GENERAL FACTS ABOUT THE BOOK OF JUDGES
The Book of Judges gets its name from the military leaders that God raised up to deliver Israel from its enemies. They were called “judges”. They were not judges in the same sense that we use the word today. Though they did some work of advising in legal matters, they were primarily men of action who delivered their tribe or nation from enemy nations. They became local or national leaders during the time between Joshua and the first kings of Israel. We do not know for sure who the author of the Book of Judges is. The book itself says nothing about its authorship. A Jewish tradition says the Prophet Samuel wrote it. But the fact is, we do not know for sure.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK OF JUDGES
We could say the Book of Judges has a three-fold purpose:
1. First, to fill in the history of Israel between Joshua and the time of the monarchy (ruling by kings).
2. Secondly, to show the people’s need for leadership under a strong government headed by a king.
3. Thirdly, to show how low the morals of God’s chosen people had fallen, and at the same time, to show God’s grace. The third point above expresses the chief purpose of the book. Consider this quotation from a Bible handbook: “The human scene in Judges is a depressing one. The nation’s fortunes follow a monotonous, repetitive cycle. Israel deserts God for the heathen gods. In consequence God allows them to suffer at the hands of the Canaanites. Israel cries to God for help. God sends a deliverer (judge). All is well until his death: then the old pattern of infidelity reasserts itself… The wonder is God’s constant love and concern in the face of all this. Despite their past unfaithfulness, and what he knows will happen again, as soon as Israel turns to him he answers” (from “Erdmans’ Handbook to the Bible”).
Theme: “ISRAEL UNDER THE JUDGES”
- The Need For The Judges (1-2)
- The Work Of The Judges (3-16)
- Two Additional Episodes (17-21)
THE 12 JUDGES OF ISRAEL
- Othniel (3:7-11): He was from the tribe of Judah. He defeated King Cushan-Rishathaim.
- Ehud (3:12-31): He was from the tribe of Benjamin and defeated Eglon, the fat king of Moab.
- Shamgar (3:31): He fought against the Philistines.
- Deborah and Barak (4-5): Deborah, from the tribe of Epharaim, was a woman judge in the judicial sense. Her song is recorded in chapter 5. Barak, from the tribe of Naphtali, was the military leader. They defeated King Jaban and his general, Sisera.
- Gideon (6-8): Gideon of Manasseh defeated the Midianites and the Amelikites. (Abimelech, told of in chapter 9, is considered an outlaw and not a judge.)
- Tola (10:1-2): This judge was from the tribe of Issachar.
- Jair (10:3-5): Jair was from Gilead.
- Jephthah (10:6 – 12:7): Jephthah of Gilead defeated the Ammonites.
- Ibzan (12:8-10): He was from Bethlehem.
- Elon (12:11-12): This judge was from Zebulun.
- Abdon (12:13-15): He was from Ephraim.
- Samson (13-16): This famous judge from Dan fought against the Philistines. Survey the chapters on the judges. You will notice that we know very little about some of them. But about some, such as Gideon and Samson, we have several chapters.
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