The Age of Heros

The book of Judges was among my favorites as a child. It is a book of action. It contains great deeds as well as great failures. It is a book of both victory and defeat. Often graphic in its contents, it is not a book for the squeamish.



Both the title found in the Greek Septuagint as well as our common English title of this book are taken from the Hebrew Title.

1. Greek: Kritai.

2. Hebrew: Shophatim from the Hebrew root , "to judge."

The Shophatim were more than mere judicial roles. They also served as military leaders in times of crisis. They were men whom God would raise up to lead His people in those difficult times.



The book of Judges forms the bridge between the Conquest of the Land under Joshua and the establishment of the Monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon. Prior to the book of Judges, we read of the nation of Israel being led by the Lord through the mediatorship of Moses and Joshua.

Moses and Joshua

The Kings of Israel


After the book of Judges, we shall see Kings appointed to rule God's people. During this transitional period, Israel was led by a varied group of "Judges." This was a dark period of Israel's history. It was a period of failure and of lawlessness.



The book of Judges takes up where Joshua leave off - with the death of Joshua as the Israelites have taken residence in the promised land.



A story mostly of Victory

A story mostly of Defeat

One man is prominent

A number of men and women are presented

Israel's Faith

Israel's Apostasy

Israel taking a stand for God

Israel turning away from God



The sin of the Canaanites is judged

The sin of the Israelites is judged

The narrative of Judges takes place over a period of over 300 years. It is a period when the Israelites are making the transition from having been a nomadic nation freshly escaped from Egypt to the status of a new nation, firmly established in their own land. This book can be divided into three parts.

1. Introduction - a Faltering Conquest (1:1 - 2:4).

The first two chapters form an introduction to the book, setting forth what are to be the overall themes and patterns of this period of Israel's history.

2. Cycles of Apostasy (2:5 - 16:31).

The central chapters set forth the history of the judges in a series of cycles of apostasy, repentance and deliverance.

3. Anarchy under the Levites (17:1 - 21:25).

The last five chapters form an appendix which portray the darkest days of the period of the Judges.

Judges - The Book of Heros




The Pattern of Failure Established

The Career of the Judges

  • Othniel
  • Deborah
  • Gideon
  • Jephthah
  • Samson

The Pattern of Sin Illustrated in two parallel accounts of Heinous Sins.

The entire period is presented in summary form

Chronological accountings of the period

Non-chronological accounts which characterized the period



We are not told either who is the writer or when this book is written. But there are several factors which indicate that it was written early in the Israelite monarchy.

  1. The Jebusites are said to live in Jerusalem "to this day" (Judges 1:21). Since the city was taken by the Israelites early in David's reign, this is an indication that the book was written before the fall of Jerusalem to David.
  2. Sidon is described as the chief city of Phoenicia (Judges 18:28). However, by the reign of Solomon, Tyre had become their chief city.
  3. On the other hand, there is evidence to show that it was written after Saul had become king. Four times, the author contrasts the political situation in the days of the Judges with that of his own day, saying, "In those days Israel had no king" (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). The way in which the phrase is used seems to indicate that a monarchy was still viewed as something positive. If this is the case, then it points to a time of writing before the Divided Kingdom and before either Judah or Israel had seen any ungodly kings.
  4. Judges 18:30 refers to "the captivity of the land."

And the sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. (Joshua 18:30).

The most obvious interpretation is that this refers to either the Babylonian or Assyrian Captivity. This phrase would have been added either after Samaria had fallen to Assyria (THIS was the beginning of the captivity of that portion of the land) or after Jerusalem had fallen to Nebuchadnezzar.

Does this mean that the book could not have been penned until after the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C.? Not necessarily. It is entirely possible that this chronological note could have been changed and "updated" by a later editor.

Nevertheless, these factors point to the possibility of a gap between the events described in the book of Judges and the recording of those events within this book.


Period of the Judges

Saul, David & Solomon

Period of the Divided Monarchy

Samaria into Captivity

Judah taken in Babylonian Captivity

Possible Periods of the Writing of the book of Judges

On the other hand, Jewish and early church tradition points to Samuel as the author of the book of Judges. While there is no definite internal evidence that this is the case, it is certainly a possibility.



1. The book of Judges illustrates the Disastrous Effects of Compromise.

The Israelites had been told to take the land and to completely wipe out all of the inhabitants. Because they did not obey this command, they were seduced into worshiping the false gods of the people of the land, always with catastrophic consequences.

2. The book of Judges is written as an Apologetic for Israel's Monarchy. It shows Israel's need for a king.

Especially in the latter part of the book, we are treated to a series of spectacles of the results of Israel's apostasy and then reminded that "in those days Israel had no king" (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).

a. Without a king the tribes faltered in their conquest of the land.

b. The office of judge was only able to bring sporadic relief from the cycles of apostasy.

c. The priests and Levites failed to provide social or religious stability in the absence of a king.

There is also a strong anti-Benjamite slant to the closing chapters of the book, indicating that it was written after David had come to power.



The nation of Israel was first established as a Theocracy. This means that God was seen as its king.


Rule by the people


Rule by a single king or monarch


Rule by God

The judges were the spokesmen for the Lord along with the prophets. While the priest provided the structure of worship to the Lord. The prophets spoke the message of the Lord. And the judges served as leaders for the Lord.

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