Lesson 48  Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures, The Period of the Judges




The major judges in bold


1.     Othniel tribe of Judah 3:7-11

2.     Ehud, tribe of Benjamin, 3:12-30

3.     Shamgar, affiliation unknown, 3:31

4.     Deborah/Barak, Deborah from Benjamin or Ephraim?, Barak from Naphtali, 4:1-5:31

5.     Gideon, tribe of Manasseh, 6:1-9:57

6.     Tola, tribe of Issachar, 10:1-2

7.     Jair, from Gilead, 10:3-5

8.     Jephtheh, tribe of Manasseh?, 10:6-12:7

9.     Ibzan, tribe of Judah?, 12:8-10

10.    Elon, tribe of Zebulun, 12:11-12

11.    Abdon, tribe of Ephraim?, 12:13-15

12.    Samson, tribe of Dan, 13:1-16:31


After the death of Joshua there was a tendency on the part of the Israelites to lapse into idolatry, worshipping the gods and engaging in the cult practices of their idolatrous neighbors. 


We learn from the book of Judges that God delivered His people into the hands of their enemies during periods of apostasy until they turned from their sin and prayed for deliverance.


When this took place, God raised up spiritually endowed leaders to deliver them from their oppressors.


These leaders were known as judges.


Judges 2:18,19,  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. 19And 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.


The deliverers were called sophetim, “Judges.”


The term had a broader connotation than “judge” does today in the English-speaking world.


A shophet, or “judge,” was a military leader, civil administrator, and decider of cases at law, very likely acting as an appellate court.


The Book of Judges records mostly the military exploits of five of the judges; because of this they are often called “major judges.”


The other judges, who receive only minimal notice, are often called “minor judges.”


The major judges are Ehud, Deborah (the only woman among the judges), Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson.


The minor judges are Othniel, Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. 


Abimelech, the son of Gideon, attempted to establish the dynastic principle in Israel on the strength of his father’s accomplishments but was unsuccessful.


The era of the Judges was one of charismatic leadership in which the Spirit of God would come upon men and women and especially equip them for service.


Judges 3:9-11,  And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim. 11And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.


Judges 6:34,  But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him


Judges 6:34,  Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.


Had it not been for the Spirit of the Lord coming upon men there would have been no deliverance for the children of Israel.


The leaders or Judges, differed greatly in function from the later kings. 


Kings pass their right of rule on to their sons in dynastic succession. 


Judges, however, were individually raised up of God in times of crisis and endowed with spiritual gifts to meet those crises. 


Usually they acted as leaders of their people until death but no principle of succession was recognized. 


It is thought that many of the judges ruled over limited regions, and more than one may have been in authority at the same time in different parts of the land. 


The period of the Judges is one of tribal, rather than national, emphasis.


Some of the judges had a close relationship with God but in others this was not apparent.


But the book of Judges displays a cycle that was taking place in the land.  


Rebellion, oppression, repentance, deliverance, and peace.


The book of Judges describes this cycle by revealing periods of military, political, and economic oppression.


Judges 3:5-11, The Mesopotamian Oppression – The king from Mesopotamia , Cushan-rishathaim oppressed Israel shortly after the death of Joshua.  He sent his armies through Syria into Canaan and is the first recorded enemy from a distance to invade Canaan after the Israelite settlement. 

Judges 3:5-11, The Mesopotamian Oppression

Judges 3:12-30, The Moabite Oppression – Eglon of Moab, joined forces with the Ammonites and Bedouin Amalekites to attack the Israelite tribes. 


He was able to subdue the tribes east of the Jordan, after which he crossed into Benjamin. 


Jericho was occupied by Eglon.


Judges 3:12-13,  And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. 13And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees. 


Ehud was the judge that God raised up to deliver Israel from the fat king, Eglon,.


Judges 3:5-11, The Mesopotamian Oppression

Judges 3:12-30, The Moabite Oppression

Judges 3:31, The Early Philistine Oppression – Brief mention is made of a Philistine raid upon the hill country of Judaea.  Shamgar, the son of Anath, with on other weapons but an oxgoad, repelled the Philistines.  Although not exactly located it was probably somewhere on the frontier between Judah and the Philistine country.  Six hundred of the Philistine were slain.


Judges 3:31,  And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.

Judges 3:5-11, The Mesopotamian Oppression

Judges 3:12-30, The Moabite Oppression

Judges 3:31, The Early Philistine Oppression

Judges 4 and 5, The Canaanite Oppression – The Israelite conquest of Canaan produced resentment among the remaining natives of the land. 


When opportunity came, they struck back. 


From strategic points in the Jezreel Valley, the Canaanites were able to expand there holding until they threatened the whole of the nation.


Their leader was Jabin who ruled the powerful city-state of Hazor. 


Sisera was Jabin’s general and lived in Harosheth, at the place where the Kishon passes through a narrow gorge to enter the Plain of Accho. 


It is about 16 miles northwest of Meggido.


Deborah, the only woman judge, called upon Barak of Naphtali to aid in gathering an army from the northern tribes of Issachar, Zebulon, and Naphtali. 


The fighters gathered at Mount Tabor in the northeastern part of the Plain of Jezreel and advanced in force against the Canaanites who were encamped on the plain below. 


Sisera and his army were thrown into a rout when the Lord discomforted Sisera by bringing a storm the caused the River Kishon to overflow its banks. and Sisera’s chariots became a liability instead of an asset.


Sisera fled and instead of finding safety he found a tent pin driven though his head by Jael.