This book is the second in the group of historical books (Joshua—II Kings) which are called by the Jews the Former Prophets and which cover the period from the death of Moses to the Babylonian Captivity. Of these books, Joshua, Judges, and I Samuel differ from the others in one important respect, namely, that they are, except for Ruth, the only books which cover the period of their allotment. The historical narrative in I Chronicles begins abruptly with the death of Saul at the hands of the Philistines (10:1).

Judges covers the period from the death of Joshua to the birth of Samuel. The name “Judges,” given it in the Septuagint version, is appropriate because the book deals mainly with the activities of certain “judges” (2:16), nine of whom are stated to have “judged” Israel. Since the book is largely biographical, analysis of it is fairly simple.


I. General Situation (1–2:6). The opening chapter plus the first six verses of the next are to be studied in the light of Joshua 13:1–6, 13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12 f., which state that the conquest was not completed by Joshua.

II. Viewpoint and Aim (2:7–3:4). In these verses the writer tells us that the history he describes runs in cycles: obedience, apostasy, punishment, repentance, forgiveness, deliverance, rest. This sequence of events occurs again and again. The writer proceeds to illustrate it in detail in the record of the 12 judgeships, 12 because Barak is only mentioned with Deborah while Abimelech is not called a judge and his brief career is merely a sequel to that of his father Gideon.

III. The Judges (3:5–16:31). In the main section of the book, we read of the judges, six (Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon) of which are called “minor” because so ...

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