Study of Judges


Introduction to Judges

Both the Hebrew and Greek names for this book mean judges or executive leaders. This title is derived from the kind of leadership found in Israel from the death of Joshua until Saul became king. During that interval twelve men and one woman were raised up by God to deliver Israel. The actual history of God’s people recorded in Judges extends from the death of Joshua (c. 1375 B.C.) to the time of Samuel (c. 1075 B.C.).

These judges were from different tribes and some delivered only local areas rather than the entire territory occupied by Israel. In a number of cases their periods of administration may have overlapped.

It became necessary for God to raise up deliverers because the Israelites failed to drive out the Canaanites and even sometimes adopted friendly terms with them as well as becoming involved in worshiping the gods of the Canaanites. As a punishment God gave them over to their enemies. When they repented, God raised up a deliverer and delivered them. No sooner had the judge died than the Israelites fell back into apostasy. Consequently, we see a cycle of rebellion, retribution, repentance, and restitution repeated over and over again.

In reality the author of Judges is unknown. However a number of facts point the possibility that Samuel or one of his disciples or prophetic associates may have written it. Judges 18:30-31 refers to the destruction and captivity of Shiloh which occurred during the youth of Samuel (I Sam. 4). Judges 16:30-31 records the death of Samson which occurred only a few years before the inauguration of Samuel. The phrase, in those days there was no king in Israel, which is repeated in 17:6, 18:1, and 21:25, would suggest that the book was written after Saul became king. However, it would appear that Saul’s kingship was still appreciated so that it would likely have been written early in Saul’s reign.

The writer must, therefore, have been a man who was active during the early part of Saul’s reign, and Samuel is the most likely candidate.

The following outline is from Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 620:

Part I. Introduction to the Period, 1:1 - 2:5


     1.   Political conditions, 1:1-36

     2.   Religious conditions, 2:1-5

Part II. The Period of the judges, 2:6 - 16:31

                                     1.   Religious condition of the entire period, 2:6 - 3:6

                                     2.   The Judges:

                                           a.   Othniel, 3:7-11

                                           b.   Ehud, 3:12-30

                                           c.   Shamgar, 3:31

                                           d.   Deborah and Barak, 4:1 - 5:31

                                           e.   Gideon and Abimelech, 6:1 - 9:57

                                           f.   Tola, 10:1, 2

                                           g.   Jair, 10:3-5

                                           h.   Jephthah, 10:6 - 12:7

                                           i.   Ibzan, 12:8-10

                                           j.   Elon, 12:11, 12

                                           k.   Abdon, 12:13-15

                                           l.   Samson, 13:1 - 16:31

Part III. The Double Appendix, 17:1 - 21:25


                                     1.   The idolatry of Micah and the Danites, 17:1 - 18:31

                                     2.   The crime at Gibeah and its punishment, 19:1 - 21:25