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Interpretive Essay
The Book of Judges
OBST 515_B01
Old Testament Orientation I
Anne Rector
September 17, 2023
The purpose of the book of Judges is to explore God's position during the years between
Joshua and David. The Lord had provided land for the Israelites and they had solidified their
covenant of faithfulness to Him at Shechem (Josh. 24). What followed was a demonstration of
unfaithfulness and failure, eventually brought to an end by God himself with the installation of a
king.
The message of the book is that the problem of Israel not receiving God's
blessings was not the fault of God, but their systematic continuance of being disobedient.
1
The
period of the judges was characterized by tribal acts of depravity, illustrated by the two sets of
recurring refrains in this book. Each cycle in chapters 3-16 is introduced by the observation that
"the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord" (2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1, 10:6; 13:1), indicating
their tendency toward apostasy.
The second refrain is an inclusio, appearing at the beginning and end of chapters
17-21 (17:6; 21:25): "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he saw fit." The
first half of the phrase is used in two other places as well (18:1, 19:1), sustaining the narrative.
This last refrain could be taken as a sponsorship for a monarchy, what it actually proves is that
tribal leadership, even with a slate of non-judicial judges, was ineffective in maintaining the
Israelites covenant with God.
2
The first section of Judges (2: 1-5) describes the failure of Israel in
carrying out the Lord's directions to rid the land of the Canaanites. The result was that the land
was neither possessed nor controlled by them, due to their willful disobedience. Failure to purge
led in turn to the apostasy of Israel that characterizes their record in the period of judges. Judges
chapter 1 allows for no possibility to blame the Lord; the Lord's refusal to drive out the
1
Mark Rooker, The Word and the World (Grand Rapids: B & H Academic, 2010), 401.
2
Leon Morris, Judges and Ruth (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 93.