Judges Book Introduction from the Life Application Study Bible, 3rd Edition
Real Heroes are hard to find these days, thanks in large part to social media, which has made the foibles and weaknesses of our leaders all too apparent. We search in vain for men and women to emulate. The music, movie, and sports industries in particular seem to produce a steady stream of “stars” who shoot to the top and then quickly implode with one moral failure after another.
Judges is a book about heroes—12 men and women who helped rescue Israel from its oppressors. These judges were not perfect; in fact, they included an assassin, someone who doubted God, and a sexually promiscuous man. But when they were submissive to God, God worked through them in amazing ways.
Judges is also a book about sin and its consequences. Like a minor cut or abrasion that becomes infected and causes great damage when left untreated, sin grows and soon poisons the whole body. The book of Joshua ends with the nation of Israel taking a stand for God, ready to experience all the blessings of the Promised Land. After settling in Canaan, however, the Israelites lost their spiritual commitment and motivation. When Joshua and the elders died, the nation experienced a leadership vacuum, leaving them without a strong central government. Instead of enjoying freedom and prosperity in the Promised Land, the people of Israel entered the dark ages of their history.
Simply stated, the reason for this rapid decline was sin—individual and corporate. The first step away from God was incomplete obedience (1:19–2:5); the Israelites refused to eliminate the enemy completely from the land. This led to intermarriage and idolatry (2:10–3:7) and everyone doing “whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (17:6). Before long, the Israelites became captives. Out of their desperation they would beg God to rescue them. In faithfulness to his promise and out of his loving-kindness, God would raise up a judge to deliver his people, and for a time there would be peace. Then complacency and disobedience would set in, and the cycle would begin again.
This book spans over 325 years, recording six successive periods of oppression and deliverance and describing the careers of 12 deliverers. The Israelites’ captors included the Mesopotamians, Moabites,
Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites, and Ammonites. God used a variety
of deliverers—from Othniel to Samson—to lead his people to freedom and true worship. God’s deliverance through the judges is a powerful demonstration of his love and mercy toward his people.
As you read the book of Judges, take a good look at these heroes. Note their dependence on God and their obedience to his commands. Observe Israel’s repeated downward spiral into sin, refusing to learn from past mistakes and living only for the moment. But most of all, stand in awe of God’s mercy as he delivers his people over and over again.