Book of Judges: In Those Days Israel Had No King

book of judges

The book of Judges is a book about heroes – 12 men and women who delivered Israel from her oppressors. These Judges were not perfect; in fact, they included an assassin, a sexually promiscuous man, a person who broke all the laws of hospitality. But they were submissive to God, and God used them.

Repeatedly we see the nation of Israel sinning against God and God allowing suffering to come upon the land and the people.  Sin always has its consequences.  Where there is sin we can expect suffering to follow.  Rather than living in an endless cycle of abandoning God and then crying out to him for rescue, we should seek to live a consistent life of faithfulness.

Despite the efforts of Israel’s judges, the people still would not turn wholeheartedly to God.  They all did whatever they thought was best for them.  The result was the spiritual, moral, and political decline of the nation.  Our lives will also fall into decline and decay unless we live by the guidelines God has given us.

The book of Judges spans a period of over 325 years, recording six successive periods of oppression and deliverance, and the careers of 12 deliverers. Their captors included Mesopotamians, Moabites, Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites, and Ammonites. A variety of deliverers – from Othniel to Samson – were used by God to lead his people to freedom and true worship. God’s deliverance through the judges is a powerful demonstration of his love and mercy toward his people.

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As you read the book of Judges, take a look at these heroes from Jewish history. Take note of their dependence on God and obedience to his commands. Observe Israel’s repeated downward spiral into sin, refusing to learn from history and living only for the moment. But most of all, stand in awe of God’s mercy as he delivers his people over and over again.


Like the authors of several other historical books of the Old Testament, the author of Judges is unknown. But internal evidence indicates that the book was written after the events described in Judges, probably during the days of King Saul or King David, about 1050 to 1000 B.C.

Purpose of the Book of Judges

To show that God’s judgment against sin is certain, and his forgiveness of sin and restoration to relationship is just as certain for those who repent.

Historical Setting

Israel’s entry into the Promised Land under Joshua was not so much a total conquest as an occupation. Even after the land was divided among Israel’s twelve tribes, the Israelites continued to face the possibility of domination by the war-like Canaanites during the 300 year period of the judges, from about 1375 to 1050 B.C.

God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan, which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations.  But they were in danger of losing this promised land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.

Theological Setting for the Book of Judges

Judges speak of humanity’s need for an eternal deliverer or a savior. The deliverance of the human judges was always temporary, partial, and imperfect. The book points forward to Jesus Christ, the Great Judge (Psalms 110:6), who is King and Savior of His people.

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