The Book of Judges Covers a period of about 200 years, from the entry of Israel into the land of Canaan to the beginning of the monarchy (roughly 1200-1000 BC).

During this time, Israel had no centralised administration, and relied on specially gifted leaders, called judges, to lead its defence against enemies and to settle internal disputes.

Although containing much historical material, the book focuses too on God’s relationship with his people, based on his promises to Abraham (Ge 12:1-2) and the covenant established after the exodus, Ex 19-20.

The twelve tribes of Israel were united by their common history and by their shared allegiance to the Lord. The centre of religious worship was Shiloh. But their unity and faithfulness were tested by the temptation to mix the worship of Yahweh with that of the Baals and Ashtoreths of the unconqured Canaanites.

The book of Judges is complemented by that of Ruth. Both books testify to the over-ruling providence of God, whether in time of national crisis or in the more intimate affairs of village life.

Judges is regarded as part of the ‘Deuteronomic’ history (Deut, Josh, Judges, 1 & 2 Sam, 1 & 2 Kings). This history covers the period from the conquest of Canann to the exile and explains why that disaster took place: Israel had fallen ito apostasy soon after the entry into the promised land and continued to do so until God’s judgement finally fell on the nation.

The book is thought to have been compiled after the exile from earlier sources.

The beginning of the book records the difficulties the Israelites had in settling in their allotted territories. Their failure to overcome the Canaanites is ascribed to unfaithfulness.

The overall pattern of the book is to record repeated periods of apostasy, in which the Lord punishes his people by handing them over to their oppressors. Then the Lord has pity on them, and raises up a judge to deliver them. This pattern is repeated, with a cycle of oppression, calling on the Lord, deliverance, peace and renewed apostasy.

But, within this cyle, there is a downward spiral. The Israelites become increasingly disunited. The judges themselves become increasingly implicated in the wrongdoing of the nation (e.g. Samson). In the end, the people no longer even call out to the Lord to deliver them.

The central section of Judges records the activities of twelve judges.

The final section emphasises the lawlessness of the nation and anticipates the time of the kings (‘In those days there was no king in Israel…).

Although there are few references and allusions to Judges in the NT, the book has great relevance for Christians. It looks forward to the coming of Christ as the culmination of all God’s earlier acts of judgement and deliverance. Even though the Israelites in the times of the judges did not fully enter into their inheritance because of their unfaithfulness, God remains faithful to his purposes, and they cannot be ultimately frustrated. God’s purpose include the inclusion of all nations in his kingdom. Even great leaders, such as Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Simeon, were flawed characters. But in this they point to God as the ultimate deliverer, and remind us that all human leadership is tainted. The point beyond themselves in their weaknesses as much as in their strengths.

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Covers a period of about 200 years, from the entry of Israel into the land of Canaan to the beginning of the monarchy (roughly 1200-1000 BC).

During this time, Israel had no centralised administration, and relied on specially gifted leaders, called judges, to lead its defence against enemies and to settle internal disputes.

Although containing much historical material, the book focuses too on God’s relationship with his people, based on his promises to Abraham (Ge 12:1-2 ) and the covenant established after the exodus, Ex 19-20.

The twelve tribes of Israel were united by their common history and by their shared allegiance to the Lord. The centre of religious worship was Shiloh. But their unity and faithfulness were tested by the temptation to mix the worship of Yahweh with that of the Baals and Ashtoreths of the unconquered Canaanites.

The book of Judges is complemented by that of Ruth. Both books testify to the over-ruling providence of God, whether in time of national crisis or in the more intimate affairs of village life.

Judges is regarded as part of the ‘Deuteronomic’ history (Deut, Josh, Judges, 1 & 2 Sam, 1 & 2 Kings). This history covers the period from the conquest of Canann to the exile and explains why that disaster took place: Israel had fallen ito apostasy soon after the entry into the promised land and continued to do so until God’s judgement finally fell on the nation.

The book is thought to have been compiled after the exile from earlier sources.

The beginning of the book records the difficulties the Israelites had in settling in their allotted territories. Their failure to overcome the Canaanites is ascribed to unfaithfulness.

The overall pattern of the book is to record repeated periods of apostasy, in which the Lord punishes his people by handing them over to their oppressors. Then the Lord has pity on them, and raises up a judge to deliver them. This pattern is repeated, with a cycle of oppression, calling on the Lord, deliverance, peace and renewed apostasy.

But, within this cycle, there is a downward spiral. The Israelites become increasingly disunited. The judges themselves become increasingly implicated in the wrongdoing of the nation (e.g. Samson). In the end, the people no longer even call out to the Lord to deliver them.

The central section of Judges records the activities of twelve judges.

The final section of the book emphasises the lawlessness of the nation and anticipates the time of the kings (’In those days there was no king in Israel … ).

Although there are few references and allusions to Judges in the NT, the book has great relevance for Christians. It looks forward to the coming of Christ as the culmination of all God’s earlier acts of judgement and deliverance. Even though the Israelites in the times of the judges did not fully enter into their inheritance because of their unfaithfulness, God remains faithful to his purposes, and they cannot be ultimately frustrated. God’s purposes include the inclusion of all nations in his kingdom. Even great leaders, such as Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Simeon, were flawed characters. But in this they point to God as the ultimate deliverer, and remind us that all human leadership is tainted. They point beyond themselves in their weaknesses as much as in their strengths.

Goldsworthy remarks that ‘this crucial period in Israel’s history reinforces the salvation pattern established in the exodus. Although the Israelites dwell physically in the promised land their disobedience prevents their enjoyment of the promised blessings. They repeatedly enter into a kind of captivity and, unlike the Egyptian captivity, the reason for it is obviously their sinful rejection of the Lord. But then the Lord’s covenant faithfulness and love lead to their salvation through some saving act of God in which a chosen representative person figures. The giving of the Spirit to the judges indicates that what the Israelites cannot do for themselves, God does for them through a chosen, Spirit-empowered human being.’ (According to Promise, 207)

Judges was written some time after the events that it records. It reflects on the moral and religious instabiity of Israel when there was no king. In comparing Judah (Jud 1:1-20 20:18 ) favourably with Benjamin, (Jud 1:21,Jud 19,20 ) it looks forward to the superiority of David (from Judah) over Saul (a Benjaminite). ‘For its contemporary audience, Judges is an account of what happen when one generation fails to pass on the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and it is therefore an exhortation to correct that problem among themselves. Its message is to seek and embrace God’fearing, covenant-keeping leadership, which would lead Israel in keeping covenant.’ (Groves, DTIB)

The immediate hope held out in Judges is for a king who will lead Israel in faithfulness to God and his covenant. In the event, despite the outstanding examples of David and other righteouss kings, the monarchy proved no more successful in preventing covenant unfaithfulness. The OT as whole cries out, as the book of Judges does, for a faithful leader. That cry is answered in Christ, who was from the tribe of Judah and a descendent of David. In Christ, God himself came amongst his people and revealed himself in an unprecented way, Jn 1:14 1 Jn 1:1-2. If Israel looked back to the exodus as the ultimate expression of God’s deliverance, Jesus brought about an even greater deliverance. The unfaithfulness of Israel cost them the promised land. The faithfulness of Christ overcomes the whole world and ushers in a new creation. The judges brought about a fitful peace: Jesus brings an enduring peace. ‘Judges urged the need for a king, from Judah, who would fear God, live in covenant faithfulness, and lead the people in doing the same. Jesus, who was from the tribe of Judah, feared God and lived in perfect obedience to the Father, Php 2:5-8, giving his peole an example to follow. Even more, by sending the Holy Spirit, he was able to do what David could not do: break the cycle of sin, judgment, crying out, and deliverance, and actually change the hearts of God’s people, enabling them to be faithful to God.’ (Groves)

In noting God’s compassion on the Israelites in Judges, we look forward to the divine compassion as expressed on the cross.

When Hebrews 11 celebrates the faith of the judges it is not viewing these flawed leaders through rose-tinted spectacles. Rather, it is viewing them in the light of Christ, to whom they pointed.

Webb, New Bible Commentary
Groves, in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible