AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JUDGES
The term "judges" is not a good translation of the Hebrew word (HSN8199 - shaphat); "leader" is better. God raised up these heroes (and one heroine) to deliver local tribes of Israel from apostasy and then to govern them. After their conquest of the land of Canaan under Joshua, the people of Israel had become a very disorganized, loose confederacy. Each tribe of Israel had become mostly isolated from the other tribes. Therefore, without leadership, they repeatedly fell into idolatry, foreign political domination, intermarriage with pagans, and other major sins. They were in a general state of spiritual confusion. A key verse, says: "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes." (Judg.17v6).
The Book of Judges is fragmentary, and it is not chronological. Many scholars believe that some of the events were concurrent. About 350 years are covered by the Book of Judges. The nation of Israel was in disarray, and they needed help from God. The Book of Judges portrays some of the blackest pages in the history of the sons of Israel. In effect, it was their Dark Ages. There were regular cycles of falling away, salvation, restoration, and falling away again. We can decipher seven apostasies, seven bondages, and seven deliverances. Over and over they forgot who the true God was. They adopted Baal worship, the local Canaanite religion, abandoning the spiritual purity which the Lord required. They were surrounded by hostile nations who wanted the land which the Israelites had taken, the land which God had promised to them as an inheritance. They had lost their sense of national unity under God, and they were an easy prey for enemy invasion. The book begins with compromise and ends with anarchy. The author is unknown.
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