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Reference: Judges, Book Of


is so called because it contains the history of the deliverance and government of Israel by the men who bore the title of the "judges." The book of Ruth originally formed part of this book, but about A.D. 450 it was separated from it and placed in the Hebrew scriptures immediately after the Song of Solomon.

The book contains, (1.) An introduction (1-3:6), connecting it with the previous narrative in Joshua, as a "link in the chain of books." (2.) The history of the thirteen judges (3:7-16:31) in the following order:

| FIRST PERIOD (3:7-ch. 5)

| Years

| I. Servitude under Chushan-rishathaim of

| Mesopotamia 8

| 1. OTHNIEL delivers Israel, rest 40

| II. Servitude under Eglon of Moab:

| Ammon, Amalek 18

| 2. EHUD'S deliverance, rest 80

| 3. SHAMGAR Unknown.

| III. Servitude under Jabin of Hazor in

| Canaan 20

| 4. DEBORAH and,

| 5. BARAK 40

| (206)


| SECOND PERIOD (6-10:5)


| IV. Servitude under Midian, Amalek, and

| children of the east 7

| 6. GIDEON 40

| ABIMELECH, Gideon's son, reigns as

| king over Israel 3

| 7. TOLA 23

| 8. JAIR 22

| (95)


| THIRD PERIOD (10:6-ch. 12)


| V. Servitude under Ammonites with the

| Philistines 18


| 10. IBZAN 7

| 11. ELON 10

| 12. ABDON 8

| (49)



| VI. Seritude under Philistines 40

| 13. SAMSON 20

| (60)

| In all 410

Samson's exploits probably synchronize with the period immediately preceding the national repentance and reformation under Samuel (1Sa 7:2-6).

After Samson came Eli, who was both high priest and judge. He directed the civil and religious affairs of the people for forty years, at the close of which the Philistines again invaded the land and oppressed it for twenty years. Samuel was raised up to deliver the people from this oppression, and he judged Israel for some twelve years, when the direction of affairs fell into the hands of Saul, who was anointed king. If Eli and Samuel are included, there were then fifteen judges. But the chronology of this whole period is uncertain.

(3.) The historic section of the book is followed by an appendix (17-21), which has no formal connection with that which goes before. It records (a) the conquest (17, 18) of Laish by a portion of the tribe of Dan; and (b) the almost total extinction of the tribe of Benjamin by the other tribes, in consequence of their assisting the men of Gibeah (19-21). This section properly belongs to the period only a few years after the death of Joshua. It shows the religious and moral degeneracy of the people.

The author of this book was most probably Samuel. The internal evidence both of the first sixteen chapters and of the appendix warrants this conclusion. It was probably composed during Saul's reign, or at the very beginning of David's. The words in Jg 18:30-31, imply that it was written after the taking of the ark by the Philistines, and after it was set up at Nob (1Sa 21). In David's reign the ark was at Gibeon (1Ch 16:39)

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This book is occupied with the period from the death of Joshua to the time of Samuel. Joshua, the man of faith, before he died gave them good advice and solemn warnings. The people answered, "The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey." They had now, under the guidance and power of God, to work out their own salvation. They served the Lord as long as Joshua lived and the elders he had appointed, and then they forsook God, allied themselves by marriage with the Canaanites, and turned to idolatry. It is a vivid illustration of the history of the professing church, which, after the times of the apostles, rapidly became worldly, and had to be disciplined by God, though there have been revivals, as there were in the time of the Judges.

A long catalogue had to be made of the districts from which the tribes did not drive out the Canaanites. Israel being thus unfaithful, making a league with the inhabitants, and regardless of their evil, the Lord let them remain to prove Israel: in like manner the world-bordering of the church has become a snare to it constantly. The Angel of the Lord was at Gilgal during the book of Joshua (to which place the Israelites should in spirit have constantly returned: it is the place of circumcision, that is, for the Christian, thorough separation from the first man); but now He came to Bochim, and reminded them that He had delivered them from Egypt, and had declared that He would never break His covenant with Israel; they were to make no league with the people of the land, but they had not obeyed His voice. The failure was now irretrievable. The people wept and sacrificed there.

Nevertheless they formed alliances with the Canaanites, and sacrificed to Baalim. Then they were oppressed by their enemies; but as often as they turned to the Lord, He raised up a judge who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. Yet when the judge died, they returned again to their evil ways. This experience of evil doing

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Judges, Book of,

of which the book or Ruth formed originally a part, contains a history from Joshua to Samson. The book may be divided into two parts:--

1. Chs. 1-16. We may observe in general on this portion of the book that it is almost entirely a history of the wars of deliverance.

2. Chs. 17-21. This part has no formal connection with the preceding, and is often called an appendix. The period to which the narrative relates is simply marked by the expression, "when there was no king in Israel." ch.

Jg 19:1; 18:1

It records -- (a) The conquest of Laish by a portion of the tribe of Dan, and the establishment there of the idolatrous worship of Jehovah already instituted by Micah in Mount Ephraim. (b) The almost total extinction of the tribe of Benjamin. Chs. 17-21 are inserted both as an illustration of the sin of Israel during the time of the judges and as presenting a contrast with the better order prevailing in the time of the kings. The time commonly assigned to the period contained in this book is 299 years. The dates given in the last article amount to 410 years, without the 40 years of Eli; but in

1Ki 6:1

the whole period from the exodus to the building of the temple is stated as 480 years. But probably some of the judges were contemporary, so that their total period is 299 years instead of 410. Mr. Smith in his Old Testament history gives the following approximate dates: Periods...Years -- Ending about B.C.:

1. From the exodus to the passage of Jordan...40 -- 1451.

2. To the death of Joshua and the surviving elders...[40] -- 1411.

3. Judgeship of Othniel...40 -- 1371. 4,5. Judgeship of Ehud (Shamgar included)...80 -- 1291.

6. Judgeship of Deborah and Barak...40 -- 1251.

7. Judgeship of Gideon...40 -- 1211. 8,9. Abimelech to Abdon, total...[80] -- 1131.

10. Oppression of the Philistines, contemporary with the judgeships of Eli, Samson (and Samuel?)...40 -- 1091.

11. Reign of Saul (including perhaps Samuel)...40 -- 1051.

12. Reign of David...40 -- 1011. Total...480. On the whole, it seems safer to give up the attempt to ascertain the chronology exactly.

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