1. What moral and military challenges did Israel face in
the promised land?
2. Do you think Israel needs a king? Explain?
3. What do you think about the women in Judges? (such
as Deborah, Jael, Delilah—also Samson’s mother,
women who killed Abimelech, and the dismembered
concubine of the Levite)
4. What kind of people would you expect the Judges to
5. What kinds of people are the Judges?
6. How unified is this book?
Folktales about heroes from the early years of Israel in Canaan
They are assembled and put together within a framework
Six major and six minor judges
This is Israel’s premonarchic period
Both freedom and insecurity
Tribes are fiercely independent
Frequent skirmishes to defend territory involved only one or a few
tribes at once.
No Central sanctuary or strong priesthood
No uniform religion
No enforcement or teaching of Torah
Supplemented Yahweh with rival gods, especially Baal
The Book of Judges vs.
the Book of Joshua
idealized view of Israel’s entry into Canaan. No defeat.
Territory all theirs.
Know and serve Yahweh (Josh 24 at Shechem, people swear
to follow all the law)
Struggling to maintain land. Make few gains
Shows how little of the land the tribes really possessed
Shows how little they seemed to know of Yahweh.
Redaction of Judges (one theory)
Redactor compiled original collection (circa 800 BCE)
theme was the consequences of faithfulness or unfaithfulness to Yahweh
The stories have little in common, other than they follow a similar cycle.
Deuteronomic redactor (circa 620 BCE, around the time of
added the moralizing intro of chapters 2:6-3:6, and perhaps added
chapters 9 & 16
Brought the number of judges to 12
Priestly redactors (circa 400BCE, after Hezekiah’s reforms)
added 17-21 (no judges, but demonstrates problems of having no king)
Added historical prologue1-2:5
When faithful to Yahweh, the people will prosper
When not faithful to Yahweh,Yahweh will fight against
Judges 2: 11-23 clearly shows this cycle.
We’ve seen this cycle before, however Judges offers a
It revolves around charismatic leaders
It happens in relation to not having a king
It happens within the promised land
RESCUE. When a judge loyal to Yahweh presides and the
people worship Israel’s God exclusively, the whole community
prospers, winning battles against invading troops and reaping
the benefits of their heritage.
APOSTASY. After the Yahwist judge dies, however, the
people soon “prostitute themselves to Baal.”
HARDSHIP. This arouses Yahweh’s anger and causing him to
deliver them over to enemy oppression.
CRYING OUT TO THE LORD. In their anguish, the
people then cry out to Yahweh, who “feels pity” and raises up
a new judge to overthrow their oppressors. After a
generation of revival, the people again backslide, and the
whole cycle begins anew.
The other nations still around?
Three reasons are given for why remnants of the nations
formerly occupying Canaan survived
1. as a punishment (2:20-21)
2. as a test of obedience (2:22-23, 3:1,4)
3. to train Israel in the art of war (3:2)
An Outline of Judges
Resuming conquest of Canaan with failures highlighted (Ch 1)
Introduction to and need for the judges (2-3:6)
1. Othniel (3:7-11)
2. Ehud (3:12-30)
3. Shamgar (3:31)
4. Deborah (4-5)
5. Gideon, also called Jerubbaal (Chs 6-8)
Abimelech (Gideon’s son tries to become king) (9)
6. Tola (10:1-2)
7. Jair (10:3-5)
8. Jephthah (10:6-12:7)
9. Ibzan (12:8-10)
10. Elon (12:11-12)
11. Abdon (12:13-15)
12. Samson (Chs 13-16)
The Levite’s story (Chs 17-21)
What are the Judges?
Spirit filled (“the spirit of the lord came upon him”)
Didn’t judge matters among the people (except Deborah)
Not necessarily devout or upright
The Major Judges
1. Othniel Caleb’s younger brother
2. Ehud a left-handed Benjamite who murders the obese King
Eglon of Moab
3. Deborah (and Barak) political murder (like Ehud’s) is an
execution of divine judgment. (Jael kills Sisera with a
hammer and tent peg)
4. Gideon He comes from a family of Baal worshippers but
God is suddenly with him. (feels insignificant and
inadequate) (keeps asking for signs from God) (reduces
army from 22,000 to 300) (refuses invitation to be king, but
his bad son, Abimilech accepts)
5. Jephtha and his daughter (Wins great victory but sacrifices
Unlike the other heroes/judges.
Angels twice foretell his birth to a
Dedicated as a Nazarite (but doesn’t
follow Nazarite ideal.
He leads no army.
A single hero (provoked through
relations with Philistine women.)
Sexual affairs force him to confront
Some say he was a mythological
character transformed by Hebrew
writers into an Israelite champion.
His peers didn’t seem to regard him
as a judge or hero or God-chosen)
He’s a little like Jael, an unexpected
The Death of Samson
And Samson called unto the Lord, and
said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray
thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only
this once, O God, that I may be at once
avenged of the Philistines for my two
eyes. And Samson took hold of the two
middle pillars upon which the house
stood, and on which it was borne up, of
the one with his right hand, and of the
other with his left. And Samson said, Let
me die with the Philistines. And he
bowed himself with all his might; and the
house fell upon the lords, and upon all
the people that were therein. So the
dead which he slew at his death were
more than they which he slew in his life.
Then his brethren and all the house of
his father came down, and took him, and
brought him up, and buried him between
Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying-place
of Manoah his father. And he judged
Israel twenty years.—Judges 16: 21-31
Samson & Achilles
At Troy, Achilles fell in love with Polyxena
She’s the youngest daughter of Priam and Hecuba, King and Queen of Troy
and the brother of Hector who Achilles kills.
She vows to avenge her brother's death
There are some similarities between the fall of Achilles and the fall of Samson.
had a secret to their strength and one weakness
Loved too many women and women from among their enemies
Both told their secrets to lovers who needled them
Betrayed by women they foolishly trusted
Successfully trapped by the enemy
Regina Spektor “Samson”
You are my sweetest downfall Samson came to my bed
I loved you first, I loved you first Told me that my hair was red
Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth Told me I was beautiful and came into my bed
I have to go, I have to go I cut his hair myself one night
Your hair was long when we first met A pair of dull scissors and the yellow light
He told me that I'd done alright
Samson went back to bed and kissed me till the morning light the morning
Not much hair left on his head light
He ate a slice of wonder bread and went right and he kissed me till the morning light
back to bed
And history books forgot about us and the bible Samson went back to bed
didn’t mention us Not much hair left on his head
The bible didn’t mention us, not even once Ate a slice of wonder bread
and went right back to bed
You are my sweetest downfall We couldn't break the columns down
I loved you first , I loved you first No, we couldn't destroy a single one
Beneath the stars came falling on our heads and the history books forgot about us
But they're just old light and the bible didnt mention us
They're just old light not even once
Your hair was long when we first met
You are my sweetest downfall
I loved you first