Chronologically, ‘The Book of Judges’ follows the historical narrative of ‘The Book of Joshua’.
Paul summarises Israel’s early history as part of his defence, where he states the period of the Judges was about 450 years:- Acts 13:17-22 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
In seeking to determine which Judges leadership should be included in this period of 450 years, it is instructive to consider the Davidic line, which is defined in Ruth:- Ruth 4:18-22 Now these are the generations of Pharez: PharEzekiel begat Hezron, And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. PharEzekiel was a son Judah (1 Chronicles 2:3-4), who according to Genesis 46:12 was counted amongst the 66 descendants that entered Egypt with Jacob. Numbers 2:3 states that Narshon the son of Amminadab was captain of the children of Judah in the wilderness journey, and Matthew 1:5, Boaz was the son of RAhab who escaped when Jericho fell.
That leaves five generations from the wilderness to King David, and four generations from entry into Canaan until David. 2 Samuel 5:4 states that David was aged 30 when he was made king, i.e. he was born approximately 10 years after Saul began to reign (Saul’s reign was 40 years, Acts 13:21). Hence in the Davidic line there are but four generations covering the period from the wilderness until the
start of Israel’s monarchy. The record makes clear that both Boaz and Jesse were of some age before Obed and David respectively, were born, however it would still appear from these generational details, that the approximate 450 years period of Judges, defined by Paul, is likely to commence with Moses and end with Samuel.
Details of the narrative surrounding the lives of Moses and Joshua have been discussed in the previous sections and will thus not be reiterated in this section, which will draw mainly on The Book of Judges, with supporting evidence from Ruth and 1 Samuel.
Although in many cases the length of the periods of leadership are given for individual judges, it cannot be textually proven; whether the book of Judges is fully chronological, nor whether individual Judges in some cases provided only local or national leadership, or whether there was any overlap of leadership periods between them or gaps where no Judge was extant.
For ease of reference the following individual leadership details are presented in the order in which they appear in The Book of Judges, as follows:-
- Moses – See Section 4
- Joshua – See Section 5
- Deborah & Barak
Samuel – Some additional details on interactions with Saul and David appear in Section 7