The Book of Judges - Introduction
Whereas the Book of Joshua deals with the conquest of Canaan, Judges deals with the subsequent settlement. Largely an account of battles lasting through several generations before the country was securely in Israel's hands, Judges preserves traditions of various tribes and the exploits of their particular heroes, the “judges” (see 2.16 n. ).
The opening section ( 1.1–2.5 ) describes the settlement of the tribes. It implies that much of Canaan was not yet subjugated, despite the view in Joshua of a complete conquest. The main part of the book, after a moralizing introduction ( 2.6–3.6 ), recalls the contribution of the individual judges who are given as a total of twelve, though long narratives are about only five: Ehud ( 3.12–30 ); Deborah (chs. 4–5 ); Gideon (chs. 6–8 ), ch. 9 treats his wicked son, Abimelech; Jephthah ( 10.6–12.7 ); and Samson (chs. 13–16 ). The other seven are to be found in 3.7–11, 31; 10.1–5 ; and 12.8–15 . An appendix contains an account of the migration of Dan (chs. 17–18 ) and the trespass of the Benjaminites (chs. 19–21 ).
The final editor, in preserving these colorful stories, was concerned with the moral lesson that loyalty to God brings national success and disloyalty guarantees disaster. This is the theme also of Deuteronomy, especially Deut. ch. 28 . Modern criticism considers Judges to be part of the “Deuteronomic history” (see Introduction to Josh. ).