Theme: Syncretism, Oppression, and Grace; Key Verses: Judges 2:20-21; Judges 21:25

Themes of Old Testament Books—Law or Torah

  • Genesis: Beginnings
  • Exodus: Redemption
  • Leviticus: Reconciliation
  • Numbers: Divine Discipline
  • Deuteronomy: Choose Life

Themes of Old Testament Books—Prophets or Nebiim

  • Judges: Syncretism, Oppression, and Grace

Hebrew Bible, The Prophets – Nebiim

Former Prophets

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Samuel
  • Kings

English Bible (OT), History

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • Samuel
  • Kings


  • Israel refused to obey God’s word about foreign gods, about taking complete possession of the land, and about following Moses’ Law. As a result they took on the spiritual life of the people of the land—Mesopotamians, Moabites, Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites, Ammonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jubusites.
  • Chapters 1-2 and 17-21 present the death of Joshua followed by Israel’s unbelief, confusion, disobedience, bloodshed, and suffering.
  • Chapters 3-17 describe the various cycles of spiritual failure, the oppression, and God’s deliverance through a leader (judge).

Background to Events

  • Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan in 1405 BC. Israel conquered major cities, but left many strongholds in Canaanite hands. These pagan areas became a source of spiritual and national testing.
  • After the initial victories, which took 7 years, Joshua divided the newly conquered land among the tribes (Joshua 13-24).
  • Before Joshua died, he called a meeting at Shechem and challenged the nation to choose whom they will serve. They chose to serve the Lord, so there at Shechem Joshua made a covenant with the people to serve the Lord (Joshua 24).
  • Joshua died in 1380 BC. Canaanites remained in the land and continued to be a distraction and bad influence on Israel.

When Did All This Happen?

  • The events in the book of Judges run from about 1380 until 1050 BC—the death of Joshua until the reign of King Saul.
  • Prophet Samuel lived during the final years of the judges and into the reign of Saul.
  • Judges was probably was written after the start of Saul’s reign but before the divided kingdom.
    • “In those days there was no king in Israel” (17.6; 18.1; 21.25; with 19.1) indicates that Judges was probably written after Saul became king.
    • “So the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day” (1.21) indicates that it was written before David removed the Jebusites in 1004 BC (2 Samuel 5.5-9).
  • Samuel may have written the book.

Judges Key Verses

  • Judges 2:20 So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died,
  • Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Theme: Syncretism, Oppression, and Grace

  • Disobedience to God’s word brings chaos. This chaos begins with spiritual syncretism (combine teachings, beliefs, and practices) and then outright idolatry which results in personal and national testing, failure, disaster, and oppression. Even under such conditions, if God’s people ask for him to deliver them, he will graciously do so through Spirit-guided and Spirit-empowered leaders.

Judges: Overview Outline

  • Canaanites are left in the land, 1-2
  • Cycles (pagan influence à religious syncretismà oppression à God delivers) and Judges, 3-16
  • Flashback: Apostasy and fratricide, 17-21

Judges Chapter Titles: Canaanites are left in the land, 1-2

  • Chapter 1: Only Judah, Simeon, and Joseph destroyed the Canaanites
  • Chapter 2: Thorns and snares and judges

Judges Chapter Titles: Cycles (pagan influenceà apostasyà oppressionà God delivers) and Judges, 3-16

  • Chapter 3: Othniel, Ehud and Eglon, and Shagmar
  • Chapter 4: Deborah, Barak, Sisera, and Jael
  • Chapter 5: Deborah and Barak’s song of praise
  • Chapter 6: Gideon, Baal, and the fleece
  • Chapter 7: Gideon’s victorious 300
  • Chapter 8: Gideon’s victory and the ephod
  • Chapter 9: Bloody Abimelech
  • Chapter 10: Philistines, Ammonites, other gods
  • Chapter 11: Jephthah, his daughter, and the Ammonite defeat
  • Chapter 12: Ephraim’s anger and defeat by Gilead
  • Chapter 13: Angel of the Lord and Samson’s parents
  • Chapter 14: Samson marries a Philistine, and the riddle
  • Chapter 15: Samson’s 300 foxes, the jawbone, and 1000 dead Philistines
  • Chapter 16: Samson, Delilah, and Samson’s final battle

Judges Chapter Titles: Flashback, Apostasy and Fratricide, 17-21

  • Chapter 17: Micah mixes religious beliefs, and the Levite
  • Chapter 18: Danite’s idolatry and war on Laish
  • Chapter 19: Rape at Gibeah by Benjamites and 12 pieces of her body
  • Chapter 20: Israel takes vengeance on Benjamites
  • Chapter 21: 600 wives for Benjamites

Key Words Used

  • Gods, god, 25 times. 2.3,12,17,19; 3.6; 5.8; 6.10,31; 8.33; 9.27; 10.6,13,14,16; 11.24; 16.24; 18.24.
  • Idols, 7 times. 3.19,26; 17.5; 18.14,17,18,20.
  • “Israel did what was evil,” 2 times. 3.7; 6.1
  • “Did evil,” 2.11; again did evil, 4 times. 3.12; 4.1; 10.6; 13.1.
  • “No king,” 4 times. 17.6; 18.1; 19.1; 21.25.
  • “Did what was right in his own eyes,” 2 times. 17.6; 21.25.
  • “Cried to the Lord”, 6 times. 3.9,15; 4.3; 6.6,7; 10.10; to me, 10.12.
  • “Spirit of the Lord came upon,” 6 times. 3.10; 6.34; 11.29; 14.6,19; 15.14.
  • “Spirit of the Lord began to stir, 13.25.
  • “Judged Israel,” “judging Israel,” 13 times. 3.10; 4.4; 10.2,3; 12.7,8,9,11,13,14; 15.20; 16.31.

Main People, The Judges

  • Othniel, delivered Israel from the king of Mesopotamia, giving 40 years of peace. 3.7-11
  • Ehud, Killed Eglon, king of Moab, giving Israel 80 years of peace. 3.12-30
  • Shamgar, killed 600 Philistines. 3.31
  • Deborah and Barak, defeated Jabin, king of Canaan, giving 40 years of peace. 4.1-5.31
  • Gideon, Defeated Midian, giving 40 years of peace. 6.1-8.32
  • Tola, lived in Ephraim and judged 23 years. 10.1-3
  • Jair, lived in Gilead and judged 22 years. 10.4-5
  • Jephthah, defeated the Ammonites and rebellious Ephraimites, giving 6 years of peace. 10.6-12.7
  • Ibzan of Bethlehem judged 7 years. 12.8-10
  • Elon of Zebulun judged 10 years. 12.11-12
  • Abdon of Ephraim judged 8 years. 12.8-15
  • Samson delivered Israel from Philistine oppression and judged for 20 years. 13.1-16.31

Other main people in Judges

  • Eglon, king of Moab, was killed by Ehud. 3.12
  • Sisera, chief military commander for Jabin, King of Canaan. 4.2
  • Jael, killed Sisera with a tent peg. 4.21
  • Joash, father of Gideon. 6.29
  • Abimelech, son of Gideon, rebel and terrorist against God’s people; made king of Shechem. 9.1
  • Manoah, father of Samson. 13.2
  • Timnah, a Philistine, Samson’s wife, was blackmailed by Philistines. 14.2
  • Delilah, a Philistine woman, was bribed by the Philistines and got Samson to tell the secret of his strength. 16.6
  • Micah, lived in Ephraim and mixed the worship of the Lord with idols. 17.1
  • Young Levite from Bethlehem hired himself to be Micah’s personal priest. 17.7
  • The concubine of a Levite was raped and killed by Benjamites at Gibeah. The Levite then cut her in twelve pieces and mailed one piece to each tribe. 19.1

Let’s see Judges’ Theme

  • Ehud and Eglon illustrate the cycles: disobedience, spiritual syncretism, oppression, cry to God for help, and God’s gracious deliverance (Judges 3.12-30).
  • Ammonite oppression and the prelude to Jephthah illustrates rejection of God, the gods’ uselessness, and God’s grace (Judges 10.6-11.1).
  • Gideon and his terrorist son, Abimelech, demonstrate bad spiritual leadership, reversion to apostasy, and individual rebellion (Judges 8.22-9.15).
  • The Micah and the Levite priest promote spiritual syncretism (Judges 17).

Key Doctrines

  • Religious syncretism results from a failure to learn and be convinced of, and to obey or apply God’s word.
  • Lack of good spiritual leadership promotes spiritual apostasy, divine discipline, and suffering.
  • Spiritual tailspin=Rejection of God’s word + acceptance of pagan beliefsà spiritual syncretismà disaster and Divine discipline.
  • Spiritual recovery=Repentance (a change of thinking toward God and his word)à confession of sinà call for helpà God graciously delivers.
  • Spiritual stabilization=Did not occur in Judges and so the cycles repeated many times.

Lessons For Us Today

  • Learn the word of God, and become convinced of the word of God, and obey or apply the word of God (Romans 6.6, 11, 13; James 1.21-27).
  • Spiritual syncretism will damage one’s faith and life (Hebrews 6; Ephesians 4.17-20; Galatians 4.9-31; 1 Corinthians 10.14-22).
    • It begins with a naïve acceptance that maybe a non-biblical belief system may be good.
    • Or, it begins by outright rejection of God’s word.
  • Good spiritual leadership is necessary for spiritual health, growth, and service (Acts 20.28-32; 1 Thessalonians 2.1-12; 2 Timothy 2).
  • Restoration to fellowship with God begins with confession of known sin (1 John 1.9).