Book of the Month

"Right In His Own Eyes"

Michael Foresha

Judges is the second of the twelve books of History. It contains 21 chapters, 618 verses, and some 18,976 words. The title of the book reflects the type of government in the interval between the death of Joshua and the coronation of Saul. The book gets its name from the word Shophet (Judges). These figures were not so much judicial figures, although they did do some deciding of court cases. The Hebrew word shophet - the shophetim - shows the judges were military leaders or deliverers. There were 15 judges or deliverers: Othniel was first, and Samuel was the fifteenth and final one. Thirteen of these are depicted in the book of judges; Eli and Samuel are depicted in 1 Samuel. The judges or deliverers were from various tribes. At times, two or more of them were contemporary. About 300 years are covered in the book. 

The book takes up with events immediately subsequent to Joshua’s death and goes through the life of Samson. One notices a recurring cycle in the book of Judges (Read 2:7-19). The people were faithful to God during the lifetime of Joshua and the elders, but another generation arose that knew not God or His works. Notice the cycle: (1) Time of Rest - the Israelites enjoyed periods of rest and prosperity. (2) Turned Again - During these times, they forgot God and forsook Him and turned to idolatry. (3) Turned Over - In God’s anger (due to their disobedience) they were turned over to their enemies and oppressed. (4) Turned To - In their distress, the Israelites cried to the Lord, repented of their sins, and the merciful God sent a deliverer (a judge) and subdued the oppressing enemy. 

The book can be divided into three major sections. The first (Judges 1:1-3:6), Israel’s Downfall provides the backdrop for this, “a book of failure and misdirection.” The second (Judges 3:7-16:31) details Israel’s deliverance under 13 judges. The third (Judges 17:1-21:25), Degenerate Israel is a sad commentary of just how degenerate and degrading the times were.

Israel’s Downfall (Judges 1:1-3:6). The book opens with a brief introduction and then addresses the situation at hand, the incomplete conquest of Canaan. This outlines the success, failures, and compromises of the tribes. Next, Israel was rebuked for what they had done and reminded of what God had done for them. Israel then learned God had left the nations in the land to test (prove) them and to teach them war. Israel failed the test. 

Israel’s Deliverance (Judges 3:7-16:31). The first Judge was Othniel, during the Mesopotamia oppression (3:5-11). This was followed by Ehud, the left-handed Judge, and the Moabite Oppression (3:12-30) and Shamgar with his oxgoad and the Philistine oppression (3:31). Next was Deborah, the woman Judge, accompanied by General Barak, who was raised to defeat the Canaanites led by King Jabin and General Sisera. They were assisted by Jael, the wife of Heber (Judges 4:1-5:31). Turning the pages, we come to Gideon, the reluctant judge, and his tiny army of 300 who defeated the Midianite oppression (6:1-8:35). Then we read of Abimilech, the son of Gideon, known as the bramble king (9:1-57). Next was Tola, who judged Israel for 23 years (10:1,2), then Jair, who judged Israel for 22 years. He had 30 sons who rode 30 donkeys and ruled 30 cities(10:3-5). After that was Jephthah and his foolish vow. He defeated the Ammonites and Philistines (10:6-12:7). Ibzan was next; he judged for 7 years and had 60 children (12:8-10). Following that are Elon, who judged Israel for 10 years (12:11-12), and Abdon, who judged Israel for 8 years and had 40 sons and 30 grandsons who rode on 70 donkeys (12:13-15). The final judge mentioned was the long-haired Samson, the one-man army against the Philistines (13:1-16:31). Our first glance at the period would indicate a time of constant warfare; however, Judges 3:11,30 says the land had “rest forty years” and the land had “rest eighty years.” 

Degenerate Israel (Judges 17:1-21:25). The last section sets forth the degenerate behavior of the Israelites. It begins with an individual and then a tribe. We notice the personal idolatry of Micah (17:1-13) and then the tribal idolatry of the Danites (18:1-31). Closing out this section is the personal immorality of the Levite and the dismembering of his concubine (19:1-30) and the tribal immorality of Benjamin (19:22-30). The book closes with the retaliation against Benjamin (20:1-21:25) where an entire tribe was almost lost in the battle.

A good summary statement of the book is found in the last chapter, the last verse: “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25; 17:6). –90 Pleasants Ave., Shinnston, WV 26431. 304-592-3544.

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