Introduction to Judges (Judges 1:1-2)

Introduction to Judges (Judges 1:1-2)


Dale Ralph Davis The church has her way of dealing with embarrassing Scripture; ignore it. Yet that is difficult to do with Judges. It’s so interesting. Only people who take tranquilizers before sitting down can doze off while they read it.

Big Picture: Promised Kingdom > Partial Kingdom > Prophesied Kingdom.

Author: Multiple with final editor | single author.

Context: Between Joshua and Samuel. Contemporaneous with Ruth.

  • Israel took the land (Josh. 21:43-45).
  • Israel demands a king (1 Sam. 8:4-5).

Why didn’t Israel finish the work Joshua left undone? What led to Israel’s monarchy? Judges describes the downward spiral of God’s people.

Judges teaches us to distrust ourselves and wholly lean on God through the perfect example and deliverer – Jesus Christ.

Read Judges 1:1-2

This morning I’m going to provide a structural introduction. Next week, we will consider a thematic introduction.

Outline > Observations > Outcomes


There are three major divisions with a double-introduction and a double-epilogue/conclusion.

The chiastic structure is frequently found in ancient literature (i.e., Epic poetry: Illiad, Odyssey, Beowulf). There are numerous examples in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament.

Purpose: marking sections before the existence of chapters and verse numbers, highlight the climax and turning points in a narrative, emphasize themes.

Review the outline provided as an insert in your bulletins.1 Read the following passages in order to illustrate the accuracy of the chiasm (7 cycles):

  • Political Decline: A 1:1-2; A’ 20:18
  • Religious Decline: B 2:7-11; B’ 17:1-6
  • Othniel/Samson: C 1:11-15; C’ 16:4-6
  • Ehud/Jephthah: D 3:27-30; D’ 12:4-6
  • Deborah/Abimelech: E 4:21; E’ 9:50-54
  • Gideon: F a 6:25-27; a’ 8:24-27; b 7:24-25; b’ 8:13-17

What is missing?

  1. The outline makes no mention of the minor judges.
  2. Abimelech as an anti-judge doesn’t stand out in this outline.
  3. The chiasm seems forced in reference to the contrast between Ehud/Jephthah. It highlights aspects of the narrative that aren’t necessarily central to the story.


The death of Joshua is recorded twice in this section suggesting a two-part arrangement (1:1; 2:8). This tips us off to the fact that Judges is not a strictly chronological narrative. How it’s timeline is organized requires much more review.

Political decline of Israel (1:1-2:5), Religious decline of Israel under the judges (2:6-3:6). The second part serves as a summary of the entire period under the judges.

The success Joshua had experienced with the first generation (Joshua 23-24) is reversed in the experience of the next generation. Joshua and his generation passed away and the generation that followed “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:11). The details of their decline are recorded in the main section of the book of Judges (3:7-16:31).

However, God responds to Israel’s faithlessness (2:11-15) with his own faithfulness by raising up judges (2:16-3:6). The territory left by Joshua was meant to test Israel’s faithfulness to God, to train them in war, and allow them to experience the power of God as the previous generation had (2:22-3:6). It was a test which they failed miserably. Not only do they fail to attack all of the remaining nations, they actually begin to compromise their worship of Yahweh.


DRD I remember seeing a cartoon in which a young, hip, guitar-plucking, Christian singer announced to his audience, “I wrote this song last year, but I think it still has relevance.”

  1. Learn more about the biblical text (i.e.; Israel, various judges, gruesome history).
    • Common misconceptions of Judges: Totally negative/positive.
    • This is history: Detail oriented (geographical names).
    • Modern archeological discoveries do not contradict Scripture.
    • Authorial intent to drive Israel to repentance.
  2. Learn more about God/Christ.

    Ryken God is the main character, but we learn this mainly from summary statements to the effect that what happens on the human scene is the result of what God did (cf. 3:15).

    Warfield The fundamental note of the OT is revelation.

    • We have to beware of focusing exclusively on all of the colorful characters. It would be easy to forget that they ultimately serve as pointers/shadows of Jesus Christ.
  3. Learn more about ourselves.
    • Idolatry: We don’t serve Baals & Ashtaroth. Our idolatry is more subtle today, but it is just as common. What do you worship in substitute of/addition to your worship of God?
    • Depravity: It is a picture of the most gruesome kind of depravity we find anywhere in Scripture. There is a reason for its inclusion. There is something in the stories, maybe in the emotions they evoke. The stories provide a compelling call to repentance!


  1. Outline
  2. Observations
  3. Outcomes

Israel’s Apostasy: The downward spiral of the people of Israel throughout the period of the judges will be the central theme that we return to again and again.

God’s Response: The role of the judges was to deliver/save God’s people despite their continual spiral into anarchy and moral chaos.

God’s provision was to come from the tribe of Judah (1:2), from which Jesus Christ was descended.

Judges teaches us to distrust ourselves and wholly lean on God through the perfect example and deliverer – Jesus Christ.

Let us turn to him now with gratitude for his redeeming work!