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Judges Introduction

TEXT: Judges 6-8

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Some Numbers

  • The Book of Judges covers a period of about 410 years by the Chronology included if you place everything consecively. (The period of the Judges extends from the death of Joshua to the establishment of the monarchy.) But the actual span of time is uncertain and perhaps requiring more complex calculations. (180 years from Joshua's Death to Saul's reign - 1200 b.c.—1020 b.c by dating from other nations' histories). It is likely, therefore, that the periods of foreign oppression and of the individual judges, overlapped. This allows serious consideration of the chronological data within the Book of Judges, but care is required in interpreting the figures.
  • The Number "40". The recurrence of the figure forty and its multiples suggests that it may be a round figure to indicate a generation. (Judges 3:11; 5:31; 8:28; 13:1)
  • Number of sons/daughters/nephews: Anak's 3 sons (1:20); Gideon had 70 sons (8:30); Jair had 30 sons (10:3,4); Ibzan had 30 sons and 30 daughters (12:8,9); Abdon had 40 sons and 30 nephews (12:13,14);
  • 12 Judges Listed in the book of Judges (but a list of judges would not be complete without Samuel; The high priest would also be regarded as a judge (cf. 1 Sam 4:18) as the central sanctuary was, traditionally, the place of arbitration.)
  • The 12 Judges were the resistance to at least 9 oppressors. (Cushan-Rishathaim, King of Mesopotamia, Eglon king of Moab, Ammonites and Amalekites-"People of the East", Philistines, Jabin, Canaanite king of Hazor with Sisera -?Hittite),Midianites,Ephraim) --- (Egypt was interestingly inactive during this period in Canaan). The main feature of this period was the emergence of individuals who delivered their fellow countrymen from these oppressors. The word “judge,” which suggests a preoccupation with legal affairs, is misleading.
  • We group the Judges in 2 groups. a) 7 (Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson) are the major judges because of their spectacular exploits against Israel’s oppressors and b) 5 (Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon) remain the minor judges whose exploits if existed where not recorded (this may be hinted at in regards to Tola in Judges 10:1).
  • 3 classes of people made up the judges: 1) High priest, 2) wise man, and 3) warrior. Their conduct frequently fell far below that of the great characters of the OT period, but they were men/woman of faith (Hebrews 11:32, 33) who fulfilled a vital role in a time of crisis.

What is the Importance of this Period? - The Dark Age -

  • This may be the “Dark Age” of Israel’s history.

a. The ideal picture of the twelve tribes of Israel, each settled in its own tribal portion, with an amphictyonic shrine that acted as the focal point of all aspects of the national life was hardly ever realized.

  • disunity and division were besetting problems

  • Political and geographic conditions combined to destroy effective unity. This was due largely to the failure to complete the Conquest, particularly in such strategic areas as the Esdraelon valley (Judg 1:27, 28), Gezer, the Aijalon valley, Jerusalem (1:21, 29, 35), and the northern coastal plain (1:31). Israelite control was limited to three separate areas—Judah, the central highlands, and a portion of Galilee.

  • Only Ephraim appears to have completed the occupation of its designated area, which accounts for its preeminence during the period (8:1-3; 12:1).

  • Even during the reigns of David and Solomon, the division between North and South was pronounced (e.g. 2 Sam 19:11, 41-20:2, etc.).

Psalm 133:1 — Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

b. Leadership became an acute problem. The rise of the monarchy is in part the result of ineffective leadership during the judges period. Frequently a tribe was cast back on its own resources, and the maximum number of the tribes found cooperating at any one point, is six (Judg 5:14, 15, 18)., i.e. the desperate expedient of the elders of Gilead in electing the brigand Jephthah to be their ruler (11:4ff.).

Gideon, following his success against the Midianites, was offered the kingly office (8:22). The events of Judges 9 also show the inclination toward the monarchy. However, it was not until the Philistine crisis threatened the very existence of Israel, and the renewed Ammonite threat (1 Sam 11; 12:12), that a monarchy overcome (8:4-22; 12:13).

c. Religious and moral decline. Canaanite religion was a polytheistic nature cult in which the observable powers of nature were personalized and worshiped.

  • Polytheism vs. Monotheism (Yahweh)

  • Worship by personalizing the powers of nature vs. Worshipping the Creator of All Created Things (which pales all other gods)

  • abuse, prostitiution, etc vs. a highly moral approach to the whole of life

  • unknowable, feared vs. a covenant relationship with Yahweh

  • religious and moral decline in Israel for the following reasons:

  1. Because of the failure to complete the Conquest, Israel was surrounded by the Canaanite religion, which, by nature of its appeal to man’s sensual nature, had a fatal fascination. Famine? Infertility? Disappointments? Defore to the gods of the land.
  • This problem became ampliphied as the number of mixed marriages multiplied. Syncretism: a process in which the functions and even the names of the deities became confused. The prophets attacked this Canaanization of Yahweh worship (e.g. Hos 2; Jer 2, etc.), but not until the Exile did the nation, as a whole, break free from this influence.

Judges 2:1-8 — Jer 2:1 ¶ Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. 3 Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD. 4 Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: 5 Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? 6 Neither said they, Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt? 7 And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination. 8 The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.

  1. ineffective leadership exercised by the Israelite judges/priests. A strong central authority could have averted major religious deviations; its absence made possible a gradual decline from Mosaic standards. The later editor accounted for this moral decline by the absence of the firm centralized authority exercised by the king (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).

  2. a decline in the standard of individual leadership following the death of Joshua (Josh 24:31; Judg 2:7). The stories of Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson make thrilling reading, but their blemishes of character are for the most part sadly apparent. Not until Samuel arose, late in the period, was the leadership comparable to that of Moses and Joshua.

  3. the standards of the average Israelite usually fell below that of their leaders. - The frequent murmuring and lapses of faith in the wilderness were ominous warnings of future events. Even after two generations had witnessed Yahweh’s power to deliver and provide, polytheism was still a problem diffused (Josh 24:15).

Joshua 24:15-17 — Jos 24:15 ¶ And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; 17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:

The moral and religious decline is carefully noted by the writer (1) in the editorial comment of Judges 2:12, 17, 19; 3:6, 7; etc.;

Jg 2:12 — And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.

(2) in the lament of Judges 17:6; 21:25;

Judges 17:6 — In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

(3) in the clear evidence of syncretism in the Gideon narratives (Judg 6:25, 32; 8:27);

Jg 6:25 — And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:

(4) in Jephthah’s tacit recognition of Chemosh as the god of the Ammonites and perhaps his sacrifice of his daughter (11:24, 30ff.);

Jg 11:24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.

compare to Naaman in :

2 Kings 5:15 — And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.

d. The Light of All Ages

Though this period may be the “Dark Age” of Israel’s history, the picture must not be overdrawn.

a. The Book of Ruth provides a counterbalance to the conditions portrayed in Judges.

Ruth 1:16 — And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

b. Judges 19-21 also reveals a NATIONAL CONSCIENCE (vs. everyman doing right in his own eyes, you have yours and I will have mine);

  • The Old Man in Judges 19:16 "only lodge not in the street." (contrasted with sons of Belial: without profit; wicked; evil)

Judges 19:23 And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. (Compare with Lot in Geneis 19:7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.)

Jg 19:27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.

Jg 19:29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. 30 And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.


Jg 20:1 ¶ Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man

Jg 20:4 And the Levite, the husband of the woman that was slain, answered and said, I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. 5 And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. 6 And I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel: for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel.

  • Response:

Jg 20:8 And all the people arose as one man, saying, We will not any of us go to his tent, neither will we any of us turn into his house. 9 But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; 10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to fetch victual for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel. 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man. 12 ¶ And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you?

List of Judges

Judge and Tribe Significant Events in the life of the Judge Enemies of Israel Period of Oppression Period of "Rest" Scripture reference
1. Othniel (Judah)
Son of Kenza, a Gentile Kenizzite convert of the Exodus generation and younger brother of Caleb
Othniel was the nephew and son-in-lawof Caleb, and the son of Kenaz, Gentile Kenizzite converts who joined the tribe of Judah. In the conquest of Canaan, Othniel captured Debir. He became the first warrior-Judge of Israel and delivered Israel from the oppression of the Edomites. His family is listed among the clans of Judah. Cushan-Rishathaim, King of Mesopotamia 8 Years of Oppression; 40 years of Rest Josh 15:13-17;
Judg 1:9-21; 3:1-11;
1Chron 4:13
2. Ehud (Benjamin)
Son of Gera
Ehud was a left-handed Benjaminite who personally killed Eglon king of Moab and ended Moabite domination of Israel. Eglon king of Moab, Ammonites and Amalekites 18 years of opression; 80 years of rest Judg 3:12-30
3. Shamgar (tribe ?) His name is not Hebrew. Son of Anath He killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad. A contemporary of the Judge Deborah: the "Song of Deborah refers to "in the days of Shamgar ben Anath" (Judg 5:6); possibly the son of a mixed marriage. Philistines (na) Judg 3:31-5:6
4. Deborah/Barak
(Deborah = Ephraim and Barak = Naphtali)
Deborah the wife of Lappidoth was a prophetess and a judge. Deborah and her general, Barak (Naphtali), defeated Sisera, the general of the army of Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor at the Battle of Kishon near Mt Tabor. The Song of Deborah ( Judg chapter 15) recounts the great victory. Barak is listed among the "Heroes of the Faith" in Heb 11:32. Jabin, Canaanite king of Hazor Sisera, general and vassal of Jabin; may have been a Hittite 20 years of opression; 40 years of rest Judg 4:1-5:31;
1 Sam 12:11;
Heb 11:32
5. Gideon (Manasseh)
Son of Joash of Abiezer
(aka, Jerubbaal) The Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon at Ophrah. Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal. Seeking confirmation of God's will, Gideon put out a fleece twice for a sign. On God's command he reduced the size of his army from 32,000 to 300 and successfully routed the Midianite army. He took revenge on the men of Succoth and Penuel for not giving his army bread. He killed the Midianite kings Zebah and Zalmunna in revenge for the killing of his brothers at the battle of Mt. Tabor. Later, he made a gold ephod that led the people into idolatry. Mentioned among the "heroes of the faith" in Heb 11:32. Midianites

Amalekites "People of the East"
7 years of opression; 40 years of rest Jud 6:1-8:32
Heb 11:32
6. Tola (Issachar)
Son of Puah; grandson of Dodo
Tola was probably from one of the leading clans of Issachar (Gen 46:13; Num 26:23) but lived at Shamir in the territory of Ephraim.   He judged Israel 23 years of rest Judg 10:1, 2
7. Jair (Gilead-Manasseh) Jair may have been a descendant of the same Jair who distinguished himself during the days of Moses and Joshua (see Num 32:41; Dt 3:14; Josh 13:30; 1 Kng 4:13; 1Chr 2:21). He had 30 sons who were itinerant judges.   22 years of rest Judg 10:3-5
8. Jephthah (Gilead-Manasseh in Transjordan)
Son of Gilead by a harlot (Judges 11:1)
Jephthah was the son of Gilead by a harlot and was driven away by his half-brothers. The elders of Gilead brought him back and made him their chief at Mizpah. Jephthah refused to give up Gilead to the Ammonites. He fought the Ammonites and conquered some 20 cities. The swearing of a foolish vow cost him his daughter's life. He initiated a civil war with the Israelite tribe of Ephraim. Mentioned among the "heroes of the faith" in Heb 11:32. Philistines


Civil war with the tribe of Ephraim
18 years
(Judges 10:8) of oppression; 6 years of rest
Judg 10:6-12:7;
Heb 11:32
9. Ibzan (Judah) Ibzan was a socially prominent man who had 30 sons and 30 daughters for whom he arranged marriages. Jewish tradition identifies him with Boaz of Bethlehem-Judah.     7 years Josh 19:15
Judg 12:8-10
10. Elon (Zebulun) He was buried at Aijalon in Zebulun.     10 years Judg 12:11, 12
11. Abdon (Ephraim)
Son of Hillel
Abdon, the son of Hillel was a man of wealth and prominence. He had 40 sons and 30 grandsons. He was a native of Pirathon (near Shechem) and was buried there.     8 years Judg 12:13-15
12. Samson (Dan) Son of Manoah An angel announced Samson's birth. He was consecrated as a Nazarate from birth (Num chapter 6). He had a fatal fondness for Philistine women. Samson was a man of immense strength: he killed a lion with his hands; he killed 30 Philistines at Ashkelon, and a "thousand" with a jawbone of an ass. Other amazing deeds included using 300 foxes to burn the gain fields of the Philistines and carrying off the city gate of Gaza. Samson was conquered by a Philistine girl, Delilah, who discovered that his uncut hair was the source of his strength. He was blinded and imprisoned at Gaza. He called out to God who allowed his strength to return. He pulled down the Temple of Dagon killing himself and about 3,000 Philistines. Mentioned among the "heroes of the faith" in Heb 11:32. Philistines 40 years 20 years Judg 13:1-16:31;
Heb 11:32

What About Abimelech and Samuel?

Abimelech was not a judge but was a son of Gideon who assumed power over Manasseh and brought about a civil war within the tribes of Israel (Judg 8:33-57).

The Prophet Samuel and his sons are listed as the last "judges" of Israel before the age of the United Monarchy (1 Sam 7:15-17; 8:1-2; Sir 46:13/16-20/23; Heb 11:32-40).

1Sa 7:15 And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. 17 And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.


  • Judges chapter 6
  • Jg 6:1-7. The Israelites for their sin are oppressed by Midian.
  • Jg 6:8-10. A prophet rebukes them.
  • Jg 6:11-16. An angel sends Gideon for their deliverance.
  • Jg 6:17-23. Gideon's present is consumed with fire.
  • Jg 6:24-27. Gideon destroys Baal's altar, and offers a sacrifice upon the altar Jehovah-shalom.
  • Jg 6:28-32. Joash defends his son, and calls shim Jerubbaal.
  • Jg 6:33-35. Gideon's army.
  • Jg 6:36-40. Gideon's signs.
  • Judges chapter 7
  • Jg 7:1-8. Gideon's army of two and thirty thousand is brought to three hundred.
  • Jg 7:9-15. He is encouraged by the dream and interpretation of the burley cake.
  • Jg 7:16-23. His stratagem of trumpets and lamps in pitchers.
  • Jg 7:24-25. The Ephraimites take Oreb and Zeeb.
  • Judges chapter 8
  • Jg 8:1-3. Gideon pacifies the Ephraimites.
  • Jg 8:4-9. Succoth and Penuel refuse to deliver Gideon's army.
  • Jg 8:10-12. Zebah and Zalmunna are taken.
  • Jg 8:13-16. Succoth and Penuel are destroyed.
  • Jg 8:17-21. Gideon revenges his brethren's death on Zebah and Zalmunna.
  • Jg 8:22-23. He refuses government.
  • Jg 8:24-27. His ephod the cause of idolatry.
  • Jg 8:28. Midian subdued.
  • Jg 8:29-32. Gideon's children, and death.
  • Jg 8:33-35. The Israelites' idolatry and ingratitude.