Opening Thoughts on the Book of Judges
It has been thought that Samuel the prophet was the human penman of the Book of Judges, but this cannot be decided for certain. However, the subject material contained in the Book is something that is much more important for us to regard. The Book of Judges contains the history of the nation of Israel during the government of the Judges. These Judges were occasional deliverers who were raised up by the Lord to rescue His people from their oppressors, to reform the state of true religion, and to administer justice to His people. In this Book, generally speaking, the state of God’s people does not appear so prosperous, nor their character so religious, as might have been expected. Nevertheless, we must not forget that there were still true believers among them, and the service of the Lord at His Tabernacle was attended to.
The great objective of the historical records in this Book seems to include these two grand purposes: first, to show how unsuitably God’s people conducted themselves in comparison with the privileges they enjoyed; and second, to show how graciously the Lord manifested Himself toward them, even in the midst of their unworthiness.
The Book of Judges covers a span of time lasting about 325 years. The introductory chapters cover approximately 25 years, from the death of Joshua (around 1424 BC) until the beginning of the first foreign oppression of Israel (1400 BC). Chapters 3-16 cover the time from 1400 BC until nearly 1100 BC; and they record the histories of 14 Judges, from Othniel to Eli. The last five chapters of the Book are a parenthetical digression that is not to be understood as occurring chronologically after the death of Samson, although they are placed after the narrative of Samson’s life and death. Rather, chronologically speaking, the events recorded in those chapters transpired during that period of time between the death of Joshua and the first oppression (between around 1424 and 1400 BC).
There are many pictures and foreshadowings of the Gospel in the Book of Judges. The Holy Spirit was graciously pleased to cause many striking allusions to the great events of salvation to be represented during this period of the history of God’s people. And several of the persons who are spoken of in this part of Scripture were eminent servants of the Lord Jesus. The author of the Book of Hebrews makes special mention of several of them – such as Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah – with the most honorable testimony, as persons who were very illustrious patterns of faith (Heb. 11:32).
Before we begin to study this Book, it would be good for us to bend the knee of prayer before the mercy-seat of our God in Christ Jesus – praying that our minds may be under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. May He cause them to behold how He has been carrying on the great purposes and counsels of His own will in every age of the Church, and how He was gradually preparing the minds of His faithful ones for that glorious time when they shall not be under the government of Judges – but when a King shall reign in righteousness, and execute judgment and justice in the earth; and His name shall be “the Lord our Righteousness!” (Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-16) May our souls rejoice in the fact that our God has mercifully caused us to see this day! Let us take up the language of the Prophet, and use his sweet words to describe our own happy and blessed condition: “The Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us!” (Isa. 33:22)
Timeline of the Book of Judges
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