The Judges of Israel

Lead Israel for 40 years
Tribal Origin – Levi
For an overview of Moses see The Exodus, Israel’s Escape from Egyptian Slavery, Events of the Wilderness Journey Pt1, Events of the Wilderness Journey Pt2, The Tabernacle Construction, The Tabernacle and its furniture, and

Tribal Origin – Ephraim
For an overview of Joshua see Joshua Outline Biography and Joshua and the Conquest of Canaan

Tribal Origin – Judah
Main enemies – Cushan-rishathaim (Mesopotamia)
After 8 years of oppression from Cushan-rishathaim, he was defeated by Othniel, the nephew Of Caleb. Israel then had 40 years of peace.
Reference – Judges 3:7-11

Tribal Origin – Benjamin
Main enemies – Moab
Moab under their king Eglon, together with support from Ammon and Amalek took ‘the city of palm trees’ (assumed to be Jericho as described in Deuteronomy 34:3, 2 Chronicles 28:15), i.e. gained a frontier on the West of Jordan.
Moab’s dominance lasted 18 years until Eglon was assassinated by Ehud.
This resulted in an 80-year respite.
Reference – Judges 3:12-30

Main enemies – Philistines
Delivered Israel from Philistine incursions.
Reference – Judges 3:31

Deborah & Barak
Tribal Origin – Barak – Naphtali, Deborah – Probably Ephraim?
Main enemies – Sisera captain of Jabin king of Hazor’s army.
Jabin a Canaanite ruled from Hazor and oppressed Israel for 20 years. His army which included 900 chariots was led by Sisera.
Deborah encouraged Barak to lead an army to attack from Mt Tabor in the area of Megiddo. He led forces from Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun and Issachar, (Other tribes including Reuben, Manasseh, Daniel and Asher did not answer the call to arms).
Flooding of the river Kishon assisted Barak in a major defeat of Jabin’s army and Sisera who escaped on foot was assassinated in his sleep by Jael a Kenite in whose tent he had sought rest.
Barak’s victory is celebrated in song by Deborah in Judges 5 and in Psalms 83:9. This resulted in a 40-year respite.
Reference – Judges 4-5

Tribal Origin – Manasseh
Main enemies – Midianites & Amalekites
Midian oppressed Israel for 7 years, to such an extent that they fled to live in caves and strongholds. Gideon was found threshing wheat in secret to hide it from the Midianites.
Gideon led a troop of 300 hundred handpicked men in a night raid on the Midianite and Amalekite encampment with trumpets and lights held in pitchers. The pitchers were broken and trumpets blown bringing panic to the camp, who fled pursued by men from Naphtali, Asher and Manasseh. 120,000 were killed including Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna.
This victory was celebrated in Israel’s history as demonstrated in Psalms 83:9-11 and Isaiah 10:26.
This resulted in a 40-year respite.
Reference – Judges 6-8

Tribal Origin – Manasseh
Main enemies – Internal Tribal Wars
Abimelech was a son of Gideon. He established himself as a king in Shechem, and slew the other sons of Gideon with the exception of Jotham, who escaped.
Internal strife within the local area ensued which resulted in Abimelech’s death from a millstone thrown from a besieged tower in Thebez.
Reference – Judges 9

Lead Israel for 23 years
Tribal Origin – Issachar
Reference – Judges 10:1-2

Lead Israel for 22 years
Reference – Judges 10:3-5

Lead Israel for 6 years
Main enemies – Ammonites
Jephthah was an illegitimate son of Gilead, he was banished by his legitimate brothers, who then pleaded for his return to help because of Ammonite oppression.
Jephthah returned and prosecuted a successful campaign against Ammon.
Reference – Judges 11-12:7

Lead Israel for 7 years
Tribal Origin – Judah
Reference – Judges 12:8-10

Lead Israel for 10 years
Tribal Origin – Zebulon
Reference – Judges 12:11-12

Lead Israel for 8 years
Tribal Origin – Ephraim
Reference – Judges 12:13-15

Lead Israel for 20 years
Tribal Origin – Dan
Main enemies – Philistines
Samson with extraordinary personal strength wrought havoc in various exploits against the Philistines.
Eventually, as a Philistine prisoner he had his eyes removed, and whilst they made sport over him as their conquest, he pulled down the idolatrous temple in which the festivity was taking place, resulting in his own death, but also the loss of the lives of the Philistine hierarchy.
Reference – Judges 13-16

Lead Israel for 40 years
Tribal Origin – Levi
Eli as High Priest lacked control over his sons who were involved in adultery and theft from the people’s offerings.
In wars with the Philistines, Elis’s two sons Hophni & Phinehas took the ark from the house of God into battle. Eli’s sons were both killed, and the ark was taken by the Philistines who only returned it to Beth-shemesh in Israel after they had been plagued.
Reference – 1 Samuel 1-6

Main enemies – Philistines
Samuel started his prophetic mission as a national guide and judge in the days of Eli.
He was donated by his parents to assist at the house of God in Shiloh.
He received a vision which he had to relate to Eli, to instruct him that Eli’s house would be removed from acting as priests.
Samuel led Israel to victory against the Philistines at Mizpeh.
As Samuel aged, Israel sought a change in their form of leadership, demanding the appointment of a king.
Samuel anointed Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, who was later rejected by God and replaced by David of Judah, who Samuel also anointed.
During the reign of Saul, Samuel played the role of a Prophet, bringing reprimands to Saul. He also worked with David with respect to the design of the future temple system of worship introduced in Solomon’s reign with courses for priests and singers (1 Chronicles 9:22).
Reference – 1 Samuel 1-3, 1 Samuel 7-12

Additional to the specific events surrounding specified judges above, Judges 17-21, presents events which led to tribal war with almost the annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin.

The book of Ruth records events surrounding the family of Elimelech, which occurred during the period of ‘the Judges’.
Due to famine, Elimelech, his wife Naomi and his two sons migrated to Moab where the sons took local Moabite women as wives.
After Elimelech and his two sons died, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem Judah and Ruth her Moabite daughter-in-law, decided to return with her.
The account of their poverty, application of gleaning rights, and also the laws of inheritance as described under the Law of Moses, are practically illustrated.
This results in, Ruth’s marriage to Boaz, will lead to the birth of a son, Obed.
The genealogy of King David comes through this line and is documented in Ruth 4:17-22, and that of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:5.

Various references are made in scripture to the exploits of the Judges, for example:-

Hebrews 11:32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

Psalms 83:9-12 Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth. Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna: Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.

Isaiah 10:26 And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: 2 Samuel 11:21 Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.

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