Anonymous. No author is named for Judges, but the Hebrew Talmud suggests that it was Samuel.
1050-1000 B.C. It was written after the death of Samson and after the coronation of King Saul, but before the conquest of Jerusalem by David about 990 B.C. (1:21; 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).
Time covered in history:
The events of Judges take place between 1380 and 1050 B.C., from the conquest of Canaan to the beginning of the Monarchy…from the death of Joshua to the ascension of Saul to the throne. A total of 350 years (1380-1050 B.C.).
The historical time-frame of the Old Testament books:
Genesis…history from Creation through entry into Egypt
Exodus…history from Exodus through Sinai
Leviticus…one year after the Exodus…Laws for living & instructions for the use of the Tabernacle…given during the month & 20 days between the setting up of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the departure of the people from Sinai (Numbers 10:11).
Numbers…history, starting one month after the close of the book of Exodus and continuing through 39 years of wandering in the wilderness… concluding at the border to the Promised Land (Canaan)
Deuteronomy…the addresses given by Moses during the final months of his life while Israel was camped across from the Promised Land
Joshua…Joshua describes the conquest of the land of Canaan…beginning where Deuteronomy concludes around 1400 B.C.
Judges…records the development of Israel as the individual tribes seek to establish dominance in the land allotted to them. They experience times of oppression by foreign people and deliverance by Judges that God raises up to deliver them. The book ends with Samson as a Judge.
Ruth…the events of Ruth occurred during the period of the Judges.
1 & 2 Samuel…Samuel was the last of the Judges. 1 Samuel focuses on the lives of Samuel, Saul (the first King of Israel), and David. It covers a 115 year time span. 2 Samuel focuses exclusively on David. In the Hebrew Bible, 1 & 2 Samuel are not separate, but form one book.
When Joshua led the people into Canaan (the Promised Land) they didn’t completely conquer all the people who lived there (Canaanites…an inclusive term for all the ethnic groups of people living in Canaan; Philistines…maritime people who settled in Canaan along the coast of the Mediterranean). Now, the responsibility to complete the task was left to the individual tribes in the land they each occupied. The book of Judges records the history of their attempts and often their failure (cf. 1:19,21,27-28,29,30,31,32,33,34-36).
Israel was now a loose confederation of tribes. The “Judges” were military and civil leaders who ruled during this time…sometimes concurrently, since no one judge ruled over the entire land, but rather on different occasions in different parts of the land.
In the Old Testament the angel of the Lord is mentioned 80 times…20 of these are in Judges (cf. 2:1). Most theologians believe that this was none other than Christ, Himself.
One passage, 2:10-12, tells the whole story of Judges. Judges provides us with examples of the principle that obedience to the law brings peace, while disobedience means oppression and death. God’s faithfulness to forgive His people when they repent is also seen (17:6; 21:25).
Spiritual failure through compromise (not doing what God says) and apostasy (doing what God says not to do) is the central message of Judges and is seen in the phrase “every man did what was right in his own eyes,” which is reoccurring in the last 5 chapters (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).
Judges records a spiritual cycle that occurs 7 times:
- Sin (the people fall away from Jehovah)
- Punishment (a foreign people oppresses them)
- Repentance (the people confess their sin and seek God)
- Deliverer/Judge (God raises up a person to set them free).
A suggested chronology of Oppressing Nations & Delivering Judges
Sin* Oppressor Dates Judge Dates Scripture
1 Mesopotamia 1361-1353 Othniel 1353-1313 3:7-11
1,2 Moab 1313-1295 Ehud 1295-1215 3:12-30
1,2 Philistia ? Shamgar? 3:31
3 Canaan 1215-1195 Deborah & Barak 1195-1155 4:1-5:31
3 Midian 1155-1148 Gideon 1148-1108 6:1-8:28
3 (Abimelech) 1108-1105 Tola & Jair 9:1-57
1 Ammon 1105 Jephthah 1105-1099 10:6-12:7
3 Philistia 1099-1059 Samson 1085-1065 13:1-16:31
*Sin: 1-idolatry, 2-immorality, 3-departed from God
Including Eli and Samuel, there were 15 Judges. There were 3 types of Judges:
- Warrior-judges (Gideon & Samson)
- Priest-judges (Eli)
- Prophet-judges (Samuel)
Overview of the Period of the Judges Judges 1:1-3:6
Judges 1:1-36 The Record of Israel’s Failure to Completely Conquer the Nations that Inhabited Canaan
Judah and Simeon fight against the Canaanites (a generic term for any of the people who lived in the land) who inhabited their territories. However, they did not drive all of the inhabitants out of the land and neither did the other tribes (:19,21,27-28,29-34).
Judges 1:16-The “city of palms” is Jericho.
Judges 2:1-19 The Explanation of the Spiritual Consequences of that Failure
Judges 2:1-5-"the angel of the LORD"...the LORD, Himself (cf. Genesis 16:10)…tells Israel that they have not done what He told them to do. They did not drive all of the inhabitants of the land out. So, God said that He would not do it for them. The people were so distraught over this that they wept. They named that place “Bochim”, which means “the weepers”.
Judges 2:6-9-As long as Joshua and his generation were alive the people continued to serve God. Then, Joshua and all of his generation died. His death was recorded earlier in Joshua 24:29.
Judges 2:10-13-A generation rose up who had not seen the work of the LORD among them...and they followed other gods (Baals-false gods of the lands, Ashtaroth-the female counterpart of the Baals).
- The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: Even in the days of Joshua, Israel did not fully possess what they could have in the promised land. But they remained faithful to God, and they did not worship the idolatrous gods of the Canaanites. But after Joshua's passing, they fall into the worship of these grotesque gods.
- Why would anyone want to trade a personal, real, living God for a false god that is the figment of man's imagination? Because there is something within us that is afraid of the exact God we need; we would rather serve a god of our own creating than a real, living God we can't control. The gods we create are the gods we want in our own flesh.
- And served the Baals: What was the attraction of Baal worship? Baal was the god over the weather and nature for the Canaanites; he was essentially the agricultural god. In an agricultural society, people served Baal because they wanted good weather for abundant crops and flocks; the bottom line with Baal was the bottom line - personal wealth.
- "There were also 'Baals' associated with particular places, like the Ball of Peor (Numbers 25:3) or Baal-Berith (Judges 9:4); and this may account for the plural form." (Wolf)
- They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths: What was the attraction of Ashtoreth worship? Ashtoreth was the Canaanite goddess of love, sex, and fertility; she was usually "worshipped" by having sex with a "priestess" who was a prostitute. The bottom line with Ashtoreth was sex, love, and romance.
- They forsook the LORD: God makes it clear that Israel's going after these gods was nothing less than forsaking the LORD God of their fathers. Yet, in all likelihood, Israel did not see their idolatry as forsaking God, they probably just thought they were adding a few gods along side of the God of their fathers - but we serve a very jealous God, who demands exclusive worship.
- God isn't just something we add to our lives; He wants to become our life. And He will not have us adding other gods to our lives.
- We are said to be in a marriage type relationship with God, and we are not allowed to say "Well, I love you, but let me also add this lover and that lover. I can love you all!" God wants one spouse to meet all our marital needs; and He is the one God who can meet all our needs.
- In the sight of the LORD: This implies that the sin was even more offensive to God. To give an extreme example, it is bad enough for a married person to commit adultery - but to commit adultery before the very eyes of one's spouse would be especially offensive. It is awesome to consider that all of our sin is done right before the eyes of God.
- They followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them: This shows another root cause for Israel's tragic idolatry. The influence of the Canaanites that they allowed to remain in their midst led them to idolatry. The result of not fully driving out the Canaanites was far worse than Israel imagined.
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Judges 2,
Judges 2:14-15-As part of His judgment, God allowed them to be defeated by the inhabitants of the land. Why would God do this? It was attempt to allow them to get into a position in which they would turn back to God.
Judges 2:16-19-God then raised up judges (spiritual, governmental, and military leaders) to deliver them from their enemies. While the judge lived the people were faithful. And yet, when the judge died, they did not continue be faithful, but returned to their sinful behaviors. These verses demonstrate the recurring cycle that takes place during the time of the Judges.
Judges 2:20-3:6 God’s Purpose for His Not Driving Out the Nations of the Land
Judges 2:20-23-God did not take control of the situation and drive the nations out, Himself. Instead, He allowed the nations to stay as a test to see if Israel would be faithful to Him, or not. This was a “test”…a situation in which they had they opportunity to repent of their sin and return to the Lord. Someone has said, “Satan tempts us to prove us false. God tests us to prove us true.”
Prayer: Lord, please help me to pass the tests that I encounter. Give me eyes to see the truth and to realize that every test I face is an opportunity for me to be faithful to You.