Judges is a book that essentially takes us through the stories of the judges of Israel. Between Joshua’s death and the appointment of Saul as king in 1 Samuel, God used judges as a sort of leader. Ultimately, God was the nation’s leader, however, the people often strayed. They forgot what God had done for them and went their own way. And each time they did, enemies would flood in to defeat the Israelites. And each time, the people called out for relief. When they did, God sent a judge to bring victory over an enemy.
The book covers a period of 300 years (approximately 1380 to 1050 BC) and there were 12 judges God used in that timespan. The author is unknown however it’s an important historical record in the history of the Israelites.
Here are the judges in chronological order and some basic information about each:
Othniel (ch. 3)
He served as judge for 40 years and helped capture a Canaanite city.
Ehud (ch. 3)
Ehud defeated the Moabites, even killing the king, and served 80 years.
Shamgar (ch. 3)
He killed 600 Philistines but it’s not known how long he judged.
Deborah (ch. 4-5)
Deborah is the only female judge. She initially began as a prophet—an instrument of the Lord. But the Canaanites came up against the people and, along with the military leader Barak, went into battle and defeated the enemy. She served as judge for 40 years and is a powerful example that God uses women for His purposes!
Gideon (ch. 6-8)
Gideon is a memorable judge as people often remember him for determining God’s will with a fleece. But he also destroyed his family’s idols, raised up an army, and defeated 135,000 Midianites with 300 soldiers. He served as judge for 40 years.
Tola (ch. 10)
He served as a judge of Israel for 23 years.
Jair (ch. 10)
He served as a judge of Israel for 22 years.
Jephthah (ch. 10-12)
Jephthah defeated 20 Ammonite cities and served as judge for 6 years.
Ibzan (ch. 12)
Interesting fact: he had 60 children. Yes—60! And he served as judge for 7 years.
Elon (ch. 12)
He judged Israel for 10 years.
Abdon (ch. 12)
You thought 60 was a lot? Abdon had 70! And he served as judge for 8 years.
Samson (ch. 13-16)
Samson is perhaps the most well-known judge. When his mother was pregnant with him God told her that Samson was to be a Nazarite—someone who took a vow to be set apart. Samson, unfortunately, did not always follow God as he grew up and broke most of the vows. The only one he kept—he didn’t cut his hair. And as God orchestrated it, all of Samson’s strength was held in his hair.
Samson eventually entered a relationship with a woman named Delilah. The Philistines asked Delilah to learn how they could defeat Samson, for he had killed many of them. Three times she asked Samson about his strength, and three times he lied. Three times the Philistines attempted to arrest him and each time they failed.
Do you think Samson continued to lie to Delilah, knowing she had betrayed him? Well, surprisingly, he didn’t! On the the fourth try, Samson finally told Delilah the truth and that night he was captured when his hair was cut and his strength lost.
While in prison, his hair began to grow again. And one night, while thousands of Philistines joined in a celebration, Samson humbled himself before the Lord in a way he never had. He asked God for strength one more time and with that strength, he brought down the house, killing thousands of Philistines.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN
If you don’t keep your eyes on God, every day and step of the way, you’ll lose sight of what’s good and eternal. And when you do that, the heart will wander. If you’re not moving towards Him, you’ll eventually drift away.
“But may those who love him be like the rising of the sun in its strength.” Judges 5:31