Book of Judges

General Information

Judges, the seventh book of the Old Testament of the Bible, traces Israel's history from the death of Joshua, the lieutenant and successor of Moses, to the beginning of the monarchy under Saul. Its title is derived from the figures who serve as the protagonists in most of the book. Their Hebrew designation is normally translated "judge," but the word has a broader meaning and should perhaps be translated "ruler." Where sufficient information is related about individual "judges," they consistently appear in the role of war leader or ruler, not judge. Deborah, the prophetess, however, may be an exception, and some scholars hold that the minor judges, mentioned only in lists, were officials of the tribal league with judicial functions quite distinct from the role of the major figures like Gideon and Samson.

These major figures appear to have been of only regional importance and may have overlapped chronologically; the neat chronological structure of the book based on their succession is certainly late and artificial. Judges is part of the Deuteronomistic History, the name given by scholars to the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings, all of which appear to share the same complex history of composition. Many early oral and written sources, including the premonarchical song of Deborah, were incorporated into the general editorial framework provided by the final editor of the history in the time of Josiah (c. 640 - 609 BC).

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M Bal, Death and Dissymetry (1988); J Gray, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (1967).

Book of Judges

Brief Outline

  1. Introduction (1:1-2:10)
  2. Main body of book, describing cycles of failure, oppression and relief by judges. Activities of 13 judges are described (2:11-16:31)
  3. Appendix (17-21)

Book of Judges

Advanced Information

The Book of Judges is so called because it contains the history of the deliverance and government of Israel by the men who bore the title of the "judges." 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.

The book contains, (1.) An introduction (1-3:6), connecting it with the previous narrative in Joshua, as a "link in the chain of books." (2.) The history of the thirteen judges (3:7-ch. 16:31) in the following order:

In all 410 years.

Samson's exploits probably synchronize with the period immediately preceding the national repentance and reformation under Samuel (1 Sam. 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. (3.) 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. It shows the religious and moral degeneracy of the people. The author of this book was most probably Samuel. The internal evidence both of the first sixteen chapters and of the appendix warrants this conclusion. 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 by the Philistines, and after it was set up at Nob (1 Sam. 21). In David's reign the ark was at Gibeon (1 Chr. 16:39)

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)


Catholic Information

The seventh book of the Old Testament, second of the Early Prophets of the Hebrew canon.


The Hebrew name of the book was transliterated by Origen Safateím, and by St. Jerome Sophtim; it was translated by Melito and Origen Kritaí, by the Septuagint ì tôn kritôn bíblos or tôn kritôn, so, too, by the Greek Fathers; the Latins translated liber Judicum or Judicum.

The Hebrew verb meant originally "to act as a Divine judge", and was applied to God (Genesis 18:25), and to Moses acting as the specially inspired lawgiver and judge of Israel (Exodus 18:13, 16). In time the elders of the people became the "judges" (vv. 25, 26). In this book the term judges (shôphatîm) is applied to the leaders of Israel, and would seem to indicate that their right was Divine (Judges 10:2, 3). The office of judge differed from that of king only in the absence of hereditary succession (xii, 7-15). It is worth noting that the Phoenicians, according to Livy, called their chief magistrate suffetes (XXVIII, xxxvii), and gave to the suffetes of Carthage a power analogous to that of the Roman consul (XXX, vii; XXXIV, lxi).


(1) Introduction (i-xx, 5). A summary of the conquest of Chanaan (i, 1-36). The angel of Jahweh reproves the tribes that made league with the stranger (ii, 1-5). (2) The history of Israel under the judges (ii, 6-xvi), introduced by a summary of its contents -- Israel's forsaking of Jahweh, turning to Baal and Astaroth, defeat by her enemies, and deliverance by Jahweh (ii, 6-iii, 6). Then follow the wonderful deeds of the judges, of whom Gedeon and Samson are the chief heroes; to them are devoted seven chapters. (3) Two more stories of the times of the judges -- the migration of Dan and their idolatrous worship of the idol of Michas (xvii-xviii), the crime of the Benjamites and their punishment by Israel (xix-xxi). For fuller analysis see Cornely, "Introd. Spec. in Hist. V. T. Lib.", I, Paris, 1887, 109-14.


The Book of Judges is admitted by all to belong to the canons of the Jews of Palestine, the Jews of the Dispersion (the Alexandrian canon), and the Christians. Only the authority of the infallible Church can determine the canon of Sacred Scripture, and define the inspired meaning of the Books. Hence Catholics may not go the way of Rationalists and of Protestants in the matter of the so-called late and manifold redaction of Judges.


The chief arguments for the authenticity of Judges are given below under Historicity and Sources. We now appeal to:

The canonizing of the book by Jews and Christians as an authentic narrative of part of Israel's history;

the life-like style of the work;

the minute and accurate details of the narrative;

the evident purpose of the narrator to give a history of the things whereof he knows.


Although the purpose of the narrator is evidently to give a history of the events that took place in Israel between the days of Josue and of Samuel, yet that purpose is rather epic and didactic than historical in the modern sense of the word.

(1) The narrator does not purpose history in the modern sense; he does not narrate in historical order all the important events of the period. This fact is clear from the appendixes (xvii-xxi), which give very important events outside their proper historical order.

(2) The historian of Judges has an epic purpose, as early historians (e.g. Herodotus) often had. The epos, or theme, of the historian of Judges is evolved in the summary (ii, 6-iii, 6), wherewith he introduces the history proper; he has it ever in mind to unfold why Jahweh allowed the foe to abide so long in the promised land, and even to defeat the chosen people, and why He raised up the judges. The idolatry of Israel is the reason.

(3) The didactic purpose of the book is to teach Israel that the commandments of Jahweh should be obeyed (iii, 4). When Israel leaves Jahweh, Jahweh leaves Israel, at least for the while; the foes of Israel triumph (cf. Aug., "De Civ. Dei", xvi, 43).


The problem is complicated. Most contradictory theories have been proposed. According to Moore (see "Internat. Crit. Comm." on "Judges", also art. in "Encycl. Bibl."), the body of the book (ii, 6-xvi, 33) is Deuteronomistic; the general setting of the stories and the purpose of that setting show characteristics of the seventh and sixth centuries, the influence of Deuteronomy and of the great Prophets Jeremias and Ezechiel. The stories of the book, out of their setting and apart from their set purpose in the Book of Judges, are pre-Deuteronomic; they show no Deuteronomic traces except in the introductions and the links that chain the various stories together. Indeed, Moore would have it that this redaction and unification of the sources was the work of a pre-Deuteronomic editor; this editor is not admitted by Kittel. To sum up, then, the opinion of Moore, one of the most eminent Protestant students of Judges, the book itself (i.e. ii, 6-xvi, 31) is made up of two strands (J and E), united not later than 621 B.C. by a pre-Deuteronomic redactor (RJE), and re-edited shortly thereafter, during the Deuteronomic reform of Josias and the influence of Jeremias, by the Deuteronomic editor of the Hexateuch (D). Many critics refuse to assign any strata of Judges to the Hexateuchal fictions -- J, E, JH, P or R, and D, even though they postulate many and late sources for the book in its present state. Among Catholic scholars a few, who wrote before the Biblical Commission issued its decrees about the Pentateuch, have accepted the late redaction. Most Catholic scholars, however, are unanimous against these few who have left the traditional positions of Catholic Bible-study. In the matter of historical criticism of Judges, as of the Pentateuch, Catholic scholars do not deny the use of various sources by the inspired writer, but postulate that these documents shall have been written and put together very much earlier than the Rationalists wish. There is no proof whatsoever of the late and manifold redactions of these documents in our present book. Cornely (loc. cit., 214-22) and Hummelauer (In Lib. Jud. et Ruth, 27) both consider that the writer of Judges was probably Samuel; and both admit that the work shows signs of the use of pre-existing documents. Such is the opinion also of Kaulen ("Einleitung in die heilige Schrift", 3rd ed., Freiburg, 1890, 181).

(1) Judges, in its present state, cannot have been written before Israel had a king. Only in the time of a king could the writer have said: "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every one did that which seemed right to himself" (xvii, 6; cf. xviii, 1; xxi, 24). These words appear only in the appendix (xvii-xxi), which we admit to be later than some of the sources used by the sacred writer; this apendix is generally admitted to be part of the work done by the last editor of Judges. This editor, then, wrote while Israel had a king.

(2) The book was not written after Solomon had done evil. The writer deems the lack of a king to be the explanation of the idolatry of the Danites and the misdeeds of the tribe of Benjamin. Such an explanation would have been out of the question had the writer known either of the idolatry brought in by Jeroboam and encouraged by Solomon or of the separation of Juda from Israel.

(3) This last editor must have written before David had reigned seven years. For Jerusalem was still called Jebus and was occupied by the Jebusites (xix, 11); whereas, in the seventh year of his reign, David took the citadel of Sion, called it the city of David, and destroyed the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5).

(4) Finally, it is likely that Judges antedates even the first seven years of David's reign and the last years of Saul's. The book purposes to keep the children of Israel from idolatry and from the Divine punishments thereof. In the beginning of David's and the end of Saul's reign there was no need of such purpose: Saul had "rooted out the magicians and soothsayers from the land" (1 Samuel 28:9). Moreover, in that period the writer would have seen that even a "king in Israel" did not prevent the tribal and internal dissensions of the days of the judges.

(5) Since, then, Judges was most likely written in the first years of Saul's reign, there is no more probable writer thereof than Samuel. He had yielded to Israel's clamours, and set up Saul as king. A new war was impending. There was none in Israel more likely to make the people ready for that war by driving home to them the thesis of Judges -- that fidelity to Jahweh meant success against the foe of Israel.

(6) The use of previous documents by Samuel sufficiently explains the varied literary style on account of which the Rationalists frame their various hypotheses. The song of Debbora (v) is archaic by contrast with the language of its setting. The story of Gedeon is originally from a different hand than that of the first writer of Samson's history. spirit of the Lord rushed [xxxxxx] upon Samson" (xiv, 6, 19; xv, 14).

Catholic commentators of old assigned the Book of Judges to many hands. So Maldonatus (Comm. in Matt., ii, 23), Pineda (In Job, præf., iii), Clair (p. 10), and many others. Hummebauer (In Jud., 27) argues that the longer narratives -- those of Aod (iii, 15-30), Barac (iv and v), Gedeon (avi-viii), Abimelech (ix), Jephte (xi, 1-xii, 7), and Samson (xiii-xvi) -- are distinct accounts, written by separate authors, who were contemporary or almost contemporary with the events they narrated. These varied narratives Samuel incorporated much as he found them; he drew from tradition for the minor details which he gives about the lesser judges. While setting these stories together, Samuel was inspired in regard to the complete thoughts he culled from others, as well as the introductions, links, and remarks he superadded.


(1) Internal Evidence

The writer of Judges was contemporary with some of the events which he narrated; used documents written by those who were contemporary, or all but contemporary, with the deeds they told; and shows every sign of sincerity, care, and truth. The very concern of the writer to give the truth explains the manifold literary style of the book. He has preserved to us unchanged the style of the song of Debbora and that of the fable of Joatham. He has transmitted sayings peculiar to place and to person (ii, 5; iv, 5; vi, 24, 32; xv, 19; xviii, 12, 29). The nationalistic objections to the miraculous in the stories of Gedeon and Samson are generally accepted by Protestant writers, who look upon these portions of Judges as legendary; to Catholics these are as historical as any other portion of the work. The enemies to the historicity of the book in vain insist that these stories are set down as legends to please the Israelites. The writer of Judges so berates the Israelites for idolatry and inter-tribal dissension that it is unscientific to accuse him of truckling to their pride in their heroes.

(2) External Evidence

(a) Catholic tradition is clear. The Fathers look upon the narrative of Judges as fact-narrative; their unanimity is admitted by all who deem that unanimity worth consideration.

(b) O.-T. testimony is manifold. The opening summary (i, 1-ii, 5) gives details the historical value of which is attested by Josue: Juda's siege of Dabir (1:10-15; Joshua 15:14-19), the Jebusites in Jerusalem (1:21; Joshua 15:63), the Chanaanite in Gazer along with Ephraim (1:29; Joshua 16:10), the Chanaanite dwelling with Manasses (1:27; Joshua 17:11). Like details are the death of Josue (2:6-9; Joshua 24:28-31), the capture of Lesem by Dan (17:18; Joshua 19:47). The Books of Kings tell us as facts much that we read in Judges. Israel's forgetfulness of Jahweh, her defeat by the foe and salvation by the judges (1 Samuel 12:9-11); the death of Abimelech, son of Gedeon (9:53; 2 Samuel 11:21). The Psalms dwell proudly on the deeds of the judges: the fate of Sisara, Jabin, Oreb, Zeb, Zebee, and Salmana (vii, 22, 25; iv, 15; viii, 21; Ps. lxxxii, 10-12); the entire history of Judges in outline (Ps. cv, 34-46). The Prophets refer to real facts given in Judges: the defeat of Madian by Gedeon (Isaiah 9:4; 10:26); the crime at Gabaa (Hosea 9:9; 10:9).

(c) In the New Testament, St. Paul mentions the judges in their proper place between Josue and Samuel (Acts 13:20); praises some of the judges along with certain kings (Hebrews 11:32).


(1) Hebrew. Kittel's edition shows that the Masoretic text is in very good condition. "It is better preserved than any other of the historical books" (Moore, "Judges", 43). The only serious difficulties are in the song of Debbora.

(2) Greek. We have two distinct Septuagint forms (cf. Lagarde, "Septuaginta-Studien", 1892, 1-72): one is seen in the Alexandrinus (A), Coislinianus (P), Basiliano-Vaticanus (V), and many cursives; the other version is represented by the Vatican (B), and a considerable number of cursives.

(3) Latin. St. Jerome's version is one of his most careful efforts at translation of the Masorah, and is of the greatest exegetical importance.

Publication information Written by Walter Drum. Transcribed by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Fathers: THEODORET, Quæstiones in Librum Judicorum in P.G., LXXX, 485; PROCOPIUS OF GAZA, Comm. in Judices in P.G., LXXXVII, 1041; ST. AUGUSTINE, Quæstiones in Heptateuchium in P.L., XXXIV, ;701. Modern commentators mentioned in the body of the article. See also BONFRÈRE, Comm. in Jos., Jud., et Ruth (Paris, 1631); SERARIUS, Jud. et Ruth explanati (Mainz, 1609); CLAIR, Les Juges et Ruth (Paris, 1878). Protestant commentators of worth are MOORE, KEIL, BUDDE, BERTHEAU.

Book of Judges

Jewish Perspective Information


§ I. Name:

§ II. Synopsis of Contents:

Sections of Book.

§ III. Sources: The Main Text, iii. 7-xvi. 31:

Song of Deborah.

Account of Gideon.

Original Book.

The Priest of Micah.

§ IV. Combination and Revision of The Sources:

Additions by Deuteronomist.

§ V. Age of the Sources:

Story of Samson.

§ VI. Literary Characteristics:

In the Hebrew canon, the second book of the Earlier Prophets, placed between Joshua and Samuel.

§ I. Name:

The book derives its name from the fact that it deals with the "Judges," a term which, according to the statements found in the book (comp. ii. 11-19 and the constantly recurring formulas in iii. 7, vi. 1; iii. 12, iv. 1, x. 6, xiii. 1; iii. 8, iv. 2, 9, x.7), designates men who dealt out justice to the oppressed people (comp. , Ps. x. 18); hence it is used in the sense of = "rescuer" (ii. 16, 18). The word, however, means more than this and more than the modern "judge": it means the leaders or rulers (comp. the Suffetes [= ] in Carthage) who took charge of the affairs of the several tribes in case of war with the Canaanites or other neighboring peoples, and who also assumed leadership of their respective tribes in the succeeding times of peace. In accordance with the needs of the time, their functions were primarily judicial (iv. 5). The book itself announces that it will deal with the time of the Judges from the death of Joshua; but the description of Joshua's death at the beginning of the book is doubtless a later addition, and the introduction repeats (i. 1-ii. 5) the theme of the Book of Joshua, namely, the conquest of the country west of the Jordan. Nor does the Book of Judges give the conclusion of the history of the Judges; for the two stories appended to the book in its present form belong not to the end of that period, but to its beginning, and the narratives forming the kernel of the book break off before the period of the Judges ends. The thread is taken up again in the Book of Samuel. It may be assumed, however, that the original Book of Judges was carried down to the end of the period and concluded with the story of Eli and Samuel, which forms the beginning of I Samuel.

§ II. Synopsis of Contents:

Before discussing the several parts and their origin, it may be well to note the peculiar composition of the book. The introduction and additions may clearly be separated from the main text, giving the following three divisions: (1) introduction; (2) Book of Judges proper; and (3) appendixes.

(1) Introduction:

(a) i. 1-ii. 5, a general view of the conquest of Canaan. The story is evidently intended to portray the great tribulations of the time of the Judges, which God inflicted because the Israelites partially spared the Canaanites in spite of His command to the contrary (see ii. 1-5, especially verse 3).

(b) ii. 6-iii. 6, a general description of the conditions obtaining at the time of the Judges. The chief characteristic of this time is found in the recurring change from apostasy and punishment to repentance and deliverance. The account forms the introduction to the following stories, which are, as it were, summarized in ii. 11-19.

Sections of Book.

(2) The Book of Judges Proper, iii. 7-xvi. 31: This 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. The narratives may be summarized as follows:

(a) iii. 12-30, account of the Benjamite Ehud, who overthrew the tyranny of the Moabites;

(b) iv.-v., story of Barak (and Deborah), who overthrew the tyranny of the Canaanites (but see § III.);

(c) vi. 1-viii. 32, story of Gideon of western Manasseh, who overthrew "the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the East";

(d) x. 6-xii. 7, story of Jephthah the Gileadite of the tribe of Gad, who vanquished the Ammonites;

(e) xiii.-xvi., account of the Danite Samson, who vanquished the Philistines;

(f) iii. 7-11, story of the Kenazite Othniel, from the tribe of Judah, who vanquished Chushan-rishathaim (iii. 10); together with various incidental remarks relating to the so-called Minor Judges:

(g) iii. 31, story of Shamgar;

(h) x. 1-5, stories of Tola of Issachar and Jair of Gilead (eastern Manasseh); and

(i) xii. 8-15, stories of Ibzan of Beth-lehem, Elon the Zebulonite, and Abdon the Pirathonite of the tribe of Ephraim. With the exception of the priestly tribe of Levi and the two tribes of Reuben and Simeon, which soon became extinct, each of the tribes is represented by at least one judge. The section viii. 33-ix. 57, dealing with the leadership of Abimelech, is not strictly of the same order as the rest.

(3) Appendixes: Two stories from the time of the Judges:

(a) xvii. and xviii., the campaign of the Danites, and the transference to Dan (Laish) of the sanctuary of Micah the Ephraimite;

(b) xix.-xxi., the outrage at Gibeah, and the resultant punitive war against Benjamin, which is almost destroyed; the measures taken for the preservation of the tribe.

§ III. Sources: The Main Text, iii. 7-xvi. 31:

The earliest sources are found in the stories relating to the five Great Judges:

(1) The account of Ehud, iii. 12-30, which, with the exception of the Deuteronomistic framework (verses 12-15 and 30), is a uniform story, based doubtless on ancient tradition.

Song of Deborah.

(2) The story of Barak and Deborah, iv. and v., in which must be distinguished:

(a) the Song of Deborah, v. 2-31, describing the sufferings and the victory of the people, and which was doubtless composed by an eye-witness. It is uncertain, however, whether Deborah herself composed this. Doubt arises from the exhortation (v. 12) "utter a song," and from the fact that the introduction does not say that she composed it, but only that Deborah and Barak sang it (ib. verse 1). Nor does it follow absolutely from the word (verse 7) that Deborah composed the Song. Although is probably intended as the first person and has been so interpreted down to recent times, yet it may also have been intended as an address to Deborah, as the second person feminine singular (= ; comp. , Jer. ii. 33) - "until thou hast arisen, Deborah!" And even its interpretation as the third person feminine singular (= , old form of , in which the would be secondary, conditioned by the traditional conception, according to which the expression is in the first person) is not excluded, and the reading may be, "until Deborah arose." Nor is the first person in verse 3 decisive, as it may refer to any poet. The exhortation in verse 12, "Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song," formerly considered a direct proof of Deborah's authorship, really excludes this possibility, unless it is assumed that it is a poetic address of the author to herself. Aside from these doubtful arguments, the context, with its striking references to the deeds and thoughts of women (Deborah, Jael, Sisera's mother and her "wise women"), might point to apoetess as the author. Even if the Song was not composed by Deborah, it was at least the work of a contemporary; and as such it is the earliest source for the history of Israel, and a historical document of supreme value. It not only recounts a historical fact, but breathes the wild spirit of a heroic age, and with elemental force portrays especially the pitiless delight in battle and bloodshed, and the joy of deliverance from the yoke of tyranny.

(b) The prose historical account in ch. iv. stands in a peculiar relation to the Song, inasmuch as the poetical account has been clearly changed into a historical narrative, which presents various contradictions to and exaggerations of the Song in regard to numbers and events. This prose account based upon the Song of Deborah is, however, only a part of the story told in ch. iv.; for, in the first place, the story of the victory of Barak and the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali over King Jabin of Hazor (iv. 10) is joined to it, and, in the second place, there are other details which are not found in the Song, and which therefore were derived from independent tradition, especially the reference to the attack made by the Israelites from Mount Tabor. The story in ch. iv., taken for the most part from the Song, and which may be called the story of Sisera in contrast to the story of Jabin, narrates the victory of Deborah and of Barak of Issachar over Sisera at the Kishon, and the death of the last-named at the hands of Jael. In consequence of the fusion of the stories, Sisera in the account in ch. iv. does not appear as the head of a coalition of the Canaanite kings, as he is represented in the Song, where he is the chief personage, but merely as the general of King Jabin. The stories are so closely fused that they can no longer be separated, this being doubtless due to the confounding of two heroes of the name of Barak (= "lightning"; comp. the surname in "Hamilcar Barcas"); namely, Barak of Kedesh of the tribe of Naphtali (iv. 5 [A. V. 6]) and Barak of Issachar (v. 15).

Account of Gideon.

(3) 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 valuable 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 (as appears from ix. 57) 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, can not have originated in the time of Abimelech, who reigned only three years at Shechem, as its criticism of the king was evidently the result of a clearer insight than could have been possessed by a contemporary. It was probably a product of the Northern Kingdom, where the people had unfortunate experiences with elected kings.

(4) The story of Jephthah, xi. 1-xii. 7, is in general uniform; the first two verses, however, are probably revised, as they do not fit in with verse 7, nor with the passage xi. 12-29, which appears as a learned disquisition applying in no wise to the Ammonites, to whom the message was to be addressed, but to the Moabites. In xi. 35-40, also, the editor, intent on abbreviating, seems to have made changes in order not to dwell on the human sacrifice which must have been described in the original narrative.

(5) The story of Samson, xiii-xvi., narrating in twelve sketches his deeds and tragic death. This, also, is a uniform composition, with the exception of a revision in xiii. and xiv., and is evidently the work of a single author.

In general, it may be noted in regard to these old heroic stories of the Book of Judges that there is some resemblance in language and manner of description to the narrative sources of the Pentateuch; for this reason Cornill has designated the first version of the story of Gideon, the story of Samson, and the basis of x. 6-16 as Jahvistic in character, and the story of Sisera, the second version of the story of Gideon, together with the stories of Abimelech and Jephthah, as Elohistic (other scholars, however, as Budde, think differently). These resemblances are so slight that they may be explained as contemporaneous work or imitation, rather than as a continuation of the Pentateuch sources.

Original Book.

The main text of Judges, including the above-named stories, constituted, with the exception of later additions, the earlier book, which began therefore with ii. 6; and as the initial words, "And when Joshua had let the people go," correspond with the words introducing the first valedictory in Josh. xxiii. 2, it follows that the original Book of Judges continued the original Book of Joshua. Furthermore, it follows that the second valedictory with the accompanying statements in Josh. xxiv., and the first account of Joshua's death, in Judges ii. 8 et seq., as well as the present introduction to Judges, were added later; this is also apparent from the present beginning of Judges: "Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass."

The Introduction: It has been shown that the introduction is a later addition; and the fact is further proved by its contents, the story of the conquest of the country west of the Jordan, which is the theme of Joshua, being here repeated. But while the Book of Joshua narrates the story of the complete destruction of the Canaanites by the people of Israel under one commander-in-chief, the introduction to Judges says that the tribes of Israel fought singly; and it does not refer to the complete destruction of the Canaanites (comp. Judges i. 27-33, ii. 1-3). Ofthese two accounts the introduction to Judges is doubtless more objective, and shows a better comprehension of the actual facts, while the narrative in Joshua is founded on the Deuteronomistic revision. The introduction itself, however, is not uniform; according to i. 8, the children of Judah conquered and burned Jerusalem and killed its inhabitants, while, according to i. 21, the children of Benjamin did not drive the Jebusites out of that city, but dwelt together with them in Jerusalem "unto this day" (according to the parallel account in Josh. xv. 63, some scholars read in this passage instead of , which is derived from Josh. xviii. 28). Cornill ascribes a Jahvistic origin to the passages i.-ii. 1a, 5b, 23a; iii. 2-3, and an Elohistic origin to i. la; ii. 13, 20-22a; iii. 5-6.

The Priest of Micah.

The Appendixes: The first appendix, xvii. and xviii., is a very valuable old story. Bertheau, Budde, Kittel, Cornill, and others assert that two accounts must be here distinguished. According to one, the Ephraimite Micah made an ephod and teraphim, and hired a Levite to be to him "a father and priest"; 600 Danites then persuaded the Levite to go with them and become their priest, whereupon they conquered Laish and set up there for their tribal sanctuary the image that Micah had made. According to the other account, Micah made a "pesel" (graven image) and "massekah" (molten image), and engaged a young Levite as priest, whom he held as a son; but the Danites, who stole the pesel and massekah, made Jonathan, Moses' grandson, their tribal priest instead of the Levite, and through the descendants of Jonathan the priesthood was transmitted in the tribe of Dan. But according to Oort, Wellhausen, Kuenen, Baudissin, and others, it is more probable that the discrepancies in the narrative may be explained on the ground of interpolations (compare and , which always follow and ). The story itself is unique in that it describes a cult and a priesthood which are nowhere else found in the Old Testament. This fact itself points to an early date of composition.

As two dates are given in the text, xviii. 30 and 31, the question arises which of these two statements is the original-that is, the earlier-one. The first statement, xviii. 30, points to the time of the fall of Ephraim (722 B.C.), or at least to that of the deportation of the northern and eastern inhabitants of the country (735 B.C.); the second, to a time near the beginning of the royal house of Israel, as the destruction of the Temple of Shiloh probably occurred during the Philistine wars, in which the priestly house of Eli, officiating at Shiloh, perished. The first statement, also, originated at a time that had become remote to later generations, as is shown by the fact that the ascription of these deeds to a grandson of Moses caused offense to the people, and a copyist tried to remove it by interpolating a in so as to change the name to (this has recently been denied by Sinker).

The second appendix, xix.-xxi., in its main text, which can now hardly be determined with certainty, might similarly be traced back to an ancient story, as is indicated by expressions similar to those found in the first appendix; e.g., the Levite sojourning as a stranger in the country (xix. 1). The formula common to both appendixes, "in those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (xvii. 6, xxi. 25; comp. xviii. 1, xix. 1), perhaps also indicates that the original text was composed before the Exile; although it is possible that in the second appendix it is a later addition, or was introduced by the author in imitation of the first appendix. For the story as a whole dates from a very late period, since there is evidence that it is based on the Priestly Code. This is especially evident in the fact that the community of Israel is represented as a compact body pronouncing punishment upon Benjamin as with one voice, while elsewhere in Judges every tribe attends to its own affairs. The fact that all the personages named, with the exception of Aaron's grandson Phinehas in xx. 28, are anonymous indicates that this is a piece of fiction and not a historical narrative. The story may have some historical foundation; for Hosea (x. 9), speaking of course quite independently of this story, also mentions the sin of Israel since the days of Gibeah. Nor is it impossible that the story, as Nöldeke was the first to assume, describes the ruin of Benjamin by the war between David and Saul's son and the insurrections under David.

§ IV. Combination and Revision of The Sources:

Additions by Deuteronomist.

The earlier Book of Judges, a compilation of the stories of the five Great Judges together with the additions of the redactor, was practically Judges in its present form, with the exception of the Deuteronomistic framework (together with the story of Othniel), the six Minor Judges, and some later revised additions. The Deuteronomistic editor added to the earlier book the following passages; namely, ii. 6-9 and iii. 7-11 (the account of Othniel being taken from Josh. xv. 17), all the additions by which he adapted the old material to his conception of history, and the strictly chronological arrangement taken from I Kings vi. 1, the 480 years being divided by him into 12x40 years or generations, 20, 40, or 80 years respectively being assigned to each of the judges. This Deuteronomistic arrangement was again supplemented by an editor following the Priestly Code, who partly revised the work, inserted passages of his own (viii. 29-31 and x. 17, 18), and added the portions relating to the five Minor Judges (x. 2-5 and xii. 8-15), in order to round out the number of the twelve judges. This last-named portion has been skilfully harmonized with the chronological arrangement of the Deuteronomistic editor; for the sum of the years of office of the five Minor Judges (23 + 22 + 7 + 10 + 8 = 70) is practically equal to that of the years of oppression under the five Great Judges (8 + 18 + 20 + 7 + 18 = 71). The last editor, finally, added to iii. 31 the personage of Shamgar (from the Song of Deborah, v. 6) because at his time the judgeship of Abimelech caused offense, and the editor wished to remove Abimelech without disturbing the number of the judges.

§ V. Age of the Sources:

Story of Samson.

The sources from which the material for the various heroic stories was taken are in part very old, the Song of Deborah having originated as early as the time of the Judges.These old sources, however, were committed to writing a considerable time after the date of the events which they narrate. Samson certainly lived a long time before the account of his life was written down, because it has a very evident admixture of mythic elements, as, for instance, his heroic deeds and the virtue ascribed to his hair. His deeds remind one of the deeds of Hercules, and his name ( = "the sunny") shows a resemblance in attributes to the Phenician sun-god Melkart, the prototype of the Greek Herakles. Although the story of Samson may be based on historical fact, it must be noted that Samson's deeds differ from those of the other warrior judges in that these latter are "saviors of their tribe" while Samson fights with the Philistines on his own account. Hence the compilation of the stories of the five Great Judges must be dated soon after the division of the kingdom. Single passages, like the basis of ch. xvii. and xviii., may be much older. The editor who combined his own additions with the book containing the stories, producing thereby the earlier Book of Judges, probably wrote in the last decades of the kingdom of Israel. The Deuteronomistic edition was undertaken during the Exile, at which time the other additions were probably also incorporated. The two appendixes were added very much later, as appears not only from the date of composition of the second appendix (xix.-xxi.), but also from the fact that the Deuteronomistic revision, which may be traced throughout the Book of Judges down to ch. xvi., did not include the two appendixes. Had they been added earlier, moreover, they would have been inserted in a different place, namely, in the beginning, where they belong, according to the dates mentioned in them (xviii. 30 and xx. 28). Although these references to the time may be glosses, they can not have been added after the book was completed.

§ VI. Literary Characteristics:

As a result of difference in sources originating at different times, the book has no literary unity. Side by side with the stereotyped formulas, which reveal the historical point of view of the compiler of the earlier Book of Judges (iii. 7, vi. 1; iii. 12, iv. 1, x. 6, xiii. 1; iv. 2, 9, x. 7), and the passages added in the spirit of these formulas, there are stories popular in character, to which have been added snatches of old folk-poetry, old proverbs, descriptions of popular customs, popular etymologies, and other characteristics of naive popular composition. The mythological elements, which are especially predominant in the story of Samson, are also derived from popular beliefs. Yet the historical narrative, in spite of various legendary additions, is on the whole true to fact, as appears from the frankness with which religious and moral conditions, widely differing from later customs, are discussed.

Emil G. Hirsch, Victor Ryssel

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.


Commentaries: G. L. Studer, Das Buch der Richter, 2d ed. 1842; J. Bachmann, Das Buch der Richter, mit Besonderer Rücksicht auf die Gesch. Seiner Auslegung und Kirchlichen Verwendung Erklärt, vol. i., ch. i.-v., 1868-1869; E. Bertheau, Das Buch der Richter und Ruth, in Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch, 1845, 1883; P. Cassel, in Lange's Theologisch-Homiletisches Bibelwerk. 2d ed. 1887; C. F. Keil, Josua, Richter, Ruth, in Biblischer Kommentar, 2d ed. 1874; S. Oettli, Das Deuteronomium und die Bücher Josua und Richter, in Strack and Zöckler, Kurzgefasster Kommentar, 1893; G. F. Moore, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges, in The International Critical Commentary, 1895; K. Budde, Das Buch der Richter, in K. H. C. 1897; W. Nowack, Richter und Ruth, in Nowack's Hand-Kommentar, 1900. Criticism of Sources: Th. Nöldeke, Untersuchungen zur Kritik des A. T. 1869, pp. 173-198; J. Wellhausen, in Bleek's Einleitung, 4th ed. 1878, pp. 181-205; idem, Prolegomena zur Gesch. Israels, 4th ed. 1895, pp. 229-247; B. Stade, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 1881, i. 339-343; S. R. Driver, in J. Q. R. 1889, i. 258-270; K. Budde, Die Bücher Richter und Samuel, Ihre Quellen und lhr Aufbau, 1890, pp. 1-166; Rudolph Kittel, Die, Pentateuchischen Urkunden in den Büchern Richter und Samuel, in Theologische Studrien und Kritiken, 1892, pp. 44-71; G. Kalkoff, Zur Quellenkritik des Richterbuches (Gymnasial-Programm), Aschersleben, 1893; W. Frankenberg, Die Composition des Deuteronomischen Richterbuches (Richter ii. 2-xvi.) Nebst einer Kritik von Richter xvii-xxi. 1895; G. Moore, Judges, in Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl.; H. Winckler, Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen, 1892, pp. 55-59 (on Judges iii. 12-31), and 42 et seq., 93 (on vi.-ix.); and the following articles in Stade's Zeitschrift: Ed. Meyer, in i. 117 et seq., B. Stade, in i. 146 et seq., and K. Budde, in vii. 93-166 and in viii. 148, on Judges i. 1-ii. 5; W. Böhme, in v. 86, 251 et seq. on Judges vi.-ix.; B. Stade, in iv. 250-256, and W. Böhme, in v. 251-274, on Judges xiii. et seq.; K. Budde, in viii. 285-300 on Judges xvii-xxi.; W. Böhme, in v. 30-36 on Judges xxi.; Güdemann, in Monatsschrift, xviii. 357 et seq. Criticism of Texts and Translations: O. F. Fritzsche, Liber Judicum Secundum LXX Interpretes, 1867; A. van Doorninck, Bijdrage tot de Tekstkritick van Richteren i.-xvi. 1879; P. de Lagarde, Septuaginta-Studien, 1892, pp. 1-72 (Abhandlungen der K. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, 1891, xxxvii.); A. Mez, Die Bibel des Josephus, 1895.

On the historical substance of the book see bibliography to Judges, Period of; and on the mythological elements of the story of Samson see F. Schwally, Semitische Kriegsaltertümer: I. Der Heilige Krieg im Alten Israel, 1901. For the Song of Deborah: J. Marquart, Fundamente Israelitischer und Jüdischer Gesch. 1896, pp. 1-10; G. A. Cooke, The History and Song of Deborah, 1896; C. Bruston, Le Cantique de Debora, 1901;

and the bibliography to Deborah, The Song of. Text: edition G. F. Moore, in S. B. O. T.E. G. H. V. Ry.

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