By Joseph Benson
The Name. The name is taken from the Judges whose deeds it records.
The Character of the Book. The book is fragmentary and unchronological in its arrangement. The events recorded are largely local and tribal instead of national, but are of great value as showing the condition and character of the people.
The Condition of the Nation. Israel was unorganized and somewhat unsettled. They lacked moral energy and the spirit of obedience to Jehovah and were constantly falling into idolatry and then suffering at the hands of heathen nations. This condition is summed up in the oft repeated words: "The children of Israel again did evil in the eyes of the Lord" and "the Lord sold them into the hand of the oppressor."
The Contents. Judges records the conflict of the nation with the Canaanite people and with itself; the condition of the country, people and times and the faithfulness, righteousness and mercy of God. It gives an account of "Seven apostasies, seven servitudes to the seven heathen nations and seven deliverances." It furnishes an explanation of these "ups and downs" and is not merely a record of historical events but an interpretation of those events.
The Work of the Judges. The Judges were raised up as occasion required and were tribesmen upon whom God laid the burden of apostate and oppressed Israel. They exercised judicial functions and led the armies of Israel against their enemies. They, therefore, asserted the nation's principles and upheld the cause of Jehovah. As deliverers they were all types of Christ.
The Key-word is Confusion and the key-verse is "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" 17:6, which would certainly bring about a state of confusion.
I. From the Conquest to the Judges, 1:1-3:6.
II. The Judges and their Work. 3:7-16 end.
III. The Idolatry of Micah, Chs. 17-18.
IV. The Crime of Gibea, Chs. 19-21.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Learn the names of the Judges in order with the time each served, or the period of rest after his work had been accomplished. (2) The enemy each judge had to combat and what work was accomplished by each judge. (3) What elements of strength and of weakness are to be found in the character of each judge. (4) From the story of Gideon and Sampson, point out New Testament truths. (5) From the story of Jephthah and Deborah gather lessons for practical life today. (6) Religious apostasy as a cause of national decay. (7) Political folly and social immorality as a sign of national decay. (8) The method of divine deliverance.