Judges is a book of the Bible; it appears in the Hebrew Bible and in the Christian Old Testament. Its title refers to its contents; it contains the history of judges who helped rule and guide the Israelites. The book contains:

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 First Period (3:7-ch. 5)
3 Second Period (6-10:5)
4 Third Period (10:6-ch. 12)
5 Fourth Period (13-16)
6 The account of Gideon
7 The Book of Ruth


The introduction connects it with the previous narrative in Joshua, as a "link in the chain of books." In this section is given an overview of the Israelite conquest of Canaan. The story portrays the great tribulations of the time of the Judges. According to the Bible God inflicted these tribulations because the Israelites partially spared the Canaanites in spite of His command to the contrary (see ii. 1-5, especially verse 3).

First Period (3:7-ch. 5)

I. Servitude under Chushan-rishathaim of Mesopotamia. This section describes Israel's delivery, through divinely appointed judges, from the subjugation to the Canaanites and the neighboring peoples which it had brought upon itself. The accounts of the activities of the several judges vary considerably in length; only the five so-called "Great Judges" are treated in detail.

  1. Othniel delivers Israel, rest

II. Servitude under Eglon of Moab: Ammon, Amalek
  1. Ehud's deliverance, rest
  2. Shamgar

III. Servitude under Jabin of Hazor in Canaan
  1. Deborah and
  2. Barak - a total of 206 years

Second Period (6-10:5)

IV. Servitude under Midian, Amalek, and the children of the east

  1. Gideon
  2. Abimelech, Gideon's son, reigns as king over Israel
  3. Tola
  4. Jair - a total of 95 years

Third Period (10:6-ch. 12)

V. Servitude under Ammonites with the
  1. Jephthah
  2. Ibzan
  3. Elon
  4. Abdon - a total of 49 years

Fourth Period (13-16)

VI. Servitude under Philistines
  1. Samson - a total of 60 years (grand total of 410 years)

Samson's exploits probably synchronize with the period immediately preceding the national repentance and reformation under Samuel (1 Samuel 7:2-6).

After Samson came Eli, who was both high priest and judge. He directed the civil and religious affairs of the people for forty years, at the close of which the Philistines again invaded the land and oppressed it for twenty years. Samuel was raised up to deliver the people from this oppression, and he judged Israel for some twelve years, when the direction of affairs fell into the hands of Saul, who was anointed king. If Eli and Samuel are included, there were then fifteen judges. But the chronology of this whole period is uncertain.

The historic section of the book is followed by an appendix (17-21), which has no formal connection with that which goes before. It records (a) the conquest (17, 18) of Laish by a portion of the Tribe of Dan; and (b) the almost total extinction of the Tribe of Benjamin by the other tribes, in consequence of their assisting the men of Gibeah (19-21). This section properly belongs to the period only a few years after the death of Joshua.

The author of this book is traditionally believed to be Samuel. It was probably composed during Saul's reign, or at the very beginning of David's. The words in 18:30,31, imply that it was written after the taking of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines, and after it was set up at Nob (1 Samuel 21). In David's reign the ark was at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39).

The account of Gideon

The account of Gideon, vi.-viii., consisting of two separate narratives brought into harmony by the passages vii. 25 and viii. 10. According to the main text, including vi. 2-6, 11-24, 33 et seq., vii. 1, and vii. 9-25 (except verse 12), as well as the passages vi. 35; vii. 2-8, 14, 16-22, preserved only in revised form, Gideon delivered the whole of Israel from the inroads of the Midianites, whose camp on Mount Gilboa he surprised. The Ephraimites then captured and killed the fugitives together with their kings Oreb and Zeeb at the fords of the Jordan (comp. especially vii. 24). According to another account, which forms a connected series of additions to the main text (i.e., to vi. 2-viii. 3), and which includes vi. 7-10, 25-32, 36-40 as well as the Deuteronomically revised passage viii. 4-27, Gideon with 300 men captured the Midianite kings Zebah and Zalmunna beyond the Jordan, whither he had pursued them.

A remnant of the earliest Hebrew history has been preserved in the story of Abimelech, which is appended to the story of Gideon. Jotham's daring and original parable of the trees in search of a king, included in this story, was probably added at a later time by an editor who took it from a source earlier than that of the main story. This parable, one of the few remnants of purely secular writing, probably did not originate in the time of Abimelech. It may have been a product of the Northern Kingdom, where the people had unfortunate experiences with elected kings.

The Book of Ruth

The Book of Ruth originally formed part of this book, but about A.D. 450 it was separated from it and placed in the Hebrew scriptures immediately after the Song of Solomon.

Initial text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 -- Please update as needed

See also: Bible -- Biblical canon