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The Bible Teaching Commentary on Genesis: The Book of Foundations

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Overcoming Anxiety: Finding Peace, Discovering God


Judges Historical Background and Chronological Introduction

The Bible Teaching Commentary

Paul J. Bucknell

Judges Background | Judges Outline | Judges Theme | Judges Introduction

Purpose: Judges' Historical Background and Chronological Introduction provides both a short introduction with a list of the judges as well as a chronological introduction. Special focus is given to the relationship of Israel with the outside world during this time era.

A Short Introduction to Judges

List of Judges

1: Othniel
2: Ehud
3: Shamgar
4: Deborah
5: Barak
6: Gideon
7: Abimelech
8: Tola
9: Jair
10: Jephthah
11: Ibzan
12: Elon
13: Abdon
14. Samson
15. Eli (1)
16. Samuel (2)

We often think the problems we face are because of those around us. In one sense they are. But as we better understand the book of Judges, we will gain another perspective of our problems. Oppression often results because of our own folly.

A proper perspective of life will come from God's own viewpoint for He is the One closely working with His people in this life. In Judges, for example, we will see it is God who brings the problems upon Israel for disobeying Him.

In the end, the battle is with evil not only around us but in us! Our most important life decisions will be dependent upon whether we will follow God in His ways or go our own way which by definition is evil. If we decide not to fight evil, it will engulf us. The greatest plan for overcoming evil is to pursue God and His precious ways.

The 14 judges (excluding Eli and Samuel) were spread throughout the land of Israel. Just before the time of the Judges, the land was distributedto the different tribes of Israel. Each area was differently affected by surrounding enemies such as the Mesopotamians, Canaanites, Ammonites and Philistines.

So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. And yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them.

They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers. And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not listened to My voice, (Judges 2:13-20, NASB).

The Book of Judges' Time Span

The judges lived spread out in different tribal areas of Israel. They judged at different times, though some overlap is obvious, such as in Eli, Samson and Samuel. Othniel, the first judge, judged in the 1300s BC. Samuel closed this period of the judges around 1050 BC before the kings arose.

The chart below shows how the Judges arose right after Joshua and the faithful generation that knew him. Once these spiritual men passed from the scene, a big gap in spiritual fervor among the Israelites created a vacuum which required special intervention from God in the form of judges. This period ended when the people insisted on having a king like the other nations.

The Judges Chronological Time Chart

The enemies of the time seemed formidable, but they were allowed to grow in strength because the Israelites did not rid them out of the land. They would become a thorn in their flesh.

I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it as their fathers did, or not. So the LORD allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua. (Judges 2:21-23).

Canaanite Period 14th century BC
The Canaanite period peaked in the 14th century. Their gods included El the supreme deity and Baal the chief.

Hittite Kingdom 1800-1200 BC
The Hittites first used iron ore (chariots) in war. Their syncretic practices included: a) magic, b) divination and c) sacrifice.


(1) The topic of the will of God can be found in Judges 6.
(2) Eli and Samuel are listed in I Samuel rather than Judges.

Other related BFF articles

Introduction to Joshua

Introduction to Nehemiah

Book of Judges Index

General Judges Articles

Making the Right Life Decisions (Judges 2:1-5)
Judges 2:1: Intro/A. The Gracious Promises of God
Judges 2:2: B. Exacting Requirements of the Covenant
Judges 2:3: C. The Severe Response of God
Judges 2:4-5: D. The Superficial Response of the People
Judges 2:1-5: Bible Study Questions

Judges 11:29-40 The Joy of Sacrifice
Striving for Moral Purity - The Big Race : Overcoming Sensual Lusts
Judges 13-16 Playing around with God
Playing around with God (Judges 13-16)
Judges 13-14_A. Listening to God
Responding to Authority
Judges 14-16_B. Consequences of Life
Disciplining His Children
Judges 14-16 C. Desires not Restrained
Dealing with Lust
Judges 13-16 Bible Study Questions

Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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