After Joshua died, the tribes of Israel continued their conquest of Canaan. Some of the tribes failed to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan as they had been commanded. The Israelites forsook the Lord by worshipping the false gods of the Canaanites, and the Lord removed His blessing of protection from them. Despite the Israelites’ disobedience, the Lord raised up judges to deliver them from their enemies.
Note: Before the lesson, assign one of the following scripture passages to each of three students: Judges 3:5–11; Judges 3:12–30; and Judges 4:1–9, 15–24. Ask the students to be prepared to summarize their assigned passage for the class.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball:
“One man who had been a slave to alcohol most of his adult life became convinced … that he must give up the habit and prepare himself for the temple. … With great effort he quit drinking. He moved many miles away from the area where his drinking friends lived and, though his body craved and ached and gnawed for [alcohol], he finally conquered. He was at all his Church meetings, and was paying his tithing. His new friends in the Church seemed to fortify him. He felt good in the new activity, and life was glorious. His wife was beaming, because now the whole family were always together. This is what she had dreamed about all their married life.
“They got their temple recommends and the happy day arrived and they drove to the temple city for this great event. They arrived early and each had some errands to do. As it happened, the husband ran into some old friends. They urged him to go with them to the tavern [where alcohol was served]. No, he would not, he said, he had other important things to do. Well, he could just take a soft drink [soda], they urged” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 170–71).
Do you think it would be all right for this man to go to the tavern to have a soft drink? Why or why not?
Ask students to ponder situations in which unrighteous influences (such as unrighteous friends, music, movies, social media, and Internet sites) may tempt them to break the commandments. Invite students to look for truths as they study Judges 1–5 that explain what can happen if we place ourselves in situations in which we may be tempted by unrighteous influences.
What had the Lord commanded the Israelites to do to the wicked people who lived in the land of Canaan? (See Exodus 23:31.)
Point out that important points or messages in the scriptures are often emphasized by the repetition of certain words or phrases. Invite students to scan Judges 1:21, 27–33 and look for words or phrases that are repeated in these verses.
Based on the words and phrases repeated in these verses, what message can we learn from Judges 1:27–33? (The Israelites had failed to obey the Lord’s instructions to drive out the wicked people from the promised land.)
Where did these wicked people dwell after the Israelites moved into the promised land?
Explain that the Lord sent an angel to the Israelites to teach them about the consequences of their disobedience. Invite a student to read Judges 2:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for the consequences the Israelites would experience.
What do you think it means that the wicked people in the promised land would be “as thorns in [the Israelites’] sides”?
Remind students that a snare is a type of trap used to catch animals. Display a snare or trap (or draw a picture of one on the board).
What do you think it means that the false gods in the promised land would be like a snare to the Israelites?
After students respond, write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we choose to associate with evil influences and temptations, then …
Invite students to consider as they continue to study the events recorded in the book of Judges how they might complete this statement.
Summarize Judges 2:4–10 by explaining that the Israelites mourned after learning of the consequences of their disobedience. Eventually all the Israelites who had entered the promised land with Joshua died, and a new generation of Israelites arose who “knew not the Lord, nor … the works which he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
Invite a student to read Judges 2:11–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what this new generation began to do.
What did the new generation of Israelites do?
Explain that Baalim is the plural form of the word Baal. Baal and Ashtaroth were false gods of the Canaanites. Those who worshipped these false gods did so in corrupt and immoral ways, which included sacrificing children and breaking the law of chastity.
Based on the Israelites’ actions, how would you complete the principle on the board? (After students respond, complete the principle on the board so it conveys the following truth: If we choose to associate with evil influences and temptations, then they may lead us to sin.)
To help students understand this principle, remind them of the account of the man who quit drinking alcohol and prepared himself to be sealed to his family in the temple. Ask a student to read aloud what happened after the man was invited to go to the tavern on the day of the sealing:
“With the best of intentions he finally relented [and went to the tavern with his old friends]. But by the time he was to meet his wife at the temple he was so incapacitated [or drunk with alcohol] that the family went home in disgrace and sorrow and disappointment” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 171).
How can this man’s experience help us understand the danger of choosing to linger in situations where unrighteous influences may tempt us?
What are some situations in which members of the Church might have to choose whether or not to be in situations with unrighteous influences?
Draw the following diagram on the board, and invite students to copy it in their class notebooks or scripture study journals. Explain that the events recorded in the book of Judges show that the Israelites went through a repeated cycle of sin and deliverance.
Invite a student to read Judges 2:14–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what happened after the Israelites sinned by worshipping false gods.
What happened after the Israelites worshipped false gods?
Write The Israelites are afflicted by their enemies in box 2 on the board, and invite students to copy it on their diagrams.
Invite a student to read Judges 2:16–18 aloud, and ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord did for the Israelites after they were afflicted by their enemies.
What did the Lord do for His people after they were afflicted?
Explain that these judges were civic and military leaders. None of them were prophets like Moses and Joshua.
According to verse 18, why did the Lord raise up judges to deliver the Israelites? (Point out that footnote a explains that the phrase “for it repented the Lord” means that the Lord had compassion on Israel. The word groanings in verse 18 refers to the prayers they offered while enduring oppression. The Joseph Smith Translation for this verse indicates that the Lord hearkened to these groanings.)
What do these verses teach about the Lord’s feelings toward us when we are suffering, even when that suffering is a result of our own sins? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: The Lord has compassion on us in our suffering, even when our suffering is a result of our own sins.)
Write The Israelites cry unto the Lord for deliverance in box 3 on the board, and write The Lord raises up judges who deliver the Israelites from their enemies in box 4. Invite students to copy these statements on their diagrams.
Invite a student to read Judges 2:19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened after the Lord delivered the Israelites from their enemies. Ask students to report what they find.
What do you think happened after the Israelites began to sin again?
If you invited students to study Judges 3:5–11; Judges 3:12–30; and Judges 4:1–9, 15–24 before class, invite them to come to the front of the class and summarize the accounts they read. Ask the class to listen for how the cycle of sin and deliverance is repeated in each account. If you did not ask students to study these accounts before class, you could ask students to read the accounts aloud, or you could summarize them. You might also summarize Judges 5 by explaining that after Deborah helped deliver Israel from the Canaanites, she and Barak sang a song of praise to the Lord.
Why do you think the Israelites continued to return to their previous sins after being delivered?
Refer to the principle you wrote on the board earlier. Point out that the Israelites returned to their previous sins as they continued to linger among unrighteous influences. Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball:
“In abandoning sin one cannot merely wish for better conditions. He must make them. … He must be certain not only that he has abandoned the sin but that he has changed the situations surrounding the sin. He should avoid the places and conditions and circumstances where the sin occurred, for these could most readily breed it again” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 171).
Invite students to ponder what circumstances or influences they might need to abandon so they can avoid sin.
To conclude, testify of the truths you have discussed, and invite students to act on any promptings they may have received to apply these truths in their lives.