19. The Reign of the Judges
"Khirbet Beit Lei and the Book of Mormon: An Archaeologist's Evaluation," Jeffrey R. Chadwick, Religious Educator 10:3 (2009)
Let's put some misinformation to rest. Since the early 1970s many thousands of members have been told about a Lehi Cave and a place called Beit Lehi in classes and firesides and on the Internet. This article shows that Khirbet Beit Lei is not the place called Lehi in the story of Samson (Judges 15) and is not connected to the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi.
"Deborah and Book of Judges," Kristin E. Litchamn, Ensign, January 1990
In Jewish literature, the judges were called shophetim—leaders who pronounced judgment and were chosen at various times to deliver different Israelite tribes from enemies intent on attacking and suppressing them. These judges labored during eras of spiritual turmoil, tribal divisions, and Baal worship, facing a great deal of temptation and opposition in their attempts to lead. One of these shophetim was a woman named Deborah. A prophetess, judge, and deliverer, she not only followed the example of earlier Old Testament women in acting upon the word of the Lord, but she fulfilled her role as shophet,or judge, better than most. Based on the information in the Bible, only Samuel and Gideon equaled her accomplishments.
"The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon," Elder Manfred H. Schutze, Ensign, April 2002
The story of this Old Testament judge can help us move forward with faith in our many seemingly overwhelming responsibilities. The first task the Lord gave Gideon was not to save all Israel from the Midianites but to cleanse the sin of idolatry from his father's household. This he did bravely, going forth by night with 10 friends and destroying the altar and worship area of the false god Baal used by his father and his community leaders.
"Finding Samson in Byzantine Galilee: The 2011-2012 Archaeological Excavations at Huqoq," Matthew J. Grey with Jodi Magness, Studies in the Bible and Antiquity vol. 5 (2013)
This article surveys the past and current research on Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village near the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Historical sources and modern explorations show that Huqoq was a small agricultural village during the biblical and postbiblical periods. Formal excavations of the site began in 2011 and have uncovered portions of the ancient village and its synagogue. This article highlights the discoveries made during the first two seasons of excavation (2011–2012), including pieces of a mosaic floor in the synagogue's east aisle that depict two female faces, an inscription, and an illustration of Samson tying lit torches to foxes (Judges 15:1–5). Because of the rarity of Samson in Jewish art, the religious significance of this mosaic is difficult to explain. However, liturgical texts from late antiquity indicate that some synagogue congregations celebrated Samson as an apocalyptic image and messianic prototype, whose victories against the Philistines fostered hope in the eschatological messiah expected to appear and deliver the Jewish community from foreign oppression.
"Judges 1-12: The Reign of the Judges, Part 1," Old Testament Student Manual Genesis-2 Samuel (1980)
Extraordinary courage was required for an Israelite to be devoted to the Lord during this era. Unfortunately, this situation arose not because of pressure from outside of Israel but because of pressure from within. Gideon's neighbors, not a group of pagan Canaanites, were worked into a murderous frenzy when Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal. Jotham's prophecy was uttered against his own brother, not against some Philistine king. Indeed, Israel's problem did not stem from the pagan masses they faced. It lay within their own hearts. Their greatest enemies were not the power–hungry Midianites or Moabites but inward vacillation, apathy, disobedience, and rebellion. Their outward enemies raged through them constantly only because the inward weaknesses raged unchecked also.
"Judges 13–21; Ruth 1–4: The Reign of the Judges, Part 2," Old Testament Student Manual Genesis-2 Samuel (1980)
Samson could have been one of the greatest leaders in Israel since Joshua if he had been true to his Nazarite vows and to his Lord. If Samson, foreordained and chosen by the Lord, had been able to master himself, he could have set an example of spiritual and physical courage that would rank with the finest in history. But we can learn from Samson's failure to avoid self–justification and uncontrolled passion so that we might join modern Israel in becoming a mighty and pure people before the second coming of the Lord.