The period of judges was the darkest time in the nation of Israel’s history. Consider a few interesting facts about this book and period:
The book of Judges is the seventh book of the Bible. It is often a neglected study, but in it we learn so much about the consequences of rebelling against God’s will.
The men (and one woman) who served as Israel’s judges did not sit on a bench and issue rulings, like modern-day judges, but were instead deliverers of God’s people. Many of them were specifically called by God, while others rose to the occasion to save God’s people from their oppression. There are at least 15 people that the Bible specifically mentions as judges.
- Othniel (Judges 3:7-11)
- Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)
- Shamgar (Judges 3:31)
- Deborah (Judges 4-5)
- Gideon (Judges 6-8)
- Abimelech (Judges 9)
- Tola (Judges 10:1-2)
- Jair (Judges 10:3-5)
- Jephthah (Judges 11-12)
- Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10)
- Elon (Judges 12:11-12)
- Adbon (Judges 12:13-15)
- Samson (Judges 13-16)
- Eli (1 Samuel 4:18)
- Samuel (Acts 13:20; Hebrews 11:32)
Judges 1:1-2:5 serves as the Prologue for the book. The opening verses of the book pick up where the book of Joshua leaves off. The people of Israel have taken possession of the Promised Land, but many of the tribes have failed to obey God and drive out the remaining Canaanites. As a result, the Israelites were influenced by them, even embracing their false religions and worshipping their false gods. It got to be so bad that God sent an angel to pronounce judgment on them (Judges 2:2-3). Because of their disobedience, God said He would not help them drive out the remaining nations in the future and that they would become “a thorn” in their side.
The core of the book of Judges is Judges 2:6-16:31. In these chapters we find a cycle repeating itself no less than six times. The people of Israel relapse into sin; they experience oppression (retribution from God) from their enemies; in their oppression Israel decides to repent; and God sends a judge (deliverer) to rescue Had the people just obeyed God in the first place, they could have avoided all of this suffering.
Because Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord repeatedly, they eventually progressed and became much worse. In the last five chapters of the book, a very important statement is given by the writer that really sums up the period.
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 17:6; 21:25 NKJV
What can we learn?
God has a standard. It was not God’s will that the people of Israel do whatever was “right in their own eyes.” God had given them His law through the prophet Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1-21). God also has given us a law through the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 1:17). This is the standard Jesus will judge us by on the last day (John 12:48).
We need to submit to God’s standard. Israel should have obeyed the commandments of God. Because they refused to, they suffered terribly. Unfortunately, many Americans want to be able to do whatever they desire. They want to marry whoever they want (ex: homosexual marriage), kill whoever they want (ex: abortion), and sever relationships anytime they want (ex: divorce). Many Americans don’t want to be told what to do, but we need to understand that since God made us (Genesis 1:26-27), He has the inherit right to rule over us and He expects us to obey Him (Matthew 7:21-23).
There are consequences for rebelling against God’s standard. Israel suffered at the hands of their enemies because they rebelled against God. We will not only suffer in this life, but in hell for eternity if we follow in their footsteps (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
The period of judges was a very sad time for the Israelites. They glorified sin and dishonored the name of God. We would be wise to learn from their mistakes (Proverbs 14:12).