel and ruled over Israel very harshly. After many years of suffering, the people of Israel remembered the one true God and cried out to Him again for forgiveness and for deliverance from their enemy. And so God appointed another judge to lead His people. This time, the judge was me, Ehud.

Why God chose me I don’t know. I’m just an ordinary guy without any special talents or abilities. But I do love God with all my heart and want to obey Him. I also love my people Israel and want to help them all I can. God told me what to do to set my people free from the rule of that horrible Moabite king, Eglon, and I obeyed Him. I was to go to the palace of King Eglon and ask to see him. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever done! Why should the king see me? He might just decide to have me killed for even asking to see him! But God had told me to go see the King Eglon, so I knew God would take care of me.

I marched right up to the palace gates. “I have a message for King Eglon. I must see him right away,” I said to the guards. They looked me over carefully to see if I was armed. But they only looked at my left side, because that is where men usually carry their swords. You see, most people are right-handed, and so they wear their swords on their left side to make them easy to draw (demonstrate) But I am left-handed. I wore my sword on my right side and hid it under my cloak, so the guards never saw it! God had prepared me from birth for this job by making me special, left-handed!

The guards, thinking I was unarmed and harmless, took me into the palace and right into the throne room of King Eglon. I asked the guards to leave us alone. “I have a message for the king and it is for him alone,” I explained. The king motioned for everyone to leave us, and then it was just Eglon and me, alone in the throne room. What a terrifying feeling it was for me, being alone with this wicked, cruel man! But I had no time to think about it. I had a job to do and needed to do it quickly!

“I have a message for you, King Eglon. And here it is,” I declared, sweeping my sword out from under my cloak and driving it into the king’s stomach. King Eglon was so fat that my sword went right into him and disappeared in the folds of fat, even the hilt! He died immediately and without a sound. I left my sword where it was hidden and walked out as calmly as I could manage so that the guards would not suspect anything. The guards apparently did not think to check on the king for a long time; by the time they discovered Eglon was dead, I was far away!

After I got out of the palace safely I rushed to where the army of Israel was hidden and ready to attack on my signal. I blew my trumpet and then led the people of Israel against the Moabites. Without the leadership of their king, the Moabites were easily defeated. We drove those wicked people out of our land and then we lived in peace for many years. The Israelites have looked to me for leadership ever since our victory over the Moabites. They have faithfully worshiped the one, true God and obeyed His Word. But what do you think will happened after I die? Can you guess?


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