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Getting to Know the Bible: Judges Overview

Updated: Sep 3, 2022



Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Judges. But before we get to Judges 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Judges. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.


And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Judges, as we prepare to behold and discern Judges, beginning with Judges 1 in our next installment of this series.




Book Type: Book of history; the seventh book of the Old Testament; the seventh book of the Bible; Prophets—Former (Hebrew); Historical (Protestant, Orthodox)


Date of Writing: Likely written between 1045 and 1000 BC.


Timeline: The years before Saul became king of Israel, possibly prior to 1043 BC.


Original Language: Hebrew


Genre: Narrative


Authors: Jewish tradition considers the prophet Samuel as the author. The book itself does not name its author. The namesake of 1 and 2 Samuel, Samuel was the last of the judges, one of the special leaders whom God raised up during this time period to rescue His people. The judges did not oversee merely legal matters, as in our sense of the role; their tasks often included military and administrative authority as well.


Audience: Following the deaths of Joshua and his generation, who served the Lord, the Jewish people followed a cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, and deliverance in the land of Israel. The book of Judges records Israel's history between the time of Joshua and the first kings of Israel. The book also provides important theological insights regarding the results of disobedience to the Lord, as well as repentance and God's deliverance of His people.


Theme: (abridged) In danger of losing the promised land, the Israelites are delivered again and again by God through leaders known as judges.


(in-depth) The book of Judges depicts the life of Israel in the promised land from the death of Joshua to the rise of the monarchy. On the one hand, it is an account of frequent apostasy, provoking divine chastening. On the other hand, it tells of urgent appeals to God in times of crisis, moving the Lord to raise up leaders (judges) through whom he throws off foreign oppressors and restores the land to peace.


With Israel's conquest of the promised land through the leadership of Joshua, many of the covenant promises God had made to their ancestors were fulfilled (see Joshua 21:43-45). The Lord's land, where Israel was to enter into rest, lay under their feet; it remained only for them to occupy it, to displace the Canaanites and to cleanse it of paganism. The time had come for Israel to be the kingdom of God in the form of an established commonwealth on earth.


But in Canaan Israel quickly forgot the acts of God that had given them birth and had established them in the land. Consequently they lost sight of their unique identity as God's people, chosen and called to be his army and the loyal citizens of his emerging kingdom. They settled down and attached themselves to Canaan's peoples together with Canaanite morals, gods, and religious beliefs and practices as readily as to Canaan's agriculture and social life.


Throughout Judges the fundamental issue is the lordship of God in Israel, especially Israel's acknowledgment of and loyalty to his rule. His kingship over Israel had been uniquely established by the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 19-24), which was later renewed by Moses on the plains of Moab (Deuteronomy 29) and by Joshua at Shechem (Joshua 24). The author accuses Israel of having rejected the kingship of the Lord again and again. They stopped fighting the Lord's battles, turned to the gods of Canaan to secure the blessings of family, flocks and fields, and abandoned God's laws for daily living. In the very center of the cycle of the judges, Gideon had to remind Israel that the Lord was their King (see note on 8:23). The recurring lament, and indictment, of chapter. 17 - 21 is: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (see note on 17:6). The primary reference here is doubtless to the earthly mediators of the Lord's rule (i.e., human kings), but the implicit charge is that Israel did not truly acknowledge or obey her heavenly King either.


Only by the Lord's sovereign use of foreign oppression to chasten his people -- thereby implementing the covenant curses (see Leviticus 26:14-45; Deuteronomy 28:15-68) -- and by his raising up deliverers when his people cried out to him did he maintain his kingship in Israel and preserve his embryonic kingdom from extinction. Israel's flawed condition was graphically exposed; they continued to need new saving acts by God in order to enter into the promised rest (see note on Joshua 1:13).


Out of the recurring cycles of disobedience, foreign oppression, cries of distress, and deliverance (see 2:11-19; Nehemiah 9:26-31) emerges another important theme -- the covenant faithfulness of the Lord. The amazing patience and long-suffering of God are no better demonstrated than during this unsettled period.


Remarkably, this age of Israel's failure, following directly on the redemptive events that came through Moses and Joshua, is in a special way the OT age of the Spirit. God's Spirit enabled people to accomplish feats of victory in the Lord's war against the powers that threatened his kingdom (see 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14; see also 1 Samuel 10:6,10; 11:6; 16:13). This same Spirit, poured out on the church following the redemptive work of the second Joshua (Jesus), empowered the people of the Lord to begin the task of preaching the gospel to all nations and of advancing the kingdom of God (see notes on Acts 1:2,8).


Title:

The title refers to the leaders Israel had from the time of the elders who outlived Joshua until the time of the monarchy. Their principal purpose is best expressed in 2:16: "Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of . . . raiders." Since it was God who permitted the oppressions and raised up deliverers, he himself was Israel's ultimate Judge and Deliverer (11:27; see 8:23, where Gideon, a judge, insists that the Lord is Israel's true ruler).


Purpose of Writing:

The Book of Judges can be divided into two sections: a) Chapters 1-16 which gives an account of the wars of deliverance beginning with the Israelites' defeat of the Canaanites and ending with the defeat of the Philistines and the death of Samson; b) Chapters 17-21 which is referred to as an appendix and does not relate to the previous chapters. These chapters are noted as a time "when there was no king in Israel (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25)." The Book of Ruth was originally a part of the Book of Judges, but in A.D. 450 it was removed to become a book of its own.


Summary:

The Book of Judges is a tragic account of how Yahweh [God] was taken for granted by His children year after year, century after century. Judges is a sad contrast to the book of Joshua which chronicles the blessings God bestowed on the Israelites for their obedience in conquering the land. In Judges, they were disobedient and idolatrous, leading to their many defeats. Yet God has never failed to open His arms in love to His people whenever they repent from their wicked ways and call upon His name. (Judges 2:18) Through the 15 judges of Israel, God honored His promise to Abraham to protect and bless his offspring (Genesis 12:2-3).


After the death of Joshua and his contemporaries, the Israelites returned to serving Baal and Ashtaroth. God allowed the Israelites to suffer the consequences of worshiping false gods. It was then that the people of God would cry out to Yahweh for help. God sent His children judges to lead them in righteous living. But time after time they would turn their backs on God and return to their lives of wickedness. However, keeping His part of the covenant with Abraham, God would save His people from their oppressors throughout the 480-year span of the Book of Judges.


Probably the most notable judge was the 12th judge, Samson, who came to lead the Israelites after a 40-year captivity under the rule of the ruthless Philistines. Samson led God's people to victory over the Philistines where he lost his own life after 20 years as judge of Israel.

Overview:

This book consists of 19 chapters comprising three major sections. First, Judges 1:1—3:6 introduces the book of Judges and describes a pattern of disobedience which existed among the Israelites. The first chapter explains that the enemies of Israel were never fully defeated in the land given to them by God. Failing to complete that conquest was, already, a form of disobedience. As Israel continued to disobey the Lord, God allowed various judgments to take place among His people.


The second major section provides the history of Israel's judges (Judges 3:7—16:31). Several distinct periods are described: the leadership of Othniel (Judges 3:7–11), the victories of Ehud and those of Shamgar over the Moabites (Judges 3:12–31), the important role of Deborah in Israel's victory over the Canaanites (Judges 4—5), Gideon's victory against the Midianites (Judges 6:1—8:35, Abimelech contrasted with Tola and Jair (Judges 10:1–5), various minor judges in victories over the Philistines and Moabites (Judges 10:6—12:15), and finally the account of Samson's battles with the Philistines (Judges 13—16).


The third and final portion of the book of Judges provides insight into the sinful state of Israel during this time. Events recorded in these chapters are not directly related to the other occurrences of the book (Judges 17—21). Two specific incidents are recorded. The first is the account of the idol worship of Micah and the Danites (Judges 17:1—18:31). The second event begins with a gruesome crime which led the nation of Israel into a civil war. Retaliation against the Benjamites nearly destroyed the entire tribe (Judges 19—21).


The book of Judges concludes with the fitting words, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).


Foreshadowing:

The announcement to Samson's mother that she would bear a son to lead Israel is a foreshadowing of the announcement to Mary of the birth of the Messiah. God sent His Angel to both women and told them they would "conceive and bear a son" (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:31) who would lead God's people.


God's compassionate delivery of His people despite their sin and rejection of Him presents a picture of Christ on the cross. Jesus died to deliver His people, all who would ever believe in Him, from their sin. Although most of those who followed Him during His ministry would eventually fall away and reject Him, still He remained faithful to His promise and went to the cross to die for us.


Application:

Disobedience always brings judgment. The Israelites present a perfect example of what we are not to do. Instead of learning from experience that God will always punish rebellion against Him, they continued to disobey and suffer God's displeasure and discipline. If we continue in disobedience, we invite God's discipline, not because He enjoys our suffering, but "because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:6). The Book of Judges is a testament to God's faithfulness. Even "if we are faithless, He will remain faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). Though we may be unfaithful to Him, as the Israelites were, still He is faithful to save us and preserve us (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and to forgive us when we seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9). "He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).


Key Verses (ESV):

Judges 2:16–19: "Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways."


Judges 10:15: "And the people of Israel said to the Lord, 'We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.'"


Judges 21:25: "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."


*Note:

The period of the judges began after the death of Joshua in the early fourteenth century BC (Joshua 24:29) and continued until Saul was crowned king of Israel by the prophet Samuel in 1051 BC (1 Samuel 10:24). The book of Judges acts as the sequel to the book of Joshua, linked by comparable accounts of Joshua’s death (Joshua 24:29–31; Judges 2:6–9). Events within the book of Judges span the geographical breadth of the nation, happening in a variety of cities, towns, and battlefields. Scholars believe some of the judges ruled simultaneously in separate geographical regions. Attempts to calculate the exact amount of time covered in Judges are inconclusive, but generally, the book begins soon after the death of Joshua and ends in the years just before the entrance of Samuel onto the scene, a period of about three hundred years.


The contents of Judges were likely not written chronologically. The final few chapters (Judges 17–21) give an overview of the moral climate during those days and, rather than occurring after the period of the judges listed earlier in the book, they probably happened in and around the times of various judges mentioned in earlier chapters.


The period of the judges began after the death of Joshua in the early fourteenth century BC (Joshua 24:29) and continued until Saul was crowned king of Israel by the prophet Samuel in 1051 BC (1 Samuel 10:24). The book of Judges acts as the sequel to the book of Joshua, linked by comparable accounts of Joshua’s death (Joshua 24:29–31; Judges 2:6–9). Events within the book of Judges span the geographical breadth of the nation, happening in a variety of cities, towns, and battlefields. Scholars believe some of the judges ruled simultaneously in separate geographical regions. Attempts to calculate the exact amount of time covered in Judges are inconclusive, but generally, the book begins soon after the death of Joshua and ends in the years just before the entrance of Samuel onto the scene, a period of about three hundred years.


The contents of Judges were likely not written chronologically. The final few chapters (Judges 17–21) give an overview of the moral climate during those days and, rather than occurring after the period of the judges listed earlier in the book, they probably happened in and around the times of various judges mentioned in earlier chapters.


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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