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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Judges, Book of

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Between Israel’s conquest of Canaan and the setting up of the monarchy, there was a period of about two hundred years known as the period of the judges. With no formal or centralized administration, Israel relied largely on specially gifted men or women whom God raised up to provide leadership. They were called judges because they carried out God’s judgment, either by driving out enemies who forced their rule upon the Israelites, or by settling disputes among the Israelites themselves. The activities of the judges are described in the book of Judges and in the opening chapters of the first book of Samuel (Judges 3:10; Judges 4:4; Judges 10:2-3; Judges 12:7-14; Judges 15:20; 1 Samuel 4:18; 1 Samuel 7:15-17).

Features of the era

The basic cause of the Israelites’ troubles during the period of the judges was their disobedience. They had failed to carry out God’s instructions to destroy the Canaanite people left in the land after Joshua’s conquest (Deuteronomy 7:2-4; Deuteronomy 9:5; Judges 1:21; Judges 1:27-36). The result was that the Israelites followed the false religious practices of the Canaanites.

In judgment God used the Canaanites, along with people from neighbouring lands, to oppress Israel (Joshua 23:4-5; Joshua 23:12-13; Judges 2:11-15; Judges 2:20-23). When, after years of oppression, the Israelites cried to God for help, he raised up deliverers (judges) from among them to overthrow the enemy (Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15; Judges 4:3; Judges 10:10-16). But once they were enjoying peace and prosperity again, the people slipped back into idolatry (Judges 2:16-20; Judges 8:33; see BAAL).

Israel’s territory was at the time divided into tribal areas. Of the twelve tribes, nine and a half occupied the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (i.e. Canaan itself). The other two and a half tribes occupied the plateau region east of Jordan. The enemy conquests usually involved only part of Israel, and in some cases different enemies controlled different parts of the country during the same period (e.g. Judges 10:7-8; Judges 11:5; Judges 13:1).

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Judges, Book of'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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