Book of Judges – The Ultimate “Vicious Cycle”

English: Historiated initial from the Stavelot...

English: Historiated initial from the Stavelot Bible, Book of Judges, depicting Yael killing Sisera. Folio 84. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we add up the times listed in the Book of Judges for the periods of oppression and the periods of rest, we come up with about 410 years. But many of the events of the book overlap in time, occurring in different locations. The Exodus is most reliably believed to have occurred around 1450, followed by 40 years of wandering. We also know that King Saul’s reign began about 1050 BC. So, a period of 300 -350 years is probably more accurate for events of this book.

Any time there is a serious discussion of the Book of Judges, the term “Cycle of the Judges” comes up. This refers to the pattern that is repeated over and over throughout the book. That pattern is as follows: (1) the people do what is evil in the sight of God, (2) God allows them to be oppressed, (3) they cry out to God, (4) God sends a judge to deliver them, (5) there is a period of rest, before the apostasy begins the cycle again.

English: Delilah betraying Samson, and turns h...

English: Delilah betraying Samson, and turns him over to the Philistines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judges 1:27-36 tells the story of failure after failure of various tribes to obey the Lord’s command to drive out all of the Canaanites that still dwelled in their allotted lands. Then in Judges 2:1-4, God’s tells them of the consequences for their disobedience “So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” It was a defining fact of the history of the Israelites. The cycle began with a generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (chapter 2:10). Abandoning the Lord, they sank into idolatry and other great evils.

The judges that God “raised up” to deliver the people during these cycles were not perfect servants of God. Indeed, in many cases, some could behave in very ungodly manners, and the Scripture shows them “warts and all.” But the Lord guided them for His purposes with the Holy Spirit, and they accomplished what He needed them to get done. Below are the names of the judges and their places of appearance in the book. The story of Samson is the longest, the most famous, and the most understood. Many people actually believe that Samson’s strength came from his hair, and that he lost that strength due to it being cut. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding fuels the view of his story as some sort of fable. For perhaps some better insight, see this previous post.

Othniel (Judges 3: 7-11)
Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)
Shamgar (Judges 3:31)
Deborah (Judges 4-5)
Gideon (Judges 6-8)
Tola (Judges 10:1-2)
Jair (Judges 10:3-5)
Jephthah (Judges 10:6-12:7)
Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10)
Elon (Judges 12:11-12)
Abdon (Judges 12:13-15)
Samson (Judges 13-16)

/Bob’s boy
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

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