Who wrote it?
The book of Judges does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that the Prophet Samuel was the author of Judges. Internal evidence indicates that the author of Judges lived shortly after the period of the judges. Samuel fits this qualification.
When(ish) was it written?
Judges was likely written between 1045 and 1000 BC.
Why was it written?
The book of Judges can be divided into two sections: 1) Chapters 1-16 which gives an account of the wars of deliverance beginning with the Israelites’ defeat of the Canaanites and ending with the defeat of the Philistines and the death of Samson; 2) Chapters 17-21 which is referred to as an appendix and does not relate to the previous chapters. These chapters are noted as a time “when there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). The book of Ruth was originally a part of Judges, but in AD 450 it was removed to become a book of its own.
Some Key Verses
Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. – Judges 2:16-19
And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” – Judges 10:15
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21:25
A Quick Summary
The book of Judges is a tragic account of how Yahweh [God] was taken for granted by His children year after year, century after century. Judges is a sad contrast to the book of Joshua which chronicles the blessings God bestowed on the Israelites for their obedience in conquering the land. In Judges, they were disobedient and idolatrous, leading to their many defeats. Yet God has never failed to open His arms in love to His people whenever they repent from their wicked ways and call upon His name (Judges 2:18). Through the 15 judges of Israel, God honored His promise to Abraham to protect and bless his offspring (Genesis 12:2-3).
After the death of Joshua and his contemporaries, the Israelites returned to serving Baal and Ashtaroth. God allowed the Israelites to suffer the consequences of worshiping false gods. It was then that the people of God would cry out to Yahweh for help. God sent His children judges to lead them in righteous living. But time after time they would turn their backs on God and return to their lives of wickedness. However, keeping His part of the covenant with Abraham, God would save His people from their oppressors throughout the 480-year span of the book of Judges.
Probably the most notable judge was the 12th judge, Samson, who came to lead the Israelites after a 40-year captivity under the rule of the ruthless Philistines. Samson led God’s people to victory over the Philistines where he lost his own life after 20 years as judge of Israel.
The announcement to Samson’s mother that she would bear a son to lead Israel is a foreshadowing of the announcement to Mary of the birth of the Messiah. God sent His Angel to both women and told them they would “conceive and bear a son” (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:31) who would lead God’s people.
God’s compassionate delivery of His people despite their sin and rejection of Him presents a picture of Christ on the cross. Jesus died to deliver His people—all who would ever believe in Him—from their sin. Although most of those who followed Him during His ministry would eventually fall away and reject Him, still He remained faithful to His promise and went to the cross to die for us.
What does this mean?
Disobedience always brings judgment. The Israelites present a perfect example of what we are not to do. Instead of learning from experience that God will always punish rebellion against Him, they continued to disobey and suffer God’s displeasure and discipline. If we continue in disobedience, we invite God’s discipline, not because He enjoys our suffering, but “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:6).
The book of Judges is a testament to God’s faithfulness. Even “if we are faithless, He will remain faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). Though we may be unfaithful to Him, as the Israelites were, still He is faithful to save us and preserve us (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and to forgive us when we seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9). “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Take a few minutes to review the Scripture from Judges 10-11. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What would you like to remember and apply to your life?
Israel continued to struggle with worship of false gods and idols during this time in history. What are popular contemporary idols we are tempted to worship in our world today?
Jephthah was not a great candidate from a human perspective, but God used him as a judge. What does this reveal about God’s character? How does this encourage you personally?
We are greatly influenced by the culture around us. Where/in what ways is the culture shaping you more than the Scripture?
Sin is powerful. Where do you see this tragic reality in our world today? What are some effects of sin we experience in our everyday lives?
The beautiful reality is that Jesus Christ came to free us from the power of sin. Take time to reflect on this truth and discuss how we can apply it to our lives and in our small group communities.