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1451 BCE - 1095 BCE - Age of the Judges

13:9-11Othniel40 years1411-1371
23:15-30Ehud80 years1371-1291
41:4-5Deborah and Barak40 years1291-1251
56:11-40Gideon40 years1251-1211
69:1-54Abimelech3 years
710:2 Tola 23 years1284–1261
810:3 Jair 22 years1261–1239
912:7 Jephthah 6 years1221–1215
1012:9 Ibzan 7 years1215–1208
1112:11 Elon 10 years1208–1198
1212:14 Abdon 8 years1198–1190
1315:20 Samson 20 years1150–1130
144:18Eli 40 years1130-1090
The Book of Judges (Heb. Shoflim,) a canonical book of the 0ld Testament, records the achievements of those heroes who, at different periods in the early history of the Hebrews, before the consolidation of the government under a monarchy, from Joshua to Samuel, arose to deliver their countrymen from the oppression of neighboring nations. Only three of whom, Deborah, Eli, and Samuel, were judges in the modern sense of the word. The contents of the book have given rise to much criticism. Some saw the two-hundred-year period of the judges in Israel as the paradigm of right living in antiquity (and even subsequently), in which every individual covenanted directly with God and with each other (in the tribal federation). The institution of monarchy in Israel represented the importation of abominable Canaanite political structures and ideologies, and David and Solomon were completely Canaanized ideologues.

Scholars have long recognized that the numbers given in the chronological notations of Judges, when added up, do not conform to the information presented in 1 Kgs 6:1, which indicates that Solomon began building the temple 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt. Proposed solutions to the problem usually involve overlapping dates and events to one degree or another, but these proposals often seem arbitrary and unduly complex. The judges were those extraordinary civil and military rulers who governed Israel in the interval between the death of Joshua and the foundation of the kingdom of Israel ; except only that the judgeship of Samuel was a kind of connecting link between the two - Samuel himsolf being a judge, though of a different character from those that preceded him, and his government merging in the latter part of it into the kingdom of Saul ; so that the times of Samuel occupy a middle place between the Judges and the Kings, belonging partly to both, but wholly to neither.

The age of the world in which the transactions recorded in the Book of Judges occurred was somewhere between the years BCE 1500 and 1000. It was one marked by the same peculiar features in different parts of the earth It was the dim twilight of history ; but, as far as can be judged from those mythological accounts which precede the existence of true history, it was a time of much movement, of the birth of heroic characters, and of the incipient formation of those nations who were destined to be foremost among the nations of the earth. The mythologies of Greece tell of exploits of heroes which imply unsettled and disturbed times, the clashing of race with race, fierce struggles for the possession of lands, terrible conflicts for dominion or existence. And as far as such mythologies contain, as they doubtless do, some shreds of historical truth, and reflect something of the character of the men of the period, they are in accordance with the picture contained in the Book of Judges of the times, which were more or less contemporary.

Instead of a comparison of the Greek mythologies leading to the conclusion that the history in the Book of Judges is mythological also, it rather lends a valuable confirmation of that historical character which the internal evidence of the book so abundantly claims for it. The features which are common to the Greek mythologies and the Hebrew history, the wars of new settlers with the old inhabitants, the recklessness of human life, the fierce cruelty under excitement, the heroic deeds and wild adventures of a few great leaders, the taste for riddles, the habit of making vows, the interference of gods and angels in human affairs, the frequent consultations of oracles, and so on, are the products of the same general condition of human society at the same epoch of the world.

The difference between the two is, that the Greek traditions passed through the hands of countless poets and story-tellers, who in the course of generations altered, added, embellished, confused, distorted, and invented, according to their own fertile fancy and their own creative imaginations; while the Hebrew records, were held to have been preserved by the special providence of God some 3000 years and upwards uncorrupted and unchanged.

A careful and accurate chronology is entirely wanting in the Book of Judges, for the reason that it is not a scientific history, but a collection of narratives having a moral and religious purpose; illustrative, that is, of the evil of idolatry, of God's pro ndential government of the world, and of his special rule over the chosen race of Israel. This is one of the most difficult periods of Scripture chronology. In the earlier books there was a consecutive series of numbers, which gave by their addition results possessing a prima facie authority, though needing further discussion. Such data are offered also in the Book of Judges; but there seem to bo important gaps at the beginning and the end, no number of years being fixed for the time of Joshua and the elders who outlived him, nor for the judgeship of Samuel. The doubt has also been raised whether the numbers given in Judges are properly consecutive ; and it has been supposed that some of the servitudes and of the judgeships were contemporaneous in different parts of the land.

In chapter ten of the Book of Joshua, the Israelites go to war against five kings in order to help the Gibeonites, with whom they had signed a pact. While Israel was prevailing in the battle, God sent down stones from heaven to smite the enemy. Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still in order to have time to complete the victory. God answered his prayer. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies.

Three researchers from Ben Gurion University believe they have discovered the scientific explanation behind the miraculous Biblical account of the sun standing still for Joshua during battle. Dr. Hezi Yitzchak, Dr. Daniel Weistaub, and Dr. Uzi Avneer, of Ben Gurion University in Israel’s Negev, released the results of their study in January 2017 in Beit Mikra, a Hebrew language journal for the study of the Bible. In the study, they suggest that the miracle of the sun standing still when Joshua fought five armies in order to help the Gibeonites was actually attributable to natural causes – namely, a solar eclipse.

The team of scientists ascertained that the only solar eclipse which occurred during the period when the Jews are believed to have entered Israel was on October 30, 1207 BCE. Though the Bible mentions other cases of the sun standing still, the story in the Book of Joshua is unique in that it also mentions the role the moon plays in the process. The description of the event in the Book of Joshua uses the word "dom", usually understood as ‘stand still’. The word is only used in one other place in the Bible, in Psalms 37:7. The scientists concluded that the word (dom) actually means ‘to become dark’.

The date of Joshua's death, which is the terminus a quo of the Book of Judges, is uncertain by about 200 years. Then the time occupied by the elders who outlived Joshua, which intervened before the action of the book commences, is indefinite; it may mean ten years, or it may mean thirty or forty years. Again, the point of junction of the close of the book with 1 Samuel which follows it is uncertain ; we do not know certainly how far the latest events in the judgeship of Samson ran into the judgeships of Eli and Samuel. But there is another element of uncertainty which largely affects the chronology of the Book of Judges. The history is not the history of one kingdom or commonwealth, but of several almost separate and independent tribes.

Gilead, the tribes to the east of Jordan, had little communication with Western Israel; and even on the west of Jordan, Ephraim and the northern tribes were divided from Judah and Simeon and Dan on the south. The great tribe of Judah is not so much as mentioned in the enumeration of the tribes which fought under Barak, nor in the victories of Gideon. Hence it is apparent that it is at least very possible that some of the events narrated may be not consecutive, but synchronous ; that wars may have been going on in one part of Israel while another part was at rest; and that adding together all the different servitudes and rests would be as great a chronological blunder as a reader of English history commit by making the reigns of the Anglo-Saxon kings of the heptarchy consecutive instead of simultaneous.

The Judges, by means of battle, succeeded in regaining for the Israelites their independence. Of these there are 15 most celebrated, among whom are Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel, also the first of the prophets, a class of men whose principal aim was to keep Israel free from the contaminating heathen influences of the natives, and loyal to the higher worship of the one God.

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Page last modified: 03-07-2022 15:25:50 ZULU