The Book of Judges Map
Follow along in the Books of the Old Testament with place names and locations of the tribes of Judah and Israel and their judges.
The Cycle of History seen in the Book of Judges
Saving Truth DVD series
"If You Take Away Religion" Video
Why religion is important to democracy.
Grace in Utter Darkness
By Cynthia Schlemlein
For those who would like to study the Book of Judges using Cynthia Schlemlein's study guide, please click the button to download her text.
Biblical Theology in Judges Series
Want to learn more about the Biblical themes in the Book of Judges and how they relate to our understanding of God, the world, and humanity? Each week, Gary Radmacher will take a new theological theme and trace it through the Book of Judges. Click HERE to get Gary's notes on Session #10, in which he outlines the differences between monotheism and idolatry as found in the Book of Judges.
Thoughts on Judges
- Genesis 15:13 – God told Abraham that Israel would be in Egypt 400 years
- Exodus 12:40-41 states that Israel left Egypt exactly 430 years after arriving
- Assuming the Exodus took place in 1446 BC, that places Jacob in Egypt in 1876 BC
- What were the religious practices of Israel while in Egypt? What influences did they come under for 430 years?
- There were 2000 gods in the Egyptian pantheon that they were exposed to
- Apis – was the Divine Bull and was worshipped as an incarnation of the god Ptah. It was one of the earliest gods of ancient Egypt. The Apis Cult was one of the most important and long-lived in the history of Egyptian culture. Could this have been the source of the Golden Calf idol Aaron made at Sinai while Moses was on the mountain?
- The God that appeared to the Patriarchs was El Shaddai (the all sufficient one). He first introduced himself as YAHWEH to Moses at the burning bush.
- It appears that YAHWEH used the initial time after the Exodus to forge Israel into the covenant nation he wanted them to be. He created the Mosaic covenant on Sinai and personally led them across the desert with a cloud and pillar of fire. He established their mode of worship, created the Tabernacle, and provided detailed instructions to live by including sanitation, moral, dietary restrictions, and epidemiology. In short, he created a nation with all of the civil structure and religious structure needed to live an abundant life and be a blessing to all nations as promised to Abraham. He fed them, provided water from a rock, protected them, disciplined them, led them into battle and defeated their enemies. Their clothes and sandals did not wear out and their feet didn’t swell from all of the walking they did. He honed them into a formidable force to be contended with.
- Moses spent the book of Deuteronomy revisiting their history, reminding them of their covenant with him, and giving them specific instructions of what to do and what NOT to do during the conquest in front of them. They were to conquer the territory, destroy the heathen worship and heathen practices of the land, then inhabit the country and live under the blessing of YAHWEH as his covenant people.
- Part of his plan was to disperse the Levites throughout the 12 tribes as priests and teachers of the Law. The Levites were to teach and enforce the Torah, lead in worship, perform sacrifices, protect the Tabernacle, provide leadership and judge everyday affairs. They were to be provided for by tithes and offerings and the sacrificial system including feasts. They were given cities, land, and houses so they didn’t have to work but dedicate themselves to being servants of YAHWEH.
- The people were to teach their children and grandchildren about YAHWEH so they would never forget what HE had done for them. Tell them the story while eating, working, and walking. Write them on your doorposts. Phylacteries were developed in response to this.
- There are two (2) introductions to Judges: 1) Judges 1:1-2:5 2) Judges 2:6-3:6
- The first introduction is from Israel’s point of view and the second is from YAHWEH’s point of view. One of excuses, one of spiritual apostasy.
- In Judges 1, right out of the chute, they mistrusted YAHWEH and Judah joined with Simeon to conquer their allotted portion. They didn’t need to enlist Simeon – God had told them He would go before them and drive out their enemies. Even though they did it “their way” God honored their attack and “was with them”.
- However, because lack of will and a firm belief in YAHWEH, they were unable to drive out the people from the plains “because they had iron chariots”. God had made them successful over superior forces before, and said he would do it again if they just trusted him, so why did they take the easy way out? In fact, we read that tribe after tribe failed to drive the Canaanites out but instead either subjected them to slave labor, or “lived among them”.
- What we see is a consistent practice of compromise and coexistence instead of conquest. Failure to dispossess the Canaanites demonstrated an increasing lack of faith and commitment to YAHWEH. Spiritual decline led to moral decline. Disobedience of YAHWEH’s instruction led to apostasy. The Israelites entered into treaties and covenants with the Canaanites meanwhile breaking their covenant with YAHWEH. (Do we do the same thing today? Do we attempt to compromise and blend in with the world rather than be different and live by different standards? II Cor 6:17)
- Israel was a nomadic group of shepherds. They left the farming of leeks and onions in Egypt and wandered the Negev for 40 years then forgot farming. When they entered Canaan they saw the incredible fertility of the land with bountiful crops and prolific livestock. It truly was a land of milk and honey. Perhaps the gods of Canaan were more powerful than YAHWEH? Should they really displace them, or maybe combine worship of those gods WITH worship of YAHWEH? Surely just a little syncretism wouldn’t hurt would it? Let’s cover all of our bases! We’ll claim YAHWEH as our God but worship Baal and Ashtoreth too.
- Baal was the supreme god and the god of fertility. The god of storms and thunder. Ritual sexual rites in his temple encouraged him to return from the underworld and consort with Asherah to bless the land with rain and fertility. Asherah was his consort and a goddess of fertility. Poles or pillars thought to be phallic symbols were associated with her worship. Baal symbology was a bull which represented strength (Similar to the golden calf? Jeroboam erected 2 golden calves in Samaria to keep Israel from returning to Rehoboam in Jerusalem. Worship of Baal and Ashtoreth/Asherah continued to plague the Israelites throughout their history even up to and including the exile. Jeremiah records the women of Judah making cakes with Asherah/Astarte’s image on them and offering libations to her to insure pregnancy.)
- Just like the frog in the kettle, Israel gradually warmed up to the idea of worshipping Baal and Ashtoreth by marrying and being given in marriage to the Canaanites. They compromised strict adherence to YAHWEH standards and prostituted themselves with other gods. Why did they compromise instead of evangelize? Why did they compromise themselves instead of teach the one true God to the Canaanites?
- If we really believe all things are relative, including truth, then no one religion has any right or authority to claim absolute validity or truth. When there is more than one god, no one god can lay absolute claim on our lives and thoughts. So, when an individual is able to determine for themselves what is good and what is evil, that person is freed to act as they please in terms of their own definitions. “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
- It started with a little unbelief (just like in the garden), trying to do it their own way, not following the rules. Then they became lax about remembering scripture and began trying other ways that were less restrictive and more appealing. Next they blended old with the new until the original was forgotten. The next generation won’t even know about the original anymore and will practice only what they know now.
- In my study of the religions of Canaan, Mesopotamia, and Egypt I read the views of Archaeologists and historians and was able to compare their ideas and theories with the history from the Bible that I know. Those scholars believe and teach that the Jewish/Hebrew faith evolved from the Canaanite and Mesopotamian religions. The god El (also known as Elion – biblical El Elyon the “God Most High” Gen. 14:18-19, Ps 78:35) was the oldest god in the pantheon. He was the progenitor of the universe. Together with his consort Ashera, they birthed 70 gods called ‘ilhim (Elohim).
Scholars have also found evidence in archaeological digs that Israel worshiped both Baal and Yahweh/El. They found evidence that the Israelites worshipped Asherah and her Asherim (poles) during the last millennium BC. That would coincide with the Judges period as well as the period of Kings/Chronicles. It is sad for me to note that the apostasy of Israel created a historical record that reflects an evolution of their religion from heathen origins rather than apostasy from YAHWEH as we know took place. Generally, we see how the Psalm 82 sons of God perturbated the plans of God, turned the focus of worship from YAHWEH to themselves, and have continued to vex mankind since. It stands as stark reason why YAHWEH wanted the religious pantheon of Canaan totally destroyed; their altars, the Nephilim/Anakim, and other spiritual enemies so that his rule and reign could be properly established. It also reminds us why Paul told us in Ephesians 6:12 that our warfare is spiritual. There are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.