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Introduction to the Books of the Bible

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BOOK : Judges

Description : historical book recounting early years in the Promised Land

Author: possibly Samuel

Date written : the events were somewhere between 1350 & 1080BC

Chapters : 21


Brief Synopsis:

•  Gets its name from the fact that in the early years of their life in the land they were ruled or overseen by judges (Kings came after the last of the judges, Samuel – see 1 Sam)
•  Judges sees a frequent cycle: turning away from the Lord, being oppressed by enemies, crying out to the Lord, the Lord ending a deliverer and some years of peace.


Outline :


Ch.1 -3 Prologue: Incomplete Conquest and Apostasy
Ch.3-16 Oppression and Deliverance Cycles
Ch. 17-21 Epilogue: Religious and Moral Disorder


NB. In the table below, ‘minor' judges are clearly those of whom little is said, while ‘major' judges are those of whom much is said.




Major Judge

Minor Judge

1 & 2

Israel 's Failure to Purge the Land

2 & 3

God's Dealings with Israel 's Rebellion


Othniel Defeats Aram Naharaim



Ehud Defeats Moab





4 & 5

Deborah Defeats Canaan



Gideon Defeats Midian











10:6 – 12:7

Jephthah Defeats Ammon












Samson Checks Philistia



Micah's corruption of religion


The Danites' departure from their tribal territory


Gibeah's corruption of morals


The Benjamites' near removal from their tribal territory



Key Verses :


Failure to clear the land

1:19-21 The LORD was with the men of Judah . They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem;  to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites
NB. In the following verses to the above there are a number of instances where Israel did not manage to remove the Canaanites
2:1-5 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars. 'Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?   Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be [thorns] in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.

The Disobedience Cycle

2:6-23 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance.  The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. 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 Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, 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 served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger  because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around , whom they were no longer able to resist.  Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. 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. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience 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 had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.   But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.   Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, "Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did." The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
3:7-11 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.  The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold   them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years.  But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel 's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Araminto the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.  So the land had peace   for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz   died.
6:6-10 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.   When the Israelites cried  to the LORD because of Midian,   he sent them a prophet,  who said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land.  I said to you, 'I am the LORD your God; do not worship   the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' But you have not listened to me."
6:11-14 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing  wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.  When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you,  mighty warrior."   "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wondersthat our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt ?' But now the LORD has abandoned   us and put us into the hand of Midian."     The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"
21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.



Concluding Comments

•  Judges always seems one of the low spots of the Old Testament. After their taking the Land Israel lose impetus and again and again they seem to drift and turn away from the Lord.

•  The book is remarkable for the cycle that we have referred to before: turning away from the Lord, being oppressed by enemies, crying out to the Lord, the Lord ending a deliverer and some years of peace.

•  In it we see a form of discipline that the apostle Paul made clear in Romans 1 when three times he used the words, “ Therefore God gave them over.” In those instances he was meaning that God allowed the human race to go its way and become more and more destructively degenerate by lifting off His hand of restraint and allowing us to do what Sin prompts us to do – a downward spiral of destructive sin.

•  He we see “God gave them over”…. to their enemies. This was probably twofold. He stepped back from them as a people when they turned from Him and His encouragement and blessing on them ceased. Second, He lifted off His hand of protection from over them so that their neighbouring enemies felt free to come against them. It may be, as in Job 1 & 2, He allowed Satan room to stir them up (in their sin) to come against God's people. Again and again this pressure came on Israel until they cried out to the Lord, at which point He acted on their behalf and delivered them.

•  It is an interesting book in that we also see the power of the Holy Spirit coming on men to stir them to be leaders and give them power to lead (see 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 13:25, 14:6,19, 15:14). A clear and powerful picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

•  Studies of individuals in this book are worthwhile:

•  Ehud (Ch.3) who assassinated Eglon of Moab and brought eighty years of peace

•  Deborah, a prophetess (Ch.4) who insisted Barak take the lead.
•  Fearful little Gideon (Ch.6-8) who became a strategic warrior
•  Jephthah (Ch.11) the rejected, reluctant and restored leader
•  Samson (Ch.14-16), man chosen of God, man of the flesh, but a deliverer.

•  It is also worth examining the struggles of the nation in Ch.17-21

•  Behind all the negatives of this time there are many lessons it is worthwhile considering.


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