Introduction: The Book of Judges
Author: Although the author of Judges is unknown, the internal evidence suggests that whoever wrote the book lived after the time of the Judges and before the monarchy of Israel. Samuel’s ministry as a judge and a prophet, which is positioned between the book of Judges and the first kings of Israel (Saul and David), would have provided him access to the necessary historical records. Furthermore, Samuel’s prophetic role in uniting Israel likely provided the motivation and theological framework for writing the book of Judges. However appealing as this line of argument may be, the author of the book of Judges is unknown.
Audience: Based on the internal evidence, it is likely that the audience was the nation of Israel which had recently been united under a monarchy. The repeated phrase that “there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) is further support of the theory that the audience lived in a day when the monarchy was in existence. The positive presentation of the tribe of Judah and the negative portrayal of the tribe of Benjamin provides further support that the book’s audience lived during a time when tensions existed over the legitimacy of Saul and David’s kinships, respectively.
Message: As one of the darkest eras in biblical history, the book of Judges provides a context in which God demonstrates that His plan to preserve a people through which the Messiah (King of Kings) would come cannot be deterred. Throughout this chaos, God remains in complete control. The divine preservation that Israel enjoys is evidence of God’s sovereign reign over history, amazing grace toward His people, abundant love of His children, as well as His covenantal faithfulness.
Throughout the book of Judges, as the people continue to grow bolder in their rebellion, the case for a king who will unite and lead them in true worship becomes louder. Without a righteous king to lead the people, every person will do what is right in his or her own eyes. When rebellion against God sweeps a nation morality becomes relative, theology is neglected, and worship is polluted. Like the people in the book of Judges, we, too, need to come under the authority of the righteous and eternal king: Jesus Christ.
Structure: The modern reader may attempt to read the book of Judges as a narrative that unfolds in a precise succession that includes all of Israel. However, many of the accounts overlap and/or only affect a specific region. Furthermore, these accounts rarely included all of Israel and typically included only an individual tribe or a small alliance of tribes. The Book of Judges is divided into three major sections: 1) The introduction (1:1-3:6); 2) The deliverance or governorship of the judges (3:7-16:31); and 3) Additional narratives (17:1-21:25).