The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the period of the Israelite Judges and to teach the children about one of those judges: Deborah.
The book of Judges began as the Israelites settled into the promised land. Judges 1 describes how some of the tribes drove the Canaanites out of the promised land completely, and how some of the tribes did not overtake them, but intermixed with them.
But after Joshua died, the Israelites settled into a disturbing pattern. Judges 2:8-11 (NIV84) tells us what happened: "Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heresin the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord".
And Judges 2:16-19 (NIV84) summarizes the pattern the Israelites fell into: "Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways."
The 12 tribes of Israel did not have a formal government in place at this time, so they did not have any central leadership. In times of crisis, a judge would step in to lead them. These judges would speak out against their disobedience to God, and would also lead them militarily.
This lesson introduces us to Deborah, and we will learn about Gideon and Samson in the next 2 lessons.
In Judges 4, we see the pattern repeated: "Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead." (Judges 4:1) Because of their disobedience, God allowed the Israelites to be captured by Jabin, king of Canaan. The leader of his army was Sisera. They had 900 iron chariots and were able to overwhelm the Israelites and force them into slavery for 20 years.
Deborah, who became the judge after Ehud, called for a man named Barak to lead the Israelite army against the Sisera and the Canaanites. Barak agreed to take 10,000 men with him to fight, but didn't want to go unless Deborah came with them. Deborah agreed, but told him that he would not be the one to receive the honor and glory from the victory - a woman would get the honor for this victory.
Barak and the 10,000 men attacked Sisera and the Canaanite army and the Israelites won! But Sisera got down out of his chariot and ran and fled. He fled to a woman name Jael's tent, thinking he could trust her. But while he slept, Jael killed him to finish the victory for the Israelites. The actual method she used to kill him (driving a tent pole through his temple) is rather gory and isn't important to the story, so it should be left out.
Look around the room. What patterns do you see?
Today, we are going to learn about a pattern that the Israelites fell into after Joshua led them into the Promised Land.
Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children (if your storybook Bible contains this story).
For older children, read story straight from the Bible or tell the story yourself. Just be sure to concentrate on the main idea of the story and leave out aspects of the story that are of an adult nature.
Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Judges 2:8, 2:10-15, 2:16, 2:18
First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?