What is the book of Judges about?

by Glen Podd – 3 July 2017


The book of judges in the bible explained


The book takes its name from its lead characters, in Hebrew shaphat, meaning judge. It wasn’t judge in the judicial sense but these judges were deliverers and saviours of the nation.



Jewish tradition has the Prophet Samuel as the author of Judges. Internal evidence indicates that the author lived shortly after the time of the Judges, as the narrative looks back to that period. Samuel fits this qualification.


Main characters

The main characters are the 12 Judges, Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon and, the most well-known three, Deborah, Gideon and Samson.


Main events

Sadly, just as Joshua describes Israel at their peak of faith and action, in the Judges stage we see Israel at their worst.

The main action in the book revolves around this sequence of events repeated over and over again:

- Sin – Israel fall away from God in disobedience.

- Servitude – judgement comes as a consequence, usually in the form of their enemies conquering them.

- Supplication – their bad situation causes Israel to cry out to God.

- Salvation – God raises up a judge to rescue them.


An example of this sequence is in Chapter 6:

- Sin, 6:1 – Israel fall into sin.

- Servitude, 6:1 – the result was judgement; for seven years they are overcome by the Midianites, a nomadic people who continually raided them.

- Supplication, 6:6 – Israel cried out to God for help.

- Salvation, 6:11-7:25 – God raises up Gideon, who defeats their enemies.


The Challenge of the Judges Stage

"In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; 21:25)

Does this sound familiar? Today we are faced with the very same issue in our society: 



The Judges period was one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history. The reason can be found in the verses Judges 17:6 and 21:25. After Joshua there was no devout leader to take his place. Israel’s behaviour degenerated, having no-one to follow and keep them in line. It became a nation of individuals doing what pleased themselves, leading to: 



Not doing what God had told them to do, to drive out their enemies (Judges 1:21 and 27-33; 2:1-5). When the people of God allow things to stay in their lives which should not be there, then they can expect a backlash from those things. We reap what we sow (Galations 6:7-8).



Doing what God told them not to do, worshipping gods of the peoples around them (Judges 2:10-15 and 6:8-10). When the people of God don’t stay true to Him, judgement will follow.



Terrible disunity developed in Israel, for example:

- In Chapter 12 fighting broke out between Gilead and Ephraim due to Ephraim’s over-the-top reaction to not being involved in the fight against the Ammonites. The result was 42,000 dead Ephraimites!

- Fighting broke out between Benjamin and the rest of Israel due to Ephraim refusing to hand over some rapists for justice. The result was 40,000 dead Israelites, 25,000 from Benjamin, leaving them only 600 men!

- Abimelek – murdered his 70 brothers to become King of Shechem, and then razed it to the ground, burning 1,000 men, women and children in a tower, and died trying the same in Thebez.

Despite these sad atrocities and many more, the Angel of the Lord appears no fewerthan 20 times in Judges out of 80 in the whole of the Old Testament. In the darkest of times God is still at work among his people!



The dreadfulness of the Judges period is illustrated dramatically in the capture of the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Samuel 4 by the Philistines. The Ark signified God’s presence (1 Samuel 4:7), with its capture and removal God showed His displeasure…He abandoned them!

Judges is a book well worth reading. Brutally honest, it does not hide the depths of human depravity and behaviour. The stories are shocking, not for the fainthearted, particularly as it happens among God’s chosen people as well as their enemies. How can God work in such a cess-pit of degradation? Read it and find out for yourself. Learn the lesson of keeping God on the throne, not man!

Answers to Questions
Webpage icon Jesus was just a good man, not God
Webpage icon What you need to know about the church
Webpage icon The fall of mankind explained
Webpage icon The book of Joshua
Webpage icon Fasting
Webpage icon The book of Job
Webpage icon The Holy Spirit
Webpage icon Death before the fall
Webpage icon Is God morally relative?
Webpage icon What is the book of Numbers all about?
Webpage icon Is hell a real place?
Webpage icon What the Bible says about suffering
Webpage icon Do all religions worship the same God?

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