Date. It is impossible to determine the time when the reign of the judges began, or the number of years covered by their reigns.
Tribal Leaders. After the death of Joshua the children of Israel asked the Lord for a leader, and he gave them Judah ( Judges 1:1Judges 1:2 ). Judah, subsequently, formed an alliance with Simeon, and a number of victories followed ( Judges 1:3-20 ). The other tribes, however, did not drive out the inhabitants of the land, but reduced them to tribute ( Judges 1:21-36 ).
Destruction of Canaanites. The Lord destroyed the Canaanites because,
The Angels Visit'. After the people had failed to execute the Lord's vengeance upon the inhabitants of Canaan, He sent and angel to them at Bochim, who reminded them of the commandments they had broken, and announced to them that their enemies should be thorns in their sides and that their gods should be snares unto them. When the people heard this they lifted up their voices and wept ( Judges 2:1-5 ).
Idolatry. The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua and during the lives of his contemporaries who survived him; but after the generation died, they forsook the Lord and served Baal and Ashtaroth. The Lord delivered them into the hands of the spoilers, but, when they cried to the Lord, He sent them judges to whom they paid only the tribute of temporary allegiance and obedience; and finally the Lord declared that He would not drive out their enemies before them ( Judges 2:6-23 ).
Dwelling Among Strangers. From this time forward the children of Israel were surrounded by the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites ( Judges 3:1-5 ). Subsequently they intermarried with these nations, contrary to the law of God ( Deuteronomy 7:1-6 ), and forgot the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves ( Judges 3:6Judges 3:7 ).
Othniel, the First Judge. The anger of the Lord was greatly kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of Chushanrishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, and they served him eight years. They cried unto the Lord, and He raised up Othniel, the son of Kenaz, who delivered them from their oppressor, and the land had rest forty years ( Judges 3:8-11 ).
Ehud, the Second Judge. After the death of Othniel, the children of Israel fell into their evil ways, and the Lord strengthened against them Eglon, king of Moab, who invaded their territory, captured the city of palm trees and ruled Israel for eighteen years ( Judges 3:11-14 ). Feeling the iron heel of the despot, they cried unto the Lord for help, and He raised up for them a deliverer in the person of Ehud, a Benjamite, who was distinguished for being left-handed. By an extraordinary stratagem he took the life of the king, rallied his countrymen to Mount Ephraim, and led them in a triumphant march against their foes; and the land had rest for eighty years ( Judges 3:15-30 ).
Shamgar, the Third Judge. Shamgar was distinguished for slaying six hundred Philistines with an ox goad, and delivering Israel ( Judges 3:31 ).
Deborah, the Fourth Judge. The children of Israel did evil again, and the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan, the captain of whose hosts was Sisera. The children of Israel cried unto the Lord, for their oppressor had nine hundred chariots of iron, and he mightily oppressed them for twenty years ( Judges 4:1-3 ). During these times of peril, the people were judged by Deborah, who lived under a palm tree in Mount Ephraim ( Judges 4:4Judges 4:5 ). She called Barak, the son of Abinoam, to deliver Israel, but he declined to go unless she would agree to accompany him. An army was hastily gathered together; a terrible battle was fought, and a great victory was gained by the people of God ( Judges 4:6-24 ). The song of Deborah and Barak following this victory, is beautiful and appropriate ( Judges 5:1-31 ).
Gideon, the Fifth Judge. After the expiration of the forty years of rest following the great victory of Deborah ( Judges 5:31 ), the children of Israel again forsook the Lord, and He delivered them into the hands of the Midianites. Great distress and impoverishment followed, and the people, from the depths of their misery, cried unto the God of Jacob ( Judges 6:1-5 ). The Lord sent a prophet unto them who reminded them of the great deliverances of the Lord and of their ingratitude to Him ( Judges 6:6-10 ). Subsequently an angel appeared to Gideon, the son of Joash, in Ophrah, who was secretly threshing wheat for fear of the Midianites. The angel assured him of the presence of the Lord with him, commissioned him to lead the children of Israel against their foes, accepted his sacrifice, and departed out of his sight ( Judges 6:11-20 ). On the following night, Gideon inaugurated his reformatory work by throwing down the altar of Baal and cutting down the grove that was by it; and the following morning, his father Joah challenged his friends of Baal to bring a man in his defense ( Judges 6:21-32 ). Soon after this, the Midianites and Amalekites gathered themselves together against Israel. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he sounded a trumpet and sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, and they rallied to his standard ( Judges 6:33-35 ). The Lord then gave him indisputable proofs that He was with him ( Judges 6:36-40 ). Gideon gathered his army to the well of Harod, and it consisted of thirty-two thousand men. The Lord assured him that the number was too great, and by His instructions Gideon selected three hundred and placed the issues of the mighty contest in their hands ( Judges 7:1-15 ). He divided his army into three companies, and gave every man a trumpet, and empty pitcher, and a lamp. At a given signal, they blew their trumpets, broke their pitchers and held their lamps aloft, and cried aloud in recognition of the sword of the Lord and Gideon, and the Lord sent terror through the camp of the enemy. Israel triumphantly pursued the fleeing hosts, and slew two of the princes of Midian ( Judges 7:16-25 ). Gideon and his army continued the pursuit, and, notwithstanding the indifference of some of his countrymen, slew the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and gained a great victory. He also punished the men of Penuel and Succoth for their indifference ( Judges 8:1-21 ). After the war, the people desired to make Gideon king and establish the succession in Gideon's family, but he declined, declaring that he would recognize no ruler but God ( Judges 8:22Judges 8:23 ). Gideon, however, requested his army to give him the earrings of their prey, and they willingly did so, and he made an ephod of the gold, placed it in his city Ophrah, and very grave results followed ( Judges 8:24-27 ). The land had rest for forty years, for the Midianites were completely subdued ( Judges 8:28-32 ).
Abimelech, the Usurper. Gideon had seventy son ( Judges 8:29Judges 8:30 ). As soon as Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned from the Lord unto idols, forgot Him and failed to recognize the sons of Gideon or remember what he had done for them ( Judges 8:30-35 ). Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons, went to Shechem to his mother's family, and they entered into a conspiracy with him, and furnished him with money with which he hired worthless men to follow him, and he went to his father's house at Ophrah and slew all his brothers but Jotham, who escaped; and then the men of Shechem, joined by the house of Millo, made Abimelech king ( Judges 9:16 ). When Jotham heard this he went to the top of Mount Gerizim and, by the use of a most striking fable, showed the character of the man who had been made king of Israel ( Judges 9:7-21 ). Abimelech reigned three years, and after numerous conflicts was slain by a woman who cast a piece of millstone upon his head from the tower of Thebez ( Judges 9:22-57 ).
Tola, the Sixth Judge. After Abimelech's death, Tola, the son of Dodo, of the tribe of Issachar, judged Israel twenty-three years ( Judges 10:1Judges 10:2 ).
Jair, the Seventh Judge. Tola was succeeded by Jair, a Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years ( Judges 10:3-5 ).
Apostasy. The children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. They served the gods of the surrounding nations and utterly forgot Him. The anger of the Lord was greatly kindled against them, and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites, by whom they were vexed and oppressed for eighteen years ( Judges 10:6-8 ). Their distress was greatly increased by seeing the warlike preparations of their enemies. They cried unto the Lord and acknowledged that they had sinner in forsaking the Lord and serving other gods. He reminded them of his kindness in the past and told them to go and cry unto their adopted gods for deliverance. They threw themselves upon his mercy, cast away their idols, and the Lord was grieved on account of their misery ( Judges 19:6-18 ).
Jephthah, the Eighth Judge. The Ammonites were encamped at Gilead and the children of Israel at Mizpeh, but the children of Israel were without a leader ( Judges 10:17Judges 10:18 ). In their extremity they sent to Tob and brought Jephthah who had been expelled from his father's house, and gave him command of their forces ( Judges 11:1-11 ). Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonites and inquired what reason they had for their warlike movements. The reply was that Israel had, on coming out of Egypt, invaded and captured their land, and that they now proposed to make an effort to recover it. Jephthah warned them, but they did not heed his advice. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he vowed that if the Lord would deliver the children of Ammon into his hand, that whatsoever should come forth from his house to meet him on his return should be given unto the Lord in sacrifice ( Judges 11:29-31 ). Jephthah then proceeded to fight against the Ammonites and gained a great victory over them ( Judges 11:32Judges 11:33 ). On his return from the battle, his daughter came out to meet him with great demonstrations of joy, but when he saw her he rent his clothes and declared that she had brought him low and that he was greatly troubled. She encouraged him by expressing her willingness to him to do with her as he had vowed ( Judges 11:34-40 ).
Jephthahs Daughter Not Burnt in Sacrifice'. Jephthah's daughter was not burnt in sacrifice. The proofs of this are:
The law provided that when a vow involved the life of a human being, the person making it should pay to the priest, instead, a sum of money to be determined by the age and sex of the victim ( Leviticus 27:2-8 );
as God continued to favor him it is evident that he was not thus guilty ( Judges 12:1-7 );
the New Testament enrolls him among the noblest of the ages, which could not consistently have been done if he had killed his child in violation of the law of the Lord ( Exodus 20:13 ; Hebrews 11:32 ).
Civil War. After Jephthah's victory over the Ammonites, the Ephraimites gathered themselves together and demanded a reason of him for not calling them to the war, threatening to burn his house down upon him. Jephthah replied that he had called them and that they had failed to respond. The result of this dispute was the destruction of forty-two thousand Ephraimites at the fords of the Jordan, who were detected by their inability to pronounce the word "Shibboleth" ( Judges 12:6 ).
Ibzan, the Ninth Judge. Ibzan succeeded Jephthah and judged Israel seven years ( Judges 12:7-10 ).
Abdon, the Eleventh Judge. Abdon succeeded Elon and judged Israel eight years ( Judges 12:12-15 ).
Samson, the Twelfth Judge. Samson was born in perilous times. During the forty years preceding his birth, the children of Israel were under the dominion of the Philistines. His history is distinguished by,
the extraordinary circumstances attending his birth ( Judges 13:1-23 );
Ruth. During the reign of the judges a man of Bethlehem Judah, named Elimelech, with his wife Naomi and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, went into the land of Moab and took up his residence. The two sons married Moabitish women. Subsequently the father and two sons died, and Naomi proposed to return to her own country, suggesting to her daughter-in-law that it would be best for them to remain in the land of their nativity. Orpah, the wife of Chilion, agreed to this, but Ruth declared that she would follow Naomi and make her home and grave with her ( Ruth 1:1-18 ). They returned unto Bethlehem, and Ruth showed her devotion to Naomi by gleaning the fields in search of sustenance for them ( Ruth 1:19-2:23 ). She subsequently married a distinguished man by the name of Boaz and became the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Christ ( Ruth 3:1-4:22 ; Matthew 1:1-17 ).