The Book of Judges spans a period of approximately 325 years, recording six successive periods of oppression and deliverance, and the appointment of 12 deliverers. The author of this book is not known, neither is there an indication of when it was written. The book of Judges, takes it name from the gifted leaders (Heb. Shopetim) who guided the fortunes of Israel from the death of Joshua to the days of Samuel, Israel’s last Judge.
Judges is a book about heroes – 12 men and women who were not perfect. In fact they included an assassin, a sexually promiscuous man, and a person who broke all the laws of hospitality. These leaders were especially raised up by God not only for their military prowess, but for their administrative abilities and spiritual discernment.
Judges is also a book about sin and its consequences, giving an action-packed account of the failure of the children of Israel, to maintain the high spiritual standards laid down by Moses and Joshua. They not only failed to conquer the land of Canaan as God had challenged them to do, but they also fell into the idolatry and sinful practices of the Canaanites.
When Joshua and the elders died, the nation experienced a leadership crisis, leaving them vulnerable and not enjoying freedom and prosperity in the Promised Land. Readers should take note of Israel’s repeated downward spiral into sin, refusing to learn from its own history and living only for the moment.
Before long the children of Israel became captives. Out of their desperation they begged 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 period of time there would be peace. Then complacency and disobedience would once again set in, and the cycle would repeat itself.
The Israelites had conquered many enemies and overcome many difficulties, but their work was not finished. They had met many political and military challenges, but facing spiritual challenges was more difficult. The unholy but attractive life-style of the Canaanites proved more dangerous than their military might. The Jews frequently gave in to the temptations and regularly compromised their faith.
The people of Israel experienced trouble because everyone became his/her own authority, acting on his own opinions of right and wrong. This produced horrendous results, especially from their leadership. Men like Gideon, Jephithah and Samson are known for their heroism in battle, but their personal lives were far from heroic.
To be truly heroic believers must go into battle each day in your home, job, community, church etc to further establish God’s kingdom. It is the ultimate heroic act, submitting your will, plans, desires and motives to God, utilising our spiritual weapons (God’s Standards, morals, truths and convictions) we receive from His Word.
If believers attempt to meet life’s challenges with human effort alone, we will find the pressures and temptations around us too great to resist. We will also lose the battle if we gather the spoils of earthly treasures, rather than seeking the treasures of heaven.
God taught Israel throughout Judges, that ‘rest’ was fully available and provided for by Himself, but must be entered into by an obedient people. Do you want to experience ‘peace like a river?’ Then invite God into your life today. God wants your new life with Him to be filled with peace, joy and love – and it all starts with getting to know Him better through prayer and His Word.