1. The Office.
    1. General Concept (§ 1).
      Character of the Period (§ 2).
      History of the Period (§ 3).
      Chronology of the Judges (§ 4).
  2. The Book.
    1. Conservative View.
      1. Divisions; the Narrative (§ 1).
        Critical View Rejected (§ 2).
    2. Critical View.
      1. Analysis (§ 1).
        Idealizing (§ 2).
        The History (§ 3).

I. The Office:
1. General Concept.

Judges (Hebr. shophetim) was the name applied to the rulers of Israel at the time described in the book of Judges (see II. below). They find their analogues in the "judges" of the Tyrians (Josephus, Apion, i. 21) and in the Carthaginian sufetes (Livy, xxviii. 37, xxx. 7); they must not be regarded, however, as heads of regularly organized states, but rather as dictators who, having first evidenced their capabilities by their prowess, naturally became the leaders of a tribe or group of tribes. In time of peace their function was primarily the decision of cases which could not be settled by the "elders"; and some of them, such as Deborah (Judges iv. 4) and Samuel (I Sam. vii. 6), were judges by virtue of their prophetic gifts even before they became the liberators of their countrymen; while others, as Samson, seem never to have delivered judgment. The name, however, was borne by the rulers of the Israelites from the conquest of Canaan by Joshua to the establishment of the kingdom, with the exception of Abimelech, the son of Gideon, who seems to have had the title of king (Judges ix.).

2. Character of the Period.

The character of the period of the Judges is outlined in the introduction to the book of Judges, especially ii. 10 sqq. After the subjection of the chief Canaanitic Peoples, the Israelites had relaxed their energies, and had entered into friendly relations in many cases with their former foes. The result was an oppressive subjugation of the Israelites, until they remembered God, who raised up judges to deliver them. Nevertheless, as soon as a judge passed away, his influence vanished, and the people returned to their coquetry with the surrounding nations, again falling into political and spiritual bondage. The period was also characterized by a centrifugal tendency both in national and religious life. It was the time when the tribes enjoyed the greatest freedom, and only when mutual perils united them did they recollect their common origin and invoke their common God. The tendencies of the time thus powerfully favored the confusion of the worship of Yahweh and Baal, as well as of other gods whose symbols, oracles, and cult were openly adopted; but, on the other hand, the horrors resulting from gentile immorality were washed out in blood (Judges xix.-xx.), and faith prompted the vows of mighty sacrifices (Judges xi. 31; I Sam. i. 11). In like manner, low though the culture of the Israelites sank during this period of storm and stress, the power of the nation was still strong and unbroken. It was an age of heroes, not only physical but moral, finding exemplification in the Song of Deborah, the fable of Jotham, and the humor of Samson. Nor was the disunion of the Israelites at this period, as some maintain, a preliminary to their development as a nation, for the Song of Deborah itself clearly shows a strong consciousness of the religious and national homogeneity of the tribes.

3. History of the Period.

The period of the Judges was opened by an eight years' subjugation of Israel by Chushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim (Judges iii. 8), apparently a king of the Mitanni (A. H. Sayee, The Higher Criticism and the Monuments, pp. 297, 304, London, 1894) who repeatedly sought to establish themselves in Canaan against Egypt. The Israelites were delivered from this yoke by Othniel, the son of Kenaz, who dwelt in the south (Judges i. 12-13), after which there followed forty years of peace (Judges iii. 9-11). During this period of repose, two events happened which, although related at the end of the book of Judges, can not have taken place long after Joshua's death: the migration of a portion of the tribe of Dan, prevented by the hostile Amorites from occupying their territory along the sea (Judges i. 34), to the north, where they founded the city of Laiah, or Dan (the modern Tell al-Kadi, west of Banias), and introduced an idolatrous cult (Judges xviii.); and the war of revenge on Benjamin for the outrage committed in Gibeah (Judges xix.-xx.). Others, however, place both these events before the Mesopotamian invasion (cf. Josephus, Ant. V., ii. 8 sqq., iii. 1); but there is no ground for the view that these episodes are later interpolations. After the death of Othniel at the expiration of the forty years' peace, the Israelites were again subjugated for eighteen years by the combined Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites, until the Benjamite Ehud killed the Moabite King Eglon (Judges iii. 12 sqq.). Eighty years of peace followed, after which the Israelites


were subject for twenty years to the Canaanitic Jabin and Sisera, to which period belongs the heroic deed of Shamgar, which freed a portion of the land from the oppression of the Philistines (Judges iii. 31; cf. v. 6). Relief from their bondage, which by some is held to be Hittite, was brought to Israel, especially in the north, by the prophetess and judge Deborah, who roused Barak to war against Jabin and Sisera (Judges iv. 2 sqq.); though the tribes east of the Jordan, as well as Dan and some on the sea, took no part in the struggle for freedom (Judges v. 15 sqq.); while Judah seems to have been prevented from cooperating by its own war with the Philistines. Another forty years of peace ensued; but then the Midianites and other nomadic tribes invaded the plain of Jezreel, oppressing the Israelites for seven years, until they were driven out by Gideon (Judges vi.-vii.). Gideon piously declined the proffered kingship (Judges viii. 22 sqq.; but after his death his unworthy son Abimelech brought misfortune on his house (Judges ix.). Abimelech was followed by Tola, of the tribe of Issachar, who ruled twenty-three years (Judges x. 1 sqq.), and by Jair, a Gileadite, who was judge twenty-two years (x. 3-5). With the death of Jair, Israel was oppressed on the east by the Ammonites and on the west by the Philistines. The former, after oppressing Israel eighteen years, were conquered by Jephthah (Judges x.-xi.), who was also later involved in a civil war with the tribe of Ephraim (Judges xii. 1 sqq.). He ruled in peace only seven years, and was succeeded by Izban of Bethlehem (seven years), Elon, a Zebulonite (ten years), and Abdon, an Ephmimite (eight years; Judges xii. 8 sqq.). After their rule, the Philistines oppressed Israel forty years (Judges xiii. 1), their deliverer being the hero Samson (Judges xiii-.xvi.). The power of the Philistines revived, however, in the latter part of the judgeship of Eli, who ruled forty years (I Sam. iv. 18), and they were crushed only by Samuel and the kings anointed by him. The thread of the book of Judges breaks off with the death of Samson, and, although Eli is said to have "judged" Israel, and the same is stated concerning Samuel (I Sam. vii. 6, viii. 1 sqq., xii. 1 sqq.), they form the transition from the judges to the kings.

4. Chronology of the Judges.

The chronology of this period is difficult. The period given by the book of Judges from the subjugation by Chushan-rishathaim (Judges iii. 8) to the death of Samson (xvi. 31) is 410 years; but this is far too long when compared with I Kings vi. 1, which gives only 480 years for the time from the Exodus to the commencement of the Temple in the fourth year of the reign of Solomon, including the forty years in the wilderness, the equal length of David's reign, and the unknown duration of the rule of Samuel, Saul, etc. The best explanation of these conflicting data seems to be the synchronization of Judges x. 8 sqq. with xiii. 1 sqq., thus placing the oppression by the Philistines at the same time as that by the Ammonites, and regarding Samson as the contemporary of Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon; with a resultant reduction of the 140 years to about 360 (cf. Judges x. 6 sqq.; the figures in Judges xi. 26 would then be round numbers). It is also tempting to assume a further synchronism between the forty years' oppression by the Philistines (Judges xiii. 1) and the rule of Eli and the early part of Samuel's judgeship, thus reducing the period to about 340 years. See TIME, BIBLICAL RECKONING OF.

II. The Book: 1. Conservative View:
1. Divisions; the Narrative.

In its present form this book is relatively late, although its oldest sources date from the events they describe. It falls into three parts: an introduction (i.-iii. 6); the main portion, a unified narrative (iii. 7-xvi.); and two additions (xvii.-xxi.). The introduction treats of the general condition of Israel after the death of Joshua and gives the underlying relation of the stormy events of the period, together with the occupation of the land by the tribes (i.) and their impious toleration of the former inhabitants (ii. 1-5). In ii. 6 the thread of the narrative is taken up, with a preliminary prophetic descrip tion of the period (). A list of the peoples still unsubdued is given in iii. 1-6, this passage being by another hand. Nevertheless, it is clear that the redactor deliberately planned the introduction in its present form, and that he interwove fragments of other historical writings wherever he thought best, doubtless drawing from some source common to Judges and Joshua (cf. Judges i. 10-15 with Josh. xv. 14-19; Judges i. 20 with Josh. xv. 13; Judges i. 21 with Josh. xv. 63; Judges i. 27-28 with Josh. xvii. 11 sqq.; Judges i. 29 with Josh. xvi. 10). The main portion narrates six great events, the heroes of which are Othniel, the conqueror of the Arameans (iii. 7 sqq.); Ehud, the liberator from the Moabites (iii. 12 sqq.); the victory of Deborah and Barak over Jabin and Sisera (iv.-v.); Gideon and his sons (vi.-ix.); Jephthah's victory over the Ammonites (x. 6 sqq., xi.-xii.); and Samson, the hero against the Philistines (xiii-xvi.). Six other judges are also briefly mentioned. The two additions on the sanctuary at Dan (xvii.-xviii.) and the war against Benjamin (xix.-xxi.) seem to have been written by one who lived in the flourishing period of the kings (cf. xviii. 1, xix. 1, xxi. 25).

2. Critical View Rejected.

It is assumed by the majority of modern scholars that the redactor of the book of Judges had two systems of chronology before him: one of generations of forty years each; and the other of smaller, but more accurate, figures. These two systems were then interwoven, the smaller being assumed to refer to the periods of subjugation, and the larger to the rules of the judges. But the problem is still unsolved, although it would seem that the apparently over-long period arose from the addition of contemporaneous periods, and that the number forty is only approximate. The critical school has assailed not only the chronology, but also the historicity of the book of Judges. Thus Othniel, Ehud, Tola, Jair, and Elon are resolved into "eponymous heroes"; but in no case is the evidence favorable to the theories of this school. On the contrary, the book gives an impression of relative unity and independence; nor


is it to be regarded as an extract from some larger work, extending from Joshua's death (or from the Creation) to the Exile. Equally untenable is a derivation of the book from J and E, and their combination into JE. Since, on the other hand, the Deuteronemic redactor was not the first to combine the accounts given in the book, the question of its date admits of no single answer. The redactor doubtless lived in the period of the later kings; but there is no evidence to show that the book belongs to the exilic or post-exilic period. Textually the book of Judges is one of the best preserved of all the historical writings. Nevertheless, a comparison with the versions, especially the Septuagint, shows noteworthy variants, especially in proper names. So ancient a fragment as the Song of Deborah naturally gives more scope to textual criticism, although here also great caution is necessary.


2. Critical View:
1. Analysis.

A cursory reading of the book of Judges shows that it consists of two main elements, one of these containing stories and historical notices without comment, and the other comprising detailed narratives with an explicit or implicit commentary on the events described. The latter, comprising most of the book, extends from iii. 7 to xvi. 31, and has a prefatory note containing the moral of the history (ii. 6-iii. 6). It is this main portion which not only gives character to the book as a whole but also explains its aim and motive. It is written to show, in the Deuteronomic spirit, the course of Israel's history before the movement began which ended in the founding of the kingdom—how fidelity to Yahweh and his commandments was invariably attended by prosperity, and how calamity, especially by the inroads and oppressions of national enemies, surely followed false worship and impiety, according to the principles laid down in Deut. xxviii. All the lives of the "Judges" are narrated in this principal section. The introduction (i. 1-ii. 5) is quite different in character and style, not only running parallel to portions of the book of Joshua (see JOSHUA, BOOK OF) but actually giving a divergent account of the conquest of the Canaanites. Quite different also, and falling as clearly without the sphere of the Deuteronomistic compiler, are the last five chapters (xvii.-xxi.) which, narrate important events belonging to the early period of the occupation of Canaan, and therefore out of the chronological order followed by the author of the main part of the book. Both the introduction and the conclusion are lacking in the religious and homiletic comments which dominate chaps. iii. 7-xvi. 31.

2. Idealizing

The most important question for the Bible student is the amount and degree of the idealizing of history which are employed in the book in its present form. The introduction (i. 1-ii. 5) contains a plain narrative of facts of the highest value; only the fact must be noted that the words in i. 1 "after the death of Joshua" are a late gloss due to a misunderstanding of the historical situation, for, as ii. 6-9 shows, the events described here took place during the life of Joshua. Chaps. xvii.-xviii. are also of great importance for the early political and religious condition of Israel and contain merely a statement of facts, which set forth the causes and incidents connected with the migration northward of the tribe of Dan and the founding of the city of that name at the point which became the northerly limit of Israel and the seat of a famous sanctuary. Chaps. xix.-xxi. are a highly embellished account of some incidents which occurred in the early days of the settlement, an outrage perpetrated by some members of the tribe of Benjamin (chap. xix.) and avenged by the other tribes (xx., xxi.). Chap. xix. would appear to rest on a considerable basis of fact, but the last two chapters are full of numerical exaggerations; they represent Israel as forming a political and religious unit at a very early date, and they give other evidences of a priestly authorship. Thus it must be assumed that certain old traditions were worked over in them at a late date in conformity with the spirit of the priest code.

3. The History.

The stories which make the main part of the book so readable are at the same time the source of nearly all direct knowledge of the period between the settlement and the founding of the kingdom. They belong in their original form to some of the earliest collections of prose compositions in the literature of Israel. Beginning with the deliverances effected by Othniel (iii. 7-11) and Ehud (iii. 12-30), the motive of the collection comes out more clearly in the story of the final suppression of the Canaanites under Deborah and Barak. This is given in its original form in the oldest long poem of the Bible (chap. v.), the prose version which was of course later being found in chap. iv. The poem is our best authority for the condition and activity of the tribes of Israel about 1130 B.C. Of equal importance is the great story of Gideon and his deliverance of his tribesmen from the oppression of the Midianites (chaps. vi.-viii.). The sequel of their expulsion is specially instructive since it shows how the tribes felt themselves helpless in their disunion and were conscious of their need of hereditary "judges" or kings. The fact that here as elsewhere in the book more than one version of the original tradition was drawn upon is illustrated by the variations of vii. 24-viii. 3 and viii. 4-21, the latter being the briefer or earlier account. The history of Samson (xiii. xvi.) dealing as it does with the period of Philistine domination over western Judah brings the account one step nearer to the epoch of the monarchy; but the subject lent itself so much to romance and legend that it is more difficult to learn the real facts behind this story than elsewhere in the book. In any case. the Samson episodes form, from the historical point of view, merely a preparation to the history of Eli and Samuel, who carried on the contest with the Philistines till the crowning of King Saul. Thus the closing of the original book of Judges was really the beginning of a history which began with Samson (cf. xiii. 5) and ended with I Sam. xii. It was then a Deuteronomistic editor who compiled the first edition of the book, beginning with ii. 6 and unifying the whole by his "pragmatic" treatment


of the stories and his assumption of the solidarity of "Israel" under the régime of the successive judges, each of whom actually "judged" only a portion of the country occupied by the disunited tribes. The post-exilic priestly redactor prefixed chaps. i. 1-ii. 5, added chaps. xvii.-xxi., and the allusions to the minor judges, six in number (iii. 31, x. 1-5, xii. 8-15). These with the six judges of the original work (Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Samson, Jephthah) make up the ideal number twelve. The story of Abimelech (chap. ix.), which is an episode in the history of the old Canaanitic city of Shechem, lies without the general scheme of the book and is probably a later addition. It is valuable as showing how readily the idea of kingship was embraced by the common people, and still more valuable for the parable of Jothann (verses 8-15) which shows that despotic rule was estimated at its real worth even in those early times.

As to the chronology of the book it is hopeless to attempt to reduce the given numbers. of years to any reasonable scheme (see TIME, BIBLICAL RECKONING OF). The best that can be done is to take the probable date of the eastern invasion (about 1170 B.C.) and the accession of David (about 1000 B.C.) as two working extremes, within which approximation to the facts may be reached by placing Deborah and Barak about 1130, Gideon about 1100, Jephthah about 1080, Samuel about 1050, Saul about 1030 B.C.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: On the history of the Judges consult the literature under AHAB: the commentaries named below; C. Piepenbring, Hist. du peuple d'Israel, Paris, 1898. The three indispensable commentaries are: G. F. Moore, New York, 1895 (high-water mark in critical exegesis); K. Budde, Tübingen, 1897 (thorough); and W. Nowack, Göttingen,1900 (also excellent). Other commentaries are: G. L. Studer. Bern, 1842; C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Edinburgh, 1865; J. Bachmann, Berlin, 1868-69; Hervey, in Bible Commentary, London, 1872; P. Cassel, in Lange, New York, 1875; E. Reuse, Paris, 1877; J. J. Lias, in Cambridge Bible, Cambridge, 1882; E. Bertheau, Leipsic, 1883; A. R. Fausset, London, 1885; S. Oettli, Munich, 1893; G. H. S. Walpole, London, 1901; M. J. Lagrange, Paris, 1903.

On questions of introduction consult the works mentioned in and under BIBLICAL INTRODUCTION; T. Nöldeke, Untersuchungen zur Kritik des A. T., pp. 173-198, Kiel, 1869; E. Meyer, in ZATW, i (1881), 117-146; J. C. A. Kessler, Chronologia judicum et primorum regum, Leipsic, 1885; S. R. Driver, in JQR, i (1889), pp. 258-270; G. A. Cooke, Hist. and Song of Deborah, London, 1892; R. Kittel, in TSK, lxv (1892), 44-71; P. de Lagarde, Septuagintastudien, pp. 1-72, -Göttingen, 1892; W. Frankenberg, Die Composition des . . . Richterbuchs, Marburg, 1895; F. Perles, Analekten zur Textkritik des A. T., Munich, 1895; C. Bruston, Le Cantique de Deborah, Paris, 1901; DB, ii. 807-820; EB, ii. 2633-42; JE, vii. 375-381.


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