OT book setting out some of Israel’s traditions from Joshua to Samuel, a period of about 300 years. The material was collected early in the monarchy, but the final edition was probably made after the Fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. The Deuteronomic editor has shaped the material to conform to his theology: after idolatry came the divine punishment; so there is a cry for divine assistance and a hero emerges who gives the land a time of rest under the judge. The book includes the story of the prophetess Deborah (Judg. 4), the Song of Deborah and Barak (Judg. 5), and a war for the plain of Esdraelon (c. 1200 BCE). Thus, although the picture presented is of a contemporary record of late Bronze or Iron Age transition, in which a series of popular figures emerge who inspire bands of young men in guerrilla tactics (celebrated in Ecclus. 46: 11), it is rather an understanding of Israelite settlement held at the end of the period of the monarchy.
The first chapter of Judges goes over ground covered by Josh. 14–15, and includes a typical instance of barbarity when a conquered king is mutilated (verses 5–7) and portends atrocities of rape (19: 4), child sacrifice (11: 39), as practised in neighbouring cultures (2 Kgs 17: 31), and wife-stealing (21: 23). The middle chapters describe an era of anarchy. The book ends with a cry for the monarchy, such was the chaos when ‘every man did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judg. 21: 25): the tribe of Dan engaged in theft and massacre, and Benjamin was almost exterminated by other tribes.