What does it say?
Judges are literally “bringers of justice” and correspond to tribal chieftains. Previously (Deu 16:18) the people were instructed to appoint judges for every town to settle disputes. God himself is called the Judge (11:27). No one is named to take Joshua’s leadership when he dies. Instead each tribe is to continue claiming all of their land grant. During times of crisis, God would raise up a judge whose leadership would dominate either several of the tribes or all of them. The period of the judges covers about 350 years until the days of Eli and Samuel.
Following Joshua’s death, the conquest of the land continues as though Judges is a natural continuation of the Book of Judges (Jud 1). But notice the repeated thread is that of each tribe’s failure to completely possess their inheritance.
Of the 59 times the Angel of the Lord is mentioned in the Old Testament, almost a third (18) are in Judges. The same appearance of God, who promised victory after the people’s consecration in Gilgal, now reveals that he will not drive out the remaining enemies because of their disobedience (Jos 2). A new generation after Joshua fails to remember and the nation begins a downward spiral into apostasy.
What does it mean?
The essence of Judges is to show that despite the repeated disobedience of Israel to the covenant with God, and despite suffering the consequences of their sins, God still extends his grace and moves forward in his mission.
The end of the first chapter sets a pattern that will repeat seven times in the book. Israel will sin, fall into slavery, cry out to God and God will save them from their oppression. In Judges 1-2 Israel grows apathetic in their spiritual walk. A new generation born in the land forgets what their parents had seen and experienced (2:10). The result is the apostasy that dominates Judges 3-16, finally spiraling down into pure chaos in Judges 17-21.
How will I respond?
Do I find myself repeating the same sins and mistakes over and over? Have I grown apathetic in my relationship with God? What one step can I take today to begin moving forward toward maturity?