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The Big Book–Cover to Cover: Judges

We’ve moved through the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and into the Historical Books. If you missed our study of Joshua, listen and review Show Notes Here.

Today, we’re looking at Judges, which has often been referred to as the darkest days in Israel’s history.

Judges is a tectonic shift in the storyline, as we look at a generation who doesn’t know God.

Show Notes:

Encouragements for Studying the Old Testament:

Approach the Old Testament as the very Word of God.

It’s not a record of human speculation or simply a narrative. “Narrative” as a term can be sort of overused, but what I mean is that the Old Testament isn’t JUST a story. It is the Word of God

“This is not what God would say if He was here. It’s what God is saying, because He is here.” – Dr. Howard Hendricks (Prof)

The Old Testament is living history and applicable to every generation.

The goal and passion of a Bible student or Bible reader is to go back to the context of the original text and to find principles and applications that are relevant for today.

Context is critical. Our task is to understand the context in which the text was written, and how it applies to our context.

The OT is God’s personal self-revelation.

He’s telling us who He is. The narrative isn’t just a bedtime story, God is revealing who He is through these records.

When you read a passage of the Bible and you don’t exactly know what it means or how it applies, ask: what are one or two characteristics about God that I can learn from this text?

The OT is best understood from a clear Christology.

We need to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ as the Godhead Three: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Jesus eternally exists.

We have to look at the Bible through the lens of Jesus. That is, through a Christology.

Christology is the New Testament interpretation of the Old.

On the average, the OT is neither well read nor well known. It can seem daunting, clouded, and complicated.

The book of Judges might fall into the category of least known books of the bible.

There is a trend right now among very prominent Bible teacher-voices that are dismissing the Old Testament, or moving it to the side.

“If the plain sense makes common sense, it’s foolish sense to seek another sense.”

When you’re reading the bible, all it takes is good common sense. Don’t let the world teach you theology. There’s no teacher or pastor on the speaking circuit who is inerrant. There was one inerrant teacher, His name is Jesus.

The Old Testament law was fulfilled in Christ. It wasn’t done away with or erased, it was fulfilled.

You can trust God at His word. Even when it’s a little complicated.


No one’s sure who the author of Judges is. Could be Samuel, or a contemporary.

The timespan of the book is 350-410 years summed in 21 chapters.

America, this year, is 243 years old. Imagine covering US History in 21 chapters!

We skim through these things and they seem complicated and dusty – but let’s just say I gave you 50 pages to write the entire history of the United States from 1776-2019. What would you include? How would you begin? Just a bunch of bullets? Where would you start and stop?

So, when you read the small book of Judges, don’t miss the amazing amount of time covered in this small piece of literature.

The transition from the book of Joshua to the book of Judges is terrible. Joshua ends on a high note, the baton’s been passed, Israel’s going to do this right – and in Judges 1:1 we read the death-spiral.

The epitaph of Judges repeats:

In those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (and other references)

What a chilling epitaph to place as the last stroke of the book.

When I’ve taught the book of Judges previously, I’ve started with “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t but Humpty together again.”

Rule number 1: If you’re an egg, don’t sit on a wall.

What’s the little rhyme telling us?

All of the strength of the monarchy couldn’t restore what was broken.

Many of the puritan influences in these nursery rhymes were biblical stories, they taught the Bible. Humpty Dumpty is a great depiction of the book of judges.

When Adam fell, he fell far – and Judges continues the fall.

A chilling parallel to our country, and to Christians in our country and around the world.


The Book of Judges (ספר שופטים, Sefer Shoftim)

The title word comes from the Hebrew word Shoftim (םיִ֑טְפֹֽׁש from שָׁ פַ ט) verbal form found~30 times in the book.

It’s an accurate title but doesn’t correspond to our concept of justices in black robes or a judicial branch.

In the Old Testament, judges wielded military and administrative powers. They were to be deliverers.

This was a distinct period in Israel’s history when God used this system of judges who were to be His deliverers

It wouldn’t be wrong to write in the front of the book “Military Deliverers” and envision a person in military garb rather than a robe.

God selects a person and they are to deliver Israel in battle.

Think of the period of Judges with a sword.

Judges 2:16-18, Ruth 1:1

Resource: Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
Corrie was revered and would pray for the church’s persecution in America because they were too fat and lazy. We don’t like prayers like that. We want prosperity and health, but think of this in the bigger perspective – in these time periods, God is going to do things through faithful men and women in even the darkest days.

In the darkest chapters, we see individuals who were faithful.

2 Samuel 7:11, 2 Kings 23:22

Time, Setting, Historical background:

The book of Judges covers a span from the time of Joshua’s death to the beginning of the monarchy.(1)

A lot of the land had not been conquered, and the political and spiritual turmoil erode the Israelites’ progress in the land. Joshua’s battles were mostly outside conflicts, but Judges records mostly internal conflicts that reap outside defeats.

The Israelites abandon following God and fall into rank sin, unstable times, and tribal migrations that meld into a deadly combination.

Judges is, in a way, a heroic age – even in the midst of this corrupt situation. We read about these leaders who are divinely appointed and who are to save the day.

What most miss: this starts out tribal, “we’re going to deliver so Israel can succeed-” and when we get to the end, it’s personal vendetta. No longer fighting for the country, but for personal issues.

The changes from delivering God’s people to “just doing what I want to do when I want to do it.”

There are seven cycles of sin:

Judges 2:11, Judges 3:7, Judges 3:12, Judges 4:1, Judges 6:1, Judges 10:1, Judges, 11:1, Judges 13:1

Various descriptions:
1. sin, servitude, supplication, salvation, silence.
2. rebellion, retribution, repentance, restoration (through a judge), rest.

Judge | Oppression | Rest (chart of judges)
1. Othniel (Judges 3:1-11) 8 yrs. 40 yrs.
2. Ehud (Judges 3:12-4:1) 18 yrs. 80 yrs.
3. Shagmar (Judges 3:31; Judges 5:6) ? ?
4. Deborah (Judges 4:1-5:31) 20 yrs. 40 yrs.
5. Gideon (Judges 6:1-8:32) 7 yrs. 40 yrs.
6. Abimelech (Judges 8:33-9:57) ? 3 yrs.(some do not consider him a judge)
7. Tola (Judges 10:1-2) ? 23 yrs.
8. Jair (Judges 10:3-5) ? 22 yrs.
9. Jephthah (Judges 10:6-12:7) 18 yrs. 6 yrs.
10. Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10) ? 7 yrs.
11. Elon (Judges 12:11-12) ? 10 yrs.
12. Abdon (Judges 12:13-15) ? 8 yrs.
13. Samson (Judges 13:1-16:31) 40 yrs. 20 yrs.

A note about Gideon:

Judges 6:1-40

When Gideon lays out the fleece, it’s not to get new information from God. It’s to confirm what he already knew, what God had already told him. So the moral of the story is: you and I don’t put a fleece out.

That’s not what the text is teaching. The text is teaching that God was kind and merciful to a guy who was terrified.

When you study the Bible, be careful not to take things out of context and say, “I’m going to lay a fleece out before the Lord.”

It’s not appropriate application of these stories.

What Now?

  • How is God going to work with a disobedient people?
    It’s striking to me how many can be so judgmental about others’ sins, but flippant about their own.We’ll see that God will not ignore sin. We also see that Israel’s spiritual condition determines their political and material condition.

    Romans 8:1

  • How will God’s people endure under His discipline?
    When things press heavy on us, how do we respond? Discipline is not enjoyable for the moment.James 1:2-4

    When we face a trial faithfully, we can consider it joy because we’ll learn endurance.

    Discipline is not joyful – but if you endure it, it results in something.

  • How do we live faithfully in an unfaithful government?
    I think this will be the benefit of our lifetime in the book. As we’ll see next week, at the time that the judges were judging, a faithful man named Boaz rises up to be a kinsman redeemer.When people say, “government should-” it’s nothing new. The government can’t fix your problems. It can provide an environment where, hopefully, people can prosper.

    It’s the individual who makes the decision to be faithful when the government’s unfaithful.

  • What do we do with a generation that knows not God?
    Those of us with children and grandchildren, this is our biggest fear. We never think things are going to get worse, and then they do.

Partial obedience always leads to misery.
Where we’ve got 10 things we’re supposed to do and we do 9 of them right, it’s the one we’re choosing wrong on that tears us up.

Teach your children well.
How do you teach your children well? How do you teach them to love Christ if the world will eviscerate them for talking about God? For believing in a heterosexual monogamous marriage? How do you teach your children well? That’s the challenge.

Following Christ will involve risk.
I like the word risk as a sometimes-synonym for the word faith, because when we trust God, we’re taking a risk against trusting the norms of the world.
Within a world system, A+B=C, it’s predictable.
But when we trust God, as we’ll see in Judges and Ruth, it’s a risk. A risk for Gideon, for Deborah…a risk for any of us.

Very few of us can handle power and prosperity well.
Some of us are powerful, but we take our power too far – and taking our strengths one step too far becomes our greatest liability.

I want to end by taking our focus from national deliverance to personal deliverance by looking at the story of Samson: Judges 13-16

Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Are we serving God’s purposes or our own?

Are we daily spending time in God’s Word?

The mind of Christ has to come into our brain for us to change. There’s no self-help program no seminar, that’s going to change us apart from the Word of God. We’ve got to be in the Word.

The Scripture––all of the Scripture––should be the connective tissue of your life; sewn into your time, thinking, decision making, hopes, and goals. There is no seminar, no

Are you spending time in prayer?

Are you growing as a disciple and making disciples?

When we began Stonebridge we said we wanted to have biblical exposition, wanted to talk about prayer in more depth, and wanted to make disciples.

That’s what we’re going to bring home again and again and again.

References & Resources:

  • Herbert Wolf, “Judges,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992)
  • Keil & Delitzch Commentary on the Old Testamentvol. 2 (Mass., HendricksonPublishers, Inc. Reprinted from the English original published by T. & T. Clark, 1866-91. 1996).
  • Leon Wood, Distressing Days of the Judges (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975)
  • John H. Davis, Conquest and Crisis, Studies in Joshua, Judges, and Ruth(Winona Lake, BMH Books, 1969)
  • Gary Inrig, Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay(Chicago: Moody Press, 1979)
  • Handbook to prayer: https://kenboa.org/product/handbook-to-prayer-praying-scripture-back-to-god/
Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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