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Judges, Time of the

The Book of Judges chronicles the time between the chaotic period after the death of Joshua up to the appointment of Israel’s first king, Saul. This is listed on the Bible Timeline Poster between 1254 – 1104 BC. Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, had conquered much of Canaan. Except the territories of the Philistines, the Geshurites, and territories of the Canaanites “extending from the stream of Shihor on the border of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron” (Joshua 13:3). A full text of territories yet to be conquered can be read in Joshua 13:1-6 and the division of land among the tribes follows that.

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Judges
Moses and the Ten Commandments

As the time of Joshua’s death approached, he gathered all the tribe leaders and reiterated God’s commandments to them. That they were not to deviate from the laws given through Moses, worship other gods except Yahweh, and intermarry with the remaining people in the land who may lead them astray. These were explicitly and repeatedly stated in Joshua 23:6-16 and 24:14-19. As shown in the Book of Exodus, as well as the succeeding books, the people of Israel were prone to be led astray. There were also several complaints and sporadic bursts of rebellion. Such as the instances when they worshiped the Gold Calf (Exodus 32), their complaints about the manna (Numbers 11:4), and the report of Canaan by the scouts (Numbers 13 and 14).

Confederation of Tribes During the Judges’ Time

The cycle of Israel’s apostasy and deliverance continued to the time of the judges when the tribes of Israel had already settled in most of the conquered lands. These territories, however, were surrounded by hostile peoples and the tribes’ failure to purge them completely was a source of the problem. The condition set out by God through Moses and Joshua was for Israel to follow the Lord and refrain from worshiping other gods, but more often than not this condition was violated, and hostile people soon took over.

List of Judges and Hostile Tribes

Hostile Tribe/Nation Judge
Aram Naharaim Othniel (3:7-11)
Moab Ehud (3:12-30)
Philistia Shamgar (3:31)
Canaan Deborah and Barak (4:1—5:31)
Midian Gideon (6:1—8:35)
Hard times under Abimelech, Tola, and Jair (9:1—10:5)
Ammon Jephthah (10:6—12:7)
Minor judges Ibzan, Alon, and Abdon (12:8—15)
Philistia Samson (13—16)
Samuel is last of the major judges including his sons (1 Samuel 8:1-7)

 

This period of chaos also produced some of Israel’s most courageous leaders and put a spotlight on Deborah, the lone female judge. It also highlights the accomplishments of Gideon, who slew thousands of Midianites and their allies with the help of just 300 Israelite men. One of the most outstanding judges was Samson, who led Israel for 20 years and delivered them from the oppression of the Philistines. He was one of Israel’s last great judges before Samuel.

The succeeding chapters after the heroic sacrifice and victory of Samson in the temple of Dagon (or Dagan, ancient Semitic deity) was of several notable stories about the life of the Israelites. Including the idolatry in the tribe of Dan and Israel’s war with the tribe of Benjamin. The time of the judges ended with the death of Samuel and the appointment of Saul as the first king of Israel.

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