Did the authors of the Book of Mormon have access to the book of Judges? They did have the brass plates, which contained “the five books of Moses…and also a record of the Jews…and also the prophecies of the holy prophets” (1 Nephi 5:10-13). It seems reasonable to assume that some version of the book of Judges was included in the “record of the Jews.”
Although the book of Judges is never quoted directly in the Book of Mormon, there are multiple passages which are reminiscent of the book. Here are some of the passages where I see a potential influence from the book of Judges:
|Book of Mormon||Book of Judges|
|Nephi breaks the cords with which he is bound: “O Lord…give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound. And…when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, (1 Nephi 7:16-18).||Samson escapes after being bound by the men of Judah. “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands” (Judges 15:11-14).|
|The priests of King Noah kidnap young Lamanite women while they are dancing and marry them (Mosiah 20:1-5, Mosiah 23:33).||Benjamites kidnap the daughters of Shiloh while they dance, carrying them away to make them their wives (Judges 21:19-23).|
|The prison in Ammonihah collapses; all of Alma and Amulek’s captors are killed (Alma 14:26-27).||Samson pulls down a building, destroying his Philistine captors (Judges 16:28-30).|
|Nephi refuses to be king (2 Nephi 5:18).|
Alma refuses to be king (Mosiah 23:6-7).
|Gideon refuses to be king, telling his people that God should be their king (Judges 8:22-23).|
|Mormon identifies a cycle of righteousness and wickedness which recurs among the Nephites (Helaman 12:2-3, 3 Nephi 6).||The author of the book of Judges highlights a cycle of righteousness and wickedness which recurs among the Israelites (Judges 2:11-19, Judges 10:6-16).|
Additionally, when King Mosiah abolishes the monarchy, he calls the new leaders “judges.” (See Mosiah 29:11, 25.)
I can think of several explanations for these similarities. In some cases, Book of Mormon characters may have been inspired by familiar stories. In other cases, Book of Mormon authors may have been drawn to stories with precedents in Israelite history. Finally, the pattern identified by Mormon and by the author of the book of Judges may be a universal pattern which is recognizable in all of our lives.
Today, I will be grateful for layers of scripture. I will strive to learn from the authors of scripture just as they learned from their predecessors.