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Series Theme: Why Read the Bible: Judges





Why Read Judges: Judges can appear confusing, even depressing, so why read it?

•  First, it is part of the canon of Scripture considered inspired by God.
•  Second, it shows us the follow-on from Joshua, what happened in the Land as it was (mostly) settled, and how it leads on into the historical books that follow.
•  Third, it shows us an amazing spectrum of humanity and especially reveals to us, almost like no other book, the second of reasons we have earlier suggested for the existence of Israel – to reveal the sinfulness and folly of mankind who sometimes show how desperate our need of a Saviour is. [see more below]
•  Fourth, it shows us the patience and perseverance of God in dealing with this chosen people, and thus provides us with hope as to how He will deal with us.


There are various points of interest in Judges and we will consider each of them:

a) The Actual Judges – who were they?

b) The Times Frames – what sort of time period are we talking about?

c) The Failure to Achieve God's Purpose – how and why?

d) What went on – observing a most visible cycle of events.

e) The Mystery – why God didn't destroy them.


a) The Actual Judges (12 in all)


Major Judges (more extensive records)

•  Othniel (3:7-11), Ehud (3:12-30), Deborah (ch.4,5), Gideon (ch.6-8), Jephthah (10:6-12:7) and Samson (ch.13-16)

Minor Judges (very little said)

•  Shamgar (3:31), Tola & Jair (10:1-5), Ibzab, Elon & Abdon (12:8-15)


b) Time-Frames:

The following are the many references to passing time in the period of the Judges:


a) Times of rules by judges and peace:

So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. [3:11]

The land had peace for eighty years. [3:30]

Then the land had peace forty years after destroying Jabin king of Canaan [5:31]

During Gideon's lifetime, the land had peace forty years. [8:28]

After Abimelek had governed Israel three years, [9:22]

Tola…led Israel twenty-three years; [10:2]

Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. [10:3]

Jephthah led Israel six years. [12:7]

Ibzan led Israel seven years. [12:9]

Elon the Zebulunite led Israel te n years. [12:11]

Abdon … led Israel eight years. [12:14]

Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines. [15:20]

(roughly 300 years)


b) Times of oppression by enemies (i.e. discipline from the Lord)

The Israelites were subject to king of Aram for eight years. [3:8]

The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. [3:14]

Sisera.. had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, [4:3]

For seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. [6:1]

Philistines and Ammonites, for eighteen years oppressed the Israelites [10:8]

The Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. [13:1]

(roughly 110 years)


(Total roughly 400+ years)


c) Failure to Achieve God's Purposes: In the Introduction to the book of Joshua we noted that the objective declared by the Lord many times in the earlier books was for Israel to completely drive out the existing pagan inhabitants of the Land, yet Joshua [and now the early chapters of Judges] show that this never completely happened. For a fuller comment, see that Introduction.

Reasons for this failure, seen in the text are:

i) they encountered superior weaponry [1:19]
ii) Israel made alliances with the occupants [2:2]
iii) Israel were being punished for their disobedience [e.g. 2:20,21]
iv) the Lord used the occupants to test Israel to see how they would respond,
v) to teach Israel how to fight [3:1-3]
iv) very simply, they were disobedient [note many references.]


d) What went on: there is a cycle of events that was constantly being repeated and is more clearly seen in Judges than in any other Scripture. The cycle comprised:

i) Israel living at peace under God's provision of a judge.
ii) When the judge died, Israel drifted into idolatry.
iii) The Lord then disciplined Israel by lifting off His hand of protection from over them, and His hand of restraint over their ungodly neighbours, resulting in those (sinful) neighbours attacking Israel and subduing them.
iv) Eventually Israel cried out to the Lord (the delay varying from a matter of months to decades) for His help.
v) The Lord then raised up a new judge-deliverer and peace was restored.


e) The Mystery: The big mystery of Judges, from a human standpoint at least, is why the Lord did not totally write off the nation. However, we have suggested in a previous book that there are possibly three reasons for the existence of Israel:

i) to reveal God to the world,
ii) to reveal the sinful state of mankind and its need of a Saviour,
iii) to create a ‘God-environment' that would still exist when the best time in history arrived for the Son of God to leave heaven and come to earth to redeem mankind.

All of these reasons still continued – and are perhaps accentuated – by the ongoing terrible folly that is revealed in this book, by Israel constantly turning away from the Lord to superstitious idol-worship. As you read through the book, take note of the number of times this happened.





The Structure of Judges

Part 1 lays out an overview of the failure of Israel to clear the Land, and the cycle of disobedience, correction and salvation that kept recurring.

Part 2 shows us the judges who both acted as deliverers for Israel and as rulers over the nation in times of ensuing peace.

Part 3 is sometimes referred to as Appendices and reveals to us the terrible state of parts of the nation at least. The final words of the book, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit,” summarises the state of the nation and paves the way for the beginning of 1 Samuel that follows after what we might refer to as ‘an aside' of the book of Ruth.


Part 1: Ch.1 & 2: Overview of Israel's only Partial Obedience

Ch.1 – An Uncomfortable Record

Ch.2 – Ongoing Cycle of Disobedience


Part 2: Ch.3-16: The Judges

Ch.3 – The First Three Judges

Ch.4 – The Rule of Deborah

Ch.5 – Deborah's Song

Ch.6 – Introducing Gideon

Ch.7 – Gideon goes to War

Ch.8 – Gideon unaccepted at Home

Ch.9 – The Activities of Abimelek

Ch.10 – Failure & Repentance

Ch.11 – The Rise & Folly of Jephthah

Ch.12 – Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon

Ch.13 – The Birth of Samson

Ch.14 – Samson's Marriage

Ch.15 – Samson's Triumph and Rule

Ch.16 – Samson and Delilah and his End


Part 3: Ch.17-21: The State of the Nation

Ch.17 – Micah's Idols

Ch.18 – The Danites

Ch.19 – The Mishaps of a Levite

Ch.20 – The Punishment of Benjamin

Ch.21 – A Future for Benjamin