The recurring cycle of
in Judges is a major theme.
Judges gives us a picture
of the dark ages in Hebrew history after the death
of Joshua. There was no strong central government in
Israel after his death. There was however, the
unifying force of their faith in Yahweh. It was a
theocracy form of government with the LORD God their
The only problem with a
theocracy is that when the people do not take their
commitment seriously they keep falling into idolatry
and apostasy. Civil war and anarchy divided and
weakened the nation. The surrounding countries were
used of God to bring chastisement upon Israel. The
nation did not become great until King David united
the people. Israel failed to conquer the land
because of lack of faith and obedience to Yahweh
The refrain for three
hundred years was every man did his own thing until
God raised up a leader, but as soon as he died the
people went back to what was right in their own
eyes. It was a constant vacillation between
obedience and apostasy. They never learned from
their history. Israel's trouble during this time was
due to their disobedience. God still loved His
people even though they sunk into the depths of
depravity. Except for God's grace and mercy Israel
would have been exterminated.
The name of the book "Judges" (shophetim) is
taken from the outstanding characters and prominent
figures in the book (2:16). The Judges were actually
"Deliverers," "Saviors" or Liberators who led the
people during the turbulent years in Israel's
history. They first delivered the people from
oppression and then ruled the people. R. K. Harrison
says the word "judge" in Hebrew denotes "the
activity of governance, including warfare." The word
judge is not used like our modern concept of holding
court, or hearing complaints and rendering legal
decisions. The elders and priests were the
final interpreters of religious law. God raised up
these deliverers at a time when the fires on the
altar of God were dead and the skies of man's hope
were shrouded in a pall of gloom. Yahweh empowered
these judges with His Spirit to deal with certain
situations in the land. These judges were not kings
and did not establish a dynasty or ruling family.
The judge was a man or a woman selected by Yahweh to
drive out the opposition and give the land rest.
Russell Bradley Jones
writes, "In most instances they were not men of
ideal character. They served for the most part in
local areas. At times there probably was no judge;
at other times there may have been two operating in
different areas. They may or may not be presented in
order of their succession. During the entire period,
government was largely local and of a very
elementary order. There may have been a
representative assembly known as 'the whole
congregation of Israel'" (Survey of the Old and
New Testaments, p. 113).
The Spirit of the LORD
clothed Himself with a few individuals to do a
specific work. The Spirit took hold of them and used
them as His own instrument to accomplish His task.
This was the exception, however, not the rule of the
of Judges is unknown, although the Talmud suggests
Samuel who may have written portions of the book.
Judges was written after the death of Samuel and the
coronation of King Saul, but before the conquest of
Jerusalem by David c. 900 BC. The author probably
lived during the days of the United Kingdom (Judges
19:1; 21:25). Judges 1:21 dates the book before the
reign of David.
"Now it came about after the death of Joshua" (1:1;
2:8-9). 1 Samuel 4:3-11 could indicate that Judges
was written after the Ark of the Covenant was moved
from Shiloh, and after the commencement of the
monarchy (Jud. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). However,
the Jebusites were dwelling in Jerusalem (1:21) so
it was written before David conquered the city (2
The time covered is about
350 years from 1370-1050 BC. "It is hardly likely
that the various judges ruled consecutively . . . .
Apparently several of the judges were in authority
over only a part of Israel and ruled simultaneously
with others," writes Clyde T. Francisco. The author
also uses round numbers—20, 30, 40, 80, etc. Forty
years is probably a round number denoting
There is abundance of
archaeological evidence that proves the Biblical
account of this period to be trustworthy.
of Judges is to describe God's dealings with people
when "every man did what was right in his own eyes"
(17:6; 21:25). It is a study of a permissive society
and the author draws from history lessons concerning
righteousness, faithfulness and lovingkindness of
Yahweh in contrast to the undisciplined society. It
also serves as a link between the conquest of the
Promised Land and the monarchy.
Oswald T. Allis says, "In
some respect Judges is a pivotal book in the Old
Testament . . . The younger generation was forsaking
the LORD God of their fathers, and going to
polytheism, idolatry and lawlessness. The departure
is referred to repeatedly . . ."
During the reign of the
judges the Tabernacle was located at Shiloh. The
people of Israel had adopted the pagan practices of
the Canaanites. The true believers in Yahweh were
few in numbers. "The book seems to have been
written, not to give an orderly history of the
period, but to reveal the unfaithfulness of the
people over against the faithfulness and mercy of
J. W. Watts says, "Its
purpose is the same exalted one running through
Joshua; i.e., to draw from the history lessons
concerning the righteousness, faithfulness and
lovingkindness of Yahweh that will help hold His
people true to their covenant with Him. The sin, the
shame, the punishment and the repentance of God's
people are described over and over as to bring out
these great lessons about their God" (A Survey of
Old Testament Teaching, Vol. 1, p. 238).
of Judges is a recurring cycle seen over and over
again throughout the book. The cycles repeat
apostasy, oppression, penitence and deliverance.
Another way of stating the cycle is sin, servitude,
supplication and salvation.
The overall message of
Judges is "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is
a reproach to any people."
"As often as the people
degenerated into sin, God sold them into slavery;
then when they cried to Him for help He sent a
deliverer. A cycle, including four stages, was
constantly repeating itself in this period: (1) the
people going into sin. (2) God sending an enemy
nation to conquer and chastise them. (3) The people
praying for deliverance. (4) God answering their
prayers by raising up a deliverer to free them and
give them peace. These deliverers are known as
'judges'" (p. 112).
The book is organized
around themes rather than chronology of the events.
It was at time of instability, civil war, moral
depravity and idolatry when everyone did his own
The saddest words in Judges are "He did not know
that the LORD had departed from him." Apostasy
always begins in our thought life, the imagination,
and the things we tolerate that are out of harmony
with the holiness of God. "As a man thinks in his
heart so is he." The people admired the tolerated
beliefs and behaviors of their pagan neighbors until
their admiration became their conformity and
Why couldn't Israel drive
out the inhabitants of the land? She failed to
appropriate the promises of the LORD God to take the
land He provided.
Israel rejected theocracy
(God's rule) and "every man did what was right in
his own eyes" (21:25). This resulted in the dark
ages of Hebrew history. The Tabernacle, the
priesthood and sacrifices were neglected. Everyone
did his own thing. They had done away with all
absolutes and justified their own behavior. If it
feels good do it.
Yahweh is seen in Judges
watching and waiting in mercy to hear His people the
moment they cry out to Him. He responds with grace
and mercy immediately and delivers His people. With
grace there also comes responsibility. God is
forever moving toward His goals in history and He
never loses sight of them. His methods are still the
same. He still uses war, catastrophe and peace to
accomplish His eternal purposes of redemption.
Our times do not produce
God's men. God does. "Let's be careful," says G.
Campbell Morgan, "lest we stone him when he comes,
for he will not appear where we are looking, but
from some unexpected quarter."
Outline of Judges
Title: Introduction to