What is in Judges?
Judges is the seventh book in the Bible. Shortly after the book begins, Joshua dies. The Lord begins to appoint a series of judges to rule over the people. The judges have varying levels of success in following God’s commandments, and the Israelites enter a cycle of prosperity and judgment corresponding to the judge’s reverence for God.The book of Judges includes a few times, and most notably ends with, the ominous statement ‘In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes”, marking the seriousness of the apostasy of Israel.
Who wrote it?
Jewish tradition describes Samuel as the author of Judges, but there are a few challenges to this claim. One notes the book uses the phrase ‘in those days’ multiple times, implying some time has passed between the events in the book and when they were written (or possibly edited). The book also explains customs as if the readers would not have known about them.
When was it written?
There is one key piece of info that can be used to date the writing of the book of Judges. In Judges 1:21, the author notes that the Jebusites were living in Jerusalem ‘to this day’. Most Jebusites are thought to have left Jerusalem after King David captured the city around 1003 B.C., but there is also evidence they either stayed later or came back elsewhere in the Bible.
When does it take place?
Going on from the two possible dates in Exodus, it is also possible to give Judges two start ranges, either in the mid-14th or late-13th century B.C. Judges covers Israel under many rulers, up until about the mid-11th century B.C.
Why was it written?
As with all prior books of the Bible, the book of Judges chronicles the history of the people of Israel. In this book, God reinforces the difference between what separates a good ruler from a bad one.
Who is in Judges?
The book of Judges covers many generations of rulers. In all, there are 12 of them: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson.
How does Judges apply to me today?
The book of Judges continues the theme of Israel’s cycle of faith and apostasy, but Judges is more repetitive and explicit in linking the welfare of the nation of Israel to their faith in the Lord. Judges 4:1-2 is one such example of this. The people of Israel did evil (many times meaning that they worshipped false gods), and as a result they fell into the clutches of an enemy army. This also happens in Judges 3:12-14, Judges 3:7-8, and Judges 6:1-6, just to name a few instances! In many instances, the judges themselves led Israel astray, illustrating how everyone is capable of sin.
In understanding this book, it is necessary to explain what is behind the ‘the Lord sold them into the hands of ___’ sayings, such as the one in Judges 3:8. Whenever Israel sinned, the Lord rose up enemies for them, until a time when they repented and followed the Lord again (Judges 3:9 in this case). This basic concept was demonstrated in the book of Joshua, where a few instances in that book make it clear that the Lord judges without regard to national affiliation. There are people, such as the prostitute Rahab of Canaan, who was able to escape the capture of her town because she feared the Lord and let Joshua’s spies escape danger (Joshua 2). There are also people such as the Israelite Achan that secretly took for himself things that were not his after battle, and was caught by the Lord and subsequently killed (Joshua 7:10-26). There is nobody that can escape God’s judgment (Psalm 139:7-12).
As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0