Bible Reading

Bible Study: Judges – Summary of the Book

Summary of the Book of Judges

Like Joshua, Judges is a historical book. It follows Joshua chronologically beginning with the death of Joshua at 1370 B.C. It covers a period of about 300 years until the death of Samson in 1070 B.C. Judges bridges the period of time when the people had settled into their inheritance but before they were given a king.

The main subjects in the book are the wickedness of the people and the 12 judges. Thus the title Judges.

The recipients of this book are not specifically named. This seems to be the case for all of the historical books in the Bible. The book was written as a reminder to future generations of how God has worked in the past.


According to Jewish tradition, Samuel was the author, but there is no strong proof for this. Clues as to when it must have been written support that Samuel could have been the author. It seems to have been written shortly after the events of the book. There is no reason to think it was not Samuel other than the lack of proof that he was the author.

Date Written

The time period covered in the narrative is about 300 years from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson, 1370 to 1070 B.C. However it was written at a time after Israel had a king. Several times in the book the statement is made such as, “in those days there was no king in Israel.” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21-25). This is an indication that the author knew there would be a king in Israel. It is as if there was a king at the time of the book’s writing. But it was also written early in this period as shown in Judges 1:21. In this verse the Jebusites still lived in Jerusalem, even though the Bible says that David drove them out in 1003. Therefore the book had to be written after kings were established in the land, but before David drove out the Jebusites from Jerusalem. Or, sometime between 1047 and 1003 B.C.

Purpose of Judges

The purpose of the book is to continue to chronicle the events that helped develop the nation of Israel from the death of Joshua until the time of Samuel.

The book of Judges shows the moral depravity of man when he chooses to do “that which is right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6; 21:25) While the book of Joshua was testimony to the fact of the power of God on behalf of the children of Israel, Judges is a sad commentary of a people who consistently ignored their God. God was still with them, but they continually fell back into sin after God delivered them from their enemies.

These judges were not judicial in the traditional sense of the law, rather they were leaders in the nation. They worked to deliver Israel from enemies, from both outside and inside the nation, before they had a king to rule them. There was a cycle which would bring these judges on the scene. It started with sin in the nation which required judgment. This is when the judge would appear. There was repentance by the people and deliverance from the problems. However, the cycle would start again when the people returned to sin.

Key Verses

Judges 2:14-19 “And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.”

Judges 10:15 “And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. ”

Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

Key Words

  • Evil – Used 14 times.
  • Judge, judged, judgment – Used 22 times.

List of Judges

Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tolah, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon and Samson.

Outline of Judges

  1. Failure and Coming Judgment (Judges 1-2)
  2. 12 Judges (Judges 3-16)
  3. Appendix Showing the Corruption of the Period (Judges 17-21)

Summary of Judges

The book starts by showing the disobedience of certain tribes of Israel by compromise and wicked alliances. God punished the people with judgment and established judges to rule them (chapters 1, 2). Chapter 3 shows the first of the judges: Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar. These men delivered Israel from their enemies.

Deborah and Barak conquered the king of Canaan (chapters 4, 5). The timid Gideon took 300 men to battle against the mighty nation of the Midianites (chapters 6-8). Little is known about Tolah and Jair who judged in chapter 10.

Jephthah the Gileadite brought the nation victory over the Ammonites (chapter 11). Another set of judges with little information are Ibzan, Elon and Abdon (chapter 12). Samson, probably the most well-know of the judges, ruled Israel as God’s man but failed miserably as an individual (chapters 13-16).

The final section of the book, an appendix, covers chapters 17-21. They do not necessarily fit chronologically at the end of the book. It is further information on the idolatry and wickedness that became a part of Israel.

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