Judges (book of the Bible)

Judges . The seventh book of the Old Testament of the Bible , The Book of Judges contains the history of the period between the death of Joshua and the judiciary of Samuel, that is, until the establishment of the monarchy.


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  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Main theme
  • 3 The book
  • 4 Contents of the book
  • 5 Judges
  • 6 Outline of content
  • 7 Sources


It is called the Book of Judges because its protagonists held the position of judges, which was identical with the position of ruling and reigning, because throughout the Old Testament judging is synonymous with reigning. They were actually the leaders of the people of Israel in the indicated period. God used to call them directly in times of extreme need, to deliver his people from their oppressors. Once the enemies were oppressed, they continued to carry out, as a general rule, the functions of rulers, whether in their tribe or in the entire town. Therefore, before formulating judgment or opinion on the conduct of the Judges of IsraelWe must keep in mind that these were put by God, as seen in the speech of Saint Paul in the Antioch synagogue of Pisidia (Acts 13:20), in order to refrain from condemning what God himself ordered.

Main topic

Israel’s history during the 14 judges. It describes a series of falls into idolatry by the people of God, followed by invasions of the Promised Land and the oppression caused by their enemies. The narrative centers around the personalities of the judges who were raised to be liberators of Israel . The dark side of the panorama is especially highlighted in the register. A study of the dates seems to show that the people maintained an outward loyalty to the Lord for a longer period of time than a casual reading of the book might indicate.

The book

With the name of judges (Hebrew, shofetim), a series of characters are designated in the OT who strove to lead the people and keep them safe from the hostility and domination of their neighbors. These characters lived during the period between the death of Joshua and the years immediately prior to the beginning of the monarchy of Israel (XIII-XI BC). More than just judges in the strict sense of administrators of justice, they were heroes who occasionally guided the Israelite tribes in their struggle to remain in the conquered territories (2.16).

In fact, the verbal root from which the Hebrew noun translated by judge comes also contains the meanings of guidance, direction and government. And it is very likely that the idea of ​​governing is the original one, and that the idea of ​​judging has derived from it, since the judiciary is an inherent responsibility of the ruler or the apparatus of government.

The book of Judges (= Jue) recounts some of the actions of war in which those heroes led one or more of the tribes of Israel. In difficult situations, when external enemies jeopardized the survival of the people in Canaan, “Jehovah raised up a deliverer from the children of Israel and delivered them” (3.9). Although the military character of these judges is evident, the book highlights that all of them acted as instruments of the Lord, raised up and moved by his Spirit to carry out a special mission, at a precise moment and for a limited time. In the exploits they performed, the power of God was always revealed, who, despite the frequent reprehensible attitudes of the Israelites, never ceased to care for them with parental solicitude and to support them so that they did not succumb to victims of their vicissitudes.

In the description of these characters there is no common pattern of identification. Thus, Débora is distinguished as a prophetess who, at the foot of a palm tree, governs the people and attends to those who request their mediation in cases of litigation (4.4–5); Gideon is a peasant of humble social extraction (6.11); Jephthah, the son of a prostitute, apparently led a gang of criminals (11.1.3); and Samson, the young man celebrated for his exceptional physical strength (16.3), does not know how to resist the charms of a Philistine woman (16.17).

Content of the book

The story of the judges is reduced in the book to a series of episodic and disjointed narratives. And the treatment received by the protagonists is very unequal, because while a few are devoted to several chapters (Débora, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Micaía), others only mention the name, accompanied, if anything, by a very brief personal news (Otoniel, Aod, Samgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzán, Elón and Abdón).

On the other hand, it has been observed that the episodes recorded in Judges conform to a certain editorial model, by virtue of which it is given to us to perceive a kind of global vision of the reference period. Said model, generally defined as a “four-stroke scheme”, is as follows:

  • First half: Loyalty of the people. Under the leadership of a judge who governs or directs, the people remain faithful to the Lord and live a period of peace and prosperity (3.11, 30; 5.31; 8.28).
  • Second time: Infidelity of the people. At the death of the judge a stage ensues in which the Israelites return “to do evil in the eyes of Johovah” (4.1; 13.1), turn away from the Lord and go “after other gods, the gods of the peoples who were in their surroundings ”(2.12–13; 3.7; 10.6).
  • Third time: Anger of God. Israel’s unfaithfulness provokes the wrath of the Lord, who delivers them into the hands of their enemies (2.14,20–21; 3.8; 4.2; 10.7).
  • Fourth time: Repentance of Israel. Subjected to the oppression of their neighbors, the Israelites regret having been unfaithful to the Lord. Repenting, they beg for his help (3.9, 15; 4.3; 6.6), Israel regains freedom and lives in peace for forty years (3.11; 5.31; 8.28; by exception, at 3.30 it reads eighty years, which is equivalent to twice forty years) . At the end of that period in which the country “rests”, the cycle begins again.


The Judges who ruled Israel are:

  • Otoniel : (Thu 3: 7-11)
  • Aod : (Thu 3:15)
  • Samgar : (Thu 3:31)
  • Deborah (And Barak): (Thu 4-5)
  • Gideon : (Thu 6-8)
  • Abimelech : (Thu 9: 1)
  • Tola: (Thu 10: 1)
  • Jair : (Thu 10: 3)
  • Jephthah : (Thu 10: 6-12: 7)
  • Ibzan : (Thu 12: 8)
  • Elon: (Thu 12:11)
  • Abdon: (Thu 12:13)
  • Samson: (Thu 13-16)
  • Samuel: (1Sam 7:15)

These appendices are intended to demonstrate the disorganization in which the Israelites lived when they lacked a king.

Content outline

  1. General introduction to the period of the judges (1.1–3.6)
  2. The Israelites settle in Cannaan (1.1–2.5)
  3. Historical synthesis of the period of the judges (2.6–3.6)
  4. The judges of Israel (3.7–16.31)
  5. From Otoniel to Samagar (3.7–31)
  6. Deborah the prophetess (4.1–5.31)
  7. Gideon and Abimelech (6.1–9.57)
  8. Tola and Jair (10.1–5)

and. Jephthah (10.6–12.7)

  1. From Ibzan to Abson (12.8–15)
  2. Samson (13.1–16.31)
  3. Appendices (17–21)
  • The priest Micaía and the danitas (17.1–18.31)
  • The Levite and his concubine. The want against the Benjaminites (19.1–21.25)


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