The Book of Judges
For the past few weeks, I have been spending some time studying and analysing the Book of Judges – written by the Prophet Samuel. Below are the things I learn and I believe they are worth sharing. It is my prayer that they are beneficial to your spiritual development.
Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. The promise and command given to the children of Israel was to drive out the inhabitants in the land of Canaan and claim it, but they didn’t. When Joshua died, some of the tribes did not yet have their own inheritance, so we are told in the first verse of the Book of Judges that, “The children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” The Israelites claimed many of the lands, but not all of them. So the first Chapter was about conquering some of the remaining lands after the death of Joshua.
In Chapter 2, we learn of the death of Joshua – he died aged 110 years, (Judges 2:8). Joshua died before Caleb. But the important point in this chapter to note is that, the people served God during the days of Joshua. So, it was recorded that, “And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel”, (Judges 2:7). The Israelites were living in peace with everybody because they made God their King; this is what is called Theocracy. Total submission to God.
In Chapter 2 verse 10, we got to know that the generation that experienced the power of God in the wilderness and came to the Promised Land were gone. Tragically, the generation after them refused to know God. It was recorded that, “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel”, (Judges 2:10). As a result, they forsook God, did evil in His sight; and to make matters worse, they served other gods such as Baal and Ashtaroth instead of the living God (Judges 2:13). Because they neglected God, God also gave them up for affliction (Judges 2:14).
The love of God is so great. Despite their rebellion, God raised up Judges to deliver them from the hands of their oppressors. When God raised one judge to deliver them from their oppressors, they would turn their back on God again. When they are afflicted for many years and the so-called gods that they served couldn’t deliver them, they would turn unto God and God being so faithful would raise another judge to deliver them. It gets annoying personally for me, because these people were stiff-necked. The pattern in Judges is a very tragic one. It’s like they never learned their lessons – they keep repeating the same mistakes and sins over and over again.
Chapter 3 to Chapter 16 covered a period of 13 judges who God used to deliver the children of Israel from their oppressors. Below is a summary indicating the length of their oppression when they neglected God, the name of the judge, how long they ruled and which tribe they came from. Periods of oppressions are indicated in years.
- 8 years: Israel served Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia for neglecting God, (Judges 3:7-8)
- First Judge: Othniel, son of Kenaz (Caleb’s younger brother). We know he’s from the tribe of Judah, because Caleb is from the tribe of Judah, (Numbers 13:6). Othniel as the first judge judged Israel for 40 years, (Judges 3:9, 11)
- 18 years: Israel served Eglon, king of Moab, (Judges 3:14)
- Second Judge: Ehud, son of Gera, a Benjamite. The land had rest for 80 years, (Judges 3:15, 30).
- Third Judge: Shamgar, son of Anath. We don’t know how long he ruled or which tribe he belonged to, since it was not stated, (Judges 3:31). Some school of thought suggests his reign as a judge could be reckoned into the latter part of the 80 years’ rest or the first years of Deborah’s reign, (Gill, 1763).
- 20 years: Israel was oppressed by Jabin, king of Canaan, whose captain was Sisera, (Judges 4:2-3).
- Fourth Judge: Deborah, a prophetesses and wife of Lapidoth. She delivered Israel from the oppression of Jabin, king of Canaan. She was the only woman judge of Israel. We don’t know how long she judged, because it was not stated in Scripture. Some suggests she ruled 40 years, but that’s just speculation. We also don’t know which tribe she belonged to, but some suggests she came from the tribe of Ephraim, since she dwelt in Mount Ephraim whiles others suggest Issachar, (Judges 4:4-5; 5:15). Barak was a military general who God used to help Deborah deliver Israel from Jabin’s oppression.
- 7 years: Israel served the Midianites for neglecting God again, (Judges 6:1).
- Fifth Judge: Gideon, son of Joash, from the tribe of Manasseh. After subduing Midian, Israel was in quietness for 40 years, (Judges 8:28). He had many wives and 80 sons, (Judges 8:30-31). He died of old age, (Judges 8:32).
- Sixth Judge: Abimelech, son of Gideon (from the tribe of Manasseh), who slaughtered all his brethren (except Jotham) to become a judge, (Judges 9:5-6). He reigned 3 years, (Judges 9:22).
- Seventh Judge: Tola, son of Puah, from the tribe of Issachar. He judged Israel for 23 years, (Judges 10:1-2).
- Eighth Judge: Jair, a Gileadite. He judged Israel for 22 years, (Judges 10:3). He was from the tribe of Manasseh and we know this because Gilead was a descendant of Manasseh, (Numbers 26:29). Some are of the view that the Jair mentioned in Numbers 32:41 could be referring to the same person. But, I’m not sure.
- 18 years: Israel was under oppression again after neglecting God and serving other gods, (Judges 10:6-8).
- Ninth Judge: Jephthah, a Gileadite. He judged Israel for 6 years, (Judges 12:7). He was from the tribe of Manasseh as explained earlier.
- Tenth Judge: Ibzan, a Bethlehemite (Judges 12:8). There were two Bethlehems, with one in the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15) and the other in the tribe of Judah, the city of Jesse, David and Jesus. He was from either of those two tribes: Zebulun or Judah. He judged Israel for 7 years, (Judges 12:9).
- Eleventh Judge: Elon, a Zebulonite and he judged Israel for 10 years, (Judges 12:11).
- Twelfth Judge: Abdon, a Pirathonite and he judged Israel for 8 years, (Judges 12:13-14). He was from the tribe of Ephraim, (Judges 12:15).
- 40 years: Israel was delivered into the hands of the Philistines for doing evil again, (Judges 13:1).
- Thirteenth Judge: Samson. He came from the tribe of Dan and his birth was prophesied by an angel of the LORD. His father was Manoah, (Judges 13:2-4, 24). He judged Israel for 20 years in the days of the Philistines, (Judges 15:20; 16:31).
Chapter 17 to Chapter 21 are what we call side stories and do not follow any chronological order. In fact, some of them were immediately after Samson’s death and others before his death.
The lesson I learn from the Book of Judges is this: If you neglect God, you will expose yourself to many dangers and troubles. But if you repent and follow God, He will be your God and guide your affairs.
By: Seth Gogo Egoeh