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The book of Judges
The book of Judges receives its name from the titles of the leaders who ruled Israel after the death of Joshua. Moses, in giving instructions as to the rule of the Israelites after their establishment in Canaan, had commanded, “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Deuteronomy 16:18).
Correspondingly, after Moses died and could not act as the legislative, nor Joshua as the executive commander, judges were assigned, who became the highest civil authority in Israel. The book of Judges is the recorded history of the era that immediately followed the death of Joshua. In that time, the ruling authority in Israel was assigned to judges.
Who wrote the book of judges?
It is not known who wrote the book of Judges. According to old Jewish tradition, it was written by the prophet Samuel (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 14b, 15a). This is a clear speculation, and although it aliens with many of the facts, other factors oppose the view.
A common saying of the author of the Judges was, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (ch. 17:6; 21:25; cf. ch. 18:1; 19:1). This is thought to suggest that the author may have been in favor of the kingship, as if he had said, in reality, “Such things would not be tolerated, but at that time there was no king in Israel to keep order, and everyone was able to do as he pleased.” Because Samuel was against the idea of a king for Israel, this led some to believe it debatable that he was the author of this saying.
Internal evidence proves the viable time limits between which Judges may have been recorded. The statement quoted above, “In those days there was no king in Israel” (ch. 17:6), shows that the book was authored after the organization of the kingdom under the first King of Israel – Saul.
On the other hand, there is proof that it must have been recorded before the rule of David, or in the early years of his rule. Chapter 1:21 records that the Jebusites had not been kicked out from Jerusalem, but lived there with the children of Benjamin “unto this day.” Biblical history shows that the Jebusites continued to hold Jerusalem, or, the citadel of Zion, until the time of the seizure of the city by King David after the end of his seven-year rule at Hebron (2 Samuel 5:6–9; 1 Chronicles 11:4–9). The book of Judges, therefore, was possibly written during the first seven years of David’s rule prior to his seize of the city of Jerusalem.
Although it is not possible to determine the precise time when the stories of the book of Judges occurred, we can say that the book covers the period from 1400 to 1050 B.C. The Amarna tablets and other inscriptions show that the Canaanites who occupied the land had been settled there for centuries preceding the Hebrew occupation. The Canaanites formed the great empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt. However, in spiritual truth, morals and philosophy, the Hebrews exhibited great superiority over the pagan Canaanites.
In His service,