Overview of Judges

What is Judges about? An overview and summary of Judges

Judges is the account of how Israel behaves between the death of Joshua and the leadership of a king. Instead of remaining loyal to God and following His laws, this generation of Israelites wanders in their faith, worshiping idols, indulging in violence, and generally becoming just like the other nations around them. (Which is a problem, as Israel was supposed to represent God to the other nations.)

The book of Judges opens with a snapshot of the political and spiritual landscape:

  • The land is not fully possessed yet, as Israel does not drive out a few “pockets” of the people they were told to eliminate.
  • The military and spiritual leader Joshua is dead.
  • The people begin worshiping false gods (introduced by the Canaanites living among them).

Judges free bible iconJudges presents various examples of how God deals with His people during this time period. The stories of Judges follow a pattern (Jgs 2:11–23):

  1. Israel turns from God and serves idols.
  2. God turns Israel over to the oppressive surrounding nations.
  3. Israel turns to God and cries out for help.
  4. God raises up a judge to deliver them.

Israel rebels, God disciplines; Israel repents, God delivers.

Theme verses of Judges

“The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.” (Jdg 2:14–16)


Judges’ role in the Bible

The period of judges is a dark era in Israel’s history. This book shows how persistent Israel is in forgetting the Lord, and how faithful God is to discipline and deliver His people.

It’s in Judges that we see Israel’s need for a Messiah, a godly king. Because there is no good king in Israel, everyone does what is right in their own eyes (Jdg 21:25).

Both Judges and Ruth tell us how bad things were in Israel before God gave them a king, but anticipate the coming of the good king David.

The writer of Hebrews references several characters from Judges as examples of Old-Testament characters who gained approval through faith. Though Judges describes the consequences of unbelief in grim detail, we also see is a series of vignettes displaying the powerful, positive effects of faith in a faithful God.

Quick outline of Judges

  1. Spiritual and political snapshot of Israel’s disobedience (Jgs 1:1–3:6)
  2. Stories of the judges (Jgs 3:7–16:31)
    • Othniel (Jgs 3:7–11)
    • Ehud (Jgs 3:12–30)
    • Shamgar (Jgs 3:31)
    • Deborah and Barak (Jgs 4–5)
    • Gideon (Jgs 6–10)
    • Tola (Jgs 10:1–2)
    • Jair (Jgs 10:3–5)
    • Jephthah (Jgs 10:6–12:7)
    • Izban (Jgs 12:8–10)
    • Elon (Jgs 12:11–12)
    • Abdon (Jgs 12:13–15)
    • Samson (Jgs 13–16)
  3. Appendices describing Israel’s depravity (Jgs 17–21)
    • Dan’s rejection of their inheritance and the Levitical priesthood (Jgs 17–18)
    • Benjamin’s civil war against the other tribes (Jgs 19–21)

 More books related to Judges

  • Ruth (next book of the Bible)
  • Joshua (previous)
  • 1 Samuel (when the period of judges ends)

Bible art by Adrien Converse.

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