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Book of Judges
JUDGES, BOOK OF. The seventh book of the OT takes its name from the title of the men who ruled Israel during the period from Joshua to Samuel. They are called judges (shōphetîm,
It is difficult to date the historical period covered by the b.c. The date of the death of Joshua, with which the book opens, depends on the date of the Exodus from Egypt, about which there is much dispute. Accordingly, some scholars date the beginning of the period of the judges at c. 1370-60; others, at c. 1220-10; still others, later. At first sight it appears that the book itself gives the answer, for it states the duration of the judgeships of the various judges. A close examination of the text, however, reveals that most of the judges were local, not national in their influence, and it appears likely that their periods overlapped. Further, the frequency of the number forty for the length of their office (
The purposes of the Book of Judges are (1) to bridge in some manner the historical gap between the death of Joshua and the inauguration of the monarchy, (2) to show the moral and political degradation of a people who neglected their religious heritage and compromised their faith with the surrounding paganism, (3) to show the need of the people for the unity and leadership by a strong central government in the person of a king.
In its structure the book falls into three easily recognizable parts: (1) Introduction: the state of things at the death of Joshua,
I. Introduction (
II. Main Body of the Book (
4.Deborah and Barak (
III. Appendix (
The Levite (
The migration of the Danites (
The narrative of the Levite’s concubine (
The cruelty and paganism of the narratives of Judges are often a stumbling block to readers. It should not be imagined that the writer is approving of everything he records. Rather, the book should be viewed as a history of the tragic judgment of God on a people who failed to keep their heritage of true religious faith by assimilating far too much of their surrounding culture. The history of the judges has been called “the struggle between faith and culture.” In this struggle, faith lost. And, of course, culture suffered also.
All this should not close our eyes to the beauty of the Book of Judges as literature. Many of the narratives would rank high in any collection of the short stories of the world. Even in the most brutal passages there is an austere dignity. Sin is never reveled in; it is always held up to the gaze of horror. In the pungent words of Jotham (
Bibliography: J. Garstang, The Foundations of Bible History: Joshua-Judges, 1931; A. E. Cundall and L. Morris, Judges and Ruth, 1967; L. Wood, Distressing Days of the Judges, 1975; J. A. Soggin, Judges: A Commentary, 1981.
JUDGES, BOOK OF (שֹֽׁפְטִ֑ים; Κριταί; Lat. Liber, Judicum; judge, ruler, magistrate).
It is apparent that the Israelites settled down immediately in the land, for archeological excavation at several of the cities destroyed at this time show no subsequent break in occupation. The absence of any transitional period is a witness to the fact that the Israelites were not typical nomads. There is, however, a clear distinction between the well-built Canaanite structures and the simpler, almost primitive type of Israelite occupation that succeeded it. This decline in architectural standards is illustrative of a lower cultural standard among the incoming Israelites.
The evidence of continuing Canaanite occupation of the low-lying areas (e.g. at Megiddo and Beth-shan), where their extensive chariot forces gave them a tactical advantage, confirms the Biblical admission that these areas were not occupied in the earlier part of the Judges’ period (e.g.
Before the Israelite invasion, because of the uncertain water supply, there was limited Canaanite occupation of the central hill country. Coincident with the entry of Israel was the widespread employment of underground cisterns to store water during the prolonged summer drought, facilitated by the use of a waterproof lime plaster that made them leak proof. This discovery made possible the extensive Israelite settlement in areas that previously were sparsely populated.
The fact that no Israelite sanctuary of the Judges’ period has yet been discovered may be attributable to their inferior building techniques. However, it may also be an indication of the divine prohibition against an indiscriminate erection of sanctuaries (
Many clay figurines representing a naked female about to give birth have been found. The lack of any insignia of a goddess calls into question an identification with the fertility goddesses of Canaan; they may simply have been good luck charms associated with childbirth. It is not impossible, however, that this may be an incidental witness to the fundamental prohibition against idol worship (
The decisive victory of Deborah and Barak took place “at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo” (
Archeological research in Trans-Jordan has illumined the state of the small kingdoms, which were as thorns in Israel’s side during the period (esp. Moab and Ammon). Westward, our knowledge of the culture and organization of the Philistines has been enriched by discoveries in the Negeb, the Shephelah, and even as far away as Cyprus. It is clear that the Philistines formed a ruling class over a subject population whose religion and culture they assimilated. The god of the Philistines was Dagon, an old Amorite deity (
The destruction of the amphictyonic shrine at Shiloh is not mentioned in Judges, but its place in Israelite tradition is witnessed by
The purpose of the editor of the
Composition, unity, and date
The individual stories undoubtedly had a history of their own before they were gathered together. Possibly they were preserved in both oral and written forms (
The composition of this section, therefore, reflects a certain artistry and a clear point of view. It may be described as interpretative history.
Attention has been drawn to the diversity of the contents of the Book of Judges. However, there is an inward unity in that all the contents witness in one way or another to the political, social, moral, and religious decline in the period between the death of Joshua and the institution of the monarchy. The first section traces the incompleteness of the Conquest, with at least a hint of deterioration within the dismal record of the first chapter. Judah and Simeon enjoy a measure of success, and Benjamin, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Naphtali seem to have dominated over local Canaanite populations, but in the case of Asher and the Danites, the reverse is true.
The second section traces the recurring cycle of apostasy and deliverance through the exploits of the judges. Once more there is a general deterioration with the passage of time, and from Abimelech onward there is no mention of peace. Gideon was able to avoid civil war with Ephraim (
The final section is a graphic picture of the disorders of the period and is devoid of specifically religious comment, the implication being that the nonexistence of the monarchy was the cause of the national malaise. Thus there is an inherent unity in the whole book, and an unmistakable impression is created that this was the “Dark Ages” of Israel’s history.
The period of the early monarchy is the most likely date for the composition of Judges in what was basically its present form. The collection of the material in the main section (
It is impossible to determine precisely the date of the Book of Judges, or whether more than one hand was involved in its production. The difference in attitude between the second and third sections points to two editors. One fact may be of significance, namely, that Bethlehem (in Judah) figures in both of the incidents narrated in the third section (
Place in canon
In the Heb. Bible, as in the Eng., Judges occupied seventh place. It was the second book of the “Former Prophets” (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings). The designation “prophet” is a witness to the belief that the will and purpose of God was mediated through the facts of history as well as by the mouths of the prophets. This section of the Heb. Bible frequently is described as “Deuteronomic History,” since it illustrates, both by example and editorial comment, the principles enunciated in the Book of Deuteronomy. So long as no critical undertones concerning the date of Deuteronomy attach to this expression, no objection need be taken to its use. The Book of Ruth was originally in the third section of the Heb. canon, the Writings. In the LXX it was placed immediately after the Judges, presumably because it related to the same period. This order was followed in the Vul. and most modern VSS. The canonicity of Judges never has been seriously questioned.
The Heb. text of Judges has been remarkably well preserved. One exception to this, the Song of Deborah (ch. 5), is generally reckoned to be contemporary with the events it described. The poetical form and its archaic features present considerable problems to the tr. and prob. have resulted in slight damage to the text in its transmission.
A unique problem relates to the LXX text, where there are two apparently independent VSS of Judges. The first is represented principally by the A (5th cent. a.d.), supported by most of the uncial and cursive MSS of the Gr. texts. The second finds its main witness in the B (4th cent. a.d.), which has the support of texts emanating from Upper Egypt. There is no unity among scholars about the inter-relationship of these recensions, or to which approximates most closely to the original LXX text; each textual variant must be considered on its own merits. In Rahlf’s ed. of the LXX, the unusual expedient has been adopted of printing the two principal VSS side by side.
The moral problem of Israel’s judges
The reader of Judges soon becomes aware of a difference in its leading characters when compared with Israel’s leaders of other periods. The blemishes of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David, for example, are depicted honestly, without affecting the general estimate of the high quality of their lives. In the Judges, the characters are of lesser stature; their shortcomings are more obvious, and there is a certain popular delight in their less reputable exploits. Ehud appeared as an assassin; Jael was praised for a treacherous act (
First, one must differentiate between the popular verdict of contemporary Israelites and the viewpoint of the editor who collected these stories. No doubt those who had firsthand experience of the various oppressions exulted in every savage detail of the overthrow of their overlords. But the editor who selected these incidents may not have been unaware of these moral and religious blemishes. Indeed, part of his concern may have been to illustrate the low standard of leadership of the period, cf. his condemnation of Gideon in 8:27. The judges were men who lived in an age of low standards, and this fact is reflected in the narratives, giving a graphic representation of conditions in a period of apostasy, when the Mosaic covenant, with its high standards, was in partial abeyance.
Therefore, the charismatic anointing of the Judges’ period was for a limited but definite purpose. It must not be understood as parallel to the NT doctrine of the Spirit, which invariably is associated with holiness of life. The Lord made the Judges a channel of His power or the means of His revelation, without any necessarily direct influence upon their moral character. Elsewhere in the OT God employed unlikely agents, such as Balaam, a professional prophet (
The Book of Judges illuminates the political, social, and religious condition of Israel during the vital period between the Conquest and the institution of the monarchy. The manner in which this is done, allows the reader to capture the atmosphere of the period in a way that would be impossible in a formal history.
It provides a dramatic illustration of the effect of apostasy upon every aspect of life. The root cause of Israel’s decline was that the covenant relationship with the Lord, with its requirement of absolute and loyal obedience to His commands, was broken. This led to disintegration in the political, religious, social, and family spheres and to a sharp increase in immorality. The Book of Judges serves as a reminder that a nation cannot live on its past glories. The author of Judges was, of course, a preacher to his own generation, but his message has a permanent and universal application, and may be summed up in the words of
“Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.”
Israel’s chronic inability to profit by its own bitter history is a solemn exhortation to profit from the lessons of experience, whether observed or experienced.
Against this somber background, the enduring character of God stands out more clearly. He remained faithful to His covenant, not making a final end of His people in spite of their repeated infidelity. His righteousness is seen in His judgments, for sin is an affront to Him which He cannot pass over lightly. The sovereignty of God is revealed in His use of the surrounding nations as the rod of His anger against Israel. He is able to save by few as well as by many (cf.
The partial conquest of Canaan (
2. The destruction of Bethel (
Israel’s judges (
The general tendency of the whole of the Judges’ period is summarized (
The first oppression came from Mesopotamia (lit. “Aram of the two rivers”). Mesopotamia itself is a Gr. form that usually describes the area drained by the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The reference could be to the Euphrates and one of its tributaries. The name of the oppressor is disguised in the text; Cushan-rishathaim means “Cushan of double-wickedness.” The Israelites were sufficiently united at this early period for Othniel, Caleb’s nephew, who was associated with the southern tribe of Judah (cf.
Here is no mention of Israel’s apostasy or cry for deliverance, or of an actual oppression, nor any reference to divine enablement. Moreover,
It is not necessary to assume that
Historians were concerned to give God the glory for the victory rather than to give a detailed account, but the following reconstruction is reasonable. Deborah, who was a civil judge (
Among the incidental details of these chs. are: (1) the picture of a God who controls the forces of nature (
There is greater detail concerning the oppression by the Midianites and their allies, and Gideon’s liberation of his people, than any other of the episodes narrated in Judges. Possibly the author combined two or more of the popular accounts of this great deliverance, including all that he considered significant. Or the apparent repetitions may be due to the technique of the ancient storyteller, who needed an occasional recapitulation; not unrelated to the natural element of repetition that appears in the parallelism of poetry, and which prob. influenced prose composition.
The seasonal incursions of the Midianites and their allies had disastrous effects upon the economy of the land and the morale of the Israelites (
Gideon’s hesitation to accept the divine commission is paralleled in the case of Moses (
The audacious plan of attack was implemented with careful attention to detail (
Such was the sense of gratitude of the Israelites that they offered Gideon the kingship (
Abimelech was not one of Israel’s judges (
Abimelech’s first act was to arrange the massacre of the legitimate sons of Gideon, securing the help of the men of Shechem by appealing to their self interest. The scheme was financed by funds from the heathen sanctuary (
The remainder of the ch. documents the fulfillment of this prophecy. The Shechemites soon tired of their new loyalty and when open rebellion was advocated, Abimelech acted ruthlessly to crush it. The “
The lack of personal detail means that the minor judges do not appear as living characters, as do the major judges.
This editorial section (
The Gileadites (
Jephthah’s sweeping victory, under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, is dealt with briefly (
Although on an earlier occasion (
The Philistine menace (
A fourth act of revenge was thwarted by Samson’s incredible strength. A large force of Philistines sought to capture Samson in his hideout at the rock of Etam, which has been tentatively identified about two and a half m. SE of Zorah. The apathetic acceptance of Philistine rule is shown by the concern of 3,000 men of Judah not to alienate their overlords. Even after Samson’s exploit, they made no effort to secure their freedom. It is equally obvious that the Philistines did not regard the actions of Samson as representative of Israel generally. The “fresh jawbone of an ass” (
Gaza was the southernmost of the five Philistinian cities, and here Samson (
The final estimate of Samson is one of an unrealized potential, because his massive strength was not matched by discipline and genuine devotion.
Danites move to the north.
The setting of the account of Micah and the Danites (
The low standards and the religious irregularities (
Civil war against the Benjaminites.
The affair of the Levite’s concubine and the subsequent war between Israel and Benjamin prob. took place in the earlier part of the Judges’ period (
This sordid and tragic story began simply enough (
This omission of the Benjaminites was made good by a generous sojourner (
A certain recapitulation, characteristic of the storyteller anxious not to omit any details, makes it difficult to understand the events of the third day (
C. F. Burney, The Book of Judges, 2nd ed. (1930); J. Garstang, The Foundations of Bible History: Joshua-Judges (1931); J. M. Myers, “The Book of Judges,” IB, II (1953); F. F. Bruce, “Judges,” NBC (1954); C. A. Simpson, Composition of the Book of Judges (1957); E. J. Young, An Introduction to the(1960), 179-187; A. Weiser, Introduction to the Old Testament (1961), 147-157; A. E. Cundall and L. Morris, Judges and Ruth (1967).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
2. Place in the Canon
(1) Introductory, Judges 1-2:5
(2) Central and Main Portion, Judges 2:6-16
(3) An Appendix, Judges 17-21
5. Authorship and Sources
6. Relation to Preceding Books
7. Relation to Septuagint and Other versions
8. Religious Purpose and Value
The English name of the Book of Jud is a translation of the Hebrew title (shopheTim), which is reproduced in the Greek Kritai, and the Latin Liber Judicum. In the list of the canonical books of thegiven by Origen (apud Euseb., HE, VI, 25) the name is transliterated Saphateim, which represents rather "judgments" (shephatim; krimata) than "judges." A passage also is quoted from Philo (De Confus. Linguarum, 26), which indicates that he recognized the same form of the name; compare the Greek title of "Kingdoms" (Basileiai) for the four books of Samuel and Kings.
2. Place in the Canon:
In the order of the Hebrew Canon theinvariably occupies the 7th place, following immediately upon Joshua and preceding Samuel and Kings. With these it formed the group of the four "earlier prophets" (nebhi’im ri’shonim), the first moiety of the 2nd great division of the Hebrew Scriptures. As such the Book of Jud was classified and regarded as "prophetical," equally with the other historical books, on the ground of the religious and spiritual teaching which its history conveyed. In the rearrangement of the books, which was undertaken for the purposes of the Greek translation and Canon, Jud maintained its position as 7th in order from the beginning, but the short historical Book of Ru was removed from the place which it held among the Rolls (meghilloth) in the 3rd division of the Jewish Canon, and attached to Jud as a kind of appendix, probably because the narrative was understood to presuppose the same conditions and to have reference to the same period of time. The Greek order was followed in all later VSS, and has maintained itself in modern Bibles. Origen (loc. cit.) even states, probably by a mere misunderstanding, that Jud and Ru were comprehended by the Jews under the one title Saphateim.
The Book of Jud consists of 3 main parts or divisions, which are readily distinguished.
(1) Introductory, Judges 1-2:5.
A brief summary and recapitulation of the events of the conquest of Western Palestine, for the most part parallel to the narrative of Joshua, but with a few additional details and some divergences from the earlier account, in particular emphasizing (
(2) The Central and Main Portion, Judges 2:6-16.
A series of narratives of 12 "judges," each of whom in turn, by his devotion and prowess, was enabled to deliver Israel from thralldom and oppression, and for a longer or shorter term ruled over the people whom he had thus saved from their enemies. Each successive repentance on the part of the people, however, and their deliverance are followed, on the death of the judge, by renewed apostasy, which entails upon them renewed misery and servitude, from which they are again rescued when in response to their prayer the Lord "raises up" for them another judge and deliverer. Thus the entire history is set as it were in a recurrent framework of moral and religious teaching and warning; and the lesson is enforced that it is the sin of the people, their abandonment of Yahweh and persistent idolatry, which entails upon them calamity, from which the Divine longsuffering and forbearance alone makes for them a way of escape.
(a) Judges 2:6-3:6:
A second brief introduction, conceived entirely in the spirit of the following narratives, which seems to attach itself to the close of the
(b) Judges 3:7-3:11:
Judgeship of Othniel who delivered Israel from the hand of Cushan-rishathaim.
(c) Judges 3:12-30:
Victory of Ehud over the Moabites, to whom the Israelites had been in servitude 18 years. Ehud slew their king Eglon, and won for the nation a long period of tranquillity.
(d) Judges 3:31:
In a few brief words Shamgar is named as the deliverer of Israel from the Philistines. The title of "judge" is not accorded to him, nor is he said to have exercised authority in any way. It is doubtful, therefore, whether the writer intended him to be regarded as one of the judges.
(e) Judges 4; 5:
Victory of Deborah and Barak over Jabin the Canaanite king, and death of Sisera, captain of his army, at the hands of Jael, the wife of Kenite chief; followed by a So of Triumph, descriptive and commemorative of the event.
(f) Judges 6-8:
A 7-year oppression at the hands of the Midianites, which is described as peculiarly severe, so that the land became desolate on account of the perpetual raids to which it was subject. After a period of hesitation and delay, Gideon defeats the combined forces of the Midianites and Amalekites and the "children of the east," i.e. the wandering Bedouin bands from the eastern deserts, in the valley of Jezreel. The locality and course of the battle are traced by the sacred writer, but it is not possible to follow his account in detail because of our inability to identify the places named. After the victory, Gideon is formally offered the position of ruler for himself and his descendants, but refuses; nevertheless, he seems to have exercised a measure of restraining influence over the people until his death, although he himself and his family apparently through covetousness fell away from their faithfulness to Yahweh (
(g) Judges 9:
Episode of Abimelech, son of Gideon by a concubine, who by the murder of all but one of his brethren, the legitimate sons of Gideon, secured the throne at Shechem for himself, and for 3 years ruled Israel. After successfully stamping out a revolt at Shechem against his authority, he is himself killed when engaged in the siege of the citadel or tower of Thebez by a stone thrown by woman.
(h) (i) Judges 10:1-5:
Tola and Jair are briefly named as successive judges of Israel for 23 and 22 years respectively.
(j) Judges 10:6-12:7:
Oppression of Israel for 18 years by the Philistines and Ammonites. The national deliverance is effected by Jephthah, who is described as an illegitimate son of Gilead who had been on that account driven out from his home and had become the captain of a band of outlaws. Jephthah stipulates with the elders of Gilead that if he undertakes to do battle on their behalf with the Ammonites, he is afterward to be recognized as their ruler; and in accordance with the agreement, when the victory has been won, he becomes judge over Israel (
(k) (l) (m) Judges 12:8-15:
Three of the so-called "minor" judges, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon, judged Israel in succession for 7, 10 and 8 years respectively. As they are not said to have delivered the nation from any calamity or oppression, it is perhaps to be understood that the whole period was a time of rest and tranquillity.
(n) Judges 13-16:
The history of Samson (see separate article).
(3) An Appendix, Judges 17-21.
The final section, in the nature of an appendix, consisting of two narratives, independent apparently of the main portion of the book and of one another. They contain no indication of date, except the statement 4 times repeated that "in those days there was no king in Israel"
(a) Judges 17-18:
The episode of Micah the Ephraimite and the young Levite who is consecrated as priest in his house. A war party, however, of the tribe of Da during a migration northward, by threats and promises induced the Levite to accompany them, taking with him the priestly ephod, the household goods of his patron, and a costly image which Micah had caused to be made. These Micah in vain endeavors to recover from the Danites. The latter sack and burn Laish in the extreme North of Palestine, rebuilding the city on the same site and renaming it "Dan." There they set up the image which they had stolen, and establish a rival priesthood and worship, which is said to have endured "all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh" (18:31).
(b) Judges 19-21:
Outrage of the Benjamites of Gibeah against the concubine of a Levite lodging for a night in the city on his way from Bethlehem to the hill country of Ephraim. The united tribes, after twice suffering defeat at the hands of the men of Benjamin, exact full vengeance; the tribe of Benjamin is almost annihilated, and their cities, including Gibeah, are destroyed. In order that the tribe may not utterly perish, peace is declared with the 600 survivors, and they are provided with wives by stratagem and force, the Israelites having taken a solemn vow not to permit intermarriage between their own daughters and the members of the guilty tribe.
The period covered by the history of the Book of Jud extends from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson, and adds perhaps a later reference in
The chronological data contained in the Book of Judges itself are as follows:
A total of 410 years, or, if the years of foreign oppression and of the usurpation of Abimelech are omitted, of 296.
It has been supposed that in some instances the rule of the several judges was contemporaneous, not successive, and that therefore the total period during which the judges ruled should be reduced accordingly. In itself this is sufficiently probable. It is evident, however, that this thought was not in the mind of the writer, for in each case he describes the rule of the judge as over "Israel" with no indication that "Israel" is to be understood in a partial and limited signification. His words must therefore be interpreted in their natural sense, that in his own belief the rulers whose deeds he related exercised control in the order named over the entire nation. Almost certainly, however, he did not intend to include in his scheme the years of oppression or the 3 years of Abimelech’s rule. If these be deducted, the resultant number (296) is very near the total which the statement in
No stress, however, must be laid upon this fact. The repeated occurrence of the number 40, with its double and half, can hardly be accidental. The same fact was noted above in connection with earlier and later rulers in Israel. It suggests that there is present an element of artificiality and conscious arrangement in the scheme of chronology, which makes it impossible to rely upon it as it stands for any definite or reliable historical conclusion.
5. Authorship and Sources:
Within the Book of Jud itself no author is named, nor is any indication given of the writer or writers who are responsible for the form in which the book appears; and it would seem evident, also, that the 3 parts or divisions of which the book is composed are on a different footing as regards the sources from which they are drawn. The Talmudic tradition which names Samuel as the author can hardly be seriously regarded. The historical introduction presents a form of the traditional narrative of the conquest of Palestine which is parallel to but not identical with that contained in the Book of Joshua. Brief and disconnected as it is, it is of the greatest value as a historical authority, and contains elements which in origin, if not in their present form, are of considerable antiquity. The main portion of the book, comprising the narratives of the judges, is based upon oral or written traditions of a local and perhaps a tribal character, the value of which it is difficult to estimate, but which undoubtedly in some instances have been more carefully preserved than in others. In particular, around the story of Samson there seem to have gathered elements derived from the folklore and the wonder-loving spirit of the countryside; and the exploits of a national hero have been enhanced and surrounded with a glamor of romance as the story of them has passed from lip to lip among a people who themselves or their forefathers owed so much to his prowess. Of this central part of Jud the So of Deborah (Judges 5) is the most ancient, and bears every mark of being a contemporary record of a remarkable conflict and victory. The text is often difficult, almost unintelligible, and has so greatly suffered in the course of transmission as in some passages to be beyond repair. As a whole the song is an eloquent and impassioned ode of triumph, ascribing to Yahweh the great deliverance which has been wrought for His people over their foes.
The narratives of Jgs, moreover, are set in a framework of chronology and of ethical comment and teaching, which are probably independent of one another. The moral exhortations and the lessons drawn from hardships and sufferings, which the people of Israel incur as the consequence of their idolatry and sin, are conceived entirely in the spirit of Deuteronomy, and even in the letter and form bear a considerable resemblance to the writings of that book. In the judgment of some scholars, therefore, they are to be ascribed to the same author or authors. Of this, however, there is no proof. It is possible, but perhaps hardly probable. They certainly belong to the same school of thought, of clear-sighted doctrine, of reverent piety, and of jealous concern for the honor of Yahweh. With the system of chronology, the figures and dates, the ethical commentary and inferences would seem to have no direct relation. The former is perhaps a later addition, based in part at least upon tradition, and applied to existing accounts, in order to give them their definite place and succession in the historical record. Finally, the three strands of traditional narrative, moral comment, and chronological framework were woven into one whole by a compiler or reviser who completed the book in the form in which it now exists. Concerning the absolute dates, however, at which these processes took place very little can be determined.
The two concluding episodes are distinct, both in form and character, from the rest of the book. They do not relate the life or deeds of a judge, nor do they, explicitly at least, convey any moral teaching or warning. They are also mutually independent. It would seem therefore that they are to be regarded as accounts of national events or experiences, preserved by tradition, which, because they were understood to have reference to the period of the Judges, were included in this book. The internal nature of the narratives themselves would suggest that they belong rather to the earlier than the later part of the time during which the judges held rule; and their ancient character is similarly attested. There is no clue, however, to the actual date of their composition, or to the time or circumstances under which they were incorporated in the Book of Jgs.
6. Relation to Preceding Books:
The discussion of the relation of the Book of Jud to the generally recognized sources of the Pentateuch and to Joshua has been in part anticipated in the previous paragraph. In the earliest introductory section of the book, and in some of the histories of the judges, especially in that of Gideon (Judges 6-8), it is not difficult to distinguish two threads of narrative, which have been combined together in the account as it now stands; and by some scholars these are identified with the Jahwist (Jahwist) and the Elohist (E) in the Pentateuch. The conclusion, however, is precarious and uncertain, for the characteristic marks of the Pentateuch "sources" are in great measure absent. There is more to be said for the view that regards the introduction (
The moral and religious teaching, on the other hand, which makes the varied national experiences in the times of the Judges a vehicle for ethical instruction and warning, is certainly derived from the same school as Deuteronomy, and reproduces the whole tone and spirit of that book. There is no evidence, however, to identify the writer or reviser who thus turned to spiritual profit the lessons of the age of the Judges with the author of Deuteronomy itself, but he was animated by the same principles, and endeavored in the same way to expound the same great truths of religion and the Providence of God.
7. Relation to Septuagint and Other Versions:
There are two early Greek translations of the Book of Jgs, which seem to be on the whole independent of one another. These are represented by the two great uncial manuscripts, B (Codex Vaticanus) and A (Codex Alexandrinus). With the former is associated a group of cursive manuscripts and the Sahidic or Upper Egyptian version. It is therefore probable that the translation is of Egyptian origin, and by some it has been identified with that of Hesychius. It has been shown, moreover, that in this book, and probably elsewhere, the ancient character of the text of B is not always maintained, but in parts at least betrays a later origin. The other version is contained in AV and the majority of the uncial and cursive manuscripts of the Greek texts, and, while certainly a real and independent translation from the original, is thought by some to show acquaintance with the version of B. There is, however, no definite evidence that B’s translation is really older. Some of the cursives which agree in general with A form sub-groups; thus the recension of Lucian is believed to be represented by a small number of cursives, the text of which is printed by Lagarde (Librorum VT Canonicorum, Pars Prior, 1883), and is substantially identical with that in the "" (see G. F. Moore, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges, Edinburgh, 1895, xliii ff). It is probable that the true original text of the Septuagint is not represented completely either by the one or the other version, but that it partially underlies both, and may be traced in the conflicting readings which must be judged each on its own merits.
Of the other principal versions, the Old Latin and the Hexaplar Syriac, together with the Armenian and the Ethiopic, attach themselves to a sub-group of the manuscripts associated with A. The Bohairic version of the Book of Jud has not hitherto been published, but, like the rest of the Old Testament, its text would no doubt be found to agree substantially with B. Jerome’s translation follows closely the Massoretic Text, and is independent of both Greek VSS; and the Peshitta also is a direct rendering from the Hebrew.
8. Religious Purpose and Value:
Thus the main purpose of the Book of Judges in the form in which it has been preserved in the Old Testament is not to record Israel’s past for its own sake, or to place before the writer’s contemporaries a historical narrative of the achievements of their great men and rulers, but to use these events and the national experiences of adversity as a text from which to educe religious warning and instruction. With the author or authors spiritual edification is the first interest, and the facts or details of the history, worthy of faithful records, because it is the history of God’s people, find their chief value in that they are and were designed to be admonitory, exhibiting the Divine judgments upon idolatry and sin, and conveying the lesson that disobedience and rebellion, a hard and defiant spirit that was forgetful of Yahweh, could not fail to entail the same disastrous consequences. The author is preeminently a preacher of righteousness to his fellow-countrymen, and to this aim all other elements in the book, whether chronological or historical, are secondary and subordinate. In his narrative he sets down the whole truth, so far as it has become known to him through tradition or written document, however discreditable it may be to his nation. There is no ground for believing that he either extenuates on the one hand, or on the other paints in darker colors than the record of the transgressions of the people deserved. Neither he nor they are to be judged by the standards of the 20th century, with its accumulated wealth of spiritual experience and long training in the principles of righteousness and truth. But he holds and asserts a lofty view of the character of Yahweh, of the immutability of His wrath against obstinate transgression and of the certainty of its punishment, and yet of the Divine pitifulness and mercy to the man or nation that turns to Him with a penitent heart. The Jews were not mistaken when they counted the Book of Jud among the Prophets. It is prophecy, more than history, because it exhibits and enforces the permanent lessons of the righteousness and justice and loving-kindness of God.
A complete bibliography of the literature up to date will be found in the Dicts. under the word "Judges," D B2, 1893; HDB, II, 1899; EB, II, 1901; compare G. F. Moore, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Jgs, Edinburgh, 1895; SBOT, Leipzig, 1900; R. A. Watson, "Jgs" and "Ruth," in Expositor’s Bible, 1889; G. W. Thatcher, "Jgs" and "Ruth," in Century Bible; S. Oettli, "Das Deuteronomium und die Bucher Josua und Richter," in Kurzgefasster Kommentar, Munchen, 1893; K. Budde, "Das Buch der Richter," in Kurzer HandKommentar zum Altes Testament, Tubingen, 1897; W. Nowack, "Richter," in Hand-kommentar zum Altes Testament, 1900.