Biblical Judges

Biblical Judges | The Time of The Judges

Feeling the end of his life approaching, the old chief Joshua summoned the Israelite people to Shechem and had them solemnly renew their covenant with God. Having received the people’s approval, he planted a memorial stone in Yahweh’s sanctuary to mark the nation’s commitment. After this act, Joshua died and was buried in his territory (Js. 24). From that moment on, the Biblical Judges were described in the Septuagint.

The disappearance of Joshua left a political vacuum at the head of the tribes of Israel. This gap quickly had harmful consequences on the behavior of the Hebrews and the course of their history. The Israelites broke their covenant with Yahweh and returned to idolatrous practices under the influence of neighboring peoples. This conduct resulted in a series of military reverses and their submission to the domination of their enemies.

However, this situation was corrected several times by the successive interventions of temporary leaders called the biblical Judges, appointed by God and who governed Israel. The liberation of the Israelites has achieved thanks to the battles led by the biblical Judges, who delivered them from bondage and made them regain ground. The successes obtained alternate with the failures of the fickle people (Jg. 1-3).

The Tombs of Joseph and Joshua

An ancestral high place of Judaism is still the object of special veneration today. He refers to the verse of Scripture indicating that Joshua was buried “at Timnath-sare. Which is in the mount of Ephraim, north of mount Gaas” (Js. 24, 31-32). Unlike the burial of Moses. That of Joshua seems to have been remembered if we are to believe in a local tradition.

Timnath-Saré is identified today with the Palestinian village of Kifl Hares, south of Shechem in Samaria. Where a traditional tomb of Joshua is preserved, represented by a modest pavilion topped with a dome. Unfortunately, we have little archaeological documentation on this sanctuary.

In contrast, the following verse in the book of Joshua concerns a second. Equally important but seemingly far more significant holy place. He indicates that the Hebrews also buried Canaan, the patriarch Joseph. Whose relics they had brought back from Egypt: “As for the bones of Joseph, which the Sons of Israel had brought up from Egypt. They buried them in Shechem.” (Js. 24, 33).

Judge Samson

A biblical Judge succeeded one another at the head of Israel, of which only the actions of some are recorded in detail: Othoniel, God, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. The hero falls into a trap by falling in love with a woman named Dalila, who becomes his mistress and who betrays her by obtaining the secret of her irresistible strength. This resided in his long hair: Delilah shaved Samson while he slept and handed him over to the Philistines without difficulty.

Captive by his enemies, Judge Samson, had his eyes gouged out and was dragged to a temple in Gaza where the Philistines celebrated their victory. But Samson managed to kill his enemies with him, destroying the building and pushing two pillars from the roof. The Philistine assembly and its prisoner were crushed by the collapse of the building (Jg. 14-16).

Suppose it is tempting to take the story of the characters of Samson and Delilah for a fable. It is nevertheless necessary to point out the existence of two archaeological sites. Which have delivered clues suggesting a possible link with the character’s death. These are the remains of two Philistine temples found at Tel Qasile (probably ancient Gath). And Tel Mike (ancient Ekron) by Israeli archaeologists Amihai Mazar and Trude Dothan. 

biblical judges

Representation of The Biblical Judges

The Book of Judges

The Book of Judges is so named because of twelve men and one woman. Who served God as the so-called “judges” of Israel. It was written during the monarchy period and told the story included. In fact, between the death of Joshua and the advent of the monarchy itself, in the period in which the prophet Samuel lived. It is possible that it was the work of the prophet Samuel, but we are still determining the author’s identity.

The situation in which the nation found itself was as follows: after the disappearance of Joshua. The people of Israel were left without a central power, and the new government consisted of a confederation of twelve independent tribes. The only link between the tribes was represented by God, who directly ruled his people. Thus, theocracy was the form of government in Israel at the time of the biblical judges. Unfortunately, the people showed little fidelity to their God. They continued to fall back into idolatry, anarchy, and military weakness, unable to resist the enemies who continually tried to subdue them.

The biblical Judges were the spiritual guides in Israel. And, since they often also held the position of military leaders, they were designated as instruments of liberation. In peacetime, they performed the juridical function, with the task of enforcing divine law. The role of the judge was distinguished from that of the king because the office was not hereditary. The judge did not dominate all of Israel (he often exercised his function within a tribe) and was not linked to a career, military or social.

Primary Takeaways

Judges are the Jewish leaders who appeared in various places after the conquest of Palestine. And times to lead the people against enemies and oppressors. They give their name to a period of Jewish history that lasted about two centuries. (12th and 11th BC). And this has also been defined as ‘charismatic’ because the authority of the Judges was based on divine grace. 

Various Judges were contemporaries with each other, and their authority did not extend beyond limited areas of the Palestinian region. It is an era in which the ancient tribal and decentralized organization prevails. Yet, the first symptoms of unitary urgencies are noted, which will materialize in the monarchy. The primary biblical Judges are Othoniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Jair, Jephthah, and Samson.

The 7th biblical book also takes its name from biblical Judges, which describes its exploits in a serialized form, bringing them all together under the visual angle of a common religious conception. When the nation declines faith in Yahweh, he abandons it to external enemies. When instead, it returns to him, Yahweh saves it by raising a liberating judge.


At the death of Joshua, the Israelite people had already entered the land of Canaan. But they still needed to establish themselves there. The conquest was all the more difficult since the territory was already in the hands of the Canaanite populations, and since the tribes of Israel had no chief, Joshua not having designated himself a successor.

The biblical Judges are, during this period of installation (~ XII e  S.), characters “raised by God” in unfortunate circumstances. They do not “judge” strictly speaking (although shofetim means judges, from the shaft, to judge, in Hebrew), but they have the role of administrators and governors for a given tribe or group of tribes. Bold and cunning warriors are true epic heroes who seek to preserve the territory of their struggling tribe.

The Book of Judges in the Bible counts twelve Judges and develops, in particular, the high deeds of Otniel, Ehud, Barac (and Deborah), Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. Also mentioned are Shamgar, Tola, Yair, Ibsan, Elon and Abdon.