Judges Observation


A. The title comes from the Hebrew verb shophetim (BDB 1047, KB 1622, Qal active participle), which meant "to settle a dispute." This Hebrew term is similar to:

1. the Phoenician term for "regent"

2. the Akkadian term for "ruler"

3. the Carthaginean term, "chief magistrate"

B. It was translated in the LXX as krital or Judges.

C. Our English title came from the Vulgate's judicum.

D. The English title is misleading because these persons do not act in judicial ways but are dynamic local leaders raised up by God, empowered by His Spirit (cf. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:6,19; 15:14), to meet the specific purpose of delivering His people from a foreign oppressor (cf. 2:16). A better title might be "Deliverers."


A. This is the second book of the second division of the Hebrew canon. It is called the Prophets.

B. This second division has two sub-divisions:

1. the former prophets which we call the historical books: Joshua - Kings (except Ruth)

2. the later prophets which we call the prophets: Isaiah - Malachi (except Daniel and Lamentation)

III. GENRE – This is primarily historical narrative


A. The Bible itself is silent

B. Baba Bathra 14b (a book of the Talmud) says Samuel wrote the book which bears his name and Judges and Ruth.

C. Judges covers a period of many years, therefore, there cannot be one eyewitness author.

D. The book was compiled possibly from:

1. several unnamed written sources such as:

a. "The book of the Wars of the Lord," which is one historical source mentioned in Numbers 21:14

b. "The book of Jashar," which is another historical source mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and II Samuel 1:18

2. possibly several oral sources. Accurate oral histories were common in the Ancient Near East where writing materials were very expensive and difficult to carry. An example would be: "The Chronicles of Samuel the seer,. . .Nathan the prophet,. . .Gad the seer" in I Chr. 29:29

E. It seems that the original compiler wrote during the early United Monarchy:

1. Bethlehem is mentioned often possibly reflecting David's day (cf. 17:7,8,9; 19:1,2,18 [twice]).

2. Several texts reflect a monarchial period by the phrase "in those days there was no king in Israel" (cf. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). There were kings in all the surrounding nations, though not in Israel.

F. There is evidence of a later editor:

1. 18:30 reflects:

a. the Assyrian exile of the northern ten tribes in 722 b.c.

b. possibly the capture of the Ark by the Philistines in Eli's day, I Samuel 1-7.

2. Jewish tradition asserts that Jeremiah and/or Ezra the scribe edited parts of the OT. The formation of the OT in its current form is lost to us. However, this does not affect the divine inspiration of these OT books.


A. Although written by a compiler probably during David's reign, this does not imply that the historical material is not from eyewitness sources. There are two good examples of this:

1. In 1:21 the Jebusites still hold the inner fortress of Jebus (later Jerusalem). David does not conquer this fort until II Sam. 5:6ff.

2. In 3:3 Sidon, not Tyre, is listed as the major city of Phoenicia.

B. The book covers the period of time from immediately after the Conquest of Joshua to the birth of Samuel. The beginning date depends on the date of the Exodus (1445 b.c. or 1290 b.c.), 1350 b.c. or 1200 b.c. The terminus date would be about 1020 b.c., which is the beginning of Saul's reign (Bright).

C. If one adds up all of the dates given for the Judges, it comes to between 390-410 years. This cannot be taken chronologically sequential because from I Kgs. 6:1 the Bible says there were 480 years between the Exodus and the building of Solomon's Temple, 965 b.c. This means that the Judges must have been primarily local leaders and that their dates must overlap.

D. The rebellious events recorded in chapters 17-21 occur at the beginning of the period, which shows the book is out of chronological order.


A. The beginning chapters of Judges show us how limited was the conquest of Joshua. Joshua basically defeated the major Canaanite walled cities and their military potential. God left the hard job of occupation to each of the tribes in their own area, 2:6. This strategy was to test the new generation of Israelites who had not seen God's miracles of the Exodus and Conquest, 2:1-10; 3:1.

B. The new generation failed the test, 2:11ff; 3:7,12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1. God responded to their sin by sending foreign oppressors to punish His people. The people repented and cried out to God for help. God sent a "deliverer." Then for a period of years the land was peaceful. This is basically the pattern that describes the book of Judges, 2:6-16:31 (sin, sorrow, supplication, salvation, and relapse)


A. It seems that the time of the Judges is theologically described in three different ways. These three perspectives form the outline of the book:

1. results of Joshua's conquest

2. the need for deliverers

3. examples of apostasy

B. Brief Outline of the Book:

1. a brief account of the Conquest, 1:1-2:5

2. the sin, judgment and deliverance of God's people, 2:6-16:31

3. three examples of the sins of God's people that reveal the moral climate of the day:

a. Micah's idolatry, 17

b. Dan's migration, 18

c. Gibeah's sexual sin, 19-21

C. The Major Judges and their enemies:

D. The Minor Judges:

Name Text Enemy Time of Judging

1. Shamgar 3:31 Philistines ?

2. Tola 10:1-2 ? 23 yrs.

3. Jain 10:3-5 ? 22 yrs.

4. Ibzan 12:8-10 ? 7 yrs.

5. Elon 12:11-12 ? 10 yrs.

6. Abdon 12:13-15 ? 8 yrs.

E. Abimelech, 9:1-57:

1. this was a son of Gideon by a concubine

2. he only affected one city, Shechem

3. he is different from the other Judges


A. This book clearly shows the continuing results of the Fall:

1. Each successive generation violated the Covenant and went after Canaanite fertility gods.

2. Even in the Promised Land, with its tribal allocations given by God, the tribe of Dan chose to relocate to the extreme north instead of trusting God to defeat the Philistines.

B. God used pagan peoples to judge His people (later Syria, Assyria and Babylon). This reflects the cursing sections of Deuteronomy 27-29.

C. This book shows the need for a righteous King (one who reflects YHWH's character) to lead the united tribes.

D. YHWH is faithful even when Israel is not! His people's continual covenant disobedience highlights His character (i.e., mercy, grace, longsuffering, love).

E. This book continues the history of the Jewish people which began in Genesis.


A. Terms and Phrases:

1. cut off their thumbs and big toes, 1:7 (NASB & NIV)

2. blew the horn, 3:27 (NIV, ". . .trumpet")

3. oxgoad, 3:31 (NASB & NIV)

4. prophetess, 4:4 (NASB & NIV)

5. gleaning, 8:2 (NASB & NIV)

6. "The Diviner's oak" (terebinth), 9:37 (NIV, "The Soothsayers' tree")

7. Shibboleth, 12:6 (NASB & NIV)

8. "every man did what was right in his own eyes," 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25 (NIV, "everyone did as he saw fit")

9. "household idols," (teraphim), 18:17 (NIV, "household gods")

10. "worthless fellows" (belial), 19:22 (NIV, "wicked men")

B. Persons to Briefly Identify:

1. Sisera, 4:2 5. Abimelech, 9:1

2. Barak, 4:6 6. Chemosh, 11:24

3. Jael, 4:17 7. Dagon, 16:23

4. Jerubbaal, 6:32; 7:1(NIV, "Jerub-baal")

X. MAP LOCATIONS (by numbers)

1. city of Palms, 1:16; 3:13 8. Ramah, 4:5 15. Jabbok River, 11:13

2. Arad, 1:16 9. Mt. Tabor, 4:6 16. Timnah, 14:1

3. Bethel, 1:22 10. Kishon River, 4:7 17. Ashkelon, 14:19

4. Megiddo, 1:27 11. Valley of Jezreel, 6:33 18. Gaza, 16:1

5. Gezer, 1:29 12. Shechem, 9:1 19. Shiloh, 18:31

6. Acco, 1:31 13. Mizpah, 10:17 20. Jebus, 19:10

7. Hazor, 4:2 14. Arnon River, 11:13 21. Gibeah, 19:12


1. Why are the accounts of the Conquests in Joshua 1-12 so different from Judges 1-2?

2. Why were the Tribes of Israel to kill all Canaanites and not make covenants with them?

3. Why are some Judges called Major and some Minor?

4. What do chapters 4 - 5 say about God using female leadership?

5. Why did God want Gideon to reduce his army in chapter 7?

6. Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter to God (11:30-40)?

7. How can God use someone as lustful as Samson?

8. Why was it so sinful for the tribe of Dan to relocate?