Survey of the Old Testament - Lesson 18


Judges has two introductions, two conclusions, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge. It can be described as the, “uncreation” of Israel. Their purpose was to judge the nations and to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors.

Miles Van Pelt
Survey of the Old Testament
Lesson 18
Watching Now

I. Introduction

A. The judges

B. Contents

C. Historical context

D. Purpose

E. Genre

F. Date and authorship

II. What and Who are the Judges?

A. Modern consensus

B. Internal assessment

C. External assessment

III. Outline and Content

A. Main sections

B. Characteristics of the judges

C. Major judges

IV. The Gospel Promised Beforehand

  • Dr. Miles Van Pelt is offering an opportunity to study the Old Testament and understand its overall message in more detail. The Old Testament consists of 2/3 of the Bible, and serves as a foundation for many teachings found in the New Testament. Its main purpose is to point towards Jesus who makes possible a new covenant with God's people. The structure of both Testaments follows a covenantal pattern that compels humans to make choices regarding their relationship with God, while demonstrating His patience and perseverance in doing so.
  • Knowing the purpose, structure and theological center of the Old Testament, will help you understand more accurately the character of God, and his purpose in the world and in your life. The Old Testament teaches you about Christ and describes his ministry. Colossians 3:15-16 reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."

  • What you decide is the theological center of the Bible will determine how you understand the Bible and apply it to your life. You can see unity in biblical authorship by the number of times the phrase, “thus says Yahweh” is used in the Old Testament.  The person and work of Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. The living force of the canonical word must be the incarnate word. The proper nouns used in the Bible indicate the important characters and themes.

  • Jesus claims that the Old Testament finds its ultimate meaning in him. After his resurrection, Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and gives them a lesson in biblical interpretation. The Father and the Scriptures testify about who Jesus is. In Romans 1:3, Paul refers to the Gospel being revealed through his prophets, in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son. Every book in the Bible teaches about Christ so every sermon should teach about Christ. Hebrews 11 refers to the great cloud of witnesses.

  • The Kingdom of God is the over-arching theme of the whole Bible. God governs his kingdom by his covenants. The covenant of grace is in effect throughout the Bible and has different administrations.

  • The form that our Bibles come to us in is meaningful for interpretation. The Hebrew Bible has a different order of the books than the English Bible.  

  • The order of books in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is different because the criteria for determining the order is different. The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible reflect an emphasis on covenant, and also teaching important concepts then giving a practical example to illustrate how to put it into practice.

  • The three divisions in the Old Testament are the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Genesis and Revelation are the introduction and conclusion to the Bible and have parallel themes. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the four covenant books that record the birth and death of the covenant mediator and contain his life and teachings. The former prophets record the history of Israel. The latter prophets call people to repent and return to God.

  • Your presuppositions about whether or not the authors who wrote the books of the Bible were inspired by God will influence your position the authorship of the Pentateuch. The traditional view is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament at about 1200 to 1400 B.C. The documentary hypothesis claims that there were four or more separate authors that wrote beginning in about 900 B.C.

  • Genesis is the covenant prologue and is both protological and eschatological. It is the most covenantal book in the Bible. One way to outline the book is into twelve parts, each beginning with the phrase, “these are the generations.” Creation is described using a theological order.

  • Chapter 2 is a detailed description of the sixth day of creation, culminating in the creation of woman. Chapter 3 describes the Fall and the consequences. Hebrew homonyms link the passages and intensify the descriptions.

  • Noah functions as a prophetic covenant mediator. God promises a remnant in his covenant with Noah and also renews the covenant of common grace. God continues his redemptive covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The book of Genesis ends with the narrative of Joseph.

  • This is the beginning of the formal documents of the covenant of God with the people of Israel. It begins with the birth of Moses and ends with the people of Israel coming out of Egypt.

  • Leviticus is primarily instructions to promote the holiness of God’s people. It provides a system that allows for a holy God to live among an unholy people. In the sacrificial system, there are 5 kinds of offerings. Jesus is the fulfillment of the observance of the Day of Atonement.

  • The book of Numbers is a record of the events of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The purpose is to contrast the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of the Israelites. The time in the wilderness was a period of testing for the people of Israel.

  • This is a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in preparation for entering the Promised Land. It’s an encouragement to keep the Law and a reminder of blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience. Deuteronomy points us to Jesus who ultimately fulfills the Law.

  • Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings describe the nature and purpose of the Sinai Covenant and the historical events of the occupation of the land. God know that the people of Israel would fail to obey the Mosaic Covenant, so he had planned from the beginning to establish the New Covenant when the time was right.

  • Joshua was the successor to Moses. The book of Joshua focuses on the Promised Land. The people of Israel enter the land, conquer the land, divide the land between the tribes and then renew their covenant with God. Holy war and covenant obedience are important themes.

  • Judges has two introductions, two conclusions, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge. It can be described as the, “uncreation” of Israel. Their purpose was to judge the nations and to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors.

  • The book of Samuel provides the answer to the crisis of kingship. Samuel, as the last judge and first prophet, anoints Saul as king. The people of Israel reject Yahweh as king. Saul is anointed by Samuel and serves as king but is later rejected because of disobedience. David is anointed king because God acts according to his own will. Solomon begins well and ends badly.

  • The book of Kings is the story of the monarchy in the nation of Israel. It begins with the united monarchy under Solomon, then after his death, is divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. We can learn about God’s character and the importance of living in a covenant relationship with God.  

  • The Latter Prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Prophets use both oracular prophecies and sign acts to communicate their message.

  • Isaiah is sometimes described as the, “fifth gospel” because it is quoted so much in the New Testament. The themes in Isaiah are both timely for his generation and also point to their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus and the end of time.

  • Jeremiah’s call was to tell the people of Judah why they were going into exile and also to give them hope for future restoration. The book contains oracles, accounts of visions and symbolic actions, prophetic laments and historical narratives.

  • One key to understanding Ezekiel is the glory of God in the temple. The book begins with God appearing to Ezekiel, then God leaves the temple and, in the end, God returns. Ezekiel’s oracles and signs illustrate each of these.

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these 12 minor prophets are treated as one book. Each one is a covenant lawyer that is prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the unfaithful nation of Israel and also preaching a message of hope for restoration. The Day of the Lord is the day of the king’s victory over his enemy, either to crush an enemy or to save a people.

  • These books are about how you think and live in light of the covenant. The genres include narrative, poetry and prophecy. The Hebrew Bible order emphasizes teaching then example.

  • Covenant life is a life of worship. The book divisions in the manuscripts were purposefully arranged so the book as a whole has a meaningful narrative. It emphasized the kingship of Yahweh, the Davidic line and the temple. You can use specific patterns of construction for understanding lament, thanksgiving and hymns of praise psalms. You can also use the same patterns to help you respond to God and worship him.

  • Job deals with the issue of human tragedy and suffering. Job never knows what happened in heaven that resulted in his suffering. His three friends made correct theological arguments but they were misapplied. Job speaks about suffering and hope. God challenges Job at the end of the book, and also restores his possessions and children.

  • Solomon created a collection of practical wisdom sayings. Some were for instructing children, some for instructing kings, but they all are applicable to help everyone live in the light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace.

  • Ruth follows Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible. Even though she is from Moab, she lives in Israel with her widowed Israelite mother-in-law to take care of her. She marries Boaz and is included in the genealogy of David and Jesus.

  • Marriage should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. If it is both, you can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness.   

  • The message of Ecclesiastes is that true knowledge, wisdom and meaning in life begins with the fear of the Lord. The author of Ecclesiastes, likely Solomon, tests this conclusion and is unsuccessful in finding ultimate meaning in activities, “under the sun,” like wealth, relationships, power, projects, etc.

  • Lamentations is a collection of funeral dirges lamenting the fall and exile of Jerusalem. The elegant structure of the book is a contrast to the chaos and destruction of the events that are taking place. Each poem gives you a different perspective on God’s character and his covenant faithfulness.

  • Esther is a story of living a life of faith in exile. It Bringing “shalom” into a hostile environment sometimes even requires risking your life. The festival of Purim commemorates God saving his people and is still celebrated today.

  • Daniel and Esther are examples of living a life of faith while in exile. Daniel was different than the writing prophets because he is not primarily a covenant lawyer prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the people of Israel. The first six chapters are biographical stories highlighting God’s power to save and his sovereignty over the nations. The second six chapters are visions of the future.

  • The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records the last events, chronologically, in the Old Testament. Ezra returned from exile with authorization to teach the Law of the Jews and institute the sacrificial system. Nehemiah returned to rebuild Jerusalem. They fail in their human attempt to rebuild heaven on earth, which encourages you to look forward to the city built by God.

  • The return from exile is not the greater one prophesied by the prophets. We still look forward to the return from exile with them in the resurrection. Chronicles traces the seed that was promised and gives an account of the return from exile.

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give you an overall view of the Old Testament then discuss specifics about each of the books. 

For instance, you might ask, "What kind of book is the Old Testament?" The OT is a single story told three times over: once in Genesis, once in Exodus through Nehemiah, and once again in Chronicles (just like day 6 in Genesis 1–2). The OT loves to repeat itself, repeat itself, repeat itself. This is how it teaches us. The Old Testament is about 2/3 of the Bible and is the basis for everything you read in the New Testament. The better you understand the Old Testament, the clearer you will understand the message of the Bible. 

What is the Message of the Old Testament? The Old Testament points to the New Covenant. The teachings, prophecies and examples of covenant life point to Jesus who makes the New Covenant possible and inaugurates it. There are also examples in the Old Testament of how human efforts to create heaven on earth fall short, so that we will anticipate and yearn for our ultimate deliverance from exile.

What is the Structure of the Old Testament? The structure of the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole, is covenantal. God offers to live in the covenant of grace with him and compels them to make that choice. The administrations of the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus demonstrate God's patience and perseverance to include as many as are willing.


Recommended Books

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give...

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Dr. Miles Van Pelt

Survey of the Old Testament



I. Introduction (00:13):

Welcome to the lecture for the Book of Judges. The Book of Judges is the second book in the former prophets recording that period of time where Israel was in the land from 1406 BC to 586 BC. The title of the Book of Judges is a translation of the Hebrew word Shofetim, which is a masculine, plural, substantiable, or participle+. It means to judge or those who judge, so judges. This type of judge, however, is not like any of our modern-day judges. Most of our modern-day judges don't wield weapons. The judges in the Book of Judges however, deliver God's people from oppression and the subjugation of the enemy. They render judgment on the enemy and call God's people to faithfulness.

A. The Judges (00:55):

So think of it this way, when you think about why would they call judges judges, why not just call them saviors or deliverers? They are called that as well, but why the official title “judges”? It's because we think of a judge as a courtroom official. They are officials of God's covenant administration, but their job is to bring judgment on the nations. So their job is to bring judgment on the nations on behalf of Yahweh. They're the instrument of Yahweh's judgment. So that's how we need to think of the judges and why we call them that. I think it is way better than thinking this or that.

In the Book of Judges, the only person who acts in an official judicial capacity as we conceive of it, would be Deborah, the prophetess, and then she calls Gideon to help her bring judgment, and so they do that together. I love the Book of Judges. It's one of those books that have been lost to the church, I think. It's called functional decanonization, just like the Song of Songs, we know it's there, but we just avoid it as much as possible because we don't understand it.

Back in the mid-90s, again, if you've heard me mention Gordon Hugenberger a couple of times, I heard him give a couple of lectures on the introductions to the Book of Judges. There's two introductions, and he was arguing there for a positive assessment of the judges. I was shocked by that because I've always grown up thinking the judges were wicked dudes. He thought of them this way, if the judges were called by God, they were morally flawed, but God used them to accomplish His will. I'm the same way, I'm like judges, I'm morally flawed, but maybe God can use me to accomplish His will. But again, that's a wrong interpretation.

I was put on this path those many years ago, and it's been over 25 years, and I've been hot on the trail of these judges forever. They're so intriguing and wonderful, it's great. Hugenberger is about to start on the commentary as well, it'll be out in a few years. So you can see all this stuff coming out with the commentary a little bit on it, but it's much smaller and only will outline some of the basics. So wait for the Hugenberger commentary or buy them both.

B. Contents (02:49):

So what are the summary of the contents? Let me tell you about the Book of Judges. It's real easy, all right. I'm going to say this several times. There are two introductions that run from chapter one into the middle of chapter three. Then there are two conclusions that are in the last chapters of the book, 17-21. Then there is a big section in the middle, it's like the judge sandwich. There are 12 judges, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge, Abimelech.

The major judges are major because the account of their judging is longer and the other ones are just like one or two verses, a real summary kind of thing. The whole goal was to get to 12, which represents the 12 tribes of Israel, but we only have six lengthy accounts that is. Whenever I teach or preach, I've preached to this before, and I even have a t-shirt that says it on it because I wanted the kids to engage them. I have in the Book of Judges are two introductions and two conclusions, 12 judges, six major, six minor, and one anti judge, Abimelech. On the back of my shirt it had a big Abimelech with a big cross through it in the back, just so you know he was the anti-judge. I still have that shirt. I wear it when I teach the Book of Judges every year and I think everyone likes it. So that's what it is.

C. Historical Content (04:11):

We're going to see that played out. You're going to see it here as kind of a formal outline for the Book of Judges over here, but I'm going to show you the way in which the Hebrew mind conceived of the outline of the Book of Judges. Historical context, when did this stuff happen? It's basically post-Joshua and pre-Samuel. We will think of Samuel as the last judge. Post-Joshua and pre-Samuel. Samuel is not in this book, but Samuel does do some judge stuff. So basically from 1350 BC to 1050 BC.

A number of passages in the Old Testament, historical books, refer to the time of the judges as identifiable periods in Israel's history. So Ruth, for example, these things happened in the period of the judges, and then there's some others. These books also contain some references to individual judges of which the most notable is 1st Samuel 12:11, where Samuel was rehearsing some of the stuff and he mentions a bunch of the judges.

The earliest event mentioned in the Book of Judges is the death of Joshua, twice, both in chapter one and chapter two. The latest datable reference appears in Judges 18:30. There it says, "The Danites set up for themselves the idols and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses and his sons were the priests for the tribe of Dan, it's foreboding." And it says, "Until the time of the captivity of the land." So they're referring to... that's the north, the captivity of the land in the Northwest 722. So the earliest event recorded is Joshua's death, and the latest event kind of there is captivity of the land. Now, that could have been added later by someone in the exile period or something like that, so we can think of that.

D. Purpose (05:39):

The purpose of the book is to describe Israel's incessant, unfaithfulness to the Lord. In general, the book of Joshua presents a positive picture of the people of God, the Book of Judges however, the people of God are portrayed as faithless, covenant-breakers. Let's compare two statements in Joshua and Judges. Here's Joshua 24:31, "Israel served the Lord throughout the time of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel." Then it says in Judges 2:10-12, "After the whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, the one they're just talking about in Joshua, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals."

That's the refrain that's going to begin every major judge episode, Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and they served the Baals, and the ashes. So as they forsake the Lord their God, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt, they followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them, they provoked the Lord's anger. So you can see, this generation serve the Lord, this generation made the Lord very mad.

This Book of Judges will also prepare us for kingship and the monarchy that we're going to come across in Samuel and Kings. Four times in the two conclusions, there's going to be this phrase, in those days, there was no king in the land, and on the first and fourth one, it's going to add to it, and so everyone is doing what's right in their own eyes. That's going to be kind of a big theme there that runs through it, kingship and the monarchy.

And it's going to be very pro-Judah and anti-Benjamin. The Book of Judges is pro-Judah and anti-Benjamin. Why? Because David is from the line of Judah and Saul is from the line of Benjamin. So the horrific events at the end of the book, the raping of the concubine, and then cutting her up, and the war that ensued, all happened in Benjamin, all happened in Gibeah, that Saul's town. And so, we're going to see how that plays out. When the Lord picks Saul to be a king like all the other nations, you asked for it, you've got it and so it's important to know that we're going to be seeing that.

E. Genre (07:49):

In terms of genre, it's classic Hebrew narrative, it's a combination of events and speeches recorded, it's theological history. There is also in it though, a poetic song, Deborah's song in Judges five. There are the fables of Jotham, there's this fable of Jotham about burning brambles and Judges nine. Then Samson brings down several really cool riddles that provokes the Philistines to rage. So that's kind of what we're looking at.

F. Date and Authorship (08:16):

In terms of date and authorship, like the book of Joshua, the Book of Judges is anonymous, we don't know who wrote it. Again, some traditions attribute Samuel to be the author of it, but this is impossible to prove without any internal or external evidence. The reference to the captivity of the land in 18:30, means that it was at least revised or updated after that time. So you could see them in exile. This would be a great book in exile, they could use it to explain the fact, why do we go in exile? We were unfaithful. We were unfaithful. We were unfaithful. We were unfaithful. It's again, evidence and the case, these are documents.

You can think of this way. Like I said, the prophet Isaiah is taking Israel to court, and is going to bring in two pieces of evidence, so we have this evidence. So evidence one is Joshua, where the Lord is completely faithful, fulfills all His promises. Then evidence two is going to be judges, where Israel's completely unfaithful to keep their end of the deal, you can see how that works. So in covenant administrations, it's all documented and legal, and that's what we have here. There's no excuse to ignore this way of doing things.

II. What and Who are The Judges? (09:21):

A. Modern Consensus

What and who are the judges? Modern consensus, you're ready for this? I'm not even going to quote where it comes from because I don't like what it says. So I got this from somewhere, it's not from me. The modern consensus, here we go, Ehud is the deceptive left-handed assassin. Barak is the coward. Gideon, the coward and the backslider. Jephthah, the man who sacrificed his daughter. Samson, the violent sex addicted Nazarite. All right, that's how they think of him. In our modern world that we've been raised to think about this way, that's the prevalent way to think about him right now. In fact, I only know three people who have written anything on this who think differently in the modern era, not in the ancient world.

What's an alternative? This is something that the judges are portrayed as positive figures in the economy of the administration of the covenants. All I'm going to argue, this may shock your drawers off, types of Christ. All of the judges are types of Christ and we'll see that later. According to Judges two, they were raised up by the Lord to deliver God's people and to provoke obedience to Yahweh in their lifetime. They secure rest for the land and are clothed or empowered by the Spirit to accomplish the calling of God in their lives, and they all do it.

Number one, the judges were raised up by Yahweh to save or deliver his people from the oppression of the enemy. Look at Judges 2:16, the Lord raised up judges who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Number two, the people of Israel did not listen to the judges because of their idolatry. So Lord raised them up and the people rebelled against the judges just like they rebelled against Yahweh. It says here, "Yet, they did not listen to their judges for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked and who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord and they did not do so." All right, so you can see the author of the Book of Judges contrast the people with the judge himself. Oftentimes, commentators argue that the judge is just like the people, but that's not the case. The judge has set apart by or from the people, I want you to hear that.

Next, we have, they were raised up by God, the people don't listen to them. Third, the Lord was with the judge and as such, it becomes one of those mosaic things. Just like Lord is with Moses, just like Lord is with Joshua, the Lord's going to be with the judge by the power of the Spirit and fighting for Israel. The promise of the divine presence normally manifests in the sending of the Spirit to clothe the judge or to enable him to deliver from the enemy is what's at work in the judge. The judge is always going to be the instrument of deliverance. The Lord is always the agent of deliverance. The Lord's doing it; the judge is the Lord's sword. It's like the state is the arm of the Lord kind of thing.

B. Internal Assessement (12:23):

Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, that's that divine presence thing, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. So for the whole duration of the life, the rest in the land or the rest of the land, not the remaining of it, but actual physical rest of the land, freedom from enemies was maintained as long as the judge was alive. So we need a judge that can't die, that's part of that part. But when the judge died, check this out, 2:19, this is all in chapter two, is going through this list that I gave for you, but whenever the judge died, they turned back and we're more corrupt than their fathers going after other gods serving them and bowing down to them, they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.

So there's going to be, in the Book of Judges, Dan Block in his commentary on the Book of Judges talks about the Canaanization of Israel, the Canaanization of Israel, which means Israel was supposed to go in and wipe out the Canaanites so they wouldn't become like them. But more and more in the Book of Judges, you see Israel would becoming like the Canaanites because they did not expel them. By the very end, the tribe of Judah is portrayed as Sodom and Gomorrah and the Israelites will wage holy war against them. They almost sort of destroy the whole tribe.

That's the internal assessment of the judges in the Book of Judges. You can see that in chapter two, there's the Lord raising them up, the Lord is with them. He helps them even when people disobey. He gives land rest during their life and when the judge dies, you can see it all unravels again.

C. External Assessment (13:49):

Are there any other places in scripture or outside of scripture that talks about the judges in a positive way? There happens to be. In 1st Samuel 12:11, it said, "The Lord sent Jerubbaal, that was Gideon's new name, Barak, Jephthah, and Samson, and He delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side so that you live securely." Notice He didn't impugn them at all when you had a chance in this kind of farewell speech. Like saying, "And now you're acting just like them." Contrary to the fact, they were the ones who were set apart from the people and saved the judges or saved the people.

Remember, earlier I talked about that book, Ecclesiasticus, by Ben Sira, written about 200, translated about 132 BC, in the intertestamental period? He's actually the oldest commentator on the Book of Judges that we have. And he says here, this is in Ecclesiasticus 46:11-12, if you want to go look it up, everyone's favorite book, he's talking about a whole host of things. And he says, "The judges too, each when he was called, all men whose hearts were never disloyal, who never turned their backs on the Lord, may their memory be blessed, may their bones flourish again from the tomb," thinking about resurrection, "And may the names of those illustrious men be worthy born by their sons."

Now, again, none of the judges were sinless, but what he's saying is in the administration of their covenantal duties, raised up by the Lord to do, they were faithful. So sinful like us, but they were faithful. We know Moses and Joshua were sinful but they were faithful in God's household. The book of Hebrews even says Moses was faithful in God's household. So even stronger, I think though, is what we have at the end of the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is the great hall of faith with people like Abraham, and Sarah, and Moses, and David, why they threw these jokers in there is beyond modern commentators' comprehension.

But listen to Hebrews 11:32-39, and after I read the names of who's there, I want you to read what they're commended for and if you've read the Judges before, I want you to think about all of the different connections to the lives of the judges. So I'm going to begin with this. He's at the end, the author of the book of Hebrews is at the end of the hall of faith, he's looking at the clock like, “ahhhh, I got to wrap this up."

Then he says, "And what more shall I say? The clock is ticking, I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah for the judges, David, Samuel and the prophets who," get it, "Through faith, by faith," What did they do? "Conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised, who shut the mouths of lions," Samson, "Quenched the fury of the flames and escaped the edge of the sword whose weakness was turned into strength and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead raised to life again, others were tortured, refused to be released so they might gain a better resurrection, some faced jeers and flogging, while others were chained and put in prison, Samson, they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were put to death by the sword, they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted mistreated.

What does it say about them? The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith yet none of them received what had been promised. So the burden remains at the feet of the modern commentator to defend their position, that is now on Hebrews 11 because I'm going to stand and say, you've got to let scripture interpret scripture.  I'm going to look through the lens of Judges chapter two, Hebrews chapter 11, and sandwich those judges in that interpretational scheme. I'm trying to get them out of some trouble. The fact act that Gideon wants a sign or asks for a sign is not a negative thing, Moses gets the same thing. The fact that he needs to be encouraged and go down and see a dream recounted and the thing about a big barley wheel rolling and the thing does not mean that he lacked faith. It means what he was about to do scared the heck out of him and he did it in spite of that.

So when you do what you're supposed to do in the midst of fear, we normally call that courage, not a lack of faith, depending on the way in which you're looking at it. You can ask me specifics at the end. So outlining contents, as indicated before in the Book of Judges, there are two introductions, two conclusions, 12 judges, six major, six minor, and one anti judge of Abimelech. The Book of Judges records the accounts of the six major judges in two parts or panels, and I'm going to show you that. The position or distribution of the minor judges remained something of a mystery. Perhaps they marked climactic major judge events. At the very least, the inclusion of the six major judges gives us a total of 12 judges, a number representing the house of Israel, the 12 Israel, the 12 patriarchs, or the 12 apostles or disciples, something like that.

III. Outline and Content  (18:43):

Here's the structure of the Book of Judges. I'm going to look over here on the wall, on the TV and you can see here, that I begin with the introduction and I have a two, an A, and a B. The first is the crisis of Israel's inheritance, they're having trouble occupying the land. In fact, what we're going to get is it's going to begin with this weird war with Adonibezek, where they're going to cut off his thumbs and toes and make him eat under a table where he dies in Jerusalem, a subjugated king who dies in Jerusalem. In this introduction, there's 30 verses devoted to Judah being successful in the vast majority of their exploits. Right after that, there's one verse, Benjamin can't do it, so it's a very big contrast there.

A. Main Sections (19:28):

Then there's the crisis of Israel's faith, where we're reading some of that earlier. There's a covenant lawsuit, the angel of the Lord shows up and he says, "You're guilty of breaking my covenant, I'm going to raise up judges, this is what they're going to be like, but you're not going to listen to them." Then we get the first judge. So it's the crisis of Israel's inheritance, they can't get it, the crisis of their faith, they can obey, A and B. Then we get to the judges and there's going to be two sets. There's the first three major judges, Othniel, Ehud, Deborah/Barak with the minor judge Shamgar. He's the guy who kills the Philistines with the ox goad. Usually, these guys don't have weapons like Samson, jawbone of an ass, and you've got Deborah/Barak.

Then you've got a second three major judges, and I'll tell you how I get in the second three in a minute. You've got to have Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, a whole host of minor judges sprinkled in there. Do you see all those? The rest of the five appear in here. So you've got to Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon and you've got anti-judge right there, Abimelech. Then notice the conclusion at the end, you have the same thing, but in reverse order, see the B and the A, how I labeled it there, it's not A, B? You've got the crisis of Israel's faith, idolatry, and the crisis of Israel's inheritance. They're going to lose a tribe. The Benjaminites are going to be exterminated, almost all of them.

So do you see that symmetry A, B, two sets of three, B, A. I'll say it again, A, B two sets of three B, A? It’s easy to memorize. Now that's a very Western kind of way of looking at things, to outline it like that. There's a guy named Bob Chisholm, teaches at Dallas Seminary, he's written a commentary on the Book of Judges, a lot of journal articles, great Hebrew guy. He noticed, that in the six judge accounts, the opening formula is slightly different in the first and in the fourth. Then, two and three and four and five and six all match.

It goes this way, I'll just tell you how it goes in English. It says, "And Israel did that which was evil in the eyes of Lord," number one. Israel did again, that which was evil, and Israel did again, that, which is evil. Do you see the added again? In Hebrew, it's very easy to see this because the word “again” is actually a big verb on the front of the sentence, probably we have to translate it again for all kinds of weird reasons.

Then you go to Judge four, the children of Israel did evil, no again. Then, again, they did evil, and then, again, they did evil. This is one of the ways Hebrew does discourse and has [inaudible 00:22:02] shake things. They start off with something, one way. Then they follow it with “and”. They start out another way, then follow it with “and”. Remember how I told you about that with Deuteronomy, so that's how it happens.

So what we see here, is we see our two introductions right here and our two conclusions. Then we have our first three major judges. There's Othniel, Ehud, and the Deborah/Barak team. Then there's Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. Remember, these one start and this one has the again, this one has the again. This one has the start and this one has again. If I lay it out for you in Hebrew, you would say, "Oh yes, it's so simple." But again, you just have to look at the big picture. You have to look at these little features.

Also, it's interesting that the Deborah/Barak narrative and the Samson narrative, are double judge narratives. Remember how in the days of creation, days three and six were double creation days. So days three and six are double creation days. How are they double creation days, you ask me? Great question. They're double creation days in this way, they double up on many things.

So with Deborah/Barak, first, there's not one deliverer, there are two, so is Deborah/Barak. Second, there's not one leader of the enemy army, Jabin, but there's also Sisera. So you've got two and two there. There's not one account of the events here, there's four, the narrative, and five, the poetic retelling of it. And so there's all kinds of things that are doubling up there. It's an intentional literary device, that's why this is short, longer, longest, like that. So you've got all these. What else can I remember off the top of my head? I know there's more, but I just can't think of them, but that's fine.

Samson is a double narrative in this way. Samson has two periods of 20 in his judging. So in 13, it's his birth narrative, which is a really weird thing to have a judge with a birth narrative, I'll explain it. Then in 14 and 15, he has his ministry to Timnah and at the very end of that says, "And Samson judged Israel 20 years."

Then you have 16, which is ministry to Gaza. That's the whole Samson and Delilah thing and where he stays with the prostitute, takes the gates, and then destroys their temple. It says, "And then Samson judged Israel for 20 years." So there are two judge narratives. He judged Israel for 20 years, but they divided it into two accounts, so it's just like they do here. So you've got a double one there. One of the things I argue is that this is the way, which is what they're trying to do. Well, you've got one minor judge here, two minor judges here, and three minor judges here. Each of these minor judges are marking climactic figures.

Deborah/Barak is the first climactic one, then Jephthah heightens the issue because they've got some serious stuff going on at the end there that's difficult to think about. Then down here, we've got the Samson judge narrative, where the judge actually dies delivering Israel. His greatest active deliverance occurs in his death where it says, "And in his death, he killed more Philistines than in his life." You can already begin to hear the gospel promised in that one.

So that's the structure, it's pretty cool. It's the un-creation of Israel. Bob calls it, the Canaanization of Israel, which is true. They're becoming more and more like Canaan. So they're being uncreated. They start out here, remember, relative like Judah is conquering the land, the generation of Joshua is still there. Joshua is mentioned twice in one and two. Both introductions begin with the statement that Joshua is dead. Then by the end, in these two conclusions, so this is everything's kind of good right now because Joshua's just died, but this is bad, bad, bad. In 19, 20, and 21, that's the whole concubine, and the raping of the concubine in Gibeah. Then the Levite goes back, cuts her up into 12 pieces, sends them out, and all of Israel is to come and wage war against them. It's at the Lord's command, to wage holy war on them. There's a lot of life lost there.

If you think about it, it's an amazing story in some sense, because this one man, whose wife left him, went to get her. They were coming home, she got killed, and he went to war for her. Does that make sense? It's very romantic. It's your favorite Valentine's story? Would you wage war in the world if they beat me up or something like that? So it's the un-creation of Israel.

So this is how I like to think about it because, again, sometimes people get really excited about synechisms.  All of a sudden they see on every page of scripture, so I understand this may be overly box oriented for me, but I don't think it is, I think I've seen only three times in scripture so far. I've seen this in creation, this here in judges, and I've seen it in the Canaan. I'm not surprised by it though, because that's how typology works. I've seen it in the tabernacle, I've seen it in the temple, I've seen it in Ezekiel's vision of the temple, I've in it in the apocalypse's vision of the temple, they're all the same. Does that make sense? With slight modifications and so, this is just an easy way to think about it.

Basically, chapter one, Israel is having a hard time possessing the land. Chapter two, God's raising up judges because they're unfaithful and they're being sold into the hand of their oppressors. They're worshiping foreign gods, so they're being subjugated by the nation that they're submitting to, which is not good, they're not supposed to do that. Chapter three is the beginning of the raising up of judges. Othniel is the paradigm judge. It's a no-frills judgeship. Chapter three versus seven to 11, he's the shortest of the minor judges. It's 16 contiguous independent clauses without any background, foreground, or subordinate clauses. It's just like, this happened, this, it's the most boring story in the world. But what it does is, it sets the standard, it becomes the paradigm to which all the other judges are to be viewed because it has seven parts. Each judgeship thing has seven parts. Some of them have six or five or they tweak on it but the vast majority of it stays the same.

So here's what it is, number one, Israel does evil in the eyes of the Lord, idolatry. Number two, Yahweh sells or gives Israel into the hands of oppressors. There are two verbs there, one is “to sell”, one is “to give”. So they sell out Yahweh, He sells them into the hand of their enemies. Number three, Israel cries out for help. Number four, Yahweh raises up a deliverer, savior, judge. So he can be called, the Hebrew word for deliverer is moshia and to save, Yahshua. These are moshias, saviors, and Yahshua's deliverers. They actually use the verb shofetim.

B. Characteristics of the Judges (29:08):

In fact, you can think of the judge as having three characteristic features about them. Number one, they judge, or bring judgment. Number two, they save or deliver. Number three, they have the spirit. Those are three qualities of a judge. They judge or bring judgment, they save, deliver,  and they have the spirit to do so. That's the fourth thing. Number five, Yahweh delivers as people, with the judge serving as the instrument of salvation. Number six, the land has rest, for X amount of years. Number seven, the judge dies. So number one, the people do evil. Number two Yahweh sells or gives them over. Number three, Israel cries out after a certain amount of years of oppression, the dates are different. Number four, Yahweh raises up the savior or a judge. Number five, Yahweh delivers. Number six the land has rest. Number seven, the judge dies.

C. Major Judges (29:58):

What I'm going to do is I'm going to go through the other six major judges quickly and then I'm just going to show you how we can tackle some of the more difficult things like with Jephthah and Samson. I can't go through every difficulty in this time, I teach a course on this book for a whole semester, so it's a lot. So I'm trying to jam 40 hours into 30 or 45 minutes.

Ehud delivers Israel from Moab king of Eglon. Eglon means “little cow”. Now, that's important because Israel's worshiping those gods and it takes us back to the golden calf episode. You can take Israel out of the golden calf scene but you can't get the golden calf out of Israel. So they're worshiping Eglon and he's a really fat dude. He has a word from the Lord for that king and it's the sword of the Lord. Remember he makes a sword, he's a lefthanded dude. The Benjaminites were lefthanded warriors, they were excellent warriors. We see at the end of the book, they're killing all these Israelites because they're so skilled. It doesn't say he's lefthanded, it says he's bound in the right hand, meaning they were trained to fight lefthanded. So he's a lefthanded assassin.

So he makes a sword, puts it on his other arm and he says, "Oh, Eglon, I have a word from the Lord for you." They get together secretly and he shoves that sword all the way in. The fat covers over the hilt, the dung comes out, he dies, and he escapes. Then they all go and kill all the land. It says all of his wards are real fat too and they just slaughter them. So this is a terrific story. When I preached on that, I think I entitled that,  “the poop came out” and the kids loved it, of course, they really did. So it's okay to do it, that's what it actually says. So Deborah and Barak deliver Israel from the Canaanites in a way that recalls the Red Sea deliverance from Israel. Horses, chariots, judgment by water, song of commemoration, double judgment narrative. So remember just like Moses and Miriam sing a song after the Red Sea, so Deborah and Barack sing a song after the Red Sea and recounts that.

So when you're thinking about that, when you're reading the Deborah/Barak thing, remember it's the Lord saving and delivering. Barak is willing to go and not have it credited to him, which people say he lacked faith or was a coward, but he didn't need the glory. We see Jael at the end killing his Sisera by jamming a stake through his head and then hammering it down, crushing the head of the serpent. So all these great things.

Gideon delivers Israel from the Midianites. Gideon more than any other judge in the Book of Judges is styled as a second Moses figure, his calling, and everything. There's the fleece signs, we could talk about that later. They are not to determine God's will for your life, just so you know, they're not to do that. Don't let them do that, I'm just warning. You go get Bob's commentary, he'll tell you exactly how to use them in three years. But until then, don't set out a fleece, it's entirely wrong.

What's amazing about Gideon, by the way, in his calling, "I'll be with you," and the Lord tells him how he'll be with him as a mighty man of war. He says, "Go unleash your strength." What's Gideon's strength? The fact that Lord is with him as the mighty man of war. You can see it, and it's mistranslated in English so we have to figure that out, but we have to have Bill do that on interview committee again. It's got a very unique statement, with all the other judges. The spirit comes on the judges, but with Gideon, it says, the Lord put on Gideon and went down to destroy and defeat. So he is like wearing a Gideon jacket and Gideon's the one who's... They try to make him king and he says, "I won't rule over you, my son won't rule over you, Yahweh rules over you." So there's this famous statement Gideon is saying, "The Lord is your king, baby, I'm just the instrument." It's an amazing story.

Jephthah, is the rejected son of a concubine. They force him out, so he won't have any inheritance with him. He's got 70 brothers, think about that. They call him back to deliver and he deliver., He's a diplomat, he doesn't want to fight. He comes and says, "Hey, this is our land, you don't need to take it." They say, "Oh no, it's our land." Then he rehearses the history of Israel in a way that's just remarkable that many of us probably couldn't do in terms of detail.


So he was in the land of Tob, like going to Sunday School all the time, so he had it in his brain. He delivers, but he makes his vow and everyone says it's a foolish vow because he ended up having to kill his daughter. So, they impugn his character. We will come back and I'll show you he did not kill his daughter. The vow wasn't rash, the vow was made under the control of the spirit, it says “the spirit came on him and he made a vow”.

So if you're going to impugn his vow, you're going to impung the spirit coming on him to do this stuff. Well, I'll just tell you right now, what you'll see, is that the language is not of death, but of virginity. She'll never be married, she'll be given to some like full-time temple service, which we knew happened back then. You can see, I'll just read it to you real quick and then we'll spend more time on Samson. It's at the end of Judges chapter 11, where it says Jephthah's tragic vow. They always set you up for it in the headings, those headings are not original to the text. It says, “then the spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead. And from Mizpah of Gilead, he passed on the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, if you'll give the Ammonites into my hand, whatever comes out of my house, or whoever comes out of my house when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's and I'll offer it up as a burnt offering."

Now he probably didn't imagine that a goat or a dog was going to run out of his house. When men came home from war, the women went out to dance. We see that with David, we see that earlier in the Gideon narrative and the Deborah/Barak narrative too. They're talking about the men coming out and dancing. So he probably thought one of the women of his household would come out, could have been one of the servants or something like that, but happened to be his daughter. Then, Jephthah came home to Mizpah, and behold, his daughter came out with tambourines and with dancing shoes. She was his only child, you see that, only child? What's interesting about out that, the word appears only in a couple of other places, and it's the same designation applied to Isaac in Genesis 22. It's the same sacrifice, the whole burnt offering.

We know offerings can be metaphorical, like in Romans chapter 12, “therefore offer your bodies up as a living sacrifice”. So we know that's possible. Then it says, for I have opened my mouth to the Lord, cannot take my vow back. She said to him, "My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has got out of your mouth now that Lord has avenged you on your enemies, the Ammonites." So if it was death, which one of you would've said that? It would've been the big, oh, no. Then she says, strategically, she said to her father, "Let this thing be done for me, leave me alone for two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep, for my virginity, not for my life, my virginity and let my companions go with me."

Now, what I was thinking initially was, she wanted a three-month head start running out of town so she can avoid being executed, that's the thing. But no, she's weeping for the virginity. Then it says, “and he said go then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions and wept for her virginity on the mountains”. Virginity again. At the end of two months, she returned to her father who did with her according to his vow that he had made. Then it says in Hebrew, that is, she never knew a man, and it became a custom in Israel. They're missing that that is in English. It just says here she never knew a man, but it's very important that. It says he did to her exactly what he had vowed, that is, she didn't know a man.

So never once is death mentioned here, but three times, four times, virginity is mentioned. So that's the defense of that, you can get more of that in a couple of other places, but just at least now we're trying to save time by just doing that a little bit. Samson is the sixth, final, and climactic judge in the Book of Judges. He is raised up by the Lord to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

His account begins with a special birth narrative that is almost identical to the birth narrative of John the Baptist. In fact, the New Testament authors, shape the birth narrative of John the Baptist after Samson. Judges 13, a birth narrative, an angel Lord appears to the parents who says, "You're going to have a child." The parents struggle to believe. The offer goes up and they say, "Oh, that was the Lord." They're afraid that they're going to die. Then the commission of the child is told, he's going to begin to save Israel from the Philistines. He's going to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the mothers. Then it says and the spirit of the Lord, unstirred him, just like John the Baptist, and stuff like that.

There are seven birth narratives in the Bible, seven birth narratives in the Bible. They're Isaac, Jacob, Esau, the 12 patriarchs, all with not virginity problems, fertility problems. Then there's Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist, and Jesus. They all share similar traits and they're all covenant officials. In fact, let's think of it this way too, there are usually two different operating systems going on here, either it's the preservation of the seed, like with Isaac, Jacob, and the patriarchs, or it's a deliverer to save, like Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist, something like that. Only Jesus is both of those things. Only Jesus is the promised seed and the promised savior in one. So you can see how those seven, seven, surprise, surprise, birth narratives, climax in Jesus. It's an amazing thing.

Both Samson and John the Baptist, begin a ministry that will be completed by someone else. Samson begins to save Israel from the Philistines, David finishes it. John the Baptist begins to do the baptism and calling people home, Jesus finishes it. Stages in two, so Samson is David's forerunner, just like John the Baptist is Jesus' forerunner. They both have birth narratives, they're both moved by the spirit, they're the only two guys in the Bible, Nazarites for life. They both eat honey. Isn’t that weird that there's only three people in the Bible who eat honey? They both eat honey, Jonathan's the other one. They're both betrayed by women under death. So you can see how the New Testament authors are modeling John the Baptist's ministry and career after Samson. That's an amazing thing to me, patterns, patterns.

He goes down to Timnah, sees a woman there, and that event provokes controversy. He ends up killing a lot of people there in Timnah, in the fields, and destroying their fields, which he's born to do. Samson's job description was to be a Philistines assassin and he did it. He's the only judge who does it without any armies, all alone. It says when he goes down there, because his parents were saying, "Hey, don't marry a Philistine girl, marry a good Jewish girl." It says, "His parents did not know that this is from the Lord. Because he, that his Lord, was seeking opportunity against the Philistines”. So again, the text tells you how to read it. I know I'm going fast, but I'm trying to at least steer your boat, in a slightly different direction, you can arrive later.

In the next one, you've got the whole Samson and Delilah thing. In verses one through three of chapter 16, you can go to chapter 16, it says that Samson went to Gaza, slept with a prostitute, got up in the middle of the night, took the gates and the doors, which, for a fortified city, would've been thousands and thousands of pounds and marched 40 miles to Hebron which is opposite. That's CrossFit baby.

Now, he could not have done that without the empowering of spirit. Samson was not a muscle-bound dude. If he were a big muscle-bound like jacked dude, then Delilah would've known the secret of his strength. He was probably nerdy. He was always doing riddles and getting people in trouble like that. He's probably like one of those Eddie Haskell figures in the past. So you have to think of it this way, he wasn't big and jacked. He was a normal guy who actually looked weird because he was a Nazarite for life, which means you can never cut your hair. So he looked like a crazy man, that's what he looked like, a skinny, crazy man.

People often impugn Samson's night with the prostitute there saying that's one of the things, he's a womanizer like, "Oh, he wanted this Timnite girl and as soon as she dies, he has to go to the prostitute's house." It never says in the text here, and I've actually written a little article on this a long time ago in ministry and leadership, but I probably can't find it. It says there, Samson went to Gaza and there he saw a prostitute and he went into her. That's kind of a wink, wink thing.

People always assume, some translations say, and he slept with her. Backtrack, one, the exact same expression occurs in the Jael narrative. It's when Barak sees Jephthah and goes into the tent and it says he went in to her tent. They add the word tent, which is not in Hebrew, just so you know, that there wasn't any illicit activity going on. The same word is actually used of the two spies that go to Jericho to spy it out. They went in there and actually, there's more sexually explicit language in that account than there is in the Samson one.

What was Samson doing in Gaza staying with the prostitute? The same thing the two spies were doing in the Joshua account, spying out the city because he had to take it. That was his job, he's a Philistine assassin. He did it by taking the city gates. That's the first thing you do when you sack a city. You tear down its gates, so you have access and then you destroy its temple. That's what he does in the next scene. So it's this whole picture of Yahweh's faithfulness. In fact, in the patriarchal narratives, both two Abraham and Rebecca, part of the patriarchal promises say that you'll possess the gates of your enemies. So in this event, God is reminding us through Samson, that he's still faithful to his promises even though they're being oppressed by the Philistines. So there's no illicit activity going on there unless you read it into it.

Prostitutes weren't just prostitutes, they also kept inns. The only other option was to go to the middle of the city and stay in the gate or stay in the city square until an elder would come and say, "Where are you from? What are you doing? Come stay with me." Well, he was there to wage war against him, not to have fellowship with them. It's what gets the Levite in trouble later on, yeah. Then, it just says he loves this woman, Delilah. Delilah deceives him, he loses his powers, and he's blinded. Now he's totally weak and blind, he's been humiliated and subjugated in the Philistine temple, just like the Ark of the Covenant will be later when they go to the temple of Dagon. When he's in the temple, he achieves his greatest deliverance in his death. It says, and I'm going to read this to you here and then we'll be done because it'll get us to the gospel promise beforehand here.

Barry Webb's done a lot of work on the Book of Judges and he wrote a serious reading of the Samson's story, part of this thing in Reformed Theological Review. Webb does not take my positive view of the judges. Even though he says this about Samson, "His birth is announced beforehand by an angel, his conception is miraculous, he's rejected by his own people, its leaders bind him and hand him over to the pagan overlords. His saving work is consummated in his death, a death in which he brings down Dagon and lays the foundation for deliverance to be more fully manifested in the future."

In other words, here in this most unlikely figure, we see possibly, more clearly than anywhere else in the Old Testament, the shape of things to come. He says, "Too bad, he's such a bad guy." What's interesting then too, his family comes and brings him back and buries him, which means they were conceiving it as honorable, not shameful, what had happened there.

 IV. The Gospel Promised Beforehand (45:23):

The judges form part of that great cloud of witnesses that call us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfector of our faith. They are witnesses of what is to come. So just as Jesus had to lay down His life, to achieve His greatest victory, we see that happening in Samson. Just as God had to give up His one and only son in order to achieve His greatest victory, we see that in Jephthah. With Gideon, it cost him all 70 of his sons, his whole family. So we see that he had to give up his whole family for that.

So we can see he's right, these are images and shadows of things to come. The Book of Judges is a remarkable book that six times over causes you to fix your eyes on Jesus. It's also remarkable that, if I were going to mention some of the judges in the hall of fame, faith thing in Hebrews 11, I might do Othniel, Ehud, and maybe Deborah. But it happens to be these four guys right here, that are the most maligned in modern commentaries. So be as shrewd as vipers and as innocent as doves when it comes to this business, all right?