The book of Judges was written in the year 1045 to 1000 BC. Clues within the book indicate that the book was written before David was on the throne in Jerusalem (1004 BC), but after Saul was anointed king.
Although the book of Judges never states its author, tradition says it was the Prophet Samuel. Samuel was the last of the judges. the judges did not merely oversee legal matters, as we would assume with our 21st century mindset; their tasks often included military and administrative authority.
The book of Judges is split into two different parts; Chapters 1-16 gives the account of the war with the Israelites and Canaanites, and the defeat of the Philistines and the death of Samson. Chapters 17-21, referred to as an appendix having no connections with the previous chapters. These chapters are said to be a time “when there was no king in Israel (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).” The Book of Ruth was originally a part of the Book of Judges, but in the year A.D. 450, it was separated to become a book of its own. The main part about Judges is that God was being taken advantage of by his own people. The people were disobedient to God and idolatrous, leading to their many losses in battle. All the way through chapter 15, we see God keep his arms open whenever his people decide to repent from their wicked ways. We also see God keeping his promise to Abraham by protecting and blessing his people. The book of Judges show how graceful God is, even though his people turned their backs on him and disobeyed, he still opened his arms to them when they wished to return. Often times people forget about God's grace and feel as though all hope is lost. We must continually remind ourselves from the reading of Judges that we are always welcomed back.
Most of the Israelite tribes disregarded the Lord's command to drive out all the Canaanites who remained in their territories. Instead, they compromised by enslaving them. The compromise eventually led some to intermarry with the Canaanites, and, eventually, to Israel's worship of their false gods.
A. The Condition of Israel Under the Judges-1:1-3:6
1. Israel's Failure to Drive Out All the Inhabitants-1:1-2:5 2. Summary of Israel Under the Judges-2:6-3:6
B. The Judges of Israel-3:7-16:31
1. Othniel (1st JudgeO 3:7-11 2. Ehud (Left-Handed Judge) 3:12-20 3. Shamgar (Ox-Goad Judge) 3:21-30 4. Deborah (Woman Judge) 4:1-5:31 5. Gideon (Mighty Man of Valor) 6:1-8:32 6. Abimelech (Bramble King) 8:33-9:57 7. Tolah (Son of Puah, Son of Dodo) 10:1-2 8. Jair (30 sons, 30 colts, 30 cities) 10:3-5 9 Jephthah (Rash Vow Judge) 10:6-12:7 10. Ibzan (30 sons, 30 daughters) 12:8-10 11. Elon (Zebulunite Judge) 12:11-12 12. Abdon (40 sons, 30 grandsons, 70 donkeys) 12:13-15 13 Samson (Strongest Man Judge) 13:1-16:31
C. Events Demonstrating the Sinfulness of Israel-17-21
1. The Sins of Micah the Ephraimite-17 2. The Sins of the Tribe of Dan-18 3. The Crime of Benjamin at Gibeah and its Punishment 19-21
The historical purpose of Judges is to record the history of the cycles of Israel's decline, oppression, and deliverance between Joshua and the monarchy under Saul an David. It serves as an explanation and defense of the early monarchy of Israel. Israel went through a period of turmoil before being consolidated as a kingdom.
There are a number of teachings we can glean from the book of Judges. One is the truth that disobedience or even incomplete obedience to God brings oppression and bondage. Another truth is the evidence in the events of Judges to indicate that a theocratic nation needs a righteous king. Since this is the case, Judges provides an apologetic for the establishment of the monarchy under Saul and David. Lastly, Judges reveals the truth that God responds in deliverance to the repentance and prayers of His oppressed people. This teaches the long-suffering and love of God for His own.
The Christological purpose of Judges shows each judge was a statesman-savior. They served as spiritual and political deliverers. As such they represent the role Christ has as the Savior-King of His people. The need for a Righteous King is everywhere apparent in Judges, and Christ is indeed the “Righteous One.”
Before the period of time of the Judges, Israel was under the strong leadership of Moses followed by Joshua before they were led by kings. The book of Judges describes the decentralization of Israel. As a nation, they always seemed to have a penchant for straying from following after God. Once Joshua passed from the scene and wasn't replaced the people really began doing “their own thing” which means they did what seemed right or good to them. God certainly did not enter into the picture of what was right or wrong. This describes the atmosphere in which the period of the Judges “entered”.
It is an account of how God was taken for granted by His children year after year, century after century. Judges is certainly a sad contrast to the book of Joshua which records or ticks off the blessings God bestowed to the Israelites for their obedience in conquering the land. In Judges the people spent their time being disobedient and worshipping idols which lead to the many defeats they faced as a nation. What I found interesting is that God NEVER failed to open His arms in love to His people whenever they came to Him when they called upon Him and repented for their wicked, willful way (Judges 2:18). God continued to lead the nation of Israel through the fifteen judges He chose. (Got questions)
As I pointed out before, after the death of Joshua, the people went right back to worshipping idols, particularly, Baal and Ashteroth. This same series of cycles which took the Israelites in a downward spiral was practiced repeatedly by the Israelites in the book of Judges. Israel would become like the Canaanites and they would SIN against God. God would allow them to be conquered and OPPRESSED by the Canaanites and eventually the Israelites would see the error of their ways and REPENT. God would then raise up a DELIVERER, a judge, who would defeat the enemy and then bring about an era of PEACE. Eventually, Israel would sin again and the cycle would start all over. God always remembered his covenant with the people even though this behavior was oft repeated in the lives of the people.
Probably the most notable judge of all was Samson. He came to Israel as a deliverer after almost 40 years of captivity by the Philistines. He then led Israel for approximately 20 years as a judge. He lost his life while he was a judge but it was because of his poor choices.
Othniel was the first judge. He was the son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother and was married to Achsah, Caleb's daughter. They had two sons named Hathath and Meonothai. They were from the tribe of Judah. He lived in Debir. Because of his wife's influence or connection he obtained the upper and lower springs in the land of the Negeb (Joshua 15:19). Othniel is important in biblical history as the first judge listed in the Book of Judges. He went to war against the King of Aram and was victorious. The land had peace for forty years until Othiniel, son of Kenaz died (Judges 3:9-11).
Ehud served as the second judge of Israel following the death of Otniel. After the death of Othniel the people of Israel sinned and fell to the King of Moab, serving him for 18 years (Judges 3:13-14). When the Israelites cried out for help, God sent Ehud to serve as judge. He was the son of Gera and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. He was also noted as being a left-handed man (Judges 3:15). This detail would become important to the success of his mission. In Judges 3:16 we see he made a sword for himself that measured 16 inches and strapped it to his right thigh under his clothes-had Ehud been right-handed, he would carried his sword on his left side. He visited the Moabite King Eglon under pretense of paying tribute. When Ehud checked for weapons his sword was missed because of it being in an unexpected location. Following the presentation of his tribute he told the King he had a secret message for him. Everyone left the room and Ehud pulled his sword out and killed the King. Ehud left and met up with the his warriors. They cut off the Moabites at the Jordan River and about 10,000 Moabites were killed in battle. Once Eglon was killed and his rule ended the Israelites enjoyed 80 years of peace. It was the longest peaceful period recorded during the time of the judges (Judges 3:30)
Deborah was one of the judges in Israel during a time of oppression. She is called a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth. The Lord used her to set her people free and defeat the King of Canaan. (Judges 4,5). She was Israel's only female judge. When she became judge the people of Israel had been subjugated for 20 years by Jabin. She helps to lead the Israelites in battle against the army of Sisera and God granted victory.
Gideon was the 5th Judge of Israel for about 40 years between the years 1191BC and 1151BC. Gideon was of the tribe of Manasseh and was used by God to achieve a mighty victory over the Midianites who oppressed Israel. He was called a mighty man of valor. He had 70 sons and many wives. The next judge was one of his sons. Gideon in Hebrew means feller of or hewer. His father named Gideon "Jerub-Baal-let Baal contend."
Tola was the 7th Judge of Israel(Judges 10:1-2). He was from the tribe of Issachar and ruled for 23 years 1149BC-1129BC. He lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim even though he was from the tribe of Issachar whose land allotment given by Moses was in a different part of Israel. Tola seems to have been raised to this position by God.
Jair was the eighth judge of Israel(Judges 10:3-5). He was a Gileadite who ruled for 22 years from 1126BC- 1140BC. Not much is said about Jair's time as judge. He seemed to be a peaceful time for Israel. He had thirty sons, who rode donkeys which means he had a large family and was very wealthy. A donkey was like an expensive car back in that day. Jair means enlightens. It was during this time that Ruth and Boaz were married. He also controlled 30 cities in the territory of Gilead.
Jephthah served as a judge over Israel for six years following the leadership of Jair (Judges 11:1-12:7) He was a Gileadite but was born of a prostitute. He was a mighty warrior(Judges 11:1), he was driven away from the family as an adult because he was considered an illegitimate child. He promised God the first thing that came out of his house would be offered as a burnt offering. The first thing that came out was his daughter. He tore his clothes in mourning but kept his promise to God.
Ibzan judged Israel for seven years from 1081-1075BC and was the 10th judge. He was from the tribe of Zebulun. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters who he had all married outside his clan. (Judges 12:8-10). Very little is said about him.
Elon was a Zebulunite who led Israel for ten years(Judges 12:11-12). Elon means: oak or strong. He was Israel's twelfth judge. When he died he was buried in Aijalon within the territory of Zebulun. He governed from 1073-1063 BC.
Abdon became judge after Elon. He was from Pirathon and was the son of Hillel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode seventy donkeys. He led Israel for eight years. He was a man of great wealth with a very large family. Abdon was from the tribe of Ephraim and would have been well known in his time. (Judges 12:13-15)
Samson was also a judge. Amazing Bible Timeline says he was the 15th judge of Israel and he judged for about twenty years. He was known to have been the strongest man to have walked the earth. He reigned between 1154-1124BC. Samson was born a Nazarite, meaning he was separated or set aside for God (Judges 13:5). He had a weakness for women and it became his undoing when he teamed up with an ungodly woman by the name of Delilah. At the end of his life he did turn back to God before he died. (Judges 16:28-30).
Eli was the high priest and was the 9th judge of Israel (I Sam. 1:1-8-4:22). He judged Israel from 1107-1067BC and led for forty years. He died when he was 98 years old by falling backwards off of his chair when he heard the Ark of the covenant of God had been captured and that his two sons had been killed. Eli's two sons were very wicked men and God chided Eli for not correcting them. He is best remembered for his blessing on Samuel's mother, Hannah, and for his part in Samuel's first prophecy. Eli trained Samuel from a very early age.
Samuel anointed the first two kinds of Israel under God's instructions. Samuel means "heard of God." He was born in a small town called Ramah. After serving Eli for many years Samuel went back to the town of his birth to live. He was the last of the Hebrew judges and the first of at the major prophets. He devoted his last years to training young men as disciples for future service. He encouraged Israel to turn from idolatry and serve God alone. He led Israel from the system of judges to its first monarchy. Samuel loved God and obeyed Him. Although Samuel kept his own life pleasing to God not matter what people thought of him, he did not raise his sons to follow his example. They took bribes and were dishonest rulers. (I Sam. 1-28). His sons were Joel and Abijah.
The key verse and message seems to be clearly stated in Judges 17:6, "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes." If one looks about in our 21st century world, we can see this way of living today. We live daily by our own rules, conduct our business affairs by what society dictates, and we even worship God in the most trendy ways and marry by what society dictates rather than listen to God. ====== What is the Book of Judges About? ====== The book of Judges narrates seven cycles of God's people as they moved from sin to servitude to supplication and salvation through a deliverer judge. Rebellion is followed by retribution from God which leads to repentance and then rest from Israel's enemies. The Book of Judges describes and delineates three kinds of judges. * the warrior judge-Gideon, Samson * the priest judge-Eli * the prophet judge-Samuel For the Christian, this is a portrayal of Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest, and Warrior (King) (Rev.19) Seven major apostasies are recorded when the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim (false gods)(2:11;3:7,12;4:1;6:1;10:6;13:1). In each case, the Israelites were overcome by their enemies, lost their freedom, and were greatly impoverished; but, when the people prayed, God once again delivered them their oppressors. These judges acted under the authority of God, who was Israel's invisible King. As each successive judge was in submission to the Lord, a period of peace and prosperity would follow. Chapters 17-21 contain insight into the Israelites' moral and spiritual degradation that prevailed pre- needing the time when Samuel became of prophet of God and their judge. The Book of Judges illustrates that we can never enjoy freedom, peace of mind, and the blessings of God for long if we are only partially obedient to His Word. When we become involved in questionable acts or relationships which may seem harmless, just like the Israelites we will soon find ourselves overcome by the desires of fleshly interests. ====== Practical Applications ====== Disobedience always brings judgment!!! As I read the Bible, that one sin gets us into more hot water with God than anything else. All sin seems to originate with disobedience at some point or other. The Israelites are a perfect example of what not to do. Instead of learning this lesson from the many times God punished them for rebellion against Him, they just continued to disobey and then suffer the consequences. If we decided to live in disobedience to God we are just inviting Him to discipline us and we will suffer God's displeasure. God never enjoys seeing His children suffer but disciplines, "those he loves" (Heb. 12:6). The Book of Judges is a testament to God's faithfulness. Even "if we are faithless, He will remain faithful" (II Tim. 2:13).