Survey of Judges

Book Type: Book of history; the seventh book of the Old Testament; the seventh book of the Bible.

Author: Tradition considers the prophet Samuel as the author. The book itself does not name its author.

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.

Date: Likely written between 1045 and 1000 BC. 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 910:5), 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).

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.”


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