(Seven Cycles of Apostasy, Judgment, and Deliverance)
Tradition tells us that Samuel wrote the book, but its authorship is actually uncertain. Samuel may have assembled some of the accounts from the period of the judges and prophets like Nathan and Gad may have had a hand in editing the material (see 1 Chron. 29:29).
The Hebrew title is Shophetim, meaning “judges, rulers, deliverers, or saviors.” Shophet
not only carries the idea of maintaining justice and settling disputes, but it is also used to
mean “liberating and delivering.” First the judges deliver the people; then they rule and
Title of the Book:
The book gets its name from the number of leaders called judges whom God raised up to deliver Israel from their oppressors. The title for the book is best expressed in 2:16, “Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.” Ultimately, however, God was Israel’s Judge and Deliverer because it was God Himself who would first allow the times of oppression as divine discipline for Israel’s repeated apostasy, and then raise up judges to bring deliverance after the nation repented and cried out for help (cf. 11:27 and 8:23).
Theme and Purpose:
The contrast between the moods of Joshua and Judges is striking. Israel goes from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat, from freedom to oppression, and from advancement to retrogression. So why the book?
Historically, Judges bridges the gap from the time of Joshua to the time of the prophet Samuel and the beginning of the monarchy under Saul and David. It records the history of seven cycles of decline, oppression, supplication, and deliverance. In doing so, it becomes an explanation and reason for the need of a monarchy in Israel. With every man doing that which was right in his own eyes (21:25), the nation needed the leadership of a righteous king.
Doctrinally, Judges draws our attention to a number of important truths. As God had warned in Deuteronomy, obedience brings blessing, but disobedience results in God’s discipline and oppression. But Judges also reminds us that when people will turn to the Lord, cry out to Him and repent, God, who is long-suffering and gracious, responds in deliverance. Judges unfolds its theme by describing cycles of apostasy followed by oppression as a form of divine discipline followed by supplication and repentance by the people followed by judges whom God raised up to deliver the nation.
Evil (14 times), judge, judged, judgment (22 times); Cycles.
2:15-16 Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the
LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. 16 Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those
who plundered them.
2:20-23 So the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not listened to My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which
Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the
way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” 23 So the LORD allowed those
nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of
21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own
Chapters 1-2 give a backward look to Israel’s sin and a forward look to Israel’s servitude. As such, these two chapters provide a kind of overview of the key issues in the book. One of the keys to Israel’s failure is found in the repeated phrase, they “did not drive out the inhabitants” of the land (Judges 1:21, 27, 29, 30). This early failure was an ingredient in Israel’s later failure to remain faithful to the Lord. Then, chapter 2 gives a kind of summary of the rest of the book which records the picture of the cycles: from being godly to ungodly to oppression to deliverance through the judges.
The Judges—Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Tola and Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, and Samson. The best known judges are Deborah, Gideon, and Samson.
Christ as Seen in Judges:
Since each judge functioned as a ruler-deliverer, they served as pictures of the Savior in His work as Savior and Lord, the Righteous Deliverer King.
Judges easily divides into three sections:
Deterioration (1:1-3:4), Deliverance (3:5-16:31), and Depravity (17:1-21:25).
Some like to divide the book around the seven cycles of apostasy.
I. Deterioration—An Introduction, the Reason for the Period of the Judges (1:1-3:6)
A. The Political Condition (1:1-36)
B. The Spiritual Condition (2:1-3:6)
II. Deliverance—The History and Rule of the Period of the Judges (3:7-16:31)
A. Mesopotamian Oppression and Othniel’s Deliverance (3:7-11)
B. Moabite Oppression and Ehud’s Deliverance (3:12-30)
C. Shamgar’s Victory Over the Philistines (3:31)
D. Canaanite Oppression and Deliverance by Deborah and Barak (4:1-5:31)
E. Midianite Oppression and Gideon’s Deliverance (6:1-8:35)
F. Abimelech’s Tyranny (9:1-57)
G. Tola’s Judgeship (10:1-2)
H. Jair’s Judgeship (10:3-5)
I. Ammonite Oppression and Jephthah’s Deliverance (10:6-12:7)
J. Ibzan’s Judgeship (12:8-10)
K. Elon’s Judgeship (12:11-12)
L. Abdon’s Judgeship (12:13-15)
M. Philistine Oppression and Samson’s Career (13:1-16:31)
III. Depravity—Apostasy and Anarchy, the Ruin of the Period of the Judges (17:1-21:25)
A. Micah and the Migration of the Danites (17:1-18:31)
B. The Benjamite War (19:1-21:25)