Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges



in the Revised Version with introduction and notes



Hon. D.D., Edin.; Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, Oxford, and Canon of Rochester; Hon. Canon of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh


at the University Press



by the


The present General Editor for the Old Testament in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges desires to say that, in accordance with the policy of his predecessor the Bishop of Worcester, he does not hold himself responsible for the particular interpretations adopted or for the opinions expressed by the editors of the several Books, nor has he endeavoured to bring them into agreement with one another. It is inevitable that there should be differences of opinion in regard to many questions of criticism and interpretation, and it seems best that these differences should find free expression in different volumes. He has endeavoured to secure, as far as possible, that the general scope and character of the series should be observed, and that views which have a reasonable claim to consideration should not be ignored, but he has felt it best that the final responsibility should, in general, rest with the individual contributors.



List of Principal Abbreviations


§ 1.  Name and Contents

§ 2.  Sources and Literary Structure:

A.  The Deuteronomic Redaction

B.  The pre-Deuteronomic Book of Judges

C.  The post-Deuteronomic additions

§ 3.  The Chronology of the Book

§ 4.  The History and Religion of the Period:

A.  The occupation of Canaan

B.  The History of Israel during the period

C.  The Religion of Israel during the period






Ber. Rab.

The Midrash Rabbah, Bereshith (Genesis).


Bertheau  E. Bertheau, Das Buch der Richter und Ruth , 2 nd edn., 1883.


Budde  K. Budde, Das Buch der Richter, 1897, in Marti’s Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament.


Buhl  F. Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästina, 1896.


CIS  Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum.


COT.2  E. Schrader, The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament, 2nd edn., 1885.


D  Deuteronomy (7th cent. b.c.) and Deuteronomist.


Driver, Introd.8  S. R. Driver, An. Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, 8th edn., 1909.


Driver, Schweich Lectures.  S. R. Driver, Modern Research as illustrating the Bible, 1909. The Schweich Lectures for 1908.


E  Elohist, Hexateuchal source, written probably in the Northern Kingdom, 9th-8th cent. b.c.


Encycl. Bibl.  Encyclopaedia Biblica, edited by T. K. Cheyne and J. Sutherland Black, 4 vols., 1899–1903.


EV.  English Version or Versions (AV. and RV.).


HDB. or DB.  Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols., 1898–1904.


J  Jehovist, Hexateuchal source, written probably in Judah, 9th cent. b.c.


KAT.3  Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, 3rd edn., 1903, by H. Zimmern and H. Winckler.


KB.  E. Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (transliterations and translations of Babylonian and Assyrian texts, by various scholars), 6 vols., 1889–1900.


Ḳimḥi  The commentary of David Ḳimḥi of Narbonne (a.d. 1160–1235), printed in Rabbinic Bibles.


Lagrange  M.-J. Lagrange, Le Livre des Juges, 1903.


LXX.  The Septuagint in Swete’s edition, The Old Testament in Greek, vol. i., 1887. (3rd edn., 1901.)


LXX. cod. B

LXX. mss.

LXX. cod. A  Two Greek versions of Judges exist; the one represented by codex B (Vaticanus) and a considerable group of cursives designated N by Moore[1]; the other represented by codex A (Alexandrinus) and the majority of mss. both uncial and cursive. Codex B is printed as the text of Swete’s edition, with the readings of codex A below; the latter has been edited separately by Brooke and McLean, 1897.

[1] Moore George F. Moore, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges, in the International Critical Commentary series, 1895. Also Judges in the Polychrome Bible, English translation and notes, 1898; Hebrew Text and critical notes, 1900.


LXX. Luc.

LXX. mss.  Among the cursive mss. which belong to the version represented by codex A is a group which furnishes the text published by Lagarde, Librorum Veteris Testamenti Canonicorum pars prior, 1883, and is thought to give the recension of Lucian. Another set of cursives, belonging also to the version of codex A, forms a second group, designated M by Moore.


Moore  George F. Moore, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges, in the International Critical Commentary series, 1895. Also Judges in the Polychrome Bible, English translation and notes, 1898; Hebrew Text and critical notes, 1900.


Nowack  W. Nowack, Richter und Ruth, 1900, in Nowack’s Handkommentar zum Alten Testament.


NSI.  G. A. Cooke, A Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, 1903.


Onom. or OS.  Paul de Lagarde, Onomastica Sacra, 1870; written in Greek by Eusebius, and translated into Latin by Jerome. This edition is cited by pages and lines.


OTJC.2  W. Robertson Smith, The Old Testament in the Jewish Church, 2nd edn., 1892.


Pesh. or Syr.  Peshiṭṭo, the Syriac Version of the Bible.


Rashi  The commentary of R(abbi) Sh(ĕlômoh) Y(iṣḥâḳi) of Troyes, a.d. 1040–1105, printed in Rabbinic Bibles.


Rd  The Deuteronomic Redactor.


RVm  The Revised Version marginal notes.


Syro-Hex.  The Syriac version, ascribed to Paul of Tella, of the Septuagint column in Origen’s Hexapla, representing the Hexaplaric LXX. as it was read at Alexandria in the beginning of the 7th cent. a.d.


Vulg.  Vulgate, Jerome’s Latin Version of the Bible.


ZDPV.  Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palaestina-Vereins.


A small ‘superior’ figure attached to the title of a book (e.g. Introd.8) indicates the edition of the work referred to.

In citations, e.g. Jdg 2:1 b, 5a, the letters a, b (sometimes c, d) denote respectively the first and second (or third and fourth) parts of the verse cited.

The citations always refer to the English Version; occasionally, where the Hebrew numbering differs from the English, attention is called to the fact.

In the transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic words or proper names the following equivalents are used: ‘= א; ‘= ע; gh = غ; ḥ = ח, ح; kh (in Arabic words) = خ; dh = ذ; ḳ = ק, ق; ṣ = צ, ص; ṭ = ט, ط.


§ 1. Name and Contents

In the Hebrew Bible the Book of Judges (shôphĕṭim) stands second in the division of the Former Prophets, between Joshua and Samuel. In the Greek Bible, followed by the Vulgate and English Versions, it holds the same position, but Ruth comes immediately after it, because the scene of the story is laid in the time of the Judges. The title is probably taken from Jdg 2:16-19, a passage which sums up the characteristics of the period covered by the Book, and describes the judges as men raised up by God to save Israel in the days of calamity and humiliation which invariably succeeded each act of national apostasy. The word is used in a special sense of the heroes of this age. The judge was not a magistrate, but a deliverer and ruler: when he had delivered his people he ruled them for the rest of his life; his authority extended over the whole nation; he was a king in all but the name and the right to transmit his office; and he formed one of a succession lasting from Othniel and Ehud to Eli and Samuel1[2]. Now this representation of the Judges is due, not to the ancient sources preserved in the Book, but to the later historian who collected and interpreted them. From the older sources we learn that the heroes of the period, so far from exercising authority over all Israel and fighting battles on a national scale, were rather local leaders who won a victory for their particular district with such forces as they could muster. Israel had not yet outgrown the tribal stage, and a nation of Israel did not yet exist; but some kind of leadership was needed in a time of incessant conflict. It was the prowess and faith of the tribal heroes which saved the Hebrew colonies from being overwhelmed by the native population, and the way was thus prepared for the growth of a national life organized under a central authority. Whether or not the name of judge was derived by the compiler from tradition we do not know; in Jdg 11:6 Jephthah is invited to become not a judge but a chief (ḳâṣîn); at any rate the title of our Book is derived from a conception of the history which is not borne out by the older documents. Nevertheless, the title conveniently suggests the transitional character of the period, and the position which its leaders filled.

[2] The following references to this period illustrate the usage: for judges in the special sense mentioned above see Jdg 2:16-19, Ruth 1:1, 2 Samuel 7:11, 2 Kings 23:22, 1 Chronicles 17:6; 1 Chronicles 17:10; for judge in the sense of deliver (lit. vindicate the honour, or establish the right, of the oppressed), Jdg 2:16; Jdg 2:18; Jdg 3:10; Jdg 4:4 n., 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 8:20; for judge in the sense of rule, followed by a note of the duration of the rule, and implying an authority over all Israel, Jdg 10:2-3; Jdg 12:7-14; Jdg 15:20; Jdg 16:31, 1 Samuel 4:18; for judge in the sense of magistrate, Jdg 4:4 n., 1 Samuel 7:15-17; 1 Samuel 8:1-2. All these functions were assumed later by the king, 1 Samuel 8:5-6; 1 Samuel 8:20, cf. Hosea 13:10, Isaiah 11:3-4. The word is a very ancient one, and is found in Babylonian, shapâṭu = to judge, shipṭu = judgement, punishment, e.g. KB. vi. pp. 72, 387; see also KAT.3, pp. 647, 650. For the word as used in Phoenician see on Jdg 2:16.

The Book falls naturally into three parts:

Part i.  Ch. Jdg 1:1 to Jdg 2:5.


Part ii.  Ch. Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 16:31.  The History of the Judges.


1.  Ch. Jdg 2:7 to Jdg 3:6.  An Introduction to this, the main body of the Book, shewing the principles which it is to illustrate.


2.  Ch. Jdg 3:7-11.  Othniel delivers Israel from Cushanrishathaim.


3.  Ch. Jdg 3:12-30.  Ehud delivers Israel from the Moabites.


4.  Chs. 4 and 5  Deborah and Barak deliver Israel from the Canaanites. The Song of Deborah.


5.  Chs. 6–8  Gideon delivers Israel from the Midianites.


6.  Ch. 9  Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Jotham’s fable.


7.  Ch. Jdg 10:1-5  Two Judges, Tola and Jair.


8.  Ch. Jdg 10:6 to Jdg 12:7.  Jephthah delivers Israel from the Ammonites.


9.  Ch. Jdg 12:8-15.  Three Judges, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon.


10.  Chs. 13–16  Samson and his exploits against the Philistines.


Part iii.  Chs. 17–21  An Appendix of sundry tribal traditions.


1.  Chs. 17 and 18  The origin of the sanctuary at Dan.


2.  Chs. 19–21  The outrage at Gibeah and the punishment of the Benjamites.


§ 2. Sources and Literary StructureA Preface designed to explain the state of affairs at the time when the history begins.

A. The Deuteronomic Redaction. The Book of Judges, like the Hexateuch and the Historical Books, is not the work of a single writer, but a compilation drawn from various sources of various dates; and for the understanding of the Book it is important to distinguish the compiler’s own contributions from the earlier documents which he has incorporated. We start, then, with the compiler. He is responsible for the main body of the Book, chs. Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 16:31, and he has constructed it upon a definite plan. The stories of the six Greater Judges, Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, are fitted into a framework which is marked by certain stereotyped expressions, enforcing a particular theory of the religion and chronology of the period. The theory is stated in Jdg 2:11-19 : the age of the Judges can shew nothing to deserve the approval of a religious mind; both in faith and in morals it fell far below the standard of the true service of Jehovah; the worship of false gods, oppression by enemies as a punishment, an appeal for help, a deliverance by the Judge, followed one another time after time in dire succession; to illustrate this is the object of the history which follows. In the case of Othniel tradition had preserved little beyond his name; the account of him, therefore, is composed entirely out of the formulae of the compiler (Jdg 3:7-11). But of the five other Judges full narratives existed, and most of them are prefaced and concluded with a similar refrain: the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord sold (or delivered) them into the hand of …; then they cried unto the Lord; and … was subdued; and the land had rest … years1[3]. Into this rationale of the period the compiler worked a system of chronology, which gives in each case the years of the oppression and of the peace which followed; for the most part the years are determined by the principle of a generation, either halved or doubled, 20, 40, 80. Now besides the six Greater Judges, a list of five Minor Judges is introduced before and after Jephthah, Jdg 10:1-5 and Jdg 12:8-15. These last are treated quite differently from the former; nothing is said about national sin, oppression, and deliverance; they are not judges in the sense of Jdg 2:11-19; some of the names belong elsewhere to clans, not to individuals; the years assigned to them are arranged on no particular principle. Since, therefore, the Minor Judges do not illustrate the theory of the compiler, they appear to stand outside his scheme. Did he insert them from some special source, or were they added later? It has been suggested that the five Minor Judges, and Abimelech, were introduced by some other hand to bring up the number to twelve. But the five are represented as belonging to the succession; after Abimelech there arose … and after him … and after him … etc.; moreover the notices of Jephthah (Jdg 12:7) and of Samson (Jdg 15:20) use the word judged (followed by the number of years) in the same way as the list of the Minor Judges; and as the chronology of the Book elsewhere is due to the compiler, it seems natural to suppose that he is responsible for the chronology of the Minor Judges also; but he must have derived it from some special information at his disposal. Without feeling any certainty on the subject, we may at any rate adopt this as a working hypothesis.

[3] Othniel Jdg 3:7-11; Ehud Jdg 3:12; Jdg 3:15; Jdg 3:30; Deborah and Barak Jdg 4:1-3; Jdg 4:23, Jdg 5:31 b; Gideon Jdg 6:1; Jdg 6:6 b, Jdg 8:28; Jephthah Jdg 10:6-7; Jdg 10:10, Jdg 11:33 b; Samson Jdg 13:1, Jdg 15:20, Jdg 16:31 end.

Is it possible to determine the age and affinities of the compiler? The question admits of a clear answer. His point of view corresponds with that of the historical sections of Deuteronomy and of the Deuteronomic elements in the Book of Joshua; his language also shews that he belonged to the school of writers which worked in the spirit of Deuteronomy and adopted its terminology, the school of the compiler of Kings, with which the prophet Jeremiah is connected. The following lists illustrate the characteristics of our author and his indebtedness to the Deuteronomic school.

(a) Expressions characteristic of the compiler:

1. Jehovah raised up (judges) Jdg 2:16; Jdg 2:18, Jdg 3:9; Jdg 3:15.

2. a saviour, saved them (of the judge) Jdg 2:16; Jdg 2:18, Jdg 3:9; Jdg 3:15, Jdg 10:1; cf. Jdg 10:12-13 (of Jehovah).

3. judge, he judged (in the special sense of deliverer or he vindicated) Jdg 2:16-19, Jdg 3:10,? Jdg 4:4; 2 Samuel 7:11 (Deut.) = 1 Chronicles 17:10, 2 Kings 23:22, 1 Chronicles 17:6, Ruth 1:1. For the use of the word in the sense of ruler (followed by a date) see p. xi n.[4]

[4] . The following references to this period illustrate the usage: for judges in the special sense mentioned above see Jdg 2:16-19, Ruth 1:1, 2 Samuel 7:11, 2 Kings 23:22, 1 Chronicles 17:6; 1 Chronicles 17:10; for judge in the sense of deliver (lit. vindicate the honour, or establish the right, of the oppressed), Jdg 2:16; Jdg 2:18; Jdg 3:10; Jdg 4:4 n., 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 8:20; for judge in the sense of rule, followed by a note of the duration of the rule, and implying an authority over all Israel, Jdg 10:2-3; Jdg 12:7-14; Jdg 15:20; Jdg 16:31, 1 Samuel 4:18; for judge in the sense of magistrate, Jdg 4:4 n., 1 Samuel 7:15-17; 1 Samuel 8:1-2. All these functions were assumed later by the king, 1 Samuel 8:5-6; 1 Samuel 8:20, cf. Hosea 13:10, Isaiah 11:3-4. The word is a very ancient one, and is found in Babylonian, shapâṭu = to judge, shipṭu = judgement, punishment, e.g. KB. vi. pp. 72, 387; see also KAT.3, pp. 647, 650. For the word as used in Phoenician see on Jdg 2:16.

4. sold them into the hand of Jdg 2:14, Jdg 3:8, Jdg 4:2; Judges cf.9, Jdg 10:7. For the figure cf. Deuteronomy 28:68; Deuteronomy 32:30, 1 Samuel 12:9 (Deut.), Ezekiel 30:12, Psalm 44:12.

5. delivered them into the hand of Jdg 2:14, Jdg 6:1, Jdg 13:1.

6. oppressed, oppressors (laḥaṣ) Jdg 2:18, Jdg 4:3, Jdg 6:9, Jdg 10:12; cf. Exodus 3:9 E, 1 Samuel 10:18, 2 Kings 13:4; 2 Kings 13:22, Isaiah 19:20, Jeremiah 30:20.

7. cried (zaʿaḳ) Jdg 3:9; Jdg 3:15, Jdg 6:6-7, Jdg 10:10; Jdg 10:14, (ṣaʿaḳ) Jdg 4:3, Jdg 10:12; cf. Exodus 3:9 E, Isaiah 19:20.

8. subdued Jdg 3:30, Jdg 4:23, Jdg 8:28, Jdg 11:33; cf. Deuteronomy 9:3, 1 Samuel 7:13 (Deut.), 2 Samuel 8:1, 1 Chronicles 17:10 etc.; perhaps, like No. 7, adopted from the pre-Dtc. Book of Judges.

9. and the land had rest Jdg 3:11; Jdg 3:30, Jdg 5:31 b, Jdg 8:28, Joshua 11:23; Joshua 14:15 (both Deut.), 2 Chronicles 14:1; 2 Chronicles 14:6.

(b) Expressions which shew the relation between the compiler and Deuteronomy, and the passages in Joshua, Kings, and Jeremiah influenced by Deuteronomy:

1. and the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord Jdg 2:11, Jdg 3:7; Jdg 3:12, Jdg 4:1, Jdg 6:1, Jdg 10:6, Jdg 13:1; Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 17:2; Deuteronomy 31:29; 1 Kings 11:6; 1 Kings 14:22; 1 Kings 15:26 etc.; Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 18:10; Jeremiah 32:30; Jeremiah 52:2; occasionally elsewhere, 1 Samuel 15:19, 2 Samuel 12:9 etc.

2. forsook (Jehovah) Jdg 2:12, Jdg 10:6; Jdg 10:10; Jdg 10:13; Deuteronomy 28:20, 1 Kings 11:33, 2 Kings 21:22; 2 Kings 22:17 (all Deut.), Jeremiah 1:16 and often in Jer. Also in JE, Deuteronomy 31:16; Deuteronomy 32:15, Joshua 24:20 E.

3. Jehovah, the God of their fathers Jdg 2:12; Deuteronomy 1:11; Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 4:1; Deuteronomy 6:3; Deuteronomy 12:1; Deuteronomy 26:7; Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 29:25.

4. after other gods, and bowed themselves down to them Jdg 2:12; Jdg 2:17; Jdg 2:19; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 29:26; cf. Deuteronomy 30:17; other gods (with serve or go after) also 10 times in Deut. beside the passages quoted; very frequent in the Dtc. parts of Kings and in Jer. First in E, Joshua 24:16 b, Jdg 10:13? E.

5. the peoples round about them Jdg 2:12; Deuteronomy 6:14; Deuteronomy 13:7.

6. provoked the Lord to anger Jdg 2:12; Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 31:29; cf. Deuteronomy 32:21 JE; 1 Kings 16:7, 2 Kings 22:17 (Deut.), Jeremiah 25:6 etc.

7. their enemies round about Jdg 2:14, Jdg 8:34; Deuteronomy 12:10; Deuteronomy 25:19; Joshua 21:44; Joshua 23:1, 1 Samuel 12:11, 2 Samuel 7:1 (all Deut.).

8. as the Lord had spoken (i.e. promised) Jdg 2:15; Deuteronomy 14 times (Jdg 1:11, Jdg 6:19 etc.); Joshua 14:10; Joshua 14:12; Joshua 22:4; Joshua 23:5; Joshua 23:10 (Deut.); 1 Kings 5:12; 1 Kings 8:20; 1 Kings 8:56 (Deut.).

9. turned aside quickly out of the way Jdg 2:17; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 9:16 cf. Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 31:29. First in Exodus 32:8 E.

10. obey (lit. hearken to) the commandments of the Lord Jdg 2:17, Jdg 3:4; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:27; Deuteronomy 28:13; cf. Deuteronomy 8:2.

11. transgressed my covenant Jdg 2:20; Deuteronomy 17:2; Joshua 23:16, 2 Kings 18:12 (Deut.); Jeremiah 34:18. First in JE, Joshua 7:11; Joshua 7:15.

12. to drive out (lit. cause others to possess, i.e. dispossess) Jdg 2:21; Jdg 2:23; Deuteronomy 4:38; Deuteronomy 9:4-5; Deuteronomy 11:23; Deuteronomy 18:12; Joshua 3:10; Joshua 13:6; Joshua 23:5; Joshua 23:9; Joshua 23:13, 1 Kings 14:24; 1 Kings 21:26, 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 17:8; 2 Kings 21:2 (all Deut.). So Exodus 34:24, Numbers 21:32 (cf. Jdg 11:23-24), Numbers 32:21 JE.

13. the way of the Lord to walk therein Jdg 2:22; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 10:12 + 6 times; Joshua 22:5, 1 Kings 2:3; 1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 8:58; 1 Kings 11:33 (all Deut.). Cf. Exodus 18:20 E.

14. forget Jehovah their God Jdg 3:7; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 8:19; 1 Samuel 12:9 (Deut.).

These facts shew that the compiler must have drawn up the main body of the Book, Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 16:31, after the promulgation of Deuteronomy in 621 b.c., and that he belonged to the age of Jeremiah, the early part of the sixth century. We may, then, use the symbol Rd, i.e. Deuteronomic Redactor, to mark his handiwork.

B. The pre-Deuteronomic Book of Judges. The work of Rd, as we have seen, was mainly one of compilation and interpretation; he was not himself the author of the stories which recount the deeds of the heroes, for in style they reveal no traces of his unmistakable handling, and in substance they do not bear out his view of the history. By their manner and treatment the stories remind us of the patriarchal narratives in Genesis, and still more of the narratives of Saul and David in the Books of Samuel. It is universally agreed that they are ancient compositions, dating perhaps from the early days of the monarchy, and founded upon oral traditions. This method of transcribing old material to form the basis of a historical work finds an exact parallel in Joshua 1-12 : the narratives of the Dtc. Book of Joshua were not written by the Dtc. redactor, but incorporated by him from an earlier work. The question then arises, did the old stories in Judges exist in some collected form before they were taken in hand by Rd? In other words, was there a pre-Deuteronomic Book of Judges?

Now when closely examined, it will be seen that these old stories themselves were not composed by a single writer; the inconsistency of details, the differences of presentation, the repetitions and redundancies of phraseology, all point to a derivation from more than one source. In the account of Deborah and Barak, for example, two versions have reached us, the one in prose ch. 4, the other in poetry ch. 5; the latter may well have been taken from some popular collection, such as the Book of Jashar, or the Book of the Wars of Jehovah (2 Samuel 1:18, Numbers 21:14). In the case of Gideon, again, chs. 6–8, a double thread seems to run through the narrative: his call and the erection of an altar are told twice over (Jdg 6:11-24; cf. Jdg 6:25-32; Jdg 6:24; cf. Jdg 6:25-26); the victory of the Ephraimites over the Midianite chiefs Oreb and Zeeb (Jdg 7:24 ff.) finds a parallel in Gideon’s pursuit of the Midianite kings Zeba and Zalmunna (Jdg 8:4-21). In the account of Jephthah it is more difficult to unravel the sources, but a long section has been borrowed from JE’s history of the age of Moses (Jdg 11:12-28). The stories told about Samson do not shew signs of composite authorship, but the birth-story, ch. 13, may well have arisen later than the others, after he had become famous, like the stories of Samuel’s youth. In the Appendices there is clear evidence for a combination of narratives; it will be sufficient to refer to the commentary for particulars. The old histories, then, were composed from several sources, and this must have taken place before Rd compiled his work. Can we go further, and maintain that the old histories were not only composed but collected into a book before the Dtc. redaction? The question hardly admits of a decisive answer, though there are indications which point to an affirmative. If such a thing as a pre-Dtc. Book of Judges ever existed, it was most likely provided with some brief introductory passages, connecting the ancient stories with one another and setting them in their historical context. Now it seems probable that fragments, at any rate, of such introductory notices have survived in the summaries of the period given in Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 3:6, Jdg 6:1-10, Jdg 10:6-16. When examined they are found to be not wholly consistent. This appears most strikingly in the case of Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 3:6, which proposes no less than three answers to the question, How was it that the Israelites did not succeed in conquering the Canaanites? It was to punish Israel for its sins (Jdg 2:20-21); to test Israel’s fidelity (Jdg 2:22, Jdg 3:1 a, Jdg 3:3-4); to practise Israel in the art of war (Jdg 3:2). Explanations so different cannot have been proposed by one and the same writer. Though the passage as a whole has passed through the hands of Rd, it cannot be entirely his work; certain elements may have been added later; others again, especially Jdg 2:23, Jdg 3:2, belong to a circle of ideas which is not that of Rd. Similarly in Jdg 6:1-10; here Jdg 6:2-6 a are in substance founded upon the old story which follows; the redundancy of the text, however, proves that the passage does not come from a single hand; it has received additions, but in part belongs to an earlier source than the framework of Rd. The phenomena are repeated in Jdg 10:6-16; the Dtc. strain is interwoven with elements of a different character and origin. Thus in all three passages we mark the presence of phrases and ideas which are foreign to the Dtc. circle; and though we cannot define the exact limits of this non-Dtc. element, yet it is possible to identify its associations. In all three passages there occur phrases which recall the language of E in the Hexateuch1[5]. We may explain this fact by supposing that the phrases in question were deliberately imitated from E by the latest editor, and by him inserted into Rd’s three introductions; on the other hand it is just as possible, and, from the considerations alleged above, more probable, that the stories of the heroes were collected and provided with brief introductory and connecting passages before Rd undertook his systematic work of editing. We seem, then, to be led to the conclusion that there did exist a pre-Dtc. Book of Judges which formed the basis, and to some extent the model, of the Dtc. redaction; perhaps such expressions as cried to Jehovah (Jdg 3:15, Jdg 4:3, Jdg 6:6), marking the prelude to the narrative of deliverance, and subdued (Jdg 3:30, Jdg 4:23, Jdg 8:28, Jdg 11:33), stating the result of the appeal for help, may have belonged to this earlier form of the Book.

[5] The following are the most significant:—(1) drive out i.e. the native races, Jdg 2:3, Jdg 6:9; Exodus 23:28-31 E, Exodus 33:2 (Gl), Exodus 34:11 JE, Joshua 24:12; Joshua 24:18 E.

  (2) their gods … a snare Jdg 2:3; Exodus 23:33; Exodus 34:12 JE, Joshua 23:13 D, Deuteronomy 7:16.

  (3) hearkened unto (my) voice Jdg 2:20; Exodus 15:26 JE, Jdg 18:24 E. Cf. Deuteronomy 15:5; Deuteronomy 28:1 etc.

  (4) to prove Jdg 2:22, Jdg 3:1; Jdg 3:4; Exodus 16:4? J, Exodus 15:25, Exodus 20:20 E, Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:16; Deuteronomy 13:3.

  (5) because of (unusual expression) Jdg 6:7; Genesis 21:11; Genesis 21:25, Exodus 18:8, Numbers 12:1; Numbers 13:24 E.

  (6) the allusion to a prophet Jdg 6:8, cf. Jdg 4:4; Genesis 20:7, Exodus 15:20, Numbers 11:25-29; Numbers 12:6 E.

  (7) Amorites (the original inhabitants of Canaan) Jdg 6:10; Judges 13 times in E, 5 times in D, 4 times in Josh. (Rd). See Jdg 1:34 n.

  (8) we have sinned Jdg 10:10; Jdg 10:15; Numbers 12:11; Numbers 14:40 (= Deuteronomy 1:41), Jdg 21:7 E.

  (9) strange i.e. foreign gods Jdg 10:16; Genesis 35:2; Genesis 35:4, Joshua 24:20; Joshua 24:23 E, Deuteronomy 31:16 JE; in Deut. other gods.

  (10) soul … grieved Jdg 10:16; Numbers 21:4 E (of the people).

  (11) misery Jdg 10:16; Genesis 41:51 E (‘toil’), Numbers 23:21? E (‘perverseness’), Deuteronomy 26:7 (‘toil’).

  (12) the opposition to the Baals and Canaanite influences Jdg 2:13, Jdg 10:6; Deuteronomy 31:16 f., Joshua 24:20 E.

We have discovered, then, echoes of E in the three summaries, Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 3:6, Jdg 6:1-10, Jdg 10:6-16. Can we find any traces of the other ancient source known as J in the Hexateuch? With reference to the terms Jehovist and Elohist a caution is needed. We must not think of individual writers, but of a succession of writers, “the historiography of certain period or school” (Moore); and when we use the symbols J and E it must clearly be understood that they are used in this sense. Now in the section Jdg 1:1 to Jdg 2:5 we have a collection of fragments which occur also in the Book of Joshua, loosely attached to their present context1[6]. These identical, or nearly identical passages, appear to be derived, both in Joshua and in Judges, from an ancient account of the invasion of Canaan, which may have formed part of the Jehovist history. This common source may have existed independently; but for convenience, and on account of its archaic character, it may be designated by the symbol J. Then in Jdg 11:12-28 we find an excerpt, almost word for word, from JE’s narrative in Numbers 20, 21. On general grounds it might be supposed that the wars of Jehovah during the period of the Judges would be a congenial theme to writers of the Jehovist and Elohist schools, and we might expect to find that the ancient stories were in a large measure composed by them; and when we examine the narratives of Gideon and Jephthah, and the Appendices, we discover certain expressions and ideas characteristic of J and E in the Hexateuch1[7]. Budde, followed by other scholars, has carried through a skilful analysis of the sources, and he does not hesitate (except in chs. 17–21) to assign them to J, E, J2, E2 etc. The analysis is often successful, but in many cases scholars are far from agreed about the details. The present editor, while he is convinced of the composite structure of the ancient stories, does not feel able to give names to the component elements which imply a closer connexion with the Jehovist and Elohist writings than can be regarded as clearly made out. Moreover, the evidence often suggests editorial expansions and additions rather than the combination of parallel sources; on this account, and for want of any decisive indication of origin, it seems better not to speak too confidently; we must content ourselves with observing the facts without venturing to give them definite labels.

[6] Jdg 1:10-15; Jdg 1:20 = Joshua 15:13-19; Jdg 1:21 = Joshua 15:63; Jdg 1:27 = Joshua 17:11-13; Jdg 1:29 = Joshua 16:10.

[7] The following are to be noted as pointing to J:—find grace or favour Jdg 6:17; Genesis 6:8; Genesis 6:20 times in J; forasmuch as Jdg 6:22; Genesis 18:5; Genesis 18:5 times in J; Ishmaelites (instead of Midianites) Jdg 8:24; Genesis 37:25; Genesis 37:27-28; Genesis 39:1 J; what is this that thou hast done? Jdg 15:11; Genesis 3:13; Genesis 12:18; Genesis 26:10, Exodus 14:5; Exodus 14:11 J, Genesis 29:25; Genesis 42:28 E.

Among the more distinctive marks of affinity with E are these:—the use of Elohim Jdg 6:36-40, Jdg 9:23; Jdg 9:56 f., Jdg 18:10; the divine message conveyed at night or in a dream Jdg 6:25; Jdg 6:36-40, Jdg 7:9-15; Genesis 28:11-12; Genesis 37:5 ff; Genesis 40:5; Genesis 41:1-7 E; the interest shewn in traditional religious customs Jdg 11:40, Jdg 17:3 ff.; Genesis 31:19; Genesis 31:30 (cf. Jdg 18:24), Genesis 35:4, Exodus 24:4, Joshua 24:15 etc. E; the trans-Jordanic associations of Israel Jdg 11:12-28; Numbers 20:14-21; Numbers 21:12-24 JE; the armed men Jdg 7:11; Exodus 13:18 E, Joshua 1:14; Joshua 4:12 D; citizens (be‘âlîm) Jdg 9:2 ff., Jdg 20:5; Numbers 21:28 JE, Joshua 24:11 E; sin (against man) Jdg 11:27; Genesis 20:9; Genesis 40:1; Genesis 42:22, Exodus 5:16 J. It is in the three introductory passages, however, that the influence of the school of E appears most distinctly; see the list given above, p. xix.

C. The post-Deuteronomic additions. In a real sense the Deuteronomic Redactor may be termed the author of Judges, but not of the whole Book; certain valuable and important sections were added after he had done his work. As we have seen (p. xiv), some scholars regard the brief notices of the Minor Judges as later additions, and there is a good deal to be said in favour of this view; but in the absence of any clear evidence one way or the other, we may consider Rd as responsible for introducing them. In the following cases we are on surer ground. (1) Ch. 9, which contains the story of Abimelech, shews no traces of Rd’s characteristic handling; apparently he omitted it as not contributing anything to the moral which he wished to impress. This chapter, therefore, may be regarded as an addition to the Dtc. Book of Judges. (2) The same may be said of ch. 16. It is remarkable that we find two notices of the duration of Samson’s judgeship, in Jdg 15:20 and Jdg 16:31. Now the story of Samson formed part of Rd’s scheme: it begins with his usual formula (Jdg 13:1), and Jdg 15:20 brings it to a conclusion with the remark and he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years. The chapter which follows, giving an account of Samson’s fall and tragic end, thus appears to lie outside the plan of the compiler. Perhaps he did not wish to include a narrative which was not wholly creditable to the hero or edifying to the reader; but fortunately the omission has been supplied, and to it was appended a conclusion modelled on the usual form (Jdg 16:31).

So far we have been dealing with the main body of the Book, Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 16:31; there remain the additions at the beginning and the end. (3) The opening chapter Jdg 1:1 to Jdg 2:5 must have been added later than the Dtc. redaction, for it describes what happened after the death of Joshua (Jdg 1:1), while Jdg 2:6 to Jdg 16:31 starts with a reference to Joshua as still alive, and proceeds to take up the thread of history from his life-time. (4) The two Appendices, chs. 17–18 and chs. 19–21, clearly stand outside the Dtc. book; they record certain tribal traditions, not the exploits of Judges; they do not illustrate the principles which Rd wished to enforce, and must have been added after his work was finished.

Now these four large additions exhibit much the same features as the ancient narratives which Rd incorporated into his book; they reveal the primitive religious ideas and the semi-barbarous manners of the time in a way which convinces us of their value as historical documents. Obviously, then, a good deal of material for the history of the age was in existence when Rd composed his work; some of it, which he rejected, was secured by a later editor, and used with admirable effect to enrich the Book. Moreover, it is possible to determine approximately when these additions were made. Inserted among the ancient fragments contained in Jdg 1:1 to Jdg 2:5 are certain expressions which indicate that the editor belonged to the school of writers which drew up the Priestly Code of the Pentateuch; see especially Jdg 1:1 a, Jdg 1:4; Jdg 1:8-10 a, Jdg 1:18; Jdg 1:23, Jdg 2:1 b – Jdg 2:5 a. The connexion with P is more clearly marked in chs. 20 and 21, e.g. Jdg 20:1 b, Jdg 20:12; Jdg 20:27 f., Jdg 21:10 ff. In the case of the additions (1) and (2) we do not find any decisive signs which indicate the school of the editor who placed them where they stand. Thus while we can say with certainty that the Dtc. Book of Judges received important extensions after the early part of the sixth century, that is, in the exilic or post-exilic period, and that in some respects this later editorial work shews affinities with the school of P, we cannot be sure that a single editor was responsible for this enrichment; indeed many minor additions were made in the course of time, as the commentary will shew.

(5) One more interesting addition may be noticed, Jdg 3:31. Apparently some reader, on the strength of the allusion to Shamgar in Jdg 5:6, inserted the verse under a misconception; for Shamgar is there alluded to as an oppressor, not a deliverer. An enterprise against the Philistines comes too early at this stage of the history; and in fact a group of Greek mss. repeat the verse after Jdg 16:31, shewing that some Greek translators felt uncertain about its proper position. It is suggested by Budde that a late reviser, who objected to Abimelech being reckoned as one of the twelve judges, intended to substitute Shamgar. However this may be, the verse is probably the latest addition which the Book received.

The following, then, are the stages by which the Book of Judges reached its present form:

(a) Stories of the heroes, which had been current on the lips of the people, were committed to writing in more than one version, probably in the early days of the monarchy. Before any of these the Song of Deborah most likely existed in a collection of songs.

(b) The stories appear to have been collected to form a book, and provided with short introductory and connecting passages, probably at a time contemporary with the editorial work of JE.

(c) After the publication of Deuteronomy, and probably in the first half of the 6th century, this earlier work was taken in hand by an author filled with the spirit of the Dtc. school, who enlarged and arranged it on a definite plan framed to illustrate certain historical and religious principles.

(d) A later editor in the 5th century expanded this Dtc. book by adding to it certain early documents which concerned the period, Jdg 1:1 to Jdg 2:5; Jdg 2:9; Jdg 2:16-21.

(e) A further editorial process followed, introducing fresh additions and expansions, e.g. Jdg 3:31.

While we may thus distinguish the stages by which our present Book grew into shape, it must be remembered that the really important matter is to mark off the work of the Dtc. compiler from the older sources which he used; this can be done with considerable precision, while the analysis of the older sources must remain largely provisional.

§ 3. The Chronology of the Book

We have seen that the Dtc. compiler, besides interpreting the documents before him, fitted them into a scheme of chronology. Whether he found any data to go upon we cannot tell; but in the main he is responsible for the system of numbered periods, because it is inseparably linked to his interpretation of the history. He regarded the Judges not only as ruling over all Israel, but as following one another in regular succession—a theory which is not borne out by the early sources. The chronology of the compiler, therefore, stands on the same level as his interpretation; both have an interest and value of their own, and both are to be estimated in the same spirit. The following are the chronological data given in the Book:

Jdg 3:8.  Israel serves Cushan-rishathaim  8


Jdg 3:11.  Deliverance by Othniel: the land rests  40  years


Jdg 3:14.  Israel serves Eglon  18  years


Jdg 3:30.  Deliverance by Ehud: the land rests  80  years


Jdg 4:3.  Oppression by Jabin  20  years


Jdg 5:31.  Deliverance by Deborah: the land rests  40  years


Jdg 6:1.  Oppression by the Midianites  7  years


Jdg 8:28.  Deliverance by Gideon: the land rests  40  years


Jdg 9:22.  Abimelech reigns over Israel  3  years


Jdg 10:2.  Tola judges Israel  23  years


Jdg 10:3.  Jair judges Israel  22  years


Jdg 10:8.  Oppression by the Ammonites  18  years


Jdg 12:7.  Jephthah judges Israel  6  years


Jdg 12:9.  Ibzan judges Israel  7  years


Jdg 12:11.  Elon judges Israel  10  years


Jdg 12:14.  Abdon judges Israel  8  years


Jdg 13:1.  Oppression by the Philistines  40  years


Jdg 15:20, Jdg 16:31.  Samson judges Israel  20  years


  Total,  410  years.


Now in 1 Kings 6:1 the number of years from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon, when the building of the temple was begun, is given as 480; and the problem arises, how can this figure be reconciled with the total in Judges 1[8], plus the additional years required to fill up the period? Thus:years.

[8] In Acts 13:19 f. the weight of ms. authority undoubtedly supports the text of Westcott and Hort adopted by the RV.; the 450 years are reckoned from Abraham (presumably from the promise made to him) up to the Judges. The reading followed by the AV., however, assigns the 450 years to the Judges; and this, in spite of inferior support from the mss., is preferred by many, e.g. by Blass, on the ground that the other reading is a rather obvious correction. If we follow the AV., and assign the 450 to the Judges, we must suppose that St Paul is here using popular chronology, of which a specimen is given by Josephus, Ant. viii. 3, 1.

Numbers 32:13.  Wandering in the desert  40  years.


Jdg 2:7.  Joshua and the elders  x  years


Jdg 3:8 to Jdg 16:31.  The Judges  410  years


1 Samuel 4:18.  Eli judges Israel  40  years (LXX 20.)


1 Samuel 7:2; 1 Samuel 7:15.  Samuel judges Israel  20+?  years


  Saul  y  years


1 Kings 2:11.  David  40  years


1 Kings 6:1.  Solomon  4  years


  Total, more than   554  years.


Many attempts have been made to account for these conflicting totals, none of them with entire success. For the present purpose it will be sufficient to explain the method which, in the main and with some variation in details, is now most generally adopted. It was Nöldeke who first drew attention to the practice followed by the Jewish and early Christian chronologers in dealing with our period: the years of foreign domination were passed over, and the beginning of a new Judge’s rule was dated, not from his victory over the oppressor, but from the death of the Judge before him1[9]. Besides the years of the oppressions, those of usurpers are also to be dropped, the three of Abimelech, and the unknown length of the reign of Saul, who was not counted by the Jews as a lawful king. Then we find that the period of the Philistine domination, 40 years, is exactly covered by the 20 of Samuel and the 20 of Eli (according to the LXX of 1 Samuel 4:18). Further, as Nöldeke points out, omitting Abimelech, the years of the Minor Judges (70) with Jephthah (6), come to 76, and thus we obtain, by including the four years of Solomon, another instance of the recurring multiple of 20. Thus:

[9] Untersuchungen zur Kritik des A.T.: Die Chronologie der Richterzeit, 1869, pp. 173–198. The Jewish commentators followed this method; see also Seder ‘Olam, ch. 12; Eusebius, Chron. ii. p. 35 (ed. Schoene) Post mortem Iesu subiectos tenuerunt Iudaeos alienigenae ann. viii., qui iunguntur temporibus Gothoniel secundum Iudaeorum traditiones. Nöldeke’s explanation is worked out with variations by Moore, Lagrange, and others.

Wandering in the desert  40  years.

Joshua and the elders  x  years


Othniel  40  years


Ehud  80  years


Deborah  40  years


Gideon  40  years


Samson  20  years


Eli  20  years


Samuel  y  years


David  40  years


Minor judges and the 4 years of Solomon  80  years


Total,  400  years.


There remain 80 years for x and y. The foregoing scheme, which, it will be noticed, is framed on the principle of 40 years to a generation, either halved or doubled, suggests that 40 years each are to be given to Joshua and Samuel. Thus we obtain the required total of 480 (1 Kings 6:1) which may well be intended to represent the lapse of 12 generations (40 × 12). Nothing could be more satisfactory; but we must bear in mind that the scheme rests upon several assumptions, (a) that the years of oppressions and of usurpers are not to be counted, (b) that the Minor Judges were included in the chronology of Rd, (c) that we have guessed the right numbers for Joshua and Samuel.

In any case the chronology as we have it in the Book of Judges is obviously artificial. Human history does not fit precisely into periods of 20, 40, 80 years; but the attempt thus to reckon it is interesting as an illustration of the methods of ancient historians.

The period covered by the Book cannot have lasted so long as 410 years. If we may place the Exodus in the time of Merenptah (1234–1214 Petrie, or 1225–1215 Breasted), i.e. in the 13th century b.c., and the reign of David in the 11th century (c. 1010 b.c. for the beginning of it), we have two, or two and a half centuries for the period of the Judges, which is amply sufficient for the events recorded.

§ 4. The History and Religion of the Period

When we have distinguished the work of successive editors from the early sources which they incorporate, we are in a position to form some idea of the history and religion of the period. The history, it must be remembered, is related in a series of pictures rather than in an exhaustive narrative. Thus while the incidents of a crisis or a battle are described with vivid detail, little is said about the ordinary life of old Israel in times of peace; we have to glean what we can from stray allusions. Again, the compilers of the O.T. historical books display little interest in history for its own sake; they set to work with a definite purpose, and selected such episodes as would illustrate it; and since they had no other aim than religious edification, the moral of the story was all-important in their eyes. We find, then, that many gaps occur which cannot be filled.

A. The occupation of Canaan. Judges 1 tells us how gradually and partially this was accomplished, indeed the tradition there imbedded has preserved a record mainly of failures. So far back as the 15th century b.c. the Canaanites, as the Amarna tablets shew, were in possession of the country, organized under petty rulers, owning allegiance to the Pharaoh of Egypt, and corresponding with him in the language and script of Babylonia. The civilization of Canaan was thus of long standing, and, under the influences of Babylon and Egypt, it had reached a considerable degree of development. The natives tilled the soil, dwelt in fortified towns under the local chief, and possessed a distinctive religion of their own. Though not constituted as a united nation, they could on occasion combine their forces under a single leader; the feuds of ages had practised them in the art of war; their horses and armoured chariots enabled them to hold the level country, their strong walls protected them among the hills. No wonder, then, that the Hebrew nomads proved unequal to the task of overthrowing a civilization so much superior to their own.

According to the tradition given in Judges 1 the tribes of Israel entered Canaan from the East, after crossing the Jordan a little to the N. of the Dead Sea; from an encampment on the plain of Jericho (Jdg 1:16, Jdg 2:1) they started to make their way into the new country, having previously arranged where their several ‘lots’ were to be. The main stream of immigration may well have followed this direction; but the tradition here and elsewhere seems to have preserved the recollection of another movement from a different quarter. The narrative of Judges 1 implies that the Southern tribes, Judah and Simeon, together with the Kenites and Kenizzites (Caleb), accompanied the rest in a circuit round to the E. of Jordan; and that, after entering Canaan, they penetrated into the Central Highlands, and thence descended Southwards to the Negeb. Throughout, the advance is towards the South. After securing their ‘lot’ with Simeon’s help, Hebron is captured for Caleb; then the Kenites move from Jericho to Zephath, still further South (Jdg 1:20; Jdg 1:10; Jdg 1:16 f.). Now this district of the Negeb was the native home of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Jerahmeelites (1 Samuel 27:10), and in the South of it, at Kadesh, the main group of Hebrew tribes were stationed for a long time during the period of the Exodus. We are struck at once by the improbability of the Kenites and the other clans taking such a roundabout way of reaching the district which had been the home of their ancestors; and we must bear in mind that the Canaanites held a barrier of strongholds in line with Jerusalem (Jdg 1:21; Jdg 1:29; Jdg 1:35, Joshua 9:17), which would effectually check an invasion descending from the Central Highlands to the South. Hence it appears likely that Judah and Simeon, with the Kenites and other clans, did not enter Canaan from the East at all, but made their way into the country direct from the South to the North, after the events at Kadesh (Numbers 13, 14)1[10]. A recollection of this movement from Kadesh upwards to the Negeb seems to be contained in the fragment Numbers 21:1-3, which is out of place where it stands, and applies to the whole people a tradition which originally concerned only a part of Israel. As time went on, we know that Judah gradually penetrated still further towards the North, and extended to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and an advance in the same direction on the part of the Calebites also is implied by the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2:50 ff. Supposing, then, that the Southern tribes succeeded in making their way into the Negeb direct from Kadesh, a good many obscurities are cleared up. We can understand why Judah did not flow into the main current of national life: not even David and Solomon could effect a permanent fusion. From the first Judah and Simeon had gone their own way by themselves, and contained many elements which, while not alien to the Israelite race, were not in full relationship with it. For a long time these elements in Judah maintained a distinct life of their own; they still clung to the habits and principles of their ancestors; and when questions were asked, How came the Calebites, not strictly of Israel, to be settled in Hebron and Kiriath-sepher, in such close connexion with Judah? the answer was given that Moses himself had endowed Caleb with this territory (Jdg 1:20, cf. Numbers 14:24 JE, Joshua 14:6-15 D). So fully did Caleb become incorporated, that in the later genealogies he is actually counted as a ‘prince of Judah,’ and Judah itself is mainly composed of Caleb’s descendants (Numbers 13:6 P, Numbers 34:18-19 P, 1 Chronicles 2:48 ff.).

[10] See further Steuernagel, Die Einwanderung der israelitischen Stämme in Kanaan, 1901, pp. 73 ff.; Ed. Meyer, Die Israeliten u. ihre Nachbarstämme, 1906, pp. 72 ff.; S. A. Cook, Notes on O.T. History, 1907, pp. 38 f., 91 ff. Meyer suggests that an apportionment of the land by lot may have taken place at Kadesh.

One feature comes out distinctly from the narrative in Judges 1—the independent action of the different tribes. There was no united effort, no common leader; and the native population suffered no total defeat. The most that the Israelites achieved was to establish themselves in the hill country of the Centre and North. Joseph was cut off from Judah, as mentioned above, by a line of Canaanite towns running from E. to W., Mount Heres, Aijalon, Shaalbim, Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, Kiriath-jearim (Jdg 1:35, Joshua 9:17); Jerusalem continued to be Jebusite. In the North, Issachar, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali1[11] were separated from the tribes of Central Canaan by another barrier of strongholds from the sea to the Jordan, Dor, Harosheth, Megiddo, Taanach, Ibleam, on the S. of the Great Plain (Jdg 1:27, Jdg 4:2); the valley of Jezreel leading down to the Jordan, with the fortress of Beth-shean, remained in Canaanite possession (Joshua 17:16). For many a long year this state of things continued, and it was all that the tribes could do to keep a hold upon the seats which they had won in the midst of a hostile population. Such is the account given by Judges 1; it is borne out by all the early narratives, and, it is interesting to discover, by the results of recent excavations in Palestine. “The arrival of the Israelites marked neither a revolution nor any abrupt movement progressive or retrograde. There is no sudden change in the pottery, in the sacred places or in the forms of culture. Civilization and religion shew no sensible alteration1[12].” The Book of Joshua tells a very different story, as is shewn in the commentary. Historical criticism relieves us to a great extent of the moral difficulty created by the wholesale slaughter of the Canaanites; it was the patriotic imagination of a much later day which pictured the occupation of the land in this triumphant fashion.

[11] It is not unlikely that Asher and the other Northern tribes were already settled in their districts before the time of Moses, and did not take part with Judah, Simeon, and the Joseph-tribes in the migration to Egypt and the Exodus. See on Jdg 1:31; and Burney, Journ. of Theol. Studies ix. (1908), pp. 333–340; Driver, Exodus, p. 416 f.

[12] S. A. Cook, Expositor 8:1909, p. 99. See also Vincent, Canaan, 1907, p. 463 f., Driver, Schweich Lectures, 1909, p. 87.

B. The history of Israel during the period. The settlement in Canaan involved the momentous change from a nomadic to an agricultural life. Hitherto the Hebrews had been shepherds and herdsmen, ranging over the desert-steppes; now they began to live in towns and villages, to own land and till the soil. With a settled life sprang up the arts of peace, building and handicraft, the arts also of disciplined warfare and defence, but first and foremost the pursuit of agriculture. Great changes took place also in social organization. The old tribal divisions remained, as the Song of Deborah shews; at the same time new combinations, no longer limited by ties of blood, became inevitable so soon as land was acquired and the people established themselves in the cities. Alliances were made with the Canaanites, who were often friendly, and Israel entered a larger world of common interests and obligations. We have instances of connubium and commercium at Shechem (ch. 9), and in the tales of Samson and the Philistines (chs. 14, 16). Thus changes became necessary in the government of the community. In the old nomadic life authority was partly patriarchal and partly aristocratic; the head of the family ruled his own kith and kin, while the chiefs, or representatives of leading families, directed the affairs of the clan or tribe. This latter authority seems gradually to have superseded the other. It was only in times of crisis that the head of a family was made a chief (ḳâṣîn, Jdg 11:6) over other families and clans; when the crisis was over he retired into private life. But now we notice an extension of the principle of government by the heads of leading families. In the towns, at any rate, we find a ruling body composed of the citizens (be‘âlîm, Jdg 9:2 ff., Jdg 20:5 f., 1 Samuel 23:11 f.), sometimes called the princes (Jdg 5:15, Jdg 8:14) and elders (Jdg 8:14, Jdg 11:5), who governed the community and prescribed its laws (‘governors’ Jdg 5:9; Jdg 5:14, Genesis 49:10); we hear of this ruling class at Shechem (where was also a ‘prince of the city’ Jdg 9:30), at Succoth, Penuel, Gilead, Gibeah. The stories of Gideon and Abimelech throw a valuable light on this early form of local government, of which the full development appears in the regular oligarchy of the Phoenician and Philistine towns.

When Israel had reached the stage of government by princes, elders, and judges, had begun to own and till the land, and started various industries of settled life, some rudimentary code of justice must have come into existence. The traditional laws of blood-revenge (Jdg 8:19, Jdg 16:28, 2 Samuel 14:5 ff.) no longer sufficed for the new conditions. Here, as in civilization and religion, the Hebrews probably learnt something from the Canaanites. Reference has been made above to the Babylonian influence which predominated in Canaan for centuries before the Israelite occupation. Through this Babylonian influence the Canaanites were no doubt made acquainted with Babylonian law, and probably administered justice more or less in accordance with the principles of the great code of Ḫammurabi (c. 2130–2088 b.c.); indirectly, therefore, through the Canaanite civilization, the Hebrews may have been brought into contact with this famous legal system. But that they possessed laws of their own is certain from an examination of the date and contents of the Book of the Covenant, Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33. This venerable code exhibits the customary law of the early monarchy; it was therefore growing into shape during the days of the Judges, and some of its provisions were probably laid down much earlier, as tradition maintains. The state of society implied by the Book of the Covenant corresponds with what we know existed during our period, a primitive stage of civilization, simple in structure, and deriving its wealth from cattle and the produce of the earth. “The principles of criminal and civil justice are those still current among the Arabs of the desert, viz. retaliation and pecuniary compensation1[13]”; at the same time the claims of humanity are not forgotten, and the code utters an emphatic protest against the maladministration of justice and the oppression of the poor. The ritual provisions are of the simplest: altars are to be made of earth or hewn stone; the three annual pilgrimages celebrate the three periods of the agricultural year; firstlings and firstfruits are presented as the sacred dues; the only sacrifices mentioned are the burnt offering and the peace offering; he who sacrifices to any other god than Jehovah is to be placed under the ban. Underneath, then, the struggle and disorder of the times Israel was developing its simple code for the protection of property and individual rights, for the observance of religion and the claims of morality.

[13] Robertson Smith, O.T. in the Jewish Church2, p. 340. See the admirable exposition of the Book of the Covenant in Driver’s Exodus, pp. 202–205, and App. iii. for the Code of Ḫammurabi. Kittel notes the following as marks of the antiquity of the Book of the Covenant: (a) the giving of the firstborn, Exodus 22:29, without the redemption allowed in Exodus 34:20, (b) the authority vested, not in the king or people, but in the head of the tribe Exodus 22:28, (c) the sword (RV. tool) used for working stone Exodus 20:25, (d) the references to going unto or before God Exodus 21:6, Exodus 22:8-9, as in the Code of Ḫammurabi §§ 106 f., 120, 126, 131. The laws may have been written in connexion with such sanctuaries as Shiloh and Beth-el. Geschichte des Volkes Israel2, 1909, ii. p. 108.

So far as the records go, the history of the tribes during this period is mainly concerned with warfare. From time to time the hostility of the native population became acute (chs, 4, 5); we hear of the aggressions of neighbours on the border (ch. 3), of the raids of Arabs from the desert (chs. 6–8, 11, 12), of quarrels with the Philistines in the Shephçlah (chs. 14–16). The district which suffered most produced the hero who saved his countrymen; beyond his own daring and faith he had only a small following to support him; and the historian notes it as a proof of divine intervention, that a victory could be won with such slender forces (Jdg 7:2). The narratives of the heroes are discussed in the course of the commentary, and there is no need to repeat them here. Clearly it was an age of violence and barbarous manners; in the absence of any central authority (Jdg 17:6 etc.), might was right, and those who could not defend themselves had to suffer. In a time like this we must not look for any nice sense of honour or generosity; a treacherous blow and fierce reprisals were considered praiseworthy in a struggle which neither gave nor expected any quarter; e.g. Ehud Jdg 3:20 ff., Jael Jdg 5:24 ff., Gideon Jdg 8:16 ff., Samson Jdg 14:19, Jdg 15:5 ff., Jdg 16:28, the Danites Jdg 18:27. The story of Micah illustrates vividly the rough practice of the day; it is told with a humorous relish such as flavours the stories of Samson, and the narrator hardly conceals his sympathy with the raiders. Characteristically, the motive of this high-handed proceeding was to secure the proper equipment for a tribal sanctuary; who would blame robbery and kidnapping in such a cause? The rape of maidens could be recommended as a legitimate way of relieving a difficulty. And yet that rude age had a certain moral sense and standard. There were certain things which could not be done in Israel, they were stigmatized as ‘enormity.’ The outrage at Gibeah seems to have shocked the average sense of right and wrong; but it is important to notice that the real offence, and that which roused general indignation, was the violation of the rights of hospitality. The inhuman conduct of the Levite is passed over without comment; little concern was felt, and no pity is expressed, for the fate of the unhappy woman. If we are to form any true estimate of the morality of the age, we must judge it by the standards of the day, and not by those of a later time. Yet it must not be forgotten that even the rude epoch of the Judges produced its hardy types of courage and enterprise and reliance on the national God: their worth is appreciated with true insight by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Jdg 11:32 f.).

The accounts of Deborah and Gideon reveal two features which have a special interest as bearing upon later history, the first movement in the direction of national unity, and the earliest experiment in kingship. Under the inspiration of Deborah’s lofty patriotism, the tribes of Israel for the first time agreed to combine in the presence of a common danger. So far they had pursued their fortunes apart from one another, as best they could; but among the scattered settlements there lay dormant the possibilities of a national life, only waiting to be quickened into action. Beside the bonds of race, the common faith formed a powerful factor which made for union; as in the history of our own country, religion became the parent and nursing-mother of the nation. How successfully Deborah could appeal to the claims of race and faith is told in the splendid Ode which commemorates the victory. But it tells us also of the jealousies and hesitations of the tribes; Meroz, a Hebrew colony on the very line of march, refused to join in the common cause (Jdg 5:23), just as Succoth and Penuel refused in the time of Gideon (Jdg 8:5; Jdg 8:8). The first step taken, little progress was made for a long time; local feeling and tribal prejudice continued to resist any wide cooperation (Jdg 8:1 ff., Jdg 12:1 ff., 2 Samuel 19:41). Neither David nor his successors achieved a lasting union of Ephraim and Judah, and it remained to the end of the monarchy an ideal cherished by prophetic minds (Hosea 1:11, Isaiah 11:13, Jeremiah 3:18, Ezekiel 37:22). But the first impulse towards the development of a national life was given by the heroic faith of Deborah.

In the days which immediately followed her, the martial temper which she inspired seems to have died down. A spell of peace, perhaps something like lethargy, appears to have settled upon the Israelites of Central Palestine. But the latent vigour of the young nation only needed a leader to call it out; with a small force of his tribesmen, Gideon succeeded in driving the Midianites out of the country to the other side of the Jordan. The grateful people acknowledged the services of their deliverer by offering him an hereditary position of leadership which would secure to them the protection of himself and his family in the future; and it is clear from ch. 9 that Gideon accepted it. Not that Gideon became in any sense a king of Israel; we must not suppose that his authority extended much beyond his own district. The house of Joseph, i.e. Manasseh-Ephraim, may have acknowledged him; in any case it is significant that the first attempt at a monarchy sprang up spontaneously in what was the real heart and centre of old Israel. The time, however, was not ripe even for a monarchy of this tribal character. The picturesque and highly instructive story of Gideon’s successor, Abimelech, shews that the Israelites were not yet in a position of predominance; they might dwell with the Canaanites on terms of alliance, as at Shechem; but nothing was easier than to stir up mutual antagonism. Abimelech displays merely the narrow ambition of a popular demagogue, and not the slightest trace of any patriotic aim. Until Israel realized itself as a nation it could not be ready for the central authority of a king. The monarchy of Saul was hardly more than tribal; it was not until David had secured a firm superiority over the native population, and welded together, for a time at any rate, the divergent elements of the tribes, that the kingship became an established fact.

Between Gideon and Eli the fortunes of Israel are left vague or unrecorded. Neither Jephthah nor Samson stands out into the clear light of history. If Jephthah can only be described as a shadowy figure emerging from a background of fact, Samson hovers dimly in the region of myth, folk-lore, and reality1[14]. Thus in passing from Judges to 1 Samuel there is a gap which the traditions do not allow us to fill. It has been suggested2[15] that if we are to trace anything like continuity in the order of events, we must interpret Jdg 10:6-16, which indicates a condition of great distress, apparently due to the Philistines, as preparing the way for the victory of Samuel, or as looking forward to the rise of Saul.

[14] Kittel, Geschichte des Volkes Israel2, ii. p. 100.

[15] S. A. Cook, Notes on O.T. History, p. 127.

C. The religion of Israel during the period. It is certain that the Israelites throughout the time of the Judges continued to serve Jehovah, whom they had worshipped in the desert, whose religion was proclaimed by Moses. The leading characters which appear upon the scene, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, are all worshippers of Jehovah, the God of the Hebrew tribes: in His Name they went into battle against their enemies, and on occasion united in a common cause. The ancient sources tell us of no national abandonment of Jehovah, nor of any deliberate adoption of a foreign deity. The later historian, indeed, treats this period as one of recurring apostasy, but he deals in generalizations, and gives no actual instances. It is not difficult, however, to see what he means. The settlement in Canaan brought with it profound changes, not only in social life but in religion, and to a great extent, at any rate on the popular level, the religion of the new-comers was assimilated to that of the natives. The God of Israel was a God of the desert, whose home was in the mountains of Seir, in Sinai, a God of wandering shepherds, served with the firstlings of the flock; in the hour of danger He was believed to travel on the thunderstorm from the desert to champion His people in Canaan (Jdg 5:4 f.). When the tribes entered the land, they found the native population serving local divinities, the Baals and Astartes of the cultivated soil, the givers of warmth and fertility, to whom was due the fruitfulness of the vine and the harvest of the cornfield. The instinct of early religion made it only natural for the Israelites, when they had learned to till the soil and win its produce, to bring their homage to the gods whom everyone around acknowledged as givers of the bounty. The Baal of a particular district was the owner of the land; and it was not all at once that Jehovah could be treated as the lord of Canaan. Accordingly a process of assimilation took place; it was found possible to adopt many practices of the native religion without giving up the service of Jehovah. In the, course of time, as the Israelites became more established in the country, Jehovah Himself was regarded as the Baal; this explains how the name baal begins to appear in Hebrew proper names during this period, e.g. Jerub-baal, Esh-baal, Merib-baal (see on Jdg 2:13 and Jdg 6:32). The father of Gideon had an altar of Baal in his village (Jdg 6:25; Jdg 6:30 f.); at Shechem the alliance of Israelites and Canaanites evidently extended to religion (Jdg 9:6; Jdg 9:46).

When homage was paid to the local divinities, the high-places with their altars must have been used by the Israelites. The more important centres of Canaanite worship, at any rate, such as Beth-el, Beer-sheba, Shechem, Ramah, Mizpah, Gilgal, Penuel, places of immemorial consecration, became sanctuaries for the Israelites as they had been for the Canaanites: patriarchal legends were attached to them1[16], and in this way they were claimed as having been originally Israelite and used for the worship of Jehovah. Moreover the Israelites shared with the native population certain customs which belonged to primitive Semitic religion, such as the veneration of sacred trees (Jdg 4:5, Jdg 9:6; Jdg 9:37) and wells and stones (Joshua 24:26) and maṣṣçboth (‘pillars’ RV.); the latter were at first, perhaps, large stones set up to mark a sacred spot, and in later times, it would appear, shaped and erected beside the altar2[17]. The altar itself was formed of earth or rude stones, and on it were laid the gifts of produce, or the victim which was consumed by fire. Recent research in Palestine has discovered a good many rock-hewn altars, the surface of which is indented by cup-shaped cavities, possibly for holding or draining off the blood of the sacrifice (see on Jdg 6:21, Jdg 13:20)3[18]; these rock-altars were no doubt used both by Canaanites and by Hebrews. Kittel has suggested that, instead of vegetable offerings, the Israelites introduced the offering made by fire as a more spiritual type of service, in keeping with the nature of Jehovah. Of distinctly Canaanite origin was the ashçrah or wooden pole, apparently a symbol of the deity, which in Ophrah, as elsewhere, stood beside the altar of Baal (see on Jdg 3:7). The sanctuary as a rule was open to the sky, but sometimes included a building (as at Shiloh and Shechem), and rooms for sacrificial feasts (1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 1:18; 1 Samuel 9:22 ff.), and chambers in which the devotee passed the night to obtain a dream or divine communication (1 Samuel 3:3 ff; 1 Samuel 21:7, 1 Kings 3:5).

[16] Probably stories had grown up in connexion with them while they were still in Canaanite hands: but “we cannot tell how far such legends were transferred to the Hebrew ancestors, or how far they were of native Israelite growth.” Skinner, Genesis, p. xii.

[17] A remarkable row of maṣṣçboth has been uncovered at Gezer; see the photograph in Kittel, Studien zur Hebr. Archäologie, 1908, p. 132, or Driver, Schweich Lectures, p. 63.

[18] See Driver, l.c. p. 66, where a plan of the rock-altar at Ṣar‘a (Zorah) is given; also Kittel, Gesch. d. Volkes Isr.2 ii. p. 114.

In the routine of ordinary life the local sanctuary held a familiar place. Periodically, at the beginning and close of harvest, and at the vintage-season (Jdg 9:27, Jdg 21:21), came round the agricultural feasts, celebrated with merry-making and dances. An orgiastic element certainly entered into Canaanite religion; one feature of it was the religious prostitution practised at the chief sanctuaries, and no doubt this exercised a degrading influence upon the Israelites (see on Jdg 2:17). Now and then, perhaps only in times of special crisis or excitement, human victims were sacrificed; the whole story of Jephthah implies that such a horror was something exceptional, so much so that the occasion was celebrated afterwards by a special rite. In the mounds of Gezer, Megiddo, and Taanach, human remains have been found, sometimes deposited in jars, buried in the walls of dwelling-houses and beneath the corner of a temple; the bones are generally those of infants or children, and the situation in which they were found is commonly taken to indicate the practice of offering a human victim at the foundation of a building1[19]. The excavations shew that the practice lasted well into the Israelite period, and at the same time that it was resorted to only on important and rare occasions. Another custom is referred to during our period, that of making religious vows. As the story of Samson shews, the votary lived under a special consecration, which was symbolized by letting the hair grow long. It did not necessarily imply any peculiar religious zeal, still less an ascetic pledge, but rather self-devotion like that of the warrior in a fierce age.

[19] See however A. Jeremias, The O.T. in the Light of the Ancient East (Eng. tr.), i. p. 348, who emphatically denies this hypothesis. He maintains that the children were buried in houses etc., but not sacrificed. See also Driver, l.c. p. 69 n.

To what extent the Canaanites used images in their worship has not clearly been ascertained. No certain image of a Baal has been found; we do not know whether the countless small earthenware figures, apparently representing a goddess, which are turned up in excavations, were really figures of Ashtart; they belong to a widely-spread type, and probably were domestic sacra, like the terâphim; at any rate they did not form part of the furniture of public sanctuaries. The ephod, of which we hear in the story of Micah, was used for consulting the divine oracle; most likely it was Canaanite in origin (see on Jdg 17:5). It seems to be certain that images of Jehovah were to be found in some quarters, but by no means in every sanctuary; if we may judge from the evidence of a later time, Jehovah was symbolized by the figure of a bull-calf, not represented in human form. What the sculptured stones at Gilgal were, we do not know (see on Jdg 3:19); in some way they must have been connected with Jehovah, for Gilgal long remained an important sanctuary of the Benjamites. The use of images marked a decline from the imageless worship which, according to tradition, was instituted by Moses.

The popular practice, then, closely resembled that of the native Canaanites; not that Jehovah was renounced, but He was worshipped along with the indigenous Baals, and in time as Baal. The distinctive character of Israel’s religion tended to disappear amid influences and surroundings which were only too congenial to average human nature. But that it did not disappear is equally certain; for there were other influences at work, helping to preserve the higher faith. There must have been many besides Deborah for whom Jehovah was no Canaanite Baal, at home in the land, but a God whose dwelling-place lay in a different region. And it must be remembered that every Israelite victory was a victory for Jehovah, and produced a fresh conviction of His presence and power to help. The average Hebrew felt that Jehovah was superior to all the gods of the neighbouring peoples1[20]. Yet even the leading characters of the period, who upheld the purer religion, sometimes made concessions to the popular beliefs, as Gideon did; his setting up of an ephod is recorded as something strange, marking a new departure and a descent. Among anti-Canaanite influences some importance should probably be allowed to the nomadic or half-nomadic clans, such as the Kenites, who formed a considerable element in the population of Judah; along with their ancestral habits they cherished the simplicity of the nomad’s religion; at any rate Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, struck a blow in the cause of Jehovah. No doubt, therefore, families were to be found up and down the country who clung to what was distinctive in Israel’s faith.

[20] The proper name Micaiah = ‘who is like Yah?’ (Jdg 17:1; Jdg 17:4, and LXX. cod. B throughout the narrative) implies as much. But we cannot feel sure that this was the early form of the name. The best attested form is Micah (19 times in the narrative; so LXX. cod. A, Vulg., Pesh., throughout), and this may mean nothing more than ‘who is like this child?’ See Gray, Hebr. Prop. Names, pp. 156 f.

Finally, the sanctuary at Shiloh, which, as it is not mentioned in the legends of the patriarchs, had probably never been in Canaanite possession, constituted the chief religious centre of Israel down to the time of Samuel; and it stood for the principles of belief and worship which may be traced back to the influence of Moses. It was served by a priesthood which regarded him as founder; the ark was kept there; and there at least Jehovah was worshipped without an image1[21]. Next to Shiloh probably ranked the sanctuary of Beth-el as a home of the national religion. Thus while the process of assimilation was going on in the way described, there were forces at work which kept Israel sound at the core. When the moment came, as in the days of Deborah, for an appeal in the name of Jehovah, the people rallied to His cause; they admitted His claim on their allegiance as the God who had protected them in their wanderings and brought them to their new possessions. And Jehovah was no mere nature-god, but a spiritual Being, essentially moral, who demanded, unlike the Baals, a moral service of His worshippers. Had the God of the Hebrews been looked upon by the majority as little superior in nature and attributes to the gods of the country, the religion of Israel would have shared the same fate as the religion of Canaan. As it was, the higher faith both survived and grew. The one fact which made it possible for the undisciplined nomad tribes to enter Canaan, and, in spite of many failures to hold their own against a dominant civilization, and impose themselves upon it, and in the course of time absorb it, was the common belief in Jehovah the God of Israel. However crude in its earlier stages, this belief contained the possibility of development; it was capable of advancing to higher levels; and in the strength of it Israel proceeded towards a larger destiny. The importance of any movement, religious or social, lies not so much in what it happens to be at a given period, but in the direction along which it is advancing. Considered in this way, the Book of Judges possesses a special value; to appreciate the state of religion which we find there, the true criterion is not the standard of a later age, but the degree of the advance towards it. Incorporated into the Book stands, it is true, the verdict of a later generation, and it is altogether condemnatory; nevertheless, however unhistorical the method of the compiler may be according to our notions, it enables us to judge for ourselves the actual advance which took place from the times of Deborah and Gideon and Micah to the age of the Deuteronomic school and the post-exilic editor. These religious historians were more interested in the moral of the history than in the history itself; and when we have made allowance for their treatment of the ancient stories we can recognize in their work an element of lasting value. It was their belief, and we share it, that the history of Israel from the earliest days was under God’s control; that it illustrates the great principles of divine justice, retribution, and mercy; that the same Power which is active in all human affairs is here leading up to a larger issue than any other ancient history can shew.

[21] “The fact that the worship of Yahweh was kept alive in the new territory says something for the priesthood of the day.” Morison, Journ. of Theol. Studies xi., p. 215.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Top of Page
Top of Page