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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Judges Overview



Introduction to Judges

The Book of Judges, like the other historical books of the Old Testament, takes its name from the subject to which it chiefly relates, namely, the exploits of those JUDGES who ruled Israel in the times between the death of Joshua and the rise of Samuel. The rule of the Judges Rth 1:1 in this limited sense was a distinct dispensation, distinct from the leadership of Moses and Joshua, distinct from the more regular supremacy of Eli, the High Priest, and from the prophetic dispensation inaugurated by Samuel 1 Samuel 3:19-21; Acts 3:24.

The book consists of three divisions: (1) The PREFACE, which extends to Judges 3:6 (inclusive). (2) the MAIN NARRATIVE, Judges 17:1-13; (b) Judges 2:15, Judges 2:20, etc.), in order both to vindicate the power and faithfulness of Jehovah the God of Israel, and to hold out a warning to the future generations for whose instruction the book was written. In the view which the writer was inspired to present to the Church, never was God‘s agency more busy in relation to the affairs of His people, than when, to a superficial observer, that agency had altogether ceased. On the other hand, the writer calls attention to the fact that those heroes, who wrought such wonderful deliverances for Israel, did it not by their own power, but were divinely commissioned, and divinely endowed with courage, strength, and victory. The writer of the preface also directs the minds of the readers of his history to that vital doctrine, which it was one main object of the Old Testament dispensation to keep alive in the world until the coming of Christ, namely,, the unity of God. All the calamities which he was about to narrate, were the fruit and consequence of idolatry. “Keep yourselves from idols,” was the chief lesson which the history of the Judges was intended to inculcate.

The preface consists of two very different portions; the recapitulation of events before, and up to, Joshua‘s death Judges 17:1 note.

Exact chronology forms no part of the plan of the book. The only guide to the chronology is to be found in the genealogies which span the period: and the evidence of these genealogies concurs in assigning an average of between seven and eight generations to the time from the entrance into Canaan to the commencement of David‘s reign, which would make up from 240 to 260 years. Deducting 30 years for Joshua, 30 for Samuel, and 40 for the reign of Saul Acts 13:21, in all 100 years, we have from 140 to 160 years left for the events related in the Book of Judges. This is a short time, no doubt, but quite sufficient, when it is remembered that many of the “rests” and “servitudes” (Judges 3:8 note) therein related are not successive, but synchronize; and that no great dependence can be placed on the recurring 80,40, and 20 years, whenever they are not in harmony with historical probability.

The narratives which have the strongest appearance of synchronizing are those of the Moabite, Ammonite, and Amalekite servitude Judges 3:31; of the Ammonite servitude which lasted eighteen years, and was also closely connected with a Philistine invasion Judges 10:7-8; and of the Midianite and Amalekite servitude which lasted seven years Judges 6:1, all three of which terminated in a complete expulsion and destruction of their enemies by the three leaders Ehud, Jephthah, and Gideon, heading respectively the Benjamites, the Manassites and the northern tribes, and the tribes beyond Jordan: the conduct of the Ephraimites as related in Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1, being an additional very strong feature of resemblance in the two histories of Gideon and Jephthah. The 40 years of Philistine servitude mentioned in Judges 13:1, seems to have embraced the last 20 years of Eli‘s judgeship, and the first 20 of Samuel‘s, and terminated with Samuel‘s victory at Eben-ezer: and, if so, Samson‘s judgeship of 20 years also coincided in part with Samuel‘s. The long rests of 40 and 80 years spoken of as following the victories of Othniel, Barak, and Ehud, may very probably have synchronized in whole or in part. It cannot however be denied that the chronology of this book is still a matter of uncertainty.

The time of the compilation of this book, and the final arrangement of its component parts in their present form and in their present connection in the series of the historical books of Scripture, may with most probability be assigned to the latter times of the Jewish monarchy, included in the same plan. (The Book of Ezra, it may be observed, by the way, is a continuation, not of Kings, but of Chronicles.) There is not the slightest allusion in the Book of Judges, to the Babylonian captivity. Only Judges 3:5-6, as regards the Canaanite races mentioned, and the context, may be compared with Ezra 9:1-2. The language of the Book of Judges points to the same conclusion. It is pure and good Hebrew, untainted with Chaldaisms or Persian forms, as are the later books.

The inference to which these and other such resemblances tends, is that the compilation of the Book of Judges is of about the same age as that of the books of Samuel and Kings, if not actually the work of the same hand. But no absolute certainty can be arrived at.

The chief allusions to it in the New Testament are those in Hebrews 11:32 following, and Acts 13:20. But there are frequent references to the histories contained in it in the Psalms and in the prophets. See Psalm 78:56, etc.; Psalm 83:9-11; Psalm 106:34-45, etc.; Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:26; Nehemiah 9:27, etc. See also 1 Samuel 12:9-11; 2 Samuel 11:21. Other books to which it refers are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. See the marginal references to Judges 2:1-3, Judges 2:6-10, Judges 2:15, Judges 2:20-23; Judges 4:11; Judges 6:8, Judges 6:13; Judges 10:11; Judges 11:13-26; Judges 13:5; Judges 16:17; Judges 18:30; Judges 19:23-24; Judges 20:26-27, etc.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Judges:4 Overview". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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