Recently, my church went through a sermon series on the book of Judges.

It’s a book that many Christians understandably find uncomfortable with at times, one that they may even be confused by.

While some of its stories may be hard to stomach, I believe there is great value in wrestling with the lessons that the book of Judges offers us – particularly when read in the context of the entire biblical narrative.

Understanding Judges can help us understand the sinful tendencies that plague the human race – including those who are supposed to know and follow God – and how God’s faithfulness, grace and sovereignty carries us through it all.

Furthermore, as the last verse of Judges indicates, it shows the folly of doing what is right in our own eyes. With that in mind, here are some reflections I have from the book of Judges.

The cycle of Israel’s folly and depravity

Probably the most noticeable thing about the book of Judges is this cycle that the nation of Israel experiences, multiple times.

They live in disobedience to God and His commandments until disaster befalls them in the form of their pagan neighbours threatening them, overpowering them and oppressing them.

They then cry out to the Lord to deliver them, which He duly does, and which the people thank Him for doing – only then for them to fall back into spiritual complacency and repeat their acts of disobedience to the Lord.

I compare this with the classic comedy film Groundhog Day, where the main character is trapped in a time loop, experiencing the exact same day each time he wakes up in the morning.

Here in the book of Judges, it seems as if the Israelites are trapped in this same loop that I mentioned.

Furthermore, it’s worth recognising how depraved and degenerate the people of Israel become at certain points.

The most prominent example comes in the later part of the book, from Judges 17-21. We see some of the most ghastly descriptions throughout the whole Bible, encompassing blatant idolatry from a Levite priest, outright sexual assault and mass violence that nearly wipes out an entire tribe.

When I recently facilitated a cell group lesson on Judges from our church’s sermon series, I joked that, reading through some of the sordid details that Judges describes, you could wonder whether it came from the Bible or Game of Thrones.

It goes to show how awful some of the events described in Judges can be, and another uncomfortable truth is that it also holds a mirror up to the sinful, selfish and depraved tendencies that humanity still struggles with.


Sometimes, in teaching the stories of Judges – especially in a setting like Sunday School – some of the key human characters come across as heroic figures, due to their acts of bravery and strengths.

However, as we read deeper, we see that they are deeply flawed human beings who God nonetheless utilises to save His chosen people. In essence, they are more like anti-heroes, and as you can imagine – it must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.

For example, we see Jael fiercely drive a stake into Sisera, a very violent action that is not accompanied by any mention of her having faith in God. We also see lapses in faith on the part of judge figures like Gideon and Jephthah, who play their roles in rescuing Israel during her time of need but show signs of wavering when it comes to trusting in the Lord.

In this regard, the most striking example is that of Samson. He is a character who is strong and heroic on first glance, but deep down is broken and troubled. He flippantly disregarded his Nazirite vows, killed 30 people just because he was mad at losing a bet, slept around with many women, and kept company with Delilah who was obviously taking advantage of him. 

Despite Samson’s follies, God still used him for the purposes of protecting the people of Israel when under threat.

In Psalm 20:7, it tells us that while some may trust in horses or chariots – which symbolise the might of human power and authority – we should trust in the name of the Lord.

This lesson in trusting God was one that Israel needed to learn and relearn ever since their miraculous deliverance from Egypt.

Today, we should also avoid the pitfalls of relying on human genius or strength, and instead hope in the Lord to renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31).

God’s faithfulness

Amidst all of the chaos, drama, degeneracy and rebellion we see among the human characters in Judges, a core theme of this biblical book is how God stays faithful to His people.

God showing His unwavering faithfulness and abundant grace to us, even while we are rebellious and prideful, is a key theme anchoring the whole biblical narrative. Indeed, you can say that this idea is at the core of the Gospel itself.

This is why, in the New Testament, Paul tells us that God is faithful even when we are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13) and that while sin abounds, God’s grace abounds even more (Romans 5:21).

When analysing the dynamic of Old Testament Israel as a nation, Christopher Watkin wrote in Biblical Critical Theory that God’s purposes always stand above any human agenda – whether it be the collective will of the Israelite people, or any specific human leader.

This way, God is never beholden to human scheming; instead, He is the one who stands above all human scheming, and can re-direct it towards His grander purpose.

By delivering the people of Israel time and time again, even when they struggled to stay close to Him and His purposes for them, God definitely showed them how faithful, righteous and gracious of a God He is.

As recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, God proclaims that He never chose Israel because of any inherent positives on their end, but because He is a loving, promise-keeping God. 

Today, we should remember that, above all else, we are loved and seen by a God who saved us not because of our own works, but because of His mercy (Titus 3:5).

This should imbue us with both humility and confidence. Humility, based on the understanding that we can never earn God’s favour and approval by our talents or righteousness; confidence, in how God’s love is deeper and wider than our failures or problems (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Judges shows we need Jesus

When thinking about the lessons that Judges can teach us today, I believe it is most important to read this book with a Christological lens. We have to understand the narrative of Judges through the lens of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the example He showed us and what He has done for us.

The first way that the book of Judges points us to Christ is through the contrast we see between the book’s human characters and Jesus.

While Jael drove a stake into Sisera’s head, Jesus allowed others to drive nails through His hands as He was being nailed to the cross.

While Samson sought vengeance on his enemies at the end of his life, Jesus said “Father, forgive them” towards the very people who inflicted torture on Him.

While the people of Israel focused on doing whatever seemed right in their own eyes, Jesus lived a life that placed His Father’s will above all else.

The second way is to see that only Jesus can fully break the cycle of sin and rebellion that the Israelites experienced.

He is the Son of God who served as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world and who rose from the dead, defeating death.

It comes down to the fact that our sinful and depraved actions stem from our sinful nature – and it is only through Jesus that our hearts can be changed.

When Jesus dwells in our hearts, only then we will be rooted (Ephesians 3:17) in His love over our self-centred, sinful tendencies.

To close, I want to reference a point that my personal favourite Christian YouTuber made in one of his videos.

Using Samson as his main example, he referenced a famous quote from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero, or live to become a villain”. In contrast, Jesus is the only man to not only die a hero, but also reign as one forever!

Let’s remember that Jesus is the ultimate righteous judge, who alone can bring redemption and deliverance from this fallen world.

May we not live according to what is right in our own eyes, but live by faith in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20)!